Incredible new book reveals forgotten story of 'riot' in Victorian Knaresborough with jail, death and redemption
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The dramatic events surrounding the hitherto forgotten Caste Yard Riot of 1865 have been pieced together painstakingly by Jackie Glew with the help of Knaresborough Museum Association and local sources of the time - including the Knaresborough Post.
The result is an incredible new book which for the first time tells the story of how 11 local men were wrongfully imprisoned in Victorian England after Knaresborough as a community rose up against a wealthy landowner to defend its right to enjoy public paths and recreational space.
How Jackie came to write The Extraordinary Tale of the Castle Yard Riot, Knaresborough 1865 is a tale in itself.
"I’d been doing my own family history for a few years,” said Jackie, “ and discovered my three times great grandfather had been murdered.
"I wondered if the skills I had learnt as a complete amateur might be of use to Knaresborough Museum Association, so I signed up as a research volunteer.
"The Castle Yard Riot was a cracking story but few people had even heard of it.”
The new meticulously researched book delves deep into 1860s Knaresborough with statements from the time by the likes of Robert Ackrill, one of the great characters in the early years of the Harrogate Advertiser and Knaresborough Post.
The trouble that fateful day in 1865 was the culmination of a long-running battle between a London-based man of privilege and magistrate, Dr John Simpson, and local people over his perceived grab of common land next to his second home at Castle Lodge in Knaresborough which he had engineered with the help of the Duke of Devonshire.
Dr Simpson’s occasional enjoyment of his now fenced-off extra slice of land came at the expense of local children who had played there and the town’s labourers who had previously walked to work through it.
The conclusion Jackie comes to is that, though there was a disturbance, the riot was no riot at all.
"Castle Lodge wasn’t Dr Simpson’s primary residence,” said Jackie.
"The whole community was fed up with the situation.
"Some trees were chopped down and a small wooden summer house was set on fire but there was no riot.
“It had some similarities to the mass trespass of Kinder Scout and the start of the Ramblers Association."
In a story full of twists, the political machinations of the day meant 11 of the Knaresborough men present in Castle Yard found themselves sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour in Wakefield Gaol.
But the case was a cause célèbre, one in which all sections of Knaresborough sided with the wrongly imprisoned men.
"The story captured the press’s imagination at the time across the north,” said Jackie.
"In Knaresborough, a committee was formed to fundraise for the men’s legal defence.
"Dr Simpson misjudged the feelings of Knaresborough.
"When the men were released they each received a silver tankard from the town."
By that time, one of the men had died in prison, another would perish soon after.
But their story has now been told.
The Extraordinary Tale of the Castle Yard Riot is available at Knaresborough Museum Association at York Place, Knaresborough.