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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.





Examination of extant documentation reveals that by the turn of the twentieth century the Band possessed a well ordered administrative structure, comprising six officers and a general committee of seven members, all being playing members and all nominated by the rank and file members of the Band.

In 1903 the ‘figurehead’ President of the Band was John Harker, a director of Messrs. Stainsby & Lyon, who in April that year had become Chairman of Knottingley Urban District Council. (32) The officers of the Band that year were:

Chairman: W Bailey Jnr
Vice Chairman: G. Johnson
Secretary: H. Hannar
Assistant Secretary: S. Marshall Jnr.
Treasurer: R. Marshall

The Committee men were; B. Braim, Alf Richardson, E. Baxter, J. Downing, J. Draper, G, Rowbottom and A. Richardson.

The Bandmaster was Samuel Marshall, designated ‘Junior’ to distinguish him from his same name father who was also unofficially involved with the affairs of the Band. In addition to the above personnel were two bandsmen nominated as auditors, J. Dey and R. Trueman. (33)

The earliest existing code of rules, dated 30th May 1904, confirms the title of the ensemble as ‘Knottingley Prize Band’ although by the time of the appearance of a public notice in the local press a few weeks later the title had been adapted to include the adjective ‘Silver’, (34) and the Band was to retain this tile for three-quarters of a century until it was amended in 1979. (35) Comparison of a further code of rules featured inside the front cover of the Band Minute Book of 1978 reveals that with the exception of minor amendments to two or three clauses, the basic rules are the same as those of 1904. As the 1978 codification states that the rules are “adapted from the original [of] 1880” it is clear that for most of the preceding century an almost unchanged codex had provided the basis of the administration of the Band. Perhaps even more surprising given the rampant inflation in the decades after 1945, is the fact that the membership entrance fee of 2s 6d with contributions of 2d per week, remained unchanged until 1982 when a somewhat belated acceptance of decimalisation resulted in its amendment to 50p. (36)

The third clause in the 1904 code of rules decrees that “any person wishing to join this Band to be brought before the whole Band”, the words “whole band” being a pencilled insertion replacing the word “committee”. The amendment reveals a incipient ‘power struggle’ at that period, an indication reinforced by a resolution passed the following month that;

Band business [be] by the whole Band rather than the Committee”,

which was, however, rejected by 8 votes to 5. (37) Nevertheless, the closeness of the vote and the framing of the resolution designed to counter one of only a month earlier which stated that,

The Committee makes all the Rules to the satisfaction of the Band

would seem to indicate a rank and file assertion of primitive democracy. (38) Given this seemingly apparent struggle for administrative supremacy it is surprising that the rules have remained largely intact since 1880.

A clause stipulating common ownership of “instruments, music, music stands, uniforms and all property” is particularly interesting in the light of a subsequent application to join the Band. A Committee meeting in June 1904, agreed, subject to the approval of the whole Band that;

D. Bailey be a member providing he brings his own instrument to the practice.” (39)

The Committee was empowered to expel members for misconduct, arrears or non-attendance and such members, or others leaving the Band voluntarily, were required “to return all property in a condition satisfactory to the Committee and if damaged, made good.” (40)

Although it was decreed that “All rules be strictly enforced” there was a wide disparity between theory and practice on a number of points. Arrears of contributions has perhaps been the most persistently unobserved rule throughout the Band’s entire existence, yet instances of expulsion are singularly absent from the record, perhaps because the musical contribution of members exceeded the value of a fiscal nature making a loss through expulsion more costly than financial loss? A regular practice adopted by the Committee at various periods has been to post reminders of arrears of contributions in the bandroom, the earliest recorded example being in June 1904, which also incorporated the notice that non-attendance of 8 out of 12 band practices in any month would result in a fine of 3d for each offence. (41)

A degree of leniency in respect of arrears was doubtless influenced by the economic hardship and unemployment which was so prevalent in working class society during the first four decades of the twentieth century. Thus we find recorded that one member was;

…to be excused his subs but if he does not attend practices, to pay subs for weeks he is absent”, (42) and again, “contributions by our of work members to be 1d but if a member works 4 days in a week, to be 2d.” (43)

The withdrawal of members whether on a temporary or permanent basis frequently caused much expenditure in time and labour on the part of the Secretary who after writing several letters to ascertain the future intentions of absentee members, or in an effort to secure the return of Band property, often had to make one or more visits to members homes to confront them personally. (44)

Incidence of misconduct was fortunately rare with instances of bad behaviour often arising in the heat of the moment and usually concluded by the tendering and acceptance of an apology. Such was the case in May 1904, when a member was given a specific date by which an explanation of recent conduct had to be made to the full membership. The ultimatum being observed the recalcitrant member’s apology was unanimously accepted. (45)

To obviate petty disputes, the bandmaster was decreed the arbiter of all situations occurring whether in engagements, practices or on parade (46) and in recognition of this responsibility was paid an extra half share of all dividends accruing from financial surpluses paid to band members following clearance of all routine expenditure. (47)

The Committee was appointed on an annual basis with resignations being subject to immediate replacement. Any unspecified rules were to be determined by the Committee and no business concerning the Band was to be undertaken without the sanction of the Committee although in the event of the offer of an engagement arising at short notice the Secretary and Bandmaster were empowered to deal with the matter themselves. (48)

The mainstay of the Band was the rule that it be “not broken up as long as six members are opposed to its dissolution.” (49)

The first identified bandroom was the upper floor of a limestone-built property located down a yard on the south side of Aire Street. The property was a warehouse owned by Willie Wray, a local greengrocer and fishmonger. Wray kept goods in the basement area so the regular presence of the Band members and the bandroom caretaker in the upper room ensured an additional degree of security for the goods. (50) The first known caretaker was R. Marshall. Marshall was the sole keyholder and it was stipulated that no one was to have access to the bandroom without his approval. (51)

Early documentation provides fleeting glimpses of routine expenditure which although only of a minor nature appears to have strained the finances of the Band. R. Marshall received 10 shillings per year for undertaking the duties of the caretaker of the bandroom and he and J. Wild received two shillings for the preparatory measure of placing music in the bandbooks.  A further item of expenditure was the 5 shillings per year paid to the Secretary who in 1905 was given the additional responsibility of drawing up and presenting the annual accounts. (52) A more substantial expense was the cost of heating the bandroom during the winter season, with the Secretary being sanctioned to order ½ ton of coke and ¼ ton of coal for the purpose. (53) To supplement income collecting boxes were placed in local public houses but it is clear that the Band’s finances were precarious in the early years of the twentieth century as revealed by a resolution of February 1905 that the,

Secretary and Caretaker [are] to work gratis….” (54)

Furthermore, such was the need for new instruments that the Annual General Meeting of 1905 decreed that members subscriptions of 2d per week be supplemented by a compulsory levy of 1d to be earmarked as the ‘cornet fund’. (55) Further evidence of the financial plight of the Band is manifest in payment to Benjamin Braim, a local businessman and Band member who chaired the 1905 A.G.M., of £3 plus interest as part payment for an outstanding debt. (56) It is also noticeable that in an effort to generate extra income at this time the Committee resolved to sub-let the bandroom to the local String Band for practices each Wednesday night at a charge of 1s 3d and in the light of the recent addition of ‘Silver’ to the title of the Band it is of passing interest to note that the resolution to sub-let the premises states that “the Brass Band [is] to supply coal for their use.” (57)

Mindful of the financial difficulties of the Band early last century, the decision to engage a guest conductor is more than a little surprising. One can only assume that the acquisition of ‘Prize’ status fostered the ambition of the Band. To what extent the expansion of membership arose from the Band’s growing reputation or was a manifestation of new found ambition is problematical but records for 1905 show an increase of five new members and only one withdrawal. (58)

Perhaps the engagement of a professional conductor was regarded as a necessary prerequisite for future competitive success and to this end a motion;

That we engage J.W. Stamp to come on Sunday 7th May 1905”,

was unanimously agreed. (59) Stamp was the regular conductor of the Castleford Subscription Band with whom he had undertaken contest appearances and continental tours acquiring a wide experience and high reputation in the process. Indeed, Stamp was no stranger to Knottingley Band for as early as July 1903 a ‘sacred’ concert during which he had conducted the band was heralded as a “great success” on which occasion, “a fine programme was gone through and its execution reflected credit on the band and its conductor.” (60)

The circumstances which had prompted his initial engagement are not recorded but it is not too fanciful, perhaps, to imagine that as a result of that concert the desire arose to renew acquaintance with Stamp and that in consequence the invitation to visit in May 1905 was to provide an opportunity for him to assess the contesting potential of the Band and the terms of engagement. The occasion appears to have proved satisfactory to all parties for Stamp was engaged to conduct the Band later that month and also on four other occasions between June and September that year. (61)

Stamp may have detected areas of weakness in the Band’s performance for shortly after his engagement as guest conductor it is recorded that,

Cornet and soprano players be engaged for the South Kirkby contest, 8th July 1905.”

The decision was in accordance with standard procedure at that period for widely observed regulations permitted the appearance of ‘guest players’ on occasion, providing such players were registered with only one band. Thus, although from 1902 players taking part in the National Championship were required to fulfil a minimum membership qualification of three months, when the Silver Band appeared at the Crystal Palace in 1911, its ranks included a professional player from Sowerby Bridge and one ‘borrowed’ from the Castleford Subscription Band. On other occasions players from Brotherton Band are known to have made ‘guest’ appearances with the Prize Band.

Terry Spencer 2006



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