Otley Museum and Industrial Heritage

Navvies Memorial Otley

Otley museum is a Yorkshire treasure that charts the industry and life of folk in Otley though the exhibits and informative volunteers. There are currently good research facilities where you can access the principal Museum Archive or the Urban Development Archive and conduct family or historical research. Current exhibits include details of locally discovered Neolithic bodies 5,000 years old that are thought to have suffered from Spina Bifida type health problems through new Rag Rugs from local children to Victorian coat hangers from gents outfitters and photographs of old farming families.

Local industries provided many of the commercial exhibits with a lot of detail from the heart of the printing machinery industry and the birth of the Wharfedale Printing machine. Notwithstanding the industrial connection the heart of the collection is an accumulation of all things that have gone to make up the life of a great market town in the West Riding.

Currently the museum is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday 10.00-12.30 and staffed exclusively by volunteers. Visit the Museum soon as the Mechanics Institute or Civic Hall where it is located is due for refurbishment. All the exhibits will have to be put into storage and it not certain that the self-funding charity will be able to afford the rent due to the council when the premises are reopened. Local communities need connections to the past and the museum deserves to be given every chance to entertain and educate future generations. Otley also needs all the attractions it can muster to encourage day trippers and visitors to the market and the surrounding countryside.

One special collection is of ‘Concealed Shoes’ which are individuals shoes discovered in old buildings. Since the 13th century buildings have had shoes concealed in the fabric, in walls, chinneys, roofs or under floorboards. Probably placed there to ward of witches and evil spirits they were meant to bring good luck or avoid bad luck. if you find such a shoe it is worth reporting to the museum for deatiled record keeping but leave it in place in case evil spirits do exist.

Biblography on Concealed Shoes.
Otley Museum concealed Shoes found around Otley Research File by appointment.
Edwardd J C Swaysland Boot & Shoe Design & Manufacture 1905 Museaum copy
Swann, J.M. web story and , ‘Shoes Concealed in Buildings’, Northampton Museum Journal 6 (December 1969) pp.8-21.
Ralph Merrifield, ‘Folklore in London Archaeology’, The London Archaeologist (Winter 1969) vol.1, no.5.
Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, Batsford, 1987).
Denise Dixon-Smith, ‘Concealed Shoes’, Archaeological Leather Group Newsletter no.6 (Spring 1990).
Olaf Goubitz, ‘Verborgen Schoeisel’ in Westerheem VIII no.5 (1989) pp.233-39.
Margaret Baker, The Realms of Gold (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1975; Penguin 1977) p.357.
J.L. Nevinson, Letter to The Times 5 February 1934, asking for reasons for concealments.
Col. Pen Lloyd, The History of the Mysterious Papillon Hall (Leicester 1977).

The Architecture of Otley is featured in the Otley Museum but there are many places for visitors to discover. The above photograph is a detail from the memorial to the Navvies who built and died during the construction of the Bramhope Railway Tunnel.

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