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.



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.

Within Knottingley the displacement of traditional industries, such as agriculture, limestone excavation and the maritime trade with its myriad trades and supplementary occupations, and their replacement by ‘dirty’ modern industries such as glass and chemical manufacture and iron founding, occurred during the last quarter of the century.

The physical and demographic expansion which had occurred from the early decades of the nineteenth century, whilst continuing apace throughout the second half of that century, posed no real threat to the semi-rural character of the township until the early decades of the following century. However, as a result of the introduction of new industries, private housing initiatives after 1890 and the establishment of Knottingley Urban District Council early in that decade, urbanisation became more pronounced. The formal adoption and lay-out of roads, streets, the laying of pavements and the undertaking of other public works betokened the substantial growth of urban development by the turn of the twentieth century, a process which increased considerably from the 1920s as the Council adopted increasingly ambitious public housing policies resulting in the development of housing estates on former green field sites at the southern side of the town.

Whilst the early years of the twentieth century still afforded the children of the town access to long established play areas such as marshland, common land and disused quarries, industrial pollution and dereliction made such places increasingly hazardous to health and safety and the increase in traffic, particularly in mechanised transport, rendered the streets ever more dangerous playgrounds.

The combination of such factors engendered a collective desire for the creation of a formally designated, adequately supervised, safe environment for recreation and play which would in addition add to the civic prestige of the town and reflect the communal pride of its inhabitants.

The earliest public manifestation of the desire for a town playing fields and recreation ground dates from May 1897, when a public meeting was held in Knottingley Town Hall to discuss an appropriate form of commemorating the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne. At that meeting the Reverend F.E. Egerton, Vicar of St. Botolph’s Parish, drew attention to the fact that the children of the town were compelled to play in the streets which were dangerous for them. Egerton suggested that a recreation ground would solve the problem and provide a tangible memorial to mark the national occasion. Furthermore, the purchase of the land would prove to be a good civic investment for which the cost could be spread out over a long period, thus avoiding financial strain for the ratepayers. Enthused by Egerton’s suggestion one attendant ratepayer stated that there was a case for a "right good man" to give the town a piece of land for use as a park. Alternative suggestions included the provision of public baths, the purchase of the Town Hall from the faltering company which owned it at that time, to provide Council offices and a public hall and the landscaping of the Flatts. The wily Egerton sought to pursue his goal by proposing an amendment concerning the provision of a recreation ground but the motion fell for want of a seconder. (1)

The question of public provision of playing fields for Knottingley children was next discussed at a meeting of the Knottingley Education Committee held on Monday 19th March, 1911. The matter had been raised by County Councillor Tom Jackson at a meeting a month earlier but the matter had been deferred. (2) Jackson therefore renewed his earlier proposition that the Local Education Authority should provide a playing field and that children attending Knottingley schools be allowed one hour per week for use of the facility. To support his point Jackson quoted examples of other local authorities, particularly Goole, which had made such provision and stated that should the LEA be unable to do the same for Knottingley the town council be urged to consider the matter. Jackson was supported by Cr. J.H. Harrison who stated that it was necessary to remove children from the streets. However, objection was raised by Cr. Booth who said he was strongly opposed as Knottingley was nothing more than a long, straggling village with not a congested place or street in it. Booth thought the suggestion went a little too far in public benevolence to warrant further burdening the ratepayers. Booth was supported by Cr. Burton Arnold who asserted that there were plenty of quarries to play in, discounting the concern which had been voiced at an earlier meeting concerning potential accidents in unfenced quarry sites. Cr. G.W. Reynolds pointed out that such sites were private property and therefore children were ‘liable’ if trespassing in them. Furthermore, if Booth considered there was no congestion he knew little about Knottingley. Cr. Arnold said there was plenty of space on the Flatts at which point the issue became sidetracked by a debate between Cr. T. Worfolk and Cr. Reynolds concerning the linguistic technicalities arising from the Council’s acquisition of the Flatts (3) before Worfolk’s grand assertion that "there was too much catering for pleasure and amusement", particularly as the Committee’s basic policy was to oppose increased public expenditure.

Cr. Jackson pointed out the beneficial effects of removing children from the stenches coming from the sewers. More air and recreation would make the towns’ children better men and women and the few shillings it would cost would not be felt by the Ratepayers. Cr. Harrison contended that the Flatts were unsuitable as a playground until the river was purified. Being Coronation year, Burton Arnold was hopeful that some public spirited gentleman would donate some land for a park, at which point a vote was taken on the issue. Harrison and Reynolds voted for Jackson's proposal and Worfolk, Booth and Arnold voted against. As Chairman, Worfolk cast his vote against the motion, which was therefore lost.

The W.R.C.C Director of Elementary Education, Mr. W.H. Brown, anticipating a revival of the subject at the next meeting attempted to pre-empt discussion by sending a letter which stated that the aim of the ‘providers’ was unlikely to be attained due to cost factors. In view of this statement, nothing further was done, leaving Worfolk to opine that the matter would die a natural death. (4)

There was therefore, no further public agitation for several years until toward the end of the Great War when a committee was formed to consider a suitable form of memorial to the fallen at which time the subject was revived. A majority of the townsfolk preferred a monument with an element of public utility. It was therefore decided to obtain land for the establishment of a public park and playing fields with a monument to the fallen situated within the park. The most popular site for the project was the Green House Fields situated adjacent to the south side of the lower end of Hill Top. Early negotiations with Mr. Jackson the owner of the site broke down, however, resulting in the siting of the War Memorial at the junction of Weeland Road and Chapel Street. (5)

Despite the failure to establish a memorial park at that time the desire for a public playing field for the children of the town remained strong. Indeed, some of the leaders of the local community foresaw the day when the Council would be required to provide both playing fields and public baths (6) and although provision of the latter had to wait a further half century, the movement to establish a playing fields was revived within a few years of the earlier abortive attempt. The need for such provision was clearly seen when in January 1926, the local police successfully prosecuted a case at Pontefract Magistrates Court against three adolescent Knottingley boys who were fined for playing football in the street, thereby obstructing the highway. (7)

At a meeting of the Knottingley Urban District Council in June 1927, a letter was read from Mr. J.C. McGrath, Hon’ Secretary of the National Playing Fields Association, asking the Council to form a local branch of the Association. (8) In response to a motion by Cr. G. Hargrave, seconded by Cr. J. Harker, the council agreed to the establishment of such a committee which held its inaugural meeting on the 15th June 1927. (9)

The deliberations of the Playing Fields Committee resulted in a special meeting of the Council being convened to consider the best means of raising subscriptions to ensure the provision of public playing fields for the town. It was decided to call a public meeting to be held in the Town Hall on Monday 20th June 1927. Accordingly, the local stationer, Mr. T.M. Hepworth, was commissioned to print handbills for distribution by Mr. T. Millward, the town factotum, giving details of the proposed meeting and inviting suggestions. Notice was given to all ministers of religion, headteachers and representatives of local business and social organisations. (10)

The public meeting was presided over by Cr. John Jackson with Crs. Harker, Kipping, Hargrave, Robinson, E. Jackson, G.P. Jackson, Brown and Hartley in attendance. Also present were the Vicar of Christ Church, Rev. Estyn St. C.M. Collins, and Mr. E. Treadgold and Mr. F. Ward, local headteachers. The Acting Town Clerk, Mr. W. Berry, was appointed Secretary pro tem and read out the letter from Mr. McGrath following which Rev. Collins, seconded by Mr. Ward, proposed that an established committee press forward to provide playing fields in Knottingley. A committee of about fifty representatives of civic, religious, educational and business organisations within the town was formed with power to decide whether to subscribe to the West Riding Playing Fields Association or retain funds received for local use. (11)

Initial enthusiasm was not so pronounced by September at which time a second meeting was held. Out of 38 notices issued to interested parties, only 9 committee members attended, including the Secretary. Faced with such a poor response nothing could be undertaken by the committee and there was no discernable progress until November 1927, when the Knottingley District Education Sub-Committee wrote to the Council asking it to use its power to provide playing fields for the children of the town. (12) The Chairman of the Council, Cr. J. Jackson, drew attention to the apparent lack of interest as evinced by the poor response to the recently called meeting. It was nevertheless, decided that the Town Clerk should attempt to "open an effort." (13) Consequently, a further public meeting was called for Thursday, 17th November and advertisements were placed in the local press inviting attendance. (14)

The onus was placed upon the K.U.D.C. and in January 1928, Cr. Hargrave moved, "That this Council pledge itself to provide playing fields for the children as speedily as possible."

The motion was seconded by Cr. Robinson and supported by Crs. Steel, E. Jackson and Harker. However, the proposed scheme, costing an estimated £3,000, represented a half-penny rate over a number of years and occurring at a time of worsening national economic conditions with implications for a downturn in local business and employment, was opposed by Crs. Kipping (Vice Chairman), Brown and G.P. Jackson. (15)

Proposing the motion, Cr. Hargrave drew attention to the lack of previous action on "a matter of national importance" equating the value of physical education to that of scholarship. Cr. Hargrave sought a mandate to call another public meeting, expressing his belief that the West Riding County Council would provide financial assistance for the project. Cr. Brown demurred, however, stating his belief that such assistance would only be provided if the K.U.D.C. bought the land at the current price of agricultural land. Cr. Robinson said it was not essential to spend money laying out playing fields. If the Council provided the space the children would make their own amusement on the site. Cr. Dey stated that the time was not opportune and looked to the future for fulfilment of the project for, he asserted, the prospect of a rate increase rendered immediate action unjustifiable. In this assertion, Dey was supported by Cr. H. Bentley who said a further loan of £2,000 in addition to the £8,000-£9,000 debt incurred by the Council, together with other statutory financial obligations was undesirable and while he did not think any councillor did not sympathise with the scheme, the time was inopportune. Hargrave responded by pointing out that the Council had a borrowing capacity in excess of £67,000 and were committed to £8,758 of debt repayment. A further loan of £3,000 would mean a half penny rate over 80 years which no ratepayer would feel. Opponents of the scheme claimed that local industry and business was declining as a result of the ongoing recession and would not stand for the extra financial strain. The ensuing vote narrowly favoured the scheme, however, thereby ensuring, in the words of the Chairman, that the Council had "made themselves responsible" for provision of the playing fields. (16)

The possibility of obtaining money by means of individual subscription had been raised during the Council’s discussion. The furtherance of such a course was, however, dependant upon provision of a specific object to serve as a target for public attention by providing a tangible dimension rather than the abstract aspiration which had hitherto characterised the project. The necessary element was provided by means of a letter in June 1929, to the new Chairman of the K.U.D.C., Cr. Horace Bentley, from Mr. C.J. Jackson. The letter stated Jackson’s willingness to sell Green House Field for £1,000, subject to certain conditions. (17)

Jackson, owner of The Hall, formerly known as Marine Villa, now residing at Deal, Kent, had attempted to sell the land both privately and publicly since inheriting the estate of William Jackson in 1918. (17) Following the failure of protracted negotiations with Knottingley War Memorial Committee on the dual issue of price and condition (19) an abortive attempt had been made to secure a sale by public auction but this had merely attracted a single bid of £1,700 for the entire estate (of which Green House Field was a sub element) which was rejected. The estate had then been divided up and offered in various lots but again withdrawn from sale due to insufficient bids. (20) Jackson’s offer to the Council of the Green House Field therefore represented a concealed but somewhat desperate attempt to be shot of the land and the attainment of a higher price for the same than normal commercial considerations could obtain. Nevertheless, the proposed sale was hedged with conditions. One such was that the Council should erect a fence from the corner of the railway bridge at the Spawd Bone Lane end of the land to the entrance of a field known as Pigeon Cote Field, belonging to Jackson, situated adjacent to Green House Field on the western boundary. The Council was also to take over full responsibility for maintenance of the dividing wall which separated the two fields. In addition, Jackson sought to retain right of access and of carriage over the Green House Field. (21) Despite such impositions the Council was in favour of obtaining the land offered but was constrained by lack of available money to enable immediate purchase of the site. It was therefore decided that the Town Clerk should write to Mr. R. Clive, Secretary of the Miners Welfare Fund, to ascertain whether a grant could be obtained from that source. (22) Two months later the Clerk reported to the Council that no reply had as yet been received from the Miners Welfare Association and Jackson was pressing for a response to his offer to dispose of the land. Reluctantly the Council resolved to let the matter stand in abeyance pro tem. (23) Meanwhile, the public, being made aware of Jackson’s offer, commenced a series of fund raising efforts. In October 1929, Mr. Jackson Morris on behalf of the local Playing Fields Committee, obtained permission to place a poster in the front window of the Town Hall advertising a street collection throughout the town on the 26th of the month. (24) Further, in the hope of obtaining its support, the K.U.D.C. had meanwhile nominated Cr. H. Gregg as its representative on the Executive Committee of the National Playing Fields Association, after initially ignoring the request of the Association for such representation. (25)

Foremost in realising the necessity for playing field facilities both in terms of general utility and as a specific venue for school sports days and field sports, were the local teachers. It is unsurprising therefore that the Knottingley teachers were at the forefront of fundraising activities. Mr. T.W. Coates, Chairman of the Knottingley Education Sub Committee, had been prominent in the revival of the playing fields project in 1927 and no less active were Messrs. E. Treadgold, J. Morris, and E. France, together with other colleagues within the teaching profession.

One innovative idea which was ultimately to pass into the folklore of the town, was undertaken by the teachers on Saturday 26th October 1929, when the local teachers organised a mile of pennies. The effort raised the sum of £32-8-5 towards the target of £1,000. Whilst donations from Bagley & Co., and sundry organisations and individuals made up the bulk of the money raised to enable the eventual purchase of the playing fields site, it is the mile of pennies which has stuck in the collective memory of the citizens of Knottingley, resulting in the erroneous and indeed, wishful belief that the event was the major (if not sole) source of funding which enabled the purchase of the Green House Field. (26)

Commenting on the subject of playing field provision the Editor of the Pontefract and Castleford Express under the headline "WELL DONE TEACHERS", stated early in 1931,

"The commendable project of the provision of playing fields for the schoolchildren of Knottingley has received only lukewarm support. Apart from some members of the Urban District Council who have done their utmost in the matter, and a few friends, only the school teachers have shown practical interest in the need. Some time ago they gave it a good fillip by introducing a ‘mile of pennies’ and on Friday they followed with a military whist drive and dance held in the Town Hall."

In spite of bad weather the event was a huge success, the teachers providing both the prizes and the refreshments, proceeds realising over £25. (27)

The following month the teachers in association with the local Playing Fields Committee organised a Shrovetide carnival, again held in the Town Hall. Approximately 500 children and adults attended the event and contributed to the sum of £90, which was later handed to the Playing Fields Fund. (28)

In March 1931, it was announced that the effort by the Playing Fields Committee to obtain the Green House Field was near completion and that the Committee had asked to Council if it was willing to assume responsibility for the site when purchased and fully equipped. The scheme was described in the local press as "the grandest thing in Knottingley." (29)

Jackson’s offer to sell the land whilst provisionally accepted with the unanimously expressed thanks of the Playing Fields Committee who after four years of generally unproductive meetings desired some tangible development, was not confirmed until November, 1930. (30) At a meeting on Tuesday 18th November, the Committee formally announced the purchase of the 9 ½ acre Greenhouse Close costing £400. (31) At the time of the announcement only half the sum required by the Committee was available and the principal purpose of the meeting was to discuss the way in which the balance could be obtained by voluntary means in order to avoid any increase in local rates. The Committee had every confidence in the support of the public for it was stated that time and time again it had been proved that there were no better givers than the people of Knottingley. The Treasurer, Cr. H. Gregg, stated that there was £181 in hand of which Bagley & Co., had given 100 guineas and Gregg & Co., 25 guineas. One innovative fund raising measure was the sale of plots of land at ten shillings per plot with a share certificate being issued in respect of each plot purchased. Presumably the certificates had a mere token value with no legal validity for few if any were retained by the purchasers, the writer being unable to locate a single one. (32)

A plan of the proposed lay-out of the land drawn up by the K.U.D.C. Surveyor, Mr. G.J. Laverick, was submitted to the meeting and the Chairman, Cr. G.P. Jackson, invited alternative suggestions. Laverick, who had previously been responsible for the lay-out of Bentley U.D.C. playing fields at a cost of £600 for children’s play apparatus, had estimated that to lay out and equip Knottingley playing fields with similar apparatus together with a paddling pool and sand pit, would cost about £2,000. The committee’s first priority was, however, to provide seats for the use of old people and a safe environment for the town’s children. It was decided to affiliate with the West Riding Playing Fields Association in the hope of obtaining a grant to enable the purchase of a slide, parallel bars and swings. Such development was left in abeyance, however, whilst priority was given to landscaping the site. A decision was taken to level the western side of the field in order to make a football pitch and utilise the natural contours to the south east as terraced flower beds with rockeries and rustic pathways. A natural bowl situated adjacent to Sleepy Valley, created as the result of previous limestone excavation, provided a sheltered area which was eminently suited to the eventual placement of the equipment for the children’s play area.

Cr. Jackson Morris stated his belief that up to 90% of the cost of levelling the site might be available from the government under a scheme to create work for the unemployed and that several organisations existed which, whilst unwilling to subscribe to the purchase of the site were willing to subscribe to equipment, including one body which might provide 80% of the cost involved. Morris had been informed of such sources by Cr. Millar of Castleford U.D.C., who had stated that of the two playing fields belonging to the Council, costing about £3,000, approximately £50 had been obtained by public subscription with most of the expenditure being met by various grants. (33)

A further consideration for the committee was whether the playing fields once obtained should be handed over to the care of the K.U.D.C. or placed in the hands of the trustees. It was eventually decided to approach the council to ascertain its willingness to undertake the future care and maintenance of the site. On the 4th March 1931, a deputation consisting of Messrs. Jackson Morris, Treadgold, Dobeson and Cr. J.A. MacDonald, met the council which was requested to accept the playing fields when purchased and fully equipped. As the spokesman for the delegation Morris recalled the years of difficulty faced by the Playing Fields Committee and the part played by the citizens of the town in subscribing the bulk of the money obtained. In asking the Council to accept custody of the site Morris asserted that the offer to the Council of playing fields fully paid for and equipped was "an opportunity which is unlikely to come the way of many other local authorities." (34)

Morris stated that while the initial appeal of the Committee for further public subscriptions was "cheering and satisfying" an intensive public appeal had not been made at that date as negotiations were still ongoing, albeit almost concluded. It was stated that the vendor was particularly anxious that once sold the land should remain as playing fields sine die with proper legal safeguard concerning future utilisation in order to prevent any possibility of it being used as building land. The vendor had therefore insisted that clauses be included in the draft agreement to ensure compliance with his wishes. The vendors stipulations had occasioned delay and until the negotiations were finally concluded no formal public appeal could be undertaken but Morris assured the Council that the Committee would not ask it to take responsibility until such time as all costs were met as the Committee did not wish to push the expense involved onto the ratepayers.

In response to councillors queries Morris reiterated that initially the cost to the Council would be ‘nothing’ and that should expenditure prove to be greater than presently anticipated the Committee would postpone the scheme for a further period until the project was fully paid for. Nevertheless, the Committee was anxious that the grounds be opened to the public as soon as possible but would not seek to impose conditions upon the Council for, as Mr. E. Treadgold pointed out, the Committee was established as a sub-committee of the K.U.D.C. and therefore; "We can have no conditions – you are the major committee, we are the minor one."

Admitting partial truth to the rumour then current within the town that unless negotiations were competed by a specific date the opportunity to purchase the land would be withdrawn by the vendor, Morris conceded that there had been some difficulty regarding negotiations. Any public scheme had opponents who were entitled to their opinions but he did not feel he should elaborate further. However, it became clear from subsequent questions and comments that enemies of the scheme had embarked upon "underneath work" which had attempted to show members of the Playing Fields Committee as being irresponsible by disseminating false information which coming to the notice of the vendor and his legal representatives, had almost succeeded in sabotaging the negotiations. Consequently, due to the efforts made "to knock their feet from under them" the Committee members had had "an uphill fight" to restore confidence before the vendor finally assured them that he would afford them every help to ensure a mutually satisfactory outcome to the negotiations. At that point the delegation withdrew and the Council went into private session to discuss the matter further. (35)

The matter appears to have remained unresolved however, for at a subsequent meeting of the K.U.D.C, the issue of the playing fields took up most of the session. At that meeting Cr. H. Bentley sought to refer back for further consideration a previous minute which had authorised the Chairman of the Council to join with the representatives of the Playing Fields Committee in signing a contract for the purchase of the Green House Fields.

Following the visit of the deputation from the Playing Fields Committee a discussion had arisen in Council concerning the desirability of the K.U.D.C. Chairman, who at that time was Cr. Bentley, being party to the contract of sale thereby obviating the necessity for two separate deeds of conveyance and thus reducing legal costs. However, Bentley, fearing the financial consequences of any default on the part of the signatories representing the Playing Fields Committee, perhaps as much for himself as for the towns ratepayers, contended that the Chairmans signature would ipso facto, "jeopardise the towns ratepayers to the tune of £400" (36) and therefore successfully proposed a motion "that the contract for the sale of Green House Field be not signed by the Chairman" at a council meeting held on the 25th March 1931.

At a subsequent meeting at which Bentley was not present, Cr. H. Gregg launched a rearguard action to have the minute rescinded and secured a minority vote for his resolution. To this action Bentley, now Chairman no longer, objected, maintaining that by signing the contract of sale his successor, Cr. G.P. Jackson, rendered the council fully responsible for the costs involved in the event of default or other circumstances effecting the signatories of the Playing Fields Committee. Bentley contended that whilst a playing field was desirable the town’s financial position made the time inopportune for the ratepayers to assume the potential burden of debt.

In pointing out that the minutes were merely a confirmation of the accuracy of the business undertaken in Council meetings and had no legal commitment severally or singularly the Town Clerk also sought to allay Bentley’s fears by stating that the money involved in the land purchase had already been paid. At this point Bentley, somewhat grudgingly withdrew his objection.

The Chairman, Cr. G.P. Jackson, confirmed that he had in fact signed the Purchase Agreement and that the money had been paid to the vendor, Mr. Jackson. The Chairman also stated that he had been promised £100 towards the cost of equipping the playing field. It is interesting to note that while the purchase money had been paid to the vendor the money was not fully obtained at that time for Cr. Gregg in emphasising that the sum was guaranteed revealed that only £280 was to hand, leaving a further £180 to be raised. (37)

A further point of incidental interest was the assertion of Cr. H. Bentley that in observing the terms of the original Council resolution and refusing to sign the agreement of sale concerning the Green House Field he had been the victim of malicious rumours and even threats emanating from certain, but unnamed members of the Playing Fields Committee. (38) The deplorable nature of such conduct is indicative of the intensity of the feeling in Knottingley concerning the playing fields issue at that time and was the precursor of similarly heightened passions almost forty years later when the playing fields were again regarded as being under threat from an element within Knottingley Council.

The conveyance of 9 acres, 1 rood, 29 perches of land known as Green House Close was signed and dated 8th August 1931. (39) The signatories on behalf of the Playing Fields Committee were Cr. James Alexander McDonald and Cr. John Percival Jackson, the latter also signing in his capacity as the Chairman of K.U.D.C. The terms of the deed of conveyance imposed a number of obligations and restrictions upon the purchasers. Several concerned the erection and maintenance of boundary fences and walls including prohibition of access along the path between Spawd Bone Lane and Marine Villa Road which was eventually opened to the public. Other clauses prevented the construction of buildings on the site except for those such as a pavilion or clubhouse to be erected in the context of recreational usage. No trade or business was allowed and the sale of intoxicating liquor was prohibited. It was further stipulated that all games, sports and other events permitted "shall be conducted in an orderly manner without causing a nuisance or annoyance to the Vendor or owners and occupiers of the adjoining and neighbouring land."

The Vendor also asserted his right of access "with or without horses, carts, traction engines and other vehicles ……. Cattle and other beasts" over the roadway across Green House Close between Hill Top and his property and also his right of way over the footpath running the length of the Close between Hill Top and Spawd Bone Lane. (40)

Despite such constraints the K.U.D.C. adopted the playing field, affixing the seal of the Council and forming a sub-committee to draft by-laws, the members being Cr. G.P. Jackson (Chairman), Cr. W. Robinson, Cr. E. Treadgold and Cr. H. Gregg. (41)

By Spring 1932, the Council had begun to seek organisational funding for the lay-out and equipping of the site, submitting a copy of the conveyance to the Secretary of the National Playing Fields Association to reinforce the Council’s application for a grant from that body. An approach was also made to the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. The former organisation indicated its willingness to make a grant of £25 and the latter the sum of £75. The grant of the N.P.F.A. was conditional upon the Council giving "a formal undertaking dedicating the land as a public recreation ground in perpetuity."

Consequently, at a general meeting of the Council held on the 2nd March 1932, it was resolved on a motion by Cr. H. Gregg, seconded by Cr. J. Brown (Vice Chairman), that "… the Council dedicate the land for permanent preservation for public recreation and undertake not to appropriate or use the same for any other purpose without obtaining [government] consent to do so." (42)

The task of landscaping the playing field provided a limited but useful opportunity to engage local unemployed people and in December 1932, the Playing Fields Sub-Committee was hurriedly reappointed in order that its chairman could take his place on another Council committee established with the aim of finding work for local unemployed men who were victims of the ongoing economic depression. (43) It would appear that the project was a long term one, reliant for the most part on manual labour. At a Council meeting on the 7th February 1934, Cr. Brown reported that he had undertaken an inspection of the playing field area together with the Surveyor who had informed him that he estimated that 12 men could complete the levelling work in a fortnight. The Surveyor was therefore to engage the men for a further fortnight, commencing 12th February 1934. (44)

The cost of the work was estimated at £380 which appears to have been charged to two Council sources viz:-

Labour £301-19-0
Team Labour £  22-4-0
Total £324-3-0
Labour £  56-8-6
Total £380-11-6

The work was not completed according to the time estimated however, for at a further Council meeting held on the 25th April 1934, it was resolved that the Playing Field Committee would convene at the site the following Monday evening to decide how the levelling of the site should be completed. (45)

Meanwhile, the Committee had devised schemes for the development of the amenities within the park. As early as mid September 1932, a report was presented in full Council featuring the construction of public lavatories at an estimated cost of £145 and also a shelter for old men costing £50. A recommendation was also made for the purchase of wire litter baskets for use the following Spring and the Clerk was instructed to make enquiries concerning the purchase of a drinking fountain also to be installed the following year. (46)

With regard to the latter item the Council received a letter in July 1933 from the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association indicating their willingness to present the town with a ‘Granolithic Bubble Drinking Fountain’. A condition of the donation was that the Council would erect and maintain the fountain and supply it with "pure, wholesome water." (47)

The offer was accepted on this condition with the grateful thanks of the Council and the following month the Surveyor reported that the fountain was being erected on a spot within the playing fields selected by the K.U.D.C. Chairman, Cr. H. Gregg. (48 The position chosen was in the middle of the central path connecting Hill Top with Spawd Bone Lane, a somewhat unfortunate choice for it was seen in situ shortly thereafter by the vendor, Mr. Jackson, who objected to the location, probably on the grounds that the centrally situated fountain constituted an obstacle to the transit of vehicular traffic and therefore infringed his legal right of passage along the central path. (49) The fountain was therefore relocated to a position alongside the pathway, opposite the public conveniences, close to the Hill Top entrance.

Even after the purchase of the playing fields and their adoption by the town council the subject was not free from controversy. A fundamental issue concerned the use to which the area should be put, whether as its name suggested the space should be purely a play area for children or, alternatively, a recreation ground for the townspeople in general.

By July 1934, when the levelling of the Greenhouse Field had reached an advanced stage and the childrens’ paddling pool was almost completed, a meeting of the Council decided to implement a full scheme of development to provide facilities for adults, including a tennis court and a bowling green. (50) The proposal met with some opposition, particularly from Cr. Daniel O’Driscoll who stated that the original idea was to provide playing fields for children. O’Driscoll claimed that the proposed facilities for adults would add £1,400 to the original cost, plus £200 per annum for caretakers wages. The establishment of the playing fields had been influenced by posters showing children playing around street lamps but, said O’Driscoll, he didn’t recall seeing pictures of tennis or bowls being played in back alleys. The proposed facilities would be used by a ‘select few’, claimed O’Driscoll. The remark obviously touched a raw nerve as far as Cr. Burton Arnold was concerned. Did the term ‘Select Few’ refer to Council members, he asked, and was assured by O’Driscoll that he merely meant the minority of townsfolk who played tennis or bowls.

In reply to O’Driscoll’s strong criticism, Cr. E. Treadgold, who was largely responsible for the design of the proposed lay-out of the recreational facilities, said that the playing fields were for everybody. The proposed scheme had been placed before the public and had received approval. By adopting a comprehensive scheme the Council had qualified for a grant from the N.P.F. Association which would seek a refund if the scheme was curtailed.

O’Driscoll’s motion being put to the vote, resulted in a tie, with five votes for each side. The Chairman, Cr. H. Gregg, therefore gave the casting vote against the motion and the scheme received the go ahead. (51) Lack of a clear mandate and the problem of funding the scheme at a time of economic recession resulted in delay in the implementation of the plan which, however, remained a long term objective.

At a K.U.D.C. meeting on Wednesday 3rd June 1936, Cr. Treadgold suggested that a bandstand be erected in the park as a memorial to the late King George V, at a cost of £250. The maverick Cr. O’Driscoll objected to the proposal on the grounds that such expenditure could hardly be justified when the Council could not afford to employ an extra man to keep the streets clean. O’Driscoll also claimed the idea should be disregarded since the Playing Fields Committee was now ‘a dying committee’, a charge vehemently denied by Treadgold. It was therefore decided that if the said committee presented a formal proposal the Council would further consider it. (52)

The following month it was announced that the Council had decided to undertake a comprehensive programme of enhancement with provision of a bowling green, two hard surface tennis courts, a putting green and a bandstand. The Surveyor was asked to prepare estimates of the cost, including the purchase of an additional 500 square yards of land at the rear of The Close, from Mr Tom Jackson, to enable extension of the football pitch. The members of the Playing Fields Committee were also to visit Selby and Whitwood to view the childrens’ play apparatus. In addition, the Council approved plans for the erection in the park of a caretaker’s bungalow.

Again, Cr. O’Driscoll objected, stating that it was unfair to take space from the children and that the time was inopportune in any case. O’Driscoll said those who wanted bowls or tennis should pay for them, but he did support the proposal for a full-time caretaker, claiming that there was wide awareness of indecent behaviour taking place within the playing fields. O’Driscoll’s brother, who was the part-time caretaker, had claimed that supervision was a full-time job but the Committee, aware of the expense involved had recommended no change at that time. Support was given to O’Driscoll by Cr. Horace Bentley but Cr. Treadgold opposed, stating that no complaints of misconduct had been made to the Committee. Treadgold reiterated that the playing fields were not merely for children but for all citizens of the town. In this assertion Treadgold was supported by the majority who saw provision of recreational facilities as a remunerative measure which would subsidise the cost of a full-time attendant. The recommendations were therefore carried. (53)

From the moment that the public was granted access to the grounds the need for supervision became apparent. In June 1932, Mr. L. Hartley who had purchased the Hall and grounds from Mr. Jackson, wrote to the Council and complained of vandalism to his property. (54) There were also complaints from the public of cycles being ridden in the playing fields contrary to the by-laws. (55) The problem was to prove a perpetual one with many cyclists using the path through the playing field as a short cut between Spawd Bone Lane and Hill Top. (56) The frequent and extensive use of this route, combined with the rapid increase in motorised traffic using the Weeland Road along Hill Top, posed increasing danger of accident making it necessary by the mid 1930s to post warning signs drawing attention to the potential hazard. (57)

A further issue was trespass caused by people obtaining access to the playing fields during the hours of closure via Knottingley Town Cricket Field or Sleepy Valley, the home of Bagley’s Rec[reation] Rugby League Club, both situated alongside the playing fields. Strongly worded letters were despatched to the respective secretaries of the two clubs asking them to prevent such access. The secretary of the Rugby Club turned the tables however, by requesting the Council to place notices at their side of the dividing fence to deter egress from the playing fields via Sleepy Valley. (58)

Meanwhile it was decided to close the park on Sundays and post notices regarding vandalism and misuse of the site and also engage a policeman between 4.00pm and 9.00pm each weekday evening for the period of one week in the hope of preventing such abuse. (59) The notices offered a reward of £2 for information regarding vandal damage. Not all vandalism was caused by anti-social elements within the town however, as shown by the decision of the Council to prosecute a Pontefract man apprehended by the local police. (60)

The most effective deterrent in the long term was considered to be the appointment of a caretaker to patrol and supervise the grounds. With the development of the amenities within the park the Playing Field Committee recommended that in place of the part-time attendant originally envisaged, the post should be a permanent full-time one involving supervisory duties from 6.00pm to 10.00pm weekday evenings and 1.00pm to 10.00pm Sundays. (61) It was not until May 1935 however, that advertisements were placed with applicants being asked to state the remuneration required. (62)

The advertisement for the post drew 18 applicants. Opinions were divided whether to appoint one from the total number of applicants or shortlist four and on the casting vote of the Chairman of the Playing Field Committee, Cr. E. Treadgold, the latter course was adopted. (63) However, in keeping with the K.U.D.C. policy of providing work for the unemployed it was decided that only residents of the town would be short-listed. Six applicants were selected for interview, only one of whom had featured on the original shortlist drawn up two months earlier. On the 19th August 1935, Mr. Pat O’Driscoll was appointed, to commence duty from Friday 28th August at a wage of £2-10-0 per week. (64)

O’Driscoll, a towering figure with a stiff military bearing and a stentorian voice that gainsaid any defiance of his authority, was undoubtedly the correct choice. Serving for more than seventeen years until his retirement in 1952, O’Driscoll became something of a legend to several generations of Knottingley schoolchildren, including the writer, and long after his retirement and death people within the town looked back on his tenure of the playing fields as being a ‘golden age’. (65)

With the appointment of a caretaker the playing fields were once again opened on Sundays but somewhat surprisingly the children’s swings were locked up on that day. (66) A feature of Sunday’s in the park was band concerts. Initially an application by Knottingley Silver Prize Band to give Sunday evening concerts of sacred music was rejected by the Council (67) and even as late as 1935 a decision to allow the Castleford St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Silver Band to hold a summer concert was rescinded. (68) However, in 1933 it was agreed to allow Knottingley Silver Prize Band to provide Sunday concerts in the summer season from 2.45pm to 4.30pm and 7.45pm to 9.15pm with a collection at the entrances to the playing fields for the Band funds. The decision appears to have been subject to an element of doubt for having agreed to allow the Band to perform each Sunday the Council then amended the arrangement to two Sundays per month. (69) The inaugural concert took place in July 1933 and was attended by a large crowd, the programme being reported to be "all in good taste". (70) but gave rise to consideration of the provision of seating specifically for use by the audience (72) and a paved area to provide a base on which the musicians would perform was also planned. Yet despite the obvious popularity of the concerts and the report that "next year may see a bandstand" it was not until 1951 that provision of a purpose built ornamental bandstand received practical consideration. (73)

Much of the cost of equipping the playing fields came from grants and loans. The grants appear to have been of a retrospective nature for a letter from the National Playing Fields Association in early 1933 stated that a grant of £100 would be forthcoming as soon as the projected sum of £198 had been spent on the specified equipment. Simultaneously, the Town Clerk was instructed to work out loan charges which would cover the cost of the scheme being prepared by the Surveyor. (74)

The Council, mindful of the economic depression of the period and its consequences for local rates, particularly those contributed by the local business community, had adopted a policy of festina lente regarding the development of the playing fields. However, Cr. J. Millar of Castleford who had been instrumental in the establishment of that towns playing fields, advised the K.U.D.C. to adopt a bolder, more comprehensive approach. The National Playing Fields Association it was advised, were empowered to advance up to one sixth of the capital cost of a full development scheme with the West Riding County Council adding a further 10%. Further sources of finance Millar suggested could be obtained via local ‘flag days’ for which the N.P.F. Association would provide posters and literature. (75) The K.U.D.C. seem to have adopted this last suggestion with enthusiasm and several such flag days were held, the first one taking place on the 21st April 1934. (76)

A further minor source of revenue was obtained through the issue of licences to local vendors to sell ice-cream, sweets and light refreshments in the playing fields. Commencing in 1935 with rival applications from R. Millett of Aire Street and Louis Valente of Chapel Street, the licence to sell ice-cream was keenly sought. (77) In the event both applications were rejected and the first recipient of a licence was Louis Massarella who was also successful in obtaining renewal of his permit the following year. (78) Massarella had obtained the licence by offering the sum of two guineas for the right to sell ice-cream inside the entrance to the playing fields. The offer, although accepted, it was next agreed by the Council that henceforth the licence fee should be one guinea for ratepaying vendors and two guineas for non-ratepayers. (79) By 1938 however, the licence had become subject to tender with Massarella’s offer of three guineas in June that year outbidding the two guineas bid by Valente. (80) Massarella was himself considerably outbid many years later when in 1955 his offer of three guineas was topped by an offer of £5 from D. Lewis & Son who had acquired the former Valente site in Chapel Street. The differential pricing whilst indicative of the emergent inflation of the post war decades also reveals the ongoing popularity of the playing fields and the consequent viability of the site as a sales outlet. (81)

The proposal to erect public toilets in the playing fields gave rise to consideration of the installation of 1/2d slot doors for access to the conveniences although this decision, taken in conjunction with the proposal to construct the toilets with glazed brick interiors, may have owed as much to considerations of public hygiene and anti-vandalism as to the generation of income from use of the amenity. (82) Indeed, in mid 1935 the Playing Fields Committee made provision for gates to be installed at the entrance to the public conveniences in an attempt to prevent access at times when the playing fields were officially closed. (83)

Dr. Terry Spencer

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