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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)


The successful venture of 1929 established a basic pattern for succeeding years with an even greater financial gain in 1930 although the decrease in street collections which fell from £19 to £16-3-5 may be a reflection of growing hardship among local inhabitants rather than a decline in enthusiasm for the spectacle.

Minor variations in the 1930 programme of events were the folk dancing displays by Featherstone National and Knottingley Weeland Road Schools which replaced the competition of the previous year and the weight guessing competition which involved estimation of the weight of a man and also a load of coal, the latter being donated by Bagley & Co., Ltd., the local glass manufacturers.

Controversy marked one of the events in the adult sports programme, a race for the Link Cup, open to all men resident within a three mile radius of Knottingley. The winner was Mr. J. Cotterill of Fairburn, but an objection was raised on behalf of Mr. T. Askin that Mr. Cotterill lived beyond the stipulated boundary. At a committee meeting convened to consider the application the following Tuesday evening, the Knottingley Urban District Council Surveyor was called upon to adjudicate and stated that the straight distance between the two nearest boundary lines was under two miles and that from Knottingley Town Hall to Fairburn School was just under three miles. The objection was therefore dismissed and the objection fee of 2s 6d was forfeited. (68)

Mr. W. Dickinson replaced Mr. A. Pickard as Secretary of the Infirmary Committee in 1931, a year in which notwithstanding the increased participation by local teachers, the net takings dropped to £39-15-1½ from £55 the previous year. Quite apart from the adverse effects of the national trade recession on local industry which meant that businessmen were less able to donate money to local causes, the people of Knottingley were engaged in a huge effort to raise money for the purchase of the Greenhouse Fields as a playground for the children of the town at that period. The effect was to place a greater strain on the financial reserves of the Carnival organisers if the increasingly high standard of presentation was to be maintained. It is interesting to note that about 40% of gross takings were swallowed by expenditure in 1931. (69)

By 1931 the Carnival was already established as one of the highlights of the social calendar in the local community. In addition to the décor of the processional route, the Flatts, starting point of the procession, featured tall posts garlanded in artistic fashion by Mr. Jimmy Hollingsworth, with each post bearing a motto. A feature of the year’s procession, and for some years thereafter, was the sight of the parade marshal, Mr. A. McDonald, who had become the Chairman of the Infirmary Committee in 1929, conspicuous in a red beret. The parade was headed by Mr. E. Backhouse dressed in full hunting regalia, accompanied by Master Robinson as a jockey. The Silver Prize Band followed, leading a motley crowd of adults and children in costumes of weird and wonderful design. A series of tableaux produced by local tradesmen and organisations brought up the rear.

Such a high standard of presentation appertained that the first class award was shared in two prize categories. As in 1929, the Carnival proved to be a success for a local school, Knottingley National School under Headmaster Mr. E. Treadgold, won the tableaux class with a float depicting ‘Eskimo Island’, while the juniors under the supervision of Miss Drinkwater, presented a sea-side theme, replete with concert party, to gain second prize.
The influence of the cinema as a form of entertainment was a notable feature of the 1931 Carnival being reflected in Mr. H. Buckley’s impersonation of Ben Turpin in the film ‘Catch of the Season’, for which he won first prize for the most original characterisation, and Mr. Harry Barrett as Charlie Chaplin.

In addition to the costume and tableaux classes, the programme of events also featured an equestrian section, redolent of the galas of yore. The judges of the best groomed horse class faced a particularly difficult task and recommended that in future only harness shown to be in everyday use be specified as a condition of entry. (70)

The maypole dancing, conceived as a competitive event, was won by the girls of Weeland Road School, who were the only entrants and were therefore awarded a banner donated by Bagley & Co., Ltd.

An innovative feature of the 1931 Carnival was the appearance of an aerial flight, a popular attraction for many years ahead but one which by present day standards would be considered far too dangerous even for adult participation and yet one which in those less constrained times were favoured by children of seven or eight years of age, while the athletic sports were highly popular with adults and children alike. (71)

An important influence on the course of future carnivals was the appearance of young Louise Finney, who in 1931 entered the childrens’ fancy dress category as ‘Carnival Queen’, accompanied by her younger sister as a ‘pageboy’. The pair shared the first prize with Hilda Lawrence who appeared as a ‘Fortune Teller’. (72) The importance of the contribution of the Finney girls was evident when in 1932 the prime feature of the Carnival was a float bearing a ‘Carnival Queen’ and her attendant courtiers. Knottingley's first official Carnival Queen was Miss Doris Ellerington, who had been selected from more than 30 aspirants at a special event held at the Palace Cinema on the evening of 29th June 1932. (73)

The Carnival Day procession, favoured by glorious weather, was half a mile in length and “would have done credit to a much larger town” with the “gaiety not dimmed even by the burden of the trade depression [with] almost every house and cottage decorated from end to end of the straggling town.”

The Queen was seated in a state coach, attended by four small maids of honour and ‘drawn’ by two large swans, the tableaux being designed and decorated by Mr. & Mrs James Hollingsworth and Mr. W. Humphries. The dress worn by the Queen was made from material donated by Mr. E.J. Lee, a Knottingley tailor and outfitter, and was designed by Mrs A. Booth of Ferrybridge. Local schoolgirls, Dorothy Smith (Ropewalk), Hilda Tunningley (National), Dorothy Green (Weeland Road) and Kathleen Hutchinson (Holes), were maids of honour, all wearing pink dresses.

Led by an outrider and the parade marshal, the procession included the ubiquitous Silver Prize Band, Church Lads’ Brigade Bugle Band and a contingent of Sea Cadets. Amongst the accompanying costume characters was a ‘Tom Thumb Queen’ being an element of a display feature previously arranged by the Carnival Committee. Show horses also took part in the procession.

Upon arrival at Braims Field, the Queen was crowned by Miss Thompson, matron of the Pontefract General Infirmary, who was accompanied by Mr. A. McDonald, Chairman of the Knottingley Urban District Council. The maids of honour were presented with necklets and one of their number presented a bouquet of sweet peas and red roses to Miss Thompson.

In welcoming Miss Thompson and the assembled spectators, the Queen expressed thanks for the honour done to her and wished everyone future health and happiness. The Queen and her court then took a place of honour to view the sports. (74)

Miscellaneous attractions that year included the aerial flight, greasy pole, and long distance balloon and a Tom Thumb display in addition to the usual tableaux, fancy dress and horse grooming contest. (75)

An interesting coda to the 1932 Carnival was an invitation to Miss Ellerington, in company with other district queens, to attend a carnival and ox roasting at Morcambe in September to raise money for charity. The trip, which took 32 people from Knottingley to the west coast resort for lunch with the Mayor and Mayoress, introduced the concept of additional duties to be undertaken by incumbent queens. (76) In 1934, for instance, Carnival Queen, Miss Iris Harker, fulfilled a similar role when she opened an exhibition staged at the Holes School as part of its open day a week after the Carnival. (77)

The format of 1932 was retained the following year when a record attendance produced receipts equal to the £1,000 of the previous year. The years Carnival Queen, Miss Irene Martin, was crowned by the Matron of the P.G.I., watched by the Mayor and Mayoress of Pontefract, Cr. and Mrs G. Sainter, and the Tom Thumb Queen, Miss Phyllis Galpin of Ossett, bestowed a necklace upon her. The resigning Queen, Miss D. Ellerington and her retinue were also in attendance. The Queens dress that year was donated by Mr. H. Barker and in addition the Queen and her attendants received brooches from the manufacturers of the material.

Of the prizes awarded that year the most significant feat was that of glass manufacturers, Bagley & Co., whose horses won the first three places for the best groomed horses in the procession. (78) The schoolchildrens’ fancy dress was won by Edna Wood, dressed as ‘Madam Pompadour’. Amy Finney (‘Butterfly’) was second and J. Machin (‘Bluebird’) was third. In the adult section, the winner was Mr. H. Machin of Normanton as a ‘Babylonian King’ with Mr. E. Martin of Pontefract dressed as an ‘Indian’, being the runner-up. Knottingley National School won the junior tableaux prize with ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and Weeland Road School came second with a float entitled ‘The Rainbow’. The works or tradesmens’ category was won by Jackson Bros., ‘Spun Glass’ with ‘Sunny Spain’ by Bagley & Co., as runner-up. G. Finney won the comic character prize as ‘Irish Sweep’.

During the afternoon and evening, exhibitions of dancing were given by the pupils of Miss F. Walker and those of Miss D. Waddington and these events were augmented by a number of sideshows and attractions including coconut shies, miniature golf, hoopla, darts and childrens’ roundabouts. A load of coals donated by Bagley & Co., provided the basis for a ‘guess the weight’ competition.

A winding up dance held in the Town Hall was well attended, the music being provided by Mr. S. Marshall’s Dance Band. During the interval the Carnival Queen distributed the prizes which had been won throughout the day. (79)

Following the inaugural year, the contest for the selection of the Carnival Queen was also held as part of a dance or concert in the Town Hall. In the early years the contest was somewhat formal in its nature, the aspirants having to give prior notice of their intention to enter the competition to the Carnival Secretary, Mr. J.E. Underwood, who had taken over the office in 1932. The tenure of J.E. Underwood as Secretary of the Carnival Committee was notable for the high degree of organisational and administrative ability he brought to the office of Secretary. The comprehensive code of rules governing the Carnival and the accompanying sports events testify to this fact but the same degree of precision characterised the actual programme of events as shown by reference to the time-table drawn up for the 1935 Carnival viz:-

1.30 Procession leaves Flatts
The Procession, headed by Knottingley Silver Prize Band and Tableaux of the carnival Queen and last year’s Carnival Queen will assemble on the Flatts and leave promptly at 1.45pm, touring the town by way of Marsh End, Low Green, Racca Green, Weeland Road, Town Hall, Hill Top, Ferrybridge Road, The Holes, Forge Hill, Chapel Street, Aire Street, to the field in Gas Works Lane.
3.00 Judging classes 1 to 9 [i.e. tableaux, fancy dress, comic, cycle and horse entrants of the carnival parade]
3.30 Childrens’ Sports finals
3.45 Crowning of Queen by Lady Nussey
4.30 ‘Cyro’ Magical Act
5.00 Distribution of Childrens’ prizes
5.30 ‘Cyro’ Ventriloquial Act
6.00 Adult Sports
7.30 ‘Cyro’ Clown Conjuring Act
8.30 Presentation of prizes by Mrs Marshall
9.00 Dance in Town Hall. Admission sixpence. (80)

When consideration is given to the fact that no less than 9 classes marked the gala section and 14 events the childrens’ sports, with a further 20 for the adult sports section, one may gain some idea of the demand made upon the time and energy of the members of the Carnival Committee, particularly Mr. Underwood, and the Secretary of the sports section, Mr. R. Swales. However, this does not tell the full story for in addition to the above mentioned aspects there was also the organisation of sundry side-shows and entertainments, correspondence concerning the procurement of judges, handicappers and starters as well as the routine administration arising with regard to applications from competitors. The latter aspect was far from being confined to the locality as shown by reference to the 1936 programme of events which in the adult sports section alone drew competitors from as far afield as Hornsea, Hull, Beverley, Rawcliffe, Selby, Norton, Askern and Killingholme. (81) It will be seen then that the organisation and smooth running of the carnival was dependant upon the year-round effort of a dedicated body of people and of the Secretary in particular. In outlining the demands made upon the officials it is easy to see why the burden of organisation had always fallen upon a small minority of local people, a fact increasingly apparent in the present age with its wider range of counter attractions and generally more hectic lifestyles.

The competition for the title of Carnival Queen was open to young ladies between the inclusive ages of 16 to 23 years with residence within the town boundaries being a pre requisite of entry. In 1932 more than 30 girls applied and in 1934 there were 20 nominees. The decline in applicants fell even more sharply thereafter and in 1935 Miss Jennie Cartwright was selected from only 7 entrants despite the contest being advertised well in advance of the event.

The choice of carnival Queen in 1934 fell upon Miss Iris Harker who was selected by Miss Norah Blaney, a well-known entertainer of that period and duly crowned by Mrs W.H. Marshall, widow of the recently deceased former long-serving Chairman of the Pontefract Infirmary Management Committee. The Queen’s attendants were Sybil Chapman (National School), Eva Tolson (Ropewalk), Elsie Tunningley (Weeland Road) and Doreen Hutchinson (Vale), with John Pollard as page boy. The Queens dress was the gift of Mrs H. Barker who also supplied those of the attendants. Doreen Hutchinson recalls that following the crowning ceremony the Queen and her retinue were taken to Mauds photographic studio at Pontefract for a ‘photo shoot’ after which the royal ensemble visited Northern House, then a town centre annex of the Infirmary used for semi convalescent patients, to enable local patients to see the Queen and attendants in their finery, such visits underlining and reinforcing the link between the carnival event and the Knottingley Infirmary Committee which was its progenitor. (82)

Of the prize winners in 1934, the open event for schoolchildren was won by Albert Edwin Bagley as a ‘Cowboy’, with Mary Bugg as the Dickensian character, ‘Dolly Varden’, second and Beryl Turner, ‘Ovaltine’, third. ‘Circus Rider’ by Beryl Brandford won the local childrens’ class with Muriel Brook, who was to become one of the most assiduous fund raisers in years ahead, coming second as ‘A Basket of Flowers’. Mr. H. Edwards of Normanton won the adult fancy dress as a ‘Viking’, beating Miss C. Beanland of Castleford as ‘British Empire’ into second place.

The juvenile tableaux prize was again won by the National School, the senior girls of whom presented a splendidly posed three dimensional reproduction of the famous Yeames painting ‘And When Did You Last See Your father?’, while the National School Infants’ department gained second prize for ‘May Day’. The works / tradesmen’s class was won by Bagley’s Crystal Glass Co., with ‘Romany Camp’ and the firms bottle section came second with ‘Chinese Tea Garden’. The firm enjoyed further success by obtaining first and second prizes for the best groomed horse pulling a Carnival vehicle, the third prize being awarded to Mr. G. Goulding, the latter also winning a special prize for his ‘Carnival Farm’, a life-like presentation of a model farm which was adjudged to be the most original float and was later sold for the benefit of the Carnival funds. The prize for the best comic character was won by Mr. H. Hancock as the ‘Pride of the Prairie’. (83)

An innovation of the 1934 Carnival was the introduction of a 4 mile road race for schoolchildren for the Knottingley Championship. The initial events was won by F. Hughes of the Ropewalk School with V. Teal of Ferrybridge School second. The first girl was M. Hodgson of the National School with N. Miller of Weeland Road School as runner-up. In the adult sports competitions that evening, a young former pupil of the King’s School, Pontefract, S.V. White, “a runner of considerable fame” made a valiant effort to win his race by the distance of one foot after being 75 yards behind when he received the flag for the last lap. Sammy White was later destined to become well-respected P.E. teacher at the Ropewalk School before obtaining a headship at Pontefract Northgate Junior School in the late 1950s. White was also a member of the Knottingley Council, being Chairman of the K.U.D.C. in 1959.

The 1934 Carnival was also notable for the reintroduction of the flower and vegetable show under the auspices of the revived Horticultural Society. The carnival again concluded with a dance held in the Town hall with presentation of the Carnival prizes taking place during a planned interlude in the dancing. (84)

Dr. Terry Spencer

NOTES: (Open in new window)



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