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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




Preliminary Draft May 2005



Gilbert’s Act of 1782, providing outdoor relief, was quickly and widely adopted in many districts. From the 1790s widespread food shortages and high unemployment engendered a permanent change in Poor Law relief as humanitarianism and evangelicalism were tempered by a more material philosophy engendered by fear of the effect of the French Revolutionary principles on the poor. Thereafter parish relief lists grew substantially as the names of the old and infirm were supplemented by those of younger, able-bodied paupers and casual donation was replaced by a more regularised pattern of relief. The general acceptance of subsidy as a human right meant the reluctant acceptance of a wholesale increase in cost and therefore in Poor Law rates. (1)

While it is clear that doles of money and materials were made on a regular basis at Knottingley in the early nineteenth century, such disbursements were only itemised seriatim from 1840. (2)

Begotten of charity, the outdoor relief given to paupers at Knottingley varied in nature and extent, comprising donations of money and/or materials. Even within the weekly doles of money there existed considerable diversity. The recommendation that

"John Rollinson have 2s per week"

implies an open-ended commitment whereas

"Thomas Foulds have 2s 6d per week for two weeks"

suggests a short-term measure with a case review after a fortnight. (3)

On occasion the period of relief was not clearly defined;

"John Howram [to] have 2s 6d per week for 2 or 3 wks, or 4 wks" (4)

or again that

"Elizabeth Kitson have 2s 6d per week for a season." (5)

At times casual relief was granted to cover an unexpected and hopefully, short-term crisis such as a death, illness or seasonal unemployment. Thus when Edwards Ainsley, already in receipt of 2s 6d per week, fell ill, it was agreed that she

"… have 2s per week additional for a few weeks until she be better" (6)

and although her parish pay reverted to its original amount after ten weeks, the increase was restored following further incapacity in November 1841. (7)

The decision that

"John Wood have casual relief to meet present emergency" (8)

provides a further example of short-term subsidy while resolutions such as

"George Wood have a coffin and dues for his child" (9)

or that

"10s be given towds (sic) Widow Braimes (sic) coffin"

are further examples of contingency payments made on an occasional basis. (10)

On other occasions casual aid took the form of repayable loans for variable sums with staged repayments where necessary.

"£2 be lent to Widow Whitterton and 1s be stopped until the sum be repaid." (11)


"Rose Blackburn have casual relief for a few weeks and that she pay it back at 6d per week" (12)

or that

"George Nichols have a loan of £2-10-0 to be repaid at 5s per month." (13)

The decision that "William Hossell have ½ years rent lent him" is clearly an example of subsidised rent to prevent possible eviction resulting in possible admission to an already overcrowded workhouse. (14)

Not all appeals for rent subsidy elicited a sympathetic response, however, as shown by the rejection of the appeal of October 1828

"William Darnforth’s wife applies for relief, or a bed to lie on Mr Raynor their landlord having siezed their goods for rent." (15)

A more elaborately arranged system of repayment was that made in conjunction with the loan of £3 to William Shorter in May 1844,

" be repaid at £1-0-0 at the end of the month – another £1-0-0 at the end of 6 months another, third, £1-0-0 at nine month’s end." (16)

It is interesting to note that at the beginning of May the Select Vestry had refused the loan to Shorter and it is regrettable that no reason is given for the rapid volte face. It is also unique that Shorter was required to sign the resolution entered in the Minute Book as a formal acknowledgement of the loan and the terms of repayment. (17)

The sums disbursed weekly as outdoor relief ranged from one to ten shillings although there are several instances where sixpence was paid as the minimum amount and any sum over six shillings was quite rare.  Throughout the period 1841-1862 the pattern of disbursement remained stable. There is, however, a significant increase in the number of allowances in each decade and overall. Between the 1840s and 1850s an increase of 25% in alllowances occurred and 53% increase during the following decade, making an overall increase of 65%. The local population rose by 5.1% between 1841-1851 and whilst this may have been an influential factor it is probable that the hardship of the ‘Hungry Forties’ was the principal reason for the increased poverty for despite a decrease of 3.5% in the population over the following decade the number of people seeking relief increased. As the overall population increase between 1841-1861 was only 1.7% demographic influence appears to have been minimal and the increase in pauperism based on determinants such as the impact on local occupations and conditions of national events and developments. The Tabular data should be treated with caution, however, as the recorded figures are often increases in amounts previously sanctioned by the Select Vestry and therefore somewhat distorted. For instance, the seven instances of 6d recorded in 1861-62 were in fact increases to ongoing donations and therefore distort the minimum amounts paid in three of the four quarters of that year as well as the total number of cases of outdoor relief. Likewise, the 115 cases of outdoor relief recorded in the first quarter of 1861-66 arose from a crisis situation with 64 of the allowances being passed at a single vestry meeting in October 1861 and therefore, do not reflect the regular pattern of Poor Law donation. (18)

Not all outdoor relief was by cash payment, much being in kind. A wide variety of materials was distributed within and beyond the confines of the workhouse. Many of the articles donated were given to enable a potential pauper to work for a living and thus obviate dependence upon parish rates. At other times items were provided to facilitate a financial return from able bodied paupers working on the highways or in the limestone quarries of the township. The decision that

"Wm Sharp have a truss and work in the Stone Quarry"

is an attempt to obtain some return for subsidisation. (19) Provision of a truss was quite common and even of a double truss when necessary. (20) Setting able bodied paupers to work in the Town Quarry was frequently advocated by the Overseers in the first half of the nineteenth century. (21)

Articles of clothing were regularly provided. The earliest recorded instance is in June 1823

"Thomas Crosby be furnished with a jacket and shirt"

and in December 1839

"Mr Willson (sic) be requested to buy a piece of cloth for the old mens’ jackets and trowsers." (sic) (22)

That "Wm Wood have a jacket and trousers."


"William Mattison have a pair of stockings"


"Thomas Colley have a pair of shoes"

are but three more of the innumerable entries concerning such items within the Vestry Minute Books. (23) A rather amusing decree by the Select Vestry Committee in 1849 states

"That Joseph Walker have a pair of drawers and some rigging"

The term ‘rigging’ was a synonym for clothes even a century later during the boyhood of the writer when children were commonly ‘rigged out’ for Whitsuntide, the term derived from the towns’ maritime connection in the era of sailing ships. (24)

A more precise resolution decrees that

"Jane Chapman have a petticoat given" (25)

while a similar benefaction bestowed on Mary Walker in 1857 orders that she have

"a petticoat, shift, pair of boots and a Gown."

Similarly, the order that

"Kitty Bromley have a new gown"

conjures up a vision of pauper elegance belied by the awareness that the gowns to which the decrees refer are not ballgowns but underskirts. (26)

Bestowal of a multitude of items to Mary Butcher in 1856, comprising nightgown, shift, blanket and sheet, speaks as much of destitution as of largess (27) whilst the decision in 1855 that

"William Lockwood’s daughter have some clothes to go to service"

refers to the domestic rather than the divine form of the noun and echoes the case of Maria Oxley quoted earlier. Likewise, the decision to donate 7 shillings to Sabrina Thompson

"on condition she obtains a situation"

is a further example of the willingness of the Select Vestry to invest a small sum of money in the hope of getting rid of a parish pauper. (28)

Footwear was naturally one of the items most frequently in demand, shoes being commonly donated and repaired. (29) January 1846 marks the date of a new fashion trend, being the first recorded case of clogs being supplied to a town pauper (30) after which date they gradually superseded shoes until by the 1850s they had become the most common form of pauper footwear. (31) So abundant was the purchase of clogs by 1858 that the Surveyor of Highways was instructed to bargain with the clobber and obtain a discount price on the supply to the roadworkers. (34) Stockings were also dispensed quite frequently (33) as were shirts. (34) O occasion the material from which articles were to be fashioned was sanctioned, hence in March 1843

"Joseph Dyson to have a little calico for shirts and shifts for [his] family" (35)


"John Tomlinson [to] have cloth for trowsers." (sic) (36)

A supreme example of ‘in house’ economy is seen in April 1859 when George Radley was informed that he could have a pair of trousers on condition that they were made by a destitute town tailor seeking parish relief, Thomas Gowthwaite. (37) Gowthwaite, while in receipt of parish pay had received other such commissions previously, in 1856 for example when it was stipulated that

"Thomas Gowthwaite have 3 pairs of trowsers (sic) to make."

At the same time a Mr England of Leeds was engaged to manufacture a special truss for one John Dixon. (38)

Benjamin Cawthorn was the recipient of a waistcoat and hat in 1844 (39) whilst in 1852 Thomas Masterson received an entire suit of clothes. In this respect he was rather more fortunate than an earlier applicant of whom it was decreed that

"William Matterson have a second-hand coat given him." (40)

Blankets were commonly distributed to paupers, sometimes in pairs, as were sheets and rugs. (41) With regard to the later items is an interesting entry of 1862 which states that Reynard Shaw have 5s per week and

" old blanket and two rugs"

whilst in the winter of 1855 William Greenwood received two blankets, a quilt and a coverlet. (42)

Apart from articles of common daily usage were more unusual donations. In late 1848 for example we find recorded

"Thomas Hunt to have some leeches." (43)

The following year, two able bodied men were allowed a spade each, to be paid for at one shilling per week. (44) More pathetically, on the 26th December 1861,

"William Greenwood [to] have the Town’s Doctor for his child and to have a pound of candles. " (45)

Somewhat bizarrely, in May 1851

"Thomas Walker [to] have a hook immediately for his stump." (46)

Perhaps it is too cynical of one to suppose hat the urgency was motivated less by humanitarian concern than the desire to make the recipient better equipped for work and ths less liable to be dependent upon the parish?

In January 1842, it is recorded

"Mary Colley have a bed lent out of the [work]house" (47)

which may have been lebt out at a time of confinement although it was not unknown for pregnant women to be admitted into the workhouse for their delivery.

On a more sombre note, an item of 29th December 1859 authorises that

"Ann Appleyard have a coffin for her child"

which compares favourably with a resolution earlier in the year that

"The application for a coffin be not entertained for the late Ann Masterman." (48)

More compassionately, in February 1850

"William Whiteley have coals provided during his illness." (49)

The dole to Whiteley stands in sharp contrast to the decree of December 1831 that

"The overseers not to give any coals at present until the severe weather outs in." (50)

The records furnish abundant evidence of an ‘enterprise culture’ with subsidies to people aspiring to a degree of financial independence. By providing materials or money (usually in the form of loans) the Select Vestry hoped to enable paupers to earn their livelihood and thereby reduce dependency upon the rates. Thus in 1832

"Widow Austwick lent 20s towards a mangle and stopped 1s per week out of her pay to repay the same."

Also in December 1841, the Knottingley overseer was instructed to write to the Overseers and Guardians at Manchester

"to purchase a mangle for Widow Whitterson." (51)

One presumes that the widow sought work as a self employed washer woman. The fact that the authorities at Manchester were approached suggests that the widow may have been relieved by Knottingley parish but chargeable to Manchester Guardians. The situation was repeated to some extent in 1856 when Ann Barber was given two shillings towards the cost of a mangle. (52) Financial subsidy also applied to workhouse inmates. In 1843 it is recorded

"Jno. Calvert quit the house and have 4 dozens (sic) oranges"

which appears to be a subsequent adjustment to the decision taken a week earlier that

"Calvert have a pack of nuts and 1 dozen oranges." (53)

Was Calvert set up as a greengrocer? The possibility is lent substance by a Vestry decision of July 1858 that

"John Nichols’s application for money to buy an (sic) hawking Liscence (sic) cannot be entertained but they [i.e. the Vestrymen] recommend him to commence a little Green Grocery business…." (54)

Nichols and his family had initially received poor relief at Goole, being the subject of a removal order for their repatriation to Knottingley where they received 7s 6d parish pay. (55) The Vestry recommendation appears to have been ignored by Nichols for in November 1858, he was

"employed on the roads for the present." (56)

Another person in a similar situation to Nichols was Joseph Cawthorn. In September 1852, the Select Vestry agreed that Cawthorn

"… have a loan of 30s for an ass and cart." (57)

Whatever the nature of Cawthorn’s business it proved to be a failure for the following February he was employed on the roads. (58) Whether Cawthorn successfully applied for a second loan is uncertain but a report of March 1857, states that

"Joseph Cawthorn has sold his ass and brought back the sovereign." (59)

Thereafter, Cawthorn worked on the roads until he was dismissed in December 1858. (60) Undaunted, however, Cawthorn made a further loan application for in March 1860, it was agreed that

"Joseph Cawthorn have a loan of a sovereign to purchase a donkey." (61)

A request by the Select Vestry that

"Mrs Hobman bring her horse and cart to the Overseer"

may be a further indication of parish assistance in ensuring a livelihood. (62) Similarly, an entry of October 1841, that

"the money stopped off Wm Hood’s pay hitherto stopped towards his boat, be paid over to Mr Cliff" (63)

is perhaps, an indication of a mismanaged maritime subsidy, a theory lent some credence by the Select Vestry decision in December 1859

"that Saml. (sic) Parker have 3s 6d for his boat repairing." (64)

Doles of meat and flour were a further aspect of pauper subsidy. Resolutions such as

"Charles Wroe have a stone of meal per week for a fortnight"

and that

"Thomas Shaw [and] family have 1 st[one] of flour" (65)

are typical examples of the routine distribution of these commodities. (66)

The late 1840s were a period of particular hardship when the tax on bread introduced by the Corn Laws of 1815, combined with crop failures and industrial recession to raise food prices and create the decade remembered as the ‘Hungry Forties’. (67) The effect of such adverse trends on local life is evident from the wholesale doles of meal to the poor of Knottingley at Christmas 1846, when on the basis of personal recommendation by the Vestry Committeemen it was donated in quantities of half or one stone to one hundred individuals between 17th December 1846 and 14th January 1847. (68) A similar example of mass relief of this kind, albeit on a smaller scale, occurred in late October 1849, when all married men at work in the Town’s Quarry received a stone of meal as supplementary relief. (69)

Donations of fuel and clothing were the most common element of relief in the early nineteenth century. (70) By the mid century a significant decline had occurred at Knottingley and although doles of meal continued on an individual basis, together with occasional donations of footwear, financial relief was the norm by the early years of the following decade. The last pair of shoes was issued by the Knottingley Overseer in April 1860 and the last pair of clogs in September of that year, while Vestry authorisation for payment of Mr Bramham’s shoe bill in November 1860, marks the end of several decades of subsidised footwear. (71) One reason for the transition may be the ‘trickle down’ effect of greater prosperity from the mid point of the century which nationally, witnessed a fall in the percentage of poor relief. In the context of local affairs the rates crisis of the early 1850s (discussed elsewhere in this study) marked the turning point. (72)

©2005 Dr. Terry Spencer



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