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The village lies 1.9 miles (3 km) east of Keighley town centre and is on the B6265 road between Keighley and Bingley.The part of the village by the canal is at a height of 360 feet (110 m) above sea level.
Riddlesden is mentioned in the Domesday Book as belonging to William the Conqueror and being in the Wapentake of Skyrack.The name of the village appears throughout history as Redlesden and as Redelesden and it derives from the name of a wooded vale (or farm) of Rœd or Redwulf.
The village was historically in the parish of Bingley, but it is currently in the civil parish of Keighley. There have been proposals in 2010 and 2012 for Riddlesden to have a separate parish which includes nearby Stockbridge and Sandbeds.The ecclesiastical parish is known as Riddlesden St Mary, which is the name of the church in the village.The Diocese of Leeds estimates the ecclesiastical parish to have a population of 4,500.The village lies in the Ward of Keighley East for the purposes of census data.
In 1773, the Bingley to Skipton section of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was opened. Riddlesden had several wharves which allowed for the exportation of coal from the nearby collieries. Coal was mined at Riddlesden between 1700 and the early 1920s.
The manor of Riddlesden, incorporating both houses (East and West Riddlesden Halls), was the breeding place of the Airedale Heifer, a legendary heavy cow similar in stature to the Craven Heifer. A pub called the Airedale Heifer is located in nearby Sandbeds, just to the east.