Knottingley and Ferrybridge Online West Yorkshire
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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.

The rich diversity of Knottla nicknames has a long pedigree. In medieval times the word ‘eek’ denoted an additional item, defined in later eras as ‘also’ (1) Thus, a familiar or humorous name given to a person or thing in place of, or in addition to, the real name was an eek name (i.e. one used for the purpose of identification), the ‘n’ of ‘an’ being elided with ‘eek’ to produce a ‘neek’ name which by dint of usage became linguistically corrupted to produce the common noun, ‘nickname’.

In his amusing study of local characters, the late Frank Chambers provides a tantalising glimpse of the genre, prefacing his examples by asking,

"How did nicknames originate?
That’s what I want to know
Magic Charlesworth’s wicket keeping skill
Earned him his name, no bother
But where do we get Shewdy
The nickname of his brother?"

Chambers then produced a series of stanzas containing upward of forty such nicknames.

By his query, the Knottingley Laureate touched upon the fundamental dilemma: that while the nicknames bestowed on people of an earlier generation are frequently remembered by succeeding generations, the origins of such sobriquets are far less frequently remembered.

Chamber’s mental excursion concluded;

"I think we should a parchment scribe
A really worthy cause
To keep alive such nicknames
As Yawnucks Tomlinson and Twisler Vause."

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. In this desire I was greatly assisted by Ron Gosney and Roger Ellis whose enthusiasm to compile a comprehensive list was the equal of my own. It was Roger who drew my attention to the work of Frank Chambers which, while I was familiar with and had long admired Chamber’s work, I had failed to remember in the context of the present topic.

This essay then is an attempt

"a parchment [to] scribe".

More than that, to analyse, categorise and where possible, define the origins of local nicknames and where such defy explanation or analysis, compile a list for the historic record and thus, in acknowledgement of the prescience of Frank Chambers, "…keep alive such nicknames."

Two of the earliest known local nicknames have religious connotations and were originally conferred as proper forenames. Kilham Horton was named after the Reverend Alaxander Kilham, an associate of the Methodist leader, John Wesley. Following Wesley’s death in 1791, Kilham became associated with the dissident faction which led to the foundation of the New Methodist Connexion and the ultimate establishment of the Primitive Methodists at Knottingley about 1818. Nor was Kilham Horton’s forename a singular example, a Kilham Johnson also being recorded.

Kingdon Hirst was a further name with biblical influence and a sin the case of ‘Kilham’ the name was bestowed upon succeeding generations of each family as a nickname.

The hereditary factor is a noticeable element with regard to many nicknames. ‘Tiny’ Firth, a tall man, left a nickname which was applied to his equally tall son, Eric Firth. Frank ‘Dobber’ Sutcliffe, ‘Happy Joe’ Bagley, ‘Clocky’ Burton, ‘Gully’ Maeer, ‘Slasher’ Towell, ‘Killer’ Kemp, ‘Wiffy’ Brooks, ‘Wag’ Robinson, ‘Pum’ Askin and ‘Scuffer’ Scholes, are all examples of nicknames bestowed by local society on second and third generation issue, although in most cases neither the bestowers nor the recipients can define the meaning or origin of the inheritance.

A number of nicknames of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were those of men employed in the local glassworks, particularly those belonging to the bottlemaking fraternity. The nickname often arose from some aspect of working practice or incidents arising during the process of production and were commonly bestowed in jest on apprentices attempting to master techniques demanded by the various stages of the craft. ‘Puffer’ Hawksworth, a glassblower who learned his trade in the late nineteenth century, was probably named for his blowing expertise. My adoptive father, was referred to as ‘Cheeky’ Spencer, not because of a rude disposition but from his distended cheeks during the process of bottle blowing. Indeed, ‘blowers’ cheeks often became almost transparent and instances are recorded when they burst. (4)

Owing to the intense heat of the furnace it was necessary for the glassmakers to drink prodigious quantities of liquid in order to prevent dehydration. Most of the men drank beer which in the era of unrestricted hours of sale was freely available. One who preferred to drink lemonade was George Penty who therefore gained the lifelong nickname of ‘Pop’ Penty. Valentine ‘Gobby’ Gill may be another who owes his nickname to association with the trade rather than to verbal facility although he and others of his family were involved in breaking up discarded boats.

One of the glassmaking fraternity, George Dodd, was nicknamed ‘Doddy’ or ‘Dodder’. I remember him when, withered and worn by age and hard labour, he was one of a small number of superannuated faithful retainers who were allowed to undertake light casual work sweeping up the machine shops and warehouses at the glassworks long after their manual skills had been supplanted by machines. One of the indignities of age was that such men were occasionally the butt of insensitive jokes and remarks. Little did I, or his detractors realise, that as a young resident at the Island, Aire Street, ‘Doddy’ had saved no less than eleven people from drowning and had received a public testimonial to his bravery from Knottingley Urban District Council. (5) Another ‘retainer’ with bottlemaking connection was ‘Nuts’ Buckley, though the origin of his nickname is less apparent.

‘Happy Joe’ Bagley was yet another ex glassmaker who became something of a legend in the 1930s through his depiction of ‘mammy’s darling Boy’ at the local carnival. Dressed in jersey and short trousers and holding a balloon on a string in one hand and a large jam-spread breadcake in the other, from which he would take a periodic bite, thus smothering his face in jam, ‘Happy Joe’ was the hit of the events. (6) The characterisation is still recalled by some of the more elderly residents of the town.

‘Happy Joe’ was an hereditary nickname inherited from his father as was his flair for capturing the attention of the public as shown by the occasion when, fully dressed, ‘Happy’ Senior decided to entertain a large crowd attending the annual Feast on the Flatts by jumping into the river. (7) Many other nicknames doubtless had glassworks origins but are too abstruse in nature to be defined within the context of the workplace.

Whilst recently researching the history of Knottingley Silver [Prize] Band, I was struck by the profusion of nicknames belonging to past generations of bandsmen. ‘Fatty’ Chapman, ‘Spug’ Hargraves, ‘Joker’ Johnson, ‘Maggie’ Murphy, ‘Gully’ Draper and ‘Tiffy’ Hodgson, ‘Gully’ was a term applicable to another individual, namely ‘Gully’ Maeer, and by extension, his son, Fred, but what was the meaning of the name? In the case of ‘Tiffy’ Hodgson, the man himself has explained that it was originally ‘Wiffy’, being a pet name bestowed by an elderly aunt. Through usage and mis-pronouncement the name was transformed to ‘Tiffy’. A similar metamorphosis concerning a similar name, is seen in regard to ‘Wiffy’ Brooks. It is believed that the nickname arose from Clifford Brook’s portrayal of a character named ‘Wifey’ in a play produced by a church drama group and was gradually transformed through linguistic application.

A further example of the process of transformation is provided by reference to a nickname of a slightly later generation. Raymond Oakes was nicknamed ‘Pancho’ by his friend Stansfield ‘Tippy Toes’ Greenwood after a dark featured, swarthy Mexican character in a popular comic to whom it was considered Oakes had a passing resemblance. Over time the original nickname developed as ‘Panshine’, presumably through word association with the ubiquitous scouring powder of the War years. It is claimed that ‘Pancho’ Oakes was less than pleased with the adaptation.

Appearance and personal mannerisms often dictated bestowal of a nickname. Aside from the obvious and frequently insensitively embarrassing terms such as ‘Fatty’, ‘Lanky’, ‘Ginner’, ‘Shorty’, and their slightly (but little) more imaginative inversions such as ‘Slim’ and ‘Giant’ for individuals who were the antithesis of such description, which I mainly forswear in this essay, there are other illustrative examples. Harry ‘Weary’ Jackson was so named because his heavily-lidded eyes invariably appeared half closed, giving him a tired mien. Harry ‘Lacquer’ Robinson was so named for his well groomed and creamed mane of jet black hair. Less attractively, Johnny ‘Spit-a-Gallon’ Miller’s sobriquet is self-explanatory (a habit induced perhaps by working in the hot, dry conditions of a bottle hole?) as is that of Harold ‘Teacakes’ Hargraves. A further culinary influence is evident in Eddie ‘Rabbit’ / ‘Rabbit Gravy’ Harrison’s nickname which arose from his frequent excursions with his ferrets in search of a rabbit dinner.

‘Yawnucks’ Tomlinson was an old Knottla character so well known by his adopted name that few used, or even knew, his surname. Streetwise, and full of guile, ‘Yawnucks’ effected an aristocratic air by wearing a monocle. Many tales were told of ‘Yawnucks’ quick wittedness and opportunism. While many of the tales are doubtless apocryphal others are no doubt true, for example, the following incident.

Entering Knottingley Town cricket field one mid afternoon, ‘Yawnucks, and a friend unsuccessfully tried to cadge cigarettes from various acquaintances. One, having rejected the supplicants, then asked ‘Yawnucks’ if he had heard the winner of the three o’clock race. "why? Has Tha got a bet on?" asked ‘Yawnucks’. Upon being told that his acquaintance had a bob each way on ‘Bluebell’, ‘Yawnucks’ stated that it must be his lucky day as ‘Bluebell’ had won the race. The delighted punter joyfully handed out his cigarettes before scurrying off to collect his winnings. ‘Yawnucks’ mate pointed out that he could not possibly know the outcome of the race to which ‘Yawnucks’ agreed, adding, "but we got a cig’ out of it dint we?"

A further example of ‘Yawnucks’ quick-wittedness is revealed in the following tale. On a visit to Leeds ‘Yawnicks’ and a small group of mates were walking along Boar Lane and passing a shop with empty windows one of the group said "Sitha. A’ wonder what they sell there?" A man who was standing in the shop doorway could not forbear to show his contempt for the Knottla bumpkins and said aloud, "Idiots", whereupon ‘Yawnucks’ replied, "Idiots eh? Tha must a done a good trade then ‘cos tha’s selled ‘em all!"

Life was more tragic for some of ‘Yawnucks’ contemporaries. Billy ‘Buller’ Wild was one of the glassblowing fraternity who in the early days of last century was regarded as one of the smartest and best dressed young men in Knottingley. Thwarted in love, ‘Buller’ suffered from severe depression and fell into a mental and physical decline which resulted in him losing his job and his lodgings. For two decades he lived in a cave in one of the local limestone quarries, spending his days touring the town living on cups of tea and food from former workmates and sympathetic supporters. Given the harsh conditions, allied to the severe rationing of food during the War one can easily imagine the effect on ‘Bullers’ health. During the bitter winter nights ‘Buller’ would gain unofficial access to Bagley’s glassworks in order to sleep under the hot furnace tank. One evening in the harsh winter of 1947 ‘Buller’ was discovered in a seriously ill condition. A doctor was summoned and ‘Buller’ was diagnosed as being in need of hospital treatment. Being in such a vermin’s condition, however, he was denied the use of an ambulance. It was said that he was taken to the Headland’s Hospital, Pontefract, on the back of the Council dust cart.

The story has a fairly happy ending. Discharged from hospital ‘Buller’ was granted residence in Northgate Lodge, part of the former Pontefract Workhouse, transformed by the recently established national Health Service. For some years thereafter, ‘Buller’ could be seen within the town, clean and tidily attired, until his death in the 1950s.

Another semi-tragic figure whose nickname belied the circumstances of his life, was Fred ‘Cheerio’ Ellis who initially worked on the railway until incapacity from an accident forced him to undertake lighter, more casual work.

As a one man band (a popular phenomenon in the 1920s) ‘Cheerio’ earned a living as a street entertainer, singing, reciting monologues, playing a brass whistle, telling jokes and posing conundrums for pennies. ‘Cheerio’ also advertised in the local paper as a racing tipster and served as the bellman, town crier and official bill poster.

A resident of Back Lane Lodging House (formerly the Bluebell Inn) until its closure on sanitary grounds in 1924, ‘Cheerio’ then lived at Mr. Crapper’s (aptly named?) lodging house at Ferrybridge, and died in 1927 aged 53.

If Frank Chamber’s description of ‘Buller’ Wild

"…with long hair and ginger beard"

suggests a scary figure who was, nevertheless,

"a really kind of harmless chap and not one to be feared",

is correct, and it undoubtedly is, then the same dispensation applies to ‘Bob Bunks.’ Robert ‘Bob Bunks’ Mountier, the scion of a pauper family resident at Knottingley as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, was a one legged man who wore a wooden leg which made a thump as he walked which was rather frightening to local children. Some mothers, aware of this fact, used to coerce their siblings into good behaviour by threatening to send for ‘Bob Bunks’.

Glassmaking apart, occupation was an influential factor associated with nicknames. In the case of ‘Mucjk Boat’ Johnson both trade and appearance played a part. Wearing a top hat and a waistcoat from which dangled a watch and chain, this genial soul worked as a scavenger, emptying ash pits and middens and disposing of the night soil from earth closets, (of which there was still a profusion as late as the 1930s) his appearance belying the nature of his work.

Another occupational nickname was that of Alf ‘Farmer’ Robinson. ‘Farmer’ looked after the draught horses at Bagley’s glassworks but with his trilby hat, twill trousers and leggings and tweed jacket looked every inch a farmer.

‘Legger’ Sweeting was so named because he had wide experience as a cattle driver, walking beasts from markets as far away as Selby and York. Invariably dressed in flat cap, Mackintosh and gaitered trousers, ‘Legger’, who had a disabled arm, could be seen carrying a billycan by the handle, clutched between his teeth.

‘Doody’ Braim was a farmer with a holding located at the top of Womersley Road while ‘Porky’ Taylor, an Aire Street butcher, was so designated in order to distinguish him from Arthur (and later, Tom) Taylor who owned a butcher’ shop next door.

‘Clocky’ Burton belonged to a family of watch and clockmakers who were responsible for the installation of the public clock on the front of the Ropewalk Methodist Chapel in 1884, which was the only public clock in the town before one was affixed to St. Botolph’s church some forty years later.

Nicknames were not uncommon amongst teachers. ‘Bull’ Coward’s may have arisen purely as a play upon his surname although he possessed a bellowing voice which, belying his gentle nature, may have been an influential factor. ‘Proddy’ France was the nickname of another Knottingley teacher. Did his nickname have religious significance (i.e. of Protestant stock) or was it gained from prodding his pupils or, since he was a skilled musician, prodding the piano keys?

Concerning the teaching profession, the collective noun ‘Gaffer’ was commonly accorded to headmasters. The appellation clearly echoed the parental usage by which workmen showed deference to their employers but the term was not confined solely to head teachers, being applied to senior teachers too. In the early 1940s, as a pupil at Weeland Road Junior School, I recall Wilf Hollingworth being referred to as ‘Gaffer’.

The definition of the nickname of one notable workman, ‘Figs’ Firth, appears to have been lost, but not his occupational prowess, for as a bricklayer’s labourer ‘Figs’ was the doyen of his profession, regularly providing the support necessary to ensure the laying of 1,000 bricks per day, no mean feat given the conditions of the trade which applied in the inter war years.

A less enviable professional nickname and therefore one used surreptitiously, was that bestowed on Mr. Dixon, proprietor of the barber’s shop located within the building which also housed the Cherry Tree Inn, Cow Lane end. The diminutive Dixon, at less than 5ft, almost as broad as he was tall, was referred to as ‘Sweeny Todd’ but not, of course, in his presence and certainly not when he was shaving a customer.

The nickname of Tommy ‘Touchet’ Lightowler poses speculation concerning its origin. Touchet was a family name of the Lords Audley, one of who had been executed at Pontefract with Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in 1322, following the abortive rebellion against Edward II the previous year.

A descendant of the Touchets was the lawyer, Dr. Tetlow, who in the late eighteenth century lived in the big house at the top of Racca Green, later owned by the Twaites family. There is therefore ample evidence of the Touchet’s association with the locality but less obvious reason for the name to be associated with Tommy Lightowler. An indication may perhaps be found in the events of 1885 when Jim Frazer, a local bottlemaker, laid claim to the defunct Lovat Peerage at his native Newcastle. Was Tommy Lightowler a sincere but self-deluded claimant of kinship with the Touchet family who merely inherited the title as a nickname?

One exception to my prohibition on nicknames alluding to size is that concerning ‘Giant’ Hart, whose character was in inverse proportion to his small stature. ‘Gi’ was a glassmaker who was displaced by the advent of machine bottlemaking in the 1920s. Hearing that work for manual craftsmen was still to be found in the small bottle holes of London prompted the impecunious ‘Gi’ and a friend to tramp to the Capital, cadging food en route.

Travelling along the road the pair spotted a gateway leading to a distant farmhouse. A friendly dispute arose as to who should walk to the farmhouse to beg food and in the end ‘Gi’ agreed to undertake the task.

Nearing the farmstead, ‘Gi’ spotted a pie which had been placed on a windowsill to cool. As nobody was about ‘Gi’ snatched the pie and sped back to his mate. Having consumed the pie ‘Gi’ stated that as he had obtained the food it was only fair that his mate should return the dish and as his fellow traveller made his way to the farmhouse ‘Gi’ shouted after him "…and don’t forget to say thank you to the farmer’s wife for her kindness."

Some nicknames indicated physical prowess. George ‘Magic’ Charlesworth, the Knottingley Town Cricket Club wicket-keeper, is alleged to have dived for a ball and caught a swallow in flight.

In this category several nicknames apply to people of my generation (i.e. late 1920s – 1930s). Roy ‘Blood’ Pickersgill, George ‘Killer’ Kemp, and Lance ‘Cock’ Foster, were each in turn school champions in my schooldays, although in the case of the latter there may be and additional nod to the London district of Cock Fosters.

Concerning the inter-war generations it is interesting to note the influence of films, radio and comic books on the choice of nicknames. Thus, Tommy ‘Robey’ Rhodes, may be so called in reference to the late music hall entertainer Sir George Robey, while ‘Blood’ Pickersgill’s elder brother, Kenneth, was known as ‘Unbriargo’, a character in a song by Jimmy Durante (who as ‘Schnozzel’ had his own nickname).

George ‘Dillinger’ Peel was named so when, awaiting the arrival of his classmates for a woodwork lesson, he quickly shaped a wooden gun. Upon the classroom door being opened, George sprang forward and shouted, "Stick ‘em up!" To his chagrin and the amusement of his peers, the first person through the door was the teacher who replied, "Who do you think you are – Dillinger?"

George also had a brother, whose nickname was ‘Necker’ Peel. Does anyone know why? I also vaguely recall ‘Sabu’ Pickersgill (?) a darkly handsome figure who lived in Quarry Avenue and was named for his supposed similarity to the youthful Indian film star of the 1940s Technicolor extravaganzas ‘Elephant Boy’ and ‘Jungle Book’.

Other contemporaries include Frank ‘Plute’ Keirnan, also known as ‘Plug’, ‘Pussy Holt, Charlie ‘Chukka’ Temple, presumably a play on his forename, and similarly, ‘Spud’ Tate.

My close schoolfriend, Derek Fairbairn, was nicknamed ‘Chris’, derived from the name of a character in the late 1940s radio show ‘Ray’s A Laugh’. Upon being asked what the letter ‘C’ of his second name represented and replying "Charles" he was contradicted with "No it doesn’t. It’s for ‘Crystal Jollybottom, you saucebox", the catchphrase of a character in the series. The nickname was abbreviated to ‘Chris’ sometime thereafter.

My own nickname was ‘Carl’, from Carl Svenson, a Scandinavian villain in the radio series ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’. I am still trying to figure out whether ‘Carl’ was allotted to me because of an imagined similarity between my surname and that of the fictitious character or if the influential factor was the (hopefully) imagined similarity of my nature and that of the villain.

Concerning ‘Dick Barton’, it is claimed that ‘Chris’ Fairbairn’s younger brothers, Keith, who had a shock of white hair, and Joseph, were known as ‘Snowy’ and ‘Jock’ or ‘Jocker’, after Barton’s fictitious assistants, Snowy and Jock.

Moving to more recent generations, we find the influence of television in names such as Roy ‘Flint’ Stone, together with ‘Acker’ and ‘Cody’ Shaw, Barry ‘Bacca’ Burdin, and John ‘Hollmottlemight’ Holloway (there’s a nickname with which to conjure?)

A nickname from an even more recent generation is that of Paul ‘Highness’ Lodge. In the late 1960s I took over a class at Ferrybridge Junior School in the middle of the academic year. One of the children was referred to by his classmates as ‘Highness’ and intrigued by the apparent degree of deference, I sought to find out the reason for the nickname. Neither Paul or his fellow pupils could provide an explanation, however, and it was only much later when preparing a history lesson that it occurred to me that the term ‘Highness’ might have arisen in consequence of a previous lesson, being derived from Paulinus, who, having arrived with St. Augustine in 597, later travelled north to bring Christianity to the kingdom of Northumbria. Upon checking with Paul I witnessed a spark of recognition in his eyes which was akin to the image of a lightbulb in a bubble above the head of characters in the ‘Beano’ and ‘Dandy’ and to my great satisfaction Paul was able to confirm my theory.

And what of the ladies? Substitute names for women appear to be exceedingly rare. There is, of course, Elizabeth ‘Dizzy’ Kellett, who was anything but and therefore so inappropriately nicknamed that speculation defies reason. Conversely, Hannah ‘Mrs Beautiful’ Rhodes, the proprietor of a general goods shop at the Island Court corner of the Flatts, was given her name because be it ever so humble an item anyone sought to purchase was invariably described as being "beautiful". Mrs Rhodes was also known to some as ‘Mad Hannah’.

Many of the known nicknames are of obscure origin and by their nature, defy both definition and categorisation. All that one can do is to provide a glossary and hope that in the fullness of time the record may be supplemented by further detail. here then, are some of the remaining Knottla nicknames, together with brief comments concerning the same and the appellants.

‘Fatty’ Chapman
Ernest ‘Mull’ Clark
Freddy ‘Guy’ Pearson – pronounced with a soft ‘G’ as in ‘giant’
Jimmy ‘Bolo’ Tranmer
Bob ‘Smocky’ Daw
‘Tabsie’ Garner – he and brother Tommy, were associated with the Sparrow Castle gym club.
George ‘Dodger’ Haigh
Percy ‘Fiddler’ Baines – a marine engineer who objected to his nickname.
‘Crafty’ Spence – for many years the Knottingley ferryman operating from the Island Court jetty.
George ‘Jig’ Middleton
‘Sharky’ Tunningley, also known as ‘Shengo’.
‘Smasher’ Wright
‘Colmosh’ Marshall – nickname may be a doggerel abstract of Colin Marshall??
‘Shemmacks’ Baxter
‘Nipper’ Green – a diminutive but energetic younger brother, hence ‘Nipper’ ??
Frank ‘Nagger’ Addy – promounced with a soft ‘G’ as in ‘major’ – was sexton at Knottingley Cemetery from 1930s – 1950s.
‘Pongo’ Martin
George ‘Judder’ Blakey – corrupted form of George.
George ‘ Judder’ Burdin – ditto.
‘Bogey’ Lightfoot – nickname possibly derived from surname suggesting ghostlike movement ??
Alan ‘Dusty’ Rhodes – self explanatory hereditary nickname.
‘Whacker’ Scott
‘Lashings’ Askin
‘Babe’ Davies – youngest of family of all male siblings but nickname may also have beeb influenced by name of baseball legend, ‘Babe’ Ruth ??
Terry ‘Tiger’ Watson
‘Slogger’ Wild
‘Icky’ Pick – a local tramp
‘Parmy’ Wilson – probably from his unusual forename, Parminus, which was also his father’s forename.
‘Tuby’ Littlewood – tempting to think his nickname may have arisen from association with Knottla Feast at which the Tuby family were always represented and into which family several Knottingley people, including my own, married.
‘Banjo’ Brown
John ‘Gelly’ Dickinson – the doyen of local billiard and snooker players.
George ‘Coogan’ Rhodes
Herbert ‘Vinegar’ Winterbottom – promounced as Winegar’ – a Nat Jackley lookalike – tallest man in Knottingley – made ‘Tiny’ Firth look small by comparison.
Albert ‘Shaker’ Bagley
Albert ‘Gish’ Penistone
Harold ‘Yamps’ Whitwell
George ‘Peckham’ Savage
John ‘Gauk’ Adams
Tommy ‘Dreadnought’ Rhodes
Herbert ‘Lockey’ Fozzard
Hector ‘Sheg’ Aaron
Ronnie ‘Shenko’ Tunningley
Barry ‘Bacca’ Burdin
Benny ‘Chopsticks’ ? – surname unknown. Benny was a boat breaker and the nickname may derive from that activity.
‘Bunny’ Turner
‘Crock’ Walshaw
‘Cadge’ Lightfoot – was he a habitual cadger??
‘Mush’ Link
‘Kiddy’ Mightowler
‘Wire’ Hughes
‘Shango’ Moon
‘Twisler’ Vause
‘Cubby’ Carter
‘Banker’ Sykes
Roy ‘Duster’ Simpson
Jeffery ‘Marcino’ / ‘Mark’ Ward
‘Wablo’ Emmerson
David ‘Tigrob’ Briggs
Kenneth ‘Snicky’ Garbutt
Stansfield ‘Tippy Toes’ Greenwood – so named for difficulty when walking due to malformed feet, a nickname that today would be considered insensitive and inappropriate on grounds of political correctness?
‘Mallock’ Penty

Terry Spencer
January 2007


  • For an example of the use of the word ‘eek’ c.f. lines 5-7 of the Prologue to Vhauser’s ‘Canterbury Tales’.
  • Chambers F. The Memorable Awakening of Rip Van Frankle – Characters of Old Knottingley, Book 4, (1966) C. Chambers (ed), no pagination. I am grateful to Frank Chambers daughter, Mrs J. Jackson, for permission to quote from her father’s work.
  • ibid
  • Spencer T. The Development of the Yorkshire Glass Industry, 1800-1945’, Volume II, (2001) Chapter 7 pp 443-62 for a survey of the diseases and illnesses of the trade and p445 for details of ‘Glassblower’s mouth’.
  • Pontefract Advertiser 10-9-1910 for report of presentation to Dodds and 18-6-1910 & 20-7-1912 for reports of rescues.
  • Spencer T. ‘Fairs, Festivals & frolics: Knottingley circa 1840-20032, Volume II, (2003) p39 for photograph of ‘Happy Joe’ Bagley as ‘Mummy’s Darling Boy’.
  • Pontefract & Castleford Express 17-7-1914 p6
  • Pontefract Advertiser 24-9-1921 and passim for advertisements re Fred ‘Cheerio’ Ellis and ibid 26-2-1927 for obituary report.
  • ibid 24-1-1885


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