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Otley, Wharfedale, West Yorkshire, England. Otley Guide and Tour.
[You may also like to view our guide and tour of Ilkley]
Otley is at the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales - nestling on either side of the River Wharfe which meanders through the town.
The 'Chevin' provides bridle paths, nature walks and forest trails whilst Wharfemeadows Park alongside the river attracts boaters, anglers and picnickers.
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Otley and Wharfedale ward has a population of 24,000, and Otley itself has a population of 14,100, according to the UK Census 2001.
The town hosts Wharfedale General Hospital which serves the surrounding area, and also Prince Henry's Grammar School, which holds Language college status.
Otley lies in the Leeds North West constituency of the UK Parliament, it is part of the Otley & Yeadon ward on Leeds City Council. It is twinned with the French town of Montereau, south of Paris.
The town lies in Wharfedale, and is divided in two by the river Wharfe. It is surrounded mostly by arable farmland.
To the east and west of Otley there are flooded gravel pits, where sand and gravel have been extracted in the 20th century. The gravel pits to the east are known as Knotford Nook, and are a noted birdwatching site. Those to the west are devoted to angling and sailing.
To the West are the nearby villages of Burley-in-Wharfedale and Menston. To the East is the smaller village of Pool-in-Wharfedale.
Otley is a market town and has held a regular market for over a thousand years. Documented history for the market begins in 1222 when King Henry III granted the first Royal Charter. Cattle markets are still held at the Wharfedale Farmers' Auction Mart on East Chevin Road although the Bridge End Auction Mart closed a number of years ago and is now derelict. (Various news stories printed in the local paper the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer).
Otley vies with a select handful of towns in England, for the distinction of having the greatest number of pubs per head of population. There are currently 22 pubs, although the Spite (properly known as The Roebuck) and The Royalty are both on the outskirts of the town, with the Spite actually located in North Yorkshire. THe Black Horse Hotel situated in the center of town is both the biggest pub and biggest hotel in the town. Another pub of note is the award winning Junction Inn which serves a large selection of quality real ales and has a live band playing every Tuesday.
Otley hosts the annual Otley Folk Festival in September as well as the popular Victorian Fayre in December, Carnival in June and what is reputed to be the oldest one day agricultural show in the country, in May.
The town dates from before Roman times, and belonged to the Archbishopric of York. Remains of the old Archbishop's Manor House were found during the construction of St Joseph's RC Primary School near to the River Wharfe. The town formed an important crossing point of the river Wharfe and administrative centre in the wapentake of Skyrack in the early medieval period, and this importance continued with its being the seat of the Mid -Warfedale Urban District council up until the local council reorganisation of 1974. The first church was built there in the early 7th century. In All Saints Parish Church there are the remains of two Early Anglo-Saxon crosses, one of which has been reproduced for the town's war memorial. Buried there is an ancestor of the 19th century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Thomas Fairfax who commanded Parliament's forces at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644.
Thomas Chippendale, the famous furniture maker, was born in Otley, and his statue stands in the town, next to the old grammar school he once attended in Manor Square.
J.M.W. Turner, the famed painter, visited Otley in 1797, aged 22, when commissioned to paint watercolours of the area. So attracted was he to Otley and the surrounding area, that he returned time and time again. His friendship with Walter Ramsden Fawkes made him a regular visitor to Farnley Hall, two miles from Otley. The stormy backdrop of Hanibal Crossing The Alps is reputed to have been inspired by a storm over Otley's Chevin while Turner was staying at Farnley Hall.
Famous Methodist preacher John Wesley was a frequent visitor to the town in the 18th century. In his Journal for 1761 we read, "July 6 Monday; In the evening I preached at Otley and afterwards talked with many of the Society. There is reason to believe that ten or twelve of these are filled with the love of God." One of the main streets in Otley is still named after him.
Otley Cultural Life
For its size, Otley boasts a diverse range of cultural organisiations. It is unusual in that it has five active Morris dance groups based in the town. These are:
The main road for the town is the A660, which connects to Bramhope, Adel and Leeds city centre to the south east, and to the A65 to the west, which goes on to Ilkley and Skipton. The A6038 heads to Guiseley, Shipley and Bradford, with a brief stint on the A65. To Harrogate, the A659 heads east to the A658, which is the Bradford-Harrogate road. From the A1, Otley is connected along the A659, and the M1 connects to Leeds via the M621. The M62 connects via Leeds or Bradford.
Otley Market was once mentioned in passing in an episode of the BBC television comedy programe, The League of Gentlemen. The creators studied at the relatively nearby University of Leeds.
Otley also plays the town of "Hotton" in the ITV television soap opera Emmerdale, and is a regular filming spot for ITV's Heartbeat crew. In fact the old Police Station shown in Heartbeat is actually the Otley Courthouse - now an arts centre.
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