Exploring the building

Cell block


There were originally 8 cells in the building – four on both the ground and first floor. Two ground floor cells were converted in 1953 to form a ‘Mess Room’ for the police (with a new gas cooker/boiler – prior to this the staff had to find refreshment elsewhere). Oral history records from the cleaner at the time (Miranda Turner) explain that food was not kept on the building’s premises and if prisoners needed feeding, she had to go home and cook it for them!

In 1965 the other ground floor cells were removed to create a waiting room. The Mess was split to form an interview room and a solicitors’ room. On the waiting room floor was painted the straight white line feared by those suspected of being the worse for drink, along which they were asked to walk as a test of their sobriety.

The ground floor cell area now houses the cafe/bar.

From 1965 only the 4 first floor cells were used for detaining prisoners. The cells were generally used as ‘holding’ cells prior to Court appearances and rarely held prisoners for more than one or two nights.

The cells are tiled and have a surprisingly light and airy feel! Similar in design to those at Ripon Police Museum, they are built with significant style, suggesting Otley’s status as a centre for justice.

Central heating, toilets (with special flushing mechanism), bells (to call warders) and electric lights (accessible only from outside the cells) were probably all 20th century additions

Superintendent’s House

Click on the images below to see 1853 plans & elevations and other plans and photos.

On 5th October 1934 Alderman Newton and Major Moore visited the Otley Divisional HQ, when the police office was described as “a dark room, as is every other room in the block apart from the Courthouse. It seems to have been built many years ago when small windows were usual, and nothing has been done since…”

Superintendent's House Plan 1 - 1853 Superintendent's House Plan 2 - 1853 Superintendent's House Plan 3 - 1853Courthouse Building plan - 1921Police House - 1934Courthouse Modernisation (W&AO) - 14 Apr 1967Courthouse St cottages (W&AO) - 24th Jan 1964Courtroom improvements (W&AO) - 26 Aug 1966


Otley Courthouse is a unique development run by people in Otley, West Yorkshire. After an eight year development period we transformed a redundant nineteenth century magistrates court into a unique arts and resource centre for our community.

Find out about the history of Otley Courthouse by visiting the Heritage section of our website.


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Otley Courthouse, Courthouse Street, Otley, West Yorkshire LS21 3AN

Telephone: 01943 467466 email: admin@otleycourthouse.org.uk

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