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The Wharfedale Printing Machine

Available as a Word Document 

2008 - 2009


This year has seen the Museum go from strength to strength in terms of the services we provide and new contacts made.

Our Family History experts remain extremely busy guiding individuals coming into the museum to research their ancestors. They also answer numerous postal enquiries – often at great length - from this country and abroad. 

As ever, the Printers’ Engineering industry has turned up new contacts and requests for advice on the restoration of Printing Presses ‘found’ in sheds and outbuildings. Our local newspaper and television have featured some of these finds.

The Museum is ideally suited to provide Key Stage II pupils with an insight into various aspects of Victorian life whether in the home, in trades and industry or in agriculture. Groups of pupils from primary schools in Otley and Ilkley have handled artefacts, looked at maps and photographs and seen demonstrations. We have once again welcomed Spanish students on the annual exchange visit to Prince Henry’s Grammar School. Adult groups have also visited, usually out of normal opening hours; and our volunteers have visited groups to give talks on various local topics.

In November we sent a personal invitation to all 20 members of Otley Town Council to visit the Museum so that they could see at first hand the extent of the collection and have an up-to-date view of the work undertaken by volunteers. We gave them a choice of two dates or one at their own convenience. We received seven replies: four apologies and three visitors. 

As well as normal work we have been immersed in the logistics of planning for the upheaval which the refurbishment plans will cause. We are particularly indebted to our Trustees Andrew Howard and John Bennett for their continuing support and personal involvement. We are very grateful for the advice and help we have received from staff at Leeds Museums and Galleries. As a registered museum we have also received ongoing advice and support from staff of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. 


In August 2008 we told you about our meeting with Otley Town Council when we were suddenly given news that earlier plans to allow us not only a home in the Civic Centre but slightly increased space had been shelved as the refurbished Civic Centre would have to pay its way and therefore unless the Museum were to pay a very large commercial rent it would be better if the Museum were to find new premises. No museum exists without public or private subsidy. Over the last 40 years Otley Museum has effectively been subsidized by the local council.

Since this news we have made stringent efforts to convince both Otley Town Council and Leeds City Council (which still owns the building) that we are a valuable asset to the town and deserving of their support.

On 17 February we met members of Otley Town Council Steering Committee who sketched in their vision for a future very large museum devoted to printing. It would, they stated, be a wonderful tourist attraction with longer opening times including Sundays and Bank Holidays.

They told us that our present collection could be housed within this projected future museum but we must emphasise that no plans for this have been put forward. It remains an idea possibly far into the future and we await any details of the project. Our problem remains unsolved.

When the refurbishment work begins on the Civic Centre our two exhibition rooms may have to be cleared. Our plans for this daunting and expensive task are well in hand if it should prove necessary and we can assure people that the exhibits will be carefully and expertly packed and monitored afterwards until we can return to permanent premises wherever they may be. 

We await more information on the starting date. 

We urgently need to find an office to house our archives of documents, photographs, plans, etc where we can continue our very well used services to researchers. We have explored many commercial premises but cannot afford them. We ask anyone knowing of inexpensive, modest premises for this purpose to please contact us.


The Museum Management Committee decided not to accept any large items for the collection after the end of September 2008, due to the possibility of the Museum’s relocation. We did accept photographs and small documents and 64 items were donated in 2008. 

Among a large collection of items from a family who once lived in Otley were some toys which included a gyroscope, a novelty money box, a painted doll’s head, draughts, a battledore and a jointed wooden puppet. The latter possibly home-made because its head looks as though it might have been a wooden door knob. Other interesting items included a Victorian cream silk frilled baby’s bonnet with satin ties and a pair of black leather Victorian/Edwardian ladies’ boots which fasten up the side with 10 very small buttons.

A very lightweight police truncheon was donated by the family of a Burley policeman. It is so lightweight, considerable force would have been needed to subdue a miscreant. If subdued, a heavy pair of handcuffs from the same source would be placed round the wrists of the wrongdoer and fastened with a locking screw. A rather cumbersome method compared to more recent methods of restraint. I wonder how many wrong’uns got away while the screw was being laboriously turned by policemen whose fingers were cold. 

A register from Otley Fire Brigade with entries from 1883 to 1983 shows that many fires attended were of railway embankments, grass and trees, workshops, chimneys and vehicles. The Brigade also rescued people from the River Wharfe, attended motor accidents and pumped buildings out after flooding. One entry in 1969 reads ‘Leeds Bradford Airport – Air crash 2 dead & 4 injured’ and on a lighter note in the same year ‘Railway Station, Arthington – making rain for TV’. 1914 saw the first Motor Engine arrive.

The book records that the Brigade was called out when zeppelins were around five times during World War I but no incidents were noted. No doubt to avoid trouble an entry in 1915 states ‘On Wed the 20th of January the Public Houses in Otley were closed at 9 o’clock P.M. both against Soldiers & the Public. The Miners Battalion at this time are in Camp in Wood Huts on Farnley Estate. Numbering about 1,600 men.’ 

‘A School Boy’s Story 1933-1942’, written by Norman Copsey who attended St. Josephs School in Crow Lane Otley, tells the tale of a fascinating bygone era of education: the teacher whose aspidistras were carefully carried out when it rained, the excitement when the gift of a ‘real leather football’ was presented to the school:, the older lads who drank the cream off the small bottles of milk and filled it up with water, the outside toilets which only flushed when a teacher flushed his own at the end - which Norman described as ‘deep and mysterious’, and the very young children having an afternoon sleep on canvas beds, and many more wonderful memories.

Local council elections nowadays seem quite dull affairs compared to 1905. The political cartoon below, drawn by Otley artist George R.Warnes, would probably be considered libellous in the twenty first century. 


Around about 1891 John Holt, a widower from Heywood, Lancashire came to Otley with his children Ada, Annie, Nellie, Herbert and Mary Jane. He set up in business as a botanical brewer with his two brothers Thomas and Arthur. Thomas and Arthur didn’t stay long in Otley but John remained and in 1897 he married Martha Nicholson at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Boroughgate. Mary and John subsequently had four children, Harry, Stanley and the twins Florrie and Minnie. 

The museum holds a copy of the reminiscences of John Holt’s son Harry, in which he gives a description of Holt’s brewery, which was in a stable with a cobbled floor on Mercury Row, and here John produced ginger beer, sarsaparilla, hop ale and dandelion and burdock. He collected hops from Leeds and came back to Otley with them by train. All the drinks contained brewers’ yeast, which he bought from Mawson’s corn merchants behind the Three Horse Shoes public house on Bridge Street. Each time John took a clean bucket with him and bought two ladles of yeast at 3d a ladle and this was mixed with the other ingredients. Sugar and water were added before being poured into stoneware bottles, which held one gallon or half a gallon. When the bottles were filled different coloured cords were tied around the necks of the bottles to show what the bottle contained: white for ginger beer; red/white for sarsaparilla; brown for hop ale and orange for dandelion and burdock.

John sold the drinks from a flat cart which could hold up to 70 gallon bottles and he travelled all over the district even as far as Harrogate and Knaresborough. The stoneware jars cost 9d. each to buy but John only charged 7d a gallon for the drink and because he charged no deposit on the bottle customers were not returning the empty bottles but keeping them to store paraffin. The eventual failure of the business around 1910 left the family extremely poor so they left their home in Queen’s Place and moved to 15 Westgate where eventually they opened a fish and chip shop. John Holt later moved to 65, Kays Crescent where he died in 1925.

The Museum has examples of the stoneware bottles with the name
Holt Bros. Botanical Brewers Otley stamped on them.

We thank all those who have supported us during the past year whether by subscription,
donation, visit, research or enquiries.

Here are a few of the comments we have received in response to the threatened loss of the Museum:

‘Otley Museum is a most valuable and delightful intimate collection about Otley and its people, culture and industries etc. ….It is unthinkable that such a fine, unique collection be broken up or left homeless. Surely the Town Councillors
can see the quality attraction for tourists and the unifying cultural symbolism and amenity for residents?’

‘I visited this museum as a pupil at … primary school and now again as a young adult and it’s never failed to catch my imagination and fuel my interest in local history.’

‘With the wealth of local memorabilia which is exhibited
this museum must carry on and if possible be given the chance to expand.’

‘A huge tragedy for the town of Otley – the loss of a wonderful heritage/archive. Surely such a valuable resource cannot be
allowed to just disappear.’ 

‘It is very important for current and future generations of residents not to lose sight of the heritage of Otley and it is the duty of the Town and City Councils to support and help fund the work of the Museum.’

‘Please keep this most interesting little museum open.’

‘It would be a great shame if the museum was no more as it is a great source of information about the history of industry and social comment about Otley and of great interest to many local people.’ 

‘The museum collection ….. has been painstakingly built up over many years by a dedicated and enthusiastic group of volunteers. They receive no financial assistance and provide an invaluable service, both to members of the local community and those from farther afield. It would be a great pity – if not a disgrace – if these facilities were to be lost.’

‘Please do not lose this marvelous collection of artifacts showing Otley’s history……………I am a member of Ipswich Heritage Group . and also the Ipswich Institute which is still based in our Mechanics’ Institute from soon after its foundation in the 1830s…...Schools, groups and individuals of all ages need buildings and collections like this to show the past. Too much history has already been lost all over England’.

‘It’s a poor do after paying so much tax earnt in local engineering that Otley’s history is not going to be preserved and celebrated…In 100 years time all we will have to show our great grandchildren is some railings around the river….Otley is changing and not for the better.’

‘The Otley museum is an important custodian of Otley’s heritage. As such space for it should be maintained in the Mechanics Institute (Civic Centre) which has been a centre for Otley people as long as I can remember. I was born in Otley in 1949.’
‘This is a splendid local collection and if it is not housed and displayed to advantage it will be a failure of civic responsibility. Please reconsider what might be a regrettable decision.’


On Heritage Open Day the Post Office Cart - which takes up a lot of space - finally found its place when we used it to mount a selection of postcards sent from and to Otley from the turn of the 19th Century through the first half of the 20th.

Old postcards are windows into social history – we see how our town has changed over the years. We may laugh at bygone fashions and at purposely comic cards; we can be amazed at what our forbears thought interesting or attractive, but we also see glimpses of individual lives in what is written on the plain side of the card. There are holiday activities, news of relatives, messages from the First World War trenches, innumerable instructions for meeting people from trains, arranging days out and visits etc, to say nothing of orders to tradesmen and trade advertising cards. There are cards from children at boarding school and also those sent urgently requesting someone to post some object left behind on a visit.

Our display contained all the above and some very special ones too: the series detailing the 1911 murder and funeral of Eliza Todd of Otley in which the stricken faces of her three bereaved children haunt us as much today as 100 years ago.

Then too we showed cards sent by a Hospital Ward Sister in 1911 to the parents of a young Otley patient, charting the child’s progress and speaking volumes about our changed attitude to sick children.

Pressed for space as always some of the display was in a corridor but we managed to show some of our collection not normally seen by the public, together with some striking drawings and photographs done by one of our team of volunteers which helped set the historical context of the cards. 


We are always aiming to improve our permanent displays and our most recent focus has been on the Margerison Collection of twine and netmaking tools, together with examples of products. The business operated in Bondgate for over a century, making rope, line and twine as well as woven harnesses and other items for the local farming community.

We chose to refurbish this particular display simply because one visitor happened to be a member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers and offered his help in identifying more obscure objects and their precise use.

A palm thimble caused some excitement. They are rarely seen today – and we have two. Like a thimble it is used to prevent the needle from piercing the skin but in this case it fits in the palm of the hand when pushing a large needle through canvas. 

Almost all the items are now identified - marline spike, paddles, swords, beaters, heddles, gauges and measures - but one or two are still being researched. A hook for hanging work is probably home made. 

It is comforting to know that these examples from a dying craft continue to be preserved in the Museum..


A recent Family History request was sent from Buckinghamshire for information on Rammer’s House Farm, Otley, and the Dickinson family who lived there. Now private residencies, Rammer’s House is still standing near the Cambridge estate and is an open field site in an otherwise densely populated area.

The last Dickinsons to live at the farm were Mary and her brother William (Billy). When Mary moved from the farm she gifted many artifacts to the Museum. These included dairy related objects, costume and a patchwork quilt in the ‘log cabin’ style. The quilt was made by Ann Dickinson at Rammer’s House farm between 1880 and 1890. 

We were surprised by the number of older people in Otley who remembered Mary and they were a fund of information about the farm and the family. This underlines one of the first tenets of Family History: that as an initial step one should try and speak with older family members and friends. They often have a wealth of knowledge and are usually happy to tell their story.

What about the couch potato? We started our search by consulting our vast surname index and found that the Otley Dickinsons were related to another farming family, the Dickinsons of Stainburn. One of the references lead us to The Account Book of William Dawson, Joiner, Otley and a bill for 
Mr Michael Dickinson, Stainburn. It said “1847 Nov. 15th ‘To a New Sofa and stuffed with curled hair etc. (To be paid for by 7 loads of potatoes when wanted.).”


Friends of Otley Museum was originally established to help with the running costs of the museum, and in particular the rent and rates.

Subscriptions and donations over the years have been invaluable.

Our charitable status means that we receive a mandatory rates reduction of 80% from Leeds City Council; and through the Gift Aid Scheme we can claim up to 0.25p for every £1 paid by anyone who pays Income Tax at the standard rate.

Otley Town Council will raise our rent by 3% from 1 April

The figures for 2009-2010 are:

Rent: £1062.40 Rates £242.50 

We do hope that you will continue to support us during the coming year by completing the subscription form overleaf.



Membership Fees Per Annum
Ordinary £5
Family £7
Retired/Unwaged/Student £2
Group £10
Society/School/Company £20


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Otley Museum holds a comprehensive collection of objects, artefacts and documentary material relating to the development of Otley and District since the prehistoric period. The museum is managed and run entirely by volunteers, acting as a central point at which historical resources can be conserved, recorded and interpreted for the benefit of public education.

Otley Museum
Otley Civic Centre
Cross Green
Otley LS21 1HD
Tel: 01943 461052

If you cannot reach us on the above number please
Telephone 07943471386 

Registered Museum 1234 Charity Number 519264