Online cycling magazine

Main menu: Home | Tour de France | Harrogate cycling | UK cycling | Hedge-blog

sample header image


Stage One of the 2014 Tour de France passes through Otley, West Yorkshire, after about 27km/17mi of the race. The riders will arrive from the east on the A659 from Pool, do a right/left dogleg in the centre of the town by the Black Horse Hotel, then continue to a roundabout where they sweep right on the A660 towards Ilkley. 

Black Horse Hotel, Otley    river Wharfe at Otley

Otley is a town of 14,215 people (2011 census), on the river Wharfe. It has featured as a location on TV, in Emmerdale, Heartbeat, and The Chase.

Name and history of Otley

The name Otley comes from the Saxon name of a person, Otho (or similar), combined with 'leah', meaning a woodland clearing in old English. The town was referred to as Otelai in the Domesday Book in 1086. Statue of Thomas Chippendale in Otley

The banks of the Wharfe here have been settled since the Bronze Age (2,500 to 800BC), and Roman coins have been found in the locality. Development here really began in Saxon times, when the Archbishops of York were Lords of the Manor, and had a residence in Otley. 

The first documentary evidence of Otley dates from 1222, when King Henry III granted a Royal Charter for a market. 

The Industrial Revolution came to Otley, as a cotton mill was built by the river in the late 1700s, then worsted mills, a paper mill, and a tannery. (Worsted is woollen yarn of a particular weight, and the cloth made from it; it's named after the village of Worstead in Norfolk). 

The development of the Wharfedale Printing Machine in Otley led to a thriving printing machinery trade in the late 1800s and into the following century. The specific advance made by the Wharfedale printer was the use of cylinders, instead of two flat surfaces. The Wharfedale is referred to as a stop-cylinder machine:

One famous son of Otley is Thomas Chippendale, cabinet maker.

The town of Otley

The busy A659 runs through the centre of Otley, and it is often a bottleneck, with queues of traffic. It passes the market square, where a market is held every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. There's a farmers' market on the last Sunday of every month. 

Black Bull, market square, Otley  Wormald's garage, Otley, West Yorkshire

Beyond the market square, to the south of the A659, are narrow streets, some pedestrianised, with cafes and tearooms, independent shops, and even an old-fashioned garage. Go further, and the road climbs steeply up an escarpment to Otley Chevin. Head north of the A659, and you come to the river Wharfe, where Dunnie's cafe is popular with cyclists and bikers (and very cheap!). 

Dunnie's cafe, Otley  View from Otley Chevin

Sports clubs in Otley

Otley has several sports clubs, including an Angling Club, Football Club, Cricket Club, and an Athletic Club. Otley Rugby Union Club has its ground at Cross Green - the venue of a win for the North of England against the New Zealand All Blacks in 1979.  

Otley rugby ground, from the Chevin  Chevin Cycles, Otley

The Otley Cycle Club has been going since 1927, and has 200 hundred members. There are club runs, cycle coaching for young riders aged 6-16, parent and child rides, and social events; and they organise races, including the Triangle club time trials. 

Otley Cycling Club also have an annual event, the Otley Cycling Festival. In 2014, this will be part of the 100 days of culture and cycling activity in the run-up to the Tour de France, and is likely to be held on 22nd June 2014 (Otley Velo Fete 2014). There'll be rides for all ages and abilities, a BBQ, and activities including children's games, and plate smashing. 

Lizzie Armitstead is the patron of the Cycle Club. She won the first British medal at the London 2012 Oympic Games, a silver in the women's road race. 

There's a big bicycle shop in Otley, Chevin cycles.

Pubs in Otley

Otley has a lot of pubs, some next door to each other, and at one time claimed to have more per head of population than anywhere else in England. The largest one is the Black Horse; the Black Bull, in the market place, is a historic pub, which reputedly played host to Oliver Cromwell's troops before the battle of Marston Moor, during the English Civil War; and the Junction Inn has won awards for its real ales.

Junction Inn, Otley  Red Lion, Otley

Thomas Chippendale

Thomas Chippendale plaque on the old Prince Henry's Grammar School building, Otley

Thomas Chippendale (1717-1779) was born in Otley, and attended Prince Henry's Grammar school there. He moved to London, where he carried on business as a cabinet-maker (making wooden furniture). His clients were aristocrats, and other wealthy people, and Chippendale's business employed up forty or fifty artisans.  He published a book of his designs, titled 'The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director.'

Otley Chevin

Otley Chevin

It is said that Otley Chevin was used as the backdrop for JMW Turner's painting of Hannibal Crossing the Alps. (Turner was a regular visitor to nearby Farnley Hall, to see his friend Walter Ramsden Fawkes). 

The Chevin is a wooded ridge or escarpment, overlooking Otley. The rocks here were laid down in the Upper Carboniferous period (315 million years ago). They were tilted at the end of this period, due to a collision of tectonic plates. Towards the end of the last glacial period, about 17,000 years ago, the Wharfedale glacier persisted in the valley, whilst the higher ground of the Chevin was free of ice. Landslips at this time helped create the steep slope of the Chevin.

Stone quarried on the Chevin was used for foundation stones of the Houses of Parliament.