Great Britain

Otley service honours railway navvies

HUNDREDS of people have attended a rededication service for Otley’s Navvies Memorial.

The ceremony took place beside the Grade II Listed monument, in the grounds of All Saints Parish Church, on Saturday, July 13.

The model of the crenellated north portal of Bramhope Tunnel was created to remember the navigators, or ‘navvies’, who built the country’s railway network. Thousands of men worked on the tunnel between 1845 and 1849 - and 49 of them died during its construction. Of those, 23 were interred in the parish churchyard at Otley and later moved to the vault under the memorial.

The names of all those who were lost were read out by Town Councillor Ray Georgeson as part of a rededication service that was led by Reverend John Parkin.

The event also included a premiere screening of a new film about the history of Bramhope Tunnel and the launch of a new book, What Lies Beneath.

Both were commissioned by Otley Town Council to mark the 170th anniversary of the tunnel’s opening in 1849. There was live music on the night, too, to complete what Cllr Georgeson described as a very special occasion.

He said: “The evening was a ‘sellout-plus’ and the church had to lay out extra seats at the last minute. More than 200 people attended the rededication service and the premiere of Mark Currie’s film.

“There were also live performances from Summercross and recordings of performances by Serious Sam Barrett and Otley Town Poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard, plus an excellent presentation by Angela Leathley to launch her new book.

“I was the MC for the evening’s performance which was a huge privilege, but what was even more of an honour was being asked to read out the names of the 49 men who have been identified as having been killed during the construction of the Bramhope Tunnel.

“This was part of the service, led by Rev John Parkin, which was conducted with great respect and dignity. It was a special night and a very fitting tribute to the navvies - and also marked the recent, full restoration of the memorial.”

Many residents, VIPs including Town Mayor Peter Jackson and local politicians also attended.

The memorial’s restoration was completed last autumn after the town council had teamed up with Otley Conservation Task Force and, supported by a £34,900 National Lottery award plus the backing of other groups and individuals, commissioned a repair and research project.

Referring to the scheme’s success, Cllr Georgeson added: “It was a superb team effort. I am pleased to have played a modest part in it and will always feel the pride and thoughts for the men who lost their lives every time I walk past the memorial.”

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