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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 onset and duration of the Great War had created a hiatus in contesting so it is unsurprising that in the immediate aftermath of the war, the activity of the Silver Prize Band was largely confined to attendance at local events.

Towards the conclusion of hostilities the inhabitants of Knottingley mirroring the national trend, had turned their attention to the erection of a fitting memorial to commemorate the men of the town who had died as a result of the conflict, and to the organisation of fund raising events in order to finance the proposed memorial. (1) In keeping with its time honoured tradition of service to the local community, the Band was involved on various occasions when money raising events took place, particularly the Orchestral Band which frequently provided music for dances and the more elaborate masked balls. (2)

The parade which preceded the ceremony of unveiling and dedication of the memorial on the 21st September 1921, was led by the Band which also provided the music for the hymns sung in the ensuing service. Similarly, when the memorial at Ferrybridge was unveiled on the 9th October 1921, the Band undertook the same service. (3) Nor is it surprising that as the Armistace Day observance of the immediate post war years became stylised, eventually adopting the formalised structure of Remembrance Day, the Band became involved on an annual basis, thus inaugurating a voluntary service to the local community which continues to the present time and echoes the attendance at the town’s Infirmary Sunday demonstrations for more than half a century. (4) Thus, a resolution by the Band Committee dated June 1905, that “the Band parade and play for Dispensary Sunday, free gratis”, (5) typifies the attitude of the bandsmen towards an event which was already well established in the Band’s social calendar by that date.

A glimpse of the transitional nature of Remembrance Day is afforded by reports of the participation of the Band in such ceremonies. By the mid ‘twenties the format had developed by which the Band, together with that of the Salvation Army, assembled on the Flatts and marched to the Town Hall where the parade was joined by civic dignitaries before proceeding to nearby St. Botolph’s Church, or other centrally situated place of worship, where both bands accompanied the hymns featured in the remembrance service. (6) Within a few years the war memorial had replaced the church as the venue for the civic and interdenominational service but always with the Band in attendance. (7)

An almost parallel development with the desire to honour the fallen was the desire to provide a recreational area and playing field for the aged citizens and the children of Knottingley. Following a protracted communal effort in which the Band again played a part, the Greenhouse fields were obtained and laid out for public use. (8)

In July 1933, after an unsuccessful application of earlier date (9) the Band was allowed to hold the first of a series of Sunday concerts in the newly laid out park. The concerts, which were divided into afternoon and evening sessions, drew large attendances and as the price of admission was by silver collection at the park entrances, the proceeds for the Band funds, the events proved satisfactory to all concerned. (10) The popularity of the concerts not only prompted a regular series during subsequent summer seasons but gave rise to consideration regarding the provision of seating for the audience and by mid 1936, an abortive proposal to erect a commemorative bandstand. (11)

When, in 1927, the reconstituted Knottingley Infirmary Sunday Committee in a bid to widen the scope of fundraising, inaugurated the Gala Day & Sports which marked the beginning of the town Carnival, the Band lent its active support, leading the procession and playing during the event, marking the start of its attendance at every Carnival for more than sixty years. (12)

Throughout the six years of conflict which marked the Second World War the Band was active on the ‘home front’. The annual War Savings Week held each year to boost loans to the government to supplement the cost of the war always featured a civic church parade led by the Band. (13) In 1944, the local council, under the aegis of the Government’s ‘Holiday’s at Home’ propaganda, promoted a gala week involving a wide range of entertainments for the benefit of the local community in which the Band played a prominent part. (14)

Writing in 1977 of the participation of the Band in such events, the late John Hargrave, Deputy Editor of the Pontefract & Castleford Express, asked:

“Why did we all brace up, step a little sharper, hold our heads a little higher, when we heard the swing of ‘King Cotton’, ‘The Stars & Stripes’, ‘Under the Double Eagle’, ‘Colonel Bogey’ and all the rest, as the musical host advanced with measured trend? Even us bairns on the fringes of the crowds felt as if the whole concourse of the town was going in glory up dem golden stairs.

Seeking to explain the singular popularity of the Band, Hargrave concluded that it;

“…was an age when people took what came as it came…that I am sure is one of the secrets of the affection shown for Knottingley’s Band…They were identified with the few pleasures people had, the fete days, the processions, the sports, the home-made, community brand entertainment in the days before our food, our music, our culture, our very heritage, came in cans.” (15)

During the first half of the twentieth century, dancing became an increasingly popular pastime. The Prize Band regarded the activity as a useful resource of income, particularly in the period between the two great wars. By the mid 1920s the participation of the Band reached its apogee, characterised by a whirl of activity in 1926 when a series of concerts and dances took place in the Town Hall throughout the winter season. Described as “a great success” the dances drew large attendance’s (16) and by the late summer, the series had been resumed. The dances had “lovely music, including all the latest songs” and refreshments at modest prices, provided and served by the wives of the bandsmen. (17) The dances usually commenced at 7.45pm and lasted until midnight with the Orchestral Band producing “delightful music, including all the latest dance music [for the] large and appreciative audience.” (18)

The inter-war period, however, brought a degree of hardship for the brass band movement in general as the depression and high unemployment of the twenties and thirties affected spending capacity and reduced audiences for concerts and musical entertainments, reducing band income and adding to the burden of administrative costs. For the Prize band the popularity and success of the seasonal dances ensured their reprise during the bulk of the inter-war period and provided a modicum of income on a fairly frequent basis. Something of the financial benefit obtained via dances in the early post war period is shown by a report of an event held on the evening of Friday 24th September 1923, when more than 150 people attended to dance to music provided by “Mr S. Marshall’s efficient orchestra.”

Admission was by ticket, each costing 1s 3d. The sale of refreshments provided by friends and relations of the bandsmen supplemented the admission price and produced a profit of £10, a not insubstantial amount at a time when the average labouring wage was less than a fifth of the sum. (19)

Adding to the growing financial adversity from the 1920s, however, was a developing cultural shift as technological progress spawned the gramophone, radio and cinema and adversely affected attendances at concerts and dances. Broadcasting in particular, reinforced American-inspired cultural influences, resulting in the introduction of specialist dance bands which produced a smoother, more sophisticated sound which was beyond the capabilities of the Orchestral Band. Consequently, by the mid 1930s the dance appearances of the Orchestral Band were passé. (20)

The need to combat the adverse socio-economic trends had one positive effect on banding by widening the band repertoire so that traditional marches, hymns and operatic overtures were supplemented by tunes from musical comedies and light popular music, lending a liberalising element to the genre. The developing trend is clearly evident in the items quoted above concerning the up to date dance programme of the Orchestral Band.

Regardless of changing style the bandsmen could rely on a large degree of support within the local community for as, “members of Knottingley Silver Prize Band, ever willing to assist a good cause”, they drew a generous response to their own appeals for funds. (21) For it was reported “Knottingley folk are still proud of their Prize Band” thus ensuring “a crowded attendance” for a dance in aid of Band funds, the financial outcome being “eminently satisfactory.” (22)

Similarly, dances in aid of Band funds were quite well patronised well into the thirties at a time when dances given by other organisations drew only moderate attendances, even when on occasion the Orchestral Band was engaged for the event. (23)

Yet notwithstanding the ‘loyalty’ audience, by the mid thirties reports of Band dances no longer feature in the local press, suggesting that the Orchestral Band had been superseded by a number of local ensembles inspired by the ‘big band’ culture.

If the financial lifeblood of the Band was the support obtained from concerts, dances and social engagements, artistic merit and status was gained through the medium of the band contest.

Early localised contests allowed comparison of musical ability with neighbouring bands, the competitive element stimulating improvement of performance as a spur to higher attainment. The development of the railway network during the second half of the nineteenth century expanded the contest arena and engendered the establishment of the Manchester based British Open Championships, introduced in 1853 as an event to be held annually each September. (24) By 1860 contests were held at the re-sited Crystal Palace, Sydenham, and it was there in 1900 that Henry Iles prompted the first National Brass Band Championship. The development of these prestigious contests resulted in the introduction of regulations designed to standardise repertory and instrumentation. Thus, own choice selections as contest pieces were replaced by a standardised test piece in 1871 and by the 1920s many eminent classical music composers were writing specialised test pieces. By 1868 the system of registration had commenced with the names of intending participants having to be submitted one month in advance of an imminent contest and this was followed in 1893 by restriction of any player to a single band. Formal registration of membership as a band member three months in advance of a contest was introduced in 1902 and compilation of a national register of bandsmen in 1946. The maximum number of players had doubled from 12 in 1845 to 24 by the end of the nineteenth century and other notable innovations during the twentieth century were the compulsory wearing of uniform (1900) and all bands to play seated (1924). (25)

Perhaps the most important element of contest practice was the introduction of graded seminars to permit like competing with like. A two section contest was first introduced at the Scottish National Championship in 1895 and the 29 entries for the National Championship in 1900 were sub-divided into three sections, and in 1902 five sections were established. The introduction of this format produced a more inclusive system overall than that appertaining at the Belle Vue (Manchester) contests from 1886 in which bands which had won the title during the four previous September contests were excluded from the elimination contest in July, the winners of which gained entry to the finals in September. While some modification of this system was introduced from 1900 to enable the participation of less skilled bands, the overall effect remained the promotion of a ‘super league’ of top bands and the exclusion of smaller. Less accomplished ones. (26)

An outcome of the ‘Holidays At Home’ movement in 1943 was the introduction of the Yorkshire Brass Band Championships. When, in 1945, the Daily Herald sponsored the National Championship, the Yorkshire Championship provided the nucleus of a redrawn system. Under the Herald’s patronage a series of regional heats provided the basis for progression to the final contest. Many ‘traditionalists’ deplored the new system but commercial considerations arising from circulation battles with rival newspapers ensured its retention and the system is by and large, that utilised at the present time. (27)

The well attended Town Hall dance referred to above was held with the purpose of obtaining funds to enable the Band to participate in the National Championship held at Crystal Palace on the 29th September 1923. The venture was the first one by the Band since before the war. (28) Unfortunately, the Band was unable to repeat its earlier success but in June 1926, a first time application was made to take part in the nationally based elimination contest at Belle Vue, Manchester, and the Band was one of the 20 selected to take part. (29) The local paper, noting the honour bestowed on the Band was full of high expectation, reminding readers that it was;

Now 15 years since the Band made Knottingley history by winning the Challenge Cup at Crystal Palace, London”,

and although recording the fact that the Band had twice competed unsuccessfully since 1911, was clearly hopeful of a triumphant outcome on this first appearance at the Manchester venue. (30)

That year, the Band also competed at the Crystal Palace, being one of 25 contesting for Cassell’s Saturday Journal Shield. Quite apart from the cost of travel in a period of financial constraint, the Band’s attendance at the National Championships reveals the strain imposed by hurried travelling. The Band arrived at London at 5.30am Saturday, having entrained at Knottingley Station at 11.00pm the previous night. After a light breakfast there followed a rehearsal under Bandmaster Marshall, followed by a few hours sight-seeing. The Band arrived at Crystal Palace at 10.00am and performed the test piece in the Australian Pavilion. Despite giving a good performance the bandsmen were disappointed not to be placed in the first three contestants. Leaving London at midnight the Band arrived back at Knottingley at 5.00am Sunday, very fatigued after such a strenuous effort. (31) The effort bespeaks the enthusiasm of the bandsmen as s their endurance which was considered to be well worthwhile for the prestige gained which was reflected in the pride which linked the Band and the local community.

The process was repeated in 1932, the Band leaving Knottingley at 1.30am Saturday, competing that afternoon and travelling home the following day. Again, a series of dances held the previous month provided the funds to permit the Band to compete at the Crystal palace in October. The Band and 30 others challenged for the Junior Shield but once again, despite “a creditable and expressive rendering” of the test piece, the Band was unplaced. (32)

Following the destruction of the Crystal Palace by fire in 1936, the National Championships were held at the Alexander Palace before the outbreak of the Second World War led to their suspension for the duration. The Open Contest at Belle Vue continued despite the restraints imposed by wartime conditions. There is, however, no record of the Knottingley Band participating during the period immediately before and during the war.

Under the sponsorship of the Daily Herald in the immediate post war era the country was divided into eight regional qualifying areas, each regional contest having four sections with the first and second placed bands in each section progressing to the National finals. (33) The Silver Prize Band was a regular participant, competing with the North-East area in qualifying contests held at either Huddersfield or Bradford. (34)

Terry Spencer 2006



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