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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History


Reproduced from the Official Guide to Knottingley
by Knottingley Urban District Council, circa. 1950

The average person does not interpret history in terms of economic growth and usually takes very little interest in events which occurred less than three or four centuries ago. If we take antiquity as the criterion of interest then Knottingley can claim as lengthy and therefore intriguing history as any in the land, for on the road from Ferrybridge to Castleford is a tumulus or burial mound which has been used for several thousand years and presumably it's occupants once resided in the neighbourhood. It was first discovered by local farmers, who while digging out rabbits from their burrows found vast numbers of human bones.  Unfortunately, no systematic excavation of the burial place was attempted and it lay at the mercy of peoples idle curiosity and not a few optimistic treasure seekers, until 1863 when the first excavations took place. Although the mound is Celtic in origin, the fact that many of the skeletons in the upper level were buried in the Christian manner, proves that the Saxons made use of existing burial facilities when they overran the country.

Many hundreds of years after the barrow had fallen into disuse, the Normans invaded England and in William I's Domesday Book, classified the value of all the estates in the country. Knottingley is mentioned, but merely as a secluded village which contained about 480 acres of taxable land.

Until the Wars of the Roses, little is recorded about Knottingley, when we hear of an intriguing legend - The Bridge of Boats. This tale holds that the River Aire was swollen by flooding when John of Gaunt sought to cross it with his army, and in return for the ingenious pontoon bridge which the inhabitants built, he granted then a charter whereby all the land in the township became freehold.

The town escaped any large scale fighting in the Parliamentarian Wars but while he was engaged in subduing Yorkshire, Cromwell stayed at Knottingley, probably in some storehouses standing by the river, which were known as the King's Houses. Nearby, Pontefract Castle three times withstood sieges by Cromwell's men, being defended by a handful of Royalists until they were starved into surrender. The second time the Parliamentarians occupied the castle, the Royalists recaptured it by smuggling a number of their troops into the Castle disguised as countrymen who gave money to the guard to fetch ale and imprisoned the rest of the garrison in a dungeon.

It appears that the folk of this town were keenly conscious of their personal liberty, for in 1652 they rebelled against the payment of tithes, under the leadership of William Sykes the local constable, whose name belied his character, for he was a Quaker. Sykes was thrown into prison, where he died later that year.


This hamlet, now included in Knottingley, stands on The Great North Road on the south bank of the River Aire. Formerly an important stopping place for stage coaches it now has a less romantic air. In the square a number of houses once used by the travellers recall a mournful episode connected with one of them. A member of a hostelry staff discovered that a gentleman travelling in a post chaise had left an empty purse behind. He pursued the chaise and on nearing called out " stop!, your purse, your purse" on which the gentleman believing that a highwayman was demanding his purse, shot him dead and drove on. It is an interesting reflection upon the law in those times, when we hear that the gentleman on being informed of his error provided liberally for the widow and children.


The name of the Church gives some indication of it's age as St. Botolph, which is a comparatively rare dedication, is of Saxon origin. Of the original church no trace remains and only the west wall of the succeeding building, which was raised in 1100AD., remains today. This second church was probably founded by the Lord of Pontefract, the Robert de Lacy, as a chapel. The present nave was built in 1756, the tower added in 1873 and the Chancel in 1887, when the nave was also reseated and the galleries removed.

Many of the fittings have been presented to the Church by individuals such as G. W. Carter Esq., who gave the furniture of the Chancel and the stained glass east window. The pulpit, font and lectern, perpetuate the memory of the family of Mrs. Rhodes (formerly Miss Moorhouse) of New Zealand, at whose charges they were installed. The Church contains several interesting memorials and it's register dates from the tenth year of King George I

Christ Church, East Knottingley is modern, the parish having been formed in 1846 from that of Pontefract, and was united with St. Botolph's, Knottingley in 1941. Of the early English style, it comprises chancel, nave, transepts, north porch, vestry and belfry for three bells. At the south side of the chancel a new vestry was added in 1887 and in 1890 a stained east window was inserted by Mrs. Rhodes. Between 1875 and 1937 the Church was restored at different times. In 1898 an organ chamber was erected. Screen work and oak choir stalls were added in 1902.

Dedicated to St. Andrew, the church is approached through an avenue of willows on the north west of Ferrybridge.  It is of Norman origin having been first built about 1030, but all that remains of the original is the porch and a few feet of wall on either side. West of the porch, under the tower there can be seen an early English lancet window and the remains of early English buttress work, that is all that remains of the second church of 1350. The year 1879 saw some extensive alterations to the church, which unfortunately obliterated most of the remains of the Norman and early English parts, but the visitor can see enough to arouse his interest, and to see that the church has seen centuries of worshippers within it's walls

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Salvation Army



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