For 50 years, Bankfield Mansion was the principal home of one of Halifax’s foremost woollen and worsted manufacturers, Edward Akroyd (1810 - 1887).
Between 1838 and 1868, the mansion grew from a simple four-up four-down townhouse to the magnificent, Italianate style mansion seen today.
When Edward purchased the house in 1838, he was twenty-eight years old and engaged to Elizabeth Fearby of York. He and his younger brother Henry were working alongside their father Jonathan, founder of a prosperous and expanding worsted manufactory. The first phase of Bankfield’s development happened sometime between 1838 and 1851, most likely following Edward’s inheritance of a substantial fortune after his father’s death in 1848. A single storey was added and the original house was encased in fairfaced stone. The Chapel was also added at this time, reflecting Edward’s strong Christian beliefs.
The most important phase of Bankfield’s development occurred in 1867. Now a Member of Parliament for Halifax and a prominent townsman, Edward no doubt felt obliged to entertain on a grand scale. The new wing included a Porte-Cochere (now the entrance lobby), where visitors would have disembarked from their horses and carriages, a magnificent marble staircase with Pompeian and Herculean inspired frescoes, and the Saloon, which served as Grand Hall, Reception Room, Ballroom and Picture Gallery.
It would have been sparsely furnished with side tables and couches set against the walls. The walls themselves would have been liberally hung with oil paintings and lit with gaslight chandeliers. After dinner in the Dining Room (now the North Gallery), female guests would have withdrawn to the Drawing Rooms (now the Duke of Wellington’s Regimental Museum) while the men would have retreated to the Library (now the Oak Gallery) or the Billiard Room.
By 1887, Edward’s business was in decline and his own health was failing. He was forced to place Bankfield on the market. It was sold for £6000, without furnishings, to Halifax Corporation, and was swiftly converted into a museum and public library. Today we are endeavouring to preserve all that has survived in the hope that visitors will be able to gain a better understanding of the mansion and its place in the history of 19th century Halifax.