Knottingley and Ferrybridge Online West Yorkshire
Amazon Advertisements
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)



Owing to the shortage of materials which was a feature of post war austerity it was not until the late 1950s that work could recommence on the previously abandoned public house at Morley Close, England lane. Official approval for the completion of the premises was given by the Licensing Authority on the 16th November 1957. Meanwhile, the White Swan Inn, Hill Top, which had been scheduled for closure was granted a provisional licence pending its eventual transfer to the new public house. In May the following year a request for the renewal of the White Swan’s provisional licence was refused and the inn was closed. Shortly thereafter the building was demolished, a deplorable loss of a unique element of the town’s heritage. The transfer of the licence to the new premises was accompanied by the transfer of the name; the new public house opening on the 11th February 1961 as the White Swan Inn. (1)

It is doubtful if the pubs erected near the new council house estates ever reached the envisaged trade potential for the post war decades saw the introduction of television into the majority of homes, with a widened choice of programme available following the establishment of the commercial channels in 1955. Many people resorted to drinking at home whilst viewing, their tastes catered for by an increase in ‘off licence’ sales and the ‘beer at home’ policy adapted by some of the larger breweries in an effort to maximise their sales by cashing in on the latest public trend. The trend was reinforced by the introduction of the breathaliser in 1967. A report in the Pontefract and Castleford Express of the 19th October, stated a drop in local public house sales by between 25-50 per cent of normal consumption had occurred during the first week following the introduction of the new legal measure.

Post war prosperity based on full employment which was standard in the 1960s, not only boosted the sales of television sets but also of motor cars. People were using their new-found mobility to travel further afield for recreation and entertainment and the new social trends resulted in the further decline of the town’s public houses. Many, already on the verge of insolvency, became completely unviable. Others, particularly those in the Low End – Aire Street areas were the victims of the slum clearance policy of the local council which involved the indiscriminate destruction of Aire Street and the adjoining parts of the town. The implications of these social developments were foreseen by the public house owners who undertook a large scale reorganisation of their holdings, resulting in the closure of the majority of the town’s licensed premises during the late sixties and early seventies.

The Duke of York Inn led the way. The fate of this inn had hung in the balance for some years. Giving evidence to the Compensation Authority in June 1968, Sergeant A. Masters reported visists to the inn on fifteen separate occasions between November and December 1967, with no customers present at any time. It was stated that although the premises were clean the facilities left a lot to be desired. A spokesman for Bentley’s Yorkshire Breweries declared the Police Report as "fair and correct", adding"Quite frankly, neither present or potential trade warrants money being spent on the premises."

Consequently, renewal of the licence was refused and it only remianed to await the expiration of the current licence in August and effect the closure. Like the White Swan, the Duke of York was demolished soon after its closure. (2)

In Aire Street, the Wagon & Horses and the Buck Inn were closed as the result of compulsory purchases orders served by the Urban District Council. The Wagon & Horses closed its doors for the last time in 1970, although its licence was effective until the following February. The Buck, sold to Allied Breweries in November 1970, was closed in September 1972, its licence suspended following another compulsory purchase order by the Council.

The Roper’s Arms closed in March 1971, although the licence was not immediately surrendered. March 1971 also saw the closure of the Red Lion, Fernley Green. The inn had been closed briefly in November 1965 while structural alterations were undertaken. The redesigned premises did not revive trade, however, and although at the date of its closure the licence was retained, it was surrendered in June 1971, not being required when the premises were sold shortly afterwards. The site was purchased by the Hope Glassworks who demolished the building in order to enlarge the glassworks site.

For almost a quarter of a century the Lime Keel stood empty and derelict following its closure in January 1973. Whitbreads, who had recently taken over Bentley’s Yorkshire Brewery, decided there was no economic value in the inn remaining open and therefore surrendered the licence. The premises were ultimately abandoned and the site, like that of the Mariner’s Arms, lying next door, stands empty and unused at the time of writing.

Another former Carter house which was demolished shortly after closure was the Boat Inn, sitauted on the canalside at the eastern end of Sunny Bank. The original plan envisaged the transfer of the Boat Inn licence to new premises to be erected at Hill Top and provisionally named as the Hill Top Hotel. Following three years of indecision and delay, the scheme was aborted and when the provisional licence expired in February 1977, it was not renewed. The Boat Inn was then closed and demolished although a remnant of a former outbuilding is still discernible on the former site. (3)

It is unsurprising that the plan to build a new hotel never came to fruition. Indeed, given the social changes of the 1960s the only surprise is that the scheme merited consideration. As early as March 1938 the sole remaining hotel in central Knottingley, the Aire Street Hotel, had been refused a renewal of its licence and compelled to close. In common with the Lime Keel at a later date, the Aire Street Hotel stood vacant for twenty or more years before being demolished as part of the scheme by which the local councillors endeavoured to create Utopia and merely produced a wilderness. (4)

The advent of the breathaliser was a further development with adverse implications for the licensed trade during the decade of the ‘swinging’ sixties. The attempt to curb road accidents caused by an oversufficiency of alcohol further added to the problem of declining beer sales and the closure of more public houses. The Commercial Hotel, Hill Top, ceased to trade in September 1971, and was then demolished; only a blocked up gateway and a barren plot marking the site today.

The nearby Kancashire & Yorkshire Hotel suffered a similar fate. During the century of its existence the property had suffered many vicissitudes. Originally owned by the Tower Brewery Co., Tadcaster, the premises experienced mixed fortune, as indicated by the frequent changes of tenancy. In April 1951, Hammonds Brewery took over the management of the inn and in January the year following, purchased the property. During the post war period the building began to deteriorate due to subsidence engendered by the constant vibration caused by the proximity of the rail traffic. In an effort to control the problem the wall nearest the railway station was butressed with heavy balks of timber but to little avail and the upper storey of the building was eventually removed to obviate the problem. When, as a result of the brewery merger, the hotel was taken over by Bass Charrington Ltd., in November 1967, it was decided to close down the premises. The licence was surrendered the following April and the building was subsequently demolished. (5)

If the middle decades of the twentieth century witnessed the demise of the majority of the remaining older public houses in Knottingley, they also saw some more positive developments. The modernisation which had commenced in the late 1930s but ws stunted by the onset of war and its economic aftermath, was renewed by mid century.

In February 1959, plans were laid for the replacement of the Lamb Inn. The plans envisaged the erection of new premises on land to the west side of Springfield Avenue. Upon completion of the new premises the licence was transferred from the pub on the former site at the opposite side of Weeland Road. The old premises were then demolished. An interesting digression concerns the name of the former site. Racca Green Road was the original name but over the years the existence of the public house led to the street being renamed as Lamb Inn Road. Thus, the inn had the distinction of lending its name as a source of geographical location, a homour shared only by the Anvil Inn which had long provided the source for identification of the nearby Jackson Bridge. A subtle difference marks the shared distinction for in the case of the Anvil Inn the vox populi name change was never officially confirmed.

In September 1963, plans were adopted for the replacement of the Cherry Tree Inn. In this case the old property was demolished and the new premises were erected on the same site. Modification of the original plan caused some slight delay but a new public house bearing the same name as the old inn, was opened in 1965.

Two more new public houses were opened within the town during the same decade. In 1962, General Redvers Buller Barker (6) opened the Green Bottle Inn at Spawd Bone Lane. The new inn supplemented the role of the recently relocated White Swan in serving the needs of residents of the huge England Lane estate which had expanded considerably as the result of the post war housing development by the local council. The site of the new inn was the former Green House Farm, previously owned by William Jackson and his heirs. (7) The fields of the Green House Farm, like those of the Bay Horse Inn, had been converted from agricultural use in order to excavate the underlying limestone. The worked out site was ultimately purchased by the Council and laid out as public gardens and recreation grounds which were consequently identified as ‘The Greenhouse’ by subsequent generations. (8)

The mid sixties brought an influx of families from the North-East of England and Scotland as miners came from those areas to provide the workforce for the new Kellingley Colliery. A new phase of housing development under the joint auspicies of the KUDC and National Coal Board was launched utilising the green field site at Simpson’s Lane which was developed as the Warwick Estate. In November 1964, a provisional licence was granted, pending approval of plans to be submitted, for the construction of licensed premises on the estate. The following year the Wallbottle Inn was built on a site at Hazel Road. (9)

Derestriction of tied public houses, many of which were controlled by a few large brewery chains, was a feature of national legislation introduced during the 1980s. The aim was to give public houses more appeal by providing scope for greater variety within the licenced trade. Following the introduction of the new measures, the Commercial Inn, which had been briefly closed, was purchased by John and Susan Mellor in 1985. In keeping with the tradition of ‘ale wives’ the licence was granted in the name of Mrs. Mellor. Following refurbishment, the inn reopened under the new, but historically appropriate, name of the Steam Packet Inn. A further commendable development was the on site brewing which was undertaken by the new proprietors, marking the return of the long vanished tradition of publican victuallers in the town.

The acquisition of the Sailors Home Inn by a large inns and leisure group resulted in the gutting of the interior for refurbishment whilst leaving the exterior unaltered. The concern for the maintenance of the outside of the old property was commendable. The effect was diminished, however, by renaming the premises as the Frog & Firkin when the inn was reopened in 1991. The name was bestowed in keeping with the group policy of designating all the company’s inns with similar ludicrous names to engender a corporate image. Notwithstanding the changed image however, the venture was a failure and the premises were closed and at the time of writing are standing empty and showing signs of dereliction. Whilst it is to be regretted that the new appellation did not reflect the historical development of the town, one must admit that there is a precedent for unassociated, fanciful inn names, as those of the Sportsman’s Inn and Golden Cup testify. At least the building presently stands as its own monument but how long will it be one sadly wonders, before it goes the way of so many others for which the present study must suffice by way of memorial.

Terry Spencer, 1998



Site constructed and maintained by Michael Norfolk
This website is Copyright © 2000-2011 [Knottingley and Ferrybridge Online] All Rights Reserved