Knaresborough in 1843
Knaresborough is a market-town and parliamentary borough, in the West Riding, in the wapentake of Claro and parish of Knaresborough, 200 miles north-north-west from London, and 19 miles west by north from York. The town is situated on the side of a rocky hill, on the north-east bank of the river Nidd, across which there are two bridges, one at each end of the town.
Most of the house's are of stone, and the town generally is well built, and well lighted with gas. The market-place is large, and the market, which is on Wednesday, is well attended, particularly the corn-market. About midway between the two bridges are the remains of Knaresborough castle, on a rocky eminence. It was originally built by Serlo de Burgh, who came to England with William the Conqueror, and was a place of great strength till it was dismantled in 1648 by order of the parliament. Little of the ruins remain, the stones having been used for building houses in the town.
The parish church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is ancient, and has sittings for 1,200. The living is a vicarage, formerly in the diocese of Chester, but now in the deanery of Boroughbridge, archdeaconry of Richmond. and diocese of Ripon, in the gift of a prebendary of York cathedral, and of the net annual value of £393. There is also a chapel belonging to the established church which has sittings for 200. The Methodists, Independents, and Roman Catholics have places of worship, with sittings for about 2,000. In 1833 there were 16 daily schools in Knaresborough, one of which, containing 30 scholars of both sexes, was supported by endowment.
There were also 3 day and boarding schools, 1 day and Sunday national school, and 4 Sunday-schools, one of which was supported by the established church. The chief manufacture is linen, which has long been established at Knaresborough, and a large capital is invested in mills, machinery, and warehouses. The river Nidd is deep and rapid, and affords water-power, of which considerable use is made at present, and which might be applied to a much greater extent if the increase of trade should require it. Knaresborough has returned two members to parliament since the 1st year of the reign of Mary, 1553.
The right of election was originally in 84 burgage tenements, which were nearly all purchased by the earl of Burlington, and the duke of Devonshire was the possessor of them at the time of the Reform Act, under which Knaresborough still returns two members. The parliamentary borough comprises the township of Knaresborough and part of the township of Scriven-cum-Tentergate. The population of the borough in 1841 was 5,382. The number of electors on the register in 1835-6 was 262 ; in 1839-40 the number was 240, of whom 238 were £10 householders. The population of the town of Knaresborough in 1821 was 5,283 ; in 1831 it was 5,296; in 1841 it was 4,678 (2,232 males and 2,446 females), including 57 persons in Knaresborough workhouse and 17 in three prisons.
About half a mile down the river are the ruins of a priory for friars of the order of the Holy Trinity, which was founded by Richard Plantagenet, brother of Henry III. There are some curious dwellings excavated in the rock, and also St. Robert's Chapel, which is said to have been formed in the thirteenth century by a hermit, son of the mayor of York, and St. Robert's Cave, which is supposed to have been his residence. This cave has been made notorious by the singular circumstances of the murder committed there in 1744 by Eugene Aram, who was not detected until 1758. On the north-west bank of the river, opposite the ruins of the castle, is a curious petrifying spring, called the Dropping Well. According to tradition Mother Shipton was born near this well. An extraordinary native of Knaresborough, John Metcalf, called Blind Jack of Knaresborough, died there in 1810, at the age of 93. He lost his sight at the age of four years, and in different parts of his life acquired a reputation as a musician, a carrier, a guide, and a projector and constructor of roads. There are some medicinal springs in the neighbourhood of Knaresborough, which were once much resorted to, but they have since been almost deserted for those of Harrowgate and Scarborough.