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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 to 1929

Scarborough was the most popular coastal location and was particularly favoured by the Wesleyans who visited the resort regularly from 1883 with occasional trips to Bridlington as an alternative venue. (49) Both the east coast towns were also favoured by the Congregationalists in the years preceding the Great War. (50) Also, by the turn of the century Blackpool had developed a reputation for wholesome entertainment and was increasingly visited by local parties. (51)

Occasionally the longer distance trips proved to be of a marathon nature. On Feast Tuesday, 1890, a Wesleyan party comprising 400 Sunday School pupils and friends made a journey to Scarborough by train. Arriving as early as 8.30am, the group were back home in less than 12 hours. The trip stood in sharp contrast to that undertaken by the same group two years later. Delay in starting out occurred due to there being insufficient tickets to meet the demand and once underway the train was so heavily ladened that the locomotive was only very slowly able to overcome the steep gradients and on one occasion lost valuable time by having to shunt backwards and build up sufficient head of steam to surmount a challenging rise successfully. The outward journey took four hours and the trippers seem to have compensated for lost time by delaying their return, reaching Knottingley after a faultless journey at 11.00pm. (52) Again, in 1934, the employees of Carters’ Knottingley Brewery travelled to Blackpool by motor coach. Setting out at 8.00am on Sunday morning the group arrived at their destination around lunchtime and stayed until 7.00pm but did not reach Knottingley until 3.00am on Bank Holiday Monday. Thus, for about six hours of pleasure the party endured and overall journey of about 13 hours. (53)

The tradition of the annual excursion was eventually adopted by the local workingmens’ clubs. In 1928 the National Association of Discharged Soldiers & Sailors Club inaugurated an annual outing for members and their families and in 1930 took 300 people to Blackpool by train. Unfortunately, the day was marred by non-stop pouring rain. Nor were conditions any better on the east coast where St. Botolphs Choir experienced constant rain. Undaunted by the adverse conditions, the N.A.D.S.A.S Club visited Blackpool again in 1932, this time enjoying favourable weather. (54)

Works excursions were in vogue from the 1920s occasionally characterised by a degree of paternalism. The Carter workforce was accompanied by the Company Secretary, Mr. T. Whitehead, who, although travelling separately by car, was there to ‘keep an eye’ on events. Another aspect of paternalism is seen in the outings undertaken by workers of Stainsby & Lyon in the 1920s who made annual trips at August Bank Holiday to one or other of the residences of their employees, either Whitley Lodge or Hillam Hall. (55) Trips to the latter venue were undertaken by bus but those to Whitley were invariably undertaken by barges lent for the occasion by John Harker & Co., Ltd., one of the Lyon & Lyon group of companies. In 1925 for example, having reached Whitley the visitors enjoyed a garden party following sports and games and watched pony racing held in conjunction with the village show. (56) When the event was held at Hillam Hall the garden party was enhanced by music provided by the Knottingley Silver Prize Band and on at least one occasion the Band occupied one of three barges, playing as they cruised along the canal on the annual outing to Whitley Lodge. (57)

For local inhabitants less fortunate or in some cases, too poor to enjoy the pleasure of an excursion, there was always the delight afforded by conditions near at hand. One event, given suitable weather, was bathing on the river Aire, another traversing Brotherton Marsh. In the mid 1920s as a downturn in the national economy began to be reflected locally with high unemployment and declining prosperity, it was reported that at Bank Holiday, “Many found interest and relaxation across the Marsh”, whilst the town almost acquired a reputation as a holiday resort as spectators gathered in Aire Street to watch “Swimming in the River Aire by crowds of young folk during the present hot weather”, with “The ferryboat in incessant use.” (58)

The advent of the Second World War brought encouragement of ‘Stay At Home Holidays’, as much from necessity as from desire, but following the war’s end the tradition of annual excursions was revived, particularly by local clubs. Numerous chartered trains or occasionally long lines of coaches, provided ‘transports of delight’ for the local populace during the immediate post war decades. By that time, however, the excursions were no longer regarded as an adjunct to Feast time. The resurgence was relatively brief as a mass desire for new forms of pleasure and the increase in private vehicle ownership which provided the means of access to the same, sounded the death knell of the simple pleasures which were the accompaniment of the Feast and even of the venerable institution itself. Thus, at the commencement of the third millennium only Knottingley Carnival struggles on to retain a vestige of the customary pleasures once enjoyed by the inhabitants of the town.

Knottingley Carnival began in 1927 when, following the formation of a representative charity committee to replace the defunct Dispensary Committee the previous year, it was decided to widen the scope for fund raising through the introduction of a gala day. (59)

The concept of a gala day was in fact a revival of a previous observance, for such events were well established by the 1870s as an annual feature of Hospital Sunday fund raising efforts.

In 1878, a disturbance occurred on the evening of 8th July at Knottingley Gala, involving a dispute with a gatekeeper concerning admission charges which led to the parties involved appearing before Pontefract Magistrates the following week. More significantly, in a financial context, the disturbance broke up the gala with only 3s 8d taken in gate receipts. (60) Following that setback the gala appears to have been held in conjunction with the town’s horticultural show following the necessity to relocate the show in Howards Field due to lack of sufficient space in the Town Hall, and the whole event was enlarged in 1881 by the introduction of the flower show. Before the end of the following decade the gala included athletic sports, football and horse grooming. The Great War resulted in the demise of the town gala but when the concept was revived in the late twenties memories of former years were still sufficiently fresh to ensure that the reintroduction of the event was designated as a ‘gala’ rather than a ‘carnival’ day.

Indeed, a pattern had been created by the Peace Celebrations of July 1919, for no less at Knottingley than anywhere else within the land, the formal conclusion of the Great War was a cause for celebration and to this end a Peace Celebration Committee under the Chairmanship of Cr. T. Worfolk, Chairman of the Urban District Council, had been established following the Armistice. The membership of the new committee included local councillors, ministers of religion representing all denominations, head teachers and Sunday School superintendents with Messrs A. Berry and E. Cramp as joint secretaries.

At 1.00pm on Sunday 19th July, groups of local people began to assemble in front of the Town Hall, the social focus of the inhabitants of the town for more than half a century, and excitement grew as decorated wagons, drays, perambulator’s etc., arrived for the commencement of the procession. Notwithstanding the fact that the day was a Saturday, the local schoolchildren assembled at their respective schools from which they were marched under the supervision of their teachers to join the excited throng outside the Town Hall.

At 2.00pm, to the accompaniment of the bells of nearby St. Botolphs Church, the parade marshals, Messrs G. Elliott and G. Baker, mounted on horses, began to form the procession which, led by the Silver Prize Band, proceeded through crowd-lined upper Aire Street to the Flatts.

A dozen floats, with two mounted on lorries, all festooned with flags and bunting of red, white and blue and adorned with laurels, peace slogans and portraits of the King and Queen and service chiefs, lined up for judging by Messrs C. Shepherd, J.T. Taylor and A. Morris.

Prominent among the tableaux were those of Knottingley Scouts, arranged by Scoutmaster, Mr. R. Jackson, and that of the inhabitants of the Holes, organised by Mr. G. Lockwood, which took first and second prizes respectively.

The Scouts, who were to undertake a tour of the battlefields of the Western Front the following year, depicted a hospital scene with a wounded soldier receiving the attention of nurses and orderlies. The Holes tableaux grouped together representatives of the armed services on land, sea and air, male and female, linked by the central figure of Britannia, depicted by Miss Lily Starks. The two tableaux drew admiring comment and much applause but paradoxically, the scenes evoked tender memories of loved ones lost or maimed which occasioned many tear-dimmed eyes, making the event one of sad remembrance and joy co-mingled.

Prizes were also awarded to Mr. G. Elliott for the best decorated two-horse dray, driven by G. Elliott junior, that of Bagley & Co., driven by W. Rowley, gaining second place. In the single horse dray category, Bagley & Co., (T. Link) triumphed, with a dray belonging to Smith Bros., (J. Gillian) taking second place.

Next, the Band accompanied community singing by the massed throng. The massed singing concluded with the presentation of the Military Medal to Lance Corporal A. Pennistone of the 6th Battalion of the Yorks & Lancs Regiment and the singing of the National Anthem. The parade then moved off, proceeding along lower Aire Street, Marsh End, Low Green, Racca Green and Weeland Road, back to the Town Hall.

The procession included the members of the Organising Committee, members and officials of the Knottingley Urban District Council, 200 ex-servicemen of the Discharged Soldiers & Sailors Association headed by their President, ex-C.S.M. Baker. Uniformed members of the Services followed, dragging along in a push cart a booted and helmeted effigy of Kaiser Bill, to the delighted applause and laughter of the bystanders, Clergymen, representatives of the Oddfellows and Foresters friendly societies, wearing their lodge regalia, officials of the Trades & Labour Council, Scouts and pupils of all the local schools, the route being walked by the elementary pupils whilst the infants undertook the journey on wagons.

Fancy dress features included Miss Nora Jackson as a courtier, mounted upon a pony, and she was accompanied by her sister Lilian Jackson, dressed as a flower girl and riding a decorated bicycle. Two tiny tots, George Shaw and Lionel Bamford, rode decorated tricycles and a goat swathed in a Union Jack, was led by another small boy. The rear of the parade was brought up by the towns schoolchildren, accompanied by their teachers, who carried flags of all nations which were waved with great enthusiasm en route.

The town had a festive air which was heightened by the multitude of decorated houses and shops in response to the several prizes offered by the Committee. The whole proceeding had an appearance of unity which, compared to the equally enthusiastic but diverse celebrations which marked the end of the Second World War a generation later, bestowed a carnival nature on the event. (61)

The children then returned to their respective day schools where tea was served to scholars and Sunday School pupils followed by the presentation of celebration mugs, parents being excluded from this aspect of the days activity. At 5.30pm, the finals of the school sports commenced, the heats having been run the previous day.

The inaugural gala day seems to have passed largely unobserved by the local press apart from the publication of a couple of cartoons submitted by Knottingley artist, Alfred Smith, drawing public attention to the event. The probable explanation is that the predominant feature of the gala was the childrens’ sports, the results of which were fully reported. (62) Similarly, the second annual gala, again held in Braim’s Field, was largely a charity sports event. The promoters aimed to raise £15 but ideal weather ensured a good attendance and a sum in excess of £30 was obtained. The sum raised was all the more notable, for whereas the previous year the prizes had been donated, in 1928 the Committee had to meet the cost of the prizes from the takings. (63)

By the time of the third anniversary in July 1929, an ambitious and varied programme had been devised, transforming the event from a gala sports into an event worthy of re-designation as Knottingley Carnival. Much of the credit for the transformation was due to the increasing involvement of the town’s schoolteachers allied to the organisational ability of the new Secretary, Mr. A. Pickard. The townsfolk, already staunch supporters of the Hospital charities, responded to the renewed enthusiasm of the local Infirmary Committee and despite the hardships of the period, ensured that flags, streamers and bunting bedecked the town on Carnival Day.

Defying the chill, showery weather the day brought, crowds lined the streets as the Silver Prize Band led a procession which included a troop of the Church Lads’ Brigade, fancy dress characters and comic bands, followed by tableaux on drays, from the Flatts. Passing along Marsh End and Fernley Green to Weeland Road, thence via Hill Top and Forge Hill before retracing its path, it wended its way along Chapel Street and Aire Street to Braims Field, now the regular venue for the event.

Elements of the Carnival included the best decorated cycle/motor cycle, best groomed horse, a maypole dancing competition, a gymnastic display by Pontefract Welfare Institute, and a competition to guess the weight of a heifer. A comprehensive programme of athletic sports featuring classes for both children and adults, occupied the afternoon and evening sessions, throughout which periods the Silver Band entertained the crowd with musical selections. Equally welcome were the refreshment provided and served by the joint elements of the town’s Ladies Committee. (64)

The Carnival was a tour de force for the Ropewalk School pupils who in addition to winning the tableaux prize for ‘Vikings’ also came top in the infants section of the sports and won the boys’ relay race, an event open to all schools in the Pontefract Division of the local education authority, and triumphed in the tug of war event. The School also entered a team in the maypole and country dancing sections of the Carnival programme, while a number of individual prize winners were pupils at the Ropewalk School. (65)

To digress: the role of the comic bands is worthy of recall. A number of such ensembles existed in the Knottingley neighbourhood in the 1920s. Utilising kazoos, comb and paper, harmonicas and penny whistles for melodic line and cymbals, tambourines and a variety of domestic utensils for percussion and visual effect, the raison d’ etre of these pseudo-harmonic groups were to bring cheer to a local population in the throes of economic depression while raising money for charitable purposes. A seriousness of purpose underlay the comic façade and the rivalry between the groups was manifested in fierce competition which arose from pride in appearance and achievement. (66) The aim of such groups is encapsulated in the name of the winners of the first prize in 1929, the Pontefract Charities Comic Band. The runners-up, with an awe inspiring title were the Knottingley Bobby Dazzlers.

For the record, additional prize winners at the first Carnival were Margaret Thompson and Beryl Branford as the ‘Erasmic Twins’ and Ralph and Derek Ward as ‘Son of a Sheik’ and ‘Cupid Doll’ in the respective childrens’ and adults fancy dress categories. The best decorated cycle/motor cycle was won by Percy Bedford as ‘Carters Brewery’ (a variety of beer mats and posters adorning the vehicle), while in second place, Horace Higgins for ‘Raleigh Giraffe’ (no prizes for guessing the make of his cycle?). Mr. Fred Backhouse won the prize for exhibiting the best groomed horse, while the maypole dancing competition was won by Featherstone National School. The judges of the various classes were Messrs McGowan and Shenton and the event which it was anticipated would raise between £30-£40 generated £107 when final accounts were published. (67)

Dr. Terry Spencer

NOTES: (Open in a new window)



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