Heritage Tour is series of articles by Allan Boddy and Margaret Parkin, and occasional others, that appear monthly in the church magazine. These explore many aspects of the history and heritage of the church building and its artefacts.
Aspects of W.W.1 and Otley Parish Church
by Margaret Parkin
RUSSIA ITALY WITH LOVE… in 1920
What links these pictures to Otley Parish Church?
TRAVELLING by train from Nice through to Italy, John and I got into conversation with a young American couple.
It was a beautiful day and a wonderful scenic route with sea on one side and country on the other and the Apuan Alps in the distance. Suddenly, the question was asked “Is that snow on those hills?” Just as I said, “no, I think you are seeing quarries”, the train slowed and passed through a small station with a place name of CARRARA. The man’s wife and I grabbed our cameras – we both knew about Carrara – and that’s the link. Marble, quarried in Carrara since the Roman times, is regarded as some of the finest in the world. And it was used to create the sculptures and buildings named at the start of this article, and many more too.
And yes, we have some Carrara marble in Otley Parish Church!
The altar in the Sanctuary was made in 1912. It cost £30 and was paid for by public subscription. The black and white marble tiles, laid at the same time, came from Carrara.
Another piece of Carrara marble can be seen to the left of the East window on the north wall. It is a memorial to the Reverend Henry Robinson, who was vicar here from 1816-1834 and a master at the Old Grammar School in Northgate. Symbols like the Latin cross, bible and prayer book are often seen on memorials to priests.
And, perhaps, the most poignant of all is the WW1 memorial in the South entrance. It was created in Carrara itself and brought to Otley.
I talked with Bill Mulholland, a local historian, whose research produced not only the biographies of the 187 men named on the WW1 memorial in church, but also of 95 others not listed on our memorial. This detailed record is held by Otley Museum.
Bill’s Great Uncle, Pat Devaney, signed up in Bradford where he worked, the day after war was declared. He received the Military Medal but never spoke of his war time experiences. Bill’s visit to the Somme to learn more about Pat moved him to a degree where he says, “it just seemed important to pay tribute to the men of Otley also”. So, in his retirement in 1995 he began a piece of work which took four years to complete. Bill’s record relating to the men named on our memorial was ultimately collated and re-produced in two bound volumes, presented to the Parish Church, and completed by the NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Society) Church Recorders. Their recording of the hundreds of artefacts inside our church took some two years to complete.
Bill’s research led him to consult many resources including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Public Records Office, Regimental Histories and Museums, Otley Museum records, archives of the Wharfedale Observer, and the Leeds Library Service.
Following the cessation of World War One in 1918, it was decided to provide a permanent memorial to honour the sacrifices made by local men. Their families were invited to have that person’s name inscribed on what became our WW1 Memorial. Some, however, declined the invitation, but nevertheless, we have 187 names on our memorial. The memorial is dated to 1920. It was designed by Mr Oswald Holmes, an architect of Otley, and gifted by the Otley Town Council of the day.
On the Sunday nearest to 11th November each year, the WW1 Memorial used to become a focus in our Service of Remembrance. A new wreath of poppies was placed on it with the congregation turning to face it, standing for a moment in a silent act of remembrance and thanksgiving.
During the re-ordering of the church in 2015/2016, it was planned to move the Memorial from its place in the Children’s Corner across to the North aisle to maintain its role in our church and community life. Work was begun but abandoned when the risk of irreparable damage became obvious. So, it remains in situ and the stairs to the mezzanine floor have been created round it in the re-designed South entrance. This year, a wreath of poppies was placed on the main altar as we remembered the sacrifice made by so many.
The memorial simply lists the names of men killed during WW1 who had Otley connections. I have been re-reading Bill’s record which provides a mini-biography of each of the men named there. This includes, name, rank, regiment, age, date of death, place where buried, family history, etc., and reflects the human cost of war on a small town like Otley.
Each name represents someone’s father, husband, or son.
Most of the men died abroad – in Turkey, Iraq, Belgium and France. Some died here in England – from illnesses or injuries resulting from their wartime experiences. Two died during training and two died in captivity. Several families lost two sons each and one family lost 3 sons within eighteen months. Of the families who lost two sons, one family lost two of their sons on the same day and on the same battle field. They fought together and are buried together in France.
Two men were killed in an explosion on HMS Bulwark and are named on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. A Flight Lieutenant lost his life during his first flight.
During one of our annual Heritage Weekend events, the NADFAS records were available and Bill came along each day to talk with visitors interested in learning a little more about their relatives named on the memorial. Otley Parish Church member, Eileen Armstrong, learned more of an uncle, Forbes Rhodes. He was a sergeant in the 246th West Riding Brigade, Royal Artillery. Sadly, he was badly wounded in battle and died on 27 June 1916 in Albert, Somme, aged 20. He was born on 27th November 1895. Forbes is buried in Forceville Community Cemetery, France. Before joining the army he was a stonemason and lived with his parents and siblings in Danefield Terrace, Otley.
Two visitors to the Heritage Weekend came quite a distance seeking information about a relative. Bill was unable to verify their information and as yet, no official records have been found. So, a 100-year old mystery remains.
Tucked away, as it now is, it is easy to overlook the memorial and to forget what it stands for: “…for your tomorrow, we gave our today”.
I wonder what you and I will be remembered for?
by Allan Boddy
The word ‘font’ comes from the Latin word fons, meaning a spring of waterand reflects the fact that the font is the container for the water used in baptism. The font is usually positioned somewhere near to the main door of a church, as it is now at Otley Parish Church, to emphasise the idea that when you are baptised you are enteringinto the life of the church and becoming a member of the community of faith. In fact, our stone font (Illustration 1)has only rarely been used for baptisms since it was decided that baptisms would take place as part of a Sunday service and that the ceremony of baptism itself would take place at the front of the church so the congregation could take a full part
One famous person’s baptism is recorded in the Parish Register for 1718: “5th June 1718 Thomas son of John Chippendale of Otley, joyner.”
We have a diagram (illustration 2) of what the font used for Thomas Chippendale’s baptism looked like, drawn by Fred Morrell, a local historian, based on an old photograph. We also have a rather grainy photograph (illustration 3)showing this font centrally sited at the west end of the church under the gallery that was constructed there in 1757. The organ, which is clearly shown in the photograph, was moved to this gallery in 1851. During the major reordering of the church in 1867 the west end gallery was taken down and a new baptistery was constructed in 1868 at the north side of what is now the Parish Room. A memorial plaque in the Parish Room tells us that this baptistery was erected by Francis Darwin of Creskeld Hall in memory of his mother, Ann Rhodes, who hailed from Bramhope Hall, the home of the Rhodes family.
Unfortunately, the ‘Chippendale’ font is believed to have disappeared from the Church during this restoration in 1867 and its whereabouts remains a mystery.
According to the researchers from the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS)who made a record of church furnishings between 2009 and 2012, the present font actually dates back to the early 19th century. The font itself is made of limestone whilst the font cover is made of oak and is much more recent, dating back to the second quarter of the 20th century. The cover is dedicated to the memory of Harriet Maston, who was a teacher in the Sunday School and who died in 1933, aged 72.
Until 1990 our baptistery was sited at the west end of the church but, following the decision to sell off the church hall on the south side of Burras Lane, it was proposed to build a meeting room at the back of the church and to move the baptistery and the Saxon crosses to the south transept alongside the Fairfax tomb. The font was moved there in 1990 and that was where the baptistery was sited until the recent reordering (2015).
As mentioned above, the stone font is not now regularly used for baptisms and instead we use a small wooden font (illustration 4), but this wooden font has its own story. It was made along with several other artefacts by Edwin Dale, Ken Dale’s father (Church member), from the Victorian oak pews which became surplus to requirements when the Parish Room was built. Recycling pews is not a recent phenomenon! It was made for use at the Weston Estate Family Church which had opened in 1967 and it came to the Parish Church when WEFC was finally closed.
WEFC was the brainchild of Patrick Ashe who was Vicar of Otley from 1956 to 1964. When the Weston Estate was built, he was concerned that the inhabitants would find it difficult to get to the Parish Church so in 1960 he, his wife Marion and his six children erected a temporary home at the far end of the estate so they could meet and get the views of the residents. In another part of the estate a large marquee was erected in which services were held for two weeks. The result of Rev. Ashe’s researches was the building of a church on the Weston Estate which opened in 1967. But the full story of WEFC is one for another time.