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About Otley Conservation Area

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Project Work

From time to time, Otley Conservation Task Force undertakes project work in support of conserving the town's built heritage. This page outlines some of our projects. On this page:

* Former Otley Liberal Club
* Otley Lodge
* The Jubilee Clock
* Kissing Gate, Billams Hill, Otley
* Otley Town Partnership Street Scene Design Guide Consultation
* Otley Walking Festival 2008
* Heritage Open Days in Otley: "Storeys of Stone"
* CAMRA consultation: Otley's historic pubs in the spotlight
* Wharfedale Union workhouse (later Wharfedale General Hospital)
* Other project work

Former Otley Liberal Club

Early in 2000, Otley Conservation Task Force identified that the former Otley Liberal Club, which stands in Wesley Street, was not protected by listing, although it was sited within Otley Conservation Area. This unique Gothic building dating from 1880 was designed by Alfred Marshall, perhaps Otley's most influential architect from the nineteenth century. Following research and assessment by OCTF members, an application was made for the building to be considered for adding to the statutory list. In May 2000, the former Otley Liberal Club was duly given Grade II listed status.

The building itself has an elaborate sandstone faƧade on both street elevations, incorporating some fine stone carving work including a frieze containing repeated Otley town coats-of-arms. Internally, the ground floor and the main staircase include ornate plasterwork and cast-iron details, and some of the joinery is beautifully constructed.

At the time the building was listed, its future was uncertain - it lay almost empty, but in the summer of 2000, plans to convert it into four "duplex" (two storey) apartments were submitted. These plans were put into effect, which left the building largely unaltered externally (see above photograph), but much of the fine interior was covered up or destroyed. Fortunately the main staircase, an impressive spiral stone construction with iron balustrade and beautiful carved plaster at the ceiling, has been restored. Only fragments of the Minton tile entrance hall floor (a key item mentioned in the listing) have been retained, however.

Although severely altered internally, the fact that the building is once more back in use means it should grace the town for many more years, which must be welcomed.

Otley Lodge

In 2003, the attention Otley Conservation Task Force was drawn to "Otley Lodge", which is situated off Farnley Lane, Otley, during assessment work related to Otley Conservation Area Appraisal which was at that time being prepared. The building is one of a pair of stone-built "Queen Anne" style former gate houses to Farnley Hall (the other being "West Lodge"), but owing to being completely covered with vegetation (see above photograph), Otley Lodge had been forgotten about, many years ago. Our first task was to establish whether the pair of gate houses and the walls, gate piers and gates connecting the two lodges, of uncertain construction date despite the conspicuous but probably spurious date-stones proclaiming "1618", were in fact itemised in the Harrogate District list (the buildings are on the boundary between Otley and Harrogate). As this proved negative, we assessed the lodges etc and prepared an application for them to be considered for adding to the statutory list in October 2003. The result was that the lodges etc were added to the statutory list at Grade II in May 2004. At about this time, the boundary to Otley Conservation Area was adjusted to take in the two lodges, as part of the appraisal of Otley Conservation Area being carried out by Leeds City Council. Further, there were moves to enhance the riverside through Otley by Otley Town Partnership in co-operation with Leeds City Council and Otley Town Council, and in this regard, Otley Conservation Task Force was approached by Otley Town Partnership to make an assessment of both lodges in advance of a riverside study they carried out at that time.

In connection with the future of Otley Lodge, Otley Conservation Task Force prepared an option study for Leeds City Council, who own Otley Lodge (West Lodge is in private ownership). The study was intended for presentation to Leeds City Council later in 2004.

Low-key enquiries made by Otley Conservation Task Force within Otley to identify options for bringing Otley Lodge back into use showed that there are three options that would permit Otley Lodge to be used sympathetically without excessive alteration or over-restoration of the historic- and architectural fabric of the building. Further options were found that would involve bringing the building up-to-date and compliant with the DDA were made; these would mean installation of kitchen- and toilet facilities at the very least to make them viable, hence some alteration to the historic- and architectural fabric would be necessary. One option was found that would comprise extending Otley Lodge and converting it into a house, which would in practice involve incorporation of the lodge within a new house with the risk of significant loss of the historic- and architectural fabric of the building. It became clear that the building could be put to use without resorting to major alterations to the fabric (other than implementing necessary repairs considering the building is derelict and, for some options, bringing it up to date such that it complies with relevant current legislation).

Despite our efforts at the time, nothing further became of Otley Lodge, and it remained derelict. Later, the stone ball finials from the gate posts disappeared, and in April 2008 the beautifully worked iron gates themselves have vanished as the building falls further and further into decay. Otley Conservation Task Force does not wish to see this (or any) listed building in Otley Conservation Area remain derelict, and since generally the best way of securing the upkeep of historic buildings like this is to keep them in active use (in the spirit of PPG15), we would like to see Otley Lodge restored.

The Jubilee Clock

The Jubilee Clock was the brainchild of the Queen Victoria's Jubilee Celebration Committee, which had been established in March 1887 to organise the celebrations for Queen Victoria's fiftieth year as our monarch. However, the initial grand ideas put forward to mark the occasion came to nought and it was agreed to erect an illuminated clock in the Market Place. A design was submitted by Otley's premier architect of the Victorian era, Alfred Marshall (1850-1932). The clock tower was erected by W Maston, probably using sandstone from Scotgate Ash Quarry in Nidderdale rather than gritstone from the Chevin. The Leeds firm of Potts made the clock mechanism. Crowning the tower is the ornamental ironwork of MacFarlanes of Leeds. The painting and gilding were carried out by Mr H Pullan of Brunswick Villa, Otley and his son, James Pullan of Bradford.

The list entry for the Jubilee Clock confirms that it is a "stone-built clock tower on the site of the original Market Cross", with an "Ornamental ironwork crown... [with a] stone base" [and a] "door and drinking trough". The entry also quotes from an unspecified source that "The inhabitants of the town were exercising their minds to find some suitable and lasting method of marking the Queen's Jubilee". The tower is considered to have group value with the Leeds House Cafe, the Buttercross and Nos 30 to 40 Market Place. The Jubilee Clock stands in Otley Conservation Area, which recognises the site of the clock as an area of "special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance". Out of the blue, however, the year 2004 saw a gauntlet thrown down to conservationists...

Following the discovery of damage to the cast-iron clock casing in June that year, Otley Town Council asked Otley Conservation Task Force for advice, and through this advice commissioned a survey from W R Dunn & Co of York. Estimates for repair were obtained. In addition to restoration of the clock casing and crown by Don Barker Limited of York, work included repair of the clock mechanism, installation of protective cast-iron bollards close to the base of the tower, and cleaning and re-pointing of the masonry with minor stone repairs. At this juncture, the work to the clock casing and crown is worthy of mention. The paint layers were microscopically examined to find out what the original colours were so that the new scheme (gilding on green) would replicate the original. Pictures of the restoration work taking place at Barker's works at Elvington near York are shown above: painting the crown, inspecting a dial and trial assembly of the casing.

A final note on the several plaques that adorn the tower is due. The two original plaques are stone tablets confirming that the clock was dedicated to Queen Victoria's golden jubilee and recording that the funding was raised by public subscription. At the beginning of the twentieth century, another two plaques were installed, one a bronze plate to the memory of two Otley men who lost their lives in the Boer War, and the other a stone tablet recording Belgian refugees' thanks to the people of Otley for their hospitality during the First World War. The new plaque records the re-dedication of the clock to mark the sixtieth anniversary of victory in Europe and Japan in 1945 (another Jubilee celebration had it been marking a less sombre occasion), and to remember all those who served and suffered in the Second World War.

We commend this tribute to Yorkshire craftsmanship old and new to you. Otley's Grade II listed Jubilee Clock is proof that we can shape the will of those who look after our public buildings, exercise our civic pride, and stand against sanitised blister-pack construction work, even to this day!

Full details of the clock's history can be found at Otley Museum.

Kissing Gate, Billams Hill, Otley

The background to this project began in May 2003 when Otley Conservation Task Force learned of the removal of the kissing gate from the east side of the former Bridge End cattle market site beside Billams Hill, Otley, and brought it to the attention of a number of organisations with a view to getting this piece of Otley's rural heritage reinstated. It was established that the arguments for its removal included compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act and the desires of the adjacent land owner. Otley Conservation Task Force believe that the wall from which the kissing gate was removed is an important one (quoting Otley Conservation Area Appraisal) and that the right of way the access to which the kissing gate marked is of ancient origin. The kissing gate itself had been in the wall since at least 1920 (before the cattle market was built), before which time an ordinary gate is thought to have been there.

With our interest in the kissing gate, it was established that Leeds City Council would be prepared to clean up and re-install the kissing gate, and three options for its reinstatement but in different locations were identified from an option study carried out by Otley Conservation Task Force in February 2005. One of these options was considered to be a reasonable alternative to the historically correct site. This option was to site it on the opposite side of Billams Hill at the top of Wharfemeadows Park steps at the northern end of Otley Bridge, where it would be very near its original location. At this site, there is an alternative wide, step-free access for disabled very nearby; it would be prominent so therefore less prone to vandalism; and importantly, it would be visible for all to see.

Practicalities of implementing proposals for reinstatement were identified, and a typical kissing gate at another site near Otley was measured for illustration that the selected site would be technically satisfactory for the reinstated kissing gate.

Our study concluded that, whilst it would be preferred that the kissing gate be reinstated in its original and historically correct position, it would be acceptable for it to be re-installed at the top of Wharfemeadows Park steps. However, in September 2007, Leeds City Council determined that the site would not after all be acceptable since certain characteristics would constitute a hazard (there is a pair of steps about two metres distant), and they came up with a new alternative, this being for the salvaged kissing gate to be co-ordinated with new fencing proposed for Tittybottle Park where it emerges onto the pavement at the southern end of Otley Bridge. The principle would be to put the kissing gate beside the open entrance, which sweeps into the park from the pavement, without a step. After consultation within Otley Conservation Task Force and with Otley Town Partnership, we agreed that the new option should be accepted, as it would enhance that part of Tittybottle Park as well as see the reinstatement of this piece of Otley's history.

After all the work put into this project, it was discovered on 10 January 2008 that the kissing gate had been installed, without notification to anyone other than via a "by the way" e-mail to Otley Town Partnership, in another place entirely - at an entrance to the park at the east end of Danefield Terrace; see the photograph of it at its new location below... note the step within the kissing gate!


Otley Town Partnership Street Scene Design Guide Consultation
Otley Conservation Task Force works closely with the Environment Group of Otley Town Partnership, particularly on conservation area matters in the town such as how historic iron street furniture can be conserved by incorporation into street schemes and advice on street surfacing where this has been identified in Otley Conservation Area Appraisal as "historic surface". One of the projects on which Otley Town Partnership worked on recently was the production of a street scene design guide for Otley. The guide was issued for consultation in May 2007. Otley Conservation Task Force supported this project, and we the Design Guide was completed in 2008. The earlier "Riverside Vision", which is often sited in planning applications but is not part of adopted local planning policy, is available on Otley Town Partnership's web-site by following the link below:

Otley Walking Festival

Otley Conservation Task Force conducted several easy circular guided walks in Otley Conservation Area during Otley Walking Festival between 2004 and 2009. In 2004, the walks revealed parts of Otley Conservation Area that were generally already well known to local people. The walks were not intended specifically to reveal the town's history in the usual sense (this is well catered for by Otley Museum). Their purpose was more to discover the fascinating character of the buildings and spaces of Otley Conservation Area: how to "read" what the ancient stone walls have to say, and where to go to find those idiosyncratic pointers to our heritage. Our walks in 2005 and 2006 ("Beating the Bounds") studied the outer areas of Otley Conservation Area by looking for example at Silver Mill and its fine landscape setting and Otley Mills and how demolition of its listed chimney stack was seriously altering the visual impact of a historic industrial site. With the walk approximately following the boundary, it is not surprising that the ubiquitous but undervalued dry-stone walls accompanied us on many parts of the walk. In 2007, we studied "Shadows of the Past" - the evidence of buildings long gone and how these fragments of our built heritage may be conserved; however, the weather on the day was atrocious, and flooding eventually caused the walk to be abandoned. "Shadows of the Past" was therefore repeated for Otley Walking Festival on Saturday 28 June 2008. On 27 June 2009, we conducted a short walk called "The Inns and Outs of Otley", which gave an insight to the public houses of Otley, many of which have closed in the last few years (notably since the start of 2008). You can find out more about the festival by following the link below:

Heritage Open Days in Otley: "Storeys of Stone"

As part of Heritage Open Days in 2004, Otley Conservation Task Force conducted a guided walk within the boundaries of Otley Conservation Area, the appraisal for which had been adopted a few weeks before. In "Storeys of Stone", we discovered how Otley developed from medieval market town, through the industrial era, to become the vibrant community it is today, and we examined how conservation of the historic environment promotes the town's fine assets. We repeated "Storeys of Stone" for Heritage Open Days in 2006 and 2007. The emphasis was to find out what makes Otley worth conserving, by ambling slowly round some of the sights of the town. These included the Jubilee Clock beautifully restored in 2005, the exquisite East Window in the parish church also restored in 2005, the preserved Anglian and Saxon cross fragments also in the parish church, as well as some of the negative areas such as the derelict land and buildings behind Bondgate and Kirkgate, in the heart of Otley. In their way, all of these present a challenge to the conservationist. In 2008, "Storeys of Stone" was revised to account for the redevelopment of the area behind Bondgate to build another supermarket, so instead we looked more closely at some of the lesser-known corners of Otley, including the former Half Moon Yard off Westgate. The tour took place on 14 September that year. We will be repeating the tour on Sunday 12 September 2010. The link to Heritage Open Days is given below:

CAMRA consultation: Otley's historic pubs in the spotlight

The Yorkshire branches of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have recently invited contributions to its Consultation on Historic Pubs in Yorkshire. The aim of the project is to identify pub interiors which are of special historic or architectural interest which may be worthy of inclusion in the new Regional Inventory it proposes to publish. This regional survey is intended to be complementary to the National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors, published jointly some years ago, in conjunction with English Heritage.

Otley is still blessed with a good number and variety of pubs. Although the buildings are mainly in the Conservation Area and thus protected somewhat externally, in many cases their interiors have, over the years, been altered considerably. Some of course remain as they have been for decades, and it is these which will be of most interest to CAMRA's Regional Inventory Team. Others, although suffering elements of the modernising trends of more recent times, nevertheless retain individual identities and particular clienteles in their own right.

The important thing is, they are still pubs.

Historically, the town has been associated with having one of the highest densities of pubs anywhere in the country for as long as most can remember. Accustomed to enjoying the benefits of the many visitors who come to sample these delights, Otley now finds itself under serious threat of losing that great asset. In recent months we have seen the Bowling Green closed and an application for development by Wetherspoons withdrawn from the Planning Authority, the Westbourne converted into an Indian restaurant, and most recently the Summercross closed without warning, the tenants evicted from their flourishing business and the building with its fine beer garden sold to a housing developer.

In an extension of the CAMRA project, we feel it is now time that what remains of Otley's proud pub heritage is documented in as full a way possible. To this end, it is our aim to compile a unique pictorial record of every pub normally considered to be in the Otley locality (broadly the LS21 postcode area) as found at the early part of 2008. No restrictions or exclusions will be made - the pubs will be recorded internally and externally as they stand - authentic, nondescript or individual. The fact that they continue to be pubs means they all have appeal to some, and taste is (rightly) a very individual and varied thing.

The result of this exercise should be twofold; firstly, we will have created a record of (and a guide to) all of Otley's pubs at this time, and secondly, we hope, some interiors will be selected for inclusion in the CAMRA Regional Inventory.

If successful, we would hope to extend the survey to neighbouring villages and their pubs which are nominally considered as being affiliated to Otley, e.g. Pool-in-Wharfedale, Askwith, Bramhope etc.

Our survey can of course be no more than a representative "snapshot" of pubs at this time, but with the threat of closures looming it is hoped that if any more are lost, at least their existence and character will have been recognised and chronicled. To this end, in August 2009 we published a book about what we have done: "The Pubs of Otley: A Pictorial Record of 2008" is now available in local bookshops, price £4.99. It is also available by post (price £6.49 to include £1.50 p&p) from Phil Greaves, 7 Newall Carr Road, Otley, W Yorks, LS21 2AU.

It is hoped that this project will generate both local and indeed national interest, and will in years to come be seen as a unique record of Otley's pub heritage as it was in 2008.

Wharfedale Union workhouse (later Wharfedale General Hospital)

In May 2000, Otley Conservation Task Force prepared an application for the former Wharfedale Union workhouse at Otley, built in 1871-3 and designed by CS and AJ Nelson and extended at various times since, to be considered for listing. The buildings are outside Otley Conservation Area. In the application, Derek Linstrum, architectural historian, provided an architectural assessment of the former workhouse buildings, concluding that "the character of a small 1870s workhouse has survived".

As a result of the application, all but one of the buildings of 1871-3 were granted Grade II listed status on 15 November 2000 by the Secretary of State. The Mortuary and the Infirmary of 1905 were the main buildings excluded, and these remain unlisted but are within the cartilage of the buildings that were listed. These fine buildings are familiar to all who use Wharfedale General Hospital, and to those who are fans of the television series, "Heartbeat".

In December 2000, outline plans were submitted to construct the new "Wharfedale Hospital" on land to the west of the former workhouse buildings, such that the former workhouse would be left intact, with a view to converting them into apartments sometime in the future. The new hospital was opened in November 2004 with the 'sixties buildings immediately beside the old workhouse admissions wing being demolished in November 2002. Although there are no firm plans for the old workhouse buildings, which are now under the custodianship of English Partnerships, in June 2008 there was a public exhibition where an outline proposal for sustainable redevelopment of the site including conversion of the existing buildings into approximately 75 homes plus a series of sympathetic new-build eco-homes was presented, but nothing came of it until mid-July 2009, when a planning application (LCC reference 09/02785/FU) was submitted for the redevelopment of the former hospital, including part-demolition and conversion of buildings to form 40 dwellings (flats and houses) and erect 39 new dwellings (flats and houses), with associated car parking and landscaping. These are in the process of being studied.

For further detailed information, click the link below; additional information can be viewed at

Other project work

Members of Otley Conservation Task Force have taken part in many conservation projects since inception in 1997. Some of the projects that took considerable effort are:

* Preparation of a scheme proposal as a viable alternative to demolition of the former Gay Lane "tannery" building in 1997; this was abandoned following the building's destruction by fire in 2003. (In March 2008 after an archaeological field excavation, demolition of the remaining buildings on the site between Gay Lane and Station Road including the former cinema on Station Road and Bondgate House, took place in advance of the building of another supermarket.)

* Studies for the Conservation Area Partnership Scheme (CAPS) run by Leeds City Council and English Heritage, 1998.

* Photographic surveys of endangered buildings or buildings that were about to undergo change, e.g. Ashfield Works (now vacant, fate still awaited), Gay Lane "tannery" (demolished), Otley Courthouse (converted to a new use) and Manor House stables (converted to housing). Currently we are working on a photographic survey and record of Otley Civic Centre, which closed down at the end of April 2010.

* Execution of a shop front survey and preparation of a report, 2002.

* Assistance with updating the 1977 book by John Morgan, "Otley - Past, Present and Future: Twenty-Five Years On", in time for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002.

* Displays for Otley Library between 2003 and 2005 (4No) until the Library halted such displays; for Otley Courthouse's "Green Fair" in March 2006; for Otley Town Council's "Why Bother Day" in March 2007; and in association with Otley Town Partnership for Otley Show in May 2007.

* Preparing presentations for Leeds Civic Trust at Affiliated Societies' Liaison Meetings in October 2007 and September 2008 promoting conservation in Otley.

* Taking part in regular commenting work on planning applications in and around Otley Conservation Area.

* Taking part in consultations that shape the future of Otley Conservation Area, for example national consultations such as DETR's consultation on the Green Paper, "Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change" in 2002 and PPS15 (re-numbered PPS5) "Planning for the Historic Environment" in 2009, and local consultations such as Leeds Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) consultation in 2006 and Leeds Local Development Framework (LDF) consultation in 2007 (likely to continue through coming years).

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