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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

circa. 1750 – 1998

by TERRY SPENCER B.A.(Hons), Ph D. (1998)



When John Carter succeeded his father as the head of Gaggs, Carter & Co., in 1836, the brewery business entered a phase of considerable expansion. A significant feature of this expansion was the acquisition of retail outlets for the firms products.

Some public houses were obtained through annual rental, others through longer term leases but most were by means of company purchase with a number being bought by John Carter in a private capacity and re-let to the brewery company.

The houses controlled by the brewery were located in Knottingley, Pontefract and neighbouring villages in the early years but the advent of the railway system provided scope for geographical expansion and when the firm was sold by George William Carter in 1892, the brewery’s properties covered a radius of more than thirty miles from Knottingley. The full history of the company’s tied houses is recorded elsewhere and only those properties situated in Knottingley and Ferrybridge are relevant to this study. (1) Of such properties the earliest recorded is the Anchor Inn, Aire Street, which was purchased by John Carter in a personal capacity at an unknown date, probably following his coming of age in 1823 and certainly before 1837. (2) The Rising Sun and eight cottages were purchased in 1827. (3)

An indication of the ongoing prosperity of the brewery company even at that early period in its history, may be obtained from the fact that many of the pubs purchased were integral parts of larger lots which included cottages and outbuildings which added considerably to the overall cost of each public house. Nevertheless, shortly after taking control of the brewery three public houses were purchased by Carter for the company, the Ship Inn, (4) the Duke of York, (5) and the Royal Oak. (6) A number of cottages accompanying these purchases were used to house brewery workers whilst the majority of such units were rented out to the public at large. As a result of the enforced acquisitions the Carter’s, who in 1836 had very little property beyond the Mill Close brewery and the adjacent family residence, Lime Grove, were amongst the leading property owners within the town half a century later.

The 1850s witnessed the purchase of further Knottingley public houses. The Red Lion, together with a garden, two cottages, a butchers shop and accompanying slaughter house, was obtained in 1850. (7) In May 1852, the Bay Horse was purchased. (8) Thus, by 1857 the company owned five public houses in Knottingley, plus the one belonging to John Carter which was leased back to the brewery. (9)

Despite the fact that the company sought to obtain licensed premises to ensure retail outlets for their expanding production, it did on occasion close down a purchased property. Such a fate had befallen the Hen & Chickens public house, Pontefract, which had been obtained by Gaggs, Carter & Co. in 1813. (10) Where such closures occurred one may conject that the premises were too dilapidated to be usefully retained but were acquired in order to prevent the licence falling into the hands of a potential rival.

The Greyhound Inn was just such a rival house, presenting competition to those supplied by Gaggs, Carter & Co, for more than twenty years from the 1830s until, following the death of William Bywater, the premises passed to his son, John, who retained ownership of the property but allowed the now renamed John Carter & Co., a lease which thereby gave Carter effective control of the inn. John Bywater’s widow, Hannah Martha, married John Carter, becoming his third wife on the 11th April, 1872, eighteen months before his death, but the inn remained her personal possession, being rented to the company on an annual basis. (11) The ownership of the Greyhound may have formed part of the marriage settlement for H.M. Carter’s name also occurs in connection with the leasehold of the Black Poney (sic), Pontefract, in 1874. (12)

The name of George Sefton of Knottingley is recorded as the owner of an unnamed public house within the town in 1857. (13) Sefton appears to have relied upon Gaggs, Carter & Co., for his liquor supply for the company is on record as supplying beer to Sefton’s house, known as the Mariner’s Arms Inn, in 1861. (14) A reduction in the rent paid by the brewery in 1868, may be an indication of declining trade, and a valuation fee made in respect of the premises the previous year may have been made in connection with the decline. (15) Little is known of the inn’s subsequent history, however, and the name of the inn disappears from the company records shortly afterwards. It therefore seems probable that the inn closed about that time.

The Limestone Inn also had a somewhat chequered history from the 1860s. Again, Carter’s appear to have obtained an agreement to victual the inn for company records reveal that by 1863 rent was being paid to William Jackson,a friend of John Carter and owner of the inn. (16) Following Jackson’s death the premises were purchased by a local farmer, George Hall, (17) who mortgaged the deeds of the inn as security for a loan of £200 from John Carter in 1867. (18) Two deeds of October 1867, confirm Hall as the owner and refer to the property as being"…now or late in the tenure of John Carter & Co." (19)

The name of the inn was changed by the new owner, an entry in the company records referring to the "Limestone or Lamb Inn". (20) The duality of name is also evident from a reference dated January 1871, which records that Hall had refunded the sum of five guineas to the brewery, being half the rent, through loss of the licence of the Limestone Inn. (21)

Loss of the licence resulted in the short-term closure of the inn and although the premises were purchased by Carter for £305 in September 1873, doubtless in anticipation of the licence being restored. The Lamb Inn was the last public house to be purchased by John Carter before his death the following month, the purchase being made in his name but undertaken on behalf of the company. (22) The premises eventually re-opened but were not granted the status of a full licence for more than three decades until the licence was transferred from the Anchor Inn, Aire Street, when the latter closed in 1908. (23)

The Jolly Sailor was leased to the brewery company in 1841 for an initial period of seven years. (24) The lease was obtained from William Dey who had acquired the title to the inn from Mary Spence, widow of the original owner. The lease was renewed on the inn, together with its orchard, garden and adjacent garth, for a period of ten years, in October 1847. (25) At that date Dey deposited the deeds with John Carter as security for a loan of £175 and in August 1851, a further loan of £135 was obtained by William and Michael Dey from Carter, using the deeds to the inn as security. The loans were repaid by 1857 but Dey was clearly under an obligation to Carter for a formal accommodation concerning the lease of the inn for a further seven years was made in January 1858. (26) Later records indicate the reversion of the lease to an annual rental, an uncommon course in the context of the licensed trade. (27)

The concession obtained by John Carter through the indebtedness of William Dey is a typical example of how brewers in general obtained entry into licensed premises through rental and leasehold agreements, and indeed, often took possession of such premises due to default in the repayment of loans for which deeds had been surrendered as security, for the increase in trade competition had intensified the need to find new retail outlets from the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Nor did publicans necessarily regret the need for an accommodation for the brewer and the magistrate moved in the same social circles and in matters such as licence renewal, drunkenness and disorderly conduct on licensed premises and sundry aspects of law concerning the trade, the brewer was a useful ally for a publican to have.

In 1858, the brewery company rented the Buck Inn, Aire Street, from Aaron Hartley of Hunslet, at an annual rent of £35. A leasehold arrangement was entered into in August 1873, when the inn was taken, together with a group of nearby cottages for the sum of £50 per year. (28) The inn and additional properties were ultimately purchased by George William Carter, who is the recorded owner in 1881. (29)

The Anvil Inn also provided a retail outlet for the brewery by 1869 and on the 16th May 1874, was purchased together with the nearby Bridge House and a stable, "Formerly a blacksmith’s shop", from John Bentley, for the sum of £1,000. (30)

As the most imposing licensed premises in Knottingley, the Railway Hotel attracted the interest of John Carter who rented the property in 1861. (31) At that time the inn traded under its original name of the Royal Albert Hotel. The owner, Christopher Sturdy, was declared bankrupt and John Carter, as one of his principal creditors, filed a claim against him. (32) As a result, Carter obtained possession of the hotel site and its surrounding land which included a malthouse lying to the west of the inn site. (33) The deed of settlement is somewhat ambiguous in its terminology but it would appear that whatever rights of possession were applicable to Carter they did not confer outright ownership of the premises which are stated to be occupied by William Earnshaw. From this statement and the fact that the premises were thenceforth known locally as Earnshaw’s Hotel, it would appear that Earnshaw was the owner of the inn. Whatever the legal technicalities arising from the settlement of Sturdy’s affairs it is apparent that Carter was not the owner of the property for in December 1871, he made a deposit of £40, representing 10% of the agreed purchase price of £1,300. (34) The balance was paid on the 5th February 1872 when the brewery became the outright owner of the premises. (35) The hotel is today the only one remaining of the three which formerly occupied sites close to the Railway Station and has in fact outlasted the original station which it was designed to serve for the station site is now merely a designate stopping place on the Wakefield – Goole line. The Railway Hotel also has the distinction of having housed more publicans than any other licensed premises within the town.

Following the death of John Carter on the 6th October 1873, the administration of the brewery devolved on his only son, George William Carter. A graduate of Calus College, Cambridge, and a barrister of Grey’s Inn, Carter had only become a formal partner in the brewery firm in March 1872. (36) As the company head, George Carter continued the ‘tied house’ policy begun by his father some forty years earlier. Whereas John Carter had launched his expansionist plans in generally favourable circumstances, his successor was less fortunate. Not only had social and technical change resulted in increased competition within the trade but the advocates of temperance had made substantial inroads into the social conscience of society. The legislative measures affecting licence control introduced by the Liberal Government in 1869 and 1872 were influenced by the anti-liquor agitation. The effect of the legislation was a decline in the number of licensed premises which created market demand and increased competition between rival brewery chains as they vied to outbid each other for control of the existing outlets. The situation was exacerbated due to population growth, particularly in the industrialised urban areas where long and arduous working conditions created rising consumption of alcohol by the labouring classes. Thus, although the property market was stabilised by legislative constraint, the increased degree of competition, fuelled by increasing public demand, occasioned a sharp rise in the value of licensed properties.

Simultaneously, Knottingley brewery was faced with another unwelcome financial burden in the form of a revaluation of the local rate. As a result, the public houses within the town, most by now either owned or controlled by the company, were hit by a substantial increase.

In addition, the brewery buildings were re-valued, together with on site malt kilns, being increased from £142 and £96 respectively, to £361 in total, an increase of 66%. The proposed levy on the majority of the company’s public houses was accepted by the company but an appeal against the proposed revaluation of the five most severely hit was made. The appeal was unsuccessful however, and the firm was faced with the decision to increase the rents paid by its undertenants. Consequently, most of the publicans rents rose by an average of £2 per annum during the period 1876-84. (38)

Aided by the combined legal expertise of George Carter and his uncle William Edward Carter, head of the Pontefract based firm of solicitors who acted as the brewery’s legal representative, the company sought to tighten its control over its property holdings during the seventies and eighties. One aspect of this policy was the registration by the company of a trademark following the introduction of the Trade Marks Registration Act in 1875. The company’s trademark consisted of a talbot dog, derived from the family coat of arms, above monogrammed initials J C & Co. By the adoption of this device goods produced by the company were clearly identified and the public assured of genuine wares of the traditionally high standard on which the firms reputation was based.

The Boat Inn with its accompanying outbuildings was auctioned by Bentley & Son, the Knottingley auctioneers and valuers, in 1875. (39) Rather surprisingly the property was not acquired by Carter’s at that time. Perhaps the premises were withdrawn from sale for the records show that in 1877 they were still owned by the executors of the late owner, John Raddings, from whom the brewery purchased them in November 1888. (40) The property comprised a brewhouse, malt chamber, wash room, stable and piggeries, and three houses (formerly four) nearby. (41) Prior to the acquisition by Carter’s, the publican, John Hargrave, had brewed beer for sale exclusively on the premises and was therefore the last publican victualler’s who were once so common throughout the town. (42)

In the spring of 1878 the brewery company were presented with the opportunity to rent the Bee Hive Inn, when the publican owner, Thomas Nichols, died. (43) The property was rented from Mrs Mary Ann Nichols who remained as publican until on the 25th November 1879, she sold the inn to George Carter, together with its stable and surrounding garden, and retired to Stainforth, Doncaster. (44) The purchase was made in a private capacity and the property re-let to the brewery company at an annual rental of £40. (45)

Not all houses to which the brewery supplied beer were under the control of the company. An entry in the firm’s accounts dated 12th May 1880 shows,"Beaumont, Lime Keel, Knottingley, £2 for getting ale of us – 1 year to 2nd May, £90 worth as per agreement." (46)

James Beaumont, publican of the Lamb Inn, 1876-79, (47) appears to have acted as an agent for the brewery for on the 21st April 1882, a deposit of £47 was made in respect of the purchase of the Lime Keel, with an additional £10 being paid to Beaumont,"…for buying the [inn] for us." (48)

The balance of £423 was paid to a London based solicitor on behalf of the estate of the late owner, Hannah Barker. (49) The beerhouse had been sold by auction so it would appear that Beaumont, the sitting tenant, had bid on behalf of the brewery. (49) The role of Beaumont is somewhat curious. Had the inn been purchased privately his position as the publican might have been influential in its disposal by the vendor but in an auction, open to public bidders, such a possibility would be negated. It must therefore be surmised that the brewery company, perhaps wishing to keep a low profile in order to minimise expenditure by seeking to appear indifferent to the sale and thereby lower the financial expectations of the vendor, appointed Beaumont to act as an unofficial agent at the sale. The ploy was one adopted in connection with several other out of town acquisitions about that time. (50) As in such previous cases, considerable delay ensued before the company was able to take formal possession of the property. The balance of £423 was paid in June 1882, (51) but it was not until December that year that the sale was finalised. (52) In passing, it is worth noting the development of Racca Green was part of the ongoing change within the town about that time. The proposed scheme included the construction of a new road and footpaths across the Green to replace the age-old unmade path which had served the site since time immemorial. The new road was to follow a line along Cow Lane and connect with a second road running along the length of Back Lane (the Croft). (53) It is quite probable that Carter’s acquisition of the Lime Keel was to some extent at least, prompted by the awareness of the benefit the proposed civic development would confer on the trade of the inn for the projected road is mentioned in several deeds concerning the property at Racca Green purchased by Carter at that time.

The Wagon & Horses was acquired in a rather random way. In April 1875, the publican John Shay, mortgaged the inn and nine adjacent cottages, as security for a loan of £200 made by George William Carter. (54) Shay’s financial problems appear to have proved to be intractable for by November the following year William Barker gave up his tenancy of the Bee Hive and was installed as the inn-keeper, renting a stable and chamber from Carter which formed part of the range of buildings known as King’s Houses. (55) From this it would appear that the mortgaged properties belonged to Carter at this time, a fact confirmed by an entry in the records of the brewery company, dated 25th May, 1880, noting the repayment of Shay’s loan and stating"This property, near the Wagon & Horses Inn has been purchased from Shay by George Wm. Carter Esq., as his private property and not for the brewery." (56)

It would appear that Shay’s loan had been settled by means of Carter’s purchase and whilst the entry makes no specific reference to the inn, its purchase is confirmed by a deed of sale of the same date. (57) The change in the tenancy is itself an indication of changed ownership for the installation of a different publican was usual following the acquisition of licensed premises. The practise was increasingly followed by the 1880s when the growing influence of the temperance movement caused brewers to exercise greater vigilance in respect of the selection of sub-tenants. A respectable publican who curbed drunkenness and co-operated with the police in the maintenance of public order was a most desirable tenant.

1880 was also the year when the brewery acquired the Cherry Tree Inn. A deposit of £165 was paid to Joseph Brown in respect of the purchase of the inn, dwelling house, with barbers shop and stables on the 18th June 1880. (58) The balance of £1,440 was paid on the 4th August when the sale was completed. (59)

The Commercial Hotel, Hill Top, which despite its imposing title was generally described as a beerhouse, even in the company records, was added to the list of company houses through purchase at auction on the 1st July 1880. (60) Although the sale included lad to the east side of the inn, and the premises were situated in a prime location to attract the passing trade, they lacked the spaciousness of the nearby Railway Hotel which stood almost opposite. Nevertheless, the Commercial may have drawn an element of the trade from its grander neighbour and this may be the reason why the brewery decided to buy the premises. That the acquisition was surplus to the company’s requirement is obvious for within a short space of time following its purchase, the Commercial was leased to a rival brewery company, Mitchell Bros., of Castleford, at a rent of £20 per year. (61) That Carter’s could allow a rival chain to sell its beer in close proximity to their most prestigious house speaks volumes for the confidence of the Knottingley firm in the superiority of its brews and underlines the recent assertion concerning the poor quality of Mitchells beer. (62) The rental by Mitchells appears to have resulted in the sale of the property by Carters for by 1884, Mitchell Bros. Are shown as the owners of a public house and shop at Hill Top, under the tenancy of George Middleton. (63)

On the 20th January 1887, the Aire Street Hotel was bought. The property consisted of a dwelling house and shop, which had formerly served as a dram shop but was stated at the time of purchase to be a single building used as a wine and spirit vault and barber’s shop. (64) The vendors were the Lomas family who at some earlier date must have acquired the premises from the erstwhile owner, George Greenhow. William Holmes. landlord of the Hotel, is first recorded as a wine and spirit merchant in 1871 which may provide an approximate date for the transition of the dram shop into a wine and spirit vault and also perhaps, an indication of the change of owner. (65) Although the premises retained the name of the Aire Street Hotel almost until the eve of the Second World War, there is evidence that following his purchase of the property, George Carter assigned a part of the premises for use as the Conservative Club, a function it continued to serve until the club moved to its present Hill Top site about 1922. (66)

A Ferrybridge inn owned by Carter’s from January 1885 was the Willow Tree. Situated in the High Street, the premises had an interesting history, being part of a series of buildings which had once formed part of the town’s prison and latterly converted into dwelling houses. (67) The inn premises also had another claim to fame, one of the recent residents being Joshua Arnall, co-inventor of the first successful glass bottle-making machine. (68)

Perhaps the Carter house of which least is known is the Three Horse Shoes. The inn was situated at Racca Green and appears to have been re-established during the ‘beer boom’ of the 1830s, although operating as a fully licensed premises. (69) The inn was bought by Carter’s sometime before 1866 for a single reference within the company books relates to the premium paid on the property insurance and dated 29th September 1866. (70) Thereafter, the name disappears from public view and it may only be assumed that the premises were closed down before the end of the decade.

However essential tied public houses may have been for the continued prosperity of the brewery companies, tied houses meant tied drinkers who had to endure the conditions imposed upon them by the controlling brewery. Despite changes and alterations to make licensed premises more comfortable and appealing in the closing decades of the nineteenth century many local public houses continued to present an ‘old fashioned’ image to the public and consequently attracted only modest trade. Even when Carters’ Knottingley Brewery was taken over by Bentleys’ Yorkshire Breweries in 1935, any attempt to improve the overall standard of the properties acquired was stifled by the adverse economic conditions of the decade and the advent of the Second World War. The immediate post-war period was one of austerity and material shortages so that even by the mid 1960s when Whitbread, the giant London based brewery company took control of the former Carter holdings, the appearance and ambience of the remaining public houses in Knottingley was little changed from almost a century earlier. Consequently, a process of economic rationalisation commenced which resulted in the closure and demolition of some premises and the modernisation of those adjudged to have a viable future.

Terry Spencer, 1998



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