ALAN Titchmarsh launched "the jewel in the crown of Ilkley" when he returned to his hometown to officially open the Manor House.

The celebrity gardener was joined by more than 300 visitors when he cut the ribbon to launch the Manor House Trust on Thursday.

During his visit Mr Titchmarsh was also reunited with his old teacher for the first time since junior school.

Performing the opening ceremony Mr Titchmarsh - who is patron of the new trust - urged local people to get behind "the jewel in the crown of Ilkley"

He chatted to visitors, trustees and volunteers and enjoyed a guided tour of the building before joining children from his former primary school and members of the Outside the Box gardening group to plant herb baskets.

He also joined his former teacher 98-year-old Peggy Lambert, for a catch up over tea and cakes. In his autobiography he describes Peggy as 'strict but kind'.

The open day was an opportunity to showcase some of the creative and heritage activities that the Manor House will be offering in the future. Children enjoyed playing street games in the courtyard, dressing up in historical costumes and making pomanders. In the upstairs gallery visitors enjoyed the new Trust’s first art exhibition, the Seven artists-one pebble-seven journeys, which is on until April 15.

Sir Rodney Brooke, chairman of the trust said: "We were absolutely delighted by the number of visitors who came to the open day and we would like to thank all those groups, organisations and individuals who supported the event and made it such a success. The Manor House is a most unusual building – a distinguished Grade I listed building on top of an ancient monument, the Roman Fort. We want it to be used by the public as a meeting place, a heritage centre, an educational asset and a tourist attraction which will draw people to Ilkley."

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