KNOTTINGLEY URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL
FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN CELEBRATIONS 1951
by RON GOSNEY
The Knottingley Urban District Council, in response to an appeal from
H.M. Government to all local authorities, decided to participate in the
Festival of Britain, and with the co-operation of all sections of the
community and the various industrial concerns have drawn up an extensive
programme, which, besides providing some relaxation, also shows the
industrial progress in the township. This seems to conform with the
expression of His Majesty the King opening the new session of Parliament
at Westminster on the 31st October 1950, when he said:-
“I am glad to know that preparations are going forward throughout the
United Kingdom for the Festival of Britain, 1951, which will demonstrate
to the world the greatness of British achievement in the arts and
sciences and in their application to industry and agriculture.”
Saturday 21st July
Glorious sunshine greeted the opening of Knottingley’ Festival of
Britain week celebrations, and the carnival and sports on Saturday was
attended by 2,000 or 3,000 people. The procession which included three
'Queens', tableaux, fancy dress competitors, and the local fire brigade,
was headed by the
Knottingley Silver Prize Band, and started from Ferrybridge Square,
and flags, flowers and trimmings decorated the houses and shops en route
to Howard’s field.
The Festival of Britain motif was not always obvious in the carnival
décor, but there was plenty of colour, and the event provided a grand
day out for the children, who had rides on swings and roundabouts, and
on a miniature railway with steam locomotives. There was a tea buffet in
a large marquee that was soon packed with customers, and a balloon race
continued all afternoon and evening. Knottingley Silver Prize Band
played a selection of music throughout the afternoon. Messrs Maeer and
Wilcock provided bouquets for presentation at the events during the
The three Queens and their courts borne on decorated lorries provided a
charming scene. The Festival of Britain Queen (Miss Mary Asquith) who
headed the procession was accompanied by Misses Mary Rhodes and Joyce
Lightowler; the Road Safety Queen (Miss Margaret Finney) by Misses
Sylvia Wallace and Doris Finney; and the National Savings Queen Miss
Theresa Stones) by Christine Goddard, Joan Asquith, Pauline Aaron and
Barbara Wellburn. At the field Miss Asquith was crowned by Mrs. W.
Burdin, wife of the Chairman of Knottingley Urban District Council, and
then handed a bouquet to her, after giving a speech of welcome. Mrs.
Burdin distributed the carnival awards and later the sports prizes.
First place among several excellent tableaux was taken by the
Knottingley Revellers Concert Party with ‘Springtime’; and Mr. W. H.
Pizzey of Ferrybridge won the adult fancy dress competition as a St.
Bernard monk, complete with dog and snow glasses. A children’s fancy
dress competition was won by Anne Robinson (‘Knitting Bag’) and the open
ideas class by Kathleen Pettit and David Gent (‘Mind how you go’). The
judges were Mesdames H. Bentley, Hardy and Branch, the Revd. C. H.
Branch, Messrs Gill and Enwright.
Cr. P. Gross is the chairman and Mr C. Tate the secretary of the
Carnival Committee which made the arrangements; and the sports which
embraced the whole of the Knottingley schools were organised by a
committee of teachers, and covered infants, junior and senior
competitions in some 50 or 60 events.
Winners of the senior sports are given below. Where three names appear
they are for (i) first, (ii) second, (iii) third and fourth year
scholar’s events in that order. One name only indicates a third and
fourth year event, except in open events.
100 yards boys G. Tunningley, C. Spence, R. Lightowler
100 yards girls M. Emmerson, A. Arnold, E. Jackson
Girls skipping race M. Emmerson, M. Arnold, J. Mailey
Sack race open boys D. Robinson
Sack race open girls J. Mailey
Obstacle race open boys K. Laughton
Obstacle race open girls J. Addy
High jump boys R. Lightowler
High jump girls J. Jackson
Long jump boys R. Lightowler
Long jump girls R. Hughes
Boys slow bicycle race C. Spence
Boys throwing cricket ball open R. Rhodes
Girls rounders ball open R. Hughes
Girls three legged race M. Stones and M. Bury
Boys 220 yards handicap open E. Lightowler
Boys one mile handicap open P. Cartwright
Relay race boys Lightowler, Walsh, Askin, Spence
Relay race girls tie J. Jackson, R. Hughes, J. Mailey, F. Dawson
W. Bailey, E. Jackson, J. Addy, M. Emmerson
Sunday 22nd July
A civic service held at St.
Botolph’s Church was attended by members and officials of the urban
council, police, fire service, St. John ambulance brigade and the
carnival committee, who walked in procession, led by the Knottingley
Silver Prize Band, from the
Town Hall via Weeland
Road, Cow Lane and Aire Street to St. Botolph’s Church.
Community singing was to have been held in the playing fields on
Sunday accompanied by the Knottingley Salvation Army Band, but owing to
the threatening weather the event was transferred to the Wesley Hall.
Monday 23rd July
The centre-piece of the week’s attractions was an exhibition of local
industries, opened at 6.30 p.m. in the Knottingley Town Hall on Monday,
by Sir George W. Martin, KBE, JP, President of the Leeds Chamber of
Commerce, and a former Lord Mayor of Leeds. There was a large gathering
of local civic and trade representatives, including the Mayor and
Mayoress of Pontefract, Cr. G. Wright MBE, JP and Mrs. Wright JP. It
afforded a wonderful insight into the variety of industry in a town of
nine thousand people. Excellently appointed stands displayed decorative
glassware and containers, electric blankets, bearings, pottery ware,
chemical by products from tar, gas appliances, a model showing the
generating and distributing of electricity, and scale models of oil
carrying vessels built in Knottingley.
Adorning the stage of the Town Hall were two beautiful pictorial
impressions of local industry, designed and painted by the late Harold
Whitwell, an employee at the tar distillery. Exhibitors were as follows:
Bagley & Co glass containers
T. Brown & Sons Ltd pottery ware
Crystal Glass Co Ltd decorative glassware
Gregg & Co Ltd glass containers
John Harker Ltd scale models of oil carrying vessels
Jackson Bros Ltd glass containers
Modern Electrical Industries Ltd electric blankets
North Eastern gas Board gas appliances
Whitehouse Industries Ltd Philidas self locking nuts, Pollard ball and
Yorkshire Electricity Board model showing generating and distribution of
Yorkshire Tar Distillers chemical by-products from tar
Sir George and Lady Martin were introduced by the Chairman of
Knottingley Urban Council (Cr. W. Burdin), who stressed the fortunate
position of Knottingley in industry and listed its variety of
industries. Pottery had been established in Knottingley 1792, glass
since 1871, and flour milling since Norman times. The advantageous
position of the town on the Knottingley-Goole canal, the Sheffield-York
main railway line and athwart the county’s main arterial highway was
stressed. Sir George said that the most serious thing in the world today
was a lack of love of work.
“Let us speak plainly – without industry and commerce our social
programme goes to the wall. Unless we as a nation continue to have a
love of work and to put our backs into it you can say that our social
services will not increase as they have increased but they will slow
He said he was a strong believer in local government, and urged
Knottingley people to keep their independence.
“You are much better on your own as an urban district than as an
amalgamation with other councils.”
He congratulated the town on its exhibition – something we have not
done in Leeds; we have not shown our local manufactures.
The Festival Queen presented a bouquet to Lady Martin, and Sir George
was thanked by Dr. S. B. Bagley, CBE, JP, who claimed there were very
few comparable towns that could show such a variety of industry!
The same evening about 1,000 people watched a fire fighting display by
the local fire brigade, and sheep dog ‘trials’ arranged by Mr. Ellis
Sykes of Castleford [he was a butcher in Bridge Street] in the playing
fields. Later in the evening – as it had been every night during the
‘festival’ – St. Botolph’s Church was floodlit, and the façade of the
Town Hall was framed in coloured lights surrounding an illuminated
facsimile of the Knottingley coat of arms.
Tuesday 24th July
A concert on Tuesday in the Wesley Hall; a six a side football
tournament, and a physical training display organised by the Health and
Strength Club at Sleepy Valley; Trade exhibition in Town Hall from 2
Wednesday 25th July
Trade exhibition was open from 2 p.m. In the evening the Sleepy Valley
(by kind permission of Bagley & Co Ltd) was the venue for a seven a side
rugby tournament. An unfortunate accident occurred when one of the
players J. Bury sustained a broken leg. A fund was opened on his behalf
almost immediately, and on the Saturday at the Horticultural Show the
floral displays provided by Messrs A. Maaer and T. Wilcock were
auctioned on his behalf, realizing the sum of £5.
Thursday 26th July
Trade exhibition open from 2 p.m. In the evening a large crowd
gathered to watch wrestling matches and a display of hand balancing
given by the Knottingley Health and Strength Club.
Friday 27th July
Trade exhibition open at 2 p.m. A shop window dressing competition
held throughout the festivities resulted in a tie between Jimmy
Hollingsworth and Sam Doubtfire. It was estimated that over 5,000
people, including many from surrounding districts also visited the fine
exhibition of local industries in the Town Hall, and every night
hundreds of people were seen both inside and outside of the St.
Botolph’s Church, which, floodlit by the Yorkshire Electricity Board
presented a charming picture amid its surrounding greenery and could be
seen for many miles around. Part of the churchyard and its trees were
illuminated, coloured bowls of light being arranged among the flowerbeds
of the war memorial and the façade of the Town Hall picked out in
Saturday 28th July
The Festival of Britain week celebrations at Knottingley ended
triumphantly with sports and horticultural shows, attracting some 5,000
people. The sports were preceded by a horticultural exhibition arranged
by the Knottingley and Ferrybridge Allotment Associations, and opened by
Mr. K.A. Bagley. Special awards presented by Mrs. Bagley were as
‘Amateur Gardening’ bronze medal for highest points G. McGinty
‘Amateur Gardening’ award of merit for dwarf beans G. McGinty
‘Amateur Gardening’ award for best cauliflower W. Chapman (Knottingley)
‘Smallholder’ certificate of merit beetroot H. Miller (Knottingley)
‘Smallholder’ certificate of merit peas C. Beaumont (Ferrybridge)
‘Smallholder’ certificate of merit eggs M. Askin (Knottingley)
Horticultural classes W.K. Bramham (Burton Salmon)
R.W. Grubb (Pontefract)
T. Hunter (Brotherton)
W.H. Lund (Ferrybridge)
Bread class W. Hobman (Knottingley)
Egg class E. Barker (Ferrybridge)
Other attractions in the afternoon included a Punch and Judy show,
Mounted Police display, swings and roundabouts, balloon race and a
miniature railway. Knottingley Silver Prize Band played a selection of
music throughout the afternoon. In the evening the Professional Cycling
and Athletic meeting attracted competitors from Yorkshire, Lancashire
and Durham, and the cycling Hendry brothers from Glasgow dominated the
One of the organisers of the meeting was Bill Burton of Banks Lane, a
keen and experienced cyclist himself, having taken part in many events
at other shows held in Yorkshire, especially in the East Riding. His
decision to pay appearance money to some competitors was criticised, but
he was able to attract such people as Alex Hendry from Scotland, the
1950 Scottish mile grass cycling champion, and C.B. Johnstone from
Seaham, the ¼ , ½, and mile flat race British champion. The resounding
success of these events proved his judgement right and must have given
him great personal satisfaction.
Officials for sports were:
Judges running S. Burton, T.C. Askin, A. Ridge, J. Link
Judges cycling J.A. Curl, P. Davis, J. Beaumont, J. Talbot
Timekeeper T. Parker (Hull)
Starter W. Parker (Hull)
Handicapper W. Burton
A 57 year old sprinter-coach from Warrington Rugby League Club, E.
Cook, off 10.5 yards won the 100 yards handicap in 9.5 seconds. This
event was run in seven heats each of seven competitors with the winner
of each heat competing in the final, and handicappers were used for all
events. The oldest competitor was Mr. A. Lyons of Knottingley aged 74
Local heat winners were:
R. Lightowler (Knottingley), C. Woolford (Castleford RLFC) and F.
Lightowler (Knottingley). F. Lightowler also won through to the 220
yards flat handicap.
Results in the finals were as follows:
100 yards 1 E. Cook (Warrington RLFC), 2 B. Madden (Hull RLFC), 3 F.
220 yards 1 E. Cook (Warrington), 2 A. Theaker (Goole), 3 J.C. Parker
Quarter mile 1 T.S. Allwood (East Halton), 2 N. Stubbs (Linton), 3 A.
Half mile 1 C.B.Johnstone (Seaham), 2 D. Brooks (Swinefleet), 3 S.J.
Robinson (East Halton)
Mile 1 T. Sutton (Soham), 2 J. Shorrock (Hellifield), 3 P. Cartwright
Walking handicap 1-1/2 mile 1 S. Gregory (Normanton), 2 S.J. Robinson
(East Halton), 3 J.C. Parker (Hull)
100 yards schoolboys 12 – 16 1 F. Norfolk (Knottingley), 2 N. Hill
(Kilburn), 3 A. Bucknall (Hull)
Quarter mile 1 B. Cannon (Goole), 2 J. Hoggard (Huggate), 3 W. Hendry
Half mile 1 Alex Hendry (Glasgow), 2 M. Hill (Kilburn), 3 A. Bucknall
Mile 1 Andrew Hendry (Glasgow), 2 Alex Hendry, 3 J. Hardcastle
Three miles 1 Alex Hendry 2. J.R. Bulman (Soham), 3 Andrew Hendry
A tug of war competition attracted a fair number of entries and was
won by Royston Sports Club.
In conclusion it was comprehensively recognised to have been the most
outstanding Festival week throughout the local district. A notable
achievement for so relatively a small town as Knottingley.
Also by Ron Gosney:
William Sefton Moorhouse
Glassmakers of Knottingley
Captain George Colverson
Christopher Rowbotham & Sons
Disasters at Sea
Further Photographs from the 1951 Festival of Britain can be found