Focus on Knaresborough: Estate and private collections

By Gwyneth Endersby, Record Assistant

The estate and private records we hold for Knaresborough are broad ranging in both subject matter and date; yet it’s also fair to say that, in terms of physical extent, the majority of these deposits are comparatively small against those we hold for other places in North Yorkshire. Most possess a Z-numerical catalogue reference – the type we use to categorise small collections from an individual document up to a single archival box. Private and estate collections with an extent larger than this are denoted by a Z-alphabetical reference.

As Knaresborough was once part of the West Riding, some significant estate collections and family archives linked to the town and surrounding area are held by West Yorkshire institutions. The Bradford office of West Yorkshire Archive Service, for instance, holds the Coghill family papers, whilst the Slingsby family of Scriven archive is among the special collections held at the Brotherton Library of Leeds University.  

As might be expected, our holdings for Knaresborough include the mainstay of many private and estate collections – title deeds and other records (rentals and admittances) relating to land and property in the town.

A deed from 1629
ZTP 1/9/1 Deed relating to herbage of pasture called Castle Ings, under the castle of Knaresborough, 1629

The example above shows a deed relating to herbage of pasture called Castle Ings, under the castle of Knaresborough, 1629. The lands of The Lady Hewley Charity in Haya Park and Knaresborough were devised to trustees to provide money for ‘poor and godly preachers’ or their widows, and for educating young men for the ministry, with the surplus to relieve ‘godly persons in distress’.

Such records are undoubtedly rich sources of information for researchers of Knaresborough, but I’ve chosen to focus here on the first of three of our smaller private collections, which each offer very different perspectives of the town and provide us with short but unique snapshots in time.

Joseph Dinsdale, grocer (Z.1588)

A ledger from the store of Knaresborough grocer, Joseph Dinsdale, allows us a brief but fascinating insight into the food requirements and shopping habits of the town’s people during the years 1895-1897. A working document, the ledger’s entries itemise purchases on account, listed below customers’ names and addresses.

The immediate impression gained upon reading entries for 12-14 December 1895, is that fruit cakes and alcoholic beverages were very popular, with store-cupboard goods like spices, baking powder, sugar, and various types of dried fruit being frequently bought, together with bottles of cowslip wine, gin, rum, Scotch and Irish whisky and brandy – sometimes by the half gallon! Perhaps, however, the produce sold in mid-December is simply an indication of the time of year, with Christmas fast approaching. This might explain why Mrs Wilson of Shaw Mills required 2 gallons of “Old Rum” and a box of figs.

A double page spread from the ledger of grocer, Joseph Dinsdale. Each entry shows if the customer has paid, their name and sometimes part of an address or occupation, their order and the cost. Orders include items such as Tea, sugar, sultanas, citron, apricots, soap, candles, allspice, gin, whisky, rum etc.
Z.1588: Ledger of grocer, Joseph Dinsdale (1895-1897), 13-14 December 1895

Other purchases noted in the ledger include everyday household items such as soap balls, candles and blacking for stoves, large quantities of salt for Mr Collier the butcher – and for Mrs Hebblethwaite, snuff dips!


For a full list of the Z collections we hold relating to Knaresborough, please visit our online catalogue.

Continuing our Focus on Knaresborough series, future posts will look at the small private collections Z.1484 Cockfighting and Z.1438 Mr Pott’s Acadamy

One thought on “Focus on Knaresborough: Estate and private collections

  1. Thank you for sharing this information. I run the Knaresborough Town Museum Group and we love to read anything that gives an insight into Knaresborough’s social history. We are a new group and hope to be holding an exhibition telling the story of Knaresborough, focusing particularly on the impact of WW2 on the tow. We are also interested in former trades and industry so the grocers records are of interest. Shame we can’t get in to see the archives though. We can’t wait till the archives are open again.

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