Historic Market Town

Market Day

Nestling beneath a hillside called 'The Chevin' lies the medieval market town of Otley - meaning 'Woodland clearing of a man named Otta'. This Wharfedale town dates from Saxon times, King Athelstan granted the manor in 937. In 1069 the town was destroyed by William I. Otley soon developed as a centre of the woollen industry, it became known as the 'Metropolis of Wharfedale.'  In 1222 a Fair was first held here, a weekly market followed in 1248.

Today Otley is a great place to live or visit. The town is surrounded by rural countryside, with Bradford, Leeds and Harrogate nearby. Ilkley is a stone's throw away. Otley has great character and is rich in history. One can go boating on the river, stroll on the promenades or enjoy the gardens and parks. It has a lovely market square surrounded by interesting shops and old pubs and cafés. It was at one such pub, 'The Black Bull', in 1648, that some of Cromwell's Ironsides visited on the eve of the Battle of Marston Moor and managed to drink the place dry. Otley once boasted having more pubs than anywhere else, sadly, many have now disappeared.


Thomas Chippendale, the renowned furniture maker and Otley's most famous son, was born here in 1718. He left Otley for London in 1739 where he found his fortune. He became famous throughout England. Today his work is recognised the world over. His statue stands outside the old grammar school. The artist J.M.W. Turner, painted many scenes in the area. Although Turner was born in London, he is regarded as an adopted Otley man. He used The Chevin as a backdrop for his picture 'Hannibal crossing the Alps. 'Thomas Lord Fairfax, Cromwell's General was born at nearby Denton Hall.


Ramblers' Tea Room, Otley Chevin (click image)

The summit of The Chevin is a short but steep walk from the town centre, from here you can enjoy unspoilt views and on a clear day it is possible to see York Minster. The Chevin forms part of a beautiful wooded hillside known as Chevin Forest Park. Stone from the quarry on The Chevin was used for the Houses of Parliament. At Easter and Christmas a huge wooden cross is erected on the hill, it is quite a spectacular view from the town.

The Wharfedale Press that revolutionised C19th printing was invented and built in Otley.

All Saints, a cruciform church is mainly C14th & C15th with some Norman work, it houses some of the best examples of Anglo-Danish crosses in the country. The Parish registers include the names of Thomas Chippendale and John Wesley who officiated at a wedding in 1788. Adjacent to the church is a splendid replica (The Navvies' Monument) of the nearby Bramhope Tunnel (a long railway tunnel) it was erected to the many men who lost their lives constructing it (1845-49). Amazingly, but quite rightly, the memorial has become a Grade II listed building.

In the TV soap 'Emmerdale,' Otley is Hotten. 'Heartbeat' and 'A Touch of Frost' have also used Otley for filming. 

There are many events held annually in the town, including an Agricultural Fair, The Carnival, River Festival, Folk Festival, Arts festival an a Victorian Fayre. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the street market days. Tuesdays and Fridays are cattle auction days.

'It's not motley in Otley'

Images of Otley:

1houses.jpg (134104 bytes)  2bayhorse.jpg (178396 bytes)  3blackhorse.jpg (148280 bytes)  4butcher.jpg (165602 bytes)

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(Click image to enlarge)

1 River Wharfe. 2 Bay Horse. 3 Manor Square.  4 Ye Old Pork Butcher. 

5 Chippendale. 6 Chevin Forest.  7 Navvies' Monument. 8 Clock Tower.