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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History


The Bridge of Boats - 1070
Coachman Killed by Overturning Stagecoach - 2? February 18??
Member of Hotel Staff Shot Dead - February 1781
Ferrybridge 'C' Power Station Cooling Towers Collapse - November 1965

The Bridge of Boats

There is a tradition still existing in the minds of local people that without doubt had foundations somewhere back in time although it is unconfirmed by any known documentary evidence. This relates to the ‘bridge of boats’ which tells us that John of Gaunt, or one of the early Lacy’s, while attempting to cross the river with his army, was prevented from doing so by the fact that the river was in flood.

To relieve him from this difficulty, the inhabitants of Knottingley built him a bridge of boats over which his army could cross. In return for this good service, they were granted a charter or privilege, constituting all of the land in the township freehold.

While searching for a probable origin of this tale we need to look back to the year 1070, when William the Conquerer, aware of the news that his Northumbrian subjects had once again revolted, swore not to leave a Northumbrian alive to stir up any future rebellions. Marching his army into Yorkshire his progress was halted at Ferrybridge by the fact that the enemy had destroyed the bridge and the swollen river Aire threatened to destroy his army if he dared to cross.

It is stated that William waited impatiently for three whole weeks before one of his Norman knights called Lisois (who it is suggested might be the same person afterwards called Lacy, who was so liberally rewarded for his services) discovered a Ford by which William and his army were able to cross.

It is unlikely that the river Aire could be fordable at any point in its swollen state but after a wait of three weeks it is possible that the waters had subsided sufficiently to enable the passage of the army at some point along its bank. Exactly where is not certain but it is known that in 1225, the inhabitants of Knottingley pastured their cattle on the Marsh on the Brotherton side of the river, evidence of the fact that easy passage across did exist.

A bridge of boats cannot be discounted but admitting that the river had somewhat subsided it seems likely that a crossing point, probably in Knottingley, afforded William's army safe passage across.

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Coachman Killed by Overturning Stagecoach

Does anyone have further information surrounding the events described on this headstone situated in the old Ferrybridge Church graveyard?

Click for a larger picture

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Hotel Staff Member Shot Dead

On the 13th February 1781, the Leeds Mercury ran a story about an incident that occurred in Ferrybridge.

A Gentleman, believed to be an Officer in the Guards, accompanied by a Lady with whom he had been on a trip to Scotland, booked into the White Swan Hotel in Ferrybridge.  After their departure, a member of the hotel staff discovered that the Gentleman had left his purse behind.  Jarvis Thompson, the under-tapster, was dispatched on horseback in pursuit of the man with the good intention of returning the purse to him.  He pursued the chaise in which the couple were travelling and on nearing called out to the Gentleman "stop!, your purse, your purse".  The Gentleman, fearing a Highwayman, promptly opened a window and shot Jarvis Thompson dead.

An account of the tale in The Official Guide to Knottingley, circa 1950, goes on to state that "it is an interesting reflection upon the law in those times, when we hear that the Gentleman, on being informed of his error, provided liberally for the widow and children".

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Ferrybridge Cooling Towers Collapse

On the 1st November 1965, during high winds, three out of a group of eight cooling towers at Ferrybridge 'C' Power Station collapsed, with the remaining towers sustaining severe structural damage.  The towers, each 375 feet high, had been constructed closer together than was usual and had greater shell diameters and shell surface area then any previous towers. The design and construction contract for the towers had been given to Film Cooling Towers (concrete) Ltd. in 1962.

High winds were considered to be the trigger for the collapse, but an inquiry found  the exact cause to be an amalgamation of several other factors in their design:

  • British Standard wind speeds had not been used in the design resulting in the design wind pressures at the top of the tower being 19% lower than it should have been.
  • Basic wind speed was interpreted and used as the average over a one minute period, whereas, in reality, the structures are susceptible to much shorter gusts.
  • The wind loading had been based on experiments using a single isolated tower.  The grouping of the towers created turbulence on the leeward ones - the ones that did actually collapse.
  • Safety margins had not really covered any uncertainties in the wind loadings.

There had been, it was decided, a serious underestimation of the wind loading in the initial design.

Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in the accident.

Ferrybridge Cooling Tower Collapse Ferrybridge Cooling Tower Collapse
A cooling tower comes crashing to the ground during high winds at Ferrybridge 'C' Power Station in 1965. The aftermath of the incident. Three
 of the eight cooling towers were
completely destroyed.

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