Blind Jack in focus for BBC programme

Residents and council employees have taken part in the filming for the popular BBC Antiques Road Trip which focussed on the life and achievements of John Metcalf Blind Jack of Knaresborough.

The programme makers filmed around the Market Place, St John the Baptist Church and the Castle grounds and Old Courthouse Museum.

Local historian Bernard Higgins, who went on camera, said: “This edition of the Antiques Road Trip programme should be broadcast in the autumn.

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“We hope it will put Jack Metcalf in the spotlight and give the town of Knaresborough a well deserved publicity to boost our tourism industry.

“I was asked several questions about Blind Jack’s life, the different ways he overcame being made blind at the age of six from smallpox and how he went on an incredible journey as a pioneer road builder, musician, horse dealer, military adventurer, trader, smuggler, drinker, gambler, husband and father.”

Mr Higgins added: “Town Crier Roger Hewitt performed to his usual elequent high standards in the Market Place and introduced Blind Jack and the filming that was to take place.”

Born in August 1717 in a cottage next to Knaresborough’s St John the Baptist Church, Blind Jack was not deterred by the impairment he acquired in his childhood.

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A pioneering 18th century road-builder, Blind Jack of Knaresborough, was responsible for the construction of around 180 miles of road in the north of England, supporting the movement of people, goods and services at a time when the Industrial Revolution was taking off.

Mr Higgins said the film crew was guided through St John’s by the church’s director of music Mark Hunter.

“While there King James’s sixth form student Aleksandra Blazewski played Blind Jack’s fiddle beautifully and certainly brought the famous fiddle to life,” said Mr Higgins.

“It was a highlight of the day’s filming.

”Lucy Scott and the team at the Mercer Gallery have been very supportive allowing Aleksandra time to practice playing the fiddle at the Gallery as well as getting permission from the insurers to allow the fiddle to be played.

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“Lucy opened up the Old courthouse Museum for filming and brought the famous fiddle along for the filming.

Director of the Vision Support Centre, Tanya Stimpson, was interviewed in the church and explained about how her own visual impairment and how Blind Jack’s incredible achievements had inspired her and many others.

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