"OTLEY, is a parish in the deep valley of Wharfdale, it is a small well built market town, on the south bank of the river, in a romantic and delightful situation between the mountainous ridges of Almscliff and Otley Chevin, 10 miles N.W. by W. of Leeds, 14 miles E. by S. of Skipton, and 196 miles N.N.W. of London. It is in the township and extensive parish of its own name, in the upper division of the Wapentake of Skyrack, and in the Liberty of Cawood, Wistow, and Otley, of which the Archbishop of York is Lord paramount, and was custos rotolorum till the Act of the 6th and 7th of William IV. transferred the right of appointing magistrates for the liberty, to the Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding.
This liberty comprises all the 13 townships of Otley parish, except Bramhope, and also includes Guiseley, Cawood, and Wistow. It is a separate criminal jurisdiction, for which four quarter Sessions are held yearly at Otley, and two adjourned sessions at Cawood. Petty Sessions are also held here on the first Friday in every month. The magistrates are, the Rev. J.A. Rhodes, Rev. G. Lewthwaite, Sir C. Ibbetson and W.R.C. Stansfield, W. Rhodes, R.H. Fawkes, F.Billam, J. Whitaker, and B. Thompson, Esqrs. Their clerks are Messers. J.L. Lee, W. Barret, and H. Newstead. The latter is clerk of the peace, and Messrs. J. Dawson and E. Wormald are bailiffs for the liberty. Respecting the derivation of the name of Otley, there are various conjectures. The popular notion is that Oats were formerly cultivated here to a great extent, and hence the name Oatley, which is equivalent to Oatfield. Dr. Whitaker, however, insists that this is a vulgar error, and that as the name was originally spelt Othelai, it is a personal appellation not unfrequent in England before the conquest, and comes from the field of Othe or Otho. The entry in Domesday book sanctions this supposition, for there it is spelt Othelai. Formerly the parish contained 81 square miles, comprehending the present parish of Otley, together with Weston, part of the parish of Guiseley, and that part of Ilkley which includes Middleton, and Stubham. The manor or Liberty as described above, was given by King Athelstan to the see of York. In the Nomina Villarum of 1316, the Archbishop is returned as lord as all his successors have been up to the present day. Part of the site of the ancient mansion of the Archbishops of York, on the north side of the town, is still called the Manor House; and when the present modest, but elanteg mansion, which occupies its site, was built by M. Wilson, Esq., about 47 years ago, some ancient and strong foundations were taken up. The kitchens of the ancient mansion were built by Archbishop Bower, who consumed at Otley some portion of the four-score tubs of claret, with a proportionate quantity of the other elements of hospitality, which he is said to have annually expended. The Parish of Otley contains 10,163 inhabitants, and comprises twelve townships lying in the Wapentakes of Claro and Skyrack. Otley township is in the latter division, and contains 2310 acres of land, and 3161 inhabitants, who, in 1801, only amounted to 2332. Formerly the woollen trade prevailed at Otley to some extent. Under the fostering care of the Society of "Merchant Adventurers," instituted in 1296; and a legal right was conferred upon clothiers to erect tenter before the premises in Cross-green; but this manufacture left the town (but not the parish,) many years ago, and established itself in situations more contiguous to fuel and inland navigation.
The market held every Friday, has existed more than nine centuries, and is one of the best in the county, being extensively supplied with corn, cattle, sheep, and calves. Every alternate market assumes the character of a fortnight cattle fair. Here are also four spring cattle fairs, the first held on the Wednesday in Easter week; the second and third, on the two succeeding fortnights, and the fourth on Whit-Wednesday. A large fair for cattle and pleasure, is held on the Monday after August 2nd, being the day after Otley feast. Statute fairs for hiring servants, &c. are held on the Fridays before and after Old Martinmas, when the town is crowded with people from the surrounding country. In addition to these fairs, a considerable show, under the patronage of the Wharf-dale Agricultural Society, is held here in April, when, among other exhibitions, there are interesting ploughing matches. The river Wharf, which is here crossed by a good bridge of seven arches, abound with smelts, trout and eels, and sometimes salmon are found in it. Otley has at different periods suffered from the overflowing of this river, but the most considerable inundation on record was in 1673. The town has a clean, airy, and rustic appearance, and has recently been improved by the introduction of gas, and the formation of a new road to Leeds, which was completed in 1837, and avoids the long and steep ascent of the "Chevin" hill, on the south side of the town. The Church, dedicated to all Saints, is a spacious fabric, which has been so frequently altered and repaired, that it retains none of its original Saxon features, except the plain circular arch of the north door. It contains several monuments of the ancient families of Fairfax, Fawkes, Vavasour, Palmer, Pulleyn and Hawksworth. The vicarage, valued in the King's books at £13.1s.8d., is now worth about £170 per annum. It is in the patronage of the Crown, and incumbency of the Rev. A. Fawkes. There are in the town five dissenting chapels, one belonging to the Society of Friends, one to the Independents, and one each to the Weslyan, New Connexion, and Primitive Methodists. In 1602, Thomas Cave left £250 towards founding a Free Grammar School at Otley; and in 1608, it was established by the letters patent of James 1. under the control of seven governors , who were incorporated, with power to acquire lands, &c., of the yearly value of £40. The sum given by Thomas Cave was doubled by the subscriptions of the inhabitants, and after building the school, the remaining sum of £380 was laid out in the purchase of a yearly rent charge of £26. 13s.4d., out of an estate at Lamworth, near Thirsk, now belonging to the Earl of Harewood. Of this annuity, £20 is paid to the master, and £6.13. 4d to the usher. The school is free to the parishioners for clasical learning, but seldom more than three or four boys attend as free scholars. Though the income is small, the master must possess the degree of M.A. or B.A.. The poor parishioners have an annuity of £5. 6s. 8d., charged on the rectories of Thorp Arch and Hooton-Pagnell, under the name of Queen Elizabeth's Dole. The poor of Otley township have the following Benefactions;- " The Poor Folks Close, (2A,2B let for £16) has been held immemorially for the use of the poor; and in 1783, on the enclosure of Otley-Chevin, two allotments were awarded to it, but they were conveyed to Wm. Mounsey, for a yearly rent-charge of £2. 14s. Two Cottages occupied by poor people, and a Garden let for £4, were given by unknown donors. The Plum Tree Garth was purchased bout the year 1725, with poor's money, of which £30 was given by Hugh and Dorothy Saxey. Part of it (!A. 2B.) is let for £5. 10s. and the other part was taken about 70 years ago, at the yearly rent of £2. 11s., by the overseers, for the purpose of erecting a poor-house thereon. In 1642, Alderman Jenkinson left to the poor of Otley, 40s a year out of his lands in the "Brode Field," near Boston, in Lincolnshire, and they have seven other yearly Rent Charges, amounting to £2. 15s., and paid out of property in Otley, but the donors are unknown. The clear annual proceeds of the above benefactions are distributed at Christmas, among the poor of the township; who have also a yearly rent charge of 50s. left in 1724, by Thomas Barker, out of an estate at Burley, now belonging to the Whitehead family."
[Transcribed from White's History, gazetteer and directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire 1837]