Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town


With the growing prosperity in the town during the 19th century as a result of the boom in rags, mungo, shoddy and woollen cloth manufacturing, many Ossett industrialists built fine houses to demonstrate their wealth. Park House, Wesley House and Green Mount are good examples of the excellent Victorian houses that began to appear in Ossett during the second half of the 19th century.

I have included in the DOWNLOADS section of this web site, the very detailed work of Joan P Smith and her "South Ossett Triangle", which features some of the historic houses in South Ossett and which you might also like to look at?

There are still one or two very old houses in Ossett that date back even earlier to the 18th century. One such pair of cottages in Haggs Hill Road, Ossett date back possibly to 1745 or earlier.

In 1838, there were at least three large stone-built mansion-type houses in Ossett: Springstone House, Spur Hall and Longlands Hall. Springstone House is still in existence, however, the other two houses were demolished some years ago.

Please click on the links below to take you to the individual house history and to save scrolling:
7 and 9, Haggs Hill Rd
Green Mount, Ossett Green
Croft House
Wesley House, Wesley Street
Green Lea, Healey Road
West Wells House
Elder House, Roundwood Road
Sowood House, Ossett Green
Westfield House, Wesley Street
Sowood Farmhouse
Bleak Cottage, 98 Manor Road
Manor House, off Manor Lane
Highfield House, Horbury Road
Sowood House, Sowood Lane
Scott's Yard, Manor Road
Isolation Hospital, Storrs Hill

I am grateful to Alan Howe for permission to reproduce below just a small part of the extensive history he has written about the cottages at Haggs Hill Road and the lives of the Ossett people who lived in them. Alan is also responsible for the detailed history of the Pickard family who lived at Green Mount, Ossett, which I have quoted extensively to describe some of the history of the house.

Below: Numbers 7 and 9 Haggs Hill Road, Ossett, which are believed to date back to the early to mid 18th century.

Old Cottages at Haggs Hill Road


Alan and Pat Howe live in one of a pair of semi-detached cottages on Haggs Hill Road and their son-in-law and daughter, Ashley and Emma Wild live in the other with their son Jack. It is thought that the cottages were at one time a farmhouse built by Joshua Haigh, a local landowner who lived at Longlands House in Ossett. In the deeds, Joshua Haigh is described as a woolstapler, gentleman landowner and county yeoman. He purchased the land for the farmhouse from Edmund Heron on the 23rd November 1744. The deed to the land refers to 'two butts of land lying in the said East Field between a close of the said Joshua Hepworth called Lights Brigg Pighles on the south and the land of Mr. Dawson on the North.' The land on which the farmhouse was built was copyhold and this required the consent of the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield prior to the sale. The transaction between Joshua Haigh and Edmund Heron was agreed at a 'Court Baron' held at Wakefield on the 18th January 1744. It is thought that the original farmhouse building was built by Haigh for his son, also Joshua Haigh who was born in 1739. Joshua Haigh senior died in 1784 and it is likely then that his son would have vacated the farmhouse or cottages to take up residence at Longlands House, which was off the Halifax to Wakefield turnpike road at Flushdyke.

The earliest references to the cottages is that shown in a Valuation Record for Ossett in 1774, which was ultimately used to raise money from taxes for the war with France during the American Revolution (after the French offered support to the Americans). The property is shown in the valuation record as being in the ownership of Joshua Haigh junior and is described as 'House and Lights Bridge Pighle'. Lights Bridge refers to the location of the property in a part of Ossett then known variously as Lights Bridge, Lights Brigg, Ossett Lightside, and occasionally as Low Common or Low Common End. 'Pighle' means a small area of land. The value of the property for tax purposes was £1 10s 0d, suggesting that it was larger than some of the other properties on Low Common. The record indicates that the house wasn't occupied by tenants, and it is more likely that the Haigh family occupied the building themselves. In 1773 Joshua Haigh was a woolstapler in Ossett. A woolstapler would buy raw wool and take it (by packhorse) to the homes of workers where it would be hand combed, spun into yarn and woven into cloth on handlooms. The finished product would be then collected by the woolstapler and sold at local Piece Halls in Bradford, Halifax, Leeds or Wakefield

The Land Tax record of 1788 appears to show a change in the occupation of the building and it is likely that it was now occupied by tenants for the first time. Possibly, it was at this time that the farmhouse building was divided into two separate cottages and used by the tenants for weaving cloth. The Land Tax records show that a Mark Pickard (born 1755 married to Hannah and with eight children) was living in a property on Ossett Low Common that was owned by Joshua Haigh, which was almost certainly the farmhouse or cottages. After Mark Pickard had died, followed by his widow Hannah, who died in the 1830s, their son Robert Pickard (born 1786) and his wife Nancy lived in one of the cottages with their nine children. The Pickard family were tenants and later owners of the cottages for close to 200 years, between approximately 1774 and 1945. The Pickards, living in Low Common, Ossett were traditionally weavers and woollen cloth workers and in 1841, there were 45 Pickards living in close proximity as members of six separate families.

Below: Rear of the cottages showing the now blocked door entrances at the rear first floor level. It is thought that these doorways were 'piece' or 'taking in' doors, which were set at first floor level in an exterior wall to facilitate the loading in and out of bulky materials like wool and yarn or finished items such as kerseys and broadcloths, which weighed 66lbs. A wooden walkway would have extended from the door to the raised land behind the cottages.

Back of cottagesAfter Robert Pickard died in 1867 at the age of 81 from "general decay and pneumonia", the tenancy was taken on by one of their sons, Isaac Pickard (born 1818), a cow keeper (dairy), and now with his second wife Eliza. The couple lived at the cottages with their nine children until Isaac's death in 1886, aged 68. Once again, the tenancy was taken on by one of the Pickard family, this time by Isaac's son, also Isaac Pickard (born 1864). However, Isaac Pickard junior, who had been a weaver and a dealer in malt, but by then was a farmer and market gardener, went one step further than his ancestors and bought the cottages with 4.5 acres of land for £450 in February 1918 from the Misses Steele, who were by now the owners of the property. There were actually four separate, but connected pieces of land, in the conveyance. ‘Ikey Pickard’s Passage’, in Isaac’s ownership, linked the cottages and their garden to two larger pieces of land (of about 3 acres in total) known as Wheatley's Closes, which on modern maps would be located on the opposite side of Queens Drive near to the Two Brewers pub. The final area of land stood opposite the cottages on the other side of what was then South Parade. 'Ikey Pickard's' passage is now the entrance and vehicle access to the house known as 170A, Queens Drive, which was built in the 1980s.

The original owner of the cottages and land, Joshua Haigh had several children, but they all died childless. In 1880, the cottages were left by the Haighs to the Wheatley family who were related to them by marriage. Charles Wheatley J.P., a Mirfield colliery owner and gentleman landowner had no direct heirs and when he died in 1900, he left all his property (including the cottages) to his great niece, Eleanor Steele, wife of Adam Rivers Steele of Loddington Hall in Leicestershire. She died in 1910 and subsequently left the cottages to her two unmarried daughters Camilla and Mary Steele.

Isaac junior was the last of the Pickard family to live at the cottages and he died in 1945 (from a heart attack and chronic asthma) in the same cottage that he had been born in 81 years earlier. Isaac Pickard married Emma Quarmby (1865-1907) in 1890, but the couple had no children and the cottages passed to his "natural" daughter, Nora Quarmby (1898-1946), the daughter of his sister-in-law, Mary Ann Quarmby (born 1863). Mary Quarmby and her daughter Nora lived in the cottages with Isaac and his wife Emma from about 1900. When Emma Pickard died in 1907, Mary and Nora Quarmby remained at the cottages and it was Isaac who brought up Nora and she subsequently looked after Isaac in old age.

In July 1935, Nora Quarmby married John Harrop at the Springfield Independent Chapel in Dewsbury. The couple then went to live at number nine, where John Harrop carried on the market gardening business in his own right. Sadly, Nora died in November 1946, and the properties transferred into the ownership of her husband, John Harrop continued to live at number 9 until his death on 20th February 1980. As the properties came under new ownership, the large greenhouses behind number seven were demolished and the cottages were significantly modernised for life in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, three generations of the Hanson family were to live at number 7, Haggs Hill Road. Bertram Owen Hanson, born in 1897, married Beatrice Lucas in 1921. Shortly after their marriage in Wakefield, the newly married couple moved into number 7, where they raised a family of four children: Vernon Hanson born 1924; Eileen Hanson born 1927; Valerie Hanson born 1930 and twins Geoffrey & Margaret Hanson born in 1933, although at the time the Hansons were living in South Street, Ossett and not at Haggs Hill Road..

Vernon Hanson was to take on the tenancy of 7 Haggs Hill Road after his parents died and he lived there with his first wife Gladys Cartwright whom he married in 1946 and then later his second wife Elsie Oldroyd whom he married in 1966. Vernon and Gladys Hanson had a son Michael John Hanson who was born at 7, Haggs Hill Road in 1950, like his father before him.

Michael and Norma Hanson

Above: Michael Hanson (1950-1989) and his wife Norma (1949-2005) among the dahlias in the garden of 7 Haggs Hill Road in the early 1970s, before a large part of the garden was sold off to build a new house at 5 Haggs Hill Road. Michael was the last of three generations of Hansons to live at the house. Thanks to Barry Hanson, the youngest son of Michael and Norma Hanson for the photograph. The photograph clearly shows the s blocked up doorways which were 'piece' or 'taking in' doors to facilitate the loading in and out of bulky materials like wool and yarn or taking out finished items such as kerseys and broadcloths. The upper floor of the cottages would have been used by self-employed weavers in the 19th century and wooden steps would then have led up to the access doorways.

In 1962, Vernon and Elsie Hanson bought 7 Haggs Hill Road from John Harrop and later (about 1989) Vernon sold part of the large garden of number seven to a developer who was to build 5, Haggs Hill Road on the land.

In the 1920s, Ossett Borough Council compulsory purchased the three or more acres of land referred to as 'Wheatley's Closes' for the development of Towngate. Wheatley's Closes would have had a significant value as prime residential building land. Sadly, that financial benefit would have accrued to the Council and not to Isaac’s Pickard's family.


There was another family of Pickards in Ossett who were related to the Low Common Pickards described above. Mark Pickard was the first of the Pickards to live at 9 Haggs Hill Road  Mark had two brothers, George and David, both born in Ossett in the mid 1750s.  David established himself as a shopkeeper and cloth maker and in 1784 he married Sarah Hirst, They had six children but the first two died in infancy. His third child, George, was born in 1800 and was the father of the children who became the Pickards of Green Mount. David died in July 1830 and was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground in Wakefield.

David Pickard burial

Above: David Pickard’s Burial at the Friend’s Burial ground Wakefield.

Ossett grocer and draper, George Pickard (born 9th April 1798, a Quaker birth) married Hannah Mitchell (born 1805) in 1824 and they had four children, two boys and two girls: Sarah, born in 1826; David born in 1830, Andrew born in 1835 and Hannah born in 1838. The family lived in a cottage, said to be where Green Mount would later be built, at the junction of Southdale Road and The Green. In 1841 their neighbour was John Greenwood, surgeon of Sowood House. George Pickard died in 1852 and his wife Hannah died in 1862. It is also thought that George’s daughter, Sarah Pickard, died in her teens sometime between 1841 and 1851.

Meanwhile, George Pickard’s two sons, David and Andrew, had done well and by 1871, David (aged 41) was a "Cloth Manufacturing Master" employing 100 women, 20 boys and 90 men. He was then in partnership with Mark Wilby and they were the co-owners of Manor Mill, Ossett which was used for rag grinding and scribbling. David was still single and living with his unmarried sister Hannah (32) at the Pickard homestead on the Green. Andrew (35) was also single, but had moved to live in lodgings in Leeds where he is described as a "Woollen Manufacturer", with mill premises in Aire Street, Leeds.

On 8th May 1876 Andrew Pickard purchased "....all that Capital messuage or dwellinghouse called Green Mount" from Charles, Richard and Caroline Wheatley.1 The house, "with the outbuildings, greenhouses and pleasure grounds thereto belonging", reflected the wealth that the Pickard brothers had achieved in business. Portions of Green Mount appear to have been freehold, and parts copyhold, land and the latter would have been subject to the customs of the Manor of Wakefield. This meant that Andrew Pickard and his heirs would require the consent of the Lord of Wakefield prior to any subsequent disposal by way of sale or inheritance of the copyhold parts.

On 10th October 1881, Andrew Pickard purchased further freehold land adjacent and to the north of Green Mount. Once again the vendors were Charles, Richard and Caroline Wheatley. The area of land was substantial, perhaps as much as 12 acres, known as the Raven Royd and Southdale Close. In 1843 this land was owned by the Haigh family and tenanted by Thomas Moss. By 1881 it was occupied by shopkeeper and farmer, Bennett Brook, who subsequently farmed Sowood Farm with his son, Fredrick. Bennett most probably rented the land from the Wheatley family for farming.

By 1881, David and Hannah Pickard, of Green Mount, were unmarried, but living with them was Leeds born 'George Pickard' aged 10. He was described as David's son. David Pickard died suddenly, aged 52 years, on the 6th July 1882 without leaving a will. The administration of his estate was granted to his to his brother Andrew, Aire Street, Leeds. By the time of his death, David also owned a Mill at Horbury Bridge and had shops in Ossett. David Pickard left an estate to the value of £48,072 11s 7d.

After David’s death his business at Horbury Bridge and Manor Mill was carried on by his brother, Andrew, who called together his brother’s work people at Green Mount and distributed about £500 among them, the individual amounts being calculated at the rate of £1 for each year’s service. Andrew Pickard still had the mill at Horbury Bridge.

Andrew Pickard had moved to live at Green Mount after his brother's death and he himself was to die on the 18th September 1890 whilst holidaying in Llandudno, aged 54. Andrew Pickard did not die in testate like his elder brother and he left the majority of his estate to his sister Hannah Pickard. However, he also made reference in his will to "George Pickard, the adopted son of my late brother David Pickard deceased" leaving him part of his estate "in trust for when he reaches the age of 21" with his sister Hannah acting as the trustee. Andrew left £198,447 gross and £164,093 net, a considerable sum in 1890, and the equivalent to about £15 million today based on the RPI.

Hannah Pickard died on the 29th June 1891, leaving £140,000 and with no heirs, the family fortune was inherited by David Pickard's adopted son George who was now 21. Hannah's will was dated 9th June 1891 and in it she left Green Mount and "four acres of land bought from Messrs. Wheatley" by her brother Andrew to young George Pickard, "the Pickard family having lived there for nearly a century past." Hannah also left a long list of legacies to various people and organisations (see sidebar for full details).

The final twist in the story relates to young George Pickard, who as an adopted son of the late David Pickard had inherited a significant fortune and also Green Mount, which Hannah Pickard had left to him, presumably to keep the house in the Pickard family a little longer. George died in the June quarter of 1892 aged 21. It is not known who inherited the Pickard fortune, but on the 25th May 1894, in the High Court of Justice Chancery Division, Mr. Justice North presided over a case, which was testing the Wills of the late Hannah and Andrew Pickard on behalf of the heir of the late George Pickard "if he was the lawful child of David Pickard." George's heir was one F.R. Hird, but his relationship to George is unknown as is the outcome of the Chancery court case. The 'Ossett Observer' for the 25th May 1894 carried the following report about the Pickard Will Case:

"The case reappeared in the Chancery Division before Justice North yesterday. Mr. Swinfen Eady, Q.C., for the executors, said that the point to be decided was as to ten legacies to relatives of £1,000 each. The affidavit of William Emslay read that he and the co-trustees three months after Andrew Pickard's death appropriated a certain mortgage, and subsequently paid interest for six months to the legatees. The question was whether the appropriation was properly made. Mr Humphries, for the next of kin, contested the validity of the alleged appropriation.

His Lordship, after reviewing the facts as brought forward, said that the question was simply one of fact, and he could not doubt, as the two surviving trustees both certified to the fact, that the appropriation had been made, thought it would have been more satisfactory if, at the time of making it, some memorandum in writing had been made."

The Ossett Observer (17th September 1892) reported that Green Mount, "an elegant residence, erected on the site of the cottage tenanted by successive generations of Pickards", was sold. On the 21st December 1892, Frederick Robert Hird, surgeon of Scarborough, heir to the adopted George Pickard, sold the part freehold and part copyhold Green Mount to neighbour John William Greenwood, surgeon of Sowood House Ossett. In the same transaction Mr Hird also sold 3 acres 3 roods and 30 perches2 of freehold land to Mr Greenwood. This was part of the land purchased by Andrew Pickard in 1881, and inherited by Mr. Hird on the death of the illegitimate George Pickard on his death in June 1891. John William Greenwood paid £850 for the part copyhold interest in Green Mount and £2,000 for the freehold and the adjacent freehold land.

Green Mount Conveyance Map

Above: Plan from Conveyance 21st December 1892 showing Green Mount (green) & adjacent land (red) sold by F.R. Hird to John William Greenwood.

However, the Pickard family will be remembered for the huge sums they bequeathed to worthy causes. Between 1893 and 1928, fifty-seven lives were saved by the two Peterhead lifeboats each named "George Pickard", which were built after Andrew Pickard generously gave considerable sums of money in his Will for the construction of the five lifeboats to be named after the Ossett Pickard family. Only two lifeboats were actually built as far as I am aware and both were based at the fishing port of Peterhead, near Aberdeen. The first "George Pickard" was built in 1893 at a cost of £489 and the second "George Pickard" was built in 1897 at a cost of £603.

In 1901, Green Mount was occupied by Samuel Ellis, a woollen manufacturer and by 1910, Mr. George Henry Briggs was the tenant and William Greenwood, the owner. The Briggs family kept a little 'zoo' in what is now the garage of Green Mount where they had birds, a donkey and various other pets. Mr. G.H. Briggs died in the December quarter of 1915 and the family left the house soon afterwards.

William Greenwood died on the 20th January 1911, aged 48 years, leaving a widow and four daughters under the age of five years. He died intestate and letters of administration were granted to his wife, Alice. She died in 1952, before completing the administration. It is not known whether Green Mount was sold in the interim or whether it continued in Greenwood ownership, being rented to tenants.

By 1961, Green Mount had undergone alterations to provide two dwellings. Ronald Dent lived at number 1 Green Mount and Robert W. Spurr lived at number 2 Green Mount. On the 25th August 2005, number 1, Green Mount, described as a semi detached freehold (4 beds, 3 baths, 2 recpts), was sold for £297,000.On the 7th June 2002, number 2 Green Mount, semi detached freehold, sold for £130,000 and on the 25th February 2004, the freehold terraced number 3 Green Mont was on the market for £76,000.


Green Mount

Above: The rear of Green Mount, which is located on the junction of Southdale Road and the Green. The house was built in 1875 by Ossett mill owner David Pickard (1830-1882).

Green Mount in 2007

Above: Green Mount in 2007. The building shown above at the side of the house has now been demolished and, as can be seen, another building is being constructed in its place.

Alan Howe
November 2015


1. The Wheatley family from Hopton were wealthy in their own right but may have inherited this land from the Haigh family on the death of the last Haigh of that line in 1857.Charles & Caroline were siblings and Richard was their cousin and also husband of Caroline. The Haighs once owned 300 acres, 10% of Ossett’s total acreage.
2. There are 4 roods in an acre and 40 perches in a rood. This land therefore was almost 4 acres in total.


About 1875, Joshua Whitaker J.P., a wealthy Ossett maltster with malt kilns in Manor Road built Croft House, which had stables, a coach-house, a lodge, gardens, vineries and about five acres of land in front of the house. Whitaker was born in West Ardsley in 1804 to the same parents as Joseph Whitaker (1802-1884), who was the patriarch of the famous Whitaker dynasty based in Palermo, Sicily. Joshua Whitaker's fine new house was located on New Street in Ossett and he died there on the 30th October 1882 aged 78. Whitaker married his first wife Sarah Kaye (1805-1876) in the June quarter of 1851 in Dewsbury when they were both into middle age. Sadly, it seems that Sarah Whitaker didn't live long enough to enjoy Croft House and she died in 1876. The couple had lived at Little Town End and Back Lane, Ossett before Croft House was built.

Croft House

When he was 73, Whitaker married for the second time to 47 year-old spinster Anna Mary Petty (1830-1891) on the 25th October 1877 in Hornsey, north London. The couple lived at Croft House after their marriage with three servants: a ladies maid, a cook and a housemaid. The big house must have seemed empty and more so when the census was taken in April 1881 because Joshua Whitaker was staying at the Grand Pump Room Hotel in Bath, apparently without his wife. There were no children or direct heirs and the house was sold to Ossett millowner William Langley after the death of Whitaker's second wife Anna in 1891 under the terms of Joshua Whitaker's will. William Langley had a mill on Dale Street, next to the Horse and Jockey public house that was demolished in 1973.

In 1927, Ossett Borough Council bought the house, cottage and 3.5 acres of land, and on Tuesday 19th June 1928, Croft House was re-opened as a Child Welfare Centre, Education Office and School Clinic at a total cost of £4,700 including building purchase costs, structural modifications and internal furnishings. Thousands of Ossett children (including me) were inoculated there against a myriad of nasty diseases such as whooping cough, polio and measles. The building was finally demolished in April 1984 to make way for a new and modern Health Centre.

Croft House just before demolition in 1984

Above: Croft House just before demolition in April 1984 to make way for the new Sycamore House Health Centre. Croft House Nursery School, in the grounds of Croft House was opened in 1974 and closed in 2004.


Wesley House was built by wealthy Ossett-born dyer, dry salter and colliery owner William Gartside in the 1870s. Gartside owned Dewsbury Lane colliery between 1862 and 1876 and this colliery may have been in the Pildacre area, but the exact location is not known. The Healey Dye Works was first built in 1864 and Gartside himself came from a family of dyers, who it is thought, moved to Ossett from the Huddersfield area in the 1700s. Gartside was unmarried and after his death on the 22nd November 1876 at the age of 62, his extensive estate of land in Ossett was kept largely intact until it was auctioned off in 1902. Presumably the rental income from the estate was shared among his living family and it is known that his siblings had children.

Gartside's Will was dated 14th March 1876, a few months before he died and the Will was proved on the 23rd January 1877. In the 1871 census William Gartside is listed as living on Dewsbury Lane (Wesley Street), unmarried with a housekeeper and a servant. At this time, he employed 60 men in his dyeworks and 30 men plus 20 boys in his colliery. Gartside was also the occupier of 40 acres of land in Ossett. In 1883, the dyeworks at Healey, Ossett were sold to Fawcett, Firth and Jessop 3.

It was proposed at a public meeting in October 1888, that Gartside's Wesley House estate, consisting the house and 14 acres of land should be purchased by the Local Board for £9,700, with the intention of converting the residence into offices and the grounds into a public park. Rival local towns such as Morley and Batley had both been given land for public parks and the Local Board of Ossett was proposing to build new offices. The public meeting was very poorly attended, despite much publicity in the town. The two members of the Local Board who supported the scheme, and organised the meeting, Mr. Eli Townend and Mr. F.L. Fothergill had to accept that there was little enthusiasm among Ossett residents and from other Local Board members for their scheme, which was quietly dropped.

Instead, Ossett mungo manufacturer Edward Clay bought the Wesley House estate, and the Clay family have lived there now for over a hundred years. It was noted in an 'Ossett Observer' in 1927 that "among those who rented pews at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Wesley Street was William Gartside, who lived opposite in Wesley House, and Edward Clay, the founder of the firm that still bears his name."

Wesley House 1906

Above: Wesley House, Wesley Street pictured in about 1906. The couple stood in the left hand doorway are Edward Clay J.P. (1844-1921) and his second wife Amy (nee Blackburn). Edward Clay was the founder of the Ossett firm of Edward Clay and Sons, Mungo Manufacturers, and the first elected mayor of Ossett in 1890-91 after Ossett was incorporated as a Borough on the 16th July 1890. He was elected mayor again in 1893-94 and had served as Chairman of the Local Board of Health in 1880 and again in 1883. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce and a Guardian of the Poor, one of the first Borough Magistrates and took a prominent part in public life for many years. The boy in the right hand doorway is Edward Wilson Clay (1898-1979), their grandson.

Wesley House Tennis Courts

Above: Tennis courts at the rear of Wesley House, Wesley Street about 1906. The gentleman enjoying his pipe and seated at the left of the picture is John Arthur Clay (1870-1918) and immediately to his right is his wife Annie Lois Clay (nee Wilson, 1866-1942). The boy is Edward Wilson Clay (1898-1979) with two of his Aunt Hildas. The lady with the white hat is Hilda Mary Wilson (1879-1954) and the lady on the right is also Hilda Mary Wilson (nee Pemberton, 1871-1957), the wife of Ossett artist Eli Marsden Wilson and the sister-in-law of the other two ladies in the picture.

Edward Clay was the son of Jacob Clay, who kept the Carpenter's Arms in Bank Street for many years. He started off as a hand loom weaver and later started off in business as a rag merchant and mungo manufacturer. Mr. Clay was also a partner in the old firm of Giggal and Clay, wool extractors at Healey New Mill. The business that Edward Clay started is still in existence today (2007) in Wesley Street as Edward Clay and Son, flock and mattress filling manufacturers. The business was carried on first by Edward Wilson Clay and, after his death in 1979 by his sons and grandsons.


"Green Lea", one of Ossett's finest houses is located down Healey Road and dates back to 1889 when construction was started by George Jessop who had bought the copyhold land, known originally as Wasscer Royd, from Charles Wheatley of Hopton, Mirfield. This "Green Lea" should not be confused with another "Green Lea" on Southdale Road, where a Miss E. Lodge had her corset business in 1915.

George Jessop was part of the of well-known Ossett firm of Messrs. Fawcett, Firth and Jessop, wool extractors, based at Calder Vale Mills (previously Gartside's Dye Works) just down the road at Healey. Sadly, George Jessop was to die in May 1891, at the early age of 53 from Russian influenza, just a few days before "Green Lea" was finally completed. Jessop's widow Martha Jessop (nee Fawcett) and their three children: two sons (Arthur and Sydney) and a daughter, continued to live at "Green Lea" after George Jessop's death. Martha Jessop was to die in 1903 and ownership of the house was passed on to son Arthur Jessop, who lived at "Green Lea" until 1918.

In 1918, Arthur Jessop sold the house to Mrs. Sarah Smith, the wife of Ossett rag merchant, Robert Dixon Smith. The Smiths lived at Denholme Drive in Ossett in 1911 and after buying "Green Lea" in 1918, stayed there until the 1930s. Robert Dixon Smith died at Ossett in April 1933, leaving just £491 to wife Sarah in his will. In 1938, the house was sold for £1,250 to Louisa Dunning, the wife of William Strickland Dunning of St. Albans, Herts.

Green Lea

Above: Green Lea in 2012, set in a commanding position overlooking the Calder valley. My thanks to Greg and Sue May, present owners of "Green Lea" for details of the history of the house.

The Dunnings only had "Green Lea" for four years and in 1942, the house was sold to William Sykes Ltd. of Horbury, sporting goods manufacturers. William Sykes Ltd. was famous in the 20th century for the manufacture of high-quality cricket bats, used by stars such as the Australian Donald Bradman. Later, Sykes merged with other sporting goods manufacturers to become Slazengers. It is not known whether William Sykes Ltd. used the house as offices or for accommodation, but in September 1948, "Green Lea" was again sold, this time to the Ossett firm of Jonas Woodhead, manufacturers of springs and shock absorbers for motor vehicles. Whether Woodheads intended to use the house for office accommodation is not clear, but they were to sell the house again in May 1949 to Mrs. Isabel Dodds.

My thanks to Greg & Sue May current owners of "Green Lea" for much of this information and permission to view and photograph their beautiful house.


Between 1871 and 1881, West Wells House became the residence of Mr. Charles Thornes Philips, (born 4th August 1836), the son of Ossett grocer and prominent Wesleyan, William Phillips and his wife Mary. Phillips was the principal director of C.T. Phillips and Son, merino, mungo and shoddy manufacturers, with premises located at Queen Street, Wakefield Road and Whitley Spring Mill, Flushdyke. He was also interested in coal mining, and at one time financed the colliery company, which worked a small mine at Runtlings Lane.

Charles Philips was deeply involved in local public life. He was chairman of Ossett magistrates around the turn of the 19th century; the secretary of the old Mechanic's Institute in 1852; member of the old Board of Surveyors in 1865; vice chairman in 1866; chairman of the Local Board in 1872 and 1874; the first president of the Chamber of Commerce; the provisional Mayor of Ossett in 1890; a former trustee and treasurer of the White Cloth Hall in Leeds and also a West Riding Magistrate.

In 1898, Phillips vacated West Wells House and retired from business to live at Rushden Lodge, Scarborough with his daughter Clara after his wife Esther (nee Tolson) died in 1900. She was the daughter of the Mr. Thomas Tolson, carpet manufacturer, Flushdyke. Charles Phillips died at the age of 82 in December 1918 and was buried in the Wesleyan Burial Ground at South Parade. His only son, Mr. Thomas W. Phillips, an ex-mayor of Ossett, who lived at Mallin House, Ossett, died in 1915 aged 50. However, the business at Whitley Spring Mill, Flushdyke was continued after the death of the two principals.

West Wells House circa 1918

Above: West Wells House in its heyday circa 1918. The lady on the left is Margaret Smith (nee Buckett) who purchased West Wells House in about 1914, shortly after her marriage to Ossett shoddy manufacturer Reginald Smith, who had premises on Intake Lane. Part of Smith's factory on Intake Lane can still be seen today.

The public well for the area was located to the right of the rear entrance of West Wells House, behind the pinfold. It was finally concreted over about 1950 after falling into disuse. Brook's Mill was also part of the West Wells property and there was a Gate House which was at the entrance to the old orchard, which was demolished sometime in the 1950s.

West Wells House 2003

Above: West Wells House pictured in 2003. The houses on the left were built in the old grounds of the house by the then owners, the Smith family in the 1930s. My thanks to Tony Smith, Melbourne, Australia the grandson of Reg and Margaret Smith, the owners of West Wells House who left Ossett for Australia in 1951. Tony lived at West Wells House between 1946 and 1951 and has been kind enough to provide the two pictures of the house shown here.


Elder House was situated in extensive grounds of 1.5 hectares (3.6 acres), on Roundwood Road, off Teall Street in South Ossett, immediately to the east of The Little Bull Public House. It was probably built in the 1870s for the Bentley family who occupied the house for almost 70 years until 1939. It became the home of Thomas Wilby Bentley (1855-1926), who became Mayor of Ossett in 1909-1911, and later the home of Wynyard Lionel Rose (1913-1989), a Doctor of Pathology. Elder House was demolished in the late 1980s or the early 1990s when consent was granted, in 1988, for the development of sixteen detached dwellings to be built on the Elder House estate. This is the story of the Bentley and Rose families who lived at Elder House for almost 120 years.

Elder HOuse Map 1905

Above: 1905 Map showing Elder House (highlighted in red) off Roundwood Road facing the Baptist Chapel & Burial Ground on Baptist Lane.

William Bentley, a farmer and the son of a farmer, married farmer’s daughter, Elizabeth Wilby at Wakefield St John’s Church on 27th October 1853. The marriage registration indicates that both William and Elizabeth were “of full age” although Elizabeth, from Ossett Low Common, was barely 21 years old. However, William Bentley’s origins and age are less certain but it is likely that he was born in 1826, and baptised at Ossett Green Independent Congregational Church, in the same year. In 1851, William was living on Ossett Green with his parents. His father was a molecatcher and William was an agricultural labourer. Elizabeth and William’s first child, Annie Wilby Bentley, was born on 13th November 1853, just 17 days after the couple’s marriage. Annie was baptised in South Ossett on 1st January 1854.

By 1861, the couple had three children: Annie Wilby Bentley, born November 1853; Thomas Wilby Bentley, born on 12th May 1855, baptised in South Ossett on the 14th October 1855, and Joseph William Bentley, born in Spring 1860. In 1861, Elizabeth and her three children, aged 7, 5, and 1 year-old, were living on Ossett Low Common with her 66 year old widowed mother, Grace Wilby. The record shows that Elizabeth, a dressmaker, was married but her husband, William, is not recorded in the household. The William Bentley born 1826 was living with his parents, and siblings on Albert Street and working as a farmer and gardener. William Bentley was mentioned in John Harrop’s Will in early 1865, where reference was made to William occupying one of three cottages and gardens in South Ossett. These cottages were located on Albert Street where William was living in 1861.

Elizabeth had her fourth child, Emily, born in late 1862 and Elizabeth’s mother, Grace, died in the mid 1860s. By 1871 Elizabeth, aged 39, was living on Ossett Low Common with her four children, aged between 9 and 17 years and it is possible that the family were still living at their deceased grandmother’s home on Low Common. By this time Annie was working as a burler and Thomas, aged 15 years, was a steam crane engine driver. Just as it was in 1861, there is no sign of William in the household, or elsewhere, in 1871.There are records of the deaths of two men named William Bentley, registered in Dewsbury in 1870 & 1875. One of these men was almost certainly Elizabeth’s husband.

Elder House

Above: Elder House facing Baptist Lane, South Ossett photographed in 1981 about 10 years before demolition.

In Summer 1873 Elizabeth, had her fifth child, Percy John Bentley. Sadly, the infant, Percy John, died in Summer 1875, shortly before his second birthday. Elizabeth Wilby Bentley of Elder House passed away less than a year later, on 8th March 1876, aged only 44 years. It is probable that William Bentley died in the early/mid 1870’s too and the sudden deaths of two of her loved ones may have become too much for Elizabeth to bear. Mother and child were buried in the nearby Baptist Lane Burial Ground in sight of their Elder House home. It is said that in life so it is in death, and so, just as there was no obvious sign of William Bentley in the 1861 or 1871 Bentley household, he appears not to be buried in the Baptist Lane grave which is the resting place of his wife and two of his children.

Gravestone at Baptist Graveyard

Above: Headstone at Baptist Lane of Elizabeth, Percy John and one of Elizabeth’s other two sons, Joseph William Bentley.

By 1881, Thomas Wilby Bentley, Elizabeth’s elder son, assumed the role of head of household at the Bentley family’s Teall Street address. Thomas, aged 27, was by now an unemployed brewer’s clerk, his brother, Joseph William, aged 21, was a timber merchant’s clerk, his elder sister, Annie, aged 29 was a housekeeper and youngest child, Emily, aged 19, was working as a cloth inker at a wool mill. Annie married building contractor, William Henry Kershaw in Summer 1889 and moved to live on Park Square and so by 1891, and in 1901, only Thomas and Joseph, both rag merchants and latterly mungo manufacturers, and Emily the housekeeper were living at their Teall Street address.

In Summer 1908, Joseph William Bentley married Florence Mary Mellor at Wakefield and by 1911 they had a daughter, Emily Mabelle (who subsequently married Harry Westwood). The family were living on Clarendon Road, Ossett in 1911 and subsequently moved to "Grassholme" on Manor Road. Joseph died there on 20 April 1944 and probate was granted to his wife, Florence Mary and, his daughter, Emily Mabelle Elizabeth Westwood. Joseph’s effects were £8888 17s 6d.

Thomas Wilby Bentley subsequently became Ossett's mayor for two years between 1909 and 1911. His election as Mayor by his colleagues suggests that he would have held the office of Councillor of the Borough for several years prior to 1909.He is shown in the following picture at his mayoral ceremony at Ossett Town Hall, unusually without his top hat. Thomas Wilby Bentley never married, and is shown in the picture with his younger sister Emily, who was his mayoress.

Thomas Wilby Bentley Mayor 1909 to 1911

Above: Thomas Wilby Bentley in his Mayoral chains, with his spinster sister, Emily alongside.

By 1910, Thomas Wilby Bentley was the joint proprietor of Hope Mills, Ossett Spa (see http://ossett.net/ossett_mills.html) with his younger brother Joseph William Bentley. Thomas was also Chairman of Governors at Ossett Grammar School from 1905 until shortly before his death in 1925. Former OGS pupils may recall the school houses called Bentley, Pickard, Marsden and Haigh after Ossett's great and good. In 1911 only Thomas Wilby Bentley and his spinster sister, Emily, were living in the six roomed, Elder House, Teall Street, Ossett.

Thomas Wilby Bentley of Elder House, Ossett, born 12th May 1855, died on the 17th November 1926, aged 71 years. Probate was granted to his sister Emily Bentley; his brother Joseph William, merchant; Joseph Archer, secretary, and Thomas William Wilson, town clerk. His effects were £11,919 15s 2d. His spinster sister, Emily, born late 1862, continued to live at Elder House until her death, aged 77 years, on 26 June 1939. Probate was granted to William Louis Rene Wood, surgeon of Sowood House, The Green and Harry Garfield Chapman, headmaster of Ossett Grammar School. Her effects were £16,287 17s 8d. Thomas William Bentley was buried on 20th November 1926 at the nearby Baptist Lane Burial Ground. His sister, Emily Bentley, was buried in the same Burial Ground on 29th June 1939.

It appears that Emily Bentley left funds to enable the provision of accommodation for people less fortunate than herself. In October 1953 Ossett Borough Council acquired land at Teall Street for housing site and site of Emily Bentley Homes. In 2016, Emily Bentley Homes or Almshouses are located at 103 Teall Street, adjacent to The Little Bull Public House and only 200 metres or so away from the former site of her Elder House home. The Almshouses, operated by Anchor Housing Association provide unsupported amenity housing in four apartments for prospective residents who have preferably lived in the borough of Ossett for two years. A fitting tribute to the memory of a family who themselves had suffered hardship.

Emily Bentley Almshouses

Above: Emily Bentley Almshouses, 103 Teall Street, on the right of the picture.

Although Emily Bentley died in 1939, quite possibly at Elder House, it was October 1953 before Ossett Borough Council acquired land for the site of the houses for which she left a bequest. It was about this time that Wynyard Lionel Rose was first recorded with a Teall Street address. Dr Rose MSC, FRCPATH, as he was known, was a Pathologist of some repute. He was born in Rotherham in 1913, married Annie Frear in the Sheffield area in late 1940 and the couple had three sons, including twins.

Dr Rose During World War II Dr Rose served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Sudan and Italy, 1941-1946 becoming major. He was also a keen cricketer in his youth and a member of Yorkshire Cricket Club for most of his life.

Dr Rose was recorded in Wakefield, Newstead Road, from about 1948 when he was appointed as consultant pathologist to the Wakefield Group of Hospitals: a position he retained until 1981. He had earlier held similar appointments at Sheffield and Wolverhampton where his twin sons were born shortly before his move to Wakefield. Shortly afterwards, in 1951, he was first recorded with a Teall Street address, namely "Sherwood Mount." It is unclear if this was another house name for Elder House. Bearing in mind the setting of the house, the name Sherwood may have seemed appropriate. Dr Rose was at the "Sherwood Mount", Teall Street address until at least 1964 and between 1968 and 1983 his address was Elder House. Sadly, his first wife, Annie, died in early 1978 and later that year he married Mavis Crowe in the Darlington/Durham area.

In October 1980 an application was made for planning consent for residential development of the 1.47 hectare Elder House site. The application was approved in July 1981 and in February 1986 consent was granted for the felling of 26 trees and the crown raising of trees adjacent to the access and dwelling at Elder House, 109 Teall Street. In April 1988 consent was granted for the erection of 16 detached dwellings with private garages on the Elder House Estate, 109 Teall Street and thereafter applications were made for the erection of individual properties with the last one recorded in October 1996.

Dr Wynyard Lionel Rose died on the 15th May 1989, aged 76 years. It is not certain how long before his death he continued to live at Elder House or the precise date when the house was demolished. It seems likely though that the demolition would be the late 1980s or early 1990s. In the mid/late 1980s Elder House gained a reputation amongst the local youngsters and their imagination got the better of them as they played in and around the 3.5 acre Roundwood Road site. The extensive, unfenced, seemingly empty, remote and heavily wooded location was a popular haunt, in more ways than one, as fiction got the better of fact. As is often the case there was truth in some of these rumours. After all, Dr Rose was a Pathologist.

We acknowledge the contributions made to the History of Elder House by the Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA) Facebook Group.

Alan Howe and Steve Wilson, February 2016

SOWOOD HOUSE, THE GREEN: A Doctor’s Practice in Ossett from 1795 to 1976 with particular reference to the Greenwood family 1

There have been three dwellings in Ossett with the name Sowood House and a fourth with the name, Sowood Manor House. This latter dwelling built on Park Lane, the road running from Storrs Hill Road into Ossett Academy, was built in 1684 and demolished in the late 1950s. It is believed that it may once have been the Sowood Manor House – the home of the Lord of the Manor of Sowood.2

The dwelling known today as Sowood Farm3 was also known as Sowood House for much of the 19th Century. The listed Sowood Farm House which dates from 1689, still stands there today, probably on the site of an earlier building. The two remaining dwellings which carry the name, Sowood House, in the 21st Century include one which was built about 1875 and is situated off Sowood Lane4 near the junction with Manor Road.

The remaining dwelling, and the subject of this research, is the Sowood House which stands on The Green, at the junction with Healey Road (once Healey Lane). Today, Sowood House on The Green, is a Hair and Beauty Spa, but for much of its existence it was a Doctors’ Surgery, Dispensary and Operating Room.

From the style of the architecture, it is believed that Sowood House was built in three stages. The most recent is the front, which is estimated by Dr. John Stoker to be about 200 years old, and which would accord with the advertisement from the 2nd March 1801 (shown below). The section to the north is probably some 250-300 years old and the section to the south is the oldest at about 350-400 years old.

Sowood House 1948

Above: Sowood House pictured in 1948.

Sowood House 2003

Above: Sowood House pictured in 2003.

The levels of the upper floor are all different, that to the front is the highest, the middle section is some 8 inches lower, and the oldest section a further 3 inches below that. The window styles are all different; whilst all were replaced in about 1980, the original shapes and styles were retained with the exception of the northern section which had originally sash windows.

Accepting that there are three sections explains why there are 2 halls. The larger is in the northern, middle age, section which brings the three sections together, whilst the front, most recent, section has a smaller hall of its own, leading in to the larger one. The oldest section has an extensive cellar system, arranged for domestic cooking purposes and exposed beams (originally enclosed) in the upper floor ceilings.

It is thought that there had been an apothecary’s shop on the site for about 300 years and that there had been a tablet over the door to the dispensary to this effect.

Sowwood House

Above: Sowood House pictured in 2007.

Sowood House is believed5 to date, in part, to the early 18th Century, but its history as a home and workplace for generations of medical doctors dates from, a little later, in the 1790s. It was then that John Greenwood (1776-1831) and his wife and cousin, Jane Greenwood6, were recorded in Ossett and shortly after 1801 he purchased Sowood House from the administrators of bankrupt Ossett clothier, John Wilson.

Sowood House sale notice

Above: Sale notice in "The Leeds Intelligencer", 2nd March 1801.

As early as 1795 John Greenwood was practising medicine in Ossett, quite possibly at Sowood House, but, apart from his acquisition of the House shortly after March 1801 the first documentary evidence appears in 1821 and 18227 when he was described as a surgeon.

John Greenwood’s brother, Richard married Elizabeth Liversedge8 in 1798 and as a result of the marriage the Greenwood family became related to the Haigh and Wheatley families. Joshua Haigh and Charles Wheatley were key players in 18th and 19th Century Ossett land and property ownership. The Greenwoods own lineage was also well documented. In the 1709 Wakefield Manor Estate Book where mention was made of Abraham and Daniel Greenwood. 100 years later John Greenwood named two of his sons Abraham and Daniel suggesting the family’s long existence in this part of Yorkshire. In 17759 John Greenwood owned 5 acres of Ossett land, Medley Sands, on the River Calder, close to Healey. This was an earlier John Greenwood than the one born in 1766 (possibly his Uncle and possibly Jane’s father who was called John) but it indicates that the Greenwoods were in Ossett by 1775 . The 1795 Land Tax mentions, for the first time, a Mr Greenwood, the title is applied to a person of some standing. It is known that John Greenwood was practising medicine in that year.

John Greenwood and his wife, Jane, had seven children from their marriage and the eldest surviving son, George Greenwood (1805-1868) took over the Sowood House practice when his father, and his mother, died in 1831. It appears that John Greenwood left Sowood House and some land at Farthing Royd (Healey Lane) to George and his brothers, Thomas and Daniel, on his death in 1831. It is also possible that in 183910 George took a mortgage from a William Stewart, solicitor of Wakefield, to buy out his brothers’ interests so that George became sole owner.

In 1825 George had been admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons and also became a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. He is first described as a surgeon practising at Sowood House in 1830 and thereafter in Censuses and Trade Directories until 1866 when the practice was described as George Greenwood & Son. However George was living elsewhere on The Green in 1861 and he died in 1868 aged 63 years. Over the years he had established a significant land holding and the 1843 Ossett Tithe Award11 records him as the owner of more than 50 acres in the Healey Lane and Sowood area.

It is probable that George’s first child, John William Greenwood (1833-1904), participated in his father’s practice from 1856 when he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons and became a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. In 1855 he had also became a qualified midwife and by 1871 he was described as a General Practitioner, Midwife and Apothecary.

John William married Mary Thompson in 1860 and at least five children were born to the marriage including four sons. George Spencer Greenwood was the eldest, followed by William, Bransby, Claude and Nora. George and William became doctors, Bransby a solicitor and Claude a Civil Engineer. All of the children were born in the 1860s and all remained in Ossett after achieving their qualifications. Bransby lived at the Greenwood owned dwelling, The Cottage, and Claude lived on Storrs Hill. By 1881, John William Greenwood had been appointed Medical Officer of Health for Ossett.

Sowood HOuse on 1960s map

Above: 1960s map showing Sowood House, Green Mount, The Cottage & Greenwood’s Yard.12

In 1892, John William Greenwood ventured into land and property acquisition and purchased the adjacent Green Mount and almost 4 acres of associated land which was situated behind Sowood House. In 1895 he paid £21 to the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield to enfranchise his copyhold land in Green Mount and Sowood House. Effectively this converted his copyhold interest into a freehold interest in the properties and the Lord of the Manor would no longer hold sway over what John William or his heirs did with the properties.

John William Greenwood, by then a widower, was living at Sowood House (even though he had moved to Scarborough in about 1893) in 1901 but the head of the house was his son, George Spencer Greenwood. In 1904 John William died, aged 71, in Scarborough at his spinster sister, Alice Greenwood’s, home address.

George GreenwoodJohn William’s two elder sons, George Spencer Greenwood (1862-1905) who is pictured left and William Greenwood (1863-1911) had worked in the practice since qualifying in the late 1880s and, like their father, they had achieved high public office with the local borough. By 1893, George Spencer Greenwood was the Medical Officer of Health to the Corporation and William Greenwood was the Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator, Ossett District, Dewsbury Union.

The early 20th Century was unkind to the Greenwood family. John William, died in July 1904 and his only daughter, Nora, aged 36 years, died five weeks later in early September 1904. A year later, in October 1905, George Spencer Greenwood, a bachelor, died, aged only 43. His death may have been unexpected since he died without making a Will.

The eldest surviving son and only remaining Doctor in the family, William Greenwood, continued to run the practice from Sowood House and in 1907 he was joined by Dr W.L.R. Wood. He married his cousin, Alice Alford, in late 1905, but William died in January 1911, aged 48 years, leaving a young widow and four daughters, including twins, all under five years of age. Alice headed south with the children and later in 1911 she was living in Putney in a house which she had named Sowood. Staying with her was her nephew George Greenwood, aged 19, the son of Bransby and Lizzie Greenwood who was following in his father’s footsteps and studying Law in London.

Four generations of the Greenwood family had produced five doctors who served the people of Ossett for more than 110 years between 1800 and 1911, but this was the end of the Sowood House connection with the Greenwoods. Sowood House, however, had not finished with the medical world and in later 1911, the practice was taken over by Dr. William Louis Rene Wood (1877-1942) when Sowood House was leased to him.

Dr. Wood was born in Lorraine, France in about 1877, but had come to England before 1901 when he was living with his widowed mother, Salome, in Westminster, London and working as a footman. He was naturalised in 1898, qualified to practice as a doctor in 1905, moved north and married Emily Gertrude Haslam, the daughter of a Baptist Minister in Gildersome in 1907. His mother died in Leeds in 1909.

Dr Wood served as a Lieutenant and later Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to the Royal Field Artillery. He served in France and was awarded the Military Cross for meritorious conduct. In his absence the Sowood House medical practice was run by his partner, Dr W Hole, who would have seen the terrible effects of that war on the men and women of Ossett. Those who went to war and returned wounded or gassed and those who remained at home but who had lost their loved ones. There was, however, an interesting visitor to Sowood House in 1918 in the form of a nurse from Sheffield called Constance Elliot Birks13. Constance had worked in Dr Wood’s native France at a WW1 field hospital, run by the Scottish Women’s Hospital movement, near the front line at Royaumont near Paris.

Dr. Wood continued to rent Sowood House, until 1937 when, aged 60, he moved to live in Knaresborough where he died in April 1942. He had worked at Sowood House for 30 years. The House was still owned by the Greenwood family in 1937 having been inherited in 1911 by William Greenwood’s, widow, Alice who was still living in Putney. Perhaps as a result of potential purchasers or tenants, Alice Greenwood commissioned a condition survey of Sowood House in March 1937 and this was undertaken by local architect, Charles Kendall14 A.R.I.B.A. of 10, Bank Street, Ossett.

When Dr Stephen Brandon Stoker (1904 - 1979) arrived in June 1937, the lease of the house had a further year to run. At the end of this, a further 10 year lease was established. After the 10 years, the house was purchased by Dr Stoker in March 1948. He was accompanied by a practice partner, Dr. John Samuel Coad (1907 - 1966). There had been extensive coal mining in the area, and many old properties had suffered subsidence. By 1948, the NCB judged that the subsidence was complete, accepted responsibility for the damage to Sowood House, and agreed to fund a major repair. The whole of the outer wall of the front of the house was taken down, and the existing stones used to re-build it. Many of the ceilings were extensively repaired. The upper floor of the old dispensary, examination and surgery block was removed and replaced with a flat roof.

The opportunity was taken to re-position the surgery premises, along the lines suggested by Charles Kendall in his 1937 report5. The room on his 1937 plan labelled “Dining room” became the Consulting room, with the “Housemaids Pantry” becoming the Examination room. The room labelled “Kitchen” became the waiting room and the office was in the “Old engine room”, at this time referred to as the “Sun room” as it had been used for UV light therapy. Domestically, the “Waiting room” became the kitchen, and a new doorway was made into the “Smoke room”, which became the Dining room. The “Old coach house” had been demolished some years earlier.

Dr.Stephen Brandon Stoker 1948 Stephen Brandon Stoker (shown left in 1948) was born in Huyton Lancashire in 1904, the son of Stephen Stoker, in his early life a Railway Clerk and later a Senior Manager with the London and North Western Railway (L&NW). The Stoker family was reasonably affluent and could afford to send both sons to study medicine at Edinburgh and for the daughter to become a teacher. His wife’s maiden name was “Brandon” and the family came from Abbeyleix in central Ireland.

Stephen Brandon Stoker completed his undergraduate studies at Edinburgh University, but then chose to sit his qualifying examinations with the Royal Colleges at Edinburgh and also that at Glasgow, both in 1927. His qualifications in 1927 were L.R.C.P., L.R.C.S. Ed. and L.R.F.P.S. Glas. (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and Licentiate of the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow.)

Immediately after qualifying, he made arrangements to go to Africa as a medical missionary under the aegis of the Church of Scotland. He went to what was then Nyasaland in Portuguese East Africa, arriving at the beginning of August 1928. He supervised the building of a hospital and was the only doctor present in the area and managed the mission together with the Church of Scotland minister.

He returned to Britain sometime in early 1933, and started his post graduate surgical training in Newcastle. He worked in various hospitals in the area, undertook professional visits to Portugal and Sweden and had a period of research in the Department of Physiology. He was awarded his FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh) in 1936. He then realised that General Practice was his calling, and after working in various practices around Newcastle, he moved to Ossett in June 1937.

He married Jane Giles in 1935 and the couple had a son and two daughters born between 1937 and 1944.

John Samuel Coad was born in Cramlington, Northumberland in 1907 the son of a Colliery cashier. He qualified at Durham University in 1933, moving to Ossett in 1937 and marrying local girl, Joyce Fearnside in 1940. They had two children, a son, Derek (born 1941) and a daughter, Pamela (born 1944). In 1946, Dr Coad established a part-time practice at Enfield House, Sowood Lane where he saw the occasional private patient there, and did other examinations, such as for insurance purposes. However, he was always an equal partner in the Sowood House practice with Dr. Stoker and all his normal practice work was based there. Sadly Dr Coad’s son, Derek, died in 1963 aged only 21 years and three years later, in 1966, Dr Coad died from pneumonia in Leeds General Infirmary, aged 59 years.

After Dr Coad died in November 1966, Dr. D. M. Broughton helped for some months. Many of Dr Coad’s patients had changed to other practices and Dr. Stoker was finding the strain of managing essentially a single handed practice hard, and unable to attract a suitable partner, he decided that early retirement from the NHS was the best option.

Dr. Stoker retired in December 1967, at the age of 63. He continued with his role as Police Surgeon and some industrial medicine until shortly before his death. Dr Mehrotra took over what was left of the practice. He had other premises and Sowood House was never his main base. He never had a formal lease and paid no rent. He continued to see patients at Sowood House, but was spending less and less time there; by 1979 he was only spending three short sessions there each week and left finally in November 1979. Dr. Stephen Brandon Stoker died in the same year, aged 75. John Samuel Coad had worked in the Sowood House practice for 29 years and Stephen Brandon Stoker for 30 years until 1967. Sowood House ceased to be a Doctors’ practice in 1979, some 175 years after the first Doctor Greenwood established his practice in the early 1800s.

In 1979, Dr. Stoker's son Dr. John B. Stoker was working as a Consultant in Cardiology and General Medicine at St James’ and Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds. Partly to support his ailing mother, and with his wife and three children, he decided to move back to live at Sowood House. They purchased the house and moved in autumn 1979. A major refurbishment was started in 1980 and lasted some 18 months. The wall between the front of the house and the southern section behind was found to be defective and required re-building from foundations to roof. The roof on the northern section was replaced and some chimney stacks removed. Extensive re-plastering, including specialist re-moulding of cornices, replacement of the central heating, re-wiring, dividing the old waiting room to be a utility room and a bedroom / study and complete re-decoration were carried out. The house continued as a private residence until February 2004, when it was sold to become a hair dressing and beauty establishment.15

I am extremely grateful to Dr. John B. Stoker who, in June 2016, submitted additional information about his father and Sowood House. This is now incorporated into the above history of Sowood House and the biography of his father, Dr Stephen Brandon Stoker.

In February 2004 Sowood House was sold to Gary Howard Price and Linda Amanda Price for £470,000. Subsequent planning applications for the building of a detached house on the (remaining) land to the rear of Sowood House were considered in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and June 2015. With the exception of 2008 all of the applications have been refused. In 2015 Sowood House continues to be operated as a Hair and Beauty Salon.

Until 1967 there remained some unfinished business for the Greenwoods and Sowood House. When William Greenwood died in 1911, the administration of his estate was granted to his widow, Alice Greenwood (nee Alford). Alice, who was also William’s cousin, died in Putney in 1952 without having fully administered the estate of William Greenwood. The task of finishing off William’s estate was left to William and Alice’s second daughter, Joyce, born 1908, who was known as Alice Joyce Greenwood.

Whilst Sowood House may have been sold by the Greenwood family to Stephen Stoker in about 1939, they reserved some land to the rear of the House. This had frontages on to Southdale Road and on to Lime Street to the north east of Sowood House. Three plots of land with a Southdale Road frontage were sold in 1937-1939. In 1967 the land with a Lime Street frontage was sold by Alice Joyce Greenwood to two times former Ossett Mayor, Edward Broadhead Nettleton, who lived at Greenfield House, Lime Street. In the 1970’s this land was developed to provide dwellings accessed from Lime Street. This transaction appears to have ended the Greenwood family connection with Sowood House and its associated land.

Alan Howe
July 2016


1. A full copy of the research findings is available on the Downloads (see left hand bar) section of this website.
2. The Manor of Sowood or Southwood Green (c) Alan Howe, 2012 http://ossett.net/sowood.html
3. A History of Sowood Farm (c) Alan Howe, 2012 http://ossett.net/sowood.html
4. Sowood House, Sowood Lane (c) Joan P Smith, 2010 http://ossett.net/ossett_houses.html
5. Charles Kendall A.R.I.B.A Ossett Architect in 1937 survey of Sowood House http://ossett.net/downloads.html
6. Married at Dewsbury All Saints Church on 22nd April 1799.
7. The 1821 Ossett Census and the 1822 Baines Trade Directory.
8. Elizabeth Liversedge was the daughter of Sarah Liversedge ( nee Haigh). One of Sarah’s other daughters, Mary, was Charles Wheatley’s mother.
9. There is no mention of the Greenwood name in the Ossett Hearth Tax schedule of 1672.
10. Admittance deeds dated August & September 1895.
11. The Return of Owners of Land 1873 records only 8.5 acres in the hands of Geo. Greenwood, Exors.
12. All of these properties were owned by the Greenwood family.
13. A biography of the life of Constance Elliot Birks can be seen at http://ossett.net/WW1/Constance_Elliot_Birks.html
14. Charles Kendall, formerly known as Charles Kendall Hanson won the Military Cross in WW1
15. Private correspondence with Dr Stoker's son, Dr. John B Stoker, Consultant in Cardiology and General Medicine at St James’ and Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds.


Westfield House is located along Wesley Street, on the opposite side of the road to Wesley House, but some distance further away from Ossett town centre.

Westfield House

Above: Westfield House pictured in 2007 from Wesley Street

After first occupying the house shown below, which is close to Westfield House, John Westerman went on to build Westfield Mill on the opposite side of Wesley Street, and he then moved into the newly built Westfield House (above). By 1927, the house was occupied by Ossett rag merchants John W. Hewitt (b. 1866) and Herbert W. Hewitt who had premises in Wesley Street.

Westerman's House

Above: This house, number 33 Wesley Street was built for John Westerman around 1850. In the 1851 census Westerman was a master clothier and rag dealer, employing 24 men and 30 women. Westerman's rag warehouse was located adjacent to this house and was demolished about 1975. The house then became the manse for the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel from about 1870 until 1971. In 1971 it was purchased by Brian Smith.


One of Ossett's few listed buildings, Sowood Farmhouse has been occupied by the Brook family for many generations.

Sowood Farm

Built in 1689, on the site of a medieval manor that was in existence in 1302, and built possibly re-using timbers from the original manor house.

Christopher Denton of Sowood Farm died of the plague on the 18th July 1593 and was buried at his own house. His sons, Christopher (23) and William (18) died 13 days later. On the 3rd August, Alice his wife and the rest of the Denton children, Isabel (21), Elizabeth (19), James (15), Thomas (11), Margaret (4) together with neighbours Joanye Brook and Ann Ward all died of the plague and were buried at 'Denton's House' . On the 10th August Alice Nowell and Agnes Ward died of the plague and on the 21st September also died of the plague. They were all buried at Sowood Farm.

After the death of the owner, Christopher Denton, was Sowood Farm perhaps used as an isolation area for those poor Ossett citizens who had contracted the deadly disease? We know for sure from the Wakefield Manor Rolls that all these people were buried at Sowood Farm in 1593, but is seems unlikely that they all lived there.

SCOTT'S YARD: 1708-2008

In early 2008, Richard Spurr and his partner Rachel Pickard, the owners of Scott's Yard, off Manor Road, Ossett contacted me via this website to ask if I would be interested in researching the history of their house, which they believed may date back to the 18th Century. When they bought the house in 2007, Richard and Rachel had been presented with a collection of original deeds and documents tracing the history of the houses in Scott's Yard back to 1859.

Scotts Yard, Manor Road

Above: The only house now left in Scott's Yard is actually numbers 6, 7 and 8 combined into one dwelling. The building extends a considerable distance to the side and rear and is much larger than this photograph of the front elevation suggests.

The scope of researching the history of Scott's Yard was always going to be beyond my modest level of expertise and I was lucky that my friend, Alan Howe took an interest in the project. Alan has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the intricate workings of the West Yorkshire Archives Service (WYAS) in Wakefield and the Yorkshire Archaeological Society (YAS) in Leeds.

What follows is entirely Alan's work, completed over a period of several months and many long hours, but somewhat condensed to fit this web site. It includes freehold Deed Memorials, the Ossett Inclosure Order 1813, Land Tax records 1781-1832 and the Wakefield Manorial Court Baron copyhold document records. Alan also examined the Ossett Survey and Valuation of 1774, held in the private collection of local historian, John Goodchild in Wakefield.

Scott's Yard is located on Manor Road, Ossett adjacent to the Victoria public house. Over the years, the area has been known variously as Ossett Commonside and by several spellings of the curiously named Giggal Hill (Giggle Hill and Jiggle Hill). It is likely that this name was derived from the Giggal family, who owned land and property to the north of Manor Road at the junction of the Green. This area was previously known as Giggal Hill Bottom.

In 2007, the present owners of Scott's Yard purchased the land and the dwellings standing there, exactly 200 years after the land first came into the possession of the Scott family in 1807. The existing 2008 property (pictured above) comprises three earlier dwellings, built in the 19th century or earlier, but with the addition of a later 1960s extension on the eastern side of the older buildings.

The Wilbys
Before 1807, the land was owned by Isaac Wilby, who like many others in Ossett was a clothier. The Ossett Survey and Valuation of March 1774 shows land and property, described simply as "housing" and "croft" in the ownership of Isaac Wilby, who was born in Ossett in 1743. Isaac's father was also called Isaac and he was born in 1717. The Wakefield Manorial Court Rolls suggest that Isaac Wilby senior may well have acquired the land from his brother Joseph Wilby in 1750. Isaac Wilby's ancestors can be traced back to the birth of Jonathan Wilby of Ossett in 1653 and examination of early 18th century Court Rolls suggest that the family may have owned the land in the 17th century.

The land was copyhold and required the consent of the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield for any transfers of ownership or significant tenancies. In 1806, Isaac Wilby died and left his estate to his six children. His son David Wilby (born 1765) inherited the land and buildings that were to become Scott's Yard, which along with adjacent ownerships, was described in Isaac Wilby's 1802 Will as:

"All that copyhold messuage, dwelling house or tenement situate at Ossett Common Side aforesaid where I now dwell with the new erected barn shop and the remainder of my croft, together with all the other outbuildings, rights, member's privileges and appurtenances thereto belonging except and always reserved out of this devise unto my said sons John, Jonathan and Benjamin the privilege of fetching water from the draw well to and for their own use."

The Wilby family were clothiers with interests in the fulling mill and dye works at Healey. By the beginning of the 19th century, this branch of the family also owned a significant amount of land on Ossett Common Side (on both sides of Giggal Hill). This included the area which was to become known as Scott's Yard, then a croft with a range of outbuildings and a newly erected barn. The site may also have included a dwelling or dwellings and it is certain that three of Isaac Wilby's sons, David, Benjamin and Jonathan were living there or thereabouts in 1810. The Ossett Inclosure Act of 1807 and subsequent order of 1813 shows the family in, or close to, the Yard. Maps show buildings and premises on and adjacent to the site, which are described as "ancient", suggesting that they would date at least to the 18th century. An area owned by Charles Scott (later known as Happy Land) is described as being "bounded on the west by ancient Inclosures now or late belonging to David Wilby". This was Scott's Yard.

David inherited the yard in 1806, but he was not to own it long and in 1807, confirmed by a session of the Court Baron of Wakefield in 1808, he sold Scott's Yard and other land and property that he had inherited from his father to Joseph Scott, book-keeper and Yeoman of Ossett.

The Scotts
Joseph Scott was born about 1750 and came from a family of Ossett clothiers who vied with the Wilby family and others to become the major land owners on Giggal Hill and Middle Common. The family can be traced back to Benjamin Scott of Ossett who was born about 1695. It seems likely that the Scotts did not live in the Yard preferring the area to the east known then as Ossett Middle Common and later as Park Square. The family had a number of lands and property here and in the area now known as Fairfields. The Ossett Inclosure Order of 1813 shows Joseph living on Middle Common Road (at the junction of Station Road and Park Square). His brother Charles lived on the opposite side of Middle Common Road (Station Road) in a property on Scott Road.

Joseph Scott’s Last Will and Testament of 1837 has him leaving his not insignificant estate in equal shares to his five siblings or their children. Scott’s Yard was left to his brother David’s four surviving children and over the next 20 years David’s son Samuel becomes sole owner of the site. It is likely that this period is one of the most active in the history of the Yard. There is evidence around this time of housing development elsewhere on Giggal Hill and the Victoria Public House was built in the late 1850’s.The Ordnance Survey map of 1851 shows three  buildings on the site and a conveyance of 1859,in the possession of the present owners, makes reference to the site being the location of a barn ‘now pulled down’ and  refers to five dwellings. This 1859 conveyance transferred the Yard from Samuel Scott to his only son Henry Castile Scott.  It is likely that the five dwellings referred to in this Deed  includes at least one of the three dwellings which now comprise the existing building known as number 7 Scott’s Yard.

Scott's Yard plan

Above: Plan showing the layout of properties in Scott’s Yard (probably) between about 1870 and 1970. Numbers 6,7 and 8 are now(2008) combined into a single dwelling. The area outlined in red was sold to J & M Asquith Ltd in the early 1970’s.

In 1891 a Wakefield Court Baron document refers to five dwellings and the Ordnance Survey map in the mid 1890’s shows eight dwellings on the site in the positions shown above.

Analysis of Census information between 1861 and 1901 show a number of families living in, or close to, the Yard including the family of Nathan Wilby (junior and senior) who lived here between 1861 and at least 1901. Nathan was the great-grandson of Isaac Wilby who owned the site in 1774. Even though Isaac’s son, David, sold the site to Joseph Scott in 1807 the Wilby’s were still living here almost a hundred years later. Nathan Wilby died in 1916. The census provides no evidence that the Scotts lived here at any time between 1841 and 1901 and earlier records show Joseph Scott, the site owner, living elsewhere on Middle Common. Scott’s Yard it may be but it appears that the family never actually lived here and it seems probable that Joseph Scott purchased the site for its investment potential. It was a good decision.

Scotts Yard pre demolition of cottages

Above: Scott's Yard before the demolition of the majority of the old cottages. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 Scott's Yard can be seen on the right of this picture.

The 1859 Conveyance, by which Henry Castile Scott was to inherit the Yard from his father Samuel, refers to five dwellings on the site. By the 1890’s this has increased to eight and these dwellings are providing homes for some 39 men women and children. Henry Castile Scott, who lived at Mona Cottage (Park Square fronting onto Manor Road), died in 1912 leaving Scott’s Yard and Mona Cottage to his four surviving children. The last surviving child, Anna Louisa Scott, died in 1943 and Scotts Yard was sold thus bringing to an end some 136 years of ownership by the Scotts.

A Conveyance of 1944 shows six dwellings on the site and it is likely that numbers 4 and 5 had been demolished by this time. It is also probable that numbers 1,2 and 3 were demolished in the 1960’s when other housing clearance was taking place on the Giggal Hill part of Manor Road. The 1944 deed is the first to record the site as ‘Scott’s Yard’ In the mid 1960’s an extension was added to the remaining buildings (numbers 6,7 and 8) and this is the configuration which remains in 2008.

And so, the property known as Scott’s Yard appears never to have been the home of the Scott family even though they owned the site for 136 years between 1807 and 1943.On the other hand the Wilby family who owned the site until 1807 lived here or hereabouts for at least 127 years between 1774 and 1901. Indeed they probably owned the Yard  before 1700 and stayed beyond 1901 (Nathan Wilby, who lived here in the second half of the 19th century, died in 1916)

Perhaps anticipating some problems in the disposition of his estate, including Scott’s Yard, in his Will of 1802 Isaac Wilby issued the following warning  to his beneficiaries:

"and lastly I do hereby expressly state my mind to be that if any of my said Sons or Daughter or her husband or any of my said Grandsons shall be dissatisfied with his her or their respective devise or legacy and shall cause any law suit or disturbance or give each other any Unnecessary Trouble in such case I do hereby revoke and make void all such devise or legacy as is hereby given  to him or her who shall cause any such law suit or give Unnecessary Trouble  and I do hereby give devise and bequeath the same unto the others of my children…in equal shares" 

In contrast Samuel Scott in conveying his estate, including Scott’s Yard, to his son Henry Castile Scott in 1859 had this to say to his only child:

“Now this Indenture Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the natural love and affection which the said Samuel Scott has and bears towards his son the said Henry Castile Scott and for his advancement in the world and for other good causes and considerations him hereunto moving…….”

The Scott and the Wilby families were clothiers by trade and by the early 1800s it seems that the Wilbys were near the end of a dynasty whilst the Scotts were continuing to build and expand theirs. Where once they were owners the Wilby family became tenants of the family to whom they had sold Scott’s Yard in 1807.

But nothing lasts forever and by 1943 the Scotts too were no more thus bringing to an end 250 years or so of ownership by the two families.

Henry Castile Scott's daughter Anna Louise Scott’s estate sold the site to Alfred Ernest Ellis in 1943 following her death. It was only after 1943 that documentation refers to the site as ‘Scott’s Yard’. This was the year the land ceased to be owned by the Scotts after 136 years of ownership.

Following Mr Ellis’ death his executors sold the site to Isaac and Joan Adeline Hughes in tranches over a 20 year period from 1951. The Hughes sold the site to Robert Dale in 1986. It was sold again in 2002 and purchased by Richard and Rachel Spurr in 2007.  

Before 1859, a Barn, probably built about 1800, was on part of the site. It seems likely that numbers 1,2 and 3 were built in the 1880’s and demolished in the 1960’s. Numbers 7 and 8 may have been built at the same time or possibly in the 1850’s. Numbers 4,5 and 6 appear likely to be earlier than 1859, in part due to the configuration of The Victoria built about that time. Numbers 4 and 5 were demolished between 1913 and 1943. An extension was built to numbers 7 and 8 in 1964 and numbers 6,7 and 8 became a single dwelling in 1968. At one point in time Scott's Yard provided homes for 39 people including earlier Spurr and Pickard families.


Dating back probably to between 1863 and 1870, Bleak Cottage located on Manor Road is another interesting old property in Ossett. I have been fortunate enough, with the able assistance of Alan Howe, to be able to do a little bit of research into the interesting history and previous owners of Bleak Cottage.

Bleak Cottage in 2005

Above: Bleak Cottage in 2005

In 1813 Joseph Scott, yeoman and book keeper of Ossett was allotted the land on which Bleak House was built as a condition of the Ossett Inclosure Act of 1807. Joseph Scott lived at the junction of Park Square and what was later to become Station Road and he died in 1837. In 1833, Joseph Scott sold 18 perches of land (about 0.125 of an acre) to Nathan Mitchell and a man named Hallas. Nathan Mitchell was born in Ossett in 1799 and was a farmer, living on Giggal Hill. The 1861 census notes his occupation as "landed proprietor", and he is shown as a 66 year-old widower (although he was actually born in 1799), living with a house keeper Mary Fothergill. Mitchell probably bought the house to build a house and there is some evidence of a building or cottages on the location of Bleak Cottage which is shown on the OS map that was surveyed in 1840, but not published in 1854.

The 1841 census, shows two families living in adjoining cottages on the site where Bleak Cottage would be built. In the first cottage is David Wilby (1787-1841), a clothier living with his wife Mary (nee Illingworth, aged 50), seven children and a servant. Immediately next door is Randolph Wilby (1797-1868), a clothier with his wife Mary (nee Scott, aged 43) and seven children at home. It is likely that David and Randolph Wilby were related, but to date the link hasn't been made.

By the 1851 census, the same dwellings were occupied still by Randolph Wilby, now a Rag Merchant, his wife Mary and children Edwin (26), Philip Scott Wilby (27, and who is mentioned in the deed abstract for Bleak Cottage), Alfred (19), Mary-Ann (15) and Andrew (11). Next door, in place of David Wilby, who died shortly after the 1841 census was taken is now Thomas Audsley, a yarn manufacturer aged 37, living with his wife Hannah (37) and children Samuel Edward (17), Thomas Moss Audsley (13), Abigail Ann (8), Eli (6), David (4) and a lodger, Joseph Audsley, a school-master and the 28 year-old brother of Thomas Audsley.

The old cottages on the Bleak Cottage site were still there in 1861, which is just before construction began. At this time, the 1861 census lists the likely occupant of one or both of the cottages as Edmund Tomlinson, woollen cloth manufacturer employing 4 men and 6 women, born Ossett in 1825. He is living there with his wife Annis (40) and their children Sarah (6), Ann (4), George (1) and Elizabeth (4 days) with a servant Elydia Fothergill (37).

Coming back to Nathan Mitchell, farmer and later coal dealer; the archive records show that he bought a great deal of land in the Manor Road area of Ossett and enough to assemble a frontage on to Manor Road with another 2 acres to the south. In 1864, Nathan Mitchell now a widower, sold his house at Giggal Hill and began the construction of the present Bleak Cottage after selling off various pieces of land that he had bought previously, presumably to fund the building of the new house. Unfortunately, Nathan Mitchell didn't have much time to enjoy Bleak Cottage, and he died in 1870 aged 71. Sadly, he had no children and consequently Bleak Cottage was bequeathed to his nephew James Mitchell (born Ossett in 1813), who was probably the son of Nathan's brother Thomas Mitchell (born Ossett in 1791t). James Mitchell held the land and presumably the ownership of Bleak Cottage until his death in 1893 when his estate was passed on to his son Godfrey Mitchell (1845-1931) as a provision of Nathan Mitchell's original Will. James and Godfrey Mitchell were required as a condition of the Will to pay £6 per annum to Mary Fothergill who was Nathan Mitchell's housekeeper and had lived with him briefly at Bleak Cottage when it was first built.

Godfrey Mitchell was a railway guard who lived most of his life in Balby, Doncaster and it is clear from the deeds of Bleak Cottage that Godfrey rented Bleak Cottage to a number of different tenants, whilst also taking out mortgages on the property to raise capital. The rental income from the property was used to pay back the interest on the mortgages, but Godfrey Mitchell never paid back the borrowed capital and this was only paid off when Bleak Cottage was sold by Mitchell's executors in 1934 after his death in 1931.

One of the names mentioned in the deeds is Mark Wilby. It is possible that Mark Wilby (born 1828), the joint proprietor of Manor Mill (with David Pickard of Green Mount fame) rented Bleak Cottage after it had been built. Manor House, which was nearly directly opposite the now demolished Manor Mill on the other side of Manor Lane was definitely built by Mark Wilby, probably in the affluent 1860s when Ossett mill owners were doing extremely well. Perhaps Mark Wilby first lived in Bleak Cottage and the 6 acres of land to the south of the cottage was his? He would then have moved from Bleak Cottage to the grand new house nearby. By 1871, we know that Mark Wilby was employing 100 women, 20 boys and 90 men at Manor Mill, which was used at that time for rag grinding and scribbling.

The 1871 census shows us that the newly constructed Bleak Cottage was now being occupied by Albert Speight, (born Ossett in 1846), a mungo and shoddy manufacturer, living with his Lancashire-born wife Sarah-Anne (nee Atkinson) and their 3 year-old daughter Lillian Speight with a servant Louisa Brook (14). Albert Speight was the son of John Speight, the proprietor of Northfield Mill, Field Lane (Church Street), Ossett. Albert Speight died at the early age of 30 in 1876 and by 1881 his wife, now aged 37 was living with her daughters Lillian (13) and Hannah Mary Speight (9) on Headlands in Ossett.

In 1881, the occupant of Bleak Cottage was now Charles William Abell, a bank clerk, (born Leeds, aged 31 years) with his wife Elisabeth (born Stafford, aged 24 years) and son Percival Edwin (1) born Wakefield. They have a domestic servant, Mary Ellinor Roberts aged 19 and born in Wales. Their tenure at Bleak Cottage seems to have been short-lived, because by 1891, the couple appear to have separated. Charles is a lodger at Brussels Hall in Leeds, which was the Leeds Parish Church Market District Boys Club, home to about 40 others with occupations such as agricultural labourer, druggist, brush maker, compositor, bricklayer, fitter, shoe-blacker, pavior, etc. which suggests that it was a boarding house for the working classes. The proprietor is a Mr. T. Parker, described as a "Cocoa House Proprietor". In 1891, Abell's wife Elisabeth was in Shipley, working as a "monthly nurse" in the house of John Coates, a baritone vocalist and textile worker, which suggests that they were now leading separate lives.

By 1891, the tenancy of Bleak Cottage had passed to insurance broker, Alfred Farrar Smith, who had been born in Birstall in 1847. Smith was the son-in-law of Mark Wilby (mentioned above living next door at Manor House) and he was living at Bleak Cottage with his wife Jane (nee Wilby aged 38) who was born in Ossett and their children Maud (15), Gertrude (11), Harold (9) Alice (8) and Mark (6) with a servant Sarah Jackson.

At some time, perhaps around the turn of the 20th century, Bleak Cottage was divided into two separate dwelling houses. There were two separate entrances and two separate staircases. However, the house was later converted back into one larger house, but there is still clear evidence of the conversion work and the old room divisions.

The original boundary of the land and outbuildings included measured an area of 2.53 acres. The east of the land was bordered by Manor Lane and the south boundary was bordered by land attached to The Manor House.

1890 Map showing Bleak Cottage

Above: 1890 map showing Bleak Cottage and the grounds.

The Census for 1901 is inconclusive as to the occupier of Bleak House, but between 1905 and 1916 it was occupied by Wilson Briggs, Rag Merchant who ran a rag warehouse on land to the west of Bleak House, which was built in the 1840s by John Humble, a manufacturing chemist. The 1911 census confirms that the occupant of Bleak Cottage was Wilson Briggs (58), his wife Clara (48) and son Arnold Briggs (24) from Briggs' first marriage. Wilson Briggs was a Rag and Mungo Manufacturer who, over the years, had various business premises in Ossett and in 1927, his rag warehouse was located on Manor Road. The Wilson Briggs mill on the river Calder at Healey is still operational today.

The Walkers
In 1918 we know that Bleak Cottage was rented by John and Annie Ada Walker, and that their son Clifford Walker, aged 21, a Private in the Army Service Corps died on the 5th November 1918 during WW1. Clifford is buried in St Sever Cemetery in Rouen. John Walker (born about 1868 in Flushdyke, Ossett) was a Woollen Rag Merchant with premises in Ossett.

Marian and Clifford Walker in 1902

Above: Picture of the Walker's two children, Marian (born 1895) and Clifford Walker (1897-1918) in a picture taken about 1902. Clifford Walker was to die in France during WW1. The 'Ossett Observer' for the 16th November 1918 carries the following report about his unfortunate death just six days before the end of the war: "Private Clifford Walker (21), only son of Mr. John Walker of Bleak Cottage, Manor Road, South Ossett, died on the 5th November 1918 in hospital in Rouen, France from influenza. Deceased who was a scholar of the Wesley Street, Wesleyan Sunday School and actively associated with the Temperance Hall enlisted in the KOYLI two years ago, but has latterly been attached to the Army Services Corps, remount department. He had previously suffered from pneumonia whilst in the army."

Godfrey Mitchell, the owner of Bleak Cottage, never lived in his house and after he died in 1931, his sons acting as the executors of his Will sold the house and the 2 acre close of land in 1934 to Mrs Florence Annie Bedford of Hope Street, a few hundred yards lower down Manor Road from Bleak Cottage. At the time of the sale, the house and close of land was occupied by Mr J.W. Crosland.

In 1953, Mrs Bedford (who never lived at Bleak Cottage ) sold the land to the rear of the house to Ossett UDC for housing and then, in 1964, she sold the remainder of her ownership to retired farmer Harry Mitchell. Mr Crosland was also still at Bleak Cottage, so presumably the cottage was still divided into two separate houses. Harry Mitchell was still living here in 1969.

It is thought that Mitchell then sold Bleak Cottage to Mary Lister who also owned the hairdressing salon at 100 Manor Road, next door to Bleak Cottage. A couple called Pinchbeck had the property from about 1987, then Michael and Annette Smith bought Bleak Cottage in 2001 who sold some adjacent road frontage for building, selling to the present owners in 2004 after some renovation work was carried out.


Manor House or Manor Villa1 is situated on Cave Well Gardens, just of Manor Lane. The fine-looking house was built about 1870 by Ossett mill owner, Mark Wilby (1827-1912), one of the partners of nearby Manor Mill, which has now been demolished and replaced by housing. Manor House was built on land that Mark Wilby had purchased from Nathan Mitchell who had built nearby Bleak House on Manor Road in the 1860s.

In November 18692 Nathan Mitchell, gentleman and Mark Wilby, cloth manufacturer, were parties to a conveyance whereby Mitchell sold 2 acres, 1 rood and 27 perches of land for Manor House bounded to the east by Hallas Road (later Manor Lane); to the west by land in the ownership of the Vicar of Dewsbury (Vicars’ Fields); to the north by land owned by Nathan Mitchell (on which Bleak House had been constructed in about 1864), and to the south by land in the ownership of Ebenezer Fothergill. The Deed was witnessed by Nathan’s brother Eli Mitchell, a solicitor, who lived at Little Town End, Ossett and by David Pickard, “Green Mount”, Ossett who was Mark Wilby's partner in their cloth manufacturing business at nearby Manor Mill.

Manor House or Manor Villa

Above: Manor House or Manor Villa, which has been converted into apartments and all the original grounds sold off for new housing, which completely surround the house, which was built about 1870.

Mark Wilby was born in Ossett and christened here on the 10th June 1827. He was the son of George Wilby (1790‐1879) , Ossett woollen cloth manufacturer and his wife Jane (nee Atkinson), who were married on the 1st June 1818. Mark was the fifth child of eleven born to the Wilbys between 1818 and 1841. The first sign of Mark is in the 1841 Census at the age of 14 when he is living on Middle Common with his parents and eight of his siblings.

In 1851, Mark (24) now a woollen cloth manufacturer married Martha Clegg (born 1829) in Wakefield and they are living on Upper Common, Ossett with Martha’s widowed mother Ann Clegg(45) and her son Frank Clegg (20). Ann is a shopkeeper and Frank a woollen cloth manufacturer, employing one man. There is no sign of Mark Wilby and his family in the 1861 census.

By 1871, Mark Wilby and his wife Martha are now living for the first time at Manor Villa with six children born between 1853 and 1866. Jane Ann Wilby was born in 1853, Eliza (1856), Emily (1859), Sarah Ellen(1861), Frederick Atkinson Wilby (1863) and Kate or Catherine born in 1866.

Mark Wilby's initials on Manor Villa

Above: Mark Wilby made certain that future generations knew of his achievements and his initials are carved high in the ornate stonework on the front of Manor Villa.

In 1881, Mark, a woollen cloth manufacturer, employing 40 people, is still at Manor House with his wife and five children. The eldest of Mark and Martha’s children, Jane Ann Wilby married Alfred Farrar, a Woollen Manager in 1875 and had left Manor House, but in 1891 the Farrars were living next door at Bleak Cottage.

Manor House in 1891 is still home to 64 year old Mark, but his wife Martha passed away in 1886. Mark is living with one of his daughters, Eliza(35) and grand daughter Kathleen Smith, the daughter of Alfred Farrar Smith and Jane Ann Smith (nee Wilby) who are living yards away at Bleak House. He has a general servant to help out with domestic duties and Manor House is a large house for three people. There are records (an Abstract of Title for Bleak House and a Deed of 1894) which suggest Mark was in possession of Bleak House around this time. He certainly did not own Bleak House and so it seems likely that he rented the house from James Mitchell or his son Godfrey Mitchell who were the beneficiaries of Nathan Mitchell’s estate. It is probable that Mark sublet Bleak House to Alfred and Jane Ann Smith.

Map of Manor House and Manor MIll

Above: Extract from an 1890 Ordnance Survey Map showing Manor House and the proximity to Manor Mill and also Bleak Cottage.

Two of Mark’s other children Frederick Atkinson Wilby and Sarah Ellen Wilby had married in 1887 and 1890 respectively. Frederick married 19 year old Ada Sophie Whiteley of Earlsheaton and they had four children between 1889 and 1895. In 1891 Frederick A. Wilby was a woollen cloth manufacturer living on Park Square and by 1901 he was an Insurance Agent living with wife Ada and their four children at Prospect House near the centre of town.

In 1890, Sarah Ellen Wilby married Thomas William Phillips. Phillips was the only son of Charles Thornes Phillips (1836-1918) of West Wells House (see above). Thomas W. Phillips served as Ossett's mayor 1908/09 , and lived with Sarah Ellen at Mallin House, Ossett. Sadly, Phillips died in 1915 aged just 50.

In 1892 Kate or Catherine Wilby (born 1866) married John William Cussons, a manufacturing chemist born in Louth, Lincolnshire in 1868. John William was the son of Thomas Tomlinson Cussons, who in the early 1880s opened Cusson's chemist shop in Station Road Ossett.

Manor Mill 1970s

Above: Rare picture of Mark Wilby's Manor Mill from the early 1970s when it was under the ownership of Windsor & Firth Ltd. Manor Mill was first built in 1854, but was severely vandalised on the 29th March 1971 before being demolished on the 8th February 1975.

By 1901, widower Mark Wilby is now 73 years of age and is still living at Manor House. He is now a retired woollen manufacturer. Interestingly, four of his daughters, two of whom are married, are shown to be at Manor House on census night. These are Jane Ann Smith(48), Eliza Wilby(45), Emily Wilby(42) and Catherine Cussons (34). Jane Ann Phillips is a mile away at West Wells and Frederick Wilby is 300 yards away at Prospect House, Station Road. A family gathering it seems. Did Mark Wilby have something to announce? Perhaps he was about to sell Manor House? We may never know.

Mark Wilby anecdote
I'm not sure of the origin of this anecdote, but it dates back to the early part of the 19th century and concerns the aftermath of a passenger train accident that occurred at Wrenthorpe. Mark Wilby was a passenger on the train, travelling from Ossett to Leeds, when it ran into some empty coal wagons at Wrenthorpe. After the impact, the passengers in the carriage were all pushed together in a tight group when it was noticed that Mr. Wilby was bleeding from the nose and mouth. The damage had been caused by somebody or something impacting against the valuable Meerschaum pipe that he was smoking at the time. The pipe had been smashed to pieces in the collision, but Wilby was not at all concerned about his injuries, but was reportedly very upset that his favourite pipe had been destroyed in the collision. The writer of the original piece suggests that Wilby's first exclamation was "Oh, my pipe!", but somehow that doesn't ring true?

In 1905‐06 John Thomas Marsden is shown in the Ossett Burgess Roll living at Manor House, Manor Lane after Mark Wilby had moved to live in the Lancashire seaside resort of Southport where he died in 1912 aged 85. Marsden, was the managing director of Marsden Brothers, Extract Wool, Rag and Mungo Merchants, and also a director of the Woodkirk Stone and Brick Company. He had been born in Ossett in 1852, the son of Joseph Marsden and married first Hannah Nettleton (daughter of George Nettleton) in 1879 and again in 1896, Annie Glover (daughter of John Glover) after his first wife Hannah had died aged 41 in 1895.

The Inland Revenue Valuation record for 1910 shows that Manor House is still owned and occupied by John Thomas Marsden who was Ossett's mayor in 1907/08, when the new Town Hall was opened. In the garden and grounds of Manor House stands a “reservoir”, greenhouse, vinery, stable, coach house and wood shed. The Burgess Roll for 1913‐14 also shows J.T. Marsden still at Manor House. However, in 1927 Manor House is occupied by the Misses Marsden, presumably the unmarried daughters of J.T. Marsden.

1. Manor House or Manor Villa notes adapted from a study by Alan Howe. Manor House pictures by Alan Howe - March 2009.
2. WYAS Deed reference of 1869, Volume 630, Page 607, No. 752.
3. Conveyance deed for the sale of William Gartside's Healey Dye Works in 1888 now held by Neville Ashby.
4. "Ossett Observer", Saturday 28th September 1912 with Mark Wilby's Obituary.


This history of Highfield House is based on a series of detailed articles by Joan P. Smith, Ossett historian, who lived there as a young girl. This article, especially for the ossett.net website, is an edited version of Joan's work, but the original article is now available as a download from the DOWNLOADS section at www.ossett.net. Joan gives us a preamble and some background to her time at Highfield:

"I always thought that there was something odd about Highfield Cottage!  Why was there such a large back door? Why was there a blocked up staircase leading from the kitchen/living room to my bedroom?  Why was there no proper access to the front of the house? Why did the large, built - on garage have an upper floor?  Why was it built at right angles at the rear side of the ‘grander house’ (now converted into two dwellings)?  These and other oddities were to puzzle me for many years.

I moved to Highfield Cottage, Horbury Rd., Ossett in early October 1946, shortly before my 10th birthday. On the morning of the removal day I was sent to Horbury Bridge School as usual with my seven year old brother George (my older sister Nellie was already attending Ossett Grammar School). After School I had to get on a bus, and bring him to our new home at South Ossett. How many 9 year-olds would be entrusted with the care of a younger sibling nowadays? We were both overwhelmed by the size of Highfield. We had spent our early years in a small two up two down terrace house on King Street, Horbury Bridge and our new home seemed like a mansion. Two very large rooms with a walk-in pantry and cellar downstairs and, three very large bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, with hot water, a garage with an upper floor, and a garden at the front!

I have thoroughly enjoyed solving my 64 year-old puzzle and now, at last, know that my former home was a Weaving Shop!  If the walls could talk I am sure they would have many interesting tales to tell."

Highfield House 2010

Above: Highfield House in 2010, photograph by Joan P. Smith.

Highfield House is located off Horbury Road in South Ossett about 100 yards to the south-east of South Ossett Parish Church. The house is approached by a long block-paved driveway off Horbury Road, located between Clarendon House and a detached house called "Montrose" that fronts the main road.  The croft or field that was located beyond the gardens and to the front of Highfield House was sold some years ago for housing in the 1970s and a number of houses now front Horbury Road making it difficult to see Highfield from the road.

Highfield House Entrance

When first built around 1860, Highfield House would have been quite grand, as befitting the home of a successful Ossett woollen manufacturer.  Since then, the stonework has suffered badly over the years due to the sun and as the result of repeated sandblasting to remove the soot and grime left by Ossett's many mill chimneys.  In front of the house was a very large, lawned area, surrounded by shrubbery. At the bottom of the garden was a hedge which separated the house from the ‘croft’ or field, in which houses were eventually destined to be built.

The present owners of Highfield House, which has now been converted into two semi-detached dwellings are No 1, Lisa and Craig Hudson who bought the house in July 2007 and No 2, Elizabeth and Melvyn Speight who bought their house in December 2009. Unfortunately, Highfield Cottage is unoccupied and awaiting renovation.

Highfield House Aerial View

Above: Aerial view of Highfield House 2010, which shows how the house has been separated into two semi-detached dwellings, with Highfield Cottage at right-angles to the north.

Highfield House was built by Ossett clothier John Harrop (1800-1865) circa 1860 on a one-acre site to the eastern side of Horbury Road and was originally where Harrop ran his home-based weaving business. The one acre and 25 perches of land that Highfield House was built on was first awarded to John Craven in the Inclosure Act, 1807-1813. 

Inclosure Act 1807-1813 Highfield land

Above: Inclosure Award Map showing the 1 acre site awarded to John Craven. There were no buildings on the land when it was awarded to Craven.

The one acre of  land awarded to Craven was unusual in that 25% was freehold, 25% was copyhold and the remaining 50% was classed as "freehold and copyhold undistinguished".  Most likely, there were parts of land in this half-acre section that were definitely freehold and other parts that were definitely copyhold, but the boundaries would be unclear. It was therefore impossible to distinguish with confidence which piece of land was freehold and which was copyhold, hence the term copyhold and freehold (but) undistinguished.

The next reliable source of information about the land was the Ossett Tithe Award of 1843 when the owner of the plot is now recorded as William Lee, who was by now sub-letting the 1 acre and 25 perch site (as before) to William Mitchell junior. There were still no buildings on the site in 1843. William Lee was the grandson of the late John Craven who had probably died in 1837 and he was the son of Craven's daughter Ann, who had married John Lee on the 24th July 1796 at Horbury St. Peter's Church. William Lee had been baptised on the 19th September 1802 and later married Ann Swann at Snaith in 1825.

The land was sold to Joseph Marsden, of Storr's Hill, Ossett by a deed of conveyance on the 29th November 1850, signed by William Lee, yeoman of Horbury and his two unmarried daughters, Jane Ann Craven Lee (c. 1830) and Adelaide Craven Lee (c. 1833) who were his only surviving children. William Lee's only son, John Craven Lee had died aged 19 years in 1847.

1854 OS Map

Above: 1854 Ordnance Survey Map showing the plot of land that Highfield House was built on.

The land was again sold by deed of conveyance on October 27th 1854 by Joseph Marsden, designated now as a skinner (fellmonger), still of Storr's Hill, Ossett to John Harrop, woollen manufacturer of Ossett Common.  Also mentioned in the deed is Nathan Mitchell, farmer of Ossett Common.  Mitchell owned a plot of land immediately adjacent to the plot being sold to Harrop and it is likely therefore that he was farming this land as well as his own.  By now, a mistal (a building where cows are milked and kept) had been erected on the land so it seems likely that Nathan Mitchell was dairy farming on the two adjacent plots.  It is also possible that Joseph Marsden in his role as a fellmonger may have bought any dead cattle to utilise the skins for the leather trade.  In the event, Joseph Marsden died in 1860, aged 50 years, but it is likely that Nathan Mitchell continued to rent the land from new owner John Harrop to carry on his dairy farming enterprise.

John Harrop (or Harrap) who built Highfield House was christened on the 28th March 1796, one of at least ten children of Ossett clothier Joseph Harrap  and his wife Mary (Butterfield).  John married local girl Martha Illingworth on Christmas Day 1818 in Dewsbury  and they went on to have at least nine children: William born 1820, Abraham born 1822, Mary born 1824, Isaac born 1826, Jacob born 1829, Robert born 1832, Martha born 1834, John born 1837 and Mark Harrop born 1841.

John Harrop's Will

John Harrop's  address on the 1861 Census was listed as Horbury Road and it is very likely that this will have been Highfield House.  He made a Will on the 23rd August 1862 and in this he describes his homestead at South Ossett as consisting of a "Messuage or Dwellinghouse, Shop, Stable, Outbuildings and Appurtenances", suggesting that Highfield House and the associated buildings were erected between 1854 and 1862. John Harrop died on 6th Jan 1865 and his Will was proved on the 9th March 1865.  In Harrop's Will, which was an extensive document spread over five A3 pages, he makes the following provisions:

 "I give and bequeath all that my homestead at South Ossett, consisting of a messuage or dwellinghouse, shop, stable, outbuildings and appurtenances thereto belonging together with the croft or close of land thereto adjoining, and all those my five shares in Healey New Mill and all lands, hereditaments etc. belonging to the said Mill and all that one other stand in the Cloth Hall at Leeds, together with all the residue of my real estate, goods etc. unto my friends George Illingworth and George Harrop, both of Ossett aforesaid, manufacturers and my said sons Abraham and Isaac Harrop, their heirs executors etc.,  hereinafter called my trustees and shall as soon as conveniently may be after my decease will collect in and receive all the real and personal estate etc.. and to dispose as they see fit and after all expenses have been deducted to give the following sums of money to my son Mark Harrop two hundred and fifty pounds, my son John Harrop two hundred and fifty pounds, my son Isaac Harrop one hundred pounds, my son Jacob Harrop fifty pounds, my son Robert fifty pounds. The residue of the estate after all expenses has been paid, if any, to be divided between my said sons and daughters."

He also left several cottages in the Horbury Road area to his children, in which his sons and daughter were already living.  The exceptions were John and Mark Harrop, who were still living at Highfield. The Will at first reading suggests that John Harrop left the majority of his estate to his two "friends" George Illingworth and George Harrop. It is Joan Smith's view that George Illingworth was John Harrop's  brother-in-law (the younger brother of his wife Martha) and that George Harrop was his younger brother (b. 1813) who lived at Rock House and was the principal of the Albion Mills enterprise at Horbury Bridge.  Harrop and Illingworth were in fact the executors of John Harrop's Will and not beneficiaries as such.  John Harrop had a large family and the Will contained numerous individual bequests to his children.  It would have been necessary for his executors to make absolutely sure that his wishes were carried out properly.  Why the solicitor named the two executors as "friends" is still not clear. 

In the event, Highfield House was offered for sale in the "Leeds Mercury" on Saturday, 18th March 1865 at an auction to be held at the Cooper's Arms Inn, Ossett. The advertisement is reproduced below:  

Leeds Mercury

It isn't clear if Highfield House was sold in March 1865, but it seems more likely that the house was rented out.  All of John Harrop's sons were cloth weavers and therefore it is likely that they made full use of the weaving shop at Highfield.  Another scenario is that Harrop's two youngest sons, John and Mark Harrop lived at the house.

In a memorializing deed dated 9th December 1873, in which probate of John Harrop's Will was granted to his son Isaac Harrop (one of the devisees), the homestead at South Ossett was described again as consisting of a "Messuage or Dwellinghouse, Shop, Stable, Outbuildings & Appurtenances thereto belonging together with the Croft or Close of land thereto adjoining & all those Testator's 5 shares in the Healey New Mill in the Town of Ossett and all the lands, hereditaments & premises and other real estate belonging to the said Healey Mill Co., & rights, members, privilege & appurtenances respectively belonging with the residue of his (Testators) real estate (if any).  (Ref: Vol 696/696/825)"

Not long afterwards, in a Deed of Conveyance dated January 8th 1874, Highfield House, together with the weaving shop, burling house, stable and other outbuildings plus the allotment or close of land extending to approximately one acre and twenty-five perches was sold to Samuel Pickard,  Ossett gentleman and retired manufacturer.  Samuel was the son of weaver Robert Pickard and was born circa 1813, most probably at the home of his parents at 9, Haggs Hill Road, Ossett. He was still living at Haggs Hill in 1841 when he was working as a journeyman clothier.  In common with some of his Ossett Pickard cousins, he was determined to do better for himself and by 1861, he had moved to Giggal Hill where he was living with his wife and two children, most probably in one of the cottage properties in Scott's Yard.  The same conditions applied to the Highfield land in respect of copyhold, freehold and "freehold and copyhold undistinguished"  that had been the case at the time of John Craven acquiring the land between 1807 and 1813.

In the 1871 census, clothier Samuel Pickard, with his wife Jane (Wilby), and their son Alfred Hinchcliffe Pickard (also a clothier) with wife Mary Harriett (Hemingway) and their children Samuel Norman and Arthur Vincent are all living on Church Lane,  South Ossett  in one dwelling.  In addition, living with his grandparents is John William Pickard, the illegitimate  son of Emma Pickard who sadly died in 1863 a few months after the birth of her son.  There are two census schedules for one dwelling, so it is possible that they are already renting Highfield House in 1871.  Church Lane was also known as School Lane and eventually became Vicar Lane.

In the 1881 census Alfred Hinchliffe Pickard is now retired at the early age of 36, and is living with wife Mary Harriett and their children Samuel Norman, aged 12; Arthur, aged 10; Charles Bernard aged 8 and Edith Mary aged 1 on Horbury Road, not far from South Ossett Church (most probably  at Highfield House) with Mary Harriett’s sister Lucy Spink. Samuel Pickard, who is now retired, is living with his wife Jane and grandson John William, (now an articled clerk) all at Sowood House on Sowood Lane. 

Shortly before Samuel Pickard died on August 26th 1883, he passed the property on Sowood Lane (Sowood House) over to his grandson, John William Pickard, (mentioning the ‘lately erected dwelling’).  In his Will, Samuel Pickard bequeathed to his son Alfred Hinchliffe Pickard  "All that dwellinghouse now already occupied by Alfred situate at Horbury Lane, South Ossett together with the three cottages, mistal and a close of land adjoining the same,"  which we assume to be Highfield House. Horbury Lane later became Manor Rd., and the entrance to the property would originally have been from there. An entrance on Horbury Road must have been made later.  Samuel Pickard also left his son Alfred "fourteen cottages situate at Richmond Hill, Leeds also the six cottages situate at Westgate Common, Wakefield, also six cottages situate at Park Square Ossett Common aforesaid, all with their respective appurtenances." Samuel Pickard was clearly a wealthy man, also leaving shares in many local companies including the Wakefield Gas Light Company the Mirfield Gas Light Company, the Barnsley Gas Light Company and  Healey Low Mill. He had also loaned money to Dewsbury and Batley Corporations in the form of mortgages. Samuel Pickard also owned stands at Leeds Cloth Hall, purchasing one in 1854 and a second from William Dews in 1877, a sign of his wealth and standing. 

On the 1891 Census John William Pickard with Jane, his grandmother, are both listed as living at Sowood House, but John William is now "living on his own means at the early age of 28."  In 1891, Alfred Hinchliffe Pickard, aged 46 and retired is still at Horbury Road, Ossett with his wife Mary and children Samuel N., (Chemist & Druggist) Arthur Vincent (Dentist’s Apprentice), Charles Bernard (Draper’s Apprentice) and younger children Emma 8 and Kate H. 6, both scholars.

In 1901 The House is actually named as Highfield House, Horbury Rd., Alfred H is a widower aged 56, living on own means, with Emma J. 18 and Kate H. 16. Samuel Norman is now married and Alfred’s other two sons are both deceased.

The Ossett Valuation Records of 1910 show Alfred H. Pickard owning a house and land, including a mistal (Highfield House) plus another house close by (Highfield Cottage), which is occupied by Chas. Priestley (and previously occupied by Harry A. Cox before 1907).  Highfield House remained as a single dwelling until sometime after 1912 when Alfred Hinchcliffe Pickard died.  Highfield cottage was always a separate dwelling after conversion from a weaving or burling shop as can be seen from the occupation by Harry A Cox (1907) and Chas. Priestley (1910).

In 1911 Alfred, Emma and Kate (both still single) are all still living in Highfield House. Kate Pickard later married William H. Clegg in the September quarter of 1915.  They had a daughter, Dorothy P. Clegg who was born in the September quarter of 1916.

Alfred Hinchliffe Pickard died on January 18th 1912 and in his Will dated 1907, the Highfield Properties passed to his unmarried daughters Emma Jane and Kate Hemingway Pickard, with other property and legacies inherited by Ossett chemist Samuel Norman Pickard. 

Copyhold Agreement

The question of what was regarded as copyhold land and freehold land on the site of Highfield was to come back and haunt the Pickard family. Since the land on which Highfield was built was part copyhold and part freehold, any transactions involving land/property of a copyhold nature had to have the consent of the Lord of the Manor.

On December 1st 1938, a Compensation Agreement was made between The Manor of Wakefield, Emma Jane Pickard and Kate Hemingway Pickard. Re. the extinguishment of a 'manorial incident' (regarding the copyhold part of the plot). The sum of £8 9s 5d was paid to the Manor by the Pickard sisters, prior to the sale of the property, which is described as 1A 25 perches (with all the usual details of the Allotment of The Inclosure Act in 1813). In 1925, the ancient copyhold nature of land holdings was abolished. However, on the first sale of land, which had previously been copyhold, the deeds could only be 'franked' after compensation was paid to the Lord of the Manor, ostensibly in lieu of rents which would have continued to have been paid had the copyhold not been abolished.

Also, details of how the properties at Highfield had been sub-divided into three separate houses:

  1. The Messuage or dwellinghouse known as "Highfield House" (now converted to two dwelling houses) occupied by Mr. Greaves and Mrs. Lord.
  2. The Weaving Shop, formerly two cottages, but now converted into one dwellinghouse known as "Highfield Cottage", occupied by Mr. Wycherley, with the burling house (now used as a coalhouse), stable and other buildings erected upon the said allotment or close of land and or on some part together with the appurtenances.    (Ref: Vol 174/979/325)

In a conveyance dated Jan 20th 1939,  Emma Jane Pickard (Spinster) and Kate Hemingway Clegg (widow, formerly Pickard) both of 86, Thornes Road, Wakefield sold the Highfield properties to Horace Benn of Regent Street, Horbury, Colliery Deputy (Ref: Vol 10/447/153 - same details of the Plot as Ref: Vol 174/979/325)

In 1946, the tenancy of Highfield Cottage was taken on by Joan's parents George and Nellie Worth, who bought the property in 1964  from Annie Benn, widow of Horace. Highfield Cottage was later referred to as 3, Highfield House.

Highfield Cottage Rear Door 1960s

Above: Rear of Highfield Cottage showing the back door circa 1962.

Highfield Cottage Rear Garden

Above: Corner of Front Garden, with Greystones House on Vicar Lane in background,  pre 1969.  Greystones House, on Vicar Lane was built by William Dews, a co-partner of Samuel Pickard.

In a later conveyance dated Aug 14th 1964 Annie Benn, the widow of Horace sells No. 1 Highfield House to Phyllis Mary Hopkins and No. 2 Highfield House to Sydney and Emmeline Turkington and No. 3 Highfield Cottage to George and Nellie Worth.

On 12th Nov 1969 (signed 5th November) (exactly 21 years since Joan's sister Margaret Worth was born there), Highfield Cottage was sold by George and Nellie Worth to Douglas John Lindsay, a Merchant Navy captain and Audrey Elizabeth his wife. (Ref: 282 772 366)

Estate Agents Advert for Highfield Cottage

Above: Highfield House (Highfield Cottage) Estate Agent's advertisement post 2000.


Another of Ossett's fine houses is Sowood House, which is tucked away behind high hedges off Sowood Lane, just below the Manor Road junction.  It is thought that Sowood House was built circa 1875 by Ossett cloth manufacturer Samuel Pickard.2

Sowood House 1958

Above: Sowood House in 1958.

The Land:
The majority of the land that Sowood House was built on was originally bought by William Gartside, Ossett clothier (and later dyer) from Nathan Mitchell, Ossett clothier, by deed, on June 30th 1854:

All that messuage or dwellinghouse with outbuildings, foldstead garden, conveniences adjoining & therewith occupied by the said Nathan Mitchell and also all that allotment or parcel of land adjoining and there situate being on Ossett Common, near Giggal Hill and containing altogether with the site of the said messuage or dwellinghouse & outbuildings 1 acre and 8 perches approximately.

On March 10th 1864, Samuel Pickard bought the 1 acre and 8 perch 1 plot of land from William Gartside, plus 2 roods 1 and 8 perches of land to the north side of the original plot (marked 476 on the map below) from Nathan Mitchell and another 850 square yards to the west of the main plot, also now owned by Nathan Mitchell.  

The total size of the plot for Pickard's Sowood House was now close to 2 acres.  By comparison,  a 1.1 acre plot of land for sale with planning permission for six houses on a site just  400 yards further down Sowood Lane is on the market for £1.1M in early 2011.

By 1881, Samuel Pickard, his wife Jane and their grandson John William Pickard are living at Sowood House. In a deed of conveyance signed by Samuel Pickard two days before he died on the 26th October 1883, Sowood House and grounds of 1 Acre, 2 Roods and 32 perches, 9 yards are transferred to the ownership of his grandson John William Pickard together with some more land at Armley and Wortley in Leeds.

1864 Map of Land

Above: Extent of the near 2 acre plot purchased by Samuel Pickard for Sowood House in 1864.

Sowood and Sow Wood Houses

Above: 1890 map showing the location of Sowood House (bottom right) not to be confused with Sow Wood House (top left) located on Ossett Green and originally home to the Greenwood family of medical practitioners and later in the 1940s and 1950s, the location of Doctor Stoker's surgery.

The Occupants:
By 1891, Samuel Pickard's property and land is now divided up between his son Alfred Hinchliffe Pickard who was occupying Highfield House and his grandson John William Pickard, who was at Sowood House with his wife Lois and Grandmother Jane. The address is shown in the 1891 census as School Lane, (later to be known as Vicar Lane), which at this time was where the access to Sowood House would have been before Sowood Lane was built. A new entrance on to Sowood Lane must have been created sometime before 1898. Jane Pickard died on 11th October 1898 at Sowood House.

The 1901 census shows John William Pickard with his wife Lois, relatives and servant in Sowood House, Sowood Lane. On the 1911 census, John William states his address as Sowood Villa, whereas the Enumerator lists it as Sowood House.

Sowood House 2010

Above: Sowood House in 2010.

John William Pickard died on the 17th June 1917 aged 54. His Will was proved on the 12th March 1918:
"I devise and bequeath all the real estate to which I shall be entitled at my decease unto my wife Lois Pickard absolutely but as to estates (if any) vested in me upon trust or by way of mortgage subject to the equities affecting the same respectively and I appoint my said wife Lois Pickard and her brother Charles Brook Executors of this my Will, hereby revoking all my other testamentary writings. (Will signed 16th November 1891)."

Sowood House - Coach House 2010

Above: Coach House at Sowood House 2010.

Sowood House or Villa with associated land was sold to Ossett rag and mungo merchant, Harry Anelay Cox in a Deed of Conveyance dated April 7th 1925 by Lois Pickard, the widow of the late John William Pickard.

"Firstly all that close of land fronting onto Manor Rd., Ossett aforesaid containing by Ordnance Survey 2 roods 22 perches or thereabouts, bounded on the north by Manor Road

Secondly all that close of land & garden with dwellinghouse, known as Sowood Villa, outbuildings & conveniences erected on the said close of land or on some part thereof fronting to Sowood Lane, Ossett aforesaid containing by Ordnance Survey 1 acre 2 roods & 6 perches or thereabouts.

Thirdly all that plot, parcel of freehold land situate at Giggal Hill in Ossett aforesaid containing by the recent Ordnance Survey 2 roods 21 perches & 6 yards thereabout & bounded northwards by Manor Road.

Fourthly land containing 1 acre 2 roods 30 perches 9 yards bounded east by the occupation road from Ossett to Horbury, west by premises therein before thirdly described."

John William Pickard and his wife Lois did not have any children. Between July and September 1932, Lois Pickard died aged 72. Her death was registered in the District of St. Thomas in the Exmouth area of Devon and it would appear that she had moved away from Ossett sometime after 1925, unless she was on holiday in Devon at the time of her death.

Harry Anelay Cox (1870 – 1942)
Harry Anelay Cox was born in Bradford in 1872, the 10th child of Joseph Cox and Sarah Anelay.  He married Olive Moys, daughter of  William Moys and his wife Emma between January and March 1901. On the 1891 Census William Moys, aged 45 is listed as a Gas Works Manager, born in Canterbury, Kent. Emma, and the children Olive aged 15 and Herbert aged 13, were all born in Wakefield. In 1907, according to Alfred Hinchliffe Pickard’s Will. Harry Anelay Cox is the tenant of Highfield Cottage. The 1911 Census show Harry as a Rag Merchant, employer.

On 20th August 1925, Cox is in partnership with Henry Howden Dalley with Rag Warehouses in Dewsbury, in the region of Bond St., Croft St., and near the Carlton Club Building.  Three months later the business is changed to Firth, Dalley & Cox Ltd. whose registered Office is situated in Wellington St., Dewsbury. Harry Anelay Cox is a Director of the Company.

On April 26th 1938 Mildred Cox, daughter of Harry and Olive died at Sowood Villa, aged 31. Four years later Harry Anelay Cox died on May 23rd 1942 aged 70 years and six months later his widow Olive died on Nov 26th aged 67 years.

Rear of Sowood House in 2010

Above: Rear of Sowood House 2010.

In his Will dated 8th February 1933 Harry Anelay Cox, appointed his wife Olive and his sons (the vendors) and Harold Cox to be the Executors of the Will, which had been proved on 8th July 1942.

In a Deed of Conveyance dated March 30th 1943, Charles Herbert Cox of Sowood Villa Ossett, Rag Merchant sold Sowood Villa and land to James Ellis Walker of ‘Hadley’ Benton Hill, Horbury, Yarn Spinner at a price of £1,300.

"Firstly all that close of land fronting onto Manor Road in Ossett aforesaid containing by Ordnance Survey, 2 roods, 22 perches or thereabouts bounded on the North by Manor Road.

Secondly all that close of land and garden with dwellinghouse, known as Sowood Villa, garage, outbuildings & conveniences erected on the said close of land or on some part thereof fronting to Sowood Lane, Ossett aforesaid containing by Ordnance Survey, 1 acre 2 roods & 6 perches or thereabouts."

In a deed of conveyance dated February 19th 1946, James Ellis Walker of ‘Hadley', Benton Hill, Horbury sold Sowood Villa to John Fisher Atkinson, 66 Alexander Crescent, Birkdale Rd., Dewsbury, Engineer for £2,200.  Sowood Villa had not been occupied by Walker and it appears that it was rented to a Mr. Jessop and a Mr Axford (maybe of Ossett Grammar School fame?)

Access to Sowood HOuse from Sowood Lane

Above: Driveway to Sowood House off Sowood Lane. On each of the stone pillars, the name "Southwood" is carved, probably by later owners since the house was originally called Sowood House or Sowood Villa. Originally, access to the house was via Vicar Lane.

The property and land stayed in the possession of John Atkinson until it was again sold for a price of £3,400 on the 1st May 1962 in a Conveyance between John Fisher Atkinson, of Sowood Villa, Ossett, Dairy Roundsman, the Vendor and James Gordon Oakes, Company Director & Patricia Oakes, his wife, both of ‘Lyndeane’, Station Rd., Ossett, the Purchasers.

"All that plot of land at Sowood Lane, 4,430 sq yards, bounded North by property of Leslie Raymond Ross, engineer and Boovan Ross and in other part by property of Alice Jane Senior, on or towards the East by Sowood Lane and South side thereof in part by property of Harry and Sheila Tolson and in the other part by property of Frank Burdekin, West side thereof in part by property of Mayor and Borough of Ossett  and in other part by the said Frank Burdekin and also all that dwellinghouse with garage, stables & outbuildings thereto belonging erected on some part of the said plot known as Sowood Villa, of which the said property is more particularly delineated on the plan annexed hereto coloured pink and edged in red and forms part of the property first and secondly described in the conveyance dated 19th Feb 1946 between James Ellis Walker of the First Part and the Vendor of the Other Part, together with all rights, appurtenances, hereditaments etc. with the exception of coal & mineral rights etc., mentioned on 19th Feb 1946."

Sowood House aerial view 2010

Above: Aerial picture of Sowood House, showing stables top left and the house with grounds off Sowood Lane, just south of the Manor Road junction.

In 1985 James Gordon Oakes & Patricia Oakes sold the property to Thomas and Gina White, who are still the owners in November 2010. The House is now known as ‘Southwood’. These words are carved on the gateposts on either side of the entrance. In earlier times this whole area of South Ossett was known as the ‘South Wood’.

For more information on Sowood House, please refer to the DOWNLOADS section of this website for the work of Joan P. Smith and her "South Ossett Triangle" featuring some of the historic houses of the district.

1.  One rood = ¼ of an acre and a (square) perch = 30¼ square yards.

2.  This article is based entirely on a more detailed paper provided by Ossett Historian, Joan Patricia Smith and has been edited to fit the www.ossett.net webpage. 


The history of the hospital and the conversion to housing

By Neville Ashby

Smallpox is an infectious disease with a comparatively high mortality rate. Outbreaks were not uncommon throughout the 19th century, and the danger was ever present. In 1881, the Medical Officer for the Board of Health in Ossett, J. W. Greenwood, stated that there had recently been a serious outbreak of smallpox in the town, nearly all the cases being traceable to one source. At this time infectious disease patients were sent to the workhouse hospital at Staincliffe, Dewsbury. He said that steps would be taken if necessary to erect a temporary hospital to deal with the cases in isolation.

Prices had already been obtained from a London maker for a temporary hospital building made of iron, along with tracings of the building, which would accommodate about 20 patients. This building would measure 52 feet by 21 feet and cost £300. A plan for a wooden version of the hospital was also received, measuring 99 feet by 21 feet, and the cost of this would be £170, but this only included the outside boarding. The iron building would be lined inside with wood and the gap between iron and wood would be filled with felt for insulation. Mr Greenwood was very much in favour of the iron building. While the Chairman of the Board had been in London previously, he had seen several of these iron structures for himself and was obviously impressed with them. He made a decision to return to the city to have a closer inspection of one of these buildings. However, on his way to the railway station he called to pick up his letters, and one was from the London manufacturer. It was an offer of a second-hand structure, which had been in use for three years as a church or chapel. This particular one measured 80 feet by 38 feet, and the maker also offered to erect this in Ossett for a total price of £325 inclusive.

This building was visited by the members of the Board, and after a long consultation they agreed to purchase it for Ossett at a cost of £315. This would include erection and the inclusion of two interior wooden partitions, also for any additional windows or doors and the cleaning or making good of any damage. The members of the Ossett Health Board had negotiated well.

Iron Isolation Hospital

Above: Sketch from "Cockburn's Ossett", showing the first Isolation Hospital that was made in iron.

On Sunday, November 27th 1881 they met to arrange a site for the hospital, since it would be necessary to act at once in laying foundations for the building. It was agreed to place the building in the grounds adjoining cottages at Storrs Hill that belonged to the town. Previous to this decision they had considered putting it in the quarry at Storrs Hill, which was a lot less developed then. They had also tried unsuccessfully to rent land between Lodge Hill and Alverthorpe.

Location of original Isolation Hospital

Above: The location of the original iron Isolation Hospital.

By the end of December that year the erection was slowly progressing. A considerable portion of the roofing girders etc. had been put up, but shortly before noon one morning high winds blew the part completed structure over, dragging with it one side of the building, the workers beneath having a narrow escape. However, work progressed and by the end of January 1882, the new hospital was just about complete. On the weekend of the 4th and 5th of February the hospital was opened for inspection by the ratepayers of the town. Between four and five thousand visitors were estimated to have looked around. The hospital was described in the “Ossett Observer” as such:

"The entrance at one end leads into a spacious and lofty passage running about two thirds of the length of the whole building. On the right hand side of this are:- a room for cooking (with gas apparatus, sink, cupboards etc.), nurses room, convalescence room and dispensary. On the other side of the passage is a large ward for female patients with a bathroom adjoining (furnished with a gas-heated bath), and at the end of the building is another large ward for male patients. A dozen beds are provided, but there is space for more than double this number if required. The whole of the rooms are well lighted, and there is abundant provision for ventilation. In the centre of the building the roof is about 26 feet from the floor. There are several stoves for warming purposes, and the place is fitted up with gas, water etc."

On Tuesday 7th February, two days after the town had inspected the building, there were five fresh cases of smallpox, and four of them were removed to the hospital the same evening. Two or three others joined them during the week. There had been some objection to the siting of the hospital, mainly because it was thought by some that its position might interfere with the numbers of people who visited the locality for the extensive views over the valley. However, it was a practical site, being away from the majority of the population of the town - an important consideration when treating highly infectious diseases. The following year it was decided to erect a stone fence wall around the building, no doubt to keep away those who had no business there and possibly to minimise the risk of spreading the disease. Later in the year a caretaker, Mrs Wilkinson was engaged to work at the hospital at six shillings per week. In December that year gales one night did much damage, the wind loosening the roof at one end and stripping off a quantity of iron etc.

On 6th July 1885 it was resolved by the Local Board at their meeting to make the cottages at Storrs Hill habitable, for the caretaker to take residence there. Four members of the Board had visited the one storey cottages and found they were in a shocking condition, with no windows or doors. The hospital was often without inmates, and it was felt important enough for the caretaker to live nearby to keep the building fit for use when required. One Board member thought that since there was little probability of the quarry being worked again in the foreseeable future, the whole of the property might be enclosed and made into a nice resort for times when the hospital was empty. He said he would like to see the low side next to the Horbury Bridge road (present day Storrs Hill Road) planted and laid out. The motion was carried.

In September a new caretaker was chosen, Mr Shaw of Gawthorpe (who had lost one arm) and his wife were selected. The appointment was made with a salary of £20 per annum, with house, water rates, coal and gas provided. When the hospital was occupied the salary would increase by ten shillings per week, with food provided. Mr and Mrs Shaw were required to keep the premises clean and ready for use. Mrs Shaw was to act as nurse when required, and her husband to then give his whole time. The engagement was subject to one month's notice. In December the Board decided to put up six lamp pillars in Storrs Hill Road, and fit them with oil lamps. It was the caretaker's job to light these in the winter.

In February 1886, a motion was carried at Ossett’s Local Board meeting that a gate should be provided for the hospital. There had been a suggestion that the bath at the hospital might be made available for the public to use when the hospital was empty for a small charge. The bath was in a room by itself. Mr Fothergill, to whom the ratepayers had made the suggestion, commented that the charge should be 3d, with 2d going to the caretaker and 1d to the Board. However, Mr Hanson suggested the charge should be 2d, which ought to go to the caretaker for his trouble. This motion was carried, and Mr Townend humorously remarked that the question of public baths for Ossett was now resolved! However, two weeks later it was mentioned that only one person wanted to use the bath. At this same meeting it was resolved to purchase shrubs and trees to the value of £5 for planting in the grounds. By July there were seats in the hospital grounds, and many people were using the place.

On April 30th 1887 it was reported that the hospital had been free of patients for two years now. However, nothing could be taken for granted, and fourteen months later an informal report made to the Local Board suggested that nearly all of the inmates at the hospital were expected to be discharged as cured within two or three days, indicating that there had been another outbreak of smallpox.

By May 1889, the hospital was reported to be "in its usual empty condition" and some portions of the building were showing the strains of the force of the winter storms, due to its elevated position. The following month, at the Local Board meeting, Mr Eli Townend suggested that maybe it was time to consider a more permanent structure in stone for the hospital. He believed that now would be a good time to build, while the hospital was empty, so that it would be ready in time to receive new cases. He believed that there was sufficient room to leave the building up until the new one was ready. Mr Cox commented that no doubt a permanent structure would have been erected originally, but it was put up when they had a serious outbreak of smallpox, and they did the best they could at the time. Mr G. H. Wilson made a suggestion that the present iron structure could be encased in brick, and an iron roof put on - this would be about a tenth of the cost of a new building. At a later meeting it was mentioned that there were between sixty and eighty "drops" from the roof during rainy weather. The ironwork was corroding. It was moved that they consider the propriety of erecting a new hospital building.

The Local Board seem to have sat on the idea, for it was a year later that Mr Townend proposed that plans and an estimate be obtained for the building of a new hospital at Storrs Hill. Still the idea was not carried forward, and nearly two years on, in March 1892, Mr Townend again proposed a motion to build a new hospital made of stone or brick. The motion was carried by 8 votes to 7. Ossett Local Board had now been superseded by Ossett Town Council following the raising of Ossett's status to "Borough" in 1890. Later in the same year there was a stark reminder of the dangers of disease when the mayor, Mr Oliver Nettleton, died of typhoid.

With the prospect of a new permanent hospital being erected, Horbury Local Board began to show some interest in sharing the cost erecting and running the hospital. Terms were agreed between the two Boards, with an agreement that Horbury contributed one third of the annual cost, wherever the patients came from. However, this never came to fruition and Horbury did not become involved. They built their own isolation hospital at Addingford, constructed from corrugated iron sheeting over timber. It had two wards and 26 beds. It was sold in the late 1940s when Horbury Urban District Council had problems staffing it.

At the end of 1892, a boy who was 6 years old died of smallpox when he was at the Ossett hospital. His mother was admitted suffering the same a short time later, and also a man named Shaw from Greatfield. Mr and Mrs Godley, the hospital keepers at that time, stayed up all night to comfort the two. Next morning at 6:40am Mr Godley asked Mr Shaw what he would like for his breakfast and left him alone.

Sadly, Mr Shaw left the hospital and ran out in front of a train at the foot of Storrs Hill. His body was conveyed to the Railway Hotel at Horbury Bridge. One of the people searching for him entered the hotel and identified him. When he said he had been a smallpox patient a number of people made a speedy exit!

A year on from Mr Townend's latest successful motion the board purchased more than two acres of land on the east side of the present structure. In April 1893 local architect, Mr W. A. Kendall was commissioned to prepare plans for the new building. The intended new building was to cost no more than £3,000, including building and furnishing. In July the plans were examined and passed, however following a letter received from the Local Government Board, the plans had to be revised. They were very cautious about schemes involving smallpox, and refused loan sanction to the council on the grounds that the site was unsuitable (notwithstanding the fact that it was the same site - though enlarged - on which the present smallpox hospital stood).

On the scheme falling through the Corporation set about building a much smaller hospital, with 8 beds as opposed to 22 in the original plan, but had to defray the costs from the current rates. By October it had been agreed that the building would be constructed using bricks. Things were now looking good for the new hospital for Ossett, but there were clouds on the horizon. In April 1894 there was an important inquiry into the siting of the new structure. The executors of the late Mr Harrop of Rock House were objecting to the site on the grounds that there were schools, houses and mills a short distance away, no doubt it was also in their minds that Rock House was only two or three fields away too! Lodge Hill had been suggested as a more suitable site.

Above: The new Isolation Hospital under construction.

The objection failed, and Mr Kendall was instructed in October to advertise for tenders for the construction work. By November the tenders were accepted and building work was soon to begin. Shortly afterwards a portion of the roof of the temporary building blew off during gales. The Borough Surveyor was told to burn this and prepare two cottages in the fields at Storrs Hill for any outbreak of smallpox. Sandal said they would also take any fresh cases, and this was decided upon instead. It seems the iron structure was now abandoned.

The new building was situated to the north-west of the old building. On May 13th 1896 the old iron and wood building was disposed of. It was burned at 3am under the direction of the borough surveyor and the medical officer of health, when there were very few people about.

In June that year, a lady from Gawthorpe became the first case of smallpox in over two years to be treated at the isolation hospital. In October a writ was served on the Town Council by Harrop & others (neighbouring property owners) to try to prevent the council from using the hospital for smallpox cases. They were also claiming between £2,000 and £3,000 for depreciation to their properties. The case was heard on February 15th 1898, and concluded on 22nd March, leaving the Corporation victorious on every point. The plaintiffs were left with the costs of both sides, an amount reported to be about double the cost of the hospital.

The Town Council continued with their vigilant stance against epidemic, and in 1902 they formally opened an ambulance station in Station Road. This was a wooden erection fitted with a wheeled stretcher and other appliances, built on a piece of vacant land between the Technical School and the Liberal Club (now the modern day Railway Club). This was a wise move, since events were soon to take a turn for the worse.

In 1904 there was a smallpox epidemic in Dewsbury, and Ossett was treating cases. By October there were 17 patients under treatment - it seems that the number of beds had been increased, possibly due to this outbreak. The Corporation had purchased 80 gallons of disinfectant, which was being supplied free to the public on application from their depot in Illingworth Street. Because the hospital was full (it held a maximum of 16 beds) the Corporation decided they must act without delay by increasing their capabilities to deal with the smallpox outbreak worsening, and they erected a double canvas tent measuring 40 feet by 20 feet. This was equipped with efficient heating apparatus, and was lit with gas. It accommodated 10 or 12 beds, and a smaller tent was provided for three nurses, access between the two tents being provided by a covered corridor. As an added precaution the Corporation ordered the fumigation of all schools in the Borough.

Mitchell Laithes

Above: Dewsbury's Mitchell Laithes Isolation Hospital

As long as the epidemic raged in Dewsbury, then Ossett would keep taking all precautions. Dewsbury decided to erect their own smallpox hospital in two fields near Mitchell Laithes. As the site was only accessible via Healey they were decided to apply for access through the sewage treatment works. The intended site looked like an old quarry in some parts, and there were four cottages on the site. Dewsbury Council decided to lease the site for five years with an annual rent of £60. In October they had had 90 cases of smallpox in only 3 weeks. Ossett Corporation and neighbouring landowners objected to the siting of their hospital. Despite the threat of an injunction they went ahead with the erection of their temporary hospital.

At this time, in October 1904, Park House in Storrs Hill Road, with its six acres of grounds, had been offered to the Town Council for use as a hospital, and in November they purchased it for a cost of £2,500. Despite the hospital at Storrs Hill being enlarged with tents it was once again unable to cope with the numbers of patients now coming to it. They purchased a new ambulance van at a cost of £120 at this time, and it was put to use in conveying new patients to the hospital. Meanwhile the Healey site had developed rapidly, and Ossett Corporation agreed to supply them with water - indicating that they had climbed down from their stance with Dewsbury. A large number of tents had been erected there for patients, nurses etc.

Park House

Above: Park House was used as a smallpox isolation hospital in 1904.

On Sunday 13th November nineteen convalescent patients were removed from the Storrs Hill site to the new hospital in Park House, and several patients who were in isolation at home were removed to Storrs Hill. Still taking precautions, the Sanitary Committee of the Corporation asked both by letter and by announcement that public gatherings should not be held unnecessarily in Ossett, and that the Ossett Football Club should refrain from holding matches. Several entertainments which had been arranged to be held in various schoolrooms and churches were postponed. Sunday schools at South Parade Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels were closed, and at the Wesleyan chapel in Wesley Street the usual Sunday service was temporarily halted.

By December the outbreak was subsiding, the canvas tent was empty but there were still some patients in the main building and six were admitted in one week. One night at the end of December the tent was blown down during a gale, but fortunately it was not in use. Less fortunate were the patients in the temporary site at Healey, some of their tents were blown down and torn, and the patients had to be removed to the four cottages there, which were empty.

By June the following year it was reported that smallpox had almost entirely disappeared from the West Riding. In April 1906, in what was probably the last act in connection with the recent smallpox epidemic, the canvas and timber tents at Healey were burned. The hospital at Storrs Hill was not used for years. In 1913, bedrooms and sitting room accommodation was to be added for the use of the nurses. £500 was to be spent in preparation for an epidemic, which it was hoped would never occur, however the Local Government Board refused to sanction loan for these extensions. In 1916 it was decided that the hospital would be used for casualties in case of air raids, and dark blinds were fitted to the windows.

The hospital seems to have then gone out of practical use for a good number of years, apart from in 1930, when there was another smallpox epidemic when the building was in use for several months. This was the last year a patient was resident. From that point, fifteen beds were kept in the two wards on a care and maintenance basis by the caretaker.

At Ossett Town Council’s meeting of 25th June 1946, it was resolved that they should seek the assistance of the West Riding County Council for the hospital admission of any future cases of smallpox in the Borough, should they occur. Here they were looking at care and treatment in a larger hospital under the administration of the County Council. They also decided to refer the question of the future use of the hospital building to the Reorganisation and Redevelopment Committee. The country had just endured six years of war, and was on the long road to recovery. Authorisation was given for any essential repairs to make the building weatherproof.

At the end of February the following year, at a council meeting, Alderman Moorhouse said that at least the land, if not the building, could be used for a maternity hospital. Councillor Bickle agreed that he had often heard suggestions that it would make a suitable maternity facility. Councillor Clark pointed out that it was the site which could be brought under consideration, not just the building and land. At this point the council still had caretakers at the hospital, Mr and Mrs J. R. Batey.

In September 1947, a letter was read at a council meeting from the Ministry of Health, stating that they would only disclaim a hospital on the advice of the regional Hospital Board. By now they had decided that maybe it could be released from service for industrial use. They made a further application to the Ministry on these grounds. A couple of months went by, and another letter was received, stating that the Ministry would be shortly consulting the Hospital Board with regard to the request.

In May 1948, the Ministry sent a letter in which they stated that under the new National Health Service Act the building at Storrs Hill would not be needed for the purpose of hospital or special services. In effect they were going to disclaim the building, and the Borough Surveyor was asked to investigate the possibility of converting it to housing accommodation since there was a shortage of housing in Ossett. It was suggested that maybe the adjoining land in the area could be made into “a little park or rest resort”. The site afforded beautiful views across the valley, and in the summer time a good number of people gathered there already. By the end of June a scheme had been prepared by the Borough Surveyor to convert the building into three dwellings, and it was put before the Council’s Health Committee. Alderman Moorhouse endorsed the plans, which were for two 2 bedroom houses and one 3 bedroom house. Councillor Asquith seconded the plan and the motion was carried.

While awaiting official release from the Ministry, the “Ossett Observer” reported in the summer of 1949 that the Borough Surveyor had been asked to carry out alterations to accommodate a family, in whose house the sanitary arrangements had been damaged. However, it was reported that a petition bearing 100 signatures was sent by residents of the Storrs Hill area, regarding the tenancy. The newspaper reported that “the petitioners have gained some knowledge of the facts, and for reasons best known to themselves are in strong opposition to the council’s selection”. Nothing further was reported, so we can only assume that this rehousing did not take place.

In January 1950 it was reported that the council were still waiting for the Ministry to act. Further information had been asked of the Council, which they had sent. By February, the conversion to housing had been approved by the Ministry, and it was resolved to invite tenders for the work. A letter was received from S. A. Gregory (Builders & Contractors Ltd) who had devised a new type of flat, and it was agreed that the council would look into this. The reason for the slow progress with the Ministry was that a great number of difficulties had to be overcome, mainly because Ossett was the first authority in the West Riding to apply for a government grant under the 1949 Housing Act, and both the Corporation and the Ministry were having to “feel their way” in the matter.

Isolation Hospital becomes houses

Above: The conversion of the Isolation Hospital into houses.

In September 1950, it was decided that the rents for the new homes in the hospital would be the same as for the new houses being constructed in the estate off Love Lane (Holme Leas Drive estate), where two bed dwellings would be rented at 16/- per week, and three bed dwellings 17/7 per week.

By the end of the year the Council was becoming tired of the delay. Councillor Clark said he was disappointed that the whole scheme was being held up with bureaucracy. At the Council’s meeting of January 31st 1951 it was suggested that maybe the Housing Chairman of the Council should visit the Ministry personally, and if that failed then maybe the matter should be placed in the hands of the local MP, with a request that he should go as far as raising the matter in the House of Commons.

However, Alderman Wilson said he was prepared to go to London, but he had just that day received a letter from the Ministry giving further details of their financial requirements, and he now hoped that things could be resolved in a matter of a few weeks. A month later, at their meeting of Wednesday February 28th 1951, it was stated that permission had at last been received to convert the property into three dwellings.

However, the chosen contractor, Mr H. Barraclough, had to withdraw his tender on account of him having taken on other work. It was decided to advertise for new tenders. It was also later decided that when the conversion was complete the cottage there should be demolished and the resident caretaker rehoused. Meanwhile it was to be repaired.

Winter at Storrs Hill

On April 18th at the Council meeting the tender of £2,309 16s 0d from Ossett builder, Mr Gladstone Moorhouse was accepted, subject to the work being completed within a reasonable time. Mr Moorhouse was instructed to begin work at once. Alderman Wilson’s remark at the meeting is a fitting final comment. He said that the building, which was derelict and now being converted into housing, carried the town’s motto: “Useless things by skill made useful”.

The Valuation Record that was carried out in Ossett in 1774 was used ultimately to raise taxes for a war against France. France had used the occasion of the War of American Independence (1775–1783) to weaken Britain, its arch-rival in European and world affairs. Independence for the colonies would seriously damage the British Empire and affirm the United States as a rising power, that could be allied with France.

The French entered the war in 1777, and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain (realized in the 1783 Treaty of Paris). The blockade of Chesapeake Bay in 1781 by the French fleet effectively decided the war, as the British fleet was unable to relieve Cornwallis' troops under siege at Yorktown. Also, in 1783, Britain ceded Senegal back to France.

France's status as a great modern power was affirmed and its taste for revenge for the loss of Canada was satisfied. Even though French cities avoided any direct destruction in the war against Britain, there was a huge financial cost, which caused significant difficulties to the French. Worse still, France’s hope to become the first commercial partner of the newly-established United States was not realized, and Britain immediately became the United States’ main trade partner.

Isaac Pickard and Nora Quarmby

Above: Isaac Pickard (1864-1945), who became the owner of the cottages at Haggs Hill Road, Ossett in 1918. He is pictured here in July 1935 at the occasion of his natural daughter's wedding to John Harrop at the Springfield Independent Chapel in Dewsbury.

Andrew Pickard of Green Mount, Ossett
When Andrew Pickard died in 1890, he left a fortune of nearly £200,000, mostly to his sister Hannah Pickard but with some placed in trust for his late brother's adopted son George Pickard, who lived at Green Mount with Andrew and Hannah.

Andrew Pickard also left £1,000 to each of his the children of his mother's brother Robert Mitchell. These first cousins were named as James Mitchell, Robert Mitchell, Benjamin Mitchell, Sarah Mitchell, Ellen Dews, Hannah Fisher, Mary Kershaw, Charlotte Hemingway and Martha Mitchell. He also left £1,000 to his 'old nurse' Susan Dews of Ossett Common. Andrew also bequeathed funds for the provision of five lifeboats to be named "George Pickard, Hannah Pickard, Sarah Pickard, David Pickard and Andrew Pickard."

Old lifeboat with oars

The first lifeboat to built from Pickard's legacy was the "George Pickard", which was commissioned in 1893 at a cost of £489 4s 0d and saw service at the Scottish fishing port of Peterhead, near Aberdeen. The "George Pickard" was lifeboat number 342 and saw service between the 29th March 1893 and the 2nd April 1897 during which time, the boat saved seven lives. The length of the "George Pickard" was 38ft with a beam of 8ft and it weighed in at 4 tons 3 cwt. Propulsion was by 12 oars!

The second lifeboat to be built was also named "George Pickard" and also saw service at Peterhead between the 2nd April 1897 and the 3rd May 1928 during which time the boat saved 50 lives. The new lifeboat, numbered 400, cost £603 10s 6d and was 37ft long with a beam of 9ft 3", a weight of 4 tons 16 cwt and this time the propulsion was by a mast with sails and 10 oars.

The "George Pickard" was sold in 1928 to a Peterhead man, Alexander Davidson for £38. It was recently reported (2007) in the Newcastle press that "the former Peterhead (Scotland) lifeboat, the "George Pickard", which was built in 1897 has sunk on Newcastle's quayside and is presently causing a navigation hazard. Before it sank, it was thought to be the oldest lifeboat still afloat. It had been converted into a day boat for rod fishing, an engine having been fitted, as originally it was powered by oars and human strength."

David Pickard anecdote
I'm not sure of the origin of this anecdote, but it dates back to the period when David Pickard was in partnership with Mark Wilby at Manor Mill, so it is probably circa 1880, a couple of years before he died.

Pickard went into the hay chamber at Manor Mill where his teamer was busy chopping hay for the horses. Mr. Pickard said "Let me twine for a bit" and the man instantly obeyed. Mr. Pickard had only been twining for a few minutes when he stopped, so the teamer said "Nay, go on", and Mr. Pickard, who by then had had enough, said "Nay lad, I am not forced." This was absolutely true of course; Pickard was not forced.

Hannah Pickard died on the 29th June 1891, leaving £140,000. The majority of her estate went to her adopted nephew George Pickard, who himself was to die in 1892. However, Hannah was to leave a long list of legacies to various people and organisations as follows: to widow Elizabeth Nettleton £2,000; to John Pickard of Dishforth £1,000, the widow of Simeon Pickard of Sunderland £1,000; the same sum to each of my nine cousins, the children of my uncle Robert Mitchell.

She also left in her Will £34,950 in total to many charitable legacies to organisations including Leeds General Infirmary; Clayton Hospital, Wakefield; Wakefield Dispensary; The Ossett Green Congregational Church; the Primitive Methodist Church, Queen Street, Ossett; the Baptist Chapel, Ossett Common; the Wesleyan Chapel, Ossett Common. In addition she left £500 for the erection of "a drinking fountain and water trough for the use of horses and dogs" in the Market Place, Ossett. Hannah also left money for two stained glass windows at Ossett Congregational Church and £2,100 was left to Ossett Grammar School for two "Pickard Scholarships". Another £50 was left to Alfred Pickard of Darlington.

Her household effects were left to her adopted nephew George Pickard and £10,000 to his wife, if he should marry and "if the trustees are satisfied with her." To James Mitchell, the eldest son of her uncle Robert (Mitchell), she gave three cottages adjoining her uncle's house on Low Common and to her cousin Sarah Scott (daughter of Robert Mitchell), she left a house, a barn and two closes of land on Ossett Common. The late Andrew Pickard's mill on Aire Street in Leeds was left to John Jowett Jackson, who was the mill manager, with instructions to the effect that no trade in the name of Pickard was to be continued there or at Manor Mill, Healey.

Edward Clay

Obituary Edward Clay 1844-1921
We regret to record the death, which took place at his residence, Wesley House, Ossett on Sunday, of Mr. Edward Clay, J.P. His passing away removes one who for some 40 years took a leading part in the affairs of the town and whose career of public service has not been surpassed by any of its citizens. During a vital period in the history of the borough, his activities counted for a great deal, and he had outlived almost all those with whom he was associated in carrying out a great many of the improvements, which have the made the town what it is today. Unfortunately his retirement from public work, about 15 years ago, was clouded with a tragic breakdown in health, which precluded him from taking any further part in social life, although his familiar figure was to be seen in the street until a short time ago. A man of determined will and forceful character, he occupied a commanding place in many spheres for a long period, and his career should be an inspiring example to many of the younger generation to whom his was all but unknown.

The deceased gentleman was the son of Mr. Jacob Clay, who formerly kept the Carpenter's Arms Hotel, Bank Street. In early manhood, he was, like so many others who afterward became prominent citizens in the town , a handloom weaver and also for a short time, held an appointment under the Board of Surveyors, which then administered the affairs of the township. Later, when that trade was beginning to develop, he commenced business as a rag merchant and mungo manufacturer. This proved very successful and the business is still carried on under the name of Edward Clay and Son, Limited. Mr. Clay was also a partner in the late firm of Giggal and Clay, wool extractors, Healey New Mill. Nearly 30 years ago, he purchased the Wesley House estate, where he has since resided.

In comparatively early life, the deceased gentleman showed a keen public spirit and interest in the welfare and progress of Ossett and was one of the honorary secretaries of the old Mechanics' Institute about 50 years ago. He was first elected as a member of the old Local Board in 1877, and re-elected on three subsequent occasions, and during his period of office, twice occupied the chair. He was one of the chief instigators of the movement, which led to the incorporation of the borough in 1890, and proof of his popularity is evidenced by the fact that on the granting of the charter he was returned by the highest number of votes given to any of the aspirants for seats on the first town council, and also elected by his fellow members as the first mayor of the borough and one of the first aldermen. His first term of office as mayor which was repeated again for another year in 1893/94 was a notable one in many ways and fortified by his ripe experience and grasp of public work, he carried out the duties of the office with distinction and ability. In 1900, Mr. Clay was re-appointed as an alderman for a further six years, at the end of which period he definitely retired from public life. During his career on the local board and town council, he was closely identified with many of the principal improvements which materially changed the outward aspect of the borough, including the making of Station Road. He was also one of the prime movers in obtaining a commission of the peace for the borough and was appointed one of the first twelve magistrates, of whom, it may be mentioned, he was the last survivor. In 1882, Mr. Clay served as a guardian of the poor and he was overseer for some years. He also held the presidency of the Chamber of Commerce on two occasions. An ardent politician, he was for a long period a member of the Liberal Club and also president of the Liberal Association. He was closely identified with the Wesley Street Wesleyan Chapel and for many years a teacher in the Sunday school. His influence and support were always readily given to any good cause, including music and cricket, and he was a teetotaller.

The deceased is survived by his widow (his second wife) and two married daughters. His two sons pre-deceased him, and sad to relate, his eldest daughter, Mrs. Arthur Jessop, died on Thursday after a long illness.

The interment took place in the Wesleyan Burial Ground, South Parade on Wednesday afternoon amid every sign of sympathy and respect, the attendance including representatives of various public bodies and movements with which the deceased gentleman had been associated, viz., Ossett Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, Liberal Club, the local magisterial bench, cricket club, Wesleyan Church, etc.

From the 'Ossett Observer' 14th May 1921

Death of Mr. Edward Clay 1898-1979
Head of an old family manufacturing firm in Ossett, Mr. Edward (Wilson) Clay, of Wesley House died early on Tuesday morning aged 81. A grandson of of Ossett's first mayor of the same name, Mr. Clay recently retired as head of the firm, Edward Clay and Sons, who were formerly mungo and shoddy manufacturers and now flock fillings.

After service in WW1 in the R.A.S.C. he returned to the firm and in the 1920s was a prominent member of an Ossett amateur variety troupe who gave many shows on behalf of charities. A talented pianist, Mr Clay was an old member of the Wesley Street Methodist Church, where he was a trustee and on occasions, acted as organist. He served for a short time as a co-opted member of Ossett Town Council during WW2, but otherwise took no part in public life.

He is survived by his wife and two sons, (John and Anthony) , daughters-in-law and six grandchildren.

From the 'Ossett Observer' 5th May 1979

The Land Tax Records 1781-1832
The Land Tax was introduced in England in the early 1780s in order to raise taxes for the War with the French. The tax was based on property values and as such it was necessary to conduct a survey of those properties. In the early years of the tax the annual survey appears to have been undertaken by a collector walking a route and recording the properties as he came across them. In later years the records are maintained in alphabetic order. The record shows the owner and occupier of the property but rarely indicates whether there was structures of any sort on the land being surveyed. The value of each piece of land is multiplied by a rate in the pound and the product is the amount paid by the owner.

In Ossett’s case the records exist for most years between 1781 and the mid 1830’s and whilst they are useful in providing evidence of names and ownership they are less helpful in determining the location of the land or property and of no help at all in terms of discovering whether there was property on the site.

The Wakefield Manorial Court Rolls
These original Rolls are maintained by The Yorkshire Archaeological Society (YAS) at Claremont House, Clarendon Road. Leeds.

Ossett Survey and Valuation of 1774
Currently held in the private collection of local historian John Goodchild. It is not known if any other copy of this important document exists.

Samuel Scott was born in Ossett in about 1780.  In the 1841 Census he is described as a clothier, 60 years old and living on Middle Common ( Park Square and the adjacent area) with his 45 year old wife wife Catherine ( nee Castyle born the daughter of a joiner of  Kirkbride in the Isle of Man). They have one son; 7 year old Henry (born about 1834).

Later Censuses, through to 1901 (the most recent ones publicly available) also show the Scotts in Middle Common and hence it seems probable that if the Scotts ever lived at Scott’s Yard then they did so prior to 1841 and certainly not after that date.

By 1851 Samuel, Catherine and Henry are still living on Middle Common. Samuel is now 72 and a retired Cloth Manufacturer.

Henry Castille Scott is 16 and already “a clothier”. Living with them, at least on the night of the census, is a general servant and Abraham Scott a 51year old Licensed Victualler.

Samuel Scott died in the second half of 1860 and there is no record of his wife Catherine in the census of 1861, suggesting that she too may have died in the 1850’s. Henry Castile Scott and Hannah Briggs (daughter of Cloth Manufacturer George Briggs) were married in 1857 (April quarter) and by 1861 the 27 year old Henry and 31year old Hannah have two young girls; 2 year old Catherine Castyle Scott and 10 month old Georgiana. Henry is described as a “woollen cloth manufacturer of the firm George Briggs and Sons”.

The Scotts are living on Middle Common to the east of Giggal Hill and Scott’s Yard. It seems probable that Middle Common, largely the area now known as Park Square, was home for professional, one might say middle class, families whilst properties to the west including Giggal Hill and Scotts Yard provided less grand accommodation for working class families. An examination of the 1854 map reveals no housing on the Manor Road frontage to Middle Common whereas the 1890 map shows housing including the substantial Mona Cottage set in its own one acre of land.

In 1871 Henry appears in the Census living in Mona Cottage on Middle Common. It is possible that the Scotts built the Cottage, around this time, on land that they already owned. Woollen Cloth Manufacturer Henry is now aged 36 and a widower. He is living with his 10 year old daughter, Georgiana and a 37 year old unmarried servant, Jane Whitaker. His close neighbours include a farmer and a rag merchant.

By the time of her death in 1869, aged 38, Henry’s wife, Hannah had given birth to five children all under the age of 11 at her death.  In addition to Georgiana living with her father on census night, the other children were Catherine Castyle Scott (born 1859), George Henry Scott (1862), Anna Louisa (1864) and Sam Castile Scott (1868).

In 1871 Catherine, George and Sam were living with their 76 year old widowed grandmother, (also called) Hannah Briggs on Denton Lane. Hannah’s married son, George (aged 38) and unmarried son Oliver(36) are also shown in Hannah’s household which is completed by 17 year old grandchild Anna Rhodes (Farmer’s daughter). George and Oliver are described as Cloth Manufacturers “employ 30 men 111 women”. In 1871 there is no sign of 7 year old Anna Louisa in either her father’s or grandmother’s home.

By 1881 four of the Scott children are reunited with their father at “Manor Road Mona Cottage”. 46 year old widower Henry is described as a “woollen manufacturer (retired). Maybe he had taken some time off work to bring up his children. They have one servant.  20 year old Henry George Scott is a medical student. 17 year old Anna Louisa is recorded at 94 Sackville Street Barnsley as one of two pupils living with Headmistress Elizabeth Corfield.

In 1891 Henry senior is aged 56, a woollen cloth manufacturer, with an address as Park Square (but probably still Mona Cottage). His daughter Anna Louisa and son Sam Castyle are also living here.  His other son, 29 year old Henry George, is a Doctor living in Sheffield with his sister Catherine. Georgiana is recorded as being at The Vicarage Lanlivery in Cornwall; the home of the Vicar of Lanlivery, Francis Kendall.

In 1901, the last of the currently available censuses, 66 year old Henry Castile Scott is still living in Mona Cottage and with him are three of his children; Georgiana Scott (aged 40), Anna Louisa Scott (37) and Sam Castile Scott (33). His son Henry George Scott is a Physician and surgeon living in Sheffield with his wife and three children (all under 5) They have four servants. It seems the boy done good. Catherine is not shown in the 1901 census, but her father’s Will, made in 1905, makes reference to only four of his children and there is no reference to Catherine. These two facts suggest she died sometime between March 1891 and March 1901.

Henry Castile Scott died on the 3rd May 1912 aged 78. Four of his children were living at the time of his death. Doctor George Henry Scott died on the 3 January 1924 aged 62; Georgiana Scott died on 26 September 1934 aged 74; Sam Castile Scott died 13 September 1935 aged 67 and Anna Louise Scott survived them all and died, aged 78, on the 3rd January 1943. Only   George Henry Scott was to marry and have children. In the 1901 Census he is father to Henry W Scott (born 1896), Arthur G. Scott (born  1897) and John Winterton Scott (born 1898). 

John Winterton Scott was joint executor of his aunt Anna Louisa Scott’s Will and it was he who was to sell Scotts Yard to Alfred Arthur Ellis in February 1943.

Sowood Cottage

Sowood Cottage
Following on from the description of nearby Bleak Cottage and Manor Villa, Alan Howe has provided this study of Sowood Cottage, situated on the south- eastern side of the junction of Station Road and Manor Road Ossett. Sowood Cottage has connections with Bleak Cottage and the Ossett Mitchell family.

The 1911 Census shows 8 year-old Harry Mitchell living at Sowood Cottage with his parents Thomas William Mitchell (born Ossett 1866) and Fanny Mitchell (nee Proctor, born 1867) formerly of Roecliffe near Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire.   Harry Mitchell was born in 1903 and, in 1964, he purchased Bleak Cottage, Manor Road from Florence Annie Bedford. By then, Harry was a retired farmer, though still dabbling in land transactions elsewhere in Ossett.  No doubt, when he bought  Bleak House he would have been aware that it had been built exactly 100 years earlier in 1864 by the brother of his great grandfather Nathan Mitchell.

Harry’s parents were Thomas William  Mitchell, a cart agent and Fanny Proctor who married in late 1900. Sowood Cottage was a new home for Fanny but it seems likely that Thomas William Mitchell and his family had lived there for many years. The 1911 Census shows Harry as the only child in the Mitchell household. His father Thomas William Mitchell was the tenth child of eleven born to Thomas Mitchell and Sarah (nee Smith) between 1848 and 1868. Thomas and Sarah were both born in Ossett in 1827 and 1824 respectively. Thomas William’s siblings were Martha (1848), Sarah Ann (1850), Edna Jane (1851), Joseph (1853), Herbert (1856), Ellen (1857), Emma (1857), Ada (1860), Adelaide (1862) and Clara Annie (1868).

In common with many living in the Ossett Middle Common area at that time, their father, Thomas Mitchell appears to have turned his hand to a bit of cloth manufacturing and a bit of farming. The address at which he lived from 1841, originally with his widowed mother Ann and his brothers and sisters, has varied over the years but it seems likely that each Census has recorded him at Sowood Cottage.

In 1841, Thomas is living with his widowed mother, Ann Mitchell (born 1804) and some of his brothers and sisters. The census address is Low Common but the address is adjacent to Denton Lane which was the name for Sowood Lane in those days (Because the Denton family lived at Sowood Farm and Denton Lane was then the way to the Farm). It seems probable that this was Sowood Cottage.

Sowood Cottage from Station Road

In 1851, Thomas Mitchell has married Sarah Smith and his mother has passed away. He is a cloth manufacturer of Middle Common and they are living with their first  three children. The next address in the 1851 Census is Low Common and it seems likely the boundary of Low Common has shifted.   As with 1841, and subsequent censuses, the house in which the Mitchell family lived is the first or last address of a type in the census enumerator’s count. For example in 1841 the house address was Low Common, with the next address Denton Lane. In 1851 the house address was Middle Common with the next address Low Common. In this sense the house was a ‘marker’ for Census purposes. A house at a junction of roads was often such a marker. Sowood Cottage was such a property.

In 1861, Thomas is a weaver with eight children. His address is Middle Common and the next census address is Denton Lane just as it was in 1841. By 1871, Thomas has turned his hand to farming and the census records him as a farmer of 6 acres employing “self and one boy”. His address is Denton Lane End and the next address is Middle Common. I suspect the address in earlier years hasn't been Denton Lane End (even though Denton Lane existed then) because the census enumerator recorded the house with a frontage on to Manor Road (or Horbury Road as it then was ). Once again though it seems likely that the house in which the Mitchells were living was Sowood Cottage. Thomas William  Mitchell was born in 1866 and he was living here with his parents and some of his siblings in 1871.

In 1881 and 1891 Thomas is recorded as a farmer with the only address on Sowood Lane. The next address is Park Square (Prospect House which was situated on the north east side of the [present] Station Road and Manor Road junction). This must be Sowood Cottage. Thomas William is shown as a farmer’s son. In 1901, the 35 year old Thomas William (Harry’s father)  is a farmer living with his new bride Fanny with an address of Sowood Lane. The next address in the Census is Southfield House which was further to the east along Manor Road.  This is Sowood Cottage where Harry Mitchell was to born two years later in 1903.

The history suggests therefore that the Mitchells were in Sowood Cottage from 1841 and the likelihood is that they were here earlier than that. In 1807 the land upon which the house is built was owned by Isaac Wilby. The Wilby brothers had quite a number of land ownerships, including Scotts Yard, in Upper Common and Giggal Hill around this time. The map supporting the Ossett Inclosure Order does not appear to show a structure here in 1813 and it is supposed that Sowood Cottage was perhaps built shortly after that date. Perhaps it was built for Joseph Mitchell (born 1799) who married Ann in about 1825 and who had their first child, Mary, in about 1826. Isaac Wilby died in 1806 and his son David sold several of his landholdings shortly thereafter to fulfil his father’s last wishes that his wealth be left in equal proportions to his children.

When he bought Bleak House in 1964, Harry Mitchell may have sold Sowood Cottage thus bringing to an end almost 150 years occupancy by the Mitchell family. In early 2009 Sowood Cottage is for sale again. This time is has a price tag of £200,000, reduced from £250,000 some months earlier, and a closing date for offers of 20th March 2009.

"Sowood Cottage" by Alan Howe, March 2009


Mark Wilby circa 1911

The death occurred yesterday morning at his residence "Beechwood", Hampton Road, Southport, of a well-known Ossett gentleman, Mr. Mark Wilby, who had reached the advanced age of 85 years. His end was not unexpected. Though until a few years ago a remarkably robust and strong man for his age, he had for some time been in a serious state of health. The weakness caused by old age had been increased by failing eyesight. An operation performed a short time ago left him completely blind and that no doubt hastened his death.

The late Mr. Wilby was a member of a family which for generations before him was engaged in the trade, which was once Ossett's staple industry; that of cloth weaving. We believe he represented at least the fourth generation of cloth manufacturers or clothiers as they were described in his young days. Before the discovery of the process of reconverting rags into wool had given given rise to the rag and shoddy trade, which in Ossett has largely displaced cloth manufacture as the chief textile industry, he was a hand loom weaver, as his ancestors had been. In an after-dinner speech, he once said that he recollected a time when there were no rags sorted in Ossett and not a pound of mungo ground. When Ossett led Morley, Batley and Dewsbury in cloth manufacture and when it was impossible to walk fifty yards in the town without hearing the click of the shuttles of the hand looms. With the advent of power loom weaving, he became a cloth manufacturer in a large way of business, occupying Manor Mills and amassing considerable wealth. One of the hard-headed, frugal type of Yorkshireman, even in the days of his prosperity, he lived in a cottage in Park Square, until he built Manor House, the large residence near the mills, where he lived until he retired from business. He ceased cloth production during a period of low prices and, strong-willed as he always was, he held for some time, unwisely as it proved, a large stock of cloth in the hope of recovery, the realisation of which involved him in serious loss. In connection with his business, he was a trustee of the old Leeds White Cloth Hall and we believe he was president in the year of its dissolution in 1896.

In local affairs, the deceased gentleman took his part and had a distinction, which no other man could claim. When the Ossett Board of Surveyors was formed, he was one of its first members , though he did not continue in office for many years. He was elected a member of the Local Board on the formation of that body in 1871. Again, he did not sit long retiring when his first term of office expired. But when the Charter of Incorporation was granted in 1890 and the first town council was elected, he was again a successful candidate so that he was one of the first members of the Board of Surveyors, Local Board and Corporation in turn, although on none of these bodies had he a long period of service. In the Board of Surveyor days, he was one of the active opponents of the adoption of the Local Government Act, a preliminary to the formation of the Local Board of Health. He had his ideas for the improvement of the town, for we gather from an election address:

"When in office on the Board of Surveyors, I made several suggestions which, if they had been carried out, would have put Ossett in a deal better position than it is today. I suggested that we should make a road from Field Lane (Church Street), down Intake Lane, right down Sowood Lane to Horbury Road." Another suggestion made was that until the Ossett Gas Company were prepared to transfer ownership of the works to the Local Board, then the latter should refuse to allow the town to be lighted by gas. It is worth recalling that in the first Local Board election, in which he was successful, there were 35 candidates for 15 seats and the voting paper was 47 inches long. The "promoters" of the Local Government Act carried 11 seats and the opposition of whom Mr. Wilby was one, secured just four seats, though three of the "opponents" were near the top of the poll, Mr. Wilby was sixth in the list with 1065 votes. Mr. Joshua Speight being top with 1185 votes.

The late Mr. Wilby is survived by four daughters and one son. One of the daughters is an ex-mayoress of Ossett, the wife of Alderman T.W. Phillips and another is the wife of Mr. J.W. Cussons, formerly of Ossett.

Joan P. Smith
Ossett historian, is the author of the Highfield House article.

Fourteen years ago Joan was involved in the formation of the Wakefield & District Family History Society, serving as the first General Secretary, Vice Chairman  and finally as Projects Co-ordinator. In this role she was instrumental in the publishing of about 350 booklets. In 2005, Joan, received Life Membership of Wakefield & District Family History Society, from the Patron, Lord St. Oswald.

Joan P. Smith

Above: Joan P. Smith in 2010

Joan lives in Ossett, close to Trinity Church and is married to Stuart, who she says encourages her hobbies and never expects meals to be "on the table" or work surfaces to be dust free.

George and Nellie Worth 1957

Above: Joan's parents George & Nellie Worth, owners of Highfield Cottage pictured in 1957.

As part of Joan's write-up on Highfield, she has provided an excellent description of the cloth making industry that was so common in Ossett in the 18th and 19th centuries:

Weaving With Wool
The fleece from different kinds of sheep with various weaving methods was used to create different types of cloth:

Worsted was made from smooth, compactly spun yarn and used for clothing.

Wool(l)en’ was made from fuzzy, loosely spun yarn and used for heavy clothing and blankets.

Shoddy was made from a mixture of recycled wool(l)en rags and virgin wool and treated like wool(l)en.

The washed fleece was processed on hand looms to produce woollen and worsted cloth in roughly the same way.

Weaving on a hand loom in 1888

Above: Hand Loom weaver in 1888. John Harrop was a cloth manufacturer and all his sons were weavers. In his Will he mentions his dwelling house, shop (weaving shop), stable and other outbuildings; also his stand  in the Cloth Hall at Leeds.

Warp threads were tied onto the loom. They were then passed through a reed, which kept them in order and served as a beater after the weft or cross thread was passed. After the warp threads were threaded through the reed, they were passed through ‘heddles’, which allowed the weaver to raise and lower different warp threads. Weft threads were ‘shot’ or ‘thrown’ across the warp threads. The cloth was ‘beaten’, (packed towards the already completed part of the cloth), after each shot of weft thread. Alternating weft threads were raised and lowered after each shot of weft thread. When the cloth was finished it was removed from the loom.

On the census a man’s occupation was often described as a ‘Clothier’. This could be one man and his family, who together performed most of the steps of cloth making; a person who employed up to 30 weavers or something in between. The majority of clothiers were not large manufacturers. They often did a little farming on the side, mainly raising vegetables and crops that did not require a lot of attention. Attached to the clothier's cottage was a piece of land that ranged in size from one to fifteen acres. The clothier usually kept some animals; poultry, pigs, a cow or two, a horse and/or an ass.

Leeds Cloth Hall

Above: Leeds Cloth Hall

The small clothier, assisted by his son or apprentice, warped the loom and did the weaving. After the cloth was woven it was taken to the fulling mill. When the cloth was dry, the clothier put his cloth on his horse or donkey, or carried the cloth on his own back and brought the cloth to the market towns, where he sold it. There was still work to be done on the cloth after the fulling, but the clothier sold the cloth in the "rough" and left the finishing to the cloth finisher. The major markets for the cloth were in Leeds and Halifax.

JOSEPH COX (1833 - 1906) by Joan P. Smith

Joseph Cox

Above: Joseph Cox, the second Mayor of Ossett from 1896 to 1897, when he visited Buckingham Palace on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

Joseph Cox retired from his position as Headmaster of South Ossett school (sometimes affectionately referred to by ex pupils as ‘Cox’s College’) on 10th November 1899 after almost 40 years dedicated service. He helped out again in 1900 and acted as a School Manager for the next six years. He died on 17th and was buried on 21st September 1906. His wife Sarah survived him by only 8 months and was buried on the 6th May 1907. They lived on Storrs Hill Rd., Ossett and their burial services took place at Holy Trinity Church. They were both aged 72 years.

Joseph Cox was born circa 1833 and baptised 4th Nov 1833 in Holme-upon-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire; the son of John Cox, an agricultural labourer and Jane Billingham, (who were married in Holme on Spalding 10th February 1829) . In the 1851 census Joseph was aged 17, living with his parents, his occupation being given as a ‘scholar’! This suggests that he may have been studying whilst working, (possibly a correspondence course or even as a Pupil Teacher), but this would have not earned much, if any, money to contribute to the family of an agricultural worker. Perhaps we will never know the answer to this but he was evidently very clever and gained his qualifications to be a teacher.

Joseph, aged 24 married Sarah Anelay, born circa 1834 and baptised 11th Jan 1835 in Eastrington, aged 22 between July & September 1857 (registered in Howden).

Sarah’s family were also agricultural labourers, and in the 1851 census she is described as a “servant”. Joseph evidently gained sufficient teaching experience during the next 10 years to be offered the post of Headmaster of South Ossett Christ Church School in 1859. Sarah was also installed as Schoolmistress. Perhaps she was taught by Joseph? She was an experienced needlewoman, possibly learning this skill when she worked as a servant.

Sarah Cox must have been an exceptional ‘working mother’ as over the next 20 years she produced 13 children:

Annie, 1858; Frederick 1859; Eleanor 1860; Lizzie 1862; Bertram 1863; Emily 1864; Mary Jane 1866; Gertrude 1868; Ernest George 1869; Harry Anelay 1872 (who lived at Sowood House); Florence Edith 1873; Catherine Maud 1874 and Sydney 1877.

This was in addition to teaching needlework in the school. How she coped with the demands of a mother, especially nursing the children through the usual childhood illnesses prevalent at that time, such as Scarletina (Rubella) Chicken Pox, Small Pox and Measles, it is hard to imagine. In 1864 the three youngest children were very ill. Two of the children died in the space of 8 days. Bertram was buried on Oct 12th aged 16 months and Lizzie on Oct 20th aged 30 months. Amazingly baby Emily aged 3 months survived.

Joseph and Sarah’s daughters Annie, Emily, Mary Jane, Gertrude and Catherine Maud all followed in their parents’ footsteps and became teachers.

Two of his sons Sidney and Ernest were ironmongers.

His son Harry Anelay Cox was a clerk but later became a Rag Merchant with large premises in Dewsbury.)

Mary Jane Cox married Samuel Norman Pickard on 17 Oct 1893 in South Ossett Christ Church and Harry Anelay Cox was later known to have lived in Highfield Cottage in 1907 when it was owned by Alfred Hinchliffe Pickard. He later purchased Sowood House from Lois Pickard.


Rev Neary

1851 – 1884 Denis Creighton NEARY, DD, Trinity College Dublin. Died March 15th 1884.

The first Vicar Mr Neary took a weaving chamber belonging to Mr George Wilby (father of Mark Wilby of Manor House & Manor Mill) to use for Church Meetings. The chamber is still standing but has now been made into cottages. Mr Neary prevailed upon Mr Joseph Thornes of Green House to give him a piece of ground bordering on Horbury Lane; approximately 2 acres of rough field with a small straw thatched cottage in possession of an old woman named Martha Giggal, who was reluctant to move but was persuaded by being offered £22 in compensation! The Foundation Stone for South Ossett Church was laid Jan 1st 1851 and the Church Consecrated on Oct 16th 1851

Rev. Ward

1884 – 1892 John Henry WARD, MA, Keble College Oxford. 1892 appointed Vicar of Earlsheaton. Died Feb 22 1894.

Rev. Kirk

1892 – 1911 John Henry KIRK, BA Cambridge. 1911 appointed Vicar of Wrenthorpe.

Rev. Burnham

1911 – 1935 Alfred Lee BURNHAM, MA, Magdalen College, Oxford (Former Curate of Almondbury) Installed March 15th 1911.  1935 – 1939 Vicar of Stottezdon? Died 1950.

1935 – 1944 Douglas Oxby PARKER MA (BA Man) Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Vicar of Whitechapel. 1944 – Vicar of Acomb, York.

1944 – 1955 John FIRTH Lth? Durham. Vicar of St John, Thorpe & St Mary Sowerby? 1955 appointed Vicar of Clifton, near Brighouse

1956 - Henry Rosslyn HAWORTH MA Selwyn? College Cambridge. BSc, London. BD Leeds. Vicar of Featherstone.