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Why have new signs appeared on the Harrogate bypass?

Why have new signs appeared on the Harrogate bypass?

Published at 8:48am 6th July 2017. (Updated at 7:48am 7th July 2017)

Driving on the A658 this week, between Harrogate and Knaresborough, you may have noticed some brand new road signs appearing alongside the carriageway.

The stretch between the A61 and the Kestral Roundabout has been renamed 'John Metcalf Way'.

It's in honour of the local legend and pioneering roadbuilder who was born 300 years ago this year.

If you don't recognise the name it may be because, for many, he was better known as 'Blind Jack of Knaresborough'.

A statue of whom sits comfortably on a bench in the town's market place today (see below).

Local campaigners have been working hard for many months to mark the anniversary.

John Metcalf 1801

Despite being blind from the age of six, John was the first professional road builder to emerge during the Industrial Revolution.

We have around 180 miles of turnpike road to thank him for across the north of England.

He lived to the grand old age of 92 and was buried in Spofforth churchyard.

Recently, the original violin John played in public, at the recommendation of his parents who said he needed to find a way of making a living, was uncovered.

Historian Bernard Higgins described how the violin played a crucial role in his future success:


Recorded in Arnold Kellett’s book ‘Blind Jack of Knaresborough’ (2008), a foreword to which was supplied by the Right Hon. David Blunkett MP, John said that “I would not have been the same person if I had not had my sight taken from me at the age of six.” 

From now on, if you hear the name 'John Metcalf Way' feature in a Stray FM travel bulletin, you know why!

The Blind Jack statue, decorated to celebrate Knaresborough's FEVA Festival:

Feva - Blind Jack