Building » Otley – Our Lady and All Saints

Otley – Our Lady and All Saints

Bridge Street, Otley, West Yorkshire

A Puginian Gothic design by Charles Hansom, built on the site of the medieval manor house of the Archbishop of York. The church was built largely at the expense of Thomas Constable, a local Catholic, in the wake of large-scale Irish immigration into the town. The church makes a positive contribution to the Otley Conservation Area. 

The site of the present church was from early medieval times the location of the Archbishop of York’s manor house. The archbishop developed the town from the early thirteenth century onwards and granted the right to hold a fair and market. Otley was later home to the Catholic martyr Francis Dickinson, and nearby Weston was the birthplace of another martyr, Matthew Flathers. Until the building of the present church, Ilkley Catholics attended Mass at Myddleton Lodge.

In 1836 Thomas Constable bought the Manor House, built in 1783 in the grounds of the medieval manor. Thomas was a lawyer, educated at Ushaw College. He adapted a side pavilion into Clitherow House, and this served as his offices. When the famine of the 1840s brought many immigrants from Ireland to the town, Constable took great interest in their welfare, even turning his dining room into a ward with ten beds. Hundreds of  immigrants came to Otley and settled on the east side of the town, which became known as the Irish Fields.

Constable decided to build a church in the grounds of the Manor House for the benefit not only of his family but also for the growing Catholic community. He commissioned Charles Francis Hansom, used by the Middleton family at Sicklinghall, to build the church. It cost £4,000 and was opened on 24 June 1851 by Bishop Briggs of Beverley. By 1867 the parish had increased so much in size that Hansom was called back to add an extension to the west end, costing £700.

The church was altered in 1934 and a photograph taken prior to these works shows a magnificent timber rood screen, since removed. In 1943 Thomas Constable’s daughter Mary, Lady Mowbray and Stourton gave the church to the Diocese of Leeds. Her daughter the Hon. Charlotte Stourton later also gave the Manor House to the diocese.

Major alterations were carried out in 1970-2. The sanctuary was reordered and a new entrance porch and stairs to the organ loft constructed at the west end. The original entrance on the south front was blocked and turned into a store room and the font moved from the baptistery to the sanctuary, with the former turned into a confessional. These works were financed by the sale of a plot of adjacent land to a housing trust. Further works to the sanctuary were carried out in 1992 and 1995.


Raised up from the street, the church is constructed of stone with a graduated green Westmorland slate roof; the building is in the revived style of the English fourteenth century, as advocated by A. W. Pugin. The eastern boundary facing Bridge Street has a stone wall with to the right and a single-storey link section leads to the presbytery. The eastern gable wall is dominated by a Geometric window with dressed stone tracery; under which is a Portland stone memorial to the fallen of the Great War, with additions from the Second World War. A canopied niche in the gable contains a statue of Our Lady. The easternmost two bays of the south elevation are stepped back delineating the chancel, the remaining five bays of the nave contain windows with pairs of decorated lancets topped by a quatrefoil. Each bay is separated by a stepped stone buttresses. The two separate single-storey extensions originally housed the main entrance and the baptistery. The entrance is now located in the modern addition to the west, which wraps around the external stone staircase tower with its pyramidal stone roof. The two-bay 1861 extension is clearly visible on the northern elevation, with its small single lancet windows and paired windows above lighting the organ gallery. There are a number of decorative carved stone gargoyle and figurative heads on the building.

The interior is reached via a porch containing pictures of the martyrs, Bl. Francis Dickinson and Bl. Matthew Flathers, installed in the sanctuary in 1934 and moved to their present position in 1970-2. The modern narthex contains stairs to the organ gallery; in 1992 a separate Lady Chapel was formed. The lofty nave has an open roof of arch-braced scissor truss form, now painted black. Simple, plain wooden pews form a central aisle. The terracotta Stations of the Cross were added in 1934. The north wall has a monument to John Constable (d. 1891). The baptistery was converted into a confessional in 1970-2 and the font moved first to the rear of the church and then in 1992-3 to its present position.

The sanctuary has a fine coffered ceiling decorated with paterae and is raised up by two steps. The forward altar and pulpit were installed in 1994 to replace those of the 1970s reordering and stylistically are more in harmony with the original carved stone reredos. The reredos itself has been altered with the central section now containing the tabernacle once more and a new carving of a pelican in her piety above. The most striking element of the sanctuary is a stained  glass window of 1994, designed by Ann Southeran; it depicts the risen Christ in a garden. The original glass from the east window was relocated to the west window above the refurbished gallery.

Amended by AHP 22.01.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: Charles Hansom

Original Date: 1851

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed