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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Local History

WEST RIDING COUNTRY

Reproduced from the Official Guide to Knottingley
by Knottingley Urban District Council circa. 1950

Knottingley is an industrial town and pays the inevitable penalty for it's prosperity in factory buildings and smoke.  Yet once outside the town, both in the immediate neighbourhood and further afield, the traveller can find many interesting places and surprisingly beautiful scenery.  There are many contrasting types of countryside in the West Riding and such differences are often accentuated by the uneven distribution of industry.

The only outstanding physical feature near Knottingley is the River Aire which together with it's tributaries and canals plays an important part in the town's life.  Of the two directions, that upstream is probably more pleasant.  A few miles to the north-west are the villages of Brotherton and Birkin, the former was the birthplace of Prince Thomas, the son of King Edward 1st, and in the second stands one of the finest Norman Churches in England.

As we move upstream, the water gradually becomes less polluted since each successive town it flows through adds it's discharge of industrial waste.

Of these towns, Castleford is reached five miles west from Knottingley.  It is a mining centre with important bottle and earthenware factories, chemical works etc...  Once the site of a Roman camp.  About nine miles on is Leeds the fifth city of England and the centre of the woollen trade.

From Castleford there is an alternative waterway which leads south-west to Wakefield and it's mainly perpendicular Cathedral.  To the south is a rare chantry chapel on the bridge and the earthenwork of an old castle called Sandel Magna.  The towns that we have mentioned merely touch upon the fringe of industry, which sprawls away up the valleys of the Pennine's, overlooked first by wooded hillsides and then by wild open moors.

North of Knottingley are such villages as Aberford (11 miles NW) that stands besides the River Cock, Kippax with it's deer park and Sherburn-in-Elmet.  The latter lies in the middle of a plum growing district and was once the site of King Athelstan's Palace.  Archbishops apparently found this part of the country to their liking for they also owned a Palace at Cawood, the 15th century gateway of which can still be seen there.

LIQUORICE AND DRAGON KILLERS

Pontefract lies two and a half miles to the south west. It is an ancient borough which lies below the ruins of a Norman-Edwardian castle and has the curious distinction of being the home of liquorice growing in England.

Below Knottingley the Aire widens out, eventually to become a part of the great sluggish estuary of the Ouse.  On the banks of this river near Riccal (13 miles SE) was the landing place of Tostig and Harold in 1066.  Upstream is Selby, also by the river bank, a small town that contains a magnificent Abbey, founded by William the Conquerer.

An arc from the estuary to the Wharfe contains a large number of interesting places, examples of which are Drax, Fishlake and Kellington.  Any devotees of the fairytale should certainly visit Kellington, for in the churchyard is a curious 'Serpent Stone' that traditionally covers the tomb of a dragon killer.  The majority of this country is agricultural, wheat, potatoes and stockbreeding being the main activities.

Every year Yorkshire horses gain considerable success in 'Classic' races.  One of the training and breeding centres is Norton, a small town by the Derwent, about 7 miles south east of Knottingley.  Moving west, the scenery gradually changes first to industry and later to the sheep pastures of the Pennine foothills.  Among the interesting towns of this region is Wragby, nine miles to the south west, this was the site of a vanished 12th century priory.  Due south of Knottingley on the Great North Road, the most likely route for a departing traveller, is Wentbridge, whose surroundings are typical of the country at which we have taken a brief glance


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