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Otley History

IMG_2087Otley is an historic market town. Its name is derived from Othe, Otho or Otta, a saxon personal name and leah, a woodland clearing in Old English. The majority of the early part of the town dates from Saxon times and was part of an extensive manor between the rivers Humber and Tyne, about the year AD620. The town grew in the early part of the 13th century when the archbishops laid out plots to attract merchants and tradespeople. Markets began in 1222 with two cattle markets at East Chevin Road and Bridge End. A woollen industry developed during the industrial revolution, and later woolcombing and worsted spinning were introduced. Much of the town centre is eighteenth and nineteenth century.  By the 19th centrury inhabitants were employed in two worsted-mills, a paper mill, and other mills. The Whafedale Printing Machine was developed in Otley by WilliamDawson and David Payne. By 1900 the printing machinery trade, with over 2,000 people employed in seven machine shops was Otley’s most important industry.  Much of the town centre is eighteenth and nineteenth century and is designated as a Conservation Area.

Thomas Chippendale, the cabinetmaker, was born in a cottage at the junction of Boroughgate and Wesley Street, and his statue stands next to the old Grammar School that he once attended in Manor Square.

J.M.W. Turner, the painter, visited Otley in 1797, aged 22, when commissioned to paint watercolours of the area. His friendship with Walter Ramsden Fawkes made him a reguar visitor to Farnley Hall, two miles from Otley.  He used the Otley Chevin as a backdrop for some of his most famous paintings.

Otley is twinned with the French town of Montereau-Fault-Yonne south of Paris.

Sources: Wikipedia and The Little Town of Otley by Harold Walker, 1995; Otley History plaque produced by John Morgan.