Gascoigne’s Arms Thomas Knapton's Money Troubles Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Gascoigne‘s Arms
Thomas Knapton‘s Money Troubles

From the Barwicker No.106
June 2012

In The Barwicker No. 96 I provided details of the history of the popular public house, the Gascoigne Arms, (historically known as the Gascoigne‘s Arms) in the centre of the village. In the article, I described that until the early 20th century, it was owned by the local Lord of the Manor the Gascoigne‘s of Parlington and Lotherton who rented it to a series of tenants.

Due to the tenanted nature of the property it was the most difficult of the Barwick Inns to investigate with the story only becoming confirmed in the 1820s. Prior to this date, from at least the 1770s, it is likely the tenants were the Knapton family. William Knapton (no.1, 1719 ‐ 1782) then his son William Knapton (no.2, 1741 ‐ 1820) are listed in various records as publicans and blacksmiths.

The picture became clear in 1822 when in “Edward Baines, History, Directory & Gazetteer of the County of York” a Thomas Knapton is shown as a Victualler in the Gascoigne Arms at Barwick in Elmet. Thomas Knapton (1792 ‐ 1868?) was the 2 son of William Knapton (no.2); he had married Lucy Hill at Bramham on the 24 April 1820 and appears to have taken on the inn following the death of his father in the December of that year. It was not a full time job as he was also described as a farmer. Between 1822 and 1832 they had at least 6 children who were all baptised in All Saints’ Church, Barwick. Lucy died in 1834 aged 43 and by the early 1840s he had left and Mary Knapton, possibly his sister (1791 - ?), had taken over.

Recent research at the National Archives in London and in Victorian newspapers has now revealed the reason for Thomas Knapton's departure which, at the time, would have been the talk of the village. The reason was announced in the "The London Gazette" the official UK newspaper used for legal notices on Tuesday 1st June 1841 and was quickly picked up and republished by the local Leeds newspapers. An extract is listed below:

″Whereas a Fiat (an order or ruling) in Bankruptcy is awarded and issued forth again Thomas Knapton, of Barwick in Elmet, Innkeeper, Dealer and Chapman (seller), and he being declared a bankrupt is hereby required to surrender himself...on the 11th June 1841 and the 13th July 1841 at twelve noon at the Commissioners Rooms, Leeds, and make a full discovery and disclosure of his estate and effects; where creditors are to come prepared to prove their debts.

At the first sitting to choose assignees, and at the last sitting the said bankrupt is required to finish his examination; and the creditors are to assent to or dissent from the allowance of his certificate. All persons indebted to the said bankrupt, or to have any of his effects, are not to pay or deliver the same but to whom the Commissioners shall appoint and give notice to Messrs Rutter and Trotter, Solicitors, Ely-place, Holborn, London, or to Mr. Edward Harker Soulby, Solicitor, Queen's-court, Briggate, Leeds.”

In 1841 to declare yourself bankrupt you had to be a trader and owe more than £100. You or your creditors could petition the Court. All your creditors would have a claim on any assets you had and the Court would order how these were to be distributed. It was not until 1861 that non-traders could declare themselves bankrupt, prior to that date they could be kept indefinitely in debtors' gaols if their creditors wished.

Sadly most of the records of the Court of Bankruptcy have not survived. For the year 1841 only 5% of the case files were selected for permanent preservation and these did not include Thomas's. We have been left with summary entries in the Court register books and further newspaper entries. From these we know that on the 30th June 1841 Thomas asked the Court to change the final examination date from the 13th July to the 29th July which was approved. The case went on until the 30th November when the Court met again in Leeds to audit the accounts and distribution of Thomas's estate.

We don't know why Thomas became bankrupt or the value of his debts or even who his creditors were. Perhaps his life disintegrated following the death of his wife. At the time of the 1841 census, the 6th June, just a few days after his bankruptcy he is living by himself in Barwick with no occupation listed. His younger children are either residing with relatives in Shadwell or lodging elsewhere in the village. In his later years he became an agricultural labourer in Barwick and likely died here in 1868 and was buried in All Saints’ churchyard.

The Gascoigne Arms was taken over in 1841 by Mary Knapton and she remained until the late 1840s when William Knapton (No.3, 1789 ‐ 1866) the eldest son of William Knapton (No.2) and bankrupt Thomas's eldest brother moved his family into the premises. Although born in the village he had been living in Roundhay and later in Shadwell. He farmed 50 acres as well as running the inn. William died in June 1866 aged 76 and the Knapton family left the public house for good.


  • National Archives, London, Bankrupt Court Series B1 & B4
  • 1841 - 1861 Census Return
  • All Saints’ Church, Barwick in Elmet, Parish Registers
  • London Gazette, 1st June 1841, 24th July 1841 and 2nd November 1841
  • Yorkshire Directories
  • Leeds Intelligencer 5th June 1841

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