Celebrating England’s greatest furniture maker

The life and times of Thomas Chippendale are to be celebrated with a series of events linked to the Chippendale 300 celebrations throughout Yorkshire.

Otley is to mark the 300th anniversary of its most famous son, Thomas Chippendale, with a series of events in 2018.

The town’s Chippendale 300 programme will celebrate the life of Britain’s greatest furniture maker who was born in Otley in 1718. Events for the celebration are being curated by a committee including members of Otley Town Council, Otley Town Partnership, Otley BID, Otley Pub Club and Otley Courthouse arts centre.

Plans to date include a grand birthday party, the brewing of a Chippend’Ale beer, poems by town poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard, and the creation of Chippendale-themed walking trails, including one of the town’s main Chippendale sights and another of the pubs that survive from the early 18th century. An antiques fair, an Antiques Roadshow-style event, and talks by Chippendale experts at Otley Courthouse are also being scheduled.

To help publicise the town’s celebrations, Otley has joined the Chippendale Society’s Chippendale 300 initiative that includes other destinations where the famed cabinetmaker had a strong influence, including Temple Newsam and Harewood House.

Chippendale, perhaps the country’s first interior designer when he penned the famed The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director in 1754, was born in Otley in June 2018 – his christening is recorded in the annals of the Parish Church on June 5 of the same year. While his fame came after leaving Otley for London in his early 20s, it is thought he learnt many of the skills that would serve him in his later life while working under the guise of his father, joiner John Chippendale. Some scholars suggest the pair even worked together on Farnley Hall, a stately home outside Otley that is owned by the Horton-Fawkes family.

Key Chippendale sights in and around Otley include:

All Saints Parish Church Otley – the place of his christening
• The corner of Boroughgate and Wesley Street, where the cottage he was born in once stood
• The Chippendale Tea Rooms on Bondgate, where young Thomas lived with his uncle Joseph
• The Old Grammar School on Clapgate where it is thought Thomas went to school – now the Stew & Oyster pub and home to the town’s Chippendale statue

Lawrence Ross of Visit Otley/Otley Town Partnership, who is chairing the committee organising the celebrations, said: “Thomas Chippendale may have found his fortune elsewhere, but his early life was shaped here in the shadow of Otley Chevin, and the skills that later helped him become such a renowned figure were honed in and around Otley. We think it is only right that we make the 300th anniversary of his birth a celebration to remember.”

Click on the links below for more of Otley’s history