Otley is mourning the tragic death of one of its senior clergymen.

The Rev Anthony Gardiner, minister of the town’s Bridge Church, died last Wednesday, aged 64.

An inquest opened at Leeds heard that a post mortem confirmed hanging was the cause of death.

The Rev Gardiner had served at the church since 1999 and was due to retire next year.

Bridge Church treasurer Andrew Howard said: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by Tony’s sudden death.

“He had been a United Reformed Church minister for over 40 years and for the last 14 the much-loved minister of the Bridge Church in Otley and was due to retire in January.

“During his time in Otley, Tony, with his wife Karen, exercised loving pastoral care not only for the family of the church but also in the town of Otley. We give thanks for his ministry among us.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Karen and her family at this sad time.”

The Rev Gardiner, who suffered from anxiety, had gone to his GP on Tuesday, December 4, and then collapsed in church on the day of his death.

He had been taken to Harrogate District Hospital but was later discharged. He was found dead at his home later that day.

A notice placed by his family paid tribute to the Rev Gardiner as the “devoted and adored husband and soulmate” of his wife and “deeply loved father of Matthew, Christopher, Faye and Sarah, and doting grandad to Isabella, Poppy, Charlie and Noah”.

Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod of the United Reformed Church, the Rev Kevin Watson, said: “The Rev Tony Gardiner has been a well-known, well-respected and loved minister in Otley since 1999. Many in the town will remember his generous and caring nature and wise counsel.

“Tony was not only committed to serving The Bridge United Reformed Church. He also worked closely with other churches in the town.

“Originally from Sheffield, Tony had a very happy, successful pastorate in Havant, but most of his ministry has been in Yorkshire – in the Castleford area, in Beeston Hill, Leeds, and, most recently, in Otley.

“Tony’s tragic death has been a terrible shock to everyone and the United Reformed Church will offer his beloved wife, Karen, their family and the wider congregation of the Bridge Church all the support and help they need.”

A service of thanksgiving will be held at the church at 11.30am on Wednesday.

Family flowers only are requested but donations can be made in lieu to mental health charity Mind and the church.