A CHURCH which has been part of Otley for more than a century has moved to a new premises and has been given a new name.

Bethel Church, which dates back to 1916, has relaunched this Spring as Beech Hill Church. New signage was fixed to the church’s new home, with branding and strapline reflecting the church’s mission and aspiration. The change both recognises that its century old name means little to the modern generation and also reflects the church’s new location at 20-24 Westgate.

Over the last year, the church has been busy refurbishing the historic buildings on Beech Hill to create a contemporary meeting space. Plans are currently underway for the opening of the new building and as soon as rules allow for a degree of social mixing, the congregation will start meeting there. The new name will mark this new era in the church’s life.

A spokesman said: "In the early twentieth century it was fashionable to name churches with names from the Bible – Beth El means House of God. Whilst in translation the name paints a clear picture of church, in 2021 it is meaningless to most people. Beech Hill, on the other hand, usefully locates the church and nods in the direction of the Otley history of which the church is a part, and now a custodian.

"The origin of the term Beech Hill is disputed. The lower part of Westgate, on which the church and Beech Hill car park are located, has been known as Beech Hill since medieval times. Recently, it was reflected in the name of Otley’s cinema which closed in the 1990s. Paul Wood, in the fascinating A Guide to the Townscape of Otley provides two possibilities for the name. He suggests either the Old English word bicce, meaning a place where dogs were kept or bred, perhaps in this case for Otley manor, or, alternatively, the evolution of Bishophill, from the association with the Archbishop of York, whose manor it was. Whichever, the church is delighted to keep the name in common use.

"In the new branding, continuity and change are both present. The use of blue is retained, albeit subtly altered, and the Bethel B has been carefully updated. The name has also been joined to a new strapline indicating the church’s core aims: Preaching Christ | Teaching the Bible | Loving others."

Chris Haley, the church’s pastor, said: "The church is looking forward to moving into a new home, its first permanent building - a sign of our commitment to Otley. We are pleased to be able to use it to serve the people of the town. Together the new name and strapline reflect both the community in which we serve and the 2,000 year old mission of the church, which is still as relevant as it has ever been."