Blue Plaques

The Civic Society has over 20 blue plaques across Knaresborough celebrating the people, events and places that are important to the town. A full list, with pictures, can also be viewed on our interactive map.

The Dower House, Bond End

It was customary to provide a home for a Dowager to retire to when her eldest son succeeded as head of the family. Sir Thomas Slingsby of Scriven Hall built the Dower House of Knaresborough in the 15th Century. Sir Henry Slingsby, a prominent Royalist during the Civil War, was executed in in 1658 being the last person to have his head exhibited on Micklegate Bar in York.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2007

Slingsby was an old and well-known Yorkshire family and a great land owner in the north of England. The family’s chapel in St John’s Parish Church preserves tangible evidence of the family in its remarkable tombs with effigies and inscriptions.

Blind Jack of Knaresborough (John Metcalf)

Blind Jack of Knaresborough (John Metcalf) was born in 1717 in a cottage whose garden adjoined the churchyard. Though blinded by smallpox at the age of six, he became famous as a musician, guide, horseman, trader and pioneer builder of roads. He died in 1810 and is buried in Spofforth churchyard.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2007

After Mother Shipton, Blind Jack is probably the most famous Knaresborough native. He begun road-building when he was in his mid thirties and built many hundreds of miles of roads, and also bridges, by using specially adapted tools. He died in 1810 and was buried in Spofforth where a stone marker can be found. There is a seated statue of him near the market cross.

The Mitre

The Mitre Hotel sits on the site of a former public house (The Wheatsheaf) which was rebuilt around 1923. The name is an acknowledgement to the high churchman Bishop William Stubbs (1825-1901) distinguished theologian, ecclesiastical historian and Bishop of Oxford born in this town.

George A Moore CBE, K Sc J born here on 22nd July 1928, went on to become a notable industrialist and successful businessman. He took special interest in the prosperity of Knaresborough and the people who lived and worked in it, generously supporting many local causes. As a mark of gratitude he was made a Freeman of Knaresborough in 2000.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2008

Bishop William Stubbs of Oxford was born near The Wheatsheaf public house in 1825. Its name was changed to The Mitre in 1923 in his honour, he being a man of great importance and intellect.

The Old Manor House, Waterside

This wood frame, grade 2-listed building was built c1208 around a still existing oak tree, as a hunting lodge for King John.

It is believed that, following the defeat of Royalist forces at Marston Moor, articles of capitulation were signed here, in the presence of Oliver Cromwell.

A 400 year old mulberry tree planted by James 1st is still fruiting annually in the garden.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2009

From the 17th century the house was owned by the Roundell family for nearly 400 years then became popular as a riverside restaurant and its chequered appearance possibly influenced other cafes in the town. Now a private house.

The Indigo Mill, Waterside

The building is on the site of a manorial corn mill dating from Norman times. The will of the miller in 1656 showed he was making indigo dye from woad probably grown locally. This was used in the dye house opposite. The mill featured in a painting by JMW Turner in 1797.

It was an indigo mill until it became a private house about 1850.

Knaresborough Civic Society 201

This building has been a private house since around 1850. Indigo dye, made from local woad, was produced here from the nearby dye house at the bottom of Gallon Steps. The mill can be seen in a Turner painting of 1797.

The Old Dye House, Gallon Steps

The frontage of the building to your right is all that remains of one of Knaresborough’s oldest industrial buildings. Erected in 1610, locally produced textiles were dyed here by john Warner and his son Simon, an active Royalist during the Civil War. The Dye House was an important source of textile dye stuffs supplying the linen mills in the town until 1840.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2007

At the bottom of Gallon Steps are the few remains of the old dye house, one of Knaresborough’s oldest work-places, built in the early 17th century and owned by John Warner. In more recent years it was used by Sturdys for storing boats and in the 1960s it housed a small children’s zoo.

Castle Mills, Waterside

Built in 1764 Castle Mills is a Grade 2 listed building. From 1770 to 1972 it was a flax mill producing fine quality linen. It was granted the Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria as “suppliers to all the royal palaces”. Closing in 1972 it was converted to 21 dwellings by local builder Ken Hudson.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2009

In the 18th century, by the river in Knaresborough, a cotton mill was built on the site of a paper mill, which eventually became a flax-spinning and weaving mill. Knaresborough became famous for its linen and the mill owner, John Walton, was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1838. In 1972 the mill was converted to private apartments but several external features were retained.

The House in the Rock, Fort Montague, Abbey Road

The House in the Rock was partly excavated from the crag by a linen weaver, Thomas Hill, and his son between 1770 and 1791. Originally known as Fort Montague, it was a popular tourist attraction but became a purely private residence in 2000.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2007

The house was lived in by descendants of Thomas Hill until 1996, the last being Nancy Buckle a former Town Crier. It was called Fort Montague in honour of Hill’s benefactor the Duchess of Buccleigh. Hill flew the national flag, fired his cannon and printed his own banknotes.

Chapel of Our Lady of The Crag

In 1408 the Chapel of Our Lady of The Crag was excavated as a wayside shrine by John the Mason traditionally in thanksgiving for his young son being miraculously saved from a falling rock. Permission for the shrine was granted by king Henry IV.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2007

This tiny Catholic chapel measures only 12 feet by 8 feet. Its entrance is protected by a Knight Templar and services are still held at this shrine of Our Lady. Restricted opening times.

St Robert’s Cave, Abbey Road

St Robert’s cave is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade 2 listed building. Robert Flower was born in York in 1160 the son of the Mayor. A medieval hermit he lived for 30 years in the cave. His brother, also a Mayor of York, built the chapel. King John made a pilgrimage to the cave in 1216 and granted him forty acres to feed the poor and destitute. St Robert died in 1218 and is buried in the chapel.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2011

A medieval hermit, Robert Floure (Flower) born in the 13th century lived in the cave for 30 years. For many centuries pilgrims came in great numbers to pray at the site.

The Old Flax Mill, Green Dragon Yard, Castlegate

In Tudor times the manufacture of linen began as a cottage industry in Knaresborough, which later became renowned for ‘the finest cloth’. this former flax mill dating from 1808 in the best surviving example of its type. Here raw flax was heckled (combed) by hand before being spun and woven at other mills across town. In 2000 after a life of industrial use, the building was transformed into a contemporary art gallery.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2007

In this former flax mill, dating from the early 19th century, raw flax (linen) was combed and prepared for spinning and weaving in the other mills in Knaresborough. It is now the home of Art in the Mill.

Knaresborough Almshouse

The mouldings and roof structure of these buildings indicates a probably date before 1500, and perhaps around 1450. Originally one large and impressive building it was listed in the Survey of 1611 as a hospital for six poor folk.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2009

The almshouse was at one time an impressive and large building and also a hospital for the poor. It is of great age, probably close to 600 years old. Internal modernisation took place in 2011.

The Old Town Hall

Originally the Tollbooth, rebuilt in 1768, the building served as The Sessions House dealing with infringements of the law. There were two prison cells beneath. From 1553 until 1867 the town had the right to elect two members of Parliament. Election speeches were made from the balcony of the building.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2012

This was built on the site of the toll booth and rebuilt in 1768 when it was used for judicial sessions with two prison cells beneath. Again rebuilt in 1862 to a design by John Child at a total cost of about £2,000.

Knaresborough Synagogue, Market Place

In the 13th Century a Jewish community lived and worshipped in Knaresborough. The Synagogue was situated at the exit to Synagogue Lane, at the rear of these buildings, the exact location is unknown. It is believed the Knaresborough Jewish community was dissolved in 1275, before all of the Jewish faith were expelled from England in 1290.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2008

There was a small Jewish community in Knaresborough in the 13th century. The synagogue was located on Jockey Lane from there a direct access to the Market Place. It is believed that all members of the community left Knaresborough prior to the proposed banishment of Jews from England by King Edward I.

The Oldest Chemist’s Shop in England

A pharmacy from at least 1720, when John Beckwith was the apothecary, The Oldest Chemist’s Shop became especially famous under WP Lawrence and his son Edmund from 1884 to 1965. The shop ceased to be a pharmacy in 1977

Knaresborough Civic Society 2006

Many Knaresborians will remember the last chemist to practice here, W P Lawrence M.P.S. Ph.c, who lived to a grand old age. The box windows in the style of ‘Chinese Chippendale’ were added about 1760 but many original features have been removed.

Eugene Aram, White Horse Yard

Eugene Aram was an 18th century schoolteacher who lived and taught here in White Horse Yard. He was an exceptional linguist, and studied in particular Celtic dialects. he has been the subject of many books, plays, poems and a film. Eugene Aram became notorious for his supposed involvement in the murder of another resident here, Daniel Clarke. He was convicted on very dubious evidence, and executed at York on 6th August 1759.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2010

Aram, famous for his supposed murder of Daniel Clarke, wrote a suicide note referring to himself as the victim of the legal system. His gaolers found him just in time with slashed wrists. He was, however, convicted and hanged in York in 1759 and later hung on the gibbet in Knaresborough just above Low Bridge.

Knaresborough House

Knaresborough House was built c. 1768, traditionally by John Carr, for the Rev. Thomas Collins, Vicar of Knaresborough from 1735 to 1788.

Owned by his descendants until 1951, it then became home to Knaresborough Urban District Council and, after 1974, to Knaresborough Town Council

Knaresborough Civic Society 2006

Over the years this house has been put to many uses including a ‘holiday home for poor families’. Opened by the Duke of Kent in 1936. The grounds host the beer festival during the annual FEVA event.

Town Gas Lighting

Knaresborough was one of the first towns to have good street lighting from Set. 1824, thanks to the Improvement Commissioners and their Engineer John Malham. The first gasholder was here at Castle Ings with its Retort House on Waterside but later (2 gasholders) moved across the road. In 1958 there were still 200 gaslights in the town. The last lamplighter retired in 1975 – shortly after the last gasholder was demolished.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2014

Castle Yard Riot 1865-6

On 3rd October 1865 the townsfolk forcibly asserted their longstanding public right of access over Castle Yard, which had been denied them by Sr. John Simpson of Castle Lodge. In April 1866 at Leeds Assizes 11 local men were convicted of Riot and jailed for 3 months. They were James Fletcher (62), who died in prison, Thomas Johnson (61), George Renton (20), Henry Dixon (61), William Ransom (48), Thomas Mawson (54), John Winterburn Mason (17), William Proctor (56), Thomas Barker (22), Peter Robinson (19) and Joseph Kearton (18). Public funds were raised to support their relatives. The men returned as heroes and the land was given back to the town.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2016

Knaresborough Zoo

Established in the grounds of Conyngham Hall in 1965 by Nick Nyoka and run by Edward Millborrow from 1969, it was a popular tourist attraction with over 150,000 visitors (inc 10,000 in school parties) in its heyday. Exotic animals included Simba – then the biggest lion in captivity – and Irma the elephant. The zoo closed in 1986 and was replaced by Henshaw’s Art & Craft Centre in 1999.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2014

King James’s School

Founded in 1616 by Dr Robert Chaloner from Goldsborough, who was Rector of Amersham and a Canon of Windsor, the school was granted its Charter by King James I. The school was for boys only, ‘as well poore as rich’, and was first situated in a private house near the Parish Church, then rebuilt on the same site in 1741. Four girls were first recorded as pupils in 1833. The school moved to the present site in 1901 and, from 1922 onwards, expanded steadily. It registered its own Coat of Arms in 1966. In 1971 it became a Comprehensive.

Knaresborough Civic Society 2016