FASCINATING photographs from Otley Museum show how public transport has evolved over more than 100 years.

The following article written by museum volunteer David Clegg looks back at the history of public transport by road in the town.

With current levels of traffic congestion, here is a look back at how Otley was served in days gone.

Public transport over any great distance really commenced with horse drawn stage-coach services. One of the earliest recorded was the “Kendal Union” service which started in 1807, running three days per week from Leeds to Kendal via Otley and Skipton, including a “service” stop at the White Horse Hotel in Otley. This was complemented from 1816 by the “True Briton” service on the same route but on different days and utilising the Black Horse Hotel.

Both these Hotels had stabling facilities, the White Horse having 18 stables catering for up to 80 horses. These were accessed by the extant arch off Manor Square.

The “Pilot” and “Royal Wharfedale” services ran from 1816 and 1822 respectively on the York to Liverpool route, again via Otley (White Horse) and Skipton. From 1822, a more local service from Leeds to Ilkley via Otley was introduced, known as “Defiance”

It is interesting to note that the services to/from Leeds would at that time have used the route up East Chevin Road, as the current Leeds Road (A660) was only constructed in 1842. This entailed passengers to Leeds having to walk for the first section from Otley until the gradient eased at the top of East Chevin Road.

Stage-coach services largely disappeared with the arrival of the railway in 1865.

From 1915 to 1928, Otley was served by a Trackless Tram (or trolleybus) system. This ran from the Maypole to White Cross in Guiseley, where it met the Leeds City tram system. The cost of a return fare was 3d.

Motor bus services started around 1919, with a service from Otley to Ilkley provided by Normington & Co of Burley, closely followed by Fred Rathmell’s Cream Bus Services from 1921 on the same route.

A service from Otley to Lawnswood tram terminus was started in 1922 by the Otley & Lawnswood Motor Bus Co, of Barrett & Thornton, extending to Woodhouse Lane in Leeds City centre from 1925. A bus garage was built by them on Bondgate in 1922 and still exists as a tyre workshop today.

Other early carriers were the Otley Motor Charabanc Co. of Harold Stephenson, Westgate; Arthur Skinner of Bondgate and Sarah Buttery of Cross Green. Harrogate was added as a destination around 1922 by Joseph Robinson and Francis Blakey, with Harrogate & District Road Car Co following in 1924, these being extended to Bradford in 1925. A Horsforth via White Cross service was run by the Moorfield Bus Co of Yeadon in the 1920’s.

The most famous name in local bus travel was undoubtedly Samuel Ledgard. Based in Armley, Ledgard had bought his first steam road vehicle in 1906. His appearance on the local bus scene however was in 1925 with the introduction of a service from Otley to Leeds Woodhouse Lane, in conjunction with J Cole & Sons and G F Tate.

By the early 1930’s Ledgard had acquired all the other operators in the area with the exception of the Harrogate Company (then called West Yorkshire Road Car Co). These two companies jointly built the Otley Bus Station which opened in 1939. The empty foundry of Fieldhouse, Crossfield & Co and 16 houses on Boroughgate, Thackray Square and Wharfedale Yard were demolished in order to create the bus station and Crossgate to link Bondgate with Boroughgate.

The two companies worked side by side until 1967 when Ledgards was bought by West Yorkshire, which then became part of the National Bus Co, before privatisation in 1986, since when many different private operators have provided services to the town.

The bus station was rationalised in the 1990’s to create the Orchard Gate Centre.

Further photographs are currently on display in the Town Council Core Resource Centre in Orchard Gate, open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 3pm.