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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)

1959 - 1969

It is regretted that the whole organisation devolves on the few. Thank God for the few!
Councillor Charles Tate, 1967

The success of the 1951 Festival & Gala might well have served as the prelude to, and inspiration for, a revival of the Knottingley Carnival but it was not until 1959 that such a revival occurred. In that year Miss Maureen Chambers was selected as the Carnival Queen but owing to a protracted newspaper dispute the events preceding and including the Carnival went unreported and it was not until 34 years later that the official photograph of the resurgent Queen appeared in the local press. (110)

Undaunted by the unfortunate circumstances of the revival year, the Carnival Committee successfully re-launched the event on an annual basis. Nor was the second year of the revival free from glitches when held in July 1960. A lorry featuring a tableaux broke down with engine trouble shortly after the parade left Ferrybridge Square and Knottingley Fire Brigade, which also featured in the 500 yard long procession, had to leave en route to the Carnival venue when an emergency call demanded their attendance at Sherburn-in-Elmet. When the moment arrived for the crowning ceremony the designated guest, a former Ferrybridge Carnival Queen, could not be located and the 1960 Queen, Miss Brenda Adams, was therefore crowned by the retiring Queen, Maureen Chambers. Despite these minor adversities the event was a success and at a well attended dance in the Town Hall that evening the new Queen presented small cups to her attendants in commemoration of the event and also presented the prizes to the winners of the sports events.

It is interesting to note how the tableaux and fancy dress entries constantly reflect the wider aspects of society at a given period and 1960 was no exception. A tableau entitled ‘Summit Conference’ was presented by Knottingley Wolf Cubs and depicted the ‘Big Four’ world leaders round the conference table playing cards. The witty depiction provided a light-hearted slant to the gravity of the nuclear threat which increasingly overshadowed the world population, the attempted diminution of which prompted several summit conferences by world leaders at that period. On a lighter note, one of the fancy dress competitors personated Barbara Moore, an eccentric elderly lady of Russian extraction who epitomised the fashion for long-distance charity walks which were in vogue at the time. (111)

An interesting and somewhat ironic coda to Miss Adam’s ‘reign’ concerned a free holiday at Butlins Holiday Camp, Ayr, donated by the Carnival Committee as a prize for winning the title of Carnival Queen. It was stated in the local press report that Miss Adams had refrained from participation in any of the beauty competitions organised by Butlins out of respect to the wishes of her boyfriend who did not approve of such events. (112)

Although the newly revived Carnival was run as a non profit making concern it was a largely self financed event. The Committee experienced a financial blow in 1961 when bad weather resulted in a loss of about £100. While attendance at Howards Field was down, the procession was as colourful as ever with the fire engine and ancillary equipment and upward of 20 decorated vehicles participating. The tableaux included the ‘Black & White Minstrels’, again reflecting the public taste for the eponymous television series (now, by strange irony, disdained as politically unacceptable). A second tableau, ‘By the Mill’ echoed a similar exhibit by G. Goulding in 1935.

The crowning of the new Queen by the preceding one which had arisen from necessity the previous year, appeared to set the trend as Miss Elizabeth Rowett was crowned by the retiring Queen, Brenda Adams. However, 1962 witnessed the beginning of almost a decade in which celebrities of radio and television, or in two cases, local personalities, were engaged as star guests to attend the Carnival and crown the Queen. The driving force behind this development was the late Mr. Charles (Charlie) Tate, a local businessman of imagination and flair with unbounded enthusiasm and energy. Another forceful personality was Mr. G.H. Reynolds, son of W.G. Reynolds who had played a major role in the organisation of the town’s Infirmary Sundays in the early decades of the twentieth century. Thus, it came about that when the 1962 Queen, Miss Pamela Brown, was crowned by the retiring Queen, Peter Adamson, an actor who portrayed a character named ‘Len Fairclough’ in the television soap opera, ‘Coronation Street’, was there to assist, to the delight of 5,000 spectators. ‘Len’ tried on the crown first “just for size” and after the coronation went on to sell signed photographs for Carnival funds.

A notable feature of the days events was the presentation by Councillor Piper, Chairman of the K.U.D.C., to Mr. Jack Stanworth to mark 30 years service to the town’s carnivals. Unfortunately, dull skies throughout the day gave way to rain by evening resulting in the cancellation of the adult section of the sports. (113)

Two more stalwarts of Coronation Street appeared at the Carnival in Knottingley Playing Fields in 1963. Ivan Beavis, who played ‘Harry Hewitt’, together with his stage wife ‘Concepta’ (Doreen Keogh) belatedly opened the Carnival 20 minutes late having got lost en route. The retiring Queen, Pamela Brown, removed her crown, handing it to ‘Concepta’ to enable her to crown Miss Linda Blakestone as the new Queen. The guest couple then emulated the previous years celebrity by selling signed photographs for the Carnival Committee’s designated charities.

The newly crowned Queen was presented with a gold watch as a commemoration of the event by Councillor H. Rose on behalf of the Committee. Hundreds lined the route to view that year’s procession, the winning tableau of which was based upon an episode of the popular television series, ‘Steptoe & Son’, entered by the Commercial Hotel, Hill Top. The landlady of that establishment was Margaret Waller who in 1951, under her maiden name of Margaret Finney, had been crowned as the Road Safety Queen and was one of the three Queens of Festival Year.

Attractions included a motor gymkhana by the De Lacy Motor Club, including a demonstration of driving skills by Eric Jackson, the International Rally driver and R.A.C. Trials Champion. The customary sports events were also featured. (114)

In 1964 Queen Joan Tunningley was crowned by lusciously ‘pneumatic’ Sabrina who opened the event and also presented cups to the Queen’s attendants and gave a kiss to lucky page boy, Kevin Eades.

The event took place on the 4th July and a tableaux of that title won first prize, a shield donated by Mrs E. Green. A feature of the float was a United States flag, supplied free of charge by the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Service base at Birstwith. Another winning tableau featured the ‘Earwigs’, a colourful pop group who donated the £5 prize to Sabrina to give to charity. Undoubtedly, the humorous highlight of the day occurred when a float entitled ‘Pyjama Game’, devised by the Commercial Hotel, in which a bed formed the main prop of the display, collapsed just as the tableau entered the Playing Fields, to the huge delight of the onlookers.

Additional attractions that year included a boxing tournament and a military demonstration presented by the 4th Battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I. Regiment. An estimated crowd of about 6,000 subscribed £650 and the day’s events were rounded off by a Carnival Dance in the Town Hall. (115)

The celebrity guest introduced by Mr. S. Burton, Chairman of the Carnival Committee, in 1965 was the renown guitar player, Bert Weedon. Opening the event before 4,000 spectators, Weedon then assisted with crowning the new Queen, Miss June Smith, and on behalf of the Committee presented her with a gold wrist watch, a bus pass and free passes for the Crescent Cinema, Pontefract and the Star Cinema, Castleford. The attendant maids of honour, Janet Hudson, Janet Ramskill, Janet Perry and Elizabeth McNair, together with page boy, Fred Snow, received commemorative silver cups. The tableau prize was won by ‘The Can Can Girls’ who, emulating the ‘earwigs’ the previous year, donated their £5 prize to Barnardos Homes. In addition to the usual sports programme, the K.O.Y.L.I. Regiment reprised their demonstration of the year before with an ‘attack’display.

A disturbing feature of the 1965 event was vandalism, a marquee being slashed during Saturday night following the Carnival, with damage estimated at £350. (116)

Owing to the restructuring of the Playing Fields, the 1966 Carnival was held in the Ferrybridge Playing Field. (117) An abiding memory of the event was captured on the photograph showing that year’s Queen, Miss Jennifer Whitwell, mopping her brow due to the intensity of the hot sunny weather. The Queen was crowned by Miss Sonya Shay of Glasshoughton, who had gained celebrity status by winning a number of regional and national beauty contests about that time.

An innovative feature of the 1966 Carnival was a Dog Show organised by Pollard Bearings & Philidas Canine Club. The show was a popular event for a number of years thereafter and continued to be sponsored by Ransome, Hoffman, Pollard, following the reconstitution of the companies. An exception was the year 1970 when because the Club was committed to a show at Horbury, the Carnival Show did not occur. However, in a gesture of support for the Carnival Committee the R.H.P. Band (former national Brass Band Champions under the name of Ransome & Marles) travelled from Newark specially to be present at the event and gave a public concert after the carnival. (118)

A second Queen was proclaimed in 1966 when 81 year old Mrs Minnie Bailey was chosen from 66 old people as the first Darby & Joan Queen at a function in the Town Hall where Mrs Bailey was crowned by Councillor Mrs H. Fox of Featherstone and received a brooch from the Knottingley Womens’ Voluntary Service together with £10 presented by Councillor William Sarvant, Chairman of the K.U.D.C. (119) Mrs Bailey’s successor, Mrs Sarah Asquith, featured as a guest at the Knottingley Carnival in 1967 when Miss Carol Middleton was Carnival Queen.

By that time the Carnival was restored to its regular venue, Knottingley Playing Fields, where large crowds turned up to witness pop idol Billy J. Kramer, crown the Queen prior to the commencement of the sports which featured an increased number of events that year, as a press photograph showing Councillor Charlie Tate with an array of 20 trophies for the various events revealed. A Baby Show was also introduced as a new Carnival feature.

An outstanding tableau was the St. Botolphs Church No Barriers Club’s ‘Gates of Hell’, but the old adage about good intentions paving the way to Hades proved apt for despite drawing record receipts, the 1967 Carnival aroused considerable criticism from a section of the public. (120) Letters in the local newspaper complained about the cost of entry and the lack of entertainment and poor organisation, particularly with regard to the Carnival Sports. Dissatisfaction was also voiced concerning the highly priced refreshments available. In a reference to the necessity for the promoters having to seek permission to stage the Carnival in the Playing Fields, one critic stated:

When it comes to asking Kellingley Social Centre for permission to use Knottingley Playing Fields, it makes me wonder what the people of Knottingley will stand for next….everyone should be able to use the fields as a right of way and protect this right to the full.” (121)

In response, the President of the Carnival Committee, G.H. Reynolds, pointed out that no less than six open meetings had been held prior to the Carnival to which members of the public were invited to attend and express their views and that: “What we need are helpers to come forward with suggestions before the Carnival, not after.

In essence, the problem was one of a perennial nature and was encapsulated by Councillor Charles Tate who, supporting the view expressed by Reynolds, concluded by saying, “it is regretted that the whole organisation devolves on the few. Thank God for the few.” (122)

The dedication of the minority, and the popularity of the Carnival amongst the general public ensured its continuation and in April 1968, Miss Ellen Reynolds was selected at a Town Hall function as Queen designate with Miss Sharon Burton as her deputy. For the new Queen the occasion was one of regal procession as she had served as Knottingley Road Safety Queen the previous year. (123)

The American singing star, Gene Pitney, opened the 1968 Carnival in bright sunshine at the Playing Fields where, accompanied by the Silver Prize band, he sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ before crowning the Queen.

Despite the criticism of the previous year (or in part, perhaps, because of it), the event proved to be the most successful one in recent times, with income of about £1,000 and expenditure of £650. (124)

Misfortune dogged the Carnival in 1969. That year David Whitfield, a chart topping tenor heartthrob who had agreed to crown the Queen, Miss Nancy Lindley, was unavoidably detained on a tour of Australia. The Carnival Committee were, however, able to secure the Leeds United and international goalkeeper, Gary Sprake, as a late replacement. Unfortunately, Sprake was taken ill at almost the last moment and had to withdraw so the local M.P., Mr. George Jager, opened the event. It was stated that Sprake’s withdrawal was not too much of a disappointment for the Queen who had hoped that George Best, of Manchester United, would be available for the ceremony. (125)

A procession of 16 decorated vehicles and about 100 fancy dress competitors accompanied the Silver Prize Band and the Caledonian Society Pipe Band along the usual route to the Playing Fields where in addition to the Dog Show, Baby Show and Sports, Knottingley District Allotments Association held an open Flower Show. The latter featured the Irene Tate Trophy for the best rose in the show, the Ann Sharpe Cup for the highest accumulation of points in the rose section, and the William Sarvent Cup for the rather novel class of best flower composition depicting a song title – won by Miss G. Smith.

Professional wrestling bouts were also a new feature of the Carnival. The event seems to have inflamed the passions of an unruly element, however, with two women interrupting a bout by climbing into the ring. Eyewitnesses later stated that they had seen the girls fighting outside the ring prior to the interruption of the contest. The incident appears to have prompted wider disturbances with clashes between local youths and the police which, fortunately taking place towards the end of the carnival day, blighted rather than ruined the occasion. By an unconnected but unusual coincidence the Queens deputy that year was Miss Patricia Masters, daughter of Sergeant Masters, officer in charge of the town’s police force at that period. (126)

Dr. Terry Spencer



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