Millers Arms (now Brewers Pride) and the story of Reginald Earnshaw
The Brewers Pride, Low Mill Road, Healey, Ossett was first known as the Millers Arms and was originally named in connection with woollen cloth milling, as opposed to corn milling. Healey had one of the earliest fulling mills in the West Riding. These mills were all set up in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as co-operative enterprises with a large number of shareholders, drawn mainly from local clothier families, who were seeking to improve the efficiency of their individual hand-loom cloth production operations. The Millers Arms will have served the hundreds of men who worked not just in the fulling mill, but in the other woollen textile mills located on the banks of the Calder at Healey.
From 1985, the Millers Arms was renamed as "Boons End". In May 1994, the name was changed again to the "Brewers Pride" and has remained so ever since. There is a lot of history associated with the Millers Arms and over the years it must have had many stories to tell. What follows is just a small selection of the history we know about the pub and the landlords that worked there.
The first recorded licensee and owner of the Millers Arms was John Gawthorpe back in 1841 when the pub was officially a "beerhouse". It became the Millers Arms in 1842. John Gawthorpe was born in Horbury in 1832 and is recorded as being an inn-keeper and farmer. He died in 1877 and his wife Jane (neé Briggs) took over as the licensee (and owner) of the Millers Arms until sometime before 1881 when John King of Horbury Bridge bought the pub and John Duffin became the landlord.
Above: The Brewers Pride and a few patrons with a Virtual Blue Plaque
Attempted Murder at the Millers Arms
In 1889 Albert Sowden became the landlord of the Millers Arms. In 1893 his daughter Mary Emma Sowden married Horbury man Henry Archer. In 1894, when Albert Sowden moved to Bradford to take over as licensee of the George & Dragon, 31 year-old Henry Archer became the new licensee of the Millers Arms. What followed shortly afterwards was an attempt to murder Henry Archer. Herbert Dixon Sowden was the brother-in-law of Henry Archer. Herbert hated Henry, believing that he had been passed over by his own father, Albert Sowden, in favour of Henry.
After his butcher's business in Ossett had failed, 23 year-old Herbert Sowden had moved from Ossett to live with his father at the George & Dragon pub in Bradford. The money to set up Herbert's Ossett butchery business had been provided by his father. Sadly, Herbert was no businessman and he resented the fact that his brother-in-law and sister were doing well at the Millers Arms.
In August 1894, Herbert Sowden, who had a violent temper and who often came home the worse for wear from drinking, stole his father's handgun and fifty rounds of ammunition. Before leaving home, Sowden had made it clear that he was going to Ossett to settle a score with his brother-in-law Henry Archer.
Herbert's father, in fear of harm to his daughter Mary and son-in-law went to the Millers Arms at Healey, Ossett to warn them of the danger. The Millers Arms was described in 1894 as being "a two-storey building fronting the highway. On entering, the visitor may see the tap room on the left of the passage and the bar parlour on the right of it. The kitchen and other living rooms are at the rear."
On Thursday evening at 10:20 p.m. after what had been a quiet day at the Millers Arms, Herbert Sowden came into the pub via the front door, armed with a handgun and immediately came virtually face-to-face with his brother-in-law Henry Archer, who was just coming out of the tap room. Archer immediately dashed back into the tap room and slammed the door behind him. However, Sowden was quick and managed to get a foot in the door and his arm with the gun in the gap between the door and the door frame. Sowden fired off a round in the general direction of his brother-in-law, causing great panic to his sister Mrs Archer and a servant girl who ran out of the back of the pub and hid in an outhouse.
Luckily for Henry Archer and three other men in the room, the bullet missed and embedded itself into a framed advertisement on the wall of the tap room. Sowden then left the pub and fired another shot at the taproom window, which it was said embedded itself in the wooden window frame. He then disappeared into the night with the police in hot pursuit.
Several hours later, Constables Hebron, Swales and Humphrey whilst walking along Netherton Lane, about a mile from Healey caught Sowden as they turned a sharp bend in the road. Despite making a grab for the gun, the 5ft 4" tall Sowden was quickly overpowered and handcuffed by the three policemen, then taken to the Police Station at Ossett and then later to a lock-up in Dewsbury. Before being put in the cells, Sowden told one of the policemen that he could have very easily blown his brains out since the officer had been very near to him whilst he was hiding in a corn field. He further remarked "If I do twenty years for this, I'll do it then," which is supposed to suggest he would seek to injure his brother-in-law, even after he had been to prison.
After first appearing at Ossett Magistrates, to great local interest with a scrum for places in the public gallery, Sowden was remanded and finally appeared at Leeds Assizes In December 1894. At the Assizes, Herbert Sowden was charged with shooting at Henry Archer with intent to murder him and sentenced to six years in prison. His lordship, addressing the prisoner said it was evident that the crime was committed after a series of days of drink and debauchery. Though it was no excuse for the crime, it was a circumstance that might be taken into account. Herbert Sowden was a lucky man to get just six years and, by 1901, he was free again and got married in Leeds.1
Bentleys Yorkshire Breweries bought the Millers Arms in 1894, followed by Whitbread (Yorkshire) Ltd. who bought the pub circa 1901. In 1985, Clark's Brewery, Wakefield became the owners and made the name change to Boon's End. Since then Ossett Brewery have bought the pub, which had previously been renamed the "Brewers Pride" in 1994. Ossett Brewery have plans are in hand for developing the Brewers Pride and the Millers restaurant upstairs further with refurbishment and improvements.
Reginald Earnshaw - The youngest known British service casualty of WW2
Reginald Earnshaw was 14 when he lost his life in the Second World War. He will now be recognised in his first hometown of Ossett. He lied about his age in his determination to help the war effort and at just 14-years-old Reginald Earnshaw paid the ultimate sacrifice.
In 2010 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission officially declared Reggie the youngest known British service casualty of the Second World War - and now he will be formally recognised and remembered in the community in which he spent his early years.
Born in Moorlands Maternity Home, Dewsbury in February 1927, Reggie lived in Ossett, until the age of five. Those early days were spent at The Millers Arms pub, today known as the Brewers Pride, with his single mother Dorothy and her widowed father Wilson, who had been licensee there since 1914.
By 1932, Reggie had moved with his mother and her new husband, Eric Shires, to Dewsbury. Seven years later Eric gained new employment in Edinburgh and the family, now with two more children: Pauline and Neva, relocated.
Come February 1941, Reggie left school at the statutory age of 14, the country was at war and there was much talk of feats of daring do, which fired the imagination of many young boys,. Reggie was one of them and he was determined to help the war effort whilst seeking excitement and adventure.
He joined the Merchant Navy at Leith Docks, telling them he was 15 and born in 1926. Reggie’s family say that there was never a suggestion that he had run away and gone to sea but rather that he was proud of what he had done and rushed home to tell his mother. Like her, he was a free spirit, whose enthusiasm was to be encouraged not stifled.
Sadly, he served for just five months. On July 5th, his merchant ship, the SS North Devon, was attacked by German bombers, fracturing its main steam lines. In the early hours of the following morning, the stranded vessel was attacked again. Six men were killed, including cabin boy Reggie.
Back in 2005, Reggie's former shipmate Alf Tubb, then aged 82, decided to find out what had happened to his friend, and with the help of mercantile researchers, tracked down an unmarked grave in a cemetery in Edinburgh where Reggie had been buried.
In the years that have followed, a headstone has been mounted on the grave and a memorial stained glass window has been installed in the Edinburgh church where his funeral service took place.
On Remembrance Sunday, November 11th 2018, the names of Ossett's Fallen were unveiled at the Ossett War Memorial in the Market Place. On Remembrance Sunday, November 10th 2019, Reggie's name, with the names of six other Ossett men discovered since the unveiling, will be added to the other 400 names remembered there.
Reginald Earnshaw, the youngest known British service casualty of World War Two will be known as one of the Ossett Fallen and has returned to his first home.2
There are now plans to erect a real Blue Plaque, sponsored by Ossett Brewery at the Brewers Pride in honour of Reggie Earnshaw.
1. From the "Leeds Mercury", August 25th, August 28th & December 19th 1894.
2. "Yorkshire Post" Article written by Laura Drysdale (3rd July 2019)
3. The Ossett Fallen - Facebook posts