History of the Recreation Hall
The Queen’s Hall and Japanese Gardens in Otley.
The hall was part of a complex named The Recreation Hall, set up and financed by a local solicitor and philanthropist, Mr Henry Dacre. Mr Dacre started a Brass Band in 1890 and allowed it to practise in his house! Unsurprisingly as the band grew in membership this arrangement became rather inconvenient, so accommodation was sought elsewhere, first in a hay chamber and then five years later, in 1895, the foundation stone for a Recreation Hall as a home for the band, and other activities, was laid.
The aim of the project was that it should become self supporting but Mr Dacre laid out the money to establish and then maintain the project. The stated objectives were:
•“Self Culture, Physical, Mental and Moral
•The promotion and assistance in all good and useful agencies in the service of man.”
A brick building with a slate roof was erected and became a very popular centre of Otley life. Membership cost two shillings per annum, with a reduced rate for families, and visitors were very welcome at low cost.
The description of the facilities available demonstrates the visionary nature of this ambitious project. The Recreation Hall consisted of:
A Reading Room – with newspapers, periodicals and a small lending library;
A Tea Room – very popular, especially with ramblers and cyclists;
Smoking Room and Kitchen – described as “a Bar Parlour without the drink”.
A Gym; Bath Rooms – where members could use a slipper bath or plunge bath.
Two Club Rooms; Dark Room
Concert Hall – used for concerts, lectures, plays, operettas, rehearsals, performances, social evenings and dances etc.
The grounds were laid out as Japanese Gardens where many summer concerts, pageants etc. were held.
In 1897 the Concert Hall was specially decorated and given the name of The Queen’s Hall, in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
Although the complex was immensely popular. Mr Dacre never managed to make the venture pay for itself and it virtually ended in 1913 when he died of a sudden heart attack. Support dwindled away and of course the outbreak of the 1914-18 war was just about the final blow. Between the wars some efforts at revival were made but with the outbreak of the 1939 war there was little enthusiasm and the buildings and gardens fell into disrepair and by 1963 the site was functioning as a warehouse. There are few traces now.