Churches Together in Otley

Back to Homepage

History of The Churches in Otley             contents page

Note: the detail below is from the 2002 edition
 of Otley Past Present and Future

All Saints Church - Parish Church


The date and foundation of the Parish Church of All Saints is not known. There is little documentary evidence about any pre-Conquest church, but it is not unlikely the first church at Otley was built in the eighth or ninth century, and substantial surviving fragments of Anglo-Saxon crosses are evidence of this. These were preaching crosses, and pre-date the erection of a church. Of the three principal ones, on a pedestal in the Baptistry, one has busts of the Evangelists and is a unique piece of sculpture, known as the ‘Angel’ cross and dated 750 A.D. Another depicts two eagles with dragon’s tails, the details being clear cut and full of symbolic significance. This is the ‘Dragon’ cross, of date 800 A.D. A third is of completely different style with scrolls and strapwork, which is dated 860 A.D.

The first Norman church of the twelfth century, was built on the foundations of the Saxon structure, and is now the Chancel, which retains the Norman Piscina, aumbry and two small windows high up in the walls. In 1240 AD, the Church was enlarged by the addition of the Nave, Transepts and Tower and between 1485-1500 the two aisles were completed and the large East window inserted. In 1851 the present roof and clerestory were added to the Nave and in 1867 further restoration included the removal of the two galleries which had been put up in the previous century, and the replacement of the old ‘box’ pews by the present oak seats.

The Tower contains eight bells, which were last re-cast in 1922. The church clock, made by Harrison of Aberford, dates from 1793, at which time the unusual carrilon was added. These played a different tune each day of the week but have not been heard in recent years.

Amendment made in 2016 at the request of the Tower Captain 
While the present ring of bells was indeed installed in 1922, they were recast from a previous ring cast in 1781, which in their turn were recast from a 1748 ring.  Sadly we do not at the moment have any information from before that date, though we know that there were bells at the church before then.
The clock was built by George Goodall of Aberford, not Harrison (the name is on the clock).  The mechanism in the clock chamber referred to in your article as a 'carillon', is not in fact one of those, but is a chiming barrel - basically a giant musical box!  A carillon is a (usually more extensive) set of bells on which tunes are played using a keyboard. Unfortunately someone got hold of the word 'carillon' many years back and applied it to our chiming barrel, it was used by the local press and has been quoted ever since!  

Notable monuments in the church include a brass dated 1593 recording the alliances of the Palmes of Ripon and the Lindleys of Lindley : the tomb of the first Lord and Lady Fairfax of Denton and the tombs of Dyneley of Bramhope, Vavasour of Stead, Fawkes, Barker, and Lacon amongst others.

The Registers were commenced in 1562 and contain many interesting entries, which include the signature of John Wesley as officiant at a wedding in 1788 and also the baptism of Thomas Chippendale in 1718. The Church possesses a book of sermons preached in this and other churches by Dissenting Ministers during the Civil War. This is handwritten by Charles Fairfax of Menston in a code known only to him and has yet not been decoded.

In the churchyard is a monument in memory of all the men who lost their lives in the construction of Bramhope Tunnel, between 1845-49. The unusual style represents in minature the entrance of the tunnel at Arthington.

A brass plate in church lists our vicars from 1627. The church is not a museum, but a living institution and remains, since its foundation as an active centre of life.

In the new Millennium there is something for everyone at the Parish Church: from the choir to the Mothers’ Union, started one hundred and ten years ago by Mrs Horton Fawkes; the Newall Ladies’ Fellowship; the Men’s Fellowship group which meets in the Parish Room; brownies, guides, beavers, cubs, scouts and the Friendship Club for older people.

Hopefully, today’s Parish Registers will make interesting reading for future generations. They will record such events as: the marriage of Mark James, the golfer, to Jane in 1980, the appointment of our first female churchwarden Shirley Parker and the construction of the Parish Room at the rear of the church during 1990/1. Situated in the former Baptistry, this required special permission to move the font to its current position at the front of the churchand the building of five town houses in 1995 in what was formerly the Church Schoolroom.

Otley All Saints Bellringers

Otley Parish Church has a ring of eight bells, forming an octave in the key of F. Originally hung in the mid-18th century, they were recast in 1922. The tenor (heaviest) bell weighs just over 16 cwt, the treble (lightest) about 4 cwt. During the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 the bells were rung at 11am each Monday morning when the Auction Mart should have been starting its day’s business, signifying our support for the farming community and a peal of bells rang out when the first market was held again in 2002.

A brass plate in church lists our vicars from 1267, starting with Galfridus de Bridlington and finishing with that of Graham Buttanshaw, our current vicar who came to Otley after working in Sudan and Uganda. He is ably assisted by our curate, Philip Moon and together they are helping us anticipate the future of Christianity in Otley with excitement.

(2009 Rev John Parkin is now the curate.)