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Years in Focus 1968




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

11th January 1968

An excited family of six at Knottingley is waiting for the final word before setting off on a 4,000 mile journey to a new home in Chicago, USA. They are Mr. John Maeer, of Springfields, Knottingley, and his wife Dorothy, both aged 45, 17-year-old daughter Janice, twins Katherine and Susan aged 14, and Andrew, aged 5.

Mr. Maeer has decided to emigrate because he feels his family will get better opportunities in America. "The Americans demand more from life than we do and are willing to work for it", he says. A foreman in the cold-forming department - a comparatively new branch of engineering - at Whitehouse Industries, Pontefract, Mr. Maeer answered a newspaper advertisement for a similar job with Allied Products Corporation, Chicago. The firm has forwarded over 300 for flight fares. Mr. Maeer will be alone initially and will send for his family as soon as he finds suitable accommodation.

Mr. Maeer will receive over 50 for a 40-hour week but he will not be a foreman. "I am starting at the bottom again," he said. The firm has intimated that work will be found with them for Janice, who is at present in the offices of Pollard Bearings Ltd.

8th February 1968

Three Knottingley men walked 30 miles during the night on Saturday, starting at midnight on Friday along a proposed route of the 30 mile walk for Christian Aid, which is being undertaken by all the churches in Knottingley, including the Roman Catholic. The walk is not being held until May, but Michael Hobman a member of the Congregational Church, and Robert Neilson and Bill Gardener, members of Ropewalk Methodist Church, did the walk to help police by estimating times when the walkers will be passing certain points. Miss A. Byerley and Mr. W. Spence of St. Botolph’s Church helped by conveying refreshments to the walkers every two hours and Mr. Spence joined in the walk for the last eight miles. Arriving back at 9.45am the three walkers declared that they were "tired out". They ate a breakfast of bacon and eggs at the home of the curate of Knottingley, Reverend S. Doubtfire before going home to bed.

The route which now awaits the approval of the police is from Ropewalk Church, along Womersley Road, through Cridling Stubbs, Whitley Bridge, Kellington, Hensall, Gowdall. Snaith, Carleton, Temple Hirst, Chapel Haddlesy, Birkin, Beal and Kellingley.

2nd May 1968

Three and a half years work reached a successful culmination for Mr. Ken Robinson, of Racca Green Garage, Knottingley, on Monday, when a boat he has built himself was launched by his wife Madge at Harker’s shipyard. The boat, a Bermudan sloop, was built in a yard behind the garage from plans obtained from a yachting magazine. Building began in December 1964 and, as stated in an account of its progress reported in ‘The Express’ some time ago, Mr. Robinson did most of the work himself. Among those who helped were Mr. Peter Bryan and Mr. Tony Clements. Named ‘Kayhem’ and registered at Goole, the sloop is 31ft overall with a 38ft mast and 420ft of canvas, an 8' 6'' beam and a 3' 6'' draught. It is powered by a 30hp Hercules marine two-cylinder diesel engine and the fuel tanks give a powered cruising time of 20 hours.

After the launch, Mr and Mrs Robinson took the sloop to Goole and then to Whitby where it will be moored until the return journey to Knottingley on Saturday.

2nd May 1968

Nine Members of the Imperial Defence College, comprising civil servants and members of the armed forces from many parts of the world, toured the Hill Top factory of Jackson Bros. of Knottingley Ltd., on Thursday. Earlier they had been at Kellingley Colliery. The visit was part of an industrial tour of the West Riding. They party included representatives of the Australian Armed Forces, a captain in the Nigerian Navy, two brigadiers in the British Army, a Royal Navy captain and representatives from the Ministry of Defence and H.M. Custom and Excise. The tour was part of a course lasting one year, related to defence problems.

Said Colonel I.A. Geddes, of the Australian Army: - "Two terms of the course are related to a study of economics and politics on a world wide scale and a detailed study of defence problems of this country. The aim is to fit people for higher jobs.

After the visitors had seen the complete glass making processes Colonel Geddes said: "I am very impressed by everything here. We were told in London that the production was not high enough to meet Britain’s economic problems, but the people here seem to be working very hard."

23rd May 1968

The choice of the Judges who picked the Knottingley Derby & Joan Queen on Thursday was Mrs C. Burkill of Beal. Eighty members attended the event in the Town Hall and judging the competition were Mrs I. Bloomer and Mrs M. Ward, with Mrs Alex Scratcher and Mesdames Murfit and Hart, both members of the club, were the attendants. The retiring queen, Mrs S. Asquith, crowned her successor. Both attendants and judges received bouquets and tea was served by committee members.

6th June 1968

The Duke of York Inn at the Holes, Knottingley, which was first licensed in 1902, was refused a licence by the West Riding Compensation Authority at Wakefield last Wednesday. The clerk to the Licensing Justices for the Osgoldcross Division, Mr. H.W. Payne said there was no issue between himself, the brewery or the licensee about the redundancy of ‘The Duke of York’.

Questioned by Mr. Payne, Police Sergeant A. Masters, said he visited the public house on 15 occasions during November and December 1967, and on nine of them there was no member of the public in the inn. He said the facilities of the premises "left a lot to be desired", though the licensee and his wife Mr. and Mrs Leonard Alderson, kept the place clean.

The Manager of Bentley’s Yorkshire Breweries Ltd., Mr. G. Roberts, said he considered that Sergeant Master’s detailed report was "very fair and correct." He acknowledged the condition of the inn was poor and added: "Quite frankly neither present nor potential trade warrants money being spent to renovate the premises."

6th June 1968

The Model Foundry Co. Ltd., at Pontefract Road, Knottingley, which for over 40 years has made iron castings for road works, and at one time made ship’s castings in iron, closed down two weeks ago because of financial difficulties as briefly reported in ‘The Express’ last week. It was founded 42 years ago by the late Mr. Samuel Gregg, of ‘The Chestnuts’, Pontefract Road, Knottingley, who died 18 years ago. After his death it was taken over by his daughter, Mrs Mabel Shay, and two sons, Mr. Horace Gregg and the late Mr. Cyril Gregg.

When Mr. Cyril Gregg died three years ago the Foundry, the land, and the house ‘The Chestnuts’, were sold to Mr. J. Charlesworth, of John Addy and Sons, Clayton West, Huddersfield. Mr. Horace Gregg, of Pontefract Road, Knottingley, is now a lorry driver, and Mrs Shay’s husband, Mr. J. Shay, is a market gardener.

The Foundry employed up to 40 people at one time, but when it closed 20 employees were put out of work.

25th July 1968

How many of present Knottingley people realise that with the demolition in Aire Street is passing a physical feature of the town that once was woven into its community life - the ‘yards’?

At intervals, all the way down the main street, passages, known locally as ‘yards’ - some of which linked right through to the parallel and once-attractive ‘Croft’, orchard sprinkled and white walled - contained the homes of Knottingley folk. And these little groups were identified often by the ‘yard’ they lived in. At one fell swoop the last of this system is now disappearing and with them probably names which have been known to generations.

Coming down Aire Street from about the centre, there was Hepworth's Yard (so named after the family who had the Post Office and printing works there and sometimes called Post Office Yard).

There followed at short intervals, Taylor’s Yard (from the name of the butcher family who have long occupied the shop at the head of it and whose present representative is Mr. Tom Taylor); Peckitt’s Yard (again from the confectioner’s shop at the head); Dickinson’s Yard, The Buck Inn Yard, Millburn’s Yard, (from the chemist of years gone by, at the corner).

From Chapel Street to Aire Street and the Croft, ran Back Lane, one of the first slum clearance area’s before the war, where countless people seemed to live in those days. Opposite the Aire Street on the other side was the ‘Marble Arch’ passage, a comical Knottingley reference which did not escape the late Mr. L.P. Luke when he wrote his songs for the Ropewalk School’s "Ropewalk Revue".

The same pattern followed throughout the town. At the southern side on Racca Green, was Tupman’s Yard and Mariners Yard from the Foundry to the canal side and many others. Some were ‘through’ and connecting passages with houses or cottages close together, while others were square and self-contained. But all carried that identification of neighbours and people by which Knottingley families knew each other. The Horton family, for example, were at one time so identified with Dickinson’s Yard, from Aire Street to the Croft, and there lived the famous Bill Horton, probably Knottingley’s first Rugby League International, who played for Wakefield.

So in the minds of Knottingley folk, discussion of a personality always brought some thought of ‘which yard’ he came from. Each had a characteristic community, and very close in clanship. Neighbours were on such terms - far different from the present day trend when privacy is more prized - of ‘knock and walk in’, that people intermingled constantly in their homes. There may be some Racca Green’ers of the old school left who still remember the cry - probably emanating from the need for precautions during Zeppelin raids in the first world war "Are ya all in ya’re awn house?" That spirit has changed and now the fabric of the homes that sheltered it is passing too.

25th July 1968

A former Verger of St. Andrew’s Church, Ferrybridge, who can recall the days when he used to draw water from the nearby river for all the christenings, celebrated his 98th birthday yesterday. He is Mr. George Chapman Sharp, of Station Road, Ferrybridge. Born in Burton Salmon, Mr. Sharp moved in his childhood to Northallerton and then sixty years ago to Ferrybridge. All his working life was spent on the railways and he is still fascinated by trains, often watching them go by on the railway line near his home.

Mr. Sharp’s wife died 11 years ago after 61 years of marriage. He lives with his eldest daughter, 71 year old Miss Annie Sharp. His other children, two daughters and one son -- another son died several years ago - all live nearby and Mr. Sharp greatly enjoys visits from them and from his seven grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren,

Mr. Sharp’s hobbies include gardening and reading the newspapers and he is a member of St. Andrew’s Church - but he is not able to get out much. When he was verger at St. Andrew’s, the church was in its former position by the river and he often had to wade or row through the water to reach it when the ground was flooded. The water, used for christenings at the church, was brought by him from the river in a bucket.

As he is not very well just now, Mr. Sharp’s relatives are not holding any celebrations for his birthday but they planned to visit him yesterday.

25th July 1968

‘The Best Ever’, was the opinion of many people after Knottingley’s tenth annual Carnival and Sports at the Green House playing fields on Saturday. The afternoon was perfect with bright sunshine bringing out a large crowd to see American pop celebrity Gene Pitney perform the opening ceremony.

Events started with the procession of floats through Ferrybridge and Knottingley, to be judged as they returned to the field. The judges were Mr. and Mrs M. Turner, Mr. and Mrs J. Donaldson, Sister Langley and Mrs J. Marshall. They chose the ‘Diddy Men’ as the children’s tableau winner and ‘Spanish Fiesta’ as the winner of the adult tableau.

After the procession, Councillor W. Sarvent introduced the president of the Carnival Committee, Mr. D. Pettitt, its chairman, Mr. S. Burton, the Chairman of K.U.D.C., Councillor Mary Nunns, and Gene Pitney.

Accompanied by the band, Gene Pitney sang ‘The Star Spangled Banner’. He then crowned the Carnival Queen, Miss Ellen Reynolds, who received an inscribed watch, and both she and the deputy queen, Miss Sharon Burton, received rose bowls. After bouquets had been presented to the women judges by the Carnival Queen, Mr. Pitney retired to the pavilion where a long queue of autograph-hunters formed.

10th October 1968

Knottingley people have taken up the trail of lime road history as suggested recently in ‘The Express’ may have been for lime wagons leading from the ancient Knottingley lime workings to the River Aire for barge loading. From evidence of cobble stones and other clues, ‘The Express’ traced a possible road of the past down which lime carts travelled from Womersley Road across the site of Bagley’s glassworks and the canal, to Aire Street and waiting ships or barges on the river.

There are of course, lime quarry workings from time immemorial in many parts of Knottingley, and now appears as was also suggested, the probability of more than one road. Mr. Granville Burdin, of Pontefract Road, recalls a channelled "way" which crossed under the Pontefract Road, at Hilltop, just west of the Bay Horse Inn, and presumably ended in what were then called ‘Brewery Fields’, at the River. This was known in his younger days as "the wagon road". The belief is that the lime was taken on it, probably on tramways from the quarries, of which there is ample evidence in the Headlands and Simpson’s Lane areas, and still further south. During the last war the "tunnel" was used as an air raid shelter.

Mr. Burdin expresses the belief that probably several roads took lime from the south of the town, north to the river, and later to the canal. A tunnel, indicating an access road, lay under Weeland Road between the old Town Quarry above which stands St. Botolph’s Church, and the recess in the bend of the road there, which gives on to the canal. But probably the access road turned in earlier days, toward the river.

Again lime would be in demand, suggests Mr. Burdin, not only for agricultural purposes but as stone for reinforcement of the canal (as can be seen at many points in Knottingley) and for other canals; and so in turn the canal became the departure point of loads, not only of lime, but of limestone.

Mr. Burdin recalls that as a young man his grandfather worked with William Bagley when they were both at Brefitt’s, Castleford. A history of glass at Castleford, given in ‘The Express’ Charter Supplement in 1955, mentions developments in Castleford about 1846, and notes at "about that time, Bagley and Burdin left Castleford for Knottingley". He cherishes many a memory of the skill, dry humour, hardiness and customs of the "glass folk" among them; the custom of a firm giving to a newly fledged craftsman, a gold watch, to which the foreman of the lad’s particular team of workers would customarily add a gold Albert. Mr. Burdin recalls that in the early 1880’s, William Bagley formed the Bagley Company, and Burdin & Co was formed in 1887, specialising in the making of glass carboys.

Memories of her childhood in a haunted house in Knottingley, were recalled by the ‘lime road’ article for Mrs Rachel Taylor, of Bryan Close, Whitwood Mere. Now aged 84, she moved to Knottingley with her family from Mexborough at the age of six. Her father was a glass founder at Bagley’s works and he had a wife and seven children to support.

Their now demolished cottage near the Cherry Tree Inn, at the junction of Cow Lane and Marsh End was haunted says Mrs Taylor, by the vision of a lady wearing a bustle, with a long skirt trailing on the floor, who seemed to walk through walls and sometimes appeared at Mrs Taylor’s bedside.

Less well off in those days, many people made the best of what they could at Christmas times, and in times of difficulty. At Harker’s Shipyard, where children played among the half-constructed boats, at Christmas Time they collected a log of wood for a Christmas fire, says Mrs Taylor. Poor children received a free Christmas dinner at the Church School and to supplement the family income, ordinarily her father shot for rabbits and pheasants with a gun kept in the beams of the house.

She recalls soup being distributed to the poor in hard times and queuing with her jug at the Town Hall every Friday morning. No water being available to the house, the children at her home were sent for water from the pump in a nearby butcher’s yard. She also recalls the belief which many present Knottingley folk will remember (and maybe experienced) that inhaling smoke from the burning lime kilns in the quarries was curative. Her mother sent the children to inhale the fumes as a cure for whooping cough. But when her brother caught smallpox, the entire family was locked up in the cottage for six weeks, their food being placed on the windowsill.

Other childhood memories include picking cinders from slag-heaps before breakfast; buying corn, which was cooked and eaten with thick black treacle, from a local flour mill; buying brewers yeast from the local brewery; and staying to watch the beer made.

"I Hated School", she declares; and she rarely went. Her father taught her to read but to this day she cannot write. At the age of 16 she joined Bagley’s as a bottle washer and there met her first husband, Jonathon Price. They were married at St. Botolph’s Church and lived on Primrose Hill.

Mr. Price suffered the loss of a leg in the First World War and was able to work only part-time. He died 40 years ago, leaving Mrs Taylor with seven children aged between two and eighteen years. Thirty years ago she met and married Mr. Fred Taylor, a miner, who died 11 years ago. Mrs Taylor now lives alone but delights in recalling, and with pleasure, despite the harder times, how different is their childhood to what hers was.

2nd November 1968

Once again the Aire Street re-development at Knottingley takes a beating. The contractor who was supposed to start on the new shops and flats has asked to be released from this contract. Why, I would like to know? how has this situation arisen? Surely, when any contract is awarded doesn’t our Council ask the contractor for a starting and finishing date, and also musn’t he deposit his bond before the contract is signed by both parties? Has this happened in this case, and has the contractor forfeited his bond as he should do?

According to my information the contractor has been evasive about his probable starting date. This should not be allowed to continue by the officials and members of the development committee. A straight question should have been asked and a straight answer requested. The result now is that there has been a delay of two months with the prospect of a further delay while the powers that be negotiate with the next lowest tender. This is a ludicrous situation and it gets worse daily as the Aire Street area gets more derelict.

The Council could help immediately if it would get the eyesores that it already owns in the street demolished. Every second shop in the street is without windows or doors. They are in a very dangerous condition - windows with broken glass still in and the interiors being used for lavatories. The stench from some of these shops is nauseating.

Finally, is the Council going to make full use of its powers under the comprehensive order and get buying the properties still outstanding? It certainly can’t blame the traders this time. The buying order under this order should include the piece of land owned by the County Council at the top end of the area. And on this subject, I would like to point out to our Council that County Hall is no God Almighty Himself but a servant of the people who pay the wages.

W.G. Watt, Aire Street, Knottingley.

14th November 1968

Mention in ‘The Express’ recently of Knottingley Inns past and present evoked for a former Knottingley resident memories of many of the old inns and their individualistic and colourful contributions to the local scene.

He wrote about this world of inns which, though it may be known to other Knottingley elders, revives again in a special way the smaller, ‘closer’ Knottingley in which "everyone was known by everyone" – landlord’s especially. Our correspondent can even list most of the landlords who were long identified with those inns in his younger days. So it was that Knottingley characters and people stamped themselves on the mind and the memories.

The inns themselves seem to have had their characteristics, too. As examples of entertainment or activity, the writer recalls that the one time Anchor Inn, in Anchor Yard, (Taylor’s Yard) in Aire Street, had a skittle alley behind it, and he remembers the cobblestones in Anchor Yard, and how they stretched away to be the frontage of Anchor Cottages, (also now demolished) beyond. And at the Wagon and Horses, still in Aire Street, Jim Holgate had the town’s first cinema shows.

"Of Course", he added, "I was too young to go, but the films, as Jim would call them, were broken many times before being run through finally. Still that was the beginning..."

The mention of pickled snails reminds him that they were a ‘speciality’ of the Lime Keel Inn, which stands almost opposite the Bendles, near Cow Lane Bridge. The snails were sold for the Hospital Sunday Fund, and the writer says: "The money for the sale of them was wrapped in coloured paper, I believe, and pinned to the beams of the taproom until the collection at the year end." He remembers Knottingley’s pride in its Hospital Sunday effort: "The late Mr. George Reynolds, who was then secretary, I think, set out to create a record of 400 and did so; but in later years left the figure far behind."

Of inns once connected with sailors and the sea he recalls the Jolly Sailor, Sailor’s Home, Boat and Anchor, and probably one on the former Island Court (Aire Street) whose name he cannot remember, but which he associates with a licensee named Raddings. Incidentally, Raddings is a well-known Knottingley name connected with seafaring. (If a mere lad dare put a word in here, it would be for the Roper’s Arms, off Cow Lane. Knottingley had for many years a ropery at Stocking Lane where boys watched the slow machine twisting the strands as it passed along a long length of rail and the very name ‘Ropewalk’ suggests that there was once a ropery in that area. Again a thought of sailors and the sea.

Our correspondent sets out - with the exception of the newer ones south of the railway - all the Knottingley inns as he remembers them in the older part of the town. The list runs:-

Red Lion (Fearnley Green); Beehive (near Shepherd’s Bridge); Lamb, (in its original position between Racca Green and Fearnley Green, Weeland Road ); the new ‘Lamb’ (being opposite); Boat and Jolly Sailor, (on opposite sides of the canal between Shepherd’s Bridge and Cow Lane Bridge); Cherry Tree, (Marsh End); Buck, Anchor, George, Royal Oak, (Aire Street’s south side); Aire Street Hotel, Wagon and Horses, Sailors Home, (north side); two Commercials, (one in the Bendles, the other opposite Station Road); Greyhound, (almost opposite Police Station in Weeland Road); Anvil, (near Anvil Bridge );

Along Hilltop on the South side were the Rising Sun, Bay Horse, L & Y and Railway Hotel (both Station Road); Duke of York and Potter’s Arms, (the Holes area) and the picturesque old Swan, (between Gaggs Bridge and the Town Hall).

No doubt it is a fair exercise for absent former residents to remember how many of those inns are gone or no longer inns and how many remain, but a start on the past one at least, today, can be made with the Beehive, the Old Swan (as distinct to the new Swan south of the railway) Greyhound, Anchor, George, old Lamb, Jolly Sailor, Royal Oak, Boat. Of course south of the railway, there are the Winston, the Green Bottle and the Wall Bottle.

Yes a great deal of history and old associations can be recalled by the patchwork of the inns of any town both by those who frequented them and those that did not.

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

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