Focus on Knaresborough: Places

By Gwyneth Endersby, Record Assistant

Records we hold portraying places in and around Knaresborough include maps and plans, photographs and works of art.


Our extensive collection of historic maps and plans for North Yorkshire includes a small number depicting Knaresborough. The earliest representation we hold, showing the town in some detail, is by Thomas Jefferys, geographer to George III, dated 1770.

Map showing the town of Knaresborough with the roads coloured orange. Also includes Nid river, Scotton, Scriven, Plumpton Hall and Harrogate.
Crop of Jefferys’ Map of the County of York, 1770, plate viii, showing Knaresborough and environs (scale: 1 mile to 1 inch)

Other maps featuring Knaresborough and its environs are Ordnance Survey editions (various scales). The first edition of 1854 (sheet 154), shows various industrial developments in the town, including the gas works, the water works and the railway. The arrival of the railway at Knaresborough in 1848 would have had a huge impact on the lives of the townspeople –  especially once the viaduct was successfully constructed in 1851, taking the line across the river.

OS maps showing the town of Knaresborough in some detail. The outlines of buildings can be seen, with key features marked such as Conyngham Hall, Knaresborough Union Workhouse, the Castle, St John the Baptist Church, various inns and pubs and the Harrogate Branch railway.
Crop of the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map 1854 (Sheet 154, scale: 6 inches to 1 mile)


Our holdings of plans of railway lines and buildings (ref: NG/RY) include this colourful North Eastern Railway plan showing the proposed goods office at Knaresborough, 1881. The station and its buildings were improved by re-building in 1891, and notes jotted on this plan state the designs were also used at Chester-le-Street station.

This plan shows various elevations of a single storey goods office and shows details of the roof design. The ground plan shows it included a lobby with a counter to the Clerk's office, an adjoining store and an office for the Station Master.
NG/RY 1/3 NER Goods Office plan, 1881

Scotton Banks Sanatorium, once situated high above the town on Ripley Road, is represented in our collections by architectural plans dated 1933-34 (ref: NHS/HOS/KN). We hold no patients’ or other administrative records. Built in 1937, it was designed to accommodate long-stay Tuberculosis patients (children and adults) – offering recuperation facilities and even a small school.

This plan shows the layout of the sanatorium, including the Nurses hostel, the medical centre and the administration block.
NHS/HOS/KN Scotton Banks sanatorium

The plans show the administrative areas of the hospital – such as the nurses home, kitchen, laundry and offices – in the north part of the buildings, with the 4 large wards for patients being situated on the sun-catching south side. It became an NHS hospital in 1948, and was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a housing development.


Eighteenth century drawings and etchings offer us views of Knaresborough before the advent of photographs. This detailed etching by R Lane (ref: EE88), shows the town in 1793 – just two decades after Jefferys published his map of the area.

This etching shows a bridge over the River Nidd with trees and vegetation on the right bank. The town of Knaresborough can be seen in the background beyond the bridge.
EE 88 “Knaresborough from the banks of the Nydde”, The Gentleman’s Magazine, August 1793, plate 1, page 689

Artist Henrietta Matilda Crompton’s monochrome watercolour of Conyngham Hall (formerly Coghill Hall), near Knaresborough, is within her sketchbook of 1848-9. Henrietta’s sketchbooks, together with the journals in which she records her visits to “Conningham” (July 1834 and June 1844) with her sister Elizabeth, are part of the archive we hold for the Crompton family of Esholt and Azerley (ref: ZCM).

A monotone watercolour showing Conyngham Hall in the distance surrounded by open land and mature trees.
ZCM Conyngham Hall by Henrietta Matilda Crompton, sketchbook 1848-9


Our photographic deposits contain a variety of images relating to Knaresborough, and include a collection of around 100 glass plate negatives from a photographer’s shop (not named) located on Cheapside (ref: EF 491). The negatives have no attached information, though appear to be early 20th century in date, and include these marvellous riverside views of the town.

The extensive Bertram Unné photographic collection includes a number of historic images of Knaresborough, like this Edwardian view of the Dropping Well. Famous for its petrifying qualities, the well has long been a site of curiosity and attraction. Recorded by Jeffreys on his map in 1770, it remains a popular tourist site today.

A black and white photo showing well dressed people (ladies in full dresses with large hats and men wearing overcoats and hats) viewing the famous petrifying well that will (gradually) turn anything to stone.
MC00075 The Dropping Well, Knaresborough

The Unné collection also contains photographs of some memorable Knaresborough events; like this dramatic bus crash on High Bridge (undated).

Black and white photo showing a bus that has crashed on a bridge with the front right wheel hanging over the edge. Beyond the bus a line of people, presumably the passengers stand along the bridge.
LS19-04 High Bridge, Knaresborough

For more examples: visit our online shop for a range of Knaresborough maps and images

Further reading

“A-Z of Knaresborough History” by Dr Arnold Kellett (2009, revised by Paul Chrystal, 2013), Amberley Publishing

2 thoughts on “Focus on Knaresborough: Places

  1. Hello These Focus On blogs are interesting. Are you likely to do one on Selby please? Kind regards Sheila Newsome

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