Focus on Knaresborough – Part 1

By Gwyneth Endersby, Record Assistant

The Township records of Knaresborough District Council

With the re-organisation of county boundaries in 1974, Knaresborough became part of North Yorkshire having lain formerly in the West Riding. As a result, certain records pertaining to the town were transferred from the archives of West Yorkshire to the North Yorkshire County Record Office. They include those of Knaresborough Urban District Council 1690-1974, our largest collection relating to the town.

District councils were established by the Local Government Act 1894.  Counties were divided into county boroughs and rural or urban district councils.  The majority of District Council collections we hold date from their late 19th century establishment, yet a very few – Knaresborough included – contain much earlier administrative records.

The township records for Knaresborough (DC/KNU 11/1) collectively span the years 1691 to 1923, and are supported by a parallel set for Scriven with Tentergate, covering the years 1640 to 1911 (DC/KNU 11/2). Knaresborough’s records include:

  • the Vestry
  • Overseers of the Poor
  • Constables
  • Highways
  • Rate books

These records offer a wealth of information to both family historians and researchers of social and economic history.

Overseers of the Poor

The Overseers of the Poor records (1691-1909) are particularly valuable in this regard, and include documents relating to:

  • the workhouse and occasional poor relief
  • settlement and removal
  • bastardy bonds
  • apprentices

most featuring named individuals and certain personal details. Similar and related records can sometimes be found in parish record collections (survival rates vary from parish to parish). This is fortunately the case for St. John’s, Knaresborough (PR/KN 19/1-3, 1717-1853) – allowing researchers two bites of the cherry, as it were.

Workhouse records

Amongst the workhouse records are two books containing a record of work done by occupants, which provide a fascinating glimpse into a few lives during the 1700s. The first (1742-46) is a daily account of work done in the house itself – mainly washing and kitchen duties, carried out by the women – together with a daily tally of all occupants. The names of those who are sick, or who leave the workhouse are also recorded.

Daily record of work done in Knaresborough Workhouse January and February 1742
DC/KNU XI 1/2/3 Daily record of work done in Knaresborough Workhouse January and February 1742

The second book (1786-87) lists work undertaken daily outside of the workhouse – some of the men labouring for various named individuals (but no trades or form of work noted), or working at the lime-kiln, with “the rest as usual” – whatever this might entail. On Sundays and Christmas Day they attended Church and had a holiday on Boxing Day and a half-day holiday on New Year’s Day.

Entries in Knaresborough Workhouse work book, December 1786-January 1787
DC/KNU XI 1/2/4 Entries in Knaresborough Workhouse work book, December 1786-January 1787

Other interesting details include the mention of John Outhwaite returning from the lime-kiln drunk on Monday 8th January 1787.

Apprenticeship records

In a bid to improve the lives of pauper children, whilst at the same time ensuring they did not become a burden on the parish, the Overseers found them apprenticeships with masters of trades in the town.

A register of apprentices for Knaresborough (1794-1835) contains basic personal details of both the children and their new masters, together with the names of the churchwardens and Overseers involved in the forming the agreement.

Register of Apprentices July 1816
DC/KNU XI 1/2/20 Register of Apprentices July 1816

At the back of this register is a list, organised alphabetically, of inhabitants who have either chosen to accept apprentices assigned to them, or else paid the £10.00 fine in lieu.

Some original apprenticeship indentures, setting out the full terms of the agreement between apprentice and master, survive for the years 1758-1845 – like this one for Ann Barber, aged 12, who was apprenticed to tailor William Jerman in 1758, until she reached the age of 21.

Apprenticeship indenture for Ann Barber, 5th June 1758
DC/KNU 1/2/20/2 Apprenticeship indenture for Ann Barber, 5th June 1758

Next time in Focus on Knaresborough – Part 2 we will be looking at records of The Militia Men

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