Also by Terry Spencer
The following studies by Terry Spencer are now available on the Knottingley
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
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.
NINETEENTH CENTURY KNOTTINGLEY:
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
KNOTTINGLEY PLAYING FIELDS:
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.
CAPTAIN PERCY BENTLEY:
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.
KNOTTINGLEY WAR MEMORIAL:
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.
FERRYBRIDGE WAR MEMORIAL:
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.
THE 'K' SISTERS:
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 PALACE CINEMA:
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.
KNOTTINGLEY PUBLIC HOUSES & BREWERIES:
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.
KNOTTINGLEY TOWN HALL CLOCK:
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.
STATUE OF THE BLACK PRINCE:
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.
KNOTTINGLEY SILVER BAND:
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.
KNOTTINGLEY TOWN HALL:
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.
FIELD SYSTEMS AND PLACE NAMES OF OLD KNOTTINGLEY:
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
GAZETTEER OF KNOTTINGLEY PLACE NAMES:
An A-Z listing of Knottingley field and place names.
LIME GROVE AND THE CARTER FAMILY
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.
WAR SAVINGS WEEKS:
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.
SELECT VESTRY RIOTS 1874:
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
Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History
ASPECTS OF CIVIL ADMINISTRATION AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
NINETEENTH CENTURY KNOTTINGLEY
By TERRY SPENCER B.A. (HONS), Ph D.
Preliminary Draft May 2005
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
By the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 the settlement had acquired
the status of a manorial vill.
The first documentation concerning the settlement is an entry in the
Domesday Book of 1086 which reveals the Baret, a Saxon thane, had been
dismissed as the manorial head and replaced by the Norman, Ranolf, a sub
tenant of the de Lacy’s, Tenants in Chief to William I and lords of the
honour of Pontefract of which Knottingley was a constituent part. (2)
With the death of Henry de Lacy in 1311 the lordship of Pontefract
became the fiefdom of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who inherited the
holding through his marriage to Alice, daughter of Henry de Lacy.
Thereafter Knottingley was to remain a manor of the Lancasters’ and
following the seizure of the crown by Henry Bolingbroke in 1399, the
manorial vill became Crown land. (3)
From the early middle ages the vill although expanding, had a
significance far beyond its size for the erection of a mill on the river
bank to the west of the manorial demesne necessitated the construction
of a weir across the waterway to provide the motive power to drive the
mill wheel. Consequently, navigation of the waterway above the mill dam
was curtailed, necessitating the transhipment of all goods and materials
below that point. As a result, the manor of Knottingley became an
important inland river port having a dual capacity as the port which
serviced the hinterland of the West Riding of Yorkshire and also as the
base from which the nearby fortress of Pontefract Castle was victualled.
The decline and demise of the feudal system from the fourteenth
century set in motion the reorganisation of feudal obligations and the
redistribution of land holdings. The redistribution of manorial land at
Knottingley carried an important benefit for at an earlier time, the
origins of which are obscure, the tenant in chief had granted freehold
status to all land with the manorial vill for a singular service
rendered to him by the inhabitants. (4)
The dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 made large tracts of land
available to the Crown which from the sixteenth century was sold to
subsidise the extravagant lifestyle of the impecunious Tudor and early
Stuart monarchs. The manor of Knottingley was held by the Wildbore
family from whom it eventually passed to one Grimsditch who had married
the daughter of Richard Wildbore.
The Grimsditch family were of yeoman stock, not particularly wealthy,
and when one of the sons incurred substantial debts the only recourse
was to sell part of the manorial holding. Thus, by the seventeenth
century the manor of Knottingley had been divided into four separate
holdings, one part being held by John Grimsditch, a second by Stephen
Grimsditch, tenant of one of the recently created Cridling Park farms, a
third portion was held by John Wildbore and the remaining land by
Richard Smyth, all being of yeoman stock. (5)
In 1637 Sir Arthur Ingram, a nouveau rich capitalist of a type
engendered by the spirit of that era, having financial interests in the
township and its vicinity, purchased the manorial rights at Knottingley
and installed his nephew and namesake in a newly built manor house at
Hill Top, close to the mansion of the Wildbores’ which stood adjacent to
St. Botolph’s Church. (6)
For 150 years from 1637, the manor of Knottingley was in the
possession of the Ingrams and their descendants but following the demise
of the Rev. Gooderick Ingram in 1787 the manor was again sub divided and
at the time of the enclosure survey in 1795 the manorial lands were held
by the families of Frank, Wasney, Poole and Thompson. (7)
The limestone extraction industry whilst long established within and
around the township of Knottingley developed rapidly from the
mid-eighteenth century stimulating land purchase. As a result, by the
first decade of the nineteenth century much of the manorial land,
particularly within the former open field to the south of the town, had
been acquired by limestone merchants such as Edward Gaggs, William
Moorhouse and Benjamin Atkinson, who by virtue of wealth obtained
through their varied business interests, were the leading figures in the
social and economic life of Knottingley.
The rise of Knottingley as a significant river port involved with the
coastal and inland trade from the fourteenth century also encouraged the
introduction of local shipbuilding and allied trades as a corollary to
the maritime activity. Thus, by the beginning of the nineteenth century
the place was a hive of activity with the potential for further
industrial and commercial development stimulated by the rapid progress
of the Industrial Revolution. Yet despite the developing trends the
settlement at that time was little more than an extensive village,
predominantly agricultural and pastoral in nature, retaining many
aspects of its rural characteristics, its low lying verdant fields,
limestone buildings, and gardens hanging above the craggy quarries with
their gently smoking kilns and with numerous keels and sloops swaying
peacefully at anchor on the river Aire. (8) The sense of timelessness
and romanticism which produced the picturesque scene was, however,
superficial for beneath the surface, poverty, squalor and disease marked
the daily life of the majority of the inhabitants bringing hardship and
suffering in profusion while the lack of a common standard of hygiene
produced periodic epidemics from which even the more socially detached
wealthy middle class citizens within the town were not immune.
Consequently, by the advent of the nineteenth century an admix of
national legislation and local self interest combined to produce
somewhat grudging measures of poor relief and social and civic
improvement designed to alleviate the worst conditions faced by the
The course of the nineteenth century was therefore a period of
transformation from ancient to modern township so that by the advent of
the following century Knottingley was a prosperous industrial centre
characterised by the pride of its inhabitants in the town to which they
It is the purpose of this study to examine specific aspects of the
developing township during the nineteenth century to reveal the course
of the transformation and its effect upon the people of that age.
©2005 Dr. Terry Spencer
| INDEX | INTRODUCTION
| CHAPTER ONE |
CHAPTER TWO | CHAPTER THREE
| CHAPTER FOUR |
| CHAPTER FIVE |
CHAPTER SIX | CHAPTER SEVEN
| CHAPTER EIGHT |
| CHAPTER TEN |