12:00pm Tuesday 3rd August 2004
CRAG Rats will be delighted. So keen were they to get hold of Arnold Kellett's book the first time round, that it quickly sold out. Now Images of England: Knaresborough has been republished, with some of the captions updated. And it is already being snapped up by Crag Rats, as those born and bred in the market town are affectionately known.
Dr Kellett is an honorary rat. Born in Wibsey, near Bradford, he took up a teaching post at King James's Grammar School in 1956, staying there for 27 years. Indeed, his book on the history of the school is due out next month.
He was made an honorary freeman of the town in 2001 and served as its mayor twice.
One of the reasons he chose to make Knaresborough his home was its ancient roots.
"It has the widest range of history for its size I have come across. It's crammed full of the most fascinating history. It's amazing," he said.
"Then it has this special setting. The view from the castle over the Nidd gorge, it's unique."
There is a lot of local flavour in the photographs selected for the book, but much to appeal to the outsider too. And that is Knaresborough all over, Dr Kellett believes: a tight-knit town which attracts many visitors.
"It's always been a very warm and lively community, which is reflected in the book. You see a great variety of activity in the pictures; there's a lot of social history."
That sense of community is "not as strong as it was. There are people who move into the town, they're in it but not of it. You get retired people and commuters who don't really identify with it.
"But there's a nucleus of people, not necessarily born and bred in Knaresborough, who take part in the churches, societies, shopping, keeping the town centre a living place."
There is little mention of one of Knaresborough's modern icons, Mother Shipton, in the book. Dr Kellett separated the fact from the fiction of the prophetess legend in a previous book published last year.
Instead we see the real town, steeped in history. It was the Angles who founded Knarresburg, and the Normans who built its first stone castle. The first known record of Royal Maundy took place here, when King John fed and clothed 13 paupers in 1210.
A garrison town since the Normans, Knaresborough was to evolve into an early health retreat. It was the first place in England to have its name linked with the mineral springs of Spa in Belgium. People flocked to take the "spaws of Knaresborough", and continued to come even after Harrogate established itself as the premier spot for such treatments.
Knaresborough was and is a market town. The livestock market was a chaotic affair, with the cattle displayed in the High Street every Monday, and sometimes Tuesdays too.
This caused considerable disruption, as well as a mess, although in 1886 the Improvement Commissioners ordered the street to be cleared of muck and washed down at the end of each market.
A meeting in the Town Hall to discuss moving the operation to somewhere more suitable was finally arranged in 1901. It was another six years before the cattle market shifted to a purpose-built site.
There were a variety of other industries besides farming, however. One of the most prestigious was the production of linen. This trade had begun as a cottage industry in Knaresborough in Tudor times, but from 1811 was concentrated in the riverside Castle Mill.
Workers at Walton's Castle Mill were justifiably proud of their skills. They were appointed by Queen Victoria as the suppliers of linen for the entire royal household. In 1851, George Hemshall received the Prince Albert Medal for weaving a seamless linen shirt.
Knaresborough also boasted ropework, with its own High Street shop selling "ropes, cords, twines, halters, reins, ploughlines, clotheslines etc". Cordwainers, or shoemakers, were another important town trade for centuries. They were once so numerous that the town kept the feast of St Crispin on October 25, patron saint of cobblers.
Elsewhere, there was a small sweet-making concern, and Joe Clough's soap factory later became a sheepskin rug factory. Knaresborough has long boasted a lively mix of independent shops. In the Market Place is the Oldest Chemist's Shop in England. It has been in continuous use as a pharmacy since at least 1720.
One of the proprietors, Edmund Lawrence, worked into his nineties, before retiring in 1965. He would proudly show visitors the apothecary's tools: pestle and mortar, bleeding couch, leech jar and pill-making machine. The best known Lawrence product was Ye Special Old Englyshe Lavender Water, made on the premises to a secret recipe.
Many residents and visitors to Knaresborough will remember the family grocer Dinsdale's in the Market Place, now Heapy's. Featuring old-style scales, bacon slicers and a coffee-grinder, it was a haven of personal service, with everything cut, weighed and wrapped with care.
Dr Kellett devotes a chapter of his pictorial history to the war years. Children from Knaresborough Secondary School are shown digging for victory in their war garden.
And most of the town came out for Warship Week, in March 1942. The town adopted HMD Wallflower, used for convoy escorts and anti-submarine work after raising £100,000 through National Savings. In fact, the Warship Week figure was the highest in England per head of population. So much for the tight Yorkshireman of stereotype.
In the second half of the 20th century, Knaresborough grew quickly, a fact Dr Kellett laments. "From a population of around 5,000, when the oldest photographs were taken, the town has almost trebled in size - growing far too big, far too fast in my opinion," he writes.
"Yet there is still a real affection for what remains of old Knaresborough, and there can be no doubt that its friendly yet independent spirit lives on."
Images of England: Knaresborough by Arnold Kellett is published by Tempus, price £12.99
Updated: 11:58 Monday, September 29, 2003
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