IN THE mid -1800s Otley was a small market town with some 3,000 inhabitants - but it was about to put itself on the world stage with its role in revolutionising the printing industry.

Pioneers David Payne and William Dawson made a real break-through into mass production of printed material with the "Wharfedale" machine, which used a cylinder to print rather than a flat plate - allowing it to produce more than 1,000 sheets an hour.

These photographs from Otley Museum show the two great men and the machines that put Otley at the forefront of the printing industry.

The story of the invention and the boom industry it created for the town is described by Jill Allman from the museum.

She said: "William Walker had a printing business and was looking to improve his output of printed material by means of a new printing press. He approached William Dawson (1806-1876) who was a joiner by trade and having learned his craft was specialising in wooden implements used in printing. Dawson used a patented design of Stephen Soulby, of Ulverston, who having failed to sell his machines approached William Dawson.

"With the assistance of David Payne, they produced the first “Ulstonian” mechanical printing machine in Otley in a new workshop off Westgate, The Ashfield Foundry in 1855.

"David Payne (1818-1888) was a man with an enquiring mind and had for some time been working on his own designs. In 1858 Dawson and Payne with the help of Elliott’s iron foundry (Tate’s Oil) produced the first “Wharfedale” machine, weighing in at approximately 3 tons and measuring 1.5m long. These machines then had the problem of distribution which was solved in 1865 when the railway arrived. Dawson and Payne formed a partnership that although only brief set the path for others to follow and copy the unpatented “Wharfedale”.

"David Payne left Westgate and set up his own business at the Atlas Works. Both these men had sons who carried on improving and marketing a series of machines that went world-wide.

"William Dawson died in 1876, his gravestone reads “The founder of the printing machine industry in Otley”. David Payne died in 1888 his gravestone reads “Inventor of the Wharfedale machine”

"More printer’s engineers and iron foundries quickly followed as the train tracks made raw materials and export of machines that much easier. As the decades passed the Wharfedale machine was continually improved and patented. Samuel Bremner owned the Bremner Machine Company, producing the “Bremner Wharfedale” and other machines for the printing industry. Crossfield’s foundry (now the bus station) was producing a machine “Reliance” with the ideas of John Fieldhouse. Others such as John Kelley and John Kay were working from their own premises so that by 1900 there were seven sites in Otley all producing “Wharfedale” machines, employing hundreds of men.

"After the turn of the century America was starting to catch up and the Otley engineers had to diversify. Whilst some of the sites produced the ever changing Wharfedales, others started to produce machines connected to the printing trade.

"World War 1 stopped the production of machines. The factories produced bullet and shell casings instead, made in vast quantities by men and women. After the war the work force was reduced and the market for machines had all but disappeared. The seven sites, realising they could not continue as they had pre-war, amalgamated in 1921. Under the direction of a board of Directors consisting mainly of Dawsons and Paynes they managed to keep the industry alive and in 1926 were employing some 1200 men.

"Fieldhouse Crossfield closed in 1932 falling with the Depression, Bremner’s survived until 1957. Waite and Savile, a company started in 1892 had survived in the Falcon Works, near the Atlas Works in Burras Lane. By the 1960’s Waite and Savile and Dawson Payne and Elliott were all that was left of this once ground breaking industry. Crabtree Vickers took over and eventually the last factory was closed down in 1983.

"Waitrose and the car park now stand on the old sites in Burras Lane and the Ashfield site is in the process of renewal. William Walker’s printing works behind Kirkgate will be part of that renewal."