Also by Terry Spencer
The following studies by Terry Spencer are now available on the Knottingley
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
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.
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.
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
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
Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History
KNOTTINGLEY TOWN HALL CLOCK
by TERRY SPENCER B.A. (Hons), Ph D.
Copyright ©Terry Spencer, January 2007
I have a vivid recollection of being taken to Chapel Street Infants’
School by my mother sometime about the year 1941. Having crossed
Jacksons’ (Anvil) Bridge, we reached the top of Ropewalk when we were
accosted by a woman who, pointing towards the turret of the Town Hall,
launched an angry tirade, the meaning of which was as incomprehensible
to me as the reason which had prompted it.
I recall the word "disgusting" and as I attempted to make sense
of the situation my eyes followed the direction in which the woman’s arm
was pointing and I realised that the object of her wrath was the Town
The clock had stopped and someone, presumably in an effort to restart
it, had carelessly left unfastened the hinged glass cover so that the
glass now hung open at right angles to the clock face, receptive to the
passing breeze and in danger of being smashed, thus leaving the clock
face fully exposed to the elements.
The incident, although fragmentary in its nature is as vivid in its
detail as it was more than sixty years ago.
And yet…and yet…
When 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. (1)
The implication of the remark, backed up by familial memory stretching
back to the early decades of the twentieth century, was that no clock
had previously adorned the façade of the Town Hall. Yet notwithstanding
this fact, the remark sparked an intensive debate as to whether or not
the Town Hall had ever had a clock. Impassioned claims, allegedly based
on personal recollection, were countered by vehement denials. The
argument eventually ending inconclusively for want of irrefutable
What is presented here is an examination of the available material
concerning the subject in the hope of producing an accurate conclusion
for the historical record.
Knottingley Town Hall, a "Neat, two-storied structure surmounted by
a clock turret", was designed by the architects Shaw & Weightman and
constructed by a local builder, John Stanhope, at the behest of the
newly formed Knottingley Town Council Company and opened on the 5th
September 1865. The building cost £2,000, raised in part by the sale of
1,000 x £1 shares to the local public. (2)
The building specifications make no mention of a clock but the
presence of a circular alcove near the top of the centrally placed
turret at the front of the building implies and aspirational hope of
fulfilment at a later date. (3) Indeed, expectations were doubtless high
for although shareholders did not seek a huge return on their
investment, the facilities and services offered to the local community
rather than excessive profit being the primary consideration, a return
of 5% on the shares was confidently expected. (4)
Meanwhile, plans were being formulated elsewhere to add a tower to the
parish church of St. Botolph. Construction of the tower began in 1873
(5) but lack of money caused delay and as late as October 1875 the
church tower was still unfinished while activities continued to be
undertaken to raise the sum of £700 required to ensure its completion.
As with the Town Hall, provision was made for the eventual
installation of a clock on the church tower but money was not
immediately available and for a number of years the space was filled by
a dummy clockface.
A letter to the local newspaper complaining of the ridiculous
appearance of the church tower with its artificial clock prompted
efforts to raise £200 to furnish the tower with a real clock. (7) Public
events and individual donations from August 1883 resulted in the
accumulation of the requisite amount and in March 1884 it was announced
that the church clock was expected to be installed by Easter. (8) On the
10th April 1884 the clock on the tower of St. Botolph’s church was
"opened" to public gaze. (9)
Conformation that the Town Hall had no clock at that date is contained
in the above mentioned letter which stated that the only public clock in
the town was that belonging to the Ropewalk Wesleyan Chapel. (10)
The provision of a public timepiece situated in close proximity to the
Town Hall made the necessity for a clock on that building somewhat
superfluous. Nor was money available for such a project for the fortunes
of the Knottingley Town Hall Company had declined and by the turn of the
twentieth century the company was insolvent.
As a result, early in 1901, the Town Hall was sold by public auction
and was bought by Mr. J.G. Lyon, proprietor of the Aire Tar Works, who
the following year, presented the Town Hall to the recently established
(1894) Knottingley Urban District Council, on behalf of the inhabitants
of the township. (11)
A decision was taken at that time to adapt the rooms once used as the
town’s Mechanics’ Institute, as a Council Chamber for use by the
relocated Council. The Council, newly emerged from a protracted legal
dispute arising from the construction of the public drainage scheme,
lacked the funds to finance the alterations. Once again J.G. Lyon
generously financed the conversion and in 1904 the Council marked the
opening of the Town Hall as the administrative centre of the township by
holding a civic function in honour of Lyon.
During speeches delivered on that occasion, a local solicitor, W.E.
Clayton-Smith, humorously expressed a desire to emulate Lyon by adding
an illuminated clock to the façade of the Town Hall. The comment struck
a chord with Cr. E.L. Poulson, proprietor of the West Riding Pottery,
Ferrybridge, who stated that if the Council should think it appropriate
to install a clock at the front of the Town Hall, he would gladly
subscribe to its cost. (12)
The parlous financial state of the Council precluded action at that
time, however, and the well-known photograph of the front of the Town
Hall circa 1910, clearly reveals the absence of any clock at that date.
Conditions arising from the advent of the Great War (1914-1918) and
its economic aftermath, followed by the Second World War (1939-1945) and
post war austerity, militated against the installation of a clock.
Notwithstanding the assertion of the late, respected antiquarian,
Harry Battye, that the Town Hall once featured an ornamental clock, (13)
a thorough search of the K.U.D.C. Minutes Books, newspaper files and old
photographs, has failed to produce any indication of a clock. All the
evidence suggests that no such clock ever existed.
Why then do I, in company with countless other townsfolk, retain a
vivid impression of the existence of a Town Hall clock? Wish fulfilment?
Is there some deep-seated Freudian explanation? Are we genetically
programmed to defy history or is collective memory prompted by the same
psychological impulse that makes all the days of childhood
There must be an explanation for our obvious self-delusion.
- Pontefract & Castleford Express 7-4-1994 p12
- Spencer T. ‘Knottingley Town Hall’, (2000), for the history of the
- op cit Appendix One for full specifications.
- Pontefract Advertiser 19-11-1864
- ibid 14-10-1873
- ibid 16-10-1875 & 23-10-1875
- ibid 18-8-1883
- ibid 19-1-1884
- ibid 19-4-1884. The term "opened" was used by the newspaper reporter
and seems somewhat inappropriate. It is difficult, however, to find a
more suitable word; ‘dedicated’ and ‘designated’ which spring to mind
are either factually incorrect or equally inappropriate.