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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History


Between Ferrybridge and Knottingley, the water level falls rapidly over the gap in the magnesian limestone ridge. The water here is fast running and on the south bank the limestone juts out into the river offering firm foundations making it an ideal location for a mill. The value of the site must have been recognised at an early date.

In the Domesday survey, mills were found to be quite numerous proving that they were not uncommon during the Saxon days.  Converting cereal grains into flour for the making of bread is doubtless almost as old as its cultivation. It was a tedious task, often that of prisoners and in later times of women and the lower grades of servants. As mankind developed, readier modes were discovered to ease the task utilising the natural elements of air and water, and pressed into the service of the mill.

The first mention of a mill in the area was in a document dated 1165, soon after the Norman conquest which mentions the proposed construction of three mills around the area.

Later in 1218, the mill is mentioned in the de Brus document.

C. Forrest's 'History of Knottingley' published in 1871 offers the following quote from a list of donations to the Priory of Helagh Park, founded in 1218: -

Knottingley " Peter de Brus for the good of his own soul, and that of Joan, his wife, gave ten marks out of his mill, which he had in marriage with his said wife." Burton's Monasticon

The mill was taken over by the Honour of Pontefract and receives frequent mentions thereafter, though always in conjunction with Castleford Mills.

After the Wars of the Roses, all lands belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster, including the Manor of Knottingley, became administered by the Crown Agents at York on behalf of the King. This is how the term Kings Mills became attached to the Knottingley Mill. The freehold of the mills was sold and passed into the ownership of the Ingram family when they purchased the Manor of Knottingley in 1636.

The Knottingley mill, as with many other mills, was a continual source of frustration to the river trade. Before the Aire and Calder Navigation Act of 1699, the miller's interests always took precedence over the boatmen and he was always given control of Staunches and Flash locks.  He was able to hold up river traffic if he felt he could not spare the water required to operate a lock. The river below the mills was wide and shallow and boats would often be grounded in times of drought due to insufficient depth of water.  They often stood there for days until the miller felt able to let down flashes of water to enable them to float over the shallows.

In 1699, the Aire and Calder Navigation Company, were successful in obtaining a statutory right for boats to pass up to Leeds and Wakefield. They constructed the Brotherton Lock around the weir at Kings Mills in order for them to do this. It was a great source of relief when, in 1774, the Navigation were able to purchase Knottingley Mills from the Ingram widow.


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