KNARESBOROUGH, or Knaresbrough, a market and parish-town, in the lower-division of Claro, liberties of St. Peter and Knaresborough; 5 miles from Ripley, 7 from Boroughbridge and Wetherby, 11 from Hopper Lane Inn, 12 from Ripon, 13 from Otley, 18 from Leeds and York, 24 from Skipton, 201 from London. Market, Wednesday. Fairs, January 13; first Wednesday after March 12; May 6, (unless it falls on a Sunday, then the day following,) first Wednesday after August 12; first Tuesday after October 11; Wednesday after December 10, for horned cattle, ., c. The sheep Fairs are held on the days preceding the first and last Fairs; the Statute days for servants, are on Wednesday before November 2, and Wednesday after. Bankers, Messrs. Harrison and Terrys, draw on Messrs. Willis, Percival, and Co. 79, Lombard Street; Messrs. Coates and Co. draw on Sir James Esdaile, Bart. and Co. 21, Lombard Street. Principal Inns, Crown, Bay Horse, and Old Elephant and Castle. Pop. 5,283. The Church is a vicarage, dedicated to St. John the Baptist (see Churches for photograph), in the deanry of Boroughbridge, diocese of Chester, value, £9. 9s. 4½d. Patron, Lord Rosslyn.
In a chapel, north of the choir, are several monuments of the Slingsby family, to whom this chapel belongs.
Knaresborough is pleasantly situated on a cliff above the river Nidd, which runs at the bottom of a deep dell. The market place is spacious, and the sale of corn considerable, great quantities being brought many miles eastward, to supply a barren track extending far west. The manufacture of linens which, is very considerable, is the staple trade of the town and neighbourhood and the article called Knaresborough Linens, has for a great many years been held in high repute.
It first sent members to parliament in the first of Queen Mary, 1553, and has ever since returned two representatives. The right of election was then vested in 84 or 88 burgage houses, the owners of which were entitled to vote. The elections continued free till about 1719, at which time the purchasing of burgage houses first commenced. The Duke of Devonshire is now, and the family has for a long time, been in possession of all the burgage Houses, except four. The last contest appears to have been in 1784; but no report was made on the petition of Sir John Coghill, Bart. and Bacon Frank, Esq. In 1805, the Bailiffs were unable to proceed to an election, by reason of a great riot and tumult, raised by a large number of persons not electors: on this, several of the electors petitioned Parliament, when, the Attorney General was ordered to prosecute seven persons named in the petition, three of whom were tried at York, and found guilty; consequently a new writ was ordered. --Oldfield.
The Castle here has a most elevated situation, and on the accessible side was defended by a vast foss, with strong works on the outside. The scattered fragment shew it to have been a fortress of great extent. Part of the towers and some semi round buttresses yet remain, and a square tower or keep, is the most complete of any, part of which formerly served as a prison for the liberty of the Forest of Knaresborough. It was founded by Serlo de Burgh, who came into England with the Conqueror. He was succeeded in his possession by Eustace Fitz John, the great favourite of Henry the first. It afterwards came into the possession of the Crown, for it seems that King John granted it to William de Estoteville for the services of three knights' fees. In the succeeding reign it was bestowed on that great justiciary, Hubert de Burgh, on payment of £100. per annum into the Exchequer. In the reign of Edward II. it was in the family of Vaux, or de Vallibus, but bestowed by that Prince on his favourite Piers Gaveston, whom he created Earl of Cornwall. On his death it reverted to the Crown, and remained in it till 1371, when the Castle, Manor and Honour of Knaresborough, were granted by Edward III. to his fourth son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, in which Dutchy it yet remains. --Dugdale. --Magna Brit. --Madox.
In 1170, the four Knights who murdered Thomas a Becket took refuge here, where they remained prisoners many months, but were sometime after pardoned, on condition of their performing a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
After the base treachery Richard II. experienced from the Earl of Northumberland, and his gallant son Hostspur Percy, that unfortunate Prince was kept a close prisoner here, in an apartment still called the King's chamber, till he was removed to Pontefract Castle, and there murdered by order of Henry IV.
In 1616, James I. granted this Castle and lordship to his son Charles. It was a strong fortress during the civil wars, and made great resistance against the parliamentary forces. After the battle of Marston Moor, the townsmen most gallantly defended it against Lord Fairfax, and although at last compelled to surrender, it was on the most honourable terms that the garrison laid down their arms. Not long after this, it was, by resolution of the House of Commons, rendered untenable.
The site of the Castle was upwards of one hundred yards in diameter. The Keep was large, and consisted of three stories. From an east view of it, the dismantled towers, and dilapidated arches, are finely picturesque, but the whole is falling, by the stealing hand of time, fast into decay. Near the centre, in a part of the ruins, is the Court House and Prison for the liberty of the Forest of Knaresborough.
About half a mile below the Low bridge, on the edge of the river, Richard Plantaganet, second son of King John, founded a Priory for Trinitarians, which was surrendered by the last Prior, Thomas Kent, in 1539. --Dugdale. The site was granted to the Earl of Shrewsbury, and soon afterwards became the property of Sir Thomas Slingsby, in whose family it still remains. The ruins of it lie scattered about and overgrown with grass.
The celebrated Dropping Well, placed close by the Nidd, which is saturated with terrene sparry matter, and incrusts, very soon, every thing it falls on, has seldom failed to attract the notice of the curious traveller.
Beneath these cliffs and near this spring was born, about the year 1487, that celebrated personage, Mother Shipton, the wife of Tobias Shipton. Many wonderful tales are told of her knowledge of future events, which are said to have been delivered to the Abbot of Beverley.
Not far from the low bridge, some entire dwellings have been excavated out of the cliffs. Half way up is one, three stories high, inhabited by a family who live beneath the rock, which has nothing artificial but part of the front. It was the work of sixteen years, performed by a poor weaver and his son, which, since its completion, has been called Fort Montague, from this poor man's kind patroness, the Dutchess of Buccleugh; having on the top a fort with cannon, a flag waving, and other military appearances.
Not far distant from this place is St. Robert's Chapel, cut out of the solid rock, with a neatly arched roof a Gothic window and door. The ribs rest on rest pilasters. On the right hand side are four terrific faces; in front an altar: on the floor is a hole, in which was probably placed a cross; and on the sides are two niches, long since dispossessed of their images. The length of the cell is 10½ feet, the breadth 9, and the height 7½. Near the door is cut a gigantic figure in the action of drawing his sword. Above is the Hermitage, a small cell formed of moss, petrefactions, &c. and about a mile down the river is the Cave of the Saint, which appears to have been his usual residence. This seat of piety was, in 1745, profaned by the murder of Daniel Clark, of Knaresborough; who, with Eugene Aram and J. Houseman, had confederated to defraud several of their neighbours of plate and goods to a considerable amount. For a particular account of the trial, &c. of Eugene Aram, see pamphlet by Mr. Hargrove.
Here lived, till within these few years, that very extraordinary man John Metcalfe, who was a native of this place. Although he lost his sight in his infancy, was a tolerable proficient in music, a well known guide over the Forest, a common carrier, a builder of bridges, a contractor for making roads, and played at whist with considerable skill. He died at the great age of 93.
This town has the benefit of the following Schools, viz. a Free School, situated near the Church, endowed in 1616, by the Rev. Robert Chaloner; a Charity School, for thirty boys and girls, endowed in 1765, by the late Thomas Richardson, Esq.; and a National School, on the plan of Dr. Bell, erected in 1814.
The Old Sulphur Spaw, at Star beck, between this place and Harrogate, which for some years had laid dormant, has recently been re opened, and a square building erected over it, which secures it from external injury, and affords to the invalid a constant supply of its medicinal water. Its efficacy, as a diuretic and mild aperient, has been fully proved in numerous instances of bilious and cutaneous diseases.
Knaresbrough Forest, The Forest extends from east to west, upwards of 20 miles; and in some places, is 8 miles in breadth.
By the general survey, completed in the year 1086, we find there were then only four townships, viz. Birstwith, Fuston (Fewston) Beckwith, Rossett, (Pannal.) In the year 1388, there appears to have been three principal towns and sixteen hamlets, many of which had originated from waste lands, after the conquest. The general enclosure commenced in 1771. See "the ancient customs of the Forest of Knaresborough," published at Knaresborough in 1808. This Forest is situated on the west side of Knaresborough, extending itself to Bolton Bridge; it has a separate jurisdiction, a prison, and local court in which pleas are held: His Grace the Duke of Devonshire is Lord and Chief Bailiff.
[Description(s) edited from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson © 2013]