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Also by Terry Spencer

The following studies by Terry Spencer are now available on the Knottingley website:

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the August Bank Holiday period at Knottingley abounded in fun and frolic with the Feast as the hub of the festivities. The fair was supplemented by community sports and of the sporting element within the town none was more prominent than Knottingley Town Cricket Club.

Situated on the southern bank of the River Aire, to the north side of Aire Street, lies Knottingley Flatts. Today, the Flatts occupy only a small portion of the original layout which comprised the greater part of Knottingley Ings.

The modern image of the fair is one of outdoor entertainment for pleasure seeking people but such a concept is one which has developed over the last two centuries being born as a result of the Industrial Revolution.

Prior to the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 local people relied for health care in the event of sickness or serious injury upon charitable institutions such as Pontefract Dispensary and Leeds Infirmary.

The application by Knottingley Urban District Council for a grant of arms was made to the College of Arms, London, in mid 1942.

That there was a glassworks at Ferrybridge is indisputable for it was both documented and photographed. That it was situated on the north bank of the River Aire "..where the Parish of Brotherton merges into the Parish of Ferrybridge" is confirmed by map reference. The doubt lies not in the existence or location of the furnace but with its origin.

The township of Knottingley, situated three miles north-east of Pontefract in the Wapentake of Osgoldcross, developed from a 6th century Saxon settlement in a forest clearing on the south bank of the river Aire. By the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 the settlement had acquired the status of a manorial vill

As the process of industrialisation and urban development gained pace in the second half of the nineteenth century the provision of public spaces such as municipal gardens and parks for the purpose of public recreation and amenity became increasingly desirable.

Percy Bentley, scion of a prominent Knottingley family, was born in that town on the 18th January 1891, the son of James William and Helena Bentley, and was baptised in the parish church of St. Botolph on the 11th February.

On Wednesday, 25th September 1918, a committee previously sanctioned by Knottingley Urban District Council in meeting assembled, met in the Council Chamber at Knottingley Town Hall to consider the form of memorial to the men who had fallen during the Great War.

No less than the citizens of its larger neighbour, the inhabitants of the village of Ferrybridge decided to honour those drawn from the community and slain in the Great War.

For approximately a decade from the mid 1940's the 'K' Sisters, Marjorie and Pamela Kellett, were prominent throughout the town and district of Knottingley as all-round entertainers who harnessed their talent to providing public enjoyment and in so doing raised large amounts of money for local charities.

The new cinema, one of the earliest purpose-built picture houses in the country, was situated on an oblique strip of land some 560 square yards in extent, adjacent to Ship Lane at the junction with lower Aire Street. The hall was designed to seat 600 people: 500 in the area and 100 in the balcony.

In 1752, eighteen residents of the township of Knottingley in company with John Mitchell, the Parish Constable, agreed to be bound over in the sum of £10 each to observe the legal and moral obligations attendant upon being granted a licence as an innkeeper.

In the Spring of 1994, the recently deceased and much lamented Edwin Beckett arranged for the installation of a clock at the top of the Town Hall turret. The event was celebrated in verse by Mrs Joyce Bell who concluded her eulogy by stating that her mother, Dolly Lightowler, had always wished to see a clock set in the "bare face" of the Town Hall - a wish which had now come true.

Awareness of a link between my native Knottingley and the Prince's statue came quite recently when Mrs Shirley Bedford of Knottingley informed me that her great grandfather was the master of a barge which had transported the statue from Hull to Leeds in 1903.

It was in the course of a recent conversation with Roger Ellis that the subject of nicknames arose, following which, in an idle half-hour, I casually began to compile a list of those I recalled. My list quickly exceeded fifty in number and I was seized by a natural desire to list as many more as I could obtain.

The origin of Knottingley Band is obscure. In 1980 the Band celebrated its conjectured centenary year, the date being taken from an old letterhead of 1880.  However, a subsequent documentary source has been located which indicates that the genesis of the Band may lie much further in the past.

The burgeoning spirit of civic pride found practical expression on 29th October 1864, when a group of prominent citizens of the town formed the Knottingley Town Hall & Mechanics’ Institute Company Limited.

The purpose of this study is to consider the topography of modern day Knottingley and formulate a theoretical model concerning the development of the settlement during the medieval and post medieval eras as reflected in the field systems adopted.

An A-Z listing of Knottingley field and place names.

One of the most impressive and graceful houses ever built at Knottingley was Lime Grove. The large attached house was the residence of the Carter family and was built to the orders of Mark Carter at Mill Close, Hill Top, about 1808.

Conflict is fuelled by finance so it is unsurprising that following the outbreak of war in 1939, local savings committees were established to encourage people to curb personal expenditure and invest surplus cash in the National War Savings Scheme in order to assist the cost of the war.

The township of Knottingley became a semi-autonomous parish in 1789 following the ecclesiastical reorganisation of that period but remaining under the patronage of the Vicar of Pontefract until it became an independent parish in 1846

Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History


by TERRY SPENCER B.A. (Hons), Ph D.




The recruitment of young people in the Band posed problems concerning uniforms for within a short space of time it was reported that two adolescent bandsmen had outgrown their uniforms and were having to make do with spare items pro tem. (33) A further sartorial problem arose from a unique aspect of the Band’s history when in late 1951, a 14-year-old Miss Sheila Norfolk became the first female member of the Band being selected to fill the post of second horn player. In achieving this distinction Sheila joined her father Harry and brother John, who were already full members of the Band (34) but in so doing prompted consideration as to what constituted suitable apparel for lady members. The uncertainty occasioned some delay pending a decision regarding appropriate style. (35) The problem was solved by adoption of the tunic which was to be worn with white blouse and black skirt and tights or black trousers. Adaptability as the handmaiden of economy was the general order for sartorial elegance as shown by a Committee resolution that as soon as the financial position allowed, uniforms, including that of the bandmaster, be submitted to a Leeds based tailoring firm for alteration. (36)

Provision of uniforms was only one part of the financial equation seeking solution by the Committee.

“There still remains the matter of the instruments…” stated the local paper when reporting the purchase of the new uniforms for as the scribe wrote;

The instruments don’t look too bad, and they wear better than the uniforms”, and “although two of them had made ‘a lot of noise’ before the Band got them, a new set of instruments would cost £2,500.” (37)

Improvisation was the order of the day and as a short term measure more second-hand instruments were obtained. A trombone and a euphonium, formerly belonging to the late bandmaster, were purchased at a cost of £11. A cornet was obtained from a band member for £5 while another member was asked to have his own cornet repaired to enable someone else to ‘inherit’ the instrument belonging to the Band which he currently used. (38) The request gave rise to consideration of providing financial assistance toward the cost of repairs in order to encourage players to use their own instruments. On two separate occasions the subject was discussed but with the Band finances being so precarious that members were asked to pay their own fares to a contest at Thurnsco, the matter was judged to be impractical and therefore;

“left until Band finances allow [further] consideration.” (39)

Such was the civic pride of the Band, however, that when a decision was taken to renovate and reduce the size of the bass drum, “a goodly sum” was paid from the Band's slender resources for the Knottingley coat of arms to be emblazoned on the restored instrument. (40)

In the absence of money for the purchase of new instruments the repair of existing ones was essential and but even this was a drain on sparse funds and when in the spring of 1950 it was decided to have a baritone trombone repaired it was decided to try a new repairer at Askern to save on the cost involved. (41) the change may also have been prompted by a degree of dissatisfaction with a well established firm which had arisen when a E flat valve sent for repair the previous year had failed to meet the expected standard, leaving the Committee to conclude that it had, “never been right since repaired.” (42)

Late in 1951 a decision was taken to send for a representative of the long established form of instrument makers, Kitchens, in order to assess the condition and cost of repair to several instruments. (43) As a result, it was decided to make an inventory of Band owned instruments with a view to selling off any surplus items. (44)

Subsequently a deal was struck with Kitchens in which a number of old instruments were taken in part exchange for new ones. (44) About the same time a B – B flat bass which had been lent on approval to Outwood Salvation Army Corps was purchased by them. (45) Similarly, in 1956, a Besson B – B flat instrument on loan to Knottingley Corps was purchased by an anonymous donor. (46) The obvious deficiencies prompted action by the Committee when in mid 1955 it became clearly apparent that replacement instruments were required to enable the Band to compete in the National Championship finals to be held the following October. (47) Replicating the situation which had appertained half a century earlier, the Band took a bold step in defiance of prevailing economic circumstances and placed an order for two A valve E flat / B – B flat basses, promising cash for prompt delivery, although in a sop to financial prudence the proposed acquisition of music stands was left for later consideration. (48) The following year Boosey & Hawkes were asked to supply a Besson horn and a euphonium on approval. A price of £80 quoted in respect of the eventual purchase of these instruments indicates that they were reconditioned items. (49) In expansive mood, it was decided that a new Besson tenor horn and a flugel horn should be purchased from R.S. Kitchen Ltd., as soon as finances allowed, the latter instrument to be purchased as soon as the former was paid for. (50) Again, in September 1957, a tenor trombone and a B flat cornet were purchased, the cost being offset in part by the sale of old, unwanted instruments. (51) In passing it is interesting to note something of the demand made of instruments for having rendered a lifetime of service they were on occasion, sent for overhaul and replating, thereby ensuring a further lease of life before being eventually discarded. (52) Even at the end of service life a return on instruments was sought via part exchange or resale. Thus, in response to a query concerning the disposal of a redundant euphonium, a token price of £2 was considered to be fair until on the intercession of Brian Pollard, it was suggested that it be given away, being considered as virtually useless. (53) It is also interesting to note that when an E flat bass and a soprano were offered to Bradford Top Band some months later it was considered worthwhile to fund the cost of having the former cleaned even though each instrument was sold for £5. (54)

The austerity which characterised the advent of the 1950s had given way to burgeoning prosperity towards the end of the decade, facilitating the purchase of replacement instruments. In addition, in 1958, the Band purchased two dozen new music stands, plus an additional one for use by the bandmaster. The music stands which cost £36-17-0 could have been purchased at less price but it was thought to be expedient to but better quality ones, a decision which indicates the improvement in the financial status of the Band by that time. (55)

The purchase of a number of new and good quality reconditioned instruments and accessories obviously increased the overall value of the Band property which carried clear implications for the cost of replacement in the event of theft or damage. It was therefore decided to insure the same and in March 1958 this was done at a premium cost of 7s 6d per £100 estimated value. (56)

In addition to reliance on public donations, the residue from concert fees, other social engagements and sundry other contributions, additional efforts were made to supplement the uniform and instrument fund. As early as June 1949, the innovative bandmaster, Joe Pollard had suggested a sweepstake based upon the famous St. Ledger horse race. Pollard’s proposal prompted consideration of launching a weekly sweepstake based on the sale of tickets to the public as an alternative to the existent system of diverting one share of all Band dividends to the fund. In the event, failure to obtain sufficient support for the proposal resulted in no decision being taken and the subject was left in abeyance. (57) The ploy was utilised occasionally, however, as in 1951 when a Grand National Sweepstake, calculated on the sale of 3,000 tickets at 5 shillings each, offered prizes of £5, £2-10-0 and £1. (58) Similarly, in June 1955, the Northumberland Plate provided the basis for a further sweepstake with 2,500 tickets sold at 3d each or 5 for one shilling, with prizes of £5, £3, and £2 and as an incentive, £1 for the person selling a winning ticket. (59) The financial success of these ventures resulted in the adoption of Pollard’s suggestion of a weekly sweepstake and in 1956 Band members were asked to make soundings amongst families and friends and elicit the degree of support for a weekly 6d ticket with a £35 prize. (60) As a result, a ‘Jockey Double’ was launched in June 1956 replacing the periodic ‘special efforts’. (61) The scheme was adapted to football some months later (62) and the reversion to horse racing at the conclusion of each football season ensured the sale of tickets all year round. (63) In similar fashion the festive season was marked from 1951 by the introduction of a ‘Xmas Cheer’ raffle for which the Band members canvassed to obtain the prizes offered, and on occasion provided the same themselves, in order to maximise the profit gained. (64) The ‘Xmas Cheer’ was, of course, supplemental to the traditional progress round the town in aid of Band funds but was quite successful so that in 1956 a raffle on a grand scale was proposed when a cycle, provided at cost by the local cycle dealer, Mr. Charles Tate, was the principal prize, tickets retailing at 5 per shilling. (65)

Meantime, a public appeal was launched. Aimed primarily at the town workforce, the appeal had a target of £2,000. In November 1953 letters were despatched to all local firms and businesses and the appeal was formally opened in the second week of January 1954. (66) The attempt to promote individual identification between members of the public and Band had commenced early in 1950 when Mr. Harry Gregg, senior partner of Gregg & Co., glass bottle manufacturers of Knottingley, was invited to become President of the Band. At that time it was also decided that all subscribers to Band funds should be listed as Vice Presidents, presumably in the hope that such status would encourage further donors. In furtherance of this aim a list of donors was compiled and an approach made to the townspeople and employees of local firms for assistance. (67)Unfortunately, there is no record of the success or otherwise of such appeals.

Notwithstanding the financial difficulties experienced by the Band during the decade following the end of the war the custom of voluntary service continued and when the Band made its appearance at the last ever Infirmary Sunday demonstration in August 1947, the occasion not only marked the end of over half a century of consecutive attendance but of free service, for before 1951 the Band had never made any charge for participating in any civic or ceremonial public occasion in Knottingley. (68) The custom was to continue throughout the post war period as each year the Band, at the behest of the local council and the district branch of the British Legion, paid practical homage at the Remembrance Sunday service. (69)

The Band also volunteered to attend a concert given with the aim of raising a sum of money which would enable the names of those who had died in the late war to be added to the town’s war memorial. The gesture was reciprocated at a later date when the Band was granted free use of the Town Hall for an entertainment in aid of Band funds. It is perhaps a sign of the increased bureaucracy spawned in the exigency of war conditions and fostered by the growing centralisation which characterised post war government that it was necessary for the Band Secretary to write and seek exemption from entertainment tax in order to enable the Band to participate in the planned concert without incurring a financial penalty. (70)

Admission to the said concert which was held in early 1950, was by programme of which 300 were printed in anticipation of the event, seats in all parts of the hall being priced at one shilling and sixpence. It is a measure of the esteem in which the Band was held that all the supporting artistes gave their services free of charge in order to maximise the profit obtained by the Band. (71)

It is instructive to note in the context of cost incurred for printing posters, programmes and tickets for Band functions the necessity to monitor expenditure in order to obtain the best value for money. Thus, a subsequent increase in the charge made for such items resulted in the transfer of the Band’s business to a Pontefract based printer, a move clearly dictated by financial expediency. (72) Financial hardship did not, however, override humanitarian considerations and when at that time a fund was launched for the families of the victims of the Crosswell Colliery disaster the Band promptly sent a donation. (73) However, on a more self-indulgent note, it is of interest that the sum of £40 was withdrawn from the Band’s bank account to be shared equally between the players at Christmas 1949 and again the following year. (74)

Following the demise of Infirmary Sunday the Band soon became involved in other commitments of a pseudo civic nature. The reintroduction of the town carnival in 1959 marked the commencement of an annual event with which the Band was associated for more than thirty years. (75) Similarly, for many years following its introduction in 1951, the Band ‘played off’ the annual excursion of the town’s senior citizens organised by the Knottingley & Ferrybridge Old People’s Entertainment Committee. At the time of the inaugural excursion in July 1951, the Band led a ‘procession’ of 14 coaches bound for Knaresborough from its assembly point on the Flatts to the Town Hall playing its rendition of ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’. (76) In 1953, in return for the concessional inclusion of a ‘superannuated’ member of the Band and his wife among the 800 pensioners bound for Bridlington, the Band, resplendent in full uniform, led 18 coaches from the Flatts to Skew Bridge. (77) Such voluntary gestures by the Band were often accomplished at some personal cost to members who often took time off from work in order to fulfil the engagements. The cost to individual members resulted in the decision of the Band Committee in 1959 to seek compensatory payment for players who lost earnings through absence from work, although the decision was later rescinded in favour of a basic fee of £2. (78) To reduce time and minimise expense the Band ceased to ‘parade’ on such occasions and after 1958 the Band played from a stationary position at the top end of the Flatts until the timed departure of the buses. (79)

A similar policy of minimal charge also applied to other events in which local organisations were involved, particularly those involving young people of the township. Thus the decision to assist the local Road Safety Committee by playing at a childrens' concert in 1953 was made on the basis of an agreement that the Band would share in any profit arising from the event. (80) As wage rates increased in response to the effect of increasingly inflationary prices during the 1950s it became necessary to charge the £2 concessionary fee for the participation of the Band in local events which had previously been free of charge. The annual parade of Knottingley Boy Scouts was one such event which nevertheless compares very favourably with the £12 tendered as the fee for the Band’s attendance at the Pontefract Girl Guides parade at Pontefract racecourse in June 1953 (81) Similarly, from 1962 the charge was applied in respect of attendance at the Knottingley Carnival. (82)

In view of the liberality of the Band Committee in matters concerning events of a civic nature, it is perhaps surprising that substantial fees were sought for two events of national importance which took place in the early 1950s. The involvement of the Band in the Festival of Britain in 1951 was left in the hands of the Secretary who negotiated with the appropriate K.U.D.C. committee an undisclosed fee for the participation of the Band in the parade and the musical selections which marked the ensuing gala. (83) For its services on Coronation Day in June 1953, again held under the aegis of the local council, the Secretary was instructed to inform the Coronation Committee that,

a fee of £30 is the lowest acceptable to the Band.” (84)

Nevertheless, the engagement was secured and on Coronation Day the Band led a procession featuring inter alia, a gaily painted double-deck bus and fire engine through the town in pouring rain, thus earning the somewhat exorbitant fee in the most difficult and uncomfortable way. (85)

Reassessment of fess charged for its services arose of necessity from the financial hardship the Band experienced in the immediate post war years and it is greatly to the credit of the members that their strong sense of civic duty combined with an empathy arising from the mutual experience with older local organisations of difficulties faced at that time, to modify fees and even waive them, as deemed appropriate.

Coronation Year leavened the economic gloom and provided a boost to the national psyche, creating a new-sprung air of optimism as the long period of austerity was banished by the burgeoning hope of an era of prosperity. The national trend was reflected in the affairs of the Band. If the nation had a new symbolic head so had the Band in the form of Mr. H.U.W. Gregg, who agreed to assume the mantle of his late father and become President of the Band. (86) The new wave of public prosperity was also reflected in the increased number of engagements undertaken by the Band from the mid 1950s. The interim period had been marked by a series of fundraising concerts vital for the continued existence of the Band. In an evocation of an earlier age Knottingley Town Cricket Club had allowed the use of its Banks Garth ground for a Band concert held on 12th August 1951. (87) A series of fundraising concerts to be undertaken jointly with other local groups or prestigious bands was a feature of that period. (88)

In 1953 a concert was arranged featuring the top flight Hammonds Band in an effort to boost the Silver Prize Band funds (89) and an abortive effort was made to obtain the services of Markham Main Colliery Band in the same year. (90) Again, in 1955, a concert of massed bands to be held in Knottingley Town Hall was considered but failed to reach maturity. (91) However, from 1952 civic prosperity was sufficiently restored to enable the local council to engage the Silver Prize Band for a series of four summer concerts held in the Knottingley and Ferrybridge playing fields. (92) The series was repeated the following year at a fee of £40 and some idea of the rising inflationary trend is shown by the fact that when concerts were resumed in 1954 the fee had increased to £50 with an additional £10 being paid for an extra concert at Whitsuntide. (93)

Terry Spencer 2006



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