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
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…”