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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.

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

Knottingley coat of arms



The application by Knottingley Urban District Council for a grant of arms was made to the College of Arms, London, in mid 1942. The formal record of the Council covering events during 1941-42 when the decision was taken to apply for a coat of arms for the town is lost and therefore the precise date and details of the circumstances which resulted in the decision to acquire the arms are missing. (1)

As the decision was taken at the mid point of the Second World War at a time when patriotism allied to heightened awareness of a shared heritage combined to engender pride in dullest of souls, it is probable that the move was inspired by the sentient conditions of the period.

Whatever the reason, or by whatever means, an approach was made to the College of Arms who responded by sending an application form with a covering letter requesting payment for a fee of £81-10-0. The matter was therefore placed in the hands of the Council’s Finance Committee and at a meeting held on the 24th June 1942, it was decided to establish a small sub-committee with the power to make direct recommendations to the Council in general. (2) The Armorial Bearings Committee as the subsidiary body was named, consisted of Councillors J. Morris, H. Gregg, J.W. Booth and L.G. Creaser, the latter being the initial chairman of the sub-committee. (3)

The Armorial Bearings Committee resolved to forward to the College of Arms a series of suggestions with regard to the features to be incorporated in the desired arms and to ask the College to provide an appropriate design. (4)

By the end of September 1942, the Committee had received a provisional design and it was resolved to seek further advice from the College of Arms concerning an appropriate motto to compliment the coat of arms. (5) Again, a series of possible mottoes was sent to the College of Arms for consideration by the Heralds who subsequently suggested the adoption of ‘Prosperity attained by Industry’ in its Latin form, ‘Industria Ditat’

The complete design was then re-submitted for consideration by the full Council, meeting in general session on the 7th October 1942. The Council referred the matter back to the Armorial Bearings Committee, assisted by J. W. Bentley, for final scrutiny. (6) At a meeting on the 28th October 1942, the Committee decided that no further amendment was necessary and therefore recommended the Council to approve the design. (7) On the 11th November 1942, the minute of the Armorial Bearings Committee was approved and adopted by the Knottingley Urban District Council in general session. (8)

The grant of arms was authorised by the Earl Marshall, the Duke of Norfolk, and dated 28th August 1942 (9) but it was not until the 3rd February 1943 that the Patent or Grant was presented at a general meeting of the Council. It was instantly resolved that the original document be given into the care of the Midland Bank for the duration of the war, to enter the text of the document in the Council Minutes and to request the College of Arms to provide a ‘Painting’ of the said arms. (10)

The document consisted of a preliminary section describing the antecedents of the Knottingley Urban District Council, followed by a heraldic description: -

"Azure issuant from water barry wavy in case, a bridge of two arches proper, in chief a Lacy knot, Or, between two Roses Argent, barbed and seeded, also proper. And for the Crest, on a wreath Argent and Azure, a cubit arm holding an Ancient Glass Bottle Proper."

Next followed the authorisation permitting the arms

"…to be borne and used forever hereafter by the said Urban District Council of Knottingley and its successors constituting each for the time being the Local Authority for and bearing the title Knottingley on Seals, Shields or otherwise according to the Laws of Arms.
15th Dec. 7th Geo VI (1942)." (11)

Aspects of both township and district are symbolised by the arms. The bridge and water beneath represent the ancient structure over the River Aire at nearby Ferrybridge (and by implication, the Aire & Calder Canal, dug through the town between 1820-1826) The roses represent the County of Yorkshire and were the badge of the now defunct West Riding County Council. The Lacy knot was the badge of the de Lacy family, the former feudal lords to whom the manor of Knottingley was assigned following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The bottle which forms the crest of refers to the local glass industry which after 1871 became the principal industry within the town and which, despite change, remains so to this day. It is also symbolic that the bottle is clutched by hand, thus representing the fact that industry, which was the main source of the town’s economic prosperity, was predicated on manual craftsmanship. (12)

Sometime after the grant of arms the Council commissioned a shield of polished wood overlaid by a metal shield of exact shape but smaller dimension, upon which the arms of the town were painted in coloured enamel. Upon completion the shield was suspended above the seat occupied by the Chairman within the Council Chamber of the Town Hall where it remained until the Knottingley Urban District Council became defunct following local government reorganisation in the mid 1970s.

The arms of the town were prominently displayed during the ‘War Savings Week’ activities, which were an annual feature of the town throughout the war. (13) In February – March 1942, the war drive was designated as ‘Warship Week’ in which the minesweeper, H.M.S. Kennet was adopted by the town. (14) In a subsequent gesture of mutual appreciation and support the ships crew and the K.U.D.C, exchanged tokens. The Council were presented with a plaque featuring Kennet’s badge and were in turn presented with a hand carved oak plaque bearing the town’s arms and a commemorative text celebrating the adoption of the vessel the previous year. (15)

Kennet’s plaque is retained by the Knottingley Town Hall Management Committee and is on display within the Town Hall. The plaque presented to the ship went astray following the decommissioning and breaking up of the vessel in 1946. In April 1963 however, the Council received a letter from a Mr. T. Norman of Oxford stating that he had the plaque and offering to restore possession to the Council. The offer was gratefully accepted but on the demise of the K.U.D.C in 1974 the plaque was again lost before being located by the present writer shortly thereafter. (16)

Not unnaturally, the town’s arms were a source of considerable pride and over the ensuing years a number of individuals and organisations have sought permission to reproduce them in various forms. In 1950 permission was granted to Knottingley Silver Prize Band to have the town’s coat of arms emblazoned on its bass drum. (17) At the time of the Festival of Britain celebrations in July 1951, the Yorkshire Electricity Board sponsored the illumination of St. Botolph’s Church and the Town Hall with the facade of the latter proudly featuring the arms of the town. (18) In February 1956, the Divisional Commander of the Five Towns’ Girl Guides sought to include the arms on the divisional standard (19) and in April of that year, Brown Muff & Co., Bradford, received permission to reproduce the arms on a pictorial map of Yorkshire, printed in colour on linen. (20) The following year, in response to a Shipley student of heraldry, the Council provided a facsimile of the towns’ coat of arms. (21) In 1959, the Council was approached by a representative of the Pontefract Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd., who offered to present a panel bearing the Knottingley arms, painted by one of the Society’s staff. (22) The offer was accepted with pleasure, particularly as the artist was the well-known Knottingley artist, Mr. Alfred Smith. It was resolved to have the panel framed and placed in the entrance hall of the newly acquired Council offices at ‘The Close’, Hill Top, Knottingley, together with a small plaque recording the details of the presentation. (23) It is not known whether the plan was implemented but there is certainly no trace of the panel today and one may only assume that in common with other objects comprising the town’s historical legacy, it disappeared at the time of local government reorganisation. The Council acceded to a request by the town’s Rugby Union Football Club to incorporate the town’s arms in the new club badge, in April 1971. (24) Somewhat surprisingly however, an approach by the Knottingley District Civic Society seeking permission to use the crest of the coat of arms on the Society’s notepaper, was rejected. (25) The Society therefore undertook to commission a motif and throughout 1972 sample designs were prepared for approval. (26) However, it appears that at a later, unrecorded date, permission was given to the Civic Society to use the town’s arms for the current notepaper of the Society bears the full coat of arms at its head.

Almost a decade after the powers of the defunct K.U.D.C had been vested in the Wakefield Metropolitan District Council a singular request was made for permission to reproduce the Knottingley arms. Rockware Glass Ltd., which operated two of the three glassworks in Knottingley, sought permission of the W.M.D.C. Finance & General Purposes Committee to manufacture a single, non-repeatable, crystal glass vase featuring the towns coat of arms. The unique item was intended for presentation to the Company’s General Manager to mark his departure from the town of Knottingley. The Committee granted the request and it was perhaps appropriate that the Committee’s Chairman was Cr. W. O’Brien, a former Chairman of Knottingley Urban District Council. (27)

Knottingley’s Coat of Arms – Notes

  1. The bulk of the K.U.D.C Minute Books are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service County Records Office, Wakefield, but the volume for 1941-1942 is missing from the series.
  2. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1943-1943, p17.
  3. Cr. J.W. Booth later succeeded Cr. Creaser as the Chairman of the Armorial Bearings Committee. loc cit p112
  4. ibid p28 & p49.
  5. ibid p87.
  6. ibid p97.
  7. ibid p112.
  8. ibid p119.
  9. The grant of arms is made by the Kings of Arms following authorisation by the Earl Marshall. I am indebted to Mr. P.L. Dickinson, Richmond Herald, of the College of Arms, London, for his kind assistance and valuable information.
  10. K.U.D.C. Minute Book 1942-1943, p170.
  11. ibid p250
  12. A description of the Knottingley Coat of Arms, accompanied by an explanation of some of the symbolism is featured in Scott-Giles C.W. ‘Civic Heraldry in England & Wales’, (1953), p419. I am grateful to Mr. P.L. Dickinson, Richmond Herald, for information concerning this source.
  13. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1942-1943, p98
  14. Spencer T. ‘Knottingley’s War Savings Weeks’ in the current volume, pp??
  15. Spencer T. ‘Knottingley’s Warship – H.M.S. Kennet’, loc cit, pp???
  16. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1962-1963, p397
  17. Pontefract and Castleford Express, 13-11-1950
  18. loc cit 3-8-1951 p3. For photograph of illuminated façade of Knottingley Town Hall. Also, Spencer T. ‘Fairs, Festivals & Frolics: Knottingley circa 1860-2003’ Volume 1, p85 & Volume 2, p76, for photograph.
  19. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1955-1956, p199
  20. ibid p259
  21. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1957-1958, p130
  22. Pontefract and Castleford Express 1-8-1996, p2 for a profile of Mr. A. Smith. loc cit 23-9-1927, p6, 30-9-1927, p3, and passim for reproduction of Smith’s cartoons.
  23. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1959-1960, p66
  24. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1971-1972, p390
  25. K.U.D.C. Minute Book, 1972-1974, p18. Also Knottingley District Civic Society Minutes, Item 6, 5-5-1972. I am indebted to Mr. J.P Bedford, secretary, Knottingley District Civic Society for details from the minutes of the Society.
  26. loc cit, May – December, 1972, passim
  27. W.M.D.C. Minute Book, 1981-1982, p876. Mr. W. O’Brien is currently the Member of Parliament for Normanton constituency.


Archivist & Staff, West Yorkshire Archives service, Wakefield
Mr. J. P. Bedford, Chairman, Knottingley & District Civic Society
Mr. P.L. Dickinson, Richmond Herald, College of Arms, London
Mr. P.L.Handy, W.M.D.C. Legal Services Department, Wakefield
Librarian and Staff, Castleford Library
Librarian and Staff, Pontefract Library

Dr. Terry Spencer


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