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Years in Focus 1964




Knottingley in the 1960's as seen in the Pontefract and Castleford Express

30th JANUARY 1964
River Aire Crossing Has History Of Bloodshed
Victory In Latest 'Battle' at Ferrybridge

All down the years history records struggles and contentions for possession of the river crossing at Ferrybridge. Now it seems posterity has won a battle there, for the imposing stone bridge which carries Britain's main north-south road over the River Aire is to remain when a new bridge is built as part of the Ferrybridge by-pass scheme. It is among buildings listed by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government as of special architectural or historical interest. It also carries services mains over the river.

The first stone of the three - arch bridge was laid, according to 'The History of Knottingley' on September 15th, 1797 and the bridge was opened on June 24th 1804. It carried inscriptions naming John Carr of York, architect, and Bernard Hartley, of Pontefract, builder. The name appears on Castleford's bridge, which is similar and is associated with bridge building in the county. But the antiquary Leland is said to have recorded a bridge of 'vii arches' in or about 1538, and one of eight arches on a second visit. One reference suggests that there was a bridge when the Conqueror made his punitive visit North, but it was then destroyed.

What is described as the old bridge, that is the one preceding the present bridge, is said to have spanned the river in front of the Red Lion Hotel on the south side and what was formerly the Swan Inn, on the north or Brotherton side. On that side there are arches in the bank still visible, which are said to have been pointed out as part of the foundations on which the old bridge rested.

The river crossing at Ferrybridge has always been a strategic point with the result that much blood has been shed in the vicinity by contending armies and causes. There were several affrays during the Civil War but perhaps the most momentous clash was on the eve of Towton 1461. Yorkist forces at the crossing were surprised by a Lancastrian detachment and Fitzwalter was killed. The Lancastrians in turn were surprised by a Yorkist manoeuvre which brought forces into their flank via the north bank of the river and led to the eventual death of Lord Clifford. The Yorkist's thus secured the crossing, put their army over the Aire and marched on to victory at Towton.


13th FEBRUARY 1964
Former Head of Ropewalk School Dies

During the course of my research work of local news in the Pontefract and Castleford Express archives I came across a most sad notification of the death of Mr. L. Luke. He was, as all old Knottingley folk will remember, for many years our Headmaster at the Ropewalk Secondary Modern School. He taught me in the late forties , and I was all the better for it.He had a great love of literature and poetry and was a fine headmaster, respected by the pupils and teaching staff alike. Here is the notification taken from the February edition.

Mr. Leonard Percival Luke, naturalist, farmer, writer and a former headmaster of Ropewalk School, Knottingley, for twenty years, died at his home, Manor Farm, Moss Doncaster, on Saturday, aged 73.

Mr. Luke, who retired as headmaster in 1950, introduced many new features to school life, one of which was 'potting'. He arranged for a kiln to be set up and arranged exhibitions of fine arts.

He also introduced 'The Ropewalk Revue', a variety show given by the schoolchildren and produced by Mr Luke. Another of his interests was wild life, He was well known to fanciers and breeders of show birds and wrote books and articles on the subject. When he retired he devoted his time to his holding at Moss. He leaves a widow, one son and a married daughter. The funeral on Sunday will take the form of a private memorial service at St. John's Church, Fenwick, Doncaster.

7th MAY 1964
Old barge Re-Visits Ferrybridge as Luxury Cruiser

Water Wanderer, a British Waterways barge, which transported cargo on the Aire and Calder navigation system over 50 years ago, returned to Ferrybridge as a luxury cruiser. The vessel took a private party from Sheffield on a weekend return cruise to Goole, then she was off again to complete last-minute preparations for five-day summer return crruisers from Nottingham to Lincoln which begins on Monday, for a season until September 21st.

'Water Wanderer's' fame has spread further than the home shores, for professors, legal and company officials from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland have made the journey through Newark, Torksey and Hazelford. Recently, 'The New York Times' published a feature on this distinguished vessel. Photograph albums, colour snaps and souvenirs have been sent to the crew, recording happy moments of acquaintance with overseas visitors. All are kept by the skipper's wife and hostess Mrs Dorothy Chapman, to provide nostalgic memories.

The Skipper is Capt. Robert Chapman, aged 55, whose association with the rivers spans over 42 years. Other members of the crew are the stewardess, Miss Barbara Humphries. and the cook, Mrs Gladys Seale. Broad waterways have provided a new opportunity for this type of vessel, emphasis is placed on complete relaxation, A spacious dining and sight-seeing lounge comprise the front part of the barge. Attached is a cocktail bar, while at the rear are four double and four single cabins, providing sleeping accommodation for 12 passengers.

Cabin amenities include wash basins. supplying hot and cold water, toilet fittings and electric lighting. Modern toilets and a shower bath are also provided. An open deck allows ample room for games and sunbathing.

9th JULY 1964
Sabrina Opens Knottingley's Sixth Carnival

Saturday was Independance Day in America and Carnival Day in Knottingley. It was also the day Katie Kendrew got lost, Knottingley's Public Health Inspector, Mr. L. Barber almost lost his voice, and Kevin Eades got a kiss from Sabrina, the glamourous international cabaret star.

The sixth annual carnival and sports organised by Knottingley and Ferrybridge Carnival Charities Committee was a great success. The sun shone and a large crowd supported the event, contributing to local charities. A procession of colourful floats, a fire engine, soldiers, and fancy dress competitors, headed by the Knottingley Silver Prize Band started from Ferrybridge Square and toured the district before arriving at the Playing Fields. One float proudly displayed a new American flag loaned free of charge (postage paid) by the United States Air Force base at Birstwith near Harrogate.

Another float the Commercial Hotel's 'Pyjama Game' raised a great laugh on entering the Playing Fields when the bed, which formed part of the float, collapsed through over boisterous use.

The 4th Btn. K.O.Y.L.I. (TA) staged a demonstration and then Sabrina, who was introduced by the President, Councillor C. Tate, opened the event. She also crowned the Queen, Joan Tunningley, presented cups to her attendants and gave a kiss to her page boy, Kevin Eades.

Last years Queen, Lynda Blakestone, and Miss Tunningley, gave short speeches, as did the Chairman of K.U.D.C. Councillor W. O'Brian. Sabrina signed autographs during her stay.

23rd JULY 1964
Hang Our Heads in Shame

After reading of the plans of Featherstone Urban Council to develop and improve Station Lane as an up-to-date shopping centre, I feel it tends to make us hang our heads in shame at the condition of Aire Street, Knottingley, with its demolition sites, empty shops etc. Is it not time the far-away buildings were given a rest and more attention was paid to clearing up and building more houses near our shopping centre?

All praise due to the life-long traders who are carrying on after practically all their customers have moved so far afield. Aire Street is the centre of our town and we would like to see it revived to the bustle and activity of years gone by. So come on lass, put your hat and coat on, bring your shopping bag and lets have a walk up the street.

Life long resident Knottingley.

31st DECEMBER 1964
Falling Mirror Gave Licensee A Clue

A near escape from injury has given a Knottingley licensee a clue about the age of his public house, something he has wanted to know ever since he moved in two years ago. Mr. W. Allen, of the Sailor's Home Inn, is certain the building is one of the oldest in the town but not even his eldest regulars can remember exactly when it was built. The clue came when a large and ancient looking mirror fell from behind the bar, missing his head by inches. When he recovered from the shock he found a copy of the Daily Telegraph for December 7th 1887, had dropped from behind the mirror.

"It appears that the pub is at least 77 years old and I would think that in fact it is much older. I have been here for two years and still I don't know exactly how old it is. I would be grateful if someone could give me an idea as to when it was built, and a little of its history,'' said Mr. Allen.

''I have been told that it was built when ships used to sail up the River Aire which runs just behind the pub and I presume that is how the inn got its name.'' 


Years in Focus is researched by Maurice Haigh and reproduced 
with the permission of the Pontefract & Castleford Express.

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