A History of ST. BOTOLPH'S CHURCH
in the PARISH OF KNOTTINGLEY
The exact date of the establishment of St. Botolph's church is unclear but the name of the Church gives some indication of its age as St. Botolph, which is a comparatively rare dedication, is of Saxon origin. St Botolph was born in the year 610. By the river in Iken in Suffolk is a church and on this site Botolph founded a monastery in AD 654 which was destroyed in 870. Like Columba and like St. Furzey who founded a monastery forty miles north at Burgh Castle, he was probably a 'pilgrim' for the Lord. Pilgrims for the Lord set out in tiny boats and let the winds take them where they would. Wherever they were beached, there they would found a church or community, as Botolph did on the River Alde.
Knottingley stood in a key position. Down the centuries it was the crossing point of the ancient Great North Road across the River Aire. That north road was as likely as not an ancient Saxon trackway. Being on the river it probably always was a focus for industry. Much later, in the seventeenth century a pottery was founded. Later still came glass which is still with us today. We cannot be certain why Knottingley church was dedicated to Botolph. The oldest parts of this church have architectural features which date the church from the Norman period but that does not mean that the church did not exist before that time because along the east of England, in the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries many churches were dedicated to the missionary monk, Botolph.
The Domesday Book of 1086 makes no reference to a church in Knottingley it is clear that many of the churches that were mentioned are now known to have been Parish Churches and maybe it was only those Parish Churches that were of interest to the King at the time. The Domesday Book was intended to detail the wealth and possessions of each settlement or landowner so that the revenues due to the King could be calculated.
It is thought that a Saxon chapel did exist before the Norman church was built. Of the original church no trace remains and only the west wall of the succeeding building, which was raised in 1100AD, remains today. The earliest reference to a Church in Knottingley was a document dated between 1119-1121 which confirmed a grant by Robert de Lacy to the Prior and Monks of Pontefract, a number of items including the chapel of Knottingley
Between 1750 and 1756 rebuilding of the Norman chapel took place, the nave and chancel of the Church were rebuilt in the classical style with round topped plain glass windows. The west tower was added in 1873, the chancel being rebuilt in 1886. There was an upstairs gallery that provided extra seating for the congregation. In 1888 the Church was further re-modelled by Victorian restorers who included stained glass windows and the nave was also re-seated and the galleries removed.
The Church was built using Magnesian limestone (nave and chancel both rendered), and stone slate roofs. The rectangular 4-bay nave in simple classical style has round-headed windows with imposts and keystones, and 2nd bay has a square flat-roofed porch beneath the window, with similar round-headed outer doorway and side-wall windows.
The four-stage tower with angle-buttresses to 1/2-height and set-back upper stages has in each side a single lancet window to the 1st stage, a circular window to the 2nd, a large clock face to the 3rd, a pair of louvred lancets to the belfry stage, and an embattled parapet with corner pinnacles.
The three-bay chancel has lancet windows, and a 2-centred arched east window of 3 lights with bar tracery and a wheel in the head.
In 1995 the tower was renovated the outside staircase replaced with internal spiral stairs, a ring of ten bells was installed with a bequest as a memorial to Edward Beaumont, Vicar of Knottingley 1954 – 1970.