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Also by Terry Spencer

The following studies by Terry Spencer are now available on the Knottingley website:

KNOTTINGLEY CARNIVAL
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.

KNOTTLA FLATTS:
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.

KNOTTLA FEAST:
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.

HOSPITAL SUNDAYS:
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.

KNOTTINGLEY COAT-OF-ARMS:
The application by Knottingley Urban District Council for a grant of arms was made to the College of Arms, London, in mid 1942.

FERRYBRIDGE GLASSWORKS:
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.

NINETEENTH CENTURY KNOTTINGLEY:
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

KNOTTINGLEY PLAYING FIELDS:
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.

CAPTAIN PERCY BENTLEY:
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.

KNOTTINGLEY WAR MEMORIAL:
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.

FERRYBRIDGE WAR MEMORIAL:
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.

THE 'K' SISTERS:
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 PALACE CINEMA:
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.

KNOTTINGLEY PUBLIC HOUSES & BREWERIES:
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.

KNOTTINGLEY TOWN HALL CLOCK:
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.

STATUE OF THE BLACK PRINCE:
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.

KNOTTLA NICKNAMES:
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.

KNOTTINGLEY SILVER BAND:
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.

KNOTTINGLEY TOWN HALL:
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.

FIELD SYSTEMS AND PLACE NAMES OF OLD KNOTTINGLEY:
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.

GAZETTEER OF KNOTTINGLEY PLACE NAMES:
An A-Z listing of Knottingley field and place names.

LIME GROVE AND THE CARTER FAMILY
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.

WAR SAVINGS WEEKS:
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.

SELECT VESTRY RIOTS 1874:
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

KNOTTINGLEY
SELECT VESTRY RIOTS, 1874


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

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. The reorganisation of 1789 however, meant that for the first time the ratepayers of Knottingley were able to elect residents of the town to administer parish affairs. (1)

By the early nineteenth century the parish meeting or vestry had evolved from being a unit of ecclesiastical administration into a unit of civic management, the business of the parish being undertaken by an elected committee of twenty resident taxpayers of the town. The head of the select vestry was the Chairman. The office of Chairman was both prestigious and influential for apart from reflecting the respect and confidence accorded by the majority of the local populace which voted him into office at the annual Town meeting held each March, the position carried a large degree of responsibility and authority. The incumbent was directly responsible for supervising the work undertaken by parish officers such as the Overseers of the Poor, Surveyors of the Highways, Parish Constable, Workhouse Master and Parish Clerk. The Chairman presided over the regularly held Vestry meetings throughout the year at which decisions concerning the management of the town were taken, not least being the setting and collection of rates in order to obtain the sums of money required for civic administration.

For more than thirty years until his death in 1873, John Carter, a wealthy landowner with local business interests in malting and brewing, was the Vestry Chairman. Carter was a very able man whose ability was reflected in his public position as Commissioner for Income and Property Tax and also as Chairman of Knottingley Gas Company. Indeed, it was only the fact that legislation prohibited those associated with the brewing industry from being Justices of the Peace which prevented Carter’s appointment as a magistrate. (2)

As one might expect where wealth formed the basis of education and social position, an hereditary pattern characterised the composition of the Select Vestry. Thus, an oligarchic strand is discernible throughout the entire existence of the Select Vestry and particularly so prior to the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Family names such as Gaggs, Carter, Moorhouse, Senior, Jackson, Smallpage and Atkinson are only the most prominent of those which featured over the years, usually disappearing only with the ultimate demise of the male line. From the middle of the century however, a subtle change occurred in the social composition of the Vestry. From that time, social, political, technological and demographic factors engendered a gradual change in public attitudes, standing in sharp contrast to and challenging the traditional outlook which had previously underlain the socio-economic basis of Vestry membership.

Commercial developments of a general nature such as stabilisation of the banking system and the introduction of limited liability were accompanied by improvements in industrial technology and communications. The reorganisation of fiscal administration resulting in large-scale abolition of the constraining system of Excise Duty resulted in the widening of markets and business opportunities, promoting the establishment of new industries and the development of existing businesses. The town of Knottingley with its maritime trade and its central geographical position lying adjacent to the principal arterial route in the kingdom, its rural surroundings providing scope for development and recruitment of labour, provide a natural setting for business enterprise. It was not unnatural therefore, that changing conditions had an impact on the town. A noticeable consequence was the increase in the number of local people able to comply with the property qualification which formed the basis of eligibility for Vestry membership. The Reform Act of 1832 had engendered a degree of political awareness on the part of the public which was further intensified by the extension of the suffrage in 1864. Such awareness afforded a challenge to the status quo and underlay an undignified and acrimonious struggle for control of the Select Vestry in March 1874.

The figureheads in the factionalist struggle were George W. Carter, son of the recently deceased Chairman John Carter, and Sydney Woolf, son of Lewis Woolf who had established a pottery at Ferrybridge in 1850 and had served as a Vestry member during the years 1851-61. (3)

George W. Carter, M.A. was a qualified but non-practising barrister who since the death of his father was the head of the family brewery situated at Lime Grove, Hill Top, Knottingley. Carter had first served on the Select Vestry in 1866 as a replacement for Edwin Moorhouse who had died during his term of office. Elected in his own right the following year, George Carter served successively there after until 1880. Sydney Woolf first served on the Vestry committee for a single year in 1858. (4) but the succeeded to his father’s place in 1862 and retained his membership of that body until 1880. (5) Thus in terms of Vestry membership Woolf was the senior and more experienced person. In the sense of social status and the traditional exercise of privilege conferred by such status, Carter was supreme.

Carter’s political opinion, in contrast to that of his father, favoured the Conservatives. Carter therefore represented the views of the local Anglican, land-owning Tories while Woolf represented the emergent class of professionally motivated and largely self-made industrialists and businessmen, Nonconformists in religion and Liberals in politics.

The genesis of the public aspects of the power struggle are to be found in the Vestry meeting held on the 30th October 1873. The meeting was the first one to be held following the death of John Carter. After a sincere and eloquent tribute to the late Chairman by John Howard prior to the formal commencement of the meeting, it was proposed by Howard and seconded by Samuel Rhodes that G. W. Carter be elected to the Chair for the remainder of the year as a mark of respect to his late father. (6) The motion was carried unanimously, being fully supported by Woolf. The extent to which George Carter regarded the motion as a preliminary to his formal acceptance as permanent Chairman is problematical. However, knowledge of events within the town during the two years preceding the demise of the late Chairman indicates that the ensuing struggle for the Vestry chairmanship was not merely centred on personal dignity arising from notions of social status but was an essential precondition for the implementation of political policy with far reaching consequences for future generations of Knottingley citizens. Being at the centre of events, Carter could hardly be unaware of the significance of the situation and to that extent it seems likely that his bid to assume the Chairmanship on a permanent basis was more a calculated bid for political control of the Vestry (and ipso facto, the town) than the naïve assertion of social superiority.

The single factor which most clearly defined the attitude of both parties, socially and politically, was that of public education. The Education Act of 1870 sought to bring basic education within the reach of all children within the kingdom. To ensure fulfilment of its aim the Act provided for the establishment of local boards of education financed from the local rates in order to provide the necessary facilities. At this time education in Knottingley was confined to a few small private schools and the largely Church controlled National School. Sydney Woolf, a Wesleyan and member of the Liberal Party which had been responsible for the passing of the 1870 Act, claimed, with no little justification, that the educational provision within the town was inadequate for the needs of the children. Owing to the apathy of the local public, however, nothing was done in the immediate aftermath of the Act and it was only in February 1872 when the National School was closed as a result of financial crisis, that the views of Woolf and his supporters became fully apparent to the townspeople. (7) As a result an election took place in July 1872 for the selection of members of a newly established Local School Board. (8) To counter these measures, Carter, a prominent member of the Anglican Communion, and therefore a supporter of the National School, had recently taken the lead in the formation of a local Conservative Association. The grouping of local supporters of the Conservative Party was designed to make opposition to the formation of a Local School Board more effective. In order to prevent the likelihood of a Local Board being established the local Conservative Association sought to re-open the National School as the sole vehicle, albeit an inadequate one, for public education within the town. (9) It was considered that the general attitude of indifference, indeed of hostility on the part of many of the poorer townsfolk would lend support to the anti School Board group. For such people the imposition of compulsory school attendance represented a loss of potential earning power on the part of their offspring and therefore a reduction in family income. This attitude, although somewhat undermined in Autumn 1873 when the Agricultural Children’s Act restricted the opportunity for the casual employment of school children, was nevertheless strongly held by many within the town. A further factor allied to the anti – School Board faction was the resentment of some ratepayers at the prospect of subsidising the education of the children of the poor. Such sentiment it was felt would ensure considerable support for Carter and his adherents. (10)

Serious indications of the developing power struggle within the circle of Vestry membership became evident at the annual Town’s Meeting held on 24th March 1873, to elect members of the Select Vestry for the ensuing year. John Carter was elected as the Chairman by unanimous approval. Upon Carter Senior taking the Chair, his son George proposed the Reverend Dr. Talbot, Vicar of Knottingley, as a candidate for Vestry membership. The proposal was clearly designed to strengthen the hand of the pro-National School element within the Vestry and was immediately interpreted as such by the supporters of the Local School Board. Despite the fact that in the past there had been several instances when local clergymen had been elected to the Vestry, past precedent was cast aside when Septimus Cordukes, a long serving member of the Vestry, formulated a resolution.. “That it is undesirable that any clergymen or minister of religion should be elected to a seat on the Select Vestry”, and the resolution was carried by a large majority. (11)

At this point one may digress to consider the moral dilemma of the Vestry Chairman, John Carter. As a leading Anglican in the town Carter must have felt a sense of duty to the ‘Church’ party, led by his son George. As a Liberal in political outlook however, John Carter, a humane, sensitive man with a paternalistic sense of noblesse oblige engendered by a social distinction and decades of public service, must also have realised the desirability, indeed the necessity, of supporting the aims of the pro- School Board faction to give practical reality to the educational policy of the Liberal Party. Carter’s unenviable position must have been emphasised by the events which had taken place in the months immediately preceding the annual Town’s Meeting.

At the centre of events in the recent months was the attempt of the pro-School Board group to obtain the premises which had housed the defunct National School and use the site to establish the town’s first Board School. Apart from the saving in time and money such an acquisition had the additional advantage of weakening the resistance of the anti-Board faction by depriving them of the venue for their proposed revival of the National School. In furtherance of this policy a public meeting had been convened on the 17th November 1872, at which the townspeople had given overwhelming support to Sydney Woolf’s resolution, “That the inhabitants of Knottingley in Public Meeting assembled, having heard that the School Board has applied for use of the late National Schools, deem it both desirable and expedient that the School Board be allowed the use of them.” (12)

In order to thwart the measure, efforts had been made which had resulted in the reopening of the National School on Monday 9th December 1872. The School Board was therefore faced with the problem of finding an alternative site on which new premises could be erected, thereby increasing the burden on the town’s ratepayers, which prospect supporters of the National School hoped would cause a public reaction in their favour. To mitigate the prospects of reaction the local Liberals launched a public appeal for donations or loans to the School Board. Hugh Childer’s Liberal M.P for Pontefract was called upon to address a public meeting held in Knottingley Town Hall on the 30th January 1873, to stress the value of universal education. (13) Within a month of the meeting, the board had sufficient funds to rent accommodation in the Holes to be utilised as an infants school. It was not until June 1874 however, that the School Board received approval from Whitehall for the purchase and conversion of property situated in Chapel Street, Knottingley, as a Board School and Schoolhouse. (14) The subsequent struggle by the local School Board to provide free and adequate education in Knottingley has been chronicled elsewhere. (15) It is obvious however, that the issue was central to the subsequent struggle for control of the Select Vestry. The ensuing power struggle was in fact further reflected by the political swing towards Disraeli’s Conservatives in February 1874. This was apparent at local level where the ongoing work of the Conservative Association resulted in an increase in the share of the vote for their candidate in the February election and although Childer’s managed to retain the Pontefract seat for the Liberals his majority was reduced. (16) Thus at the Town’s Meeting convened in the Town hall on the evening of 25th March 1874, battle lines were clearly drawn.

The meeting opened with a proposal that Sydney Woolf be elected as Vestry Chairman. (17) An amendment in favour of George W. Carter was then introduced and following a show of hands Woolf was declared the representatives choice. (18) The decision was immediately disputed by Carter’s supporters as the division of opinion had been so close. The objection was the subject of such intense and passionate debate that the only way to ensure the continuation of the meeting and a satisfactory resolution of the problem was to nominate a mutually acceptable Chairman, pro-term. The person selected was Joseph Senior, a farmer at Darrington Leys. In keeping with oligarchic tradition, Senior had served as a Vestry member following the death of his father in 1850. (19)

Upon taking the chair, Senior requested the withdrawal of all non-ratepayers and then proposed that the supporters of Woolf should leave the assembly hall via the right-hand side door of the chamber while Carter’s supporters should exit from the door to the left side of the room. No attempt was made to count the respective groups as it was apparently considered that a majority pattern would be revealed by the system of egress. The assembly was so evenly divided however, that the Chairman was unable to decide which party had a majority. It was then proposed that the same procedure be followed accompanied by a formal count of heads. Carter’s supporters filed out and were found to number 164. For some unknown reason, Woolf’s supporters declined to be counted. One can only conject that the probable explanation is that they felt their man had been fairly elected to the chair at the start of the meeting and considered that further participation in subsequent events was tantamount to condoning disreputable and undemocratic conduct on the part of Carter’s supporters. Such an assumption however, begs the question why the supporters of Woolf agreed to participate in the earlier( i.e. uncounted) exit from the hall. The failure of Woolf’s partisans to submit to a formal count resulted in the Chairman declaring Carter to be elected to the Vestry Chairmanship by default. (20)

The business of the meeting then formally commenced with nominations for the offices of Overseers of the Poor and Highway Surveyor. Following the election of the parish officers the Chairman proposed that as so much time had been lost in the initial wrangling over the Chairmanship the meeting should be adjourned until 10 o’clock the following morning. (21) The proposal meant that examination and approval of the current years accounts and the selection of Vestrymen for the ensuing year, together with the nominations and election of the Parish Constable and three members of the Burial Board would have to await the reconvened meeting. The proposal of the temporary Chairman was most unwelcome to the bulk of the assembled townsfolk who from the necessity to attend work would be excluded from the proceedings of the morrow. As the majority of the townsfolk had endorsed the policies advocated by Woolf at the meeting held the previous November it is perhaps understandable that Joseph Senior’s suggestion was greeted with suspicion. To propose recommencement at 10 a.m. instead of 6 p.m. of an evening which was the usual time, was seen as a subtle method of ensuring control of the Vestry for the Carter faction. The majority of Carter’s supporters were men of business or independent means whose circumstances permitted attendance while those of the bulk of Woolf’s supporters, being of a more humble nature, would deny them attendance. Furthermore, the same considerations applied to the non-ratepayers within the town who, although not having a direct vote in the election of parish officials exercised a customary right of observance at the annual Town Meeting. The exclusion of the general public from the events of the previous evening had enabled a situation to arise whereby it was automatically denied mass representation at the reconvened meeting. It is easy therefore to see the reasoning which underlay the suspicion of many townspeople. The suspicion was further compounded by the knowledge that Senior was a known supporter of Carter and a kinsman by marriage. (22) The meeting therefore concluded; “…under great and excited feelings…there nearly having been a riot.”

Irate townsfolk crowded onto the platform in order to recriminate with the Chairman and beret each other, smashing the platform table in their passion. (23)

At the reconvened meeting the following morning the dispute concerning the Chairmanship was revived. Sydney Woolf was again proposed and seconded and the nomination carried by a large majority. George Carter however, fortified in his position by the legitimacy of his election on the previous evening “…persisted in taking possession of the chair” which Woolf also demanded. (24) A renewal of the previous turmoil ensued during which, to quote the Vestry clerk, “There was such a crowding of the platform that it was all but impossible to write – almost a riot.”

Amidst great confusion the Surveyors accounts were passed, being signed by George Carter and promptly countersigned by Sydney Woolf as a measure of protest at Carter’s assumption of authority. (25) In order to expediate the business of the meeting George Carter next declared that with two additions, Mr. J. Ellis and Mr. W.B. Wilcock, the latter being substituted for the late John Carter, the existing Vestry members re-elected to serve for the following year. Incensed by Carter’s action, Woolf immediately instituted what was in effect a purge of the Carter supporters represented on the Select Vestry. Woolf’s ‘declaration’ was that J. Bagley, T. Brown, W. Johnson, T. Poulson and J. Balance should replace G. W. Carter, J. Senior, W. Holmes, J.W. Bagley and the late John Carter. (26) The situation was repeated with regsard to the composition of the town’s Burial Board. Membership of this body was on a rotational basis with three sitting members retiring each year. In normal circumstances the retiring members were automatically re-elected if they so desired. However, on this occasion there was much bickering concerning the membership of the Board. Carter declared the three retiring members re-elected in accordance with custom but Woolf nominated E. Wood, W. Worfolk and R. Garlick, the two latter as replacements for John Howard and the late John Carter, with Edwin Wood apparently being acceptable to both camps. (27)

Shortly before the end of business Woolf appended the words “The above is utterly illegal.” To the accounts passed by Carter. (28) At the meetings conclusion a petition of protest signed by Woolf and other ratepayers was submitted for due consideration by the local magistrates on whose authority confirmation of the annual appointments to the Select Vestry depended. (29)

The Pontefract Advertiser’s report of the events which took place during the two sessions of the meeting is most interesting for its skill in presenting the facts yet at the same time minimising the degree of disruption and the part played by the Carter faction in the ensuing disorder. The pro-Tory paper whilst informing its readership that “A very hot contest took place for the chairmanship meeting…” and also reporting “…considerable amount of tumult and uproar..” at the resumption of the adjourned meeting, implied that the blame lay with Woolf and his friends who it was stated were hustled from the platform. The paper presented the outcome of the meeting as one of orderliness and general satisfaction. (30) The newspaper’s account of the proceedings contrasts considerably to the tenor of the Vestry Minute Book even though the latter is restricted by formality of its content. Comparison of the two sources therefore emphasises the distinction between impartiality and political bias, revealing in the process that media manipulation is not a recent phenomenon.

It is interesting to note that the men who gave support to Sydney Woolf were for the most part self-made, small businessmen such as John Bagley, John Wild, partners of J. W. Bagley at the Knottingley glassworks of Bagley and Wild and Thomas Brown and Thomas Poulson, both of whom were shortly to be associated with potteries standing adjacent to Woolf’s Australian Pottery at Ferrybridge. Also William Worfolk, shipbuilder, who whilst a representative of a longer established industry within the town and owner of manorial rights at Knottingley, was nevertheless a man of independent mind and basically in agreement with the policies of the new bourgeoisie. Such men, although resident within the area for several years were regarded as incomers by the more established and xenophobic elements within the town. (31)

It was fully expected that the Carter nominees would be objected to at the Special Sessions held at Wentbridge Magistrates Court on Monday 30th March 1874. Despite the attendance of a substantial body of Knottingley ratepayers at the courthouse however, no objection was raised. (32) The magistrates noted the erasure of Woolf's words regarding illegality on the Overseer’s Accounts but passed them as a true and accurate record. (33) The removal of Woolf’s protestation suggests that as the result of informal and obviously unrecorded discussions, more sober counsels had prevailed and a compromise had been formulated in advance of the Special Sessions. The likelihood is substantiated by the fact that the list of Vestrymen presented to the magistrates contained the names of both Carter and Woolf and their respective adherents. (34) A further indication of an agreement is the fact that at the first meeting of the new Vestry held in the Town Hall on Thursday 7th May, Carter and Woolf were both nominated as Chairman. In an orderly vote the issue was resolved in Carter’s favour by eleven votes to six. (35) The election of the Vestry Chairman in this manner rather than the automatic occupancy of the chair by the person appointed at the recent Town’s Meeting is suggestive of a ‘peace formula’. The fact that the following year saw Woolf’s unopposed nomination and acceptance as Chairman may also be indicative of an accommodation whereby the runner up in the 1874 election was guaranteed the Chairmanship the following year. A caveat must be entered here however, for Woolf was in fact the Vestry Chairman for three successive years from 1875 and it may well be that his appointment arose as a result of changes in social composition of the Select Vestry arising in part as a consequence of the extension of the franchise in 1867. (36) Indeed, the possibility is supported by examination of the list of Vestrymen for 1875 which shows no less than six members who had not previously served. (37)

It is of passing interest to note that as a result of the confusion arising from the public meeting of March 1874, two people, William Johnson and Thomas Brown, presented themselves at the first meeting of the Vestry in May believing themselves to have been elected following nomination by Woolf. Both men were objected to and had to withdraw from the deliberations of the newly constituted Vestry. (38) It seems that both nominees were casualties of the probable compromise reached prior to the submission of names to the magistrates but that nobody had informed them of their ‘demotion’. It is interesting to speculate whether as a result of such insensitivity a breach arose between the two men and Mr. Woolf for although both were nominated as Overseers of the Poor the following year, albeit unsuccessfully, neither served as Vestry members or in any other official capacity during the years of Woolf’s ascendancy to high office. (39) The case of William Johnson is particularly indicative of a rupture in his personal relationship with Woolf. Johnson was the person who had nominated Woolf for the Chairmanship at the reconvened Town’s Meeting on the morning of 26th March and, as noted above, had been nominated as a substitute together with Brown, for candidates proposed by George Carter. (40) It is perhaps of some significance that William Brown did serve on the Select Vestry during the years 1881-91, his period of office commencing the year following Woolf’s withdrawal from that body. (41)

Between 1878 and 1888, the Vestry Chairmanship was shared by John Michael Bentley, a member of the local firm of solicitors, auctioneers and valuers – and Mark Stainsby, a partner in the Aire Tar Works of Stainsby & Lyon. Both men were prominent Anglicans and Conservatives who gained increasing political influence within Knottingley during the following decade as a result of working class support following franchise reform of Gladstone’s second ministry in 1884. (42) Bentley who had first been elected to the Vestry in 1862 and had served intermittently until 1868 when his membership became regular. Stainsby served on the Vestry continuously from his election in 1878 until his death in 1886. As a representative of a family with a long record of Vestry service and prominent churchman, Bentley was automatically Tory and supportive of George W. Carter. The business affairs of the Bentley family were however, increasingly geared to the growing number of people with business and professional interests within the neighbourhood of Knottingley. In social terms, Bentley was acceptable to both factions within the town and therefore the ideal compromise candidate for the Chairmanship of the Select Vestry, a fact which doubtless explains his tenure of the Vestry Chairmanship for eleven years until his death in 1888 (43) when from the same considerations the Vestry Chairmanship was occupied by another member of his family, J.W. Bentley. (44)

Carter and Woolf both continued to serve on the Vestry during the early years of J.S. Bentley’s Chairmanship, both ceasing to be members in 1880. In that year Woolf was elected as Liberal M.P. for the Borough of Pontefract, a position he held until 1885. In 1883 Woolf relinquished his ownership of the Australian Pottery, Ferrybridge, and other associated potteries. (45) Carter seems to have concentrated on his business interests following his withdrawal from civic affairs. In 1892 however, the Carter connection with Knottingley Brewery ceased in all but name when the family shares in the concern were sold and George Carter left the district. (46) Joseph Senior, the longest serving Vestry member in the second half of the nineteenth century, retired from the Select Vestry in 1885 but remained active in other aspects of public life for some years beyond that date. (47)

In 1894, with the adoption of a Local Board, the functions of the Select Vestry were assumed by the newly created body and in 1895 following the implementation of the Local Government Act, Knottingley Urban District Council was created as the governing authority. The K.U.D.C. became defunct as a result of further Local Government legislation in 1974.

©Dr. Terry Spencer


 

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