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Ilkley Civic Society unveils blue plaque in honour of author John Cunliffe


Sylvia Cunliffe unveils the blue plaque at Heath House

Ilkley Civic Society has installed its 23rd Blue Plaque at Heath House, where the creator of Postman Pat, John Cunliffe, lived between 1992 and 2008.


John lived at Heath House on Wells Road in Ilkley with his wife Sylvia, who unveiled the new plaque on 9th August.


A spokesperson for Ilkley Civic Society said: “This land was sold during the Middelton land sales and by 1874 was owned by Robert Morrell, a Bradford provision merchant. He obtained planning permission for a pair of villa residences, Barlby Villas, designed by architect Thomas Clarke of Bradford and Ilkley. Robert Morrell lived there for a while with his niece Eleanor and 2 servants.


"By 1884 it had been leased to James Crowther Naylor, a dentist. He continued to live here until at least 1922. Meanwhile the ownership of the property passed through several hands and in 1929 it was sold to Mrs Annie Thornton. She continued to rent the house out, and renamed it Athos and later Heathville. Ownership changes took place until the Lamberts bought it to be their family home. In 1986 the name changed to Heath House and in 1992 John and Sylvia Cunliffe bought it.”

John Cunliffe was born in 1933 in Colne. He was a librarian and held various posts, including a mobile library in Northumbria. Finally he became Childrens’ Librarian in Brighton. He began to write children’s stories, which were published as picture books. He also published collections of poetry.


He and Sylvia married in 1960. In 1972 they moved to the Lake District so John could train as a primary school teacher. He obtained a post in Ambleside. Here he could live amongst the mountains he loved, and continue to write stories in the holidays. He created Postman Pat and later wrote and presented Rosie and Jim.


The first broadcast of Postman Pat was in Sept 1981. The books he wrote later.


By 1992 they were looking for a new home. They couldn’t find what they were looking for in the Lake District but by chance found it in Ilkley. John spent the next 26 years there happily writing stories, accumulating more and more books, and exploring the surrounding countryside with great pleasure. He became a feature of the Ilkley Literature Festival.

Postman Pat enabled John to write full time. Heath House provided him with the best possible environment to do that.

John valued Ilkley with all its advantages – cultural, culinary and countryside – a writer’s paradise, and the perfect setting for him to write the final scripts for Postman Pat.


If people would like to share memories of Heath House or John Cunliffe, please email Ilkley Civic Society: localhistory@civicsociety.ilkley.org


A list of all 23 Blue Plaques is available on the Ilkley Civic Society website: civicsociety.ilkley.org/blue-plaques-list.html

John at Ilkley Literature Festival

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