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 POOR LAW
The primary function of Knottingley Select Vestry from its
establishment until 1865 was the administration of the statutory Poor
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
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
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
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
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 |
| CHAPTER ONE | CHAPTER TWO |
CHAPTER THREE | CHAPTER FOUR
| CHAPTER FIVE |
CHAPTER SIX | CHAPTER SEVEN
| CHAPTER EIGHT |
| CHAPTER TEN |