Local History

 In Blog, Copywriting, History, Local

Or the delights of copywriting


One of the delights of copywriting is researching new topics. This is even more fun when it is about something important to us, as the local area is to us.  As part of a new brief, Richard has been reading about the history of the mills in Otley and about the Garnett family, who ran the paper mill for 150 years. It’s a fascinating glimpse into local history and how one family prospered.

In 1196, the Pipe Rolls (Royal income records) of Richard I, of Lionheart fame, list a corn mill in Otley. This was leased to the miller by the Archbishop of York as lord of the manor. Even at this early time, it was likely that the lane to the mill was carefully maintained as a barrier to River Wharfe flooding and as a secure route to the mill. By 1868, with both a corn mill and paper mill next to the weir, there was an agreement that the Hartleys, who ran the corn mill, and the Garnetts, who ran the paper mill, would share the upkeep of Mill Lane.


Garnett’s Paper Mill and Weir – Paul Watson


From 1535 onwards there was fulling at the corn mill. Wool had originally been lowered into pits filled with human urine and the walkers, after whom the town’s Walkergate is named, trod the cloth until it was both cleansed and matted and suitable for use. The water wheel automated this process. It was a logical next step to introduce the manufacture of paper. This needed power, water and bleaching. In 1796, it was agreed that, when there was a shortage of water, it would be shared between the three processes in a legally binding manner.

By 1869 only the Garnetts and their paper mill remained. They were a significant local family, and remained at the heart of the town’s commercial life until 1935, when they sold the business to Associated Paper. But their influence also spread. Jeremiah Garnett, grandson of the Jeremiah who had first brought the Garnett name into the Otley mill business in 1783, was involved in the Manchester Guardian from its outset and, in 1844, became its editor. His great-nephew Edward was one of the significant editors of twentieth century publishing. As a publisher’s reader, he was responsible for launching many great authors into print. Conrad, Galsworthy and both DH and TE Lawrence were amongst those he nurtured.


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