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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)

1939 - 1958

Miss Mary Creaser was chosen as the 1939 Carnival Queen in a function held at the Town Hall on Friday 9th June 1939. Her attendants were Mary Talbot (Church of England School), Freda Shaw (Weeland Road School), Molly Fairbairn (Ropewalk School) and Joan Winder (Vale School). Selected from 18 aspirants by J.S.L. Lyon who was accompanied by Mrs Murdock of Tunbridge Wells, the mother of Richard ‘Stinker’ Murdock, co-star of the radio programme ‘Band Wagon’ which was nationally popular at that time. Also present were officials of the Knottingley Infirmary Committee, K.U.D.C., and Mr. C. Lightowler and Mr. S. Strafford, respective Chairman and Vice Chairman of Knottingley Carnival Committee. Prior to the judging an entertainment was provided by the Masked Merrymakers of Pontefract led by Miss S. Barnes and following the judging, the Chairman of the K.U.D.C., Councillor J.W. Booth, entertained the Queen apparent and the current Queen, together with their respective attendants, to supper. The evening concluded with a dance to music provided by Don Barrett’s Band. The proceedings raised about £23 for the Infirmary Fund. (96)

Of all Knottingley’s Carnival Queens the ‘reign’ of Miss Mary Creaser was the most unfortunate in being dogged by adverse circumstances. Those seeking to define auguries might have concluded that being the thirteenth Carnival was the decisive factor but for whatever reason the ‘reign’ was to prove doubly unfortunate. The day of the carnival was marred by rain from the start. More than sixty years after the event, Mrs M. Huby who as Molly Fairbairn was one of the Queens attendants on that day, vividly recalled continually gazing through the window of her home in the vain hope of seeing a break in the leaden clouds. Rain was falling steadily as the procession set off from the Flatts. The promoters, however, adopted an attitude of defiance and with the Band leading the attack, the parade got underway. By the time the procession reached Marsh End the rain was pouring down and it was decided to shorten the route. The Queen, in an open carriage, was resplendent in robes donated by Messrs Longley of Aire Street but by the time the parade reached the Town Hall to where the event had been relocated, she and her retinue were so soaked that their robes had to be discarded before the opening ceremony.

The scene within the Town Hall was less lively than would have been the case had the event been alfresco but a spirited cheerfulness prevailed among the fairly large gathering. Dignitaries included the Mayor & Mayoress of Pontefract, Councillor and Mrs Ryder, Reverend Walter Musgrave and members of the Knottingley Infirmary Committee; Mr. C. Lightowler, Chairman, Mr. S. Strafford, Vice Chairman, and Secretary, Mr. J.E. Underwood. The Mayoress crowned the Queen and it was announced that the sports events had been rescheduled to take place at Common Lane on the 29th July.

The fancy dress competitors and the tableaux entrants were badly affected by the downpour but nevertheless, judging went ahead. ‘Happy Joe’ Bagley won the comic costume class and Christ Church Girl Guides won first prize for their tableau, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, with Jackson Brothers’ ‘Home on the Range’, second.

The day ended on a high note when 500 people attended the Carnival Dance in the Town Hall where local teacher, Mr. Eric France, was Master of Ceremonies and the music was provided by the Sovereign Band. (97)

The programme of sports cancelled on Carnival Day, was held at Common Lane Field on Sunday 30th July, but before the childrens’ section was completed a heavy downpour forced another postponement. (98) Following the dual postponement of the Carnival Sports, the Infirmary Committee, anxious not to be caught out by the weather a third time that year, booked the Town Hall as the venue for the forthcoming Infirmary Sunday demonstration in place of Banks Garth cricket field. Ironically, the day turned out to be a fine one. (99)

The outbreak of war early in September 1939, resulted in the curtailment of all events associated with the Carnival such as dances, concerts, whist drives and special fund-raising events, forcing a conclusion to what must have been a somewhat miserable tenure of office for the unfortunate Carnival Queen. (100)

Ostensibly, the carnival was placed in abeyance for the duration of the war. However, the immediate post war period was one of grim austerity characterised by strict rationing of food and other commodities with shortages of fuel and basic materials required for effective post war reconstruction. The election of a Labour government in 1945 resulted in the establishment of a centrally administered and financed National Health Service in 1948. The fulfilment of this long awaited promise obviated the need to subsidise local hospitals by voluntary effort and as the Carnival had been conceived as a fund-raising adjunct to Infirmary Sunday, the financial imperative was defunct, rendering inessential the renaissance of Carnival Day.

The interregnum was not devoid of all carnival spirit, however, for as the war edged towards its inevitable conclusion, spirits rose and the local Council, keen to encourage ‘Holidays at Home’, arranged a series of public entertainments. A central feature of the activities was the selection of a ‘Holiday Queen’ in 1944. The chosen Queen was Miss Peggy Lowther who was crowned by the Countess of Rosse in the company of her attendants, Hilda Wagstaff, Peggy Yorke and Alice Spence, at a civic function attended by Councillor J.T. Fallas, K.U.D.C. Chairman, Councillor P. Gross and J. Blackburn. (101)

A gala event opened by the Queen at Knottingley Playing Fields included a horticultural show (‘Dig For Victory’ had been a government sponsored campaign earlier in the war in response to which local populations had responded with vigour, cultivating areas of land which in many cases had never previously seen cultivation) for which there was much enthusiastic support. The programme of events drew an attendance of between 500-600 people. Other activities included old time and modern dances in the Town Hall, whist drives, Punch & Judy, together with accompanying side shows, stalls and small entertainments. That year the Queen and her attendants were the guests of honour at the Infirmary Sunday demonstration. (102)

In June 1950, a newspaper report stated:

“Those who remember the enthusiasm which attended the choosing of the carnival Queen in the days of the Knottingley Infirmary Committee carnivals will find plenty to interest them at the Town Hall, Knottingley, tonight when Lord and Lady Calverley will choose the Knottingley Road Safety Queen.” (103)

Knottingley Council had decided in April to hold a dance as a vehicle for the selection of the Queen and on the evening of the function 12 competitors attended with Miss Eunice Hawler of Darrington being selected. It was only after being robed with a sash proclaiming her selection that it was found that the appointed Queen was not qualified for the role, being resident beyond the Council boundary. Miss Hawler therefore ‘abdicated’ and Miss Margaret Rose Finney succeeded her. The attendants chosen were, Doris Finney (no relation) and Sylvia Wallace who stood next in order of succession, only 3 points separating the 12 aspirants for the title it was revealed. (104)

At a ceremony held in the Playing Fields early in August 1950, the Queen was crowned by Miss Sybil Prinski, accompanied by Mr. George Jager M.P. for the Goole constituency of which Knottingley was part. The trappings bore the hallmark of former carnivals with a procession led as usual by the Band. A detachment of mounted police followed and a decorated vehicle provided by the Pontefract Industrial Co-Operative Society was provided for the Queen. A number of fancy dress characters also took part in the procession which was marshalled at the Town Hall by Police Inspector H. Hinchley.

The winner of the fancy dress events was schoolgirl Maureen Chambers who was to experience even greater success eventually as the resurgent Carnival Queen of 1959. Features of the programme of events were a demonstration by Pontefract Model Aeroplane Club and demonstration drives by the public in police cars, an event organised in conjunction with a road safety exhibition staged in the Town Hall from Thursday to Saturday of Road Safety Week. Obstacle races and a balloon competition were also features reminiscent of carnival days past. (105)

The following year Knottingley Council also inaugurated a Savings Queen and Theresa Stones, a 15 year old schoolgirl, was elected by her peers. At a function in the Town Hall on the 15th August 1951, accompanied by four attendants, Anne Hutchingson (deputising for Pauline Aaron), Joan Asquith, Christine Goddard and Barbara Welburn, all dressed in pink satin, Teresa was crowned by Mrs E. Bradley O.B.E., Chairwoman, of the Leeds Area National Savings Committee. (106)

A profusion of queens was a feature of the period, for in addition to those recorded above were the British Legion Queen, 15 year old Mary Wood, and the Congregational Sunday School Queen, M. Lawson, while the Ropewalk Methodist Over 60s group chose one of their number, Mrs J. Houlden, as their Queen. The latter was an innovation which was more fully developed in the following decade when Knottingley Darby & Joan Club in 1966, elected its first ‘Old Folk’s Queen’.

Meanwhile, a reminiscence of the competitive element marking former Infirmary Sundays was made manifest at this time in the provision of a silver cup to be awarded to the local club which raised the highest amount of money for the benefit of the Knottingley & Ferrybridge Old Folks Entertainment Committee. Recollection of Hospital Sunday as a source of inspiration is clearly evident in the stated intention of the promoters to award a similar cup for competition amongst local public houses and also the provision of medals for award to individual collectors. (107)

By 1951 an element of normality had been restored to everyday life as an economic boom signalled the end of bleak post war austerity. A palpable mood of renewed confidence was increasingly discernible within society, both nationally and locally. The burgeoning optimism was reinforced by the decision of central government to stage a ‘Festival of Britain’ year to commemorate the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. The year was characterised by myriad events at regional and local level and resulted in the decision by the K.U.D.C. to hold a gala at Knottingley at which the principal feature would be the crowning of a ‘Festival Queen’. To this end a public notice appeared early in March announcing a ‘Festival Field Day & Gala Night’ which it was proposed should be held at a field in Stocking Lane on Tuesday 7th August 1951.

In a competition entered as part of a dance held in the Town Hall, Miss Mary Asquith was selected from 20 local beauties as the Festival Queen, with Miss Joyce Lightowler and Miss Pamela Kellett as her attendants. Owing to other commitments arising from her involvement as one of the celebrated ‘K’ Sisters entertainment troupe, Pamela was unavailable on Festival Day and her place as attendant was filled by Miss Mary Rhodes. (108)

The date of the Festival Gala was eventually fixed as Saturday 21st July on which day a procession led as ever by the Silver Prize Band, left Ferrybridge Square at 1.30pm, en route for Howards Field, Knottingley, amid glorious sunshine. The event, attended by 2,000 – 3,000 people, featured three local queens with the Road Safety and National Savings Queens supporting the appearance of the Festival Queen. The unique nature of the occasion resulted in the Chairman of the Festival Committee, Councillor Pilgrim Gross, being affectionately referred to thereafter as ‘Three Queens Gross’.

The Gala was enhanced by the presence of 20 floats and events at Howards Field commenced with the judging of the decorated vehicles and the fancy dress competitors. From several excellent floats the first prize award went to the Revellers Concert Party for their ‘Springtime’ display. The first prize in the adult fancy dress competition went to Mr. W.H. Pizzey of Ferrybridge, dressed as St. Bernard, complete with a St. Bernard dog. The childrens’ section was won by Anne Robinson as a ‘Knitting Bag’, while the judges, Mesdames H. Bentley, Hardy and Branch, together with Reverend C. H. Branch and Messrs Gill and Enwright, awarded the open ideas prize to Kathleen Pettit and David Gent for ‘Mind How You Go’.

Following the crowning of the Queen by Mrs W. Burdin, the K.U.D.C. Chairman’s wife, the Queen presented her with a bouquet. Mrs Burdin also disbursed the Carnival prizes and later that day the sports awards.

A week of celebrations following Gala Day commenced with a Civic Service on Sunday 22nd July, to which a procession headed by the Silver Band marched through the town to St. Botolphs Church. The same evening the Band accompanied community hymn singing in the Playing Fields.

Events throughout the following week included a sheep dog trial display, displays by the Police, Police dog handlers, West Riding Fire Brigade and a P.E. display by the Knottingley Health & Strength Club who also gave a display of hand balancing. Sleepy Valley, adjacent to the Playing Fields, was the venue for a seven a side football competition and a further event was a wrestling tournament. The weeks events concluded with a Flower & Vegetable Show in Howards Field on Saturday 28th July, which accompanied the Mounted Police display and a Punch & Judy Show. The final days activities also included a professional cycling and athletic meeting with prizes in excess of £100. The events drew over 1,000 spectators, particularly the latter event which took place in the evening and attracted competitors from various parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham and Scotland.

Prominent in the organisation of the cycle racing was Mr. Bill Burton of Banks Lane, Knottingley, who had himself previously appeared in many such events throughout the County. Burton’s decision to pay appearance money to attract the maximum response by potential competitors was criticised by some people who considered that the measure would prove disadvantageous to local competitors. By his decision, however, Burton was able to procure the attendance of national champions such as Alex Hendry of Glasgow, the 1950 Scottish one mile grass cycling champion, and C.B. Johnstone of Seaham Harbour, the quarter, half, and one mile flat race champion. Although the Hendry brothers dominated the competition, the event proved a huge success, which apart from providing great satisfaction to Burton also silenced his critics.

In the athletics, one of the undoubted highlights was the 100 yards handicap race in which the 57 year old coach of Warrington Rugby League Club, E. Cook, with 18.5 yards start, won the race in 9.5 seconds. ‘Foreign’ competitors did not prevent local success, however, with Knottingley athletes F. Lightowler, P. Cartwright, and F. Norfolk, being placed in sundry events. A feature of the programme was a tug-of-war competition, won by Royston Sports Club.

The cultural centrepiece of the weeks events was the exhibition of local industry opened in the Town Hall on Monday 23rd July by Sir George Martin K.B.C., J.P. Exhibits reflecting pride in local industry were provided by eleven firms from the town and surrounding district, including the Yorkshire Electricity Board under whose aegis the parish church and the Town Hall were fully illuminated for the duration of Festival Week, the façade of the latter bearing an illuminated facsimile of the town coat of arms. The platform area of the main hall was adorned with a pair of elongated murals bearing pictorial impressions of local industry which were executed by Mr. Harold Whitwell, an employee at the local tar distillery works. In addition, a road safety exhibition prepared by local schoolchildren was staged within the Council Chamber.

The Festival Queen, Miss Mary Asquith, together with local dignitaries, attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition, presenting a bouquet to Lady Martin, who, together with Sir George, was thanked by Dr. S.B. Bagley, C.B.E., J.P., who in so doing stressed the almost unique variety of industries of which the town could boast.

In an echo of the Peace Celebrations of 1919, the weeks events included a shop window dressing competition which resulted in a tie between the Aire Street traders, J. Hollingsworth and S. Doubtfire.

Seldom, if ever, has the town attained such a concentrated and consistent level of quality and success over such a wide range of activity and the pride and effort of all concerned was reflected in a circularised letter despatched by Cr. W. Burdin in the wake of the Festival which had proved to be such an outstanding achievement for such a relatively small township. (109)

Dr. Terry Spencer



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