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Also by Terry Spencer

The following studies by Terry Spencer are now available on the Knottingley website:

KNOTTINGLEY CARNIVAL
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.

KNOTTLA FLATTS:
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.

KNOTTLA FEAST:
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.

HOSPITAL SUNDAYS:
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.

KNOTTINGLEY COAT-OF-ARMS:
The application by Knottingley Urban District Council for a grant of arms was made to the College of Arms, London, in mid 1942.

FERRYBRIDGE GLASSWORKS:
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.

KNOTTLA NICKNAMES:
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 systems adopted.

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 1846

 
Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History

ASPECTS OF CIVIL ADMINISTRATION AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN

NINETEENTH CENTURY KNOTTINGLEY


By TERRY SPENCER B.A. (HONS), Ph D.

Preliminary Draft May 2005

CHAPTER TWO

THE POOR LAW

The primary function of Knottingley Select Vestry from its establishment until 1865 was the administration of the statutory Poor Law.

The origins of the Poor Law lay in the socio-economic factors which occurred in the late Middle Ages, arising from the effect of the Black Death which took place in the period 1348-49. (1)

Shortage of labour occasioned by plague deaths resulted in a rise in wages and therefore prices which ended the economic stability of the manorial organisation and led to the collapse of the feudal system as social mobility increased in response to the demand for labourers. Economic instability was exacerbated from the sixteenth century by the influx of silver from the New World, which led to debasement of the coinage and high level inflation.

Landowners denuded of necessary labour converted arable land to pasture for sheep-keeping, seeking to profit from the prevailing economic conditions by meeting a rising demand for wool. The measure had the effect of driving peasants from the land and thus swelling the ranks of labourers in search of work by the addition of itinerant paupers and verifying the dictum of Sir Thomas Moore that "sheep are eating up men."

Problems arising from social upheaval became particularly acute following the dissolution of the monasteries from 1538 which not only removed the sources of alms and hospitality hitherto doled out to the poor by the Church through its associated hospitals and religious houses but actually increased the number of indigent poor by the addition of dispossessed members of such establishments. As a result a growing increase in the number of vagrants, beggars and thieves threatened the social and political stability of the Kingdom by undermining law and order and the authority of the government.

The effect to which the threat of social disorder affected the stability of daily life at Knottingley at this time is largely unrecorded but something of the effect of the transition to pastoral farming and dispossession of the peasantry is known with regard to the nearby Cridling Park Estate. (2) Furthermore, as an increasingly significant river port with its agricultural and maritime community lying adjacent to major arterial routes within the land it is not improbable that Knottingley attracted a substantial number of rogues, sturdy beggars, sick and infirm paupers.

Following the settlement of the Wars of the Roses in 1485, the Tudors sought to impose order on the land by a policy of no tolerance to vagrants. However, repressive and largely ineffectual measures such as the statute of 1495 which stipulated the punishment of beggars and enforced return to their parish of origin gradually gave way to more constructive legislation. Through a series of statutes introduced between 1531 and 1591 a viable system was formulated, codified and consolidated. The piecemeal legislation was encapsulated in the famous statute of 1601, generally referred to as the 43rd Elizabeth, which recognised poor relief as a public duty.

Under the terms of the Elizabethan legislation relief of the poor within each parish was to be undertaken by the churchwardens and locally appointed Overseers of the Poor under the scrutiny of the local Justices of the Peace. The cost of Poor Relief was to be met by the levy of a specific rate on the inhabitants of each parish.

The Statute defined three classes of pauper and prescribed measures considered appropriate to their needs. Of the honest poor, the aged and infirm were to receive succour and be placed in poor houses when necessary while the able-bodied were to be set to work. The children of paupers were to be apprenticed; girls until their 21st year and boys until 24 years of age. The undeserving paupers such as rogues, thieves and vagabonds, were the subject of separate legislation which stipulated that they be flogged and placed in houses of correction before being ‘deported’ to their original place of settlement; their parish of origin.

Over the two centuries which followed, modifications of the Elizabethan legislation took place, the major one being the Act of Settlement of 1662, but from the late eighteenth century the impact of the Industrial Revolution created widespread destitution which substantially aggravated the general social situation dependant upon the Elizabethan settlement. One significant modification introduced in 1782 was Gilbert’s Act which formulated the concept of ‘outdoor relief’. The measure provided for willing labourers unable to obtain work through no fault of their own, being the victims of prevailing circumstances over which they had no control, to receive temporary relief without having to be admitted to a workhouse. The system of outdoor relief was being applied by Knottingley Select Vestry by the early nineteenth century. However, by that time at Knottingley and within society in general, demographic and technical change combined with the increasingly high cost of relief, threatened to overwhelm the administration of the age-old system of Poor Law provision and render its administration ineffectual.

Commissioners were appointed in 1832 to investigate the problems of the poor and they issued a report in 1834. Under the influence of Benthamite and Malthusian theories the Commissioners laid great stress on the burden imposed by poor relief and suggested remedies to the prevailing situation which it was claimed would ensure a return to the ‘spirit and intention’ of the Act of 1601. Following the report a Poor Law Amendment Act was passed in 1834.

Under the new legislation a series of parishes could be grouped together to form a Poor law Union, build a workhouse and elect a Board of Guardians to represent the inhabitants of the various parishes constituting the Local Board. The whole system was under centralised supervision to ensure uniform administration. Not only was the pace of development of the new Poor Law system uneven but it was met with great hostility and resistance, particularly in the north of England. Consequently, it was not until 1860 that the Pontefract Union was established. The period between the enactment of the legislation and the inception of the Pontefract Union was therefore one in which the Knottingley overseers continued with the regime introduced 260 years earlier.

As indicated above, under the ongoing system there were two types of poor relief; indoor and outdoor. Indoor relief was that afforded to paupers admitted into the parish workhouse in accordance with the dictates of the 1601 Act. Outdoor relief was of a more variable and casual nature, being administered in cases of temporary need such as seasonal unemployment arising from climatic conditions or from short term illness or disability.

The adverse influence of changing social and economic conditions substantially increased the number of applications for poor relief from the 1790s and the incidence of outdoor relief to meet the rising demand.

Although the Workhouse Test Act of 1722 had given any parish the right to deny relief to anyone refusing to enter a workhouse, the administration of outdoor relief was a more practical option for not only was outdoor relief less expensive but in small rural parishes such as Knottingley, the overseers had personal knowledge of the bulk of the applicants which obviated the need for strict interpretation of statutory legislation and thereby ensured that the limited space in the parish workhouse was reserved for needy cases. (3)

©2005 Dr. Terry Spencer


| INDEX | INTRODUCTION | CHAPTER ONE | CHAPTER TWO | CHAPTER THREE | CHAPTER FOUR |
| CHAPTER FIVE | CHAPTER SIX | CHAPTER SEVEN |
CHAPTER EIGHT | CHAPTER NINE | CHAPTER TEN |


 

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