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Two-year project at All Saints is nearly complete
A two-year project to document every artefact inside Otley’s parish church is nearing completion.
More than 1,000 objects, ranging from ancient tombs to stunning stained glass windows, have now been thoroughly examined by the Leeds Decorative & Fine Arts Society.
Their findings, complete with exhaustive measurements and photographs, are being compiled into a two-volume leather-bound book, which will be presented to All Saints Parish Church at 10am on Sunday, May 20.
Church recorders Anne MacArthur and Anne Palmer are part of the 15-strong volunteer group which has methodically gone around the church, starting from its east end, and chronicled everything.
They said: “This is the biggest church we’ve ever done and it’s been fantastic.
“There’s been so much to find and examine, including a memorial on a pillar in the Parish Room which had never been translated before because it was inaccessible and hard to read.
“We got up on ladders and took photographs of it, then blew them up on the computer and sent off the Latin for a translation to an expert, Ann Hawood, in London.
“It turned out to be a dedication to a curate from Burley-in-Wharfedale, Richard Vitty, who had taught at Prince Henry’s Grammar School and died in 1703.”
Armed only with measuring tapes, torches, and pen and paper, the team embarked on their mission.
Familiar with the church due to her performances with Otley Choral Society, it was memorial expert Mrs MacArthur who suggested the society should take on the daunting task of recording All Saints’s treasures.
She said: “Every time I’ve been here with the choral society I’ve looked around and thought ‘this would be wonderful’. And that’s how it has turned out, it’s been everything I thought and more, and really fascinating to see how the big families in the area, like the Fairfaxes, Fawkes, Fisons and Butlers, have been linked through the generations.
“I’ve also been researching all the people whose names appear on the war memorial.”
Both Annes were particularly intrigued by the ornate tomb that had been built in the Fairfax Corner of the church, in memory of Lord Thomas and Lady Ellen Fairfax, who died in 1640 and 1620, respectively.
A sculpted head at the foot of the couple had initially puzzled them, until research revealed it was a saracen’s head – a nod to family links with past crusades.
Church warden Margaret Parkin said: “This is fantastic for the church, I’ve been around while they’re doing the work and the stories behind some of the artefacts have really been fascinating.
“We would like to invite any descendants of families who have a historical connection with the church to the presentation in May.”