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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.





At what date the ‘Town Band’ became known as ‘Knottingley Silver Prize Band’ is uncertain. As late as August 1902, in an action that echoed the occasion when the Band welcomed George Knapton in 1875, the ensemble welcomed Trooper W. Walker home from the Boer War. Walker, who had been serving with the Yorkshire Hussars, was carried in a wagonette through the town in a procession led by the Knottingley Brass Band. It is therefore apparent that the name of the Band was unchanged at that date. (1)

The last known reference to the old title occurs in a newspaper report of a concert held at the Banks Garth cricket field in July 1903, (2) but while the earliest extant formal documentation concerning the Band is a somewhat fragmentary collection of minutes covering the period from May 1904 to November 1912, this source offers no direct information concerning the change of title nor the circumstances which inspired the change. (3) However, an inscription on the inside front cover of the book seemingly indicates its continuation from a previous volume, since lost, and bears the title ‘Knottingley Silver Prize Band, 1904’.

The sparse evidence therefore suggests that the Band was renamed in the latter half of 1903, presumably in the wake of a prestigious contest victory of such significance that it was considered worthy of incorporation into the Band’s title. Unfortunately, a thorough search of all known data has failed to reveal any information concerning such an event, suggesting that the changed title was, perhaps, merely aspirational. Such conjecture is far from fanciful for the advent of a new century appears to have prompted appraisal of the future course to be taken by the Band in which refurbishment of the public image of the ensemble was the immediate manifestation. To this end, in September 1902, the Band was reported to be in need of assistance and had appealed to Knottingley Urban District Council for financial aid. (4) The reason for seeking financial help is uncertain. One source states new instruments were required while a second source states more specifically that the need was for new uniforms costing £50 in order that “with their new outfit the Band hope to make themselves a credit to the town.” (5)

The desire for change did not occur in isolation and should be viewed within the context of developing national trends within the sphere of brass band activity. By the close of the nineteenth century uniforms were becoming fashionable and were being increasingly adopted by bands. At that time there were more than half a dozen firms within the county of Yorkshire alone specialising in tailoring for bands. Not unnaturally, in view of the pride in the British Empire, conquered and maintained by armed power, band uniforms tended to copy military style, a fashion clearly evident in the earliest known photograph of Knottingley Band, dating from 1895.

Within a year or two of that date, the Huddersfield outfitter, John Beever, was offering band uniforms in two qualities of cloth, epauletted, cuffed, frogged, flashed and buttoned, at 18s or £1-10-0 each. Caps, ornamented in gold or silver in the style of the Brigade of Guards or of naval design, were 4s 6d and 6s 6d respectively. Great coats at 13s and shoes at 8s or 10s per pair were optional extras. (6)

When Henry Iles promoted the first National Brass Band Contest at the Crystal Palace in 1900 all players in the 29 competing bands were required to wear uniforms. (7) In accordance with the developing trend the adoption of uniforms by bands with ambition became less of a fashion statement and more a practical necessity. Therefore, quite apart from the obvious attempt to improve the public image of the Band and the desire not to be outshone by the Glassworks band, or from the belief that a smart appearance would bolster the self-esteem of the bandsmen and hopefully produce an added dimension to their performance, particularly in contests, the move by the Knottingley Band was promoted by awareness of developments in general.

Given the Band’s consistent record of charitable work in past decades the request for funding was no doubt considered to be justified. Knottingley Urban District Council, however, having become involved in a protracted and costly dispute concerning the town drainage scheme and facing the expense of refurbishing the Town Hall recently donated to the town by Mr. J.G. Lyon, and mindful of other projections of substantial expenditure, felt unable to assist the Band and the appeal was duly rejected, leaving the Band to ‘earn’ the requisite sum. (8)

An indication of the way in which money was raised is seen in a resolution of May 1904, in which the Band Committee formulated a pro rata scale of charges for submission to the organisers of the forthcoming demonstration and sports at nearby Rawcliffe.

16 players        6 guineas
20 players        7 guineas
24 players        8 guineas. (9)

It is also of passing interest to note the increase in the size of membership during the previous decade for the 1895 photograph of the Band reveals only 14 people including the bandmaster. Whilst the growth in the size of the Band was a positive factor increasing membership brought logistical problems, not least in the provision of instruments. The problem was circumvented where possible by making membership dependant upon the ownership of an instrument (10) but conditional acceptance was rarely possible and evidence exists of the creation of an instrument fund subsidised by weekly contributions as early as 1905. (11) An indication of the costs involved has been provided by Cooper who states that the average price for cornets at this time was between £1-10-0 and £3-3-0, while the best quality euphonium cost £4 and estimates that the cheapest rate for which a small band of about 18 players could be equipped was about £50. (12)

A further means by which money was earned was through the provision of concerts, both indoor and al fresco. As early as the 1870s such concerts took place on an occasional basis and were to become more frequent during the early decades of the twentieth century. At soirees, which often continued until the early hours of the morning and on rare occasions all night long, music was provided by a small ‘Orchestral Band’ consisting of six members drawn from the full ensemble. (13) On such occasions the surplus bandsmen, assisted by wives and other supporters, served refreshments and undertook additional duties. (14)

The long established rapport between the Band and the town cricket club is seen in a resolution of the Band Committee dated June 1905, that,

The Band give [the] Cricketers a sacred concert in payment for use of the field”, (15)

and on other occasions the profit from events held at the cricket field was shared with the club. Thus, in July 1904,

On Saturday evening last, Knottingley Brass Band paraded the town followed by cyclists in fancy dress [which was] followed by a gala in the cricket field with the proceeds shared between the Band and the Cricket Club.” (16)

And again the following year when a cycle parade led through the town by the Band was followed by a gala and sports at the cricket field at which costume and other prizes were awarded. The Band played selections at intervals between the races and a first aid demonstration by a team from the town’s ambulance station, and concluded the evening by playing for dancing. (17)

By 1903 a regular series of Sunday concerts was being held at the cricket field. A report of that year refers to the ‘great success’, of one such event, which drew an attendance of 1,500 people. Conducted by J.W. Stamp of Castleford, “a fine programme was gone through and its execution reflected credit on the band and its conductor.” (18)

Similarly, in 1904, the cricket field provided the venue for a further season of sacred concerts. (19)

A concert given at Banks Garth one Sunday in June 1907, which drew “a good attendance and a good gate collection”, provides a sample of the musical fare provided by the Band. The concert opened with the march ‘Silver Trumpets’ by Viviani and was followed by Rossini’s ‘Il Barbiere’. A cornet solo ‘O Dry Those Tears’ by Riego, was followed by a selection from Herold’s ‘Pre-aux Cleres’. Next came a duet ‘Excelsior’ by Balfe and the concert concluded with Rummer’s ‘John Of Gaunt’, all “ably accompanied” by the conductor, Mr. S. Marshall. (20)

By 1908, however, the seasonal concerts were being held in Howards Field where, under the baton of bandmaster Sammy Marshall, the opening programme was undertaken. The programme consisted of the march ‘Nakorkus’, and air, ‘Variation’, and arrangement from ‘Veronica’ and selections of music by Haydn and Sir Arthur Sullivan. (21) The ‘sacred’ concerts took place at monthly intervals, a second one being held at the same venue in August that year. (22)

The Band also undertook concert engagements further afield, such as that given to, “a large and appreciative audience”, at Carleton near Snaith, in June 1913, to boost the fund to enable the Band to participate in the forthcoming regional and national band contests. (23) Again, in late July 1914, the Band gave two performances at Hillam Hall, the grounds of which had been placed at public disposal by Mr. H.L. Lyon, to enable the Band to raise funds. (24) The Lyon family had business associations with Knottingley and regularly engaged the Band to play on social occasions such as the annual outings provided for their workers. In September 1916, for instance, the Band, at the behest of Mr. C.G. Lyon, accompanied the employees of Messrs Stainsby & Lyon, together with their families, on an excursion to Whitley Lodge. The trip was undertaken by three barges which made their way sedately along the Aire & Calder Canal with the Band playing musical selections on each leg of the journey. (25)

A series of indoor concerts took place annually during the winter season from 1906. The concerts, under the direction of bandmaster Sammy Marshall, were held in Knottingley Town Hall and were very popular. On the occasion of the inaugural concert of the second season held on the evening of Monday 7th October 1907, a capacity audience listened to a programme consisting of a selection from the opera ‘Il Travatore’ and music by Haydn. Samuel Marshall gave a “fine tenor horn rendering” of an item entitled ‘Mea’ and artistes of both sexes sang a considerable number of songs, serious and comic, including one by Master Percy Turpin who reprised the sacred number ‘Angels Ever Bright and Fair’ for which he had recently been awarded first prize at the Pontefract Music Festival. (26) The end of a long programme did not, however, conclude the evening’s activity, for the Orchestral Band then played music for dancing until 3.00am., not withstanding that the next day was a normal working day for most of the participants. (27)

A public notice of March 1914, advertises

of Sacred, Instrumental and Vocal Selections, promoted by the
will be held in the
on SUNDAY NEXT, March 29th
MR TOM ROBERTS, the Yorkshire tenor,
Admission: 9d, 6d, 3d. (28)

In scanning the list of Sunday engagements undertaken by the Band it is interesting to note that in deference to public sensitivity concerning Sabbath entertainment all events bear the appellation ‘sacred’. While the changing nature of public attitude is discernable with regard to strict observance of the Sabbath throughout the decades spanning the turn of the twentieth century, the transformation was but gradual before 1914. Even when the events of the Great War of 1914-18 produced disillusionment and the erosion of faith which accelerated the transformation of socio-religious observation, there remained a lingering element of the former attitude which continued to decree what was regarded as suitable or unsuitable forms of public entertainment for Sunday and which was only vanquished in the wake of the Second World War.

Solomnity was not always the order of the day, however, for the Band was engaged in many scenes of gaiety and in one instance at least circumstances rendered the pre-planned gaiety singularly inappropriate. A public notice in late July 1914, informed the local population of a gala event to be held at the Banks Garth cricket field on the 4th August with music by the Silver Prize band, the proceeds being shared by the Band and the cricket club. (30) It is not known whether the declaration of war on the proposed date resulted in the cancellation of the gala, probably not, for the public perception was that the war would be short and glorious and in that expectation the social life of the township continued as normal with the feast and allied events such as the Dispensary Sunday demonstration taking place as usual. (31)

Terry Spencer 2006



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