Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town

Ossett Wilson Family: 1900 - 2000

The Family of James Wilson (1854-1939)
There were several Wilson families in Ossett at the turn of the 20th Century and this study concerns my direct ancestors, the family of James Wilson (1854-1939) and Mary Ann Northing (1857-1935) who were my Great Grandparents. Sadly, they died long before I was born and I never knew them. In fact, many of my grandfather's siblings discussed here had died before I arrived on the scene. My grandfather was Gerald Emil Wilson (1887-1971) whom I remember well as a quiet, gentle, pipe-smoking, and intelligent man. He loved listening to "The Archers" on the massive valve wireless in his living room, following the local football and Yorkshire cricket teams, as well as reading the print off the "Ossett Observer". One of the most unpleasant experiences of my life was being called out of a lecture room in April 1971 to be told of his death.

The other Ossett Wilson families included a John Wilson who ran a clock and watchmaker's business on Dale Street. These Wilsons came from Wakefield. The other Wilsons included an ex-Mayor of Ossett, G.F. Wilson whose ancestors had arrived in Ossett from Norfolk some time during the 19th Century. The elder brother of James Wilson, Ellis Wilson had served as an Alderman on Ossett Borough Council in the very early days of its inception, but he was the only family member to enter public service.

Alice Wilson
Alice WilsonAlice Wilson, the oldest child of James and Mary Annie Wilson was born on the 17th September 1879. The occupation of her father James at the 1881 census was cloth manufacturer, but as we know, he became a mill engineer and this is his occupation on Alice’s wedding certificate. At the time, the Wilson family was living in Dale Street, Ossett. Alice was married to Edwin Jowett on the 12th April 1902 at the New Wesleyan Chapel in Wesley Street; Ossett a short time after daughter Ethel had been born. The witnesses were Edwin’s younger brother Rowland Jowett and Alice’s sister younger sister Maud Wilson.

In 1903 the couple lived at Westfield Street close to Edwin’s parents, Abel and Mary Jowett who lived in Runtlings. Edwin Jowett had been born in Ossett in 1878 when the family lived at Healey Lane and at the time of his marriage was employed as a warehouseman. Edwin’s father, Abel was a rag shaker and had been born in Bradford about 1852 and had spent the early part of his married life in Bradford before moving to Ossett, his wife’s hometown. By 1913, Edwin and Alice had moved to Bridge House in Runtlings where Edwin’s parents still lived. Edwin and Alice had four children:

Ethel Jowett born 1st April 1902
Arnold Jowett born 26th June 1904
Stanley Jowett born 4th July 1916
Sydney Jowett born 16th August 1919

Ethel Jowett married a man called Leonard Fothergill and had one son, David. The couple went to live in Skipton, but not much is known about their later life.

Arnold Jowett served his apprenticeship as a bricklayer and eventually became a building contractor in his own right, employing several men, including younger brother Sydney. Arnold also ventured into the chinchilla breeding business in quite a serious way, but the venture eventually failed. Likewise, another business venture supplying and operating table football machines failed after a while. Arnold married his cousin Kathleen Wilson and had three children. Arnold died in the 1980s.

Stanley Jowett worked in the textile industry and after service in the Royal Navy during WW2 he emigrated to Canada in about 1950 with his wife Winifred and their two eldest children. The remaining five children were all born in Canada. Stanley carried on his trade in the textile industry until retirement. He died in Canada in 1999.

Sydney Jowett stayed in his brother's building business until Arnold died and the business was wound up. He then had a business himself setting out small buildings as garages. Sydney served in the Army during WW2 and married a lady called Mary Horsfield and had three daughters who all married and then moved away from the Ossett area.

Maud Wilson
Muad WilsonMaud Wilson was born on the 9th August 1881 and was the second daughter of James and Mary Annie Wilson. She was married at the age of 40 on the 15th October 1921 to 49 year-old bachelor Herbert Hartley, who was a winding engine man at Roundwood Colliery, living at 5, Town End, Ossett at the time of his marriage. Herbert Hartley was the eldest son of Thomas Hartley, a colliery worker, and his wife Elizabeth. Herbert's father, Thomas (Tom) Hartley was born in nearby Ardsley in about 1844 and was deceased by the time of Herbert’s marriage in 1921. Herbert had been born in Potovens (Wrenthorpe), Wakefield in 1871/2, one of five children: the others were Mary (born 1872/3), Charlotte (born 1874/5), Arthur (born 1876/7) and Fred (born 1879). Herbert has been found in the 1891 census living in Stithy Street, Ossett and at that time his occupation was colliery banksman (overlooker above ground).

Like her parents, Maud was a strict Methodist and the couple married at the New Wesleyan Chapel in Wesley Street Ossett. Marriage witnesses were John B. Goodall and Miss Edith M. Clarke, who was a teacher at Spa Street School in Ossett (and later headmistress). Eventually, the couple settled at Flushdyke, Ossett within walking distance of Roundwood Colliery.

Herbert is remembered with some affection by two of his nephews, Roland Wilson and John Wilson. Roland Wilson visited his Auntie Maud and Uncle Herbert every Boxing Day with his parents Gerald and Annie Wilson. John Wilson often walked across the fields from Hope Street to Flushdyke to see his Uncle Herbert with his father, Harry Wilson carrying garden produce. Harry Wilson and Herbert Hartley were both keen allotment enthusiasts, like many others in this Wilson family.

Maud Wilson's Wedding in 1921

Above: Maud Wilson and Herbert Hartley at their wedding on 15th October 1921. Back Row: man with cigarette unknown, woman unknown, Irene Wilson, Kathleen Wilson, Agnes Wilson, Myra Wilson, Edwin Northing Wilson, Alice (Wilson) Jowett and Alice’s eldest daughter Ethel Jowett. Front Row: boy kneeling unknown, lady unknown, lady unknown, Herbert Hartley, Maud Wilson, Mary Annie Wilson, James Wilson, child unknown and boy kneeling unknown.

Maud and Herbert didn’t have any children, as they were quite late in getting married. Maud was a very prim and proper lady and maintained her strong Methodist values right up to her death. Not much is known about the couple, but Maud is remembered as a whist drive enthusiast. After Herbert’s death, Maud was found dead in her garden in Flushdyke, Ossett and it is assumed that she collapsed and died from a heart attack.

James Henry Wilson
James Henry "Harry" WilsonJames Henry Wilson was born on the 15th July 1883 in Ossett, the eldest son of James and Mary Ann Wilson. 26 year-old James Henry or “Harry” Wilson married 24 year-old Susan Eleanor or “Nellie” Clayton on the 26th March 1910 at the South Ossett Wesleyan Chapel in South Parade, Ossett. Susan, born in 1886 was one of the daughters of wool dyer Robert Clayton and his wife Ellen, who at the time of the 1881 census, lived in Horbury Road, Ossett. Other children in Susan’s family were: Sarah Elizabeth (born 1872), Annie Eliza (born 1876) and Alice Jane (born 1878), Alfred, Cora Louise, and Beatrice Ida.

Harry Wilson was a scribbling overlooker in a woollen mill at the time of his marriage and Susan was a cloth weaver. Harry spent all his life in the textile industry, except for a short spell when he worked for his younger brother Vincent during the depression. The couple settled in Hope Street in South Ossett where they lived for many years and had the following seven children:

Arthur Henry Wilson born 31st October 1912
Ronald Wilson born 10th September 1916
Herbert Wilson born 24th March 1918
Living daughter born 10th March 1921
Leslie Wilson born 12th August 1924
Living son born 9th May 1927
Living son born 22nd September 1929

Harry and Nellie lived a quiet life, bringing up their children and supporting the local Methodist chapel, where Nellie was a choir member in her younger days. Harry Wilson was a keen gardener, like his father James: the two of them had adjoining allotments roughly in the area where Crownlands Lane meets Kingsway. The allotments are now long gone and have been replaced by housing. Harry would make his way to the allotment after finishing work at the Glover & Ellis Mill, before making his way home to the family house at Hope Street. Harry eventually took employment at Hepworth’s Mill and the family relocated to Ryecroft Street, just up the road from Moorcroft Cottage, where Harry’s parents lived. This certainly made access to the allotment a lot easier and with seven hungry mouths to feed, maybe the allotment was an economic necessity as well as a hobby pastime.

The eldest boy, Arthur Henry Wilson attended Ossett Grammar School and went on to work in the automobile industry. He was called up into the army early in 1940 at the start of WW2, serving for several years during the war. After being demobbed, Arthur returned to Ossett to work for BP and after studying in his spare time, he became qualified as an Associate Member of the Institute of Automobile Engineers. Arthur took up a job as transport manager for the North Western Gas Board in Stockport and went to live in Cheadle Hulme in Cheshire. Arthur died on the 31st July 1965 at the early age of 53 from liver cancer whilst still living in Cheshire. He was married to Jessie, nee Firth on the 11th June 1938 and they had one son who is still living.

Like his elder brother, Ronald Wilson attended Ossett Grammar School, and after leaving school, worked in the field of engineering. He was also called up into the Army in 1940 and served for several years during WW2. After the war, he eventually took a post at the Yorkshire Copper Works in Leeds where he worked as a roving troubleshooter. He travelled widely and operated specialised tube testing equipment at different locations around the UK. Ronald married a lady called Katherine and had a son who is still living. Ronald Wilson died on the 12th October 1985 aged 69.

Herbert Wilson died in May 1934, at the early age of 16 after contracting a disease, which killed him within 24 hours. Like his older brothers, Herbert was educated at Ossett Grammar School.

Leslie Wilson served in the RAF both in the UK and abroad. He married a lady called Florence Grogan (her second marriage). Leslie Wilson worked in motor engineering for some years before purchasing a business repairing three-wheeler cars issued to disabled person by the Health Ministry. This business served Leslie well for several years and he was able to employ maybe six people to help with the business. With the introduction of new Health and Safety regulations, which required him to provide separate disabled toilets and rest rooms on his premises for his disabled customers, Leslie found that he could not afford the large capital outlay needed to make his business premises compliant with the new Government requirements. Eventually, his franchise was withdrawn and the business eventually failed because of the decline in Ministry contract work. Leslie Wilson died on the 8th May 1983 aged 58. His wife Florence predeceased him by 9 months.

Susan Eleanor “Nellie” Wilson died on the 9th December 1960 aged 75 years and James Henry “Harry” Wilson died on the 20th December 1969 aged 86. They are buried in St John’s Methodist cemetery in South Ossett.

James Henry Wilson and Family

Above: James Henry Wilson & Family. Top Row: Arthur, Leslie, John, Kathleen, Brian & Ronald. Seated: James Henry and Susan Wilson

Vincent Norman Wilson
Vincent Norman Wilson was born on the 27th July 1885 in Ossett. He married Flora Mary Whitehead, daughter of Ezra Whitehead, an Ossett builder and joiner on the 6th April 1912 at the New Wesleyan Chapel in Ossett. At the time of his marriage to Flora, who was a schoolteacher, Vincent was employed as a woollen merchant, one of many businesses he would be involved in during his life as an entrepreneur. In 1913, the couple lived in Runtlings Lane, Ossett. Vincent and Flora had three children:

Colin Ryder Wilson born 10th July 1916
Mabel Joyce Wilson born 13th April 1919
Living son born 13th February 1926

Vincent established V.N. Wilson and Co. at Prospect Works near the end of Prospect Road in Ossett where it joins The Green. The factory made wire mattresses and wool, hair and fibre, cases and bed ticks, plus straw palliasses. During the First World War, large quantities of beds, mattresses, etc. were made for military hospital purposes. The Prospect Works premises were later converted into a snooker and billiard hall and have now been demolished for housing. Vincent relocated his business premises to another factory almost opposite Ossett railway station, down the steps and on Intake Lane. The premises were burned down after someone put fireworks through the letterbox although it is understood that by then, the business was in financial difficulties. Sadly Vincent’s business was not covered by insurance and to avoid bankruptcy, the machinery was sold to the furniture manufacturing company, Ellis and Co, based at Mould Green, Huddersfield. Below is an advertisement for V.N. Wilson and Co. from 1927.

V.N. Wilson and Co. Advert 1927

A parallel business operation had been set up in Preston to market Vincent’s patented “Wilsomnia” mattresses, which were made by weaving expanding metal strip in a crisscross pattern inside a steel frame. The “Wilsomnia” mattresses were sold principally to hospitals and other medical establishments in the north of England. It is said that the mattresses were quite revolutionary for their day and were very comfortable. The Preston operation was headed by Vincent’s brother Gerald Wilson in the mid to late 1920s and Gerald and his family moved there and lived for some years in Preston before returning to Ossett when the business closed.

Vincent Wilson at Prospect Works, Ossett

Above: Vincent Wilson (lower left) with workers in Prospect Works mattress and bedding factory.

After the fire at the Ossett business premises, Vincent Wilson and his family lived a hand-to-mouth existence as various business ventures were pursued with varying degrees of success. 

Eldest son, Colin Ryder Wilson served an engineering apprenticeship with Gill Brothers in Park Square, Ossett before serving in the Royal Navy during WW2, reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer as a gunnery artificer.  After the war, he carried on with his technical studies and obtained a job in the Weights and Measure Department of Ossett Corporation.  Colin married Margaret Fisher in 1941 and had two children – a girl and a boy.  Later on, he was successful in obtaining a better job with Bradford Corporation and he moved with his family to live in Bradford.   Like others in the Wilson family, Colin Wilson was a keen gardener and has had an allotment in Bradford for about 50 years.  Colin’s wife Margaret died in 1991 and Colin died in 2004.

Little is known about Vincent Wilson’s only daughter (Mabel) Joyce.  In 1950, she married a man called Leonard Blackburn and they settled in Harrogate.  It is not known if they had children or anything of her history.

Vincent and Florence moved to Bradford in their later years to live close to their son Colin. Vincent died on the 10th January 1974 aged 88 and Florence died just over a year later on the 7th April 1975 aged 87.  It is likely that they were buried in Bradford rather than Ossett.

Gerald Emil Wilson
Geral Emil WilsonGerald Emil Wilson was born on the 12th August 1887 in Ossett.  He was apprenticed to Ossett Cooperative Society, located in Dale Street, at the age of 13 or 14 years, probably about 1900, to learn the trade of grocer.  The apprenticeship was for a period of seven years at a starting wage of 7/6d per week. 

He was married on the 19th of August 1912 to Annie Eliza Green, the youngest daughter of Harry and Sarah Ann Green at South Ossett Parish Church.  Annie Eliza was born 14th February 1889 at 66, Storrs Hill Road, Horbury Bridge where her father was a police constable.  The Green family moved to Calder Grove where Annie’s father Harry died in February 1902.  By the time of the wedding, Sarah Ann Green was widowed for a second time after she married a man called Lee Summerscales who became the landlord of the Little Bull on Teal Street in May 1910.  Sarah Ann Summerscales became the licensee of the Little Bull public house in 1911 after Lee’s death.

Gerald’s father James Wilson was quite a strict man with his children and it was the practice for all his boys to hand over their wage packets to him after they had been paid on a Friday.  James then handed back what he considered to be an adequate amount for spending money and he kept the rest of the wages.  This practice went on well after the children had reached full adulthood and were over 21 years of age.  Gerald was clearly unhappy about this practice and decided that he would prefer to pay his parents for board and lodge.  There was a huge row between James and his son Gerald, which culminated with Gerald moving out of the family home at Moorcroft Cottage, first to share a house with John Jarvis, who later became a dentist with premises in Station Road.  Gerald did eventually return home after his mother asked him to come back.  She suggested that he should leave money for his board and lodging on the fireplace in an envelope.  Gerald’s father James took the money each week without any further comment. He was living at Moorcroft Cottage with his parents when he got married, but went to live at the Little Bull after his marriage to Annie Green.  Not surprisingly, this only made matters worse - the Wilsons were very strict Wesleyan Methodists and the Little Bull was a lively pub, patronized largely by coal miners who worked at nearby Roundwood colliery.  No doubt that James Wilson was less than impressed with his son’s new home and he is conspicuous by his absence from any of the photographs of Gerald’s wedding.

Interestingly, at around this period, Gerald effectively ran the Little Bull public house since his future mother-in-law Sarah Ann, had been widowed for a second time when her husband Lee Summerscales died. This must have been an interesting time for Gerald Wilson - he was teetotal all his life and never touched a drink, although he did enjoy smoking a pipe. He came to be trusted implicitly by the patrons of the Little Bull, largely because he never drank and was scrupulously honest. If Gerald said the “slate” was for two shillings and three-pence, then that was accepted by the customers without argument.

On the night of Gerald and Annie Eliza’s wedding in Monday 19th August 1912, there were celebrations at the Little Bull. Much beer was drunk and the place was full. One thing led to another and a fight broke out between some of the coal miners who patronized the pub. The outcome was that coal miner; John Glover Hetherington summoned John Hall, James Fisher and brothers Ellis and Percy Wilson for assault. The two Wilson brothers concerned were not related to the Ossett Wilsons in this history. At Ossett Borough Court a week later, Ellis Wilson, coal miner, was fined 5 shillings or 14 days in prison for giving Hetherington a good hiding causing him to be off work for over a week with his injuries. Intriguingly, Percy Wilson would marry Annie Eliza’s widowed mother Sarah a few years later and both Ellis and Percy Wilson lived at the Little Bull in the 1920s. The story of the “Miner’s Fracas at Ossett Common” made the Ossett Observer and the national newspapers the next week with a write-up in the “News of the World”. One can only imagine what Gerald’s parents thought about all of this as they filed for the morning service at the New Wesleyan Chapel.

Below: Gerald Wilson and Annie Eliza Green at their wedding in 1912.

Gerald and Annie Wilson in 1912

Gerald continued to work for Ossett Co-Op and at the time of his wedding, his occupation was listed as warehouseman and this is likely to have been at the Co-Op premises in Dale Street, Ossett. It is likely that Gerald met his future wife Annie Green through his friendship with her elder brother Willie Green, who lived in Audrey Street, Ossett with his wife Hannah.

In 1916, Gerald Wilson was conscripted into the Army after the appalling loss of life during the first two years of WW1. Conscription for the battlefield, the position of all Britain’s allies as well as enemies, was resisted until by January 1916 the flood of volunteers was reduced to a trickle, despite social pressure on ‘laggards’ by attempts to shame them. He was a Lance Corporal in the Army reserve in Ossett and this no doubt hastened his entry into WW1. By 1916, he was already 29 and became a Company Runner for the 5th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. It is known that Gerald Wilson had a foot infection or possibly a bullet wound in late 1917 and was shipped back home for treatment at a hospital near Newcastle upon Tyne on the Australian hospital ship, the H.M.A.T. “Warilda”.

Towards the very end of the war at the Battle of the Sambre Canal near the French - Belgian border, Gerald Wilson was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery on the day of the battle. The British had shelled the German positions and were confident that their resistance had been broken. When the British made their advance, the Germans were far from beaten and they fought back strongly. The armistice was signed on November 11th 1918, just one week after the Battle of the Sambre Canal took place and the action was one of several which finally broke the Germans. The famous war poet Wilfred Owen lost his life at the Battle of the Sambre Canal.

After the war, Gerald and Annie settled down in Ossett at 22, Bank Street, with their baby son, who presumably had been conceived during Gerald's convalescence period. The depression of the 1920s caused unemployment on a large scale and Gerald lost his job at the Co-Op. He eventually started work for his brother Vincent (as had eldest brother James Henry) in the Ossett bedding and mattress factory. For three years, between about 1924 and 1927, Gerald lived in Preston, Lancashire and ran Vincent's Lancashire operation, which was marketing the "Wilsomnia" range of mattresses. When Vincent's Ossett premises burned down, allegedly because of children putting fireworks through the letterbox, the Lancashire operation was finished. Gerald and his family returned to live in Ossett, settling in Athold Street, off Queen's Drive, before moving later to a larger house in Station Road, opposite Hilda Street.

Once again, Gerald was out of work. However, Ellis and Co. in Huddersfield who had bought all of Vincent Wilson's woodworking machinery (after the collapse of his business) gave Gerald some part time work, usually in two-week periods, at their premises at Mould Green, Huddersfield. He had learned a great deal about the different grades of wood and was asked to help for occasional short periods to sort some of the exotic hardwoods that were imported for furniture production from overseas. One day they sent for him, officially for a fortnight, but as no one asked him to leave at the end of it; so he continued working for Ellis and Co. until he retired at the age of 70 in 1957. He used to cycle to Huddersfield up through Middlestown and Lepton to his work most of the year and only went by bus when the weather was really bad.

Gerald and Annie Wilson had three children:

Living son born 25th September 1918
Living son born 8th March 1923
Living daughter born 9th June 1926

Gerald Wilson's Family in 1939/40

Above: Gerald and Annie Wilson with their family in 1939

Arthur Edward Wilson
Arthur Edward Wilson was born in October 1889 in Ossett, but sadly he died 10th May 1890 aged only 7 months from bronchial pneumonia. Arthur Wilson has been referred to as "Little Willie" by some of the Wilson family and although it was known that James and Mary Ann Wilson had twelve children, until recently, only eleven had been accounted for. Arthur Edward Wilson is buried in the Methodist Cemetery at St John's in South Ossett with his parents and brother Edwin Northing Wilson in plot 47 10½ yards north, although there is no memorial inscription on the gravestone to him being there. The Burial Index at St John's Methodist Church confirms his death and burial in the Wilson family grave.

Irene Wilson
Irene Wilson was born on the 30th September 1891 in Ossett. When she was 28 years of age, she married 35 year-old, railway signalman, George William Chamberlain on the 11th October 1920 at the New Wesleyan Chapel in Wesley Street, Ossett. At the time of her marriage, Rene's occupation was a confectionary assistant. The couple settled in a bungalow with large gardens set in the hillside at Regent Street, Horbury enjoying a panoramic view of the railway sidings at Healey and beyond towards Middlestown. Here, George and Irene, or Rene as she was known, worked long hours building a beautiful terraced garden and smallholding. They had two children as follows:

Frank Chamberlain born about 1923 died about 1950
Barbara Chamberlain born about 1928 died about 1952

George Chamberlain was unlucky enough to trap his foot in a set of hand-operated points one day when he was working. The accident caused severe damage to his foot and he made the mistake of not reporting the accident to the GNR railway authorities for whom he worked. The foot injury was quite severe and George became partially lame. The GNR authorities took a very dim view of him not reporting the accident and refused any compensation. He was unable to work for some time before being given work as a ticket collector at Kirkgate Station in Wakefield. To a proud man like George, this demotion was a terrible end to his career and he gradually went downhill from this point and died quite young.

Tragedy hit the Chamberlains first with George's early death and then the death of son Frank Chamberlain. Frank Chamberlain had been at agricultural college and in the late 1940s had established a small pig farm along Matty Marsden Lane in Horbury with Arnold Bell. One day, Frank stepped on a rusty nail as he was trying to haul in a frisky young pig. After a day or two, his foot got very inflamed and after visiting the Doctor's surgery and deciding not to stay because it was too busy, Frank gradually fell very ill. By the time they got him to hospital in Leeds, it was too late - he had contracted a very nasty strain of tetanus and, because the disease was so advanced, the hospital was unable to save his life. Frank would probably have lived had he been in the armed forces, where anti-tetanus injections were mandatory. Frank had not been called up because he was effectively in a reserved occupation. Frank Chamberlain was unmarried when he died in about 1950.

Irene Wilson's Wedding in 1920

Above: Irene Wilson on her wedding day 11th October 1920 with most of the Wilson siblings and parents James and Mary Annie Wilson (seated right of Irene on the front row)

Daughter Barbara Chamberlain married a policeman and lived in Horbury. She died giving birth to their first child in about 1952 as a result of serious complications. Sadly, the baby also died. Rene lost her husband and both her children in a matter of a few years. Rene moved from the family bungalow in Regent Street and she settled in a small terraced house in Manor Road, Horbury, living there for many years. She never married again and lived on to the age of about 94 and died in a Nursing Home 1986.

George Austin Wilson
George Austin Wilson was born on the 20th December 1893 in Ossett. He was a metal turner for Gill Brothers at the time of his marriage on the 5th August 1916 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Ossett to 24 year-old Lillian Ellis. Lillian was the daughter of Joshua Ellis, foreman rag grinder, who by the time of his daughter's wedding was already deceased. The Ellis family lived at 14 Westfield Street, Ossett at the time of the wedding. Witnesses at the wedding were Walter Ellis Thompson and Austin's brother Gerald.

Austin Wilson worked for the Municipal Gas Department in Bank Yard, Ossett testing gas meters and, as a part-time occupation; he drove the town's fire tender before transferring later to become the town's ambulance driver. He was a keen gardener and amateur photographer and developed his own photographs in the pleasant family bungalow "Kirkstile" Birchen Hills, Ossett. The bungalow was over the lee of the hill and so was shielded from the prevailing wind, helping Austin's gardening. One of his interests was growing grapes and he had an impressive vine in his greenhouse, which he fed by burying the carcasses of dead cats or dogs! Austin was a keen "Meccano" enthusiast and always had impressive models at his house. Austin also had an allotment in Birchen Hills and had a bell set up to alert him when he was needed to drive the ambulance, which was kept at the fire station - one ring meant a call to Dewsbury and two rings meant Leeds

Austin and Lillian had two children: Margaret Ellis Wilson born 10th December 1917 and Doreen Wilson born 8th March 1924.

Austin Wilson died from stomach cancer in Dewsbury Infirmary aged just 52 on the 8th December 1945. Lillian died on the 26th December 1964.

Below: George Austin Wilson and his wife Lillian

Austin Wilson and Lillian Ellis

Agnes Wilson
Agnes Wilson was born on the 10th April 1895 in Ossett. She was married on the 17th June 1922 to 29 year-old Arthur Exley, a railway clerk who was living at 36, Ashworth Road in Dewsbury at the time of the marriage. Arthur was the son of Dewsbury printer George F. Exley and his wife Harriett. The couple lived in Mirfield and had two sons:

Living son born in 1925
Living son born in 1932

Very little is known about Arthur and Agnes. Family legend has it that Agnes was an excellent swimmer and that she spent some of her time teaching handicapped children how to swim.

Below: Arthur Exley and Agnes Wilson possibly at their wedding in 1922

Agnes Wilson and Arthur Exley

Kathleen Wilson
Kathleen was the twin of Edwin Northing Wilson and they were born in 1897. Kathleen didn't marry until she was 47 years of age. During WW2, whilst working in a newsagent and tobacconist shop in Bank Street, Ossett, she met Arthur Edward Lloyd, who was a wealthy Ossett haulage contractor and by then, a widower in his late 60s. Arthur Lloyd used to go in to the shop for his pipe tobacco and this is where he met Kathleen Wilson. The couple married at Easter 1945 on the 27th March at the Methodist Church in Wesley Street Ossett. Witnesses were Edward Lloyd (Arthur's eldest son) and Gerald Wilson, Kathleen's elder brother.

Arthur and Kathleen lived at Rose Villa in Bank Street, close to Arthur's business premises, which were at the junction of Bank Street and Queen Street. After Arthur's death, Kathleen went to live in one of a row of small terraced houses off Prospect Road, which Arthur owned. The houses were left to her until her death, at which time ownership reverted to Arthur's sons. Later Gerald Wilson and Myra Wilson would also live in these houses. Kathleen died on the 18th January 1983 aged 85.

Kathleen Wilson's Wedding in 1945

Above: Kathleen's 1945 wedding photograph, with all the Wilson siblings present.

Edwin Northing Wilson
Edward Northing WilsonKathleen's twin brother, Edwin Northing Wilson was born in 1897 and in his early life, he enlisted in the Navy, seeing service during WW1. After the war "Teddy" Wilson worked as a wood machinist, and later became a foreman wood machinist at his brother Vincent's bedding and mattress factory in Ossett.

Teddy was a keen motorcyclist and a member of Wakefield Motor Club. Teddy's love of motorcycling would cost him his life as a result of a tragic accident during a trial or race at Jebb Lane in Darton, Barnsley. The front wheel of Teddy's motor cycle got snagged in a rut in the road and he fell from the machine, cracking his head on the road. He was dead when the ambulance arrived as a result of a fractured skull and would have probably lived had crash helmets been mandatory in those days.

Edwin Northing Wilson never married and died aged 31, in October 1928. He is buried in a family grave with his mother, father and baby brother Arthur at St. John's Methodist Burial Ground, South Parade, Ossett.

Myra Wilson
Myra Wilson was the youngest child of James and Mary Annie Wilson and she was born on the 29th January 1901 when the Wilsons lived in Dale Street. She probably was a bit of a surprise for her mother and father since James was by then 46 and Mary Annie was 43. Myra Wilson had worked in Leeds as a machinist and worked for part of her life in the mattress and bedding factory of her brother Vincent Norman Wilson in Intake Lane (at the bottom of the station steps on Station Road). Some of the work was quite dangerous and involved weaving metal strips with a machine to form Vincent's patented "Wilsomnia" mattresses.

Around the beginning of WW2, she was in her late 30s and still unmarried, but was being courted by one Harry Gunson, blacksmith, who worked at Rhodes and Halmshaws engineering factory in Church Street. She married Harry Gunson, it is thought about 1944 and the couple settled in Dearden Street, Ossett. Little is known about Myra or Harry and sadly, the couple had no children. Harry's father was a chimney sweep in Ossett and Harry had a brother who looked after his aged mother after the death of their father. Myra died in 1984 aged 83 when she was living in one of sister Kathleen Lloyd's terraced houses 1, Oakwood Cottages, Prospect Road, which she occupied after brother Gerald Wilson died in 1971.

Wilson siblings in 1945

Above: The Wilson siblings at Kathleen Wilson's wedding at Easter 1945. Standing: L to R: Kathleen, Agnes, Irene, Harry, Maud, Gerald, Alice and Myra. Sitting: L to R: Vincent and Austin


Ossett Observer December 14th 1918

The Military Medal has been won by another popular Ossett soldier, namely Private Gerald E. Wilson, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment who used to live in Headlands Road and is a son of Mr. James Wilson of Moorcroft Street. At the time he joined the Army about three years ago, he was employed in the central grocery department of the Ossett Co-operative Society. He first went to the Western fighting front in September 1917, but returned a few months later to England suffering from septic poisoning. In March last, he again went to France where he won his distinction while serving as a runner with messages from the troops as they advanced. In a letter home, he says that he had experiences enough to last him a lifetime. On one occasion it took him twenty minutes to go a distance of one hundred yards, as he had to dodge machine-gun fire. And then, one dark moonless night when it was pouring with rain, he fetched ammunition. He kept tumbling over discarded equipment, dead bodies, shell holes, etc. and was about “done up” when he got the ammunition party back. However, he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had done what was expected of him and the Captain recommended him for decoration. A week ago he was presented with the ribbon of the medal. A younger brother, Edwin, is serving with the Navy.

"The Runner” (An extract taken from 'Foot Prints of the 1/4th.) Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment')

"On July 2nd no messages got through from the companies in the front line to battalion H.Q. until 4.30 p.m. and then they were brought by a runner. As a rule a runner’s life was not a long one and it was not unexciting. No one knows except the runners themselves with what risks they had to contend. Dodging from shell hole to shell hole, up one street and down another. Waiting for a barrage to lift, and then be caught by a worse one. Sniped at by whizz-bangs and machine-guns. Diving headlong into shell holes. Bolting into cellars.

The life they led was not worth living; they soon found that out and they cared little whether they lived or died. What they did care about was getting their messages through. That was a point of honour. Everything depends on communication; they knew that. They knew that they were a tiny cog in a gigantic machine, and that if that cog broke down, the whole machine was in danger. So they toiled and sweated, and dodged, and lay doggo.

They were on friendly terms with the adjutant; they even dared to chip the R.S.M. They slept when they could; they gambled when they got the chance; they had ready access to the rum jar (and they needed it). But they were there when they were wanted, and if Saint Paul had gone through half the perils that they went through there would be a few more of his scintillating chapters in the New Testament.”

Awarded Military Medal for bravery in WW1.
To: 17112 Private Gerald Wilson - I beg to inform you that the Corps Commander under authority granted him has awarded you the Military Medal for the following act of gallantry in the field. During operations near Fresnoy on November 4th 1918, this soldier acted as Company Runner. Throughout, he was a magnificent example of devotion to duty and utter fearlessness. He carried messages backwards and forwards to Battalion HQ under very heavy artillery and machine gun fire. On many occasions he located elements of his Company who had lost direction and guided them back to the Company. He worked extremely hard all the time and delivered all messages in the shortest possible time under very heavy fire. A very gallant soldier.

H Lyles, Captain and Adjutant
5th Duke of Wellington's Regiment
Ossett, January 18th 1919

Thomas William Wilson, a Town Clerk of Ossett was a member of the Ossett Wilson family discussed on these pages:

Death of Mr. T. W. Wilson, Ossett - Town Clerk for 29 years

Ossett has lost its chief official, and one of its best known and esteemed townsmen by the death on Thursday morning at his residence, “Parkhurst”, Lime Street, Station Road, of Mr. Thomas William Wilson, town clerk at the age 61. For some years past his health had occasionally given cause for anxiety, but had not seriously interfered with his duties until the last twelve months, during which time he had been confined to the house for varying periods. He recovered sufficiently during the promotion of the Corporation Bill in Parliament to assist in its preparation, and he actually attended the sittings of the Select Committee at Westminster, but he was obviously far from well, and in the last few weeks his condition had become critical.

T.W. Wilson

47 Years In Municipal Work
A native of the town and son of the late Mr. Robert Wilson, he became an office boy at the age of 14 to the late Mr. Herbert Fallas, the first town clerk, and when Mr. Willie Brook was appointed to the position he was transferred to his employ and eventually became the chief clerk and deputy. On Mr. Brook’s death in 1909, Mr. Wilson succeeded him, and for the last 29 years has performed the duties of the office with courtesy, conscientiousness and zeal. During his long association with the Corporation he had seen many changes and developments, in all of which, as the responsible official, he played an important part. He was especially adept in the arrangement of civic and public functions – Royal visit, proclamations, mayors’ reception, old folk’s treats, etc. – his effective services in these matters being freely recognised. He had a particularly arduous time during the period of the war, when he was called upon to carry out the secretarial duties in connection with food control, the recruiting advisory committee, pensions, and many other things, the number of special committees under his charge at one period numbering 14 or 15.

A Talented Musician
Apart from his municipal duties, his chief interest lay in the employment of his musical gifts, which were of a high order. For 26 years he was the organist and choirmaster at Dale Street Methodist Church and during that period directed cantatas, Gilbert and Sullivan operas, excerpts from oratorios, and numerous concerts. He was an expert executant on both the organ and piano and gave many recitals both in the town and district. For about four years after retiring from Dale Street he held the post of organist at Wesley Street Church, relinquishing the duties on account of indifferent health.

In his early days he was an interested member of the Liberal Club and one of its best billiard players. At one time he devoted much of his leisure time to the breeding of prize poultry and was a successful exhibitor at many of the local and district shows. He was also a lover of horticulture, which he demonstrated by the gift of the sliver cup, which is annually competed for by allotment holders in the borough.

On Thursday morning the “passing bell” was tolled at the Town Hall, and the flag hung at half-mast as a tribute of respect. The deepest sympathy is felt with the widow and two daughters in their bereavement.

Ossett Observer – July 16th 1938

Another well-known member of the same Ossett Wilson family was Benjamin Pickersgill Wilson and his obituary is reproduced here:

Death of Mr. B.P. Wilson

A Notable and Striking Career

By the death of Mr. B.P. Wilson, J.P. which took place at his house, The Gables, Ossett, during the early hours of Monday last at the age of 61, the town has lost one of its ablest and worthiest citizens. One who by tenacity, determination and steadfastness of purpose gained for himself a high and honourable position in the commercial and public life of this part of the country. Never of robust physique, his health had shown distinct signs of failing during the last year or two and for some time latterly, the condition had been serious.
A native of Ossett, he started his working life at a very early age as a pageboy and with only a meagre education afterwards becoming a Millhand and later an employee in the Pildacre Colliery offices. He persevered unceasingly to equip himself for a commercial career, raising money to pursue his home studies by giving lessons on the concertina and subsequently shorthand, in which he had made himself proficient without tutorial aid. He was also for a time, the local correspondent of a Wakefield newspaper. Eventually, he became salesman to the Pildacre Colliery, afterwards acting in a similar capacity for the Low Laithes Company and finally, and for a long period up to his retirement in 1923 as the representative of Messrs. William Fletcher & Sons Ltd, the well-known coal, iron and timber firm. He was for many years one of the leading figures in the London, Leeds and Manchester Coal Exchanges and became a recognised authority on commercial matters, particularly those connected with the distribution side of coal business. He gave important evidence at the Royal Commission for Railways in 1914 and for over 20 years was a regular contributor to leading trade journals.
He had little time for public life until comparatively recent years, but always evinced the keenest interest in both local and national affairs and was a familiar figure on the political platform. His association with Ossett Chamber of Commerce covered its best and most active period. He occupied the presidential chair for two years and his contributions to the discussions revealed the well-informed constructive mind. He was a fluent, virile speaker of the logical persuasive type and a skilful debater. He did much useful service as a member of the West Riding County Council for three years – the rearrangement of the school fuel contract was due to his negotiations and practical knowledge, effecting a very large saving. Simultaneously with these duties, he sat as a member of the Ossett Education Committee and the Grammar School Governing Body and evinced much interest in the work. Politically, he was one of the stalwarts of the local Liberal Party and in his younger days, he was the inspiring head of the Young Liberal movement, which produced Mr. Ashley Mitchell and other prominent workers for the cause.
His activities were restricted by his business engagements but on his retirement in 1923, he accepted the unanimous invitation of the Rothwell Liberal Association to oppose Mr. W. Lunn and in the election of that year, he polled 7,768 votes against the Labour candidate’s 15,115. At the election the following year, he increased his poll to 10,240 votes and reduced Mr. Lunn’s majority by 1,000 – the first check his opponent had received in a long series of successes.
Mr. Wilson was for many years a Justice of the Peace for the borough and as Chairman of the Probation Committee, was keenly concerned in the welfare of juvenile offenders and rendered valuable service on their behalf. Intensely interested in music, he was for many years an active member of the Committee of the Ossett Orchestral Society and, at a critical period of its existence, accepted the Chairmanship and assisted to restore it to a reasonably sound position. He was one of the founders of the Ossett & Horbury Literary Society and one of the most valued members of the executive. Throughout his life, he was devoted to the cause at Wesley Street, serving at different periods as a circuit officer, lay preacher and Sunday school teacher and taking a prominent part in the social activities of the church. His favourite pastime was golf and for many years he was on the Committee of the old Ossett Golf Club, afterwards assisting to promote the Low Laithes Club and associating himself with the management. For the past five years he was a director of the Ossett Palladium picture house. His widow, three sons and two daughters survive him.
The internment took place at South Parade Wesleyan burial ground on Wednesday (17 December) amid every manifestation of sympathy and respect. The Rev. C.M. Draper, Wesleyan Superintendent Minister officiated at the service in the chapel and at the graveside. The chief mourners were:
Mrs. Wilson - widow
Mr. & Mrs. C.B. Wilson - son and daughter-in-law
Mr. Stanley Wilson - son
Mr. & Mrs. Rowland Wilson - son and daughter-in-law
Mr. & Mrs. Leonard Faires - son-in-law and daughter
Mr. & Mrs. H.G. Frost - son-in-law and daughter
Mrs. George Gee, Mr. Thomas Brook & family, Mr. & Mrs. Jachin Brooke, Mr. Leonard Gee (Dewsbury), Mr.& Mrs. Parkinson (Pudsey), Mr. Willie Brooke.
Others present included His Worship the Mayor of Ossett, Cr. David Ellis, the ex-Mayor, Alderman G.F. Wilson, Mrs. R.P. Jagger, J.P., Mrs. Booth, J.P., Mr. A. Jessop, J.P., Mr. H.G. Myers, J.P., Mr. S.N. Pickard, J.P., Mr. Colin Lawrence, magistrates clerk, Mr. A.M. Lawrence, Mr. S.R. Cockburn (President of Ossett Chamber of Commerce), Cr. N. Armitage, Mr. F. Bray, Mr. Gordon Ball, Mr. John Wilson, Mr. J. Fitton.
The bearers were old scholars of the deceased’s Sunday school class at Wesley Street – Mr. G.A. Oldroyd, Walter Townend, V.N. Wilson, G.E. Hepworth, Rowland Jowett and Phineas Land.

Ossett Observer Saturday December 20th 1930

Transcribed below are some old letters sent to cousins in the USA. The USA Wilsons were clearly interested in how things were working out in the old town of Ossett:.

Transcript of letter sent to a USA cousin - John W. Wilson who left Ossett in 1856 by Benjamin Wilson, son of Joseph Wilson (born 1822), the older brother of Annis Wilson (next letter).

November 13th 1908

My dear cousin,

Our father Joseph Wilson died 47 years ago, leaving four little children – two boys and two girls. My elder brother and youngest sister are married. My brother lives in Leeds and has two children – girls, one 18 (Gladys) and the other 12 years (Zoe). Sister lives in Edinburgh.

Mother died last March at the age of 83 and nearly three months.

Joshua Wilson, his wife and children are dead also Edwin and his wife and David and his wife. Of the sisters, Mary, Jane and Annis are still living.

When did Uncle Mark visit England last? I remember him and Aunt Bessie when they were here about 1870. Your daughter Laura’s photograph has not arrived yet.

Your cousin
Benjamin Wilson

Enclosed with the letter:

1. Picture of Marianne Wilson – daughter of Joseph Wilson
2. Gawthorpe, England postcard with the text “This is the back of the grounds of the old Jos? Place on the upper street Dewsbury Road.”

Sadly, the picture and postcard were not with the original letter

Source: Gwen Wilson, North Logan, Utah, USA.

Transcript of letter sent to a USA cousin John W. Wilson who left Ossett in 1856 from Annis Wilson (born 1842 in Ossett), the youngest daughter of Benjamin Wilson.

Prospect Road
June 22, 1909

My Dear Cousin,

At the time your letter reached Ossett, I was away from home in the Canary Islands, West Africa. One of my nieces who is married and lives in Scotland went with me along with a friend.

My two sisters, Martha and Jane are not well (I suppose old age). I have enclosed a picture. Do you recognise me at all? Have I any resemblance to the Annis of younger days? My house is built in what used to be called “Back Lane” near old Toe’d Illingworth butcher’s shop.

Ossett is much altered. Your old homestead is still remaining and our beautiful church is near to your old house. Tramcars are now running through North Field Lane, now called Church Street. Our Sunday Schools are built near to your father’s foundry and about five minutes walk from the church. There is an entrance to the church from Dewsbury and Wakefield road besides the one in Field Lane. Father and mother and brothers are all buried there in the family vault and Mary too. Ann is in the same churchyard. Sarah is resting in Scarborough cemetery.

With our united love to each of you.

Your affectionate cousin

Annis Wilson

Source: Gwen Wilson Johnson, North Logan, Utah, USA

Transcript of letter sent to Willis Wilson (born 1868), the daughter of John W. Wilson from Annis Wilson (born 1842 in Ossett), the youngest daughter of Benjamin Wilson.

17 Prospect Road
August 30th 1915

My Dear Willis,

I am the only one of eleven that is left. My sister Martha Wilson died on the 5th May this year. She used to talk so much about your father. I have plenty of nephews and nieces, besides a great number of great nephews and nieces.

I answered your father’s last letter and sent a photograph of my house. I was sitting outside the house with a fox terrier beside me.

Did your father tell you much about my brothers and sisters, especially about my youngest brother Robert? He and your father would be almost the same age. He died in 1878, the same year my dear mother died. My eldest sister Mary died in 1884. She and myself were the only two unmarried ones out of eleven. I have lived alone ever since.

Father was 83 years and 6 months when he died and mother in her 81st year. My sister Martha was 83, Ann 82 and the others younger.

Yours very sincerely

Annis Wilson

p.s. I do not think Ossett a pretty place like you do Macomb. Yet it is home. I often wonder if my cousin Maria is living. Her daughter Julia wrote to me once or twice.

Source: Gwen Wilson, North Logan, Utah, USA