Darwin in Ilkley

I live just 22 miles by road from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, but my travels almost never take me to that neck of the woods. But, this afternoon, I happened to be passing nearby and finally got to make a long-delayed Darwinian pilgrimage.

Darwin stayed in Ilkley during the autumn of 1859. Officially, he was there for the water treatment, although it has been suggested that it was a convenient hideaway during the publication of On the Origin of Species that November.

I took plenty of photos during my short visit, including this one of the bath house Darwin used to visit (which was unfortunately closed when I called—I shall return!):

White Wells Bath House, Ilkley Moor
White Wells Bath House, Ilkley Moor

On 14th October, 1859, Darwin wrote to his son William describing Ilkley:

North House, Wells Terrace | Ilkley | Otley | Yorkshire


My dear William

On Monday they [the rest of Darwin's family] all come from Barlaston to the above address & I leave the Establishment. The House is at the foot of a rocky, turfy rather steep half-mountain. It would be nice with fine weather; but now looks dismal. There are nice excursions & fine walks for those that can walk. The Water Cure has done me much good; but I fell down on Sunday morning & sprained my ancle, & have not been able to walk since & this has greatly interfered with the treatment…

The Establishment Darwin was writing from was Wells House, a large water cure establishment, which I also managed to photograph. The address given at the top of Darwin's letter, where he would relocate to when the family arrived, was the house he was staying at when Origin was published. I managed to get a photo of that too.

I can confirm that the hill down from the bath house is pretty steep. But I had read Darwin's letter before I set off, so was very careful on my descent, and my ankles escaped serious injury.

See also: Wikipedia: On Ilkla Moor Baht'at

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

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