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Eight centuries of Otley's past recorded in new history book
An academic labour of love that documents eight centuries of Otley’s history has hit the bookshelves.
A Guide to the Townscape of Otley, Thirteenth to Twentieth Century, draws upon a wealth of sources to follow “the footprints of inhabitants over eight hundred years”.
It is the first detailed book to be produced about the town’s history for more than 100 years, the previous one forming part of Upper Wharfedale, by Harry Speight, published in 1900.
Author Paul Wood, who was Otley Museum’s keeper for nearly 30 years, says he has poured all of his 40-plus years’ experience in historical research into the publication.
He said: “I’ve been doing this for a long time and this is a culmination of everything, so you could say it took 40 years to write, although the actual writing didn’t take so long.
“This one is a companion to my earlier book, A Guide to the Landscape of Otley, Seventh to Seventeenth Century, and in both I’m trying to bridge the gap between the academic world and the popular.
“The aim is to communicate more widely and to put, in effect, academic ideas into the public domain.”
The book features detailed illustrations by Mr Wood, a former graphic designer and teacher. They include everything from a picture of an unearthed child’s calf-skin shoe, dating from the 1840s, to building and repair plans for Otley Bridge and a plethora of street and boundary maps. Numerous well-known local surnames and businesses are also referenced, along with some scandals and darker episodes – including a night of “alarming stabbings and murder” at a cottage on Piper Lane in 1850.
Other chapters focus on the town’s evolving role as a market town, its many emerging trades, trends of building development and landowners.
As Mr Wood puts it on the back cover: “Witness overlord, priest, burgess and bondsman partition their settlement. Trace the growing townscape of tradesman, artisan and industrialist in workshop and mill.”
The book also contains exhaustive chapter notes to direct inquisitive readers to the sources themselves.
In his introduction, the author says: “It is hoped that observers of this townscape will enjoy the journey and gain a closer idea of local and regional ancestral patterns.
“Those who choose to read between the lines or walk the streets, lanes, roads and ginnels might slow their step and notice a new and emerging picture.
“The signposts to the old sandstone settlement and its brick outliers, still placed in a verdant Wharfedale landscape, are a continuing guide to fresh discovery.”
As with previous works, Mr Wood has been assisted on A Guide to the Townscape of Otley by Christine Dean, who was assistant keeper of Otley Museum for many years.
The book costs £15 and is on sale at a number of outlets in Otley including Just Books (and in Ilkley), Browse Time, Otley Museum, JBM Bargains, Studio 7, Bondgate Bakers and The Cheerful Chilli. It is also available at the Grove Bookshop, Ilkley, and at Wharfedale Family History Group meetings.
It can also be ordered by post, for the same price, from Mr Wood at 5 Garnett Street, Otley, LS21 1AL.