Antiques Road Trip: Knaresborough's legendary road builder 'Blind Jack' to feature in Yorkshire episode

He's one of Knaresborough’s most revered figures but is little known outside of the North Yorkshire market town.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 6:00 am

But now John Metcalf - better known as Blind Jack - will play a starring role on an episode of hit BBC show Antiques Road Trip.

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The episode, set to be broadcast later this month, sees presenter Roo Irvine journey to the town to meet local historian Bernard Higgins to learn about Blind Jack.

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Historian Bernard Higgins with the Blind Jack statue in Knaresborough

Known as the first professional road builder, Blind Jack is celebrated with a statue in the town’s market place. Born in 1717, he lost his sight after being infected with smallpox.

He became something of a jack-of-all-trades with proficent skills in playing the fiddle, horse-trading, cock-fighting and hunting.But it was in the 1750s - having turned his hand to running a stagecoach - that he won his first contract to build a section of road between Minskip and Ferrensby.

It paved the way for a prosperous career spanning nearly 30 years of building almost 180 miles of road across the North of England.

He has since been commemorated with his own stretch of road near the town and a pub is named after him too.

Metcalf’s remarkable story is the focus of a segment on the episode of Antiques Road Trip, which will Mr Higgins regale Ms Irvine with Blind Jack’s history - and even teaches her to use a replica viameter just like the one the professional roaduser had to measure accurately.,

Appearing alongside Mr Higgins in the episode will be Tanya Stimpson from Harrogate’s Vision Support Charity to discuss what Blind Jack’s legacy means to others across North Yorkshire managing sight loss.

She describes Jack as “testament to the unquelled human spirit with a story about overcoming disability in the most amazing way.”

The episode of Antiques Roadtip will be broadcast on January 19 on BBC1.