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Also by Terry Spencer

The following studies by Terry Spencer are now available on the Knottingley website:

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the August Bank Holiday period at Knottingley abounded in fun and frolic with the Feast as the hub of the festivities. The fair was supplemented by community sports and of the sporting element within the town none was more prominent than Knottingley Town Cricket Club.

Situated on the southern bank of the River Aire, to the north side of Aire Street, lies Knottingley Flatts. Today, the Flatts occupy only a small portion of the original layout which comprised the greater part of Knottingley Ings.

The modern image of the fair is one of outdoor entertainment for pleasure seeking people but such a concept is one which has developed over the last two centuries being born as a result of the Industrial Revolution.

Prior to the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 local people relied for health care in the event of sickness or serious injury upon charitable institutions such as Pontefract Dispensary and Leeds Infirmary.

The application by Knottingley Urban District Council for a grant of arms was made to the College of Arms, London, in mid 1942.

That there was a glassworks at Ferrybridge is indisputable for it was both documented and photographed. That it was situated on the north bank of the River Aire "..where the Parish of Brotherton merges into the Parish of Ferrybridge" is confirmed by map reference. The doubt lies not in the existence or location of the furnace but with its origin.

The township of Knottingley, situated three miles north-east of Pontefract in the Wapentake of Osgoldcross, developed from a 6th century Saxon settlement in a forest clearing on the south bank of the river Aire. By the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 the settlement had acquired the status of a manorial vill

As the process of industrialisation and urban development gained pace in the second half of the nineteenth century the provision of public spaces such as municipal gardens and parks for the purpose of public recreation and amenity became increasingly desirable.

Percy Bentley, scion of a prominent Knottingley family, was born in that town on the 18th January 1891, the son of James William and Helena Bentley, and was baptised in the parish church of St. Botolph on the 11th February.

On Wednesday, 25th September 1918, a committee previously sanctioned by Knottingley Urban District Council in meeting assembled, met in the Council Chamber at Knottingley Town Hall to consider the form of memorial to the men who had fallen during the Great War.

No less than the citizens of its larger neighbour, the inhabitants of the village of Ferrybridge decided to honour those drawn from the community and slain in the Great War.

For approximately a decade from the mid 1940's the 'K' Sisters, Marjorie and Pamela Kellett, were prominent throughout the town and district of Knottingley as all-round entertainers who harnessed their talent to providing public enjoyment and in so doing raised large amounts of money for local charities.

The new cinema, one of the earliest purpose-built picture houses in the country, was situated on an oblique strip of land some 560 square yards in extent, adjacent to Ship Lane at the junction with lower Aire Street. The hall was designed to seat 600 people: 500 in the area and 100 in the balcony.

In 1752, eighteen residents of the township of Knottingley in company with John Mitchell, the Parish Constable, agreed to be bound over in the sum of £10 each to observe the legal and moral obligations attendant upon being granted a licence as an innkeeper.

In the Spring of 1994, the recently deceased and much lamented Edwin Beckett arranged for the installation of a clock at the top of the Town Hall turret. The event was celebrated in verse by Mrs Joyce Bell who concluded her eulogy by stating that her mother, Dolly Lightowler, had always wished to see a clock set in the "bare face" of the Town Hall - a wish which had now come true.

Awareness of a link between my native Knottingley and the Prince's statue came quite recently when Mrs Shirley Bedford of Knottingley informed me that her great grandfather was the master of a barge which had transported the statue from Hull to Leeds in 1903.

It was in the course of a recent conversation with Roger Ellis that the subject of nicknames arose, following which, in an idle half-hour, I casually began to compile a list of those I recalled. My list quickly exceeded fifty in number and I was seized by a natural desire to list as many more as I could obtain.

The origin of Knottingley Band is obscure. In 1980 the Band celebrated its conjectured centenary year, the date being taken from an old letterhead of 1880.  However, a subsequent documentary source has been located which indicates that the genesis of the Band may lie much further in the past.

The burgeoning spirit of civic pride found practical expression on 29th October 1864, when a group of prominent citizens of the town formed the Knottingley Town Hall & Mechanics’ Institute Company Limited.

The purpose of this study is to consider the topography of modern day Knottingley and formulate a theoretical model concerning the development of the settlement during the medieval and post medieval eras as reflected in the field systems adopted.

An A-Z listing of Knottingley field and place names.

One of the most impressive and graceful houses ever built at Knottingley was Lime Grove. The large attached house was the residence of the Carter family and was built to the orders of Mark Carter at Mill Close, Hill Top, about 1808.

Conflict is fuelled by finance so it is unsurprising that following the outbreak of war in 1939, local savings committees were established to encourage people to curb personal expenditure and invest surplus cash in the National War Savings Scheme in order to assist the cost of the war.

The township of Knottingley became a semi-autonomous parish in 1789 following the ecclesiastical reorganisation of that period but remaining under the patronage of the Vicar of Pontefract until it became an independent parish in 1846

Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History


by TERRY SPENCER, B.A. (Hons), Ph D

KNOTTINGLEY, Circa 1840 - 2003
Volume One (2003)

Origins and History

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the August Bank Holiday period at Knottingley abounded in fun and frolic with the Feast as the hub of the festivities. The fair was supplemented by community sports and of the sporting element within the town none was more prominent than Knottingley Town Cricket Club. The precise date of the establishment of the club is uncertain but a donation of £2 by John Carter, the local brewer, in 1871 to Sydney Woolf Esq., “being the guarantor of the Cricket Club”, may mark the year the club was founded. (1)

The early years of the cricket club were financially precarious and in order to capitalise on the festive spirit that Feast time engendered, the club arranged a series of annual events to secure funds. In August 1874, an afternoon match with reserved seats costing one shilling and unreserved places at sixpence, was followed in the evening by a troupe of ‘Clown Cricketers’ who gave performances on two consecutive evenings, with Pontefract Borough Band in attendance for good measure. (2) In later years an affinity developed with the Knottingley [Silver Prize] Band and the cricket club, and concerts were held in the Bank’s Garth cricket field on a periodic basis with the proceeds being shared. (3)

A feature of feast time fixtures was a series of novelty cricket matches involving teams drawn from sections within the town or district. In 1875, the glassblowers played the tailors and on other occasions married men took on single men while in 1880 the town club played against 22 local tradesmen. The earliest recorded fixture probably pre-dates the formal establishment of the town club when in 1863, the Albion Foundry, Knottingley, played the Australian Pottery. With gradual regularisation of fixtures the matches took on a more sober format with matches between the town club and neighbouring town and village clubs, but novelty matches continued to be played as part of the Feast time activities as late as the 1930s. (4)

A notable feature of the early club fixtures was the appearance of professional cricketers. The games at Feast weekend 1882, included Knottingley Town v Ferrybridge on Saturday and a match against Castleford on the Monday following. For the Tuesday fixture against Howden Dyke, both teams had a professional player. A. Champion, the Huddersfield Cliffe End professional, turned out for Knottingley and Jones, the Goole professional, played for Howden. (5) The following year when Knottingley played Pontefract on Bank Holiday Monday, the latter fielded no less than five professional players. (6) By 1899 the Knottingley club had a regular professional player, a Mr. Pearson, on its books, for in that year he was given a benefit by the club. (7)

The prominent contribution of the club to the festivities at Feast time was clearly acknowledged in 1893 when it was declared, “Knottingley Cricket Club more than any other institution entered into the pleasures of the feasters with matches followed by sports.” (8) Special matches the following year were followed by galas accompanied by music from “the excellent Town Band.” (9)

Interestingly, an item of 1898 refers to the “Cricket Club’s annual carnival at Howards Field….as part of the Feast celebrations”, suggesting that the club was not yet installed at Banks Garth at that date. (10)

The Horticultural Show was a popular feature within the town. The show was first held in Knottingley Town Hall in 1880 as part of the Feast Week activities. From the start the event was a success with an increasing number of entries and visitors so that by 1883 it was obvious that the Town Hall was no longer large enough for the event. It was therefore decided to stage the show at Knottingley cricket field in 1884. Despite competition from the Pontefract Horticultural Show, the President, Mr. A.P. Stainsby, and the Committee, misjudged the number of people wishing to submit entries and a delay of two hours ensued before the public could be admitted and the formal opening, scheduled for 11.30am was abandoned. (11)

The cricket field which provided the venue for the Horticultural Show was in fact Howards Field in Gas Works Lane, a former ropewalk, which following the death of John Howard in 1877 became used as a cricket and football pitch and also as a venue for alfresco concerts and galas. The Horticultural Show included a flower section which was very popular with all classes of local society for although the officials of the Horticultural Society were drawn from the ranks of the manufacturing and professional elements of the local population, the semi-rural character of the town encouraged an interest in the cultivation of vegetables, flowers and fruit by a large element of the inhabitants and ensured that the show had a wide appeal for the labouring classes. (12)

Despite the general support, the Horticultural Show depended upon good weather for its success and when in 1888 a heavy downpour during Sunday night made the ground sodden and was followed by rain the following day, poor attendance resulted in the financial failure of the show. (13) Thus, although the show the previous year had been described as “without a doubt one of the finest in the district”, the rain affected event of 1888 produced the opinion that, “The Horticultural Show which has made such good progress in recent years would soon be extinguished by a few such days as Monday last.” (14)

Furthermore, to an extent, the Show had become a victim of its own success so that although the event of 1888 was declared to be “very fine”, from a horticultural point of view it was judged inferior to 1877, the exhibits being neither so numerous or of such good quality. (15)

From 1885 the event had been expanded to include a gala and sports and was held over Bank Holiday Monday and Tuesday. (16) In 1877, the varied programme included foot races for children and adults, horse trotting, tilting at the ring and hurdle races on Monday, while boxing and a stick, sword and bayonet exhibition were presented by 51st and 65th regiment personnel from Pontefract Barracks by courtesy of their commanding officer, Colonel Byram. (17)

The development of various supplementary events at Feast time were regarded as morally uplifting. “Knottingley is to be congratulated for the healthy recreation it obtains from the annual feast, instead of relying, as so many townships do, on a mere conglomeration of itinerant fair vendors for all the amusement and relaxation the holiday season is to afford the inhabitants.” (18)

By 1890 it was reported that although the public had thronged to the show in large numbers, from a purely horticultural viewpoint, the show had declined somewhat from the excellent standard of previous years. The Committee had been faced with a dilemma; to retain the policy of exhibiting items submitted by local gentlemen, largely produced by professional gardeners, or to widen the range of exhibits by unrestricted entry to local inhabitants of all classes, thereby reducing the overall standard of the exhibits. Despite some protests, the latter policy was adopted, the Committee fearing that the show was otherwise at risk in future. (19)

Before the end of its first decade the Show had widened out to include the showing of horses with a class for boat-hauling horses and a tradesmens’ horse race. The sports of 1889 also included an old mens’ race (won appropriately by Mr. Lightfoot) and a grand tug of war in which a team captained by Mr. Thomas France was victorious over a team captained by Mr. James Hollingsworth.

It is perhaps worth digressing at this point to recall another event involving Jimmy Hollingsworth in a sporting capacity some years later. In August 1907, Hollingsworth rode his donkey 17 miles to the sports held by Barnsley Cricket Club and entered the animal in a race. The animal won the qualifying heat and the final, and then walked the 17 miles back home again. (20) Nor was the event unique, for two years before it had been reported that, “At Barnsley Cricket Club Sports on Monday last, Mr. J. Hollingsworth’s donkey, ‘Michael’, came first in the two lap donkey race.” (21) The report contained no mention of the 34 mile round journey the creature undertook in addition to the race. What price animal rights (or welfare) in those good old days?

In 1893 a feature of the festive sports at Knottingley was a pony race between animals belonging to local tradesmen, Jimmy Hollingsworth and George Braim, a farmer. Braim, riding his own pony, started from scratch. The other pony, ridden by George Taylor, was given 60 yards start. The race over an undisclosed distance, was won by a short head by Braim. (22)

The events of 1889 also included a rugby union match in aid of Dispensary funds in which a local XV were beaten by a team from Thorne, the venue being recorded as Free Wanderers Field, its location not being known. (23)

To the great regret of many locals no athletic sports were held in 1894 but there was no loss of entertainment, for the town cricket club arranged additional matches, each one being followed by a gala at which the Town Band played selections. (24)

Indeed, for a few years around the turn of the century there appears to have been neither horticultural show or sports. The reason for the apparent hiatus is not known but there are somewhat oblique indications of disruption of the status quo, one such being the relocation of Knottingley Town Cricket Club to the Banks Garth ground about this time.

In 1904, a cricket and athletic festival was announced to be held mid week at the new venue. The events took place during the afternoon and evening of 3rd August and drew a large attendance. The Town Band featured prominently, playing during the afternoon and following the conclusion of the sports in the evening, playing for dancing until darkness fell. (25) The following day the newly formed Rugby League Football Club held a sports festival at Howards Field which, blessed by good weather, drew a fair attendance despite the competition the day before. (26) The following year the Football Club Sports, held on the 29th August, was preceded by a horse and cycle parade led round the town by the Town Band in an effort to attract attention to the event which boasted more than 200 entries, and was successful in gaining record receipts from the attendant public. (27) Likewise, the fourth annual sports, organised by the Football & Athletic Club in August 1907 drew, “an enormous attendance” at Howards Field to watch more than 200 competitors. (28) On the Thursday of the same week, Knottingley Town Cricket Club played a twelve a side match against the West Riding Constabulary, the home side winning by 7 runs. The proceeds were shared between Pontefract Dispensary and the Police Orphanage, Harrogate. In an echo of this match, in August 1909, Knottingley Tradesmen played the West Riding Police, the proceeds being donated to the same causes. The match was easily won by the Tradesmen, both sides taking tea at the White Swan Inn, Hill Top, following the game. In 1924, the Tradesmen played Pontefract Divisional Police, the match being won by the latter team. (29) The popularity of cricket in the early decades of the twentieth century cannot be overstated as exemplified by the donation by Mr. J.W. Kipping, a director of John Harker & Co., Ltd., the local shipbuilding firm, of a silver cup to be competed for annually by local works teams, the first winners being Bagleys Rec[reation] who beat Knottingley Town in the final in August 1932. (30)

The introduction of horses as a casual element of the horticultural show and the parade which preceded the annual sports resulted in the establishment of Knottingley Horse & Foal Show in 1904. The inaugural event was held in a field adjacent to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Hotel near Knottingley Station and in common with all such events, by 1908 the show was preceded by a parade led by Knottingley Silver Prize Band, which set out from the Town Hall and featured all the animals and vehicles participating in the show. The show also featured additional entertainments with a display of maypole dancing by pupils of Snaith School being such a feature in 1908. (31) In 1911, bad weather forced the temporary abandonment of the show which was revived with great success the following year but was ultimately curtailed by the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. (32)

The displacement of horses by motor vehicles which had made little impact prior to the war was greatly accelerated during the course of the conflict. Nevertheless, by the end of the war a substantial proportion of local farmers and tradesmen still relied upon horses and were to do so in some cases until the eve of the Second World War almost two decades later. It was clear, however, that the use of the horse for motive power was passe.

The establishment of the Horse & Foal Show by no means prevented the participation of horses in other shows and in 1906 the Football Club Sports commenced with a parade led by Brotherton Band which included draught horses for judging. (33) Like its offspring, however, the Football Club Sports and the Flower Show enjoyed continued success until 1914 when they became terminal victims of war conditions. (34) A vestige of the latter remained in the brief existence of Flower Day Saturday and in the middle decades of the century the annual flower show was revived by the Knottingley Allotments Association. In 1918 the newly founded Discharged Soldiers & Sailors Club attempted to revive the annual sports and for a number of years organised a sports day in Braim’s Field, located in Gas Works (West Ings) Lane, but in the bleak austere economic aftermath of the war the event folded after a few years until revived as a adjunct of Knottingley Carnival in 1926. (35)

A further sporting activity which flourished briefly in the late 1920s was tennis. Starting in 1926 as a three day event under the auspices of the Knottingley Tennis Club, the fixture was held on the Lime Grove courts at Hill Top. (36) By 1929 the tournament, which was open to all-comers, had attracted 35 entries. (37) The popularity of the event was restricted to a narrow section of the population, however, being associated with people of middle class background and aspiration and appears to have become defunct as a competitive event in the early 1930s. An attempt to widen public interest is evident in 1930 with the organisation of a tournament between Knottingley Town Club and Pontefract Wesleyan Guilds played in Mr. Wake’s field, which was won by Knottingley by 55 games to 46, but failed to rouse much public enthusiasm. (38) The lack (or at least the decline) of public enthusiasm is evinced by the fact that in the boyhood of the writer, the Banks Garth ground had tennis courts laid out at the eastern end and the cricket pavilion bore the legend ‘Knottingley Town Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club’. The writer never witnessed anyone actually playing tennis on the ground, however, (though some few must have or why else lay out the courts?) and shortly after the end of the Second World War the ground was used solely for cricket matches.

While Knottingley Feast time was characterised by the return of exiled natives it was also a time of temporary absence as sundry social and industrial organisations undertook annual excursions, initially to neighbourhood locations but as public transport developed, further afield.

The most simple localised trips were those organised as treats for Sunday School scholars which usually visited sites close to the town. The visits usually consisted of sports and games punctuated by a picnic meal. Local farmers and manufacturers were most cooperative and generously lent wagons or boats to facilitate transport to the various sites while local landowners were equally munificent, allowing access to parkland and meadow. A popular location was Pontefract Castle but parks belonging to the estates of local gentry such as those at Byram, Hillam, Monk Fryston and Whitley, were frequently visited throughout the closing decades of the nineteenth century. (39)

The trips epitomise the word ‘frolic’. As early as 1880 three hundred pupils from the Church School enjoyed a trip on the canal. The trippers were carried in two boats lent by John Branford, a Knottingley vessel builder, and similar trips using Branford’s barges were recorded in 1904 and 1906. (40) The vessels were horse-drawn ‘dumb’ barges but a rare exception was the waterborne journey taken by pupils of the Independent (Congregational) Sunday School in August 1890, which was a trip along the river to Fryston by steamboat. (41)

Another regular location was Brotherton Marsh, serving either as a playground or as a route to Brotherton, Sutton or Birkin. In 1889 a party from Christ Church Sunday School, crossing the Aire by the Knottingley ferryboat and causeway traversed the Marsh while a group of elders travelled by horse-drawn wagons to meet them at Byram Park. (42) On another occasion a whole party from St. Botolph’s Sunday School travelled to Fryston Park by wagons and wagonettes. (43) Some trips undertaken by members of St. Botolphs were accompanied by Knottingley Town Band which appears to have had a close affinity with the church in the late nineteenth century. Hence, 200 St. Botolphs scholars went to Nostel Priory in August 1886 accompanied by Knottingley Brass Band “which added considerably to the enjoyment of the day’s proceedings”, the trip arriving back at Knottingley at 9.00pm. (44)

Again, the following year, when Mr. Seal lent his Vale Head Field to the scholars, they were led along Hill Top by the band. Two years earlier the Sunday School pupils had visited Womersley Park, travelling in a convoy of eight wagonettes, the Band accompanying them and playing the party out in both directions. (45)

A well co-ordinated excursion from Christ Church took place in 1885 when a party of young people travelled by water to Whitley Bridge on boats lent by Messrs Stainsby & Lyon, and thence to Askern in wagons lent by the farmers, traders and inn keepers of Knottingley. Awaiting the party at Askern were adult church members who had travelled there by train, having arranged a cheap day excursion. Following sports in a field adjacent to the Swan Hotel provided by the landlord, Mr. A. Green, for the occasion, the whole assembly retired to the inn for a tea party before travelling back home by road via Womersley. (46)

Annual Feast Week excursions were not confined to the Sunday School pupils, however. Trips to Tadcaster, York, Roundhay Park and Knaresborough are but a few of the destinations further afield undertaken by means of wagonette in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. (47) The advent of cheap railway excursions to coastal resorts in the closing decades of the nineteenth century meant that by the start of the new century annual trips by local institutions had become quite commonplace. As early as 1880, St Botolphs Choir had travelled by train to Scarborough, a destination also favoured that year by a second (unidentified) group, while a third such visited Manchester for the day. (48)

Dr. Terry Spencer

NOTES: (Open in new window)



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