Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town


Much of the content of this web site has been the result of detailed research by others. I have been lucky that Ossett historians such as Joan P. Smith, Alan Howe, Neville Ashby, and Richard D. Glover have been kind enough to share their work and allow me to use extracts on these Ossett website pages. Their work deserves a wider audience and I have made available downloads of some of their original work in an unabridged format as PDF files.

Each document has a small description and a link. If you click on the link, the PDF file will download either as a saved file to your Downloads directory, or alternatively it will open up in Adobe Acrobat Reader if your computer is so configured.

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The Red Baron and the Vicar of Ossett

Anne-Marie Fawcett has researched and written the fascinating story of how the Reverend George H. Marshall D.S.O, M.A., the vicar of Trinity Church, Ossett, between 1931 and 1943 was linked to the death and burial of the famous WW1 German flying ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron. The full story ios available here as a PDF download.

The Ossett Town Centre Heritage Trail Booklet

In partnership with Ossett Civic Trust (OCT) and Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA), Steve Wilson has created this free 8 page booklet which focuses on the heritage of Ossett town centre. The short booklet is meant to be a taster for the possible production a larger book covering all the historic places of interest in Ossett.

The Ossett War Memorial Project - PowerPoint Presentation for the Ossett Historical Society and Ossett Library November 2018 in PDF format

On the 20th and 26th November 2018, Alan Howe gave this PowerPoint presentation detailing the background to and the ultimate completion of the Ossett War Memorial project to have memorial stones with the names of the the 402 Ossett Fallen from WW1 and WW2 fitted around the exisiting listed War Memorial in the Market Place. Previous to this work, there was no definitive listing of the brave men from Ossett who gave their lives in the two World Wars. Wakefield WMDC made a grant of £10,000 for this project to go ahead in February 2018. The children from the eleven Ossett schools were also involved in the unveiling of the memorial stones on the 11th November 2018, 100 years after the end of WW1. This is a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation and should run on an iPad or a PC.

Scott's Yard, Manor Road Ossett

Alan Howe's detailed history of Scott's Yard, Manor Road, Ossett. (2MB PDF)

The History of Ossett Spa

A comprehensive 96-page history of Ossett Spa written by Alan Howe in August 2010. (7 MB PDF).

The History of Owlers Farm, Flushdyke

Another detailed history prepared by Alan Howe on the history of Owlers Farm, Flushdyke. (3.5MB PDF)

The History of Haggs Hill, Ossett

A shortened version of the history of Haggs Hill, Ossett researched by Alan Howe. (2MB PDF)

A Roundhouse at South Ossett

Neville Ashby's account of the Roundhouse at Ossett Spa, the probable site of a Newcomen atmospheric steam engine in the late 18th century at Naylor's Pit possibly also known as Lights's Pit. (270K PDF)

The History of Gedham Mill

Richard Glover's detailed history of Gedham Mill, which was established by his grandfather John Henry Glover and Walter Ellis in the early 1900s after being built by originally by Robert Elston Phillips circa 1898. With this study Richard has tried to bring the technical side of the business of mungo manufacturing together with references to the people involved running the company and their episodes during their lifetime, particularly around the First World War and its aftermath. How it affected  not only the Glover family but the prosperity, or otherwise, of the town of Ossett and the people connected with it, reminiscent of the whole Heavy Woollen District.

Gedham Mill, Ossett

A description of Gedham Mill, Ossett by the Royal Concession of the Historical Monuments of England, Yorkshire Textile History dated December 1986 and provided by Richard D. Glover, owner and proprietor of Gedham Mill until closure. (100K PDF)

Bleak Cottage, Manor Road

A detailed history of Bleak Cottage, Manor Road, Ossett by Alan Howe. You can also download the front page of Alan's document with a picture of Bleak Cottage. (2MB PDF)

Highfield House, South Ossett

Joan P. Smith's original and very detailed history of Highfield House in South Ossett, which was presented as an edited version in the Ossett Houses page on this website. Joan's version contains much more background information and additional graphics. (2MB PDF)

Clarendon Villas, South Ossett

The next part of Joan P. Smith's trilogy of grand South Ossett's houses is a detailed history of Clarendon Villas available for download by clicking ont the link above (5MB PDF)

"Whilst researching the material for my first ‘House History’ project, ‘Highfield House & Sowood House’, (2010), I collected a great deal of information concerning other neighbouring land and buildings. After a great deal of thought I decided it was a shame not to make use of this material. The result of this decision was the production of two more Local/House History publications.

My second project ‘The History of the South Ossett Triangle’ is a potted history of the land shaped like a triangle, bordered by three roads, now called Horbury Road, Manor Road and Sowood Lane. On this land was built the Parish Church, the Vicarage and the two Schools. This third project I have called ‘The History of Clarendon Villas and Greystones House’.

These two new books (along with the Highfield and Sowood House one) complete a Trilogy of publications covering all the large houses as well as the Ecclesiastical Buildings on this area of land, built in the 19th Century. Clarendon Villas, is situated on Horbury Road, up the next driveway to Highfield House & Cottage. (Access is now from Vicar Lane)

Joan P. Smith, 2012"

Greystones, South Ossett

The final part of Joan P. Smith's detailed house histories is this history of Greystones, available for download by clicking on the link above (5MB PDF)

This work is part of a much larger publication entitled “The South Ossett Triangle”: copies of which have been deposited in the West Yorks Archives, Newstead Rd., Wakefield; Christ Church South Ossett Parish Centre; Ossett Library and Wakefield & District Family History Society.

A walk to Millbank Lock on the Calder & Hebble canal

Neville Ashby's account of our walk along the Calder & Hebble canal to Millbank Lock at Thornhill on the quest for relics of our local history. (500K PDF)

A walkabout at Ossett Common

Neville Ashby's account of our local history walk around Ossett Common. (500K PDF)

Another walkabout at Ossett Common

Another walkabout at Ossett Common looking at Ossett's rich local history by Neville Ashby. (800K PDF)

A walkabout to Millbank on the 26th January 2011

Neville Ashby's article describing our follow-up walk to Millbank, Thornhill along the banks of the Calder & Hebble canal from Healey, Ossett to look for evidence of the reputed underground canal linking Thornhill Combs colliery to the canal. We then explored the site of the long-forgotten hamlet of Millbank, which existed in the 19th century and the even earlier remnants of the Millbank stone quarry and steam crane that made up the landscape alongside the Calder & Hebble canal during the period of the Industrial Revolution in the reign of Queen Victoria. (370K PDF)

A walkabout in South Ossett on the 18th May 2011

Neville Ashby's write-up of our wander around South Ossett on the lookout for historical remnants of Ossett's rich and varied past. (750K PDF)

A walkabout on the High Road on 16th May 2012

Neville Ashby's excellent write-up described our latest Ossett walk along the ancient High Road through Ossett, which was used in medieval times for herding cattle from place-to-place.

History of the formation of Christ Church, South Ossett 1851-1964

Ossett historian Joan P. Smith has very kindly provided this shortened web version of the history of the formation of Christ Church, South Ossett 1851-1964. Please read this detailed account of how the new South Ossett parish and church were founded and the amazing work of the Reverend Denis Neary who by the sheer force of his character and willpower breathed life into the new parish and church. There are also some truly fascinating extracts from the vicar's log book begun by the Reverend John H. Ward and then continued by other incumbents that give us a real insight into life in Ossett in the 19th and early 20th century. (3.5MB PDF file, 27 pages with many illustrations)

This work is part of a much larger publication entitled “The South Ossett Triangle”: copies of which have been deposited in the West Yorks Archives, Newstead Rd., Wakefield; Christ Church South Ossett Parish Centre; Ossett Library and Wakefield & District Family History Society. A separate publication, containing more detailed information entitled “Christ Church South Ossett, Extracts from the Vicars Log Book", is available from the Society.

The Manor of Sowood

Alan Howe has recently done extensive research on the history of Sowood Manor (2.5MB PDF), Sowood Farm(6.5 MB PDF), the origins of Matty Marsden Lane (800K PDF) and Rock Cottages (400K PDF). A summary of Alan's work is included in the Sowood page of the web site. The full text of Alan's research is presented here as PDF files in much greater detail than is available on the web site and is well worth downloading. There is much original research and Alan has probably discovered the derivation of Matty Marsden Lane, just over the Ossett boundary in Horbury, but relevant to this study.

The History of Sowood Farm

Sowood Farm is probably the oldest building in Ossett and now has listed status. Ossett historian Alan Howe has researched the history of the farm from the earliest recorded time when the Marsden family owned and built the farmhouse. Read about the people buried at Sowood Farm who died from the Black Death.

The History of Lindale Farm

Lindale Farm is situated on the Wakefield and Batley Road at Kirkhamgate just to the west of the junction with Park Mill Lane which leads to nearby Ossett. The Farm stands just beyond the Ossett boundary which is situated only several hundred metres to the south of the farm.

One of the Farm’s nearest neighbours is Park Mill Farm which is situated in Ossett, itself only a short distance from the better known Low Laithes Farm, now Low Laithes Golf Club. These three farms, and several others in Alverthorpe and Ossett cum Gawthorpe, have many things in common including their history as one of the Wakefield New Park farms. Established many centuries ago the farms were owned, courtesy of the King, at one time by the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield and subsequently the Saviles and, by marriage, the Brudenells who for several centuries carried the name, the Lord Cardigan.

This detailed study by Ossett historian Alan Howe reveals the history and ownership of Lindale Farm.

The History of Longlands House and the Haighs

Longlands Industrial Trading Estate is situated at Flushdyke, Ossett on the south side of the A 638 Dewsbury and Wakefield Road. The Estate is a product of the mid 20th century industrialisation of the area which swept away much of the thriving Flushdyke community.

A former resident of Flushdyke, Douglas Brammer, has committed to paper his memories of the community in which he grew up. His unique collection of illustrations of Flushdyke, as it once was, is reproduced in his collection of drawings, Flushdyke – a victim of Progress: 1940-1960. The collection can be viewed at http://ossett.net/flushdyke_sketches.html and provides a rare look back in time to see Flushdyke as it was as recently as 60 years ago.

In those days and before, Flushdyke was home to many working class families going about their business, earning a living and bringing up their children in a small community of mainly back-to-back houses where everyone knew everyone. Almost.

There was however one significant exception to this rule. A family called Haigh and a house called Longlands known, it seems, to hardly anyone. With 12 rooms and its own “plantation” Longlands House was the largest in Ossett, owned and occupied for 100 years or so by Ossett’s richest family, the Haighs of Longlands Hall .The last of the Longlands’ Haighs died in the late 1850’s but Longlands survived for another 110 years or so until it was demolished in the 1970’s. No photographs of Longlands House appear to have survived and few people have memories of the house, standing in its own grounds and hidden from prying eyes by large walls and larger trees and bushes.

This detailed research by Ossett historian Alan Howe, which you can now download from the link above as a PDF document, seeks to discover the age of Longlands Hall and to record its history, from its beginning to its end. It also records the history of the Haighs and others who lived there.

For centuries before the industrialisation of Flushdyke in the 1960’s the area was dominated by the major thoroughfare which ran through it. This road, now known as the Wakefield and Dewsbury Road, had long been a major highway variously known as The Street, Streetside, Ossett Street and the Wakefield to Halifax Turnpike Road. As a consequence of its importance communities grew up alongside the road most of which were swept away in the 1960’s. The origins of the area are much older and some believe that Streetside was once a Roman road though others believe it more likely that the Roman route ran to the north along a natural ridge which can still be seen. Either way there is little dissent concerning the existence of a route here or hereabouts. Not far to the east, on land now known as Silkwood Park, a bronze age axe was found in 2000 by local historian Neville Ashby.

The Street was the major highway running from Castleford, Pontefract and Wakefield, through Ossett, to Halifax, heading in the direction of Roman Ribchester in Lancashire. It is generally thought, but not proven, to be a Roman ridge top road, "The Kings Street" in the 1525 Manorial Survey, but mentioned earlier in 1337 (Strethaghs). It connected the manor administrative centres of Wakefield and Halifax.1

1. "Medieval & Post Medieval Landscape of Ossett Township." by Richard D. Glover, 2008 ISBN 978 09546439 2 8)

Matty Marsden Lane

A question often asked is how did Matty Marsden Lane get so named? There never was a Mathew Marsden as many people believe, but Ossett historian Alan Howe has probably solved the perennial conundrum and Matty Marsden was most likely Martha Marsden (nee Kershaw) who had married Frank Marsden in 1778 and by 1797 was widowed with nine children.

Rock Cottages

Rock Cottages or more simply "The Rocks" date back to the 1760s when William Marsden (1733 - 1777) married local girl Sarah Firth and built a home for his new wife and future family. William had been left a three-acre parcel of land after the death of his father John Marsden in 1742. Rock Cottages have an interesting history and Ossett historian Alan Howe has done extensive research on the history of the cottages right up to their 250th anniversary in 2013.

Rock Cottage

Ossett historian and researcher Alan Howe presents an extensive history of the house (now demolished) known as Rock Cottage, Horbury, which is not to be confused with Rock Cottages or the Rocks, which were located nearby.

Ossett Men at War - Powerpoint Presentation for Ossett Historical Society

On the 27th April 2015, Alan Howe and Steve Wilson gave a one hour presentation to the Ossett Historical Society at their meeting room at the Trinity Centre, Ossett. The presentation was based on our work to document the lives of the 302 Ossett Men who lost their lives during WW1. The Powerpoint presentation is now available for download on the link above.

A History of Sowood House and the Doctors Greenwood

Another paper in PDF format by Ossett historian Alan Howe describing the history of Sowood House on Ossett Green and the Greenwood family who were Ossett docotors over a very long period in the 19th century. Alan has also researched the doctors who followed the Greenwoods at Sowood House with short biographies of Dr. Rene Wood, Dr. Stephen Brandon Stoker and Dr. John Samuel Coad. There is also some detail of the work by Ossett architect, Charles Kendall, formerly Charles Kendall Hanson who surveyed Sowood House before Dr. S.B. Stoker purchased the building in the 1930s.

Healey People

A detailed description of the people of Healey, Ossett, which at one time was almost a separate community in its own right. Ossett historian Alan Howe presents here what are to all intents and purposes, working notes, but they are included in the hope that the reader will find the detail of some interest. The memories of John McQueen, one time resident of King’s Yard and latterly a resident of Queensland, Australia, have also been included on the main Healey and Millbank pages and more of John’s memories of his youth at Healey are included.

"Brammer's Ossett" - Powerpoint Presentation for Ossett Historical Society

On the 28th November 2016, Douglas Brammer gave a presentation "Brammer's Ossett" featuring his Ossett sketches to an appreciative Ossett Historical Society audience at a packed-out Trinity Centre venue. All of Brammer's sketches are done from his amazing photographic memory and show parts of Ossett and particularly Flushdyke that have long been forgotten and largely unseen to anyone under the age of 60 years or so. If you click on the link above, the Powerpoint presentation will download.

Reverend Thomas Taylor (1766-1853) and his son Reverend Thomas Rawson Taylor (1808-1835)

One of the final posts in 2016 to the “Ossett Through The Ages” (OTTA) Facebook Group was from OTTA member Andrea Hartley, who had discovered an 1807 portrait of “Reverend Mr. Taylor of Ossett”. Nothing else was known. Except that the portrait of Ossett’s Reverend Taylor was now resting in the Digital collection of The New York Public Library (NYPL). Home to this portrait of the Reverend Taylor in 2017 is 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, New York. Just a short 15 minute walk from the Empire State building and a piece of Ossett now resting in a far-away land. Some days later in early 2017, Andrea also discovered a portrait of Thomas Rawson Taylor (1807-1835) and a volume about his life. This was discovered in the Princeton Theological Seminary Library, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA. Nothing else was known. Alan Howe and Andrea Hartley have researched the Taylors and you can read the full story here about their lives and how they were an important part of Ossett culture in the early 1800s.

History of the RGS Pattern Book Company Ltd, Ossett by Richard Donovan Glover

Richard Glover relates the history of this Ossett company: 1953 - 2005, which employed many Ossett people. By the 1980s, the RGS Group had over 175 employees and a turnover of over £7 million. Ossett Health Village was built on the land of the old Gedham Mill, which at one time housed the RGS Pattern Book Company. After the health centre was built about a third of the land was left, now enabling 34 town houses to be built, called Gedham Mews. This enabled about one hundred extra people to live and shop, right in the town centre.

"By sheer hard work, creativity, innovation and persistence through times good and bad, an Ossett business was born and flourished, employing many people for over half a century. That is my legacy for the town of Ossett."

Richard D. Glover, November 2015


Alan L. Howe
Alan Howe is a native of Ravensthorpe, and was educated at Mirfield and Tadcaster Grammar Schools after his family moved to live in Tadcaster when he was 13. Alan was employed by Leeds City Council in a senior accountancy and management role before retiring recently. He and his wife Pat moved to Ossett in 1974 and have one daughter Emma and one grandson Jack. They have lived in the Haggs Hill and Teal Street area of Ossett since moving here.

A keen local historian, Alan has done much detailed research on Ossett Spa, Haggs Hill, Ossett Common and other little-known corners of the town. Alan is one of the few people I know who can very easily navigate the frightfully complex West Yorkshire Archive Service records in Wakefield. This amazing skill has allowed him to unearth many previously unknown nuggets of local Ossett historical information, which Alan has been kind enough to share.

As if this wasn't enough to keep him busy, Alan and his wife have extensive stables and about four acres of land at Runtlings in Ossett where they keep horses, chickens and manage a wildlife pond.

Neville Ashby
Neville Ashby has been interested in Ossett history since he was very young. He has spent many hours gathering information from local history books, Ossett Library, the internet and other resources. He has been searching local fields with his metal detector and digging for antique bottles for 30 years. He maintains an extensive collection of local artifacts and ephemera. Neville, who was educated at Ossett School, is 45 years of age and works in ceramic tile & bathroom sales. He lives with partner Denise and their daughter Eloise in Ossett. He is also a skilled stained glass artist. Neville runs an Ossett History Forum on the internet.