KNOTTINGLEY'S LIMESTONE INDUSTRY
Upon the Magnesian
Limestone ridge which runs north-south through the centre of Yorkshire in a band
some two and a half to three and a half miles wide lies the town of Knottingley.
While part of the town is actually on top of this ridge, the other part is in
close proximity to it. The area around the town consists of some ninety to one
hundred feet of limestone which although poor quality for building purposes is
excellent for burning into lime for use in agriculture.
When the quarrying of Knottingley's lime first began is not clear but reference
is made to suggest that lime quarries existed on the Knottingley border back in
the thirteenth century. The amount of quarrying that has taken place since that
time can be judged by touring around the area and viewing the remains of the
As part of the Aire and Calder Navigation Act of 1699 a clause was eventually
inserted which allowed the toll-free passage of lime downstream from places
where the river was already navigable. With Knottingley lying on the eastern
edge of the limestone it obviously benefited greatly from this. A survey
produced in 1698 and prepared in connection with the Navigations bill, showed
that a total of around thirty boats traded on the Aire from Knottingley and
other places lower downstream.
There was a comparatively large number of quarry owners in the town which meant
that the areas available to them for quarrying were generally small and their
existence was short lived. Among the larger nineteenth century producers of lime
were the Askham family and the Gaggs family. The Gaggs family were a major part
of the limestone industry locally and between them they purchased many acres of
land around the town and also at Whitley.
The limestone produced in Knottingley found markets far and wide as the
waterways system was extended and improved, burnt lime providing an economic
back working for coal from the coalfields. Indeed the lime kilns were fired with
a poor quality coal which would otherwise have not found a ready market.
The demand for the land for other purposes together with the exhaustion of the
limestone combined to cause the decline of the industry although quarrying of
limestone is still in operation to this day.