Otley Courthouse Arts & Resource Centre opened in May 2004 after the conversion of the 19th century Magistrates’ Court complex (which ceased to operate as a Court in 1997).

It is now a thriving multi-purpose space for all kinds of arts activities, concerts, workshops and meetings. It has a fully equipped multi-media suite and is fully accessible throughout. The complex also houses the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, which was re-vamped as part of the 2004 development.

In November 2005 Otley Courthouse and its architects (Groundworks of Nottingham) were awarded a RIBA Yorkshire White Rose Award for conservation.

The oldest part of the Courthouse complex is the former Superintendent’s House, which was built in 1853 at a cost of £500. It was obviously designed to look imposing and to emphasise the Superintendent’s importance, with its pointed porch and slit window.

Click on the box to the left to see old plans and drawings, and some newspaper clippings re 1960s re-developments

Joined to the house was the original small Police Station and cell, which were demolished in 1965.

It is believed that the majority of the rest of the complex was built over the next 20 years from 1855 to 1875, but evidence is hard to find as police forces were not required to keep archives.


The cell corridor on the first floor has been preserved with a Heritage Lottery grant. Click on the photo to the left to see photos of the preserved cell.


When the Courthouse opened in 2004, local artist Les Biggs created the bronze plaques which are inserted in the courtyard’s York paving stones. These are based on actual 19th century legal documents, recording some of the shenanigans which came before the Otley bench! Click on the photo on the left to see the plaques.


  For some examples of oral and documentary research, click on the photo on the left.

Otley Heritage



We continue with the process of researching the history of the Courthouse, and this website is very much a work-in-progress. Volunteers to help with this task are always welcome! Please contact us if you would like to get involved.