The Inghams are one of the oldest recorded families in Ossett, dating back at least to the time of the English Civil War. The earliest recorded Ossett Ingham is William Ingham (1615-1670) who was a felt maker, yeoman and Ossett landowner.
Descended from this same Ossett family are the Joshua Inghams of Blake Hall, Thornhill and the third Joshua Ingham of this line (1802-1866) was to employ Anne Brontë, who wrote the partly biographical novel "Agnes Grey" in 1847, describing her somewhat difficult time at Blake Hall as a Governess to the Ingham's two eldest children, Cunliffe and Mary. Master Tom, the brat-from-hell was actually (Joshua) Cunliffe Ingham and his precocious sister, Miss Mary Ann, was really his younger sibling Mary Ingham. In the novel, Blake Hall became Wellwood House and the Inghams, the Bloomfields. However, the Inghams, dissatisfied with their children's progress, dismissed Anne Brontë within a year.
Another son of Joshua Ingham III and younger brother of Cunliffe Ingham was William Bairstow Ingham (1850-1878) who it is said was the first "Crocodile Dundee" when he killed a 13ft man-eating, saltwater crocodile on the Barron River, near Cairns in Queensland. He first shot the crocodile but didn't kill it, so he dived on top of it as it escaped back into the river and then despatched it with his bare hands by plunging a hunting knife into its throat. The incident was reported in the London ‘Times’ by an unknown writer who described him as ‘very much a man – reckless and fearless’. Sadly, William Ingham met a very grizzly death, when he was killed and eaten by cannibals on Brooker Island in New Guinea in December 1878. The town of Ingham in Queensland is named after him.
Two of Ossett's most notable men, who are both descended from the same Ingham family above, were both called Benjamin Ingham, but lived at different times. Much has been written about the Benjamin Ingham, who formed the Inghamite Church and who came to prominence after going to the USA with the Wesley brothers. However, by far the most interesting of the two Ossett-born Benjamin Inghams is the younger Ingham (1786-1861), the great-nephew of the earlier Benjamin Ingham (1712-1762), but who is hardly known outside of Sicily, where he moved to live and work in 1806.
Not much has been written about this little-known Ingham, who it is said was possibly the greatest tycoon England has ever known. Ingham made his fortune in Sicily, but invested heavily in the rapidly expanding 19th century economy of the USA. In 1861, when he died, Benjamin Ingham left a substantial fortune valued even then at £12,000,000. By 2006, that would be the equivalent to well over £1 billion or possibly even more, depending on the method of valuation used. Ingham was a consummate but ruthless businessman and he was helped in the "concern" by five of his Ingham and Whitaker nephews who all moved to Sicily. When the first nephew, William Ingham Whitaker died mysteriously of fever in 1818, Ingham reputedly wrote home to his sister in Ossett "your son has died, please send me another one!" although this is probably family legend. However, the Whitakers were to inherit his massive fortune, which over the next 70 years or so, they proceeded to spend at an impressive rate.
In his mid-30s, Ingham met Alessandra Spadafora, the Duchess di Santa Rosalia, a widow six years his senior with four adult sons. He was to live with her quite openly for about 15 years. He allegedly married the Duchess in 1836, after first getting her to sign what must have been one of the first pre-nuptial agreements in history. A large quantity of the acerbic letters written by Benjamin Ingham survive him and are in the possession of the Whitaker family in the form of bound letter-books. They provide an amazing insight into his life, the turbulent history of Sicily and the way that Ingham expanded his extensive business empire. What follows is a brief history of Benjamin Ingham's life.
Benjamin Ingham, the youngest of six children, was born into the family of Ossett cloth merchant William Ingham (1730-1806) on the 24th October 1784. It was this same family of Ossett Inghams that had produced another Benjamin Ingham (1712-1762), who went on to work with the Wesley brothers and form the Inghamite Church referenced elsewhere on this website.
Probably, the most notable of all Ossett’s sons, the life of Benjamin Ingham was more remarkable than that of his religious great-uncle and namesake who had died before he was born. In 1806, at the height of the Napoleonic wars between Britain and France, Ingham moved to Sicily as a representative of the Leeds-based family firm of Ingham Brothers & Co. after being jilted by the mercenary Anne Brook, probably because he lost all his money in a failed business deal.
In Sicily, he soon branched out in his own right to become one of the richest and most powerful men on the island. By today’s values, he was a millionaire many times over. Ingham built a huge business dynasty in Sicily with massive investments in the USA, all with the help of five of his Ingham and Whitaker nephews, three of whom died whilst working for him, one by committing suicide. He tamed the Sicilian Mafia, became a Sicilian Baron and moved in the highest circles of Sicilian society, commanding considerable respect by loaning money to some of the nobility. He learned to speak fluent Italian with a marked Sicilian accent, tinged with a touch of Yorkshire. His story is one of failed romances, family tragedy, business success by sheer ruthlessness and eventually, a putative marriage to a highly-sexed Italian Duchess, Alessandra Spadafora, Duchess di Santa Rosalia who was nearly six years his senior, but whom he plainly adored. Ingham’s delightful house in Palermo, Palazzo Ingham, became the city’s Grand Hotel et Des Palmes in 1874, and his hugely successful Marsala wine business was eventually nationalised by Mussolini in 1927 and is now owned by the Cinzano Company.
Above: Benjamin Ingham aged 57 years at the height of his power. It is said that he was the richest man in Sicily in the 19th century and the leader of the British merchants based there.
Ingham had no children, so his Sicilian business empire and substantial fortune was passed on after his death in 1861 to his nephews, the Whitakers and the Inghams who all had strong Ossett connections through their parents and other close family members. What follows shows that Whitakers were not shy in spending the legacy that had been left to them.
Benjamin Ingham was always determined never to return to Yorkshire until he was rich enough to buy up the whole of his native Ossett. Within a couple of decades, he could have easily have been able to fulfil this ambition had he so wished. In the event, it was not until after his death that £1,000 of his fortune was bequeathed towards the construction of the new Anglican Church of Holy Trinity in Church Street, Ossett.
Ingham Family Tree
William Ingham and Betty Fearnley were married at All Saint’s Church in Wakefield on the 27th February 1769 and set up home in Ossett, where they had six children as shown in the chart below. Elizabeth Ingham died shortly after birth, but the rest of the children survived into adulthood. Three of the sons, including Benjamin were to form the family business of Ingham Bros & Co. in Hunslet, Leeds where several of them moved to live after leaving the family homestead in Ossett. The five nephews that worked for Benjamin Ingham in Sicily are shown with a link to their respective parents.
The Early Life of Benjamin Ingham
The Inghams were quite a wealthy Ossett family and Benjamin had acquired a taste for foreign travel when he was a teenager. Young and self assured, with a fashionable “first-consulate” haircut, he had travelled to Paris in 1802 after the Peace of Amiens. His elder brother Joshua Ingham had travelled to Rome in 1804 with a forged American passport and perhaps Benjamin’s subsequent interest in America was stimulated by his great-uncle’s religious reputation there? Ingham became a partner in the family business of Ingham Brothers & Co. based at Hunslet, Leeds who were merchants and cloth manufacturers.
1806 was a bad year for 22 year-old Ingham. He had been jilted by the mercenary Anne Brook (born 1789) of Healey Hall, Honley, near Huddersfield. Anne Brook was the elder sister of Thomas Brook (born 1798), who had married Benjamin’s niece Ann Ingham, the daughter of his elder brother Joseph Ingham. Miss Brook had loftier ambitions than young Benjamin Ingham and she decided against marrying him in 1806. She waited until 1821, when she was 32, before marrying her wealthy cousin Charles Brook (born 1792), a partner in James Brook Brothers and Bentley Silk Mills. It is possible that Anne Brook called off the marriage because in 1806, a ship in which Benjamin Ingham had invested all his money had been lost at sea.
Above: Benjamin Ingham aged 18 in 1802 pictured here in Paris with his then highly fashionable "first consulate" haircut.
Faced with these vicissitudes, Ingham readily accepted the opportunity of a working trip to Sicily in 1806, selling cloth and woollens, on behalf of Ingham Brothers & Co. in the wake of the British Expeditionary Force, that had occupied Sicily from the beginning of February 1806. These were difficult times for English trade when from the 21st November 1806, Napoleon had blockaded a large part of Europe in what was known as the Continental System. In the early 1800s, Sicily along with Malta became the centres of English trade in the Mediterranean. From these places, the products of the British colonies as well as those from British industry were smuggled into the blockaded ports along the coast of the Mediterranean.
By 1811, British troops in Sicily numbered some 17,000. However, Ingham and his fellow English merchants were not there to satisfy the needs of the army and the Mediterranean fleet, but because the geographical position of Sicily was suitable for shipping goods secretly to the western coastline of Italy and even to southern France.
Ingham was captivated immediately by the beauty of Sicily in contrast to the grimy, smoke polluted city of Leeds that he had come from. Ingham wrote home in astonishment about Palermo and the view of Conca d’Oro, “more beautiful than the Garden of Hesperides” and that he could see from Monte Pellegrino, "the smoke rising from Mount Etna." He noted in his Will that 1812 was the year that he definitely decided to stay for the rest of his life in Palermo.
Above: Map of Sicily showing the location of Marsala on the west coast of the island. In the early days, the only way of travelling between Palermo and Marsala was by ship since the overland route was extremely difficult and the roads and tracks were poorly developed.
Almost from the start, Ingham, always the consummate businessman, had not only been acting as representative for Ingham Bros. & Co., but had also been carrying on trade on his own account. By 1809, Ingham was importing English merchandise and exporting Sicilian produce such as barilla, sumac, olive oil, citrus fruit, rags and sulphur to England and more especially to America. Benjamin later visited Boston in the USA with a view to employing Messrs. Greenhough, a father and son, as his agents in New England. They had previously demonstrated their skills by disposing successfully of a modest shipment of oranges and lemons that Ingham had sent across the Atlantic a couple of years earlier.
More Woman Trouble
In 1808, a couple of years after Ingham had arrived in Palermo, he was rapidly establishing himself as a successful merchant despite being only 24 years of age. One June evening that year at a 'flambeaux' procession along the marina in Palermo, Ingham was instantly captivated by the sight of Esther Maria (Estina) Fagan, the beautiful 16 year-old daughter of Robert Fagan and his attractive Italian wife Anna Maria, who had died in 1800. Fagan was a cultivated man of Irish descent, who had worked as a portrait painter in his earlier days and later became a noted archaeologist. He became the British Consul-General for Sicily and Malta in 1809. When the French had occupied Rome in 1798, Fagan made a fortune from some very shady art dealings, but his Bohemian lifestyle and continual money worries were to be his downfall. He committed suicide by jumping from a window in August 1816.
There were more trips with the Fagan family through heavily scented orange groves to Monreale and to Bagheria, where under enormous palms, the party ate sorbets made with snow-water from Etna. It was even suggested that they might make an expedition to the volcano. Sadly, Estina Fagan did not reciprocate Benjamin Ingham's love and Fagan didn't encourage it, since he had loftier ambitions for his daughter than this blunt, young Yorkshireman. They were awaiting the return of a much bigger fish; Estina's fiancé, William Baker, the grandson of the Governor of the Hudson Bay and East India Companies, who was an heir to 'Bayfordbury', an eighteenth century mansion, north of London. A year later, Estina and William Baker were married. It was thanks to William Baker's father that Fagan obtained his appointment as British Consul in 1809, before this the Fagans had lived in Rome.
Ingham was deeply upset with yet another romantic failure, and probably for this reason, he decided to escape to Boston in the USA where he set up an agency for his burgeoning export business. In fact, 1809 would be the only time that he ever visited the USA, despite the massive investments he made there in the next fifty years. After his failures with Anne Brook and Estina Fagan, there were no other recorded liaisons and Ingham stayed unattached until he met the Duchess di Rosalia around 12 years later.
Soon after he arrived in Sicily in 1806, Benjamin Ingham visited Marsala on the western coast of the island where “Old John”, John Woodhouse (1766-1826) had established his 'baglio' producing the fortified Marsala wine favoured by Lord Nelson. Ingham knew immediately that he had stumbled upon a goldmine! So taken was Ingham with Woodhouse’s Marsala wine operation that in 1807, he arranged for his brother Joshua, who had recently been in America, to visit several leading wine makers in Spain and Portugal in order to study the methods employed there in producing fortified wines.
Woodhouse's success attracted competition and in 1812, Benjamin Ingham started building his own 'baglio'' just one mile down the road, much to Woodhouse's annoyance. Early on, Ingham employed a cockney called John Lee-Brown as his manager to run the new 'baglio' in Marsala. Almost from the start, there were problems with Lee-Brown. His presence at Marsala became more and more irksome, and Ingham was not one to hide his feelings.
Many of the first letters are to Lee-Brown or about him and trace the almost inevitable path to the great break-up. Ingham's forthright and impatient nature is revealed almost at once. His early letters also show the anxious time he was having, trying to establish a firm demand for his wine in the USA. This anxiety was to continue well into 1818, although by the end of the year, he was obviously more confident. Lee-Brown was permanently based at Marsala and would ship the wine to Palermo, where Ingham would find some sea captain willing to ship it to the USA or England. Woodhouse's marsala was undoubtedly the market leader and this was very annoying to Ingham. In February 1816, he told Lee-Brown that an American captain had arrived in Palermo wanting 50 pipes (500 gallons) of marsala, but "as usual will only have Woodhouse's."
In fact, it was Ingham who first established a series of rules and standards for the production of Marsala, and he and his nephew Joseph Whitaker, with the help of 'baglio' manager Richard Stephens, established what was to become the town's leading firm. The trade in Marsala wine prospered, peaking around 1870 at an annual production of some 50,000 gallons. Tastes and fashions changed however, and then at the beginning of the new century the phylloxera disease decimated Europe's vineyards and greatly reduced the production of Marsala.
"I cannot stand the fleas with which your house is pestered."
Ingham was irritated by Lee-Brown's complacency and his blind time-wasting and money-wasting ideas about alternative markets, which always failed. Lee-Brown wouldn't listen to advice. For instance, in spite of everything Ingham had said previously, he continued to make the wine far too dark. Ingham insisted that it should be the colour of madeira, since the buyers would not take dark coloured marsala. Lee-Brown was also extravagant and there was very little at all that could be found in his favour. Ingham couldn't bear the situation any longer and wrote:
"To John Lee-Brown,
25th April 1816
I have received your several letters. I give no reply whatever to the first. Your drafts have been paid, but you must not draw for any more money as I have advanced already more than I engaged to do, and your conduct is not such as to induce me to go deeper, even if I had all the money in Palermo at my command.
I will endeavour to be in Marsala in eight or ten days time, but I request that you will procure a lodging for me in the town, as I cannot stand the fleas with which your house is pestered.
The visit subsequently took place and Ingham found that Lee-Brown was shipping wine to Boston before it was properly matured. Ingham was incensed and very worried that the "Concern's" reputation in that city could be ruined forever. Lee-Brown for his part was grumbling constantly about overwork and the lack of staff at Marsala. Ingham knew he was a liability and had to go.
In June 1817, Ingham decided to get rid of Lee-Brown. The portly Abbot of Marsala was called in by Ingham to take temporary charge of the 'baglio'. No doubt, he was the distributor of the local "beni della chiesa" (goods of the Church), and as the local people held him in much awe, he must have been the equivalent of the 'Capo Mafioso'. A very useful ally, especially when it came to influencing judges and lawyers, so Ingham was always careful to flatter him.
It was the good Abbot who eventually drew Ingham's attention to the fact that there was, at the 'baglio' a young English clerk named Richard Stephens who was perfectly capable and trustworthy. Stephens, an earnest young man, though with some fire in his veins, was one of the type that Ingham seemed fated to attract. He had been hired by Lee-Brown the previous year, without Ingham's permission. Richard Stephens would become Ingham's business partner by 1826 when the firm Ingham, Stephens & Co. was established.
Lee-Brown took his dismissal badly. He tried to spread a rumour that Ingham was covered in tattoos, and that he was an escaped convict. The story took quite a lot of dismissing and rumours of it were whispered by Ingham's detractors right until his death. Lee-Brown's behaviour was getting increasing peculiar. One day he met Ingham in Palermo and started braying like a donkey. On another occasion, he danced a Highland Fling outside Ingham's counting house, his hat adorned with peacock feathers. He continued to stalk and insult Ingham for some years and tried hard to discredit him.
Meantime, the sly Abbot was trying to heal the rift between Ingham and Woodhouse. Woodhouse was a bachelor and probably homosexual, so the Abbot knowing of 'Old John's' penchant for fresh and youthful Englishmen sent Richard Stephens to inquire after Woodhouse's gout. The ruse worked miraculously, so much so that there were fears that Stephens might be lured to work at the Woodhouse 'baglio'. In the event, Stephens did continue working for Ingham, but it was a close run thing and Ingham wrote to the Abbot and asked him to tell Stephens "not to be so cheeky" when he was writing to Ingham, even if he hadn't been paid for several months.
Once Stephens got over any initial difficulties with his working relationship with Ingham, he started to manage the 'baglio' at Marsala with enthusiasm and not a little skill. Stephens had the 'baglio' buildings substantially enlarged over a five year period, no doubt with Ingham's prior consent. By 1826, there was a large cooperage shop employing as many as sixty men and boys. There was a smithy, a carpenter's shop, a canteen for the workers and two distilleries for making brandy. Coal to run the steam-powered machinery was imported from England. A special 'palmento' was built for treading out grapes and new rotary machinery had been bought for washing out wine casks. There were twenty-seven wine stores, not located underground, as they often are in Spain, but long, each about 150 yards, and lofty with picturesque vaulted ceilings, Gothic in style.
The storehouses are still in use today, but the central building where Stephens would have lived and where Ingham would have stayed on his trips to Marsala is now derelict. It was a fine looking building, almost on the scale of a colonial mansion in the southern states of the USA. It was flat-roofed with two storeys. A portico ran the length of the building downstairs to provide shade, whilst the first floor had seven French windows leading on to a balustraded balcony with eight pairs of columns. In front is a large courtyard, which used to have arcades along each side. In true Ingham style, the house was much grander than the house at 'Baglio Woodhouse'.
Stephens had an eye for landscape. He planted oleanders and fig trees in strategic places and made a pergola of vines. He also built a summerhouse to catch the breezes from the sea. In the centre of the garden, there was a large white 'gebbia' or Saracenic cistern, which was filled from a nearby well by a chain of buckets worked by a blindfolded mule.
Villa Ingham (left), known as 'Racalia', stands on a west-facing ridge overlooking the vineyards towards Motya, just two miles from the coast between the towns of Marsala and Trapani in Western Sicily. The central part of the Villa was built between 1790 and 1820 for signor Spano, the Bishop of Mazara. It was bought by Benjamin Ingham, in 1840 and he added the wings to the grand house, making it typical of an English expatriate's retreat, serene and unpretentious among tall trees, luxuriant shrubs, peacocks and fountains.
Ingham actually purchased 'Racalia' for his wife, the Duchessa di Santa Rosalia, who had taken an immediate dislike to Stephens and the 'baglio'. She hated the "trying fumes" of the fermented grapes, the noise of the workers hammering away making barrels from imported oak staves and the rolling out of the heavy 100 gallon barrels of wine for shipping, right there in front of the house at Marsala.
Although these were certainly good reasons for buying 'Racalia' as far as Ingham and the Duchess were concerned, perhaps just as important was the fact that the water supply for Marsala at that time came mostly, if not entirely, from the abundant spring in the grounds of 'Racalia', which thereafter Benjamin Ingham controlled.
Surrounded by trees, many of which are over 100 years old, 'Racalia' looks out over the sea to the Stagnone and Egadi Islands with a view to the fabled Mount Eryx away to the right. Below, are formal gardens which are presently being restored and, beyond them, a grove of young olives, planted in December 1999, and orange and lemon trees. The property covers about 40 hectares (100 acres) in all. Benjamin Ingham was the great, great uncle of the present owner, who inherited the house in 1977 from his cousin, Manfred Pedicini.
Marriage to the Duchess di Santa Rosalia
In 1836, Benjamin Ingham decided that he should make an honest woman of the Duchess and marry her, or at least enter into some kind of civil ceremony that had all the appearance of marriage. He had, after all, been living with her, in sin, for about fifteen years. It is true that no records exist of the ceremony and when the Duchess died in 1867, the name Ingham was not present on her death certificate. Clearly, some kind of ceremony did take place in 1836, but whether it was a true marriage has never been fully proven. Ingham did not claim any of the Duchess's titles, which would have been worth his while. He did take the trouble to obtain royal confirmation of the title of Baron of Manchi e Scala, his 580 acre Sicilian feudo carrying with it the right to the title. Palmeritan nobles found Benjamin Ingham too useful as a source of borrowing money (which Ingham was happy to do at 7% interest) to make any objection to the union.
Ingham referred to the Duchess in his Will as "my beloved wife" but it seems increasingly likely that they only went through with a civil ceremony giving the appearance of marriage to mitigate the perpetual gossip at the British Consul's office. There is a comment in a letter held by the Whitaker family that "before his marriage, Mr. Ingham with his usual forethought, made the Duchess sign a declaration renouncing all rights to any claim on his fortune." Could this be one of the first pre-nuptial agreements in history and a forerunner of what has become common today, particularly with celebrity couples?
When Ingham's nephew, Joseph Whitaker got engaged to Sophia Sanderson, the Duchess would have seen any chance of inheritance slipping away from her sons and their descendants. Ingham was now 53, a dangerous age for an active businessman, with the increased chance of a heart attack or worse. She must have insisted on the marriage ceremony and he in turn would have gone through the performance of drawing up the pre-nuptial agreement to satisfy Joseph. After the signing, the document must have disappeared or been destroyed, otherwise Joseph and his wife Sophia would not have worried so much about their inheritance when they started having children of their own.
However, it is certain that before the "marriage" with the Duchess in 1836, Ingham wanted any arrangements to be kept secret so he could announce the union afterwards. However, his nephew Joseph Whitaker, who was strongly opposed to the marriage, had learned of Ingham's plans. Part of a letter survives from Joseph Whitaker to his elder brother Joshua, who lived in Ossett (and later built Croft House). It shows that Joseph had more humour than one might expect from his looks.
"My Dear Brother
I now proceed to give you some domestic intelligence. In the first place, I regret to inform you that I am still kept at this place what with business and what with our interrupted intercourse with the continent owing to the cholera at Naples, while my intended better half is waiting for me in the city. And when I shall be able to join her, I do not know. My uncle, I believe, is determined not to let me go till April, which is the more provoking as in the course of a short time, we shall absolutely have nothing in the world in the way of business to prevent my going, but as the Sicilians say - pazienza - which you will not be at any great loss to guess, means in English, patience.
The Other Marriage in the Family will take place very soon if we are to believe what we hear on the subject. Should my uncle ever take it into his head to take the Lady over with him to England, you would of course have an opportunity of making the acquaintance of your new Aunt, and Ossett would no doubt be graced with her Grace's presence. You could not do otherwise than have the Old House put to rights somewhat to receive such a distinguished visitor, and I will take care to inform you beforehand in order that you may have plenty of time to order furniture, etc., of which you will need the value of a full £500 to make things at all befitting for the occasion.
And now my dear Jos, I must come to a conclusion for Ben is waiting for me to have our punch, which we take regularly almost every night - and I am besides tired of writing, not being accustomed much to it by candlelight. Pray give my best love to my mother and believe me always very truly.
Your Aff Brother,
Joseph Whitaker "
The Duchess di Santa Rosalia (pictured left) born 18th May 1778, had four sons of her own, Federico, Domenico, Carmelo and Carlo (Ascenso). The eldest, Federico was married to an heiress and had a daughter, Francesca, who was the Duchess's eventual heir. The other three were unmarried and penniless. Ingham's relatives in Palermo disliked her because, with her own children's future in mind, she was quick to point out any shortcomings in Ingham's nephews and their families. Joseph and Sophia Whitaker, whose children were the most likely heirs were especially wary of her.
The Duchess's real name was Alessandra Spadafora and she was also the owner of a long string of other titles: Princess of Venetico, Princess of Maletto, Marchesa of San Martino, Marchesa of Roccella and Baroness of Mazara. A little withdrawn, she had a typical southern European face, with black eyes and in her younger days, jet black hair. Her love of rouge made her an extraordinary creature to some, but there were plenty of men who found her attractive. The Duchess had a strong will and a sharp tongue for anyone who crossed her and there were frequent tiffs with Ingham. She didn't speak any English, but Ingham had learned Italian and spoke the language fluently with a Sicilian accent tinged with a touch of Yorkshire.
Her husband, Pietro Ascenso, the Duke of Santa Rosalia had died in 1821 in a sea battle against the Turks. Previously a baron, he had bought his dukedom in 1812, at the height of the British occupation of Sicily. It was his second marriage and he had been married previously to the sister of the Prince of Palagonia.
It is likely that Alessandra had begun living with Benjamin Ingham soon after the death of her husband. It is said that she was a very highly-sexed woman and Ingham plainly adored her and there was no other woman and never would be for the rest of his long life. She died on the 18th January 1866, nearly five years after Ingham, aged 87.
Ingham was obviously fond of her sons, however extravagant or un-businesslike they might have been and this was an ominous situation for his potential British heirs. The second son, Domenico had considered going to Marsala to work with Ingham's nephew Joseph Ingham to learn the wine trade. However, once he met the dour Joseph in Palermo, he soon changed his mind and clearly the two young men did not get on.
Building Ingham's Fortune
Ingham invested heavily in the USA, largely because he had a lot of capital as a result of selling significant quantities of marsala wine and other commodities like sulphur. The empty ships often carried back to Sicily oak staves for the manufacture of of wine barrels or 100 gallon "pipes" at the Marsala baglio. At the height of his career in the 1830s and 1840s, Ingham was an importer and exporter; he owned several ships in which he traded with England and America and provided shipping space for other mercantile houses in Sicily. In Palermo, he carried on a wholesale retail trade in a variety of products, engaged in the land mortgage business, and provided banking services. He had a joint venture with Prince Pantelleria in Sicilian sulphur mines and his Marsala winery became the largest on the island.
This coincided with the boom in American railway and canal building, but also with a period of great industrial development, especially in New England. In order to get any of his money from America, Ingham had to route it through London, thereby losing up to 20% in commission to middlemen. This, naturally did not play well with Ingham and he preferred to leave his money in America.
Much of the wine that Ingham, Whitaker & Co. sent to the USA was consigned to Barclay and Livingston, a New York firm of wine sellers. One of the members of this firm, Schuyler Livingston was to act for more than 20 years as Ingham's investment agent in the USA and as such was the real architect of his fabulous wealth. He was another of those office-bound "desk men" and his whole life, from boyhood, was devoted to the mercantile profession. He had no ambition outside of it was said that in the 43 years since he first swept out the office as an under-clerk, that he had never been out of the city of New York more than a week at a time. Livingston invested Ingham's money in real estate of Fifth Avenue and vast tracts of farmland in Michigan.
The bigger money rolled in during the 1850s. In the early days, Livingston wisely concentrated on making use of the canal boom, again mostly in the states of New York and Michigan. Thus Ingham in due course found himself owning stock worth $100,000 in the St. Mary Falls Ship Canal Company. By 1844, most of the canals had been dug, and Livingston turned his attention to the railways. In this he had a great asset, for Livingston was a close friend of Erastus Corning, a hugely wealthy merchant from Albany, NY and for a while a senator (1842 - 46). Corning was the President of the St Mary Falls Ship Canal Company and also the President of the Utica and Schenectady railroad, which was by far the richest and most powerful of the railroads between Albany and Buffalo in New York and in which Ingham obtained a majority holding of 669 shares. In 1853, Corning consolidated nine railways, including the Utica and Schenectady into one system; the New York Central Railroad. This new company was capitalised for $23,000,000 USD and thus became the largest public corporation in America. Ingham received compensatory stock, which by 1860 was worth $640,000 USD, equivalent to 3 per cent of the company.
Not all of Ingham's investments were in America. He owned stock worth at least £100,000 in the Lemberg and Czernowitz railway in the old Austrian Empire (now Ukraine) built by Englishman Thomas Brassey and almost as much in the Antwerp and Rotterdam railway. He had several properties in Paris and about £75.000 invested in the French railways. As far as England was concerned, he had £40,000 in 3% English Consuls plus railway and other sundry stock to the value of about £150,000. Mysteriously, when he died and when his Will was proved, his English estate was only valued at £14,000 suggesting some impropriety.
Public Acclaim for Ingham
The year 1839 was to be a landmark year for Ingham's business empire and it was announced that from the 30th June 1839, the firm of Ingham, Stephens would be opening a new London office. The London concern was to be run by Richard Stephens, who somehow had managed to escape from Sicily and return to London at the height of the cholera epidemic in 1837. It thus fell to Ingham's nephew, Joshua Ingham to take charge of the 'baglio' at Marsala.
Towards the end of 1839, and to massive public acclaim, Ingham's brig the 'Elisa' had arrived back in Sicily from Sumatra laden with pepper. This was the first such cargo to arrive in Sicily direct from the East Indies. Previously, all spices had arrived via New England and then usually via London. Such was the level of excitement in Sicily that the cargo was allowed to be landed free of any duty charges, which pleased Ingham greatly.
Above: Brig 'Elisa' in 1836.
Any prejudice the Italians had against the resident English merchants as a result of the sulphur dispute was shelved for the time being. Benjamin Ingham himself was honoured with the 'Order of St. Ferdinand' by King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, who was in Palermo at the time. The captain of the 'Elise' Vincenzo Di Bartolo was given the gold medal of civil merit and the second officer, Federico Montechiaro was granted the right to wear the uniform of the Royal Navy of the Bourbons.
Despite the great public acclaim in Sicily for Ingham's enterprise, in fact it was his nephew, Ben Ingham Jr.'s idea and he simply ignored the advice of his uncle who wanted to send 'Elisa' as usual to Cuba or Bahia in Brazil. Ben Ingham Jr, was based in the USA in 1838/39 as Ingham's business representative and he arranged for the 'Elise' to sail to Sumatra. At the time, Benjamin Ingham wrote this letter to his nephew dated 26th February 1839:
"I must say that I do not at all approve your determination to send Elisa to the East Indies for pepper, nor am I aware that I ever gave you the faculty to do so, as she is too small for such voyages, therefore nearly one eighth of her room is taken up with water and provisions for the crew. I expect, however, that after consulting Captain di Bartolo, you will have determined differently at the cost of sending her back to Sicily with oak staves from Boston or from Norfolk should nothing better have been offered, for instance cotton from some port in the south for Marseilles or Trieste."
Ben Ingham Jr.'s idea to bypass the New England merchants had been unheard of previously. The 'Elisa' had been built in Sicily, which was another source of great national pride. Ingham was part of a consortium of rich Sicilians who bought the first steamship for Palermo. The new steamship was built in Glasgow and was, not surprisingly, named 'Palermo'. She went into regular service in 1841.
When, in June 1851, Ingham officially retired and handed over the reins of running the business to Joseph Whitaker, Ingham could afford to live almost as well as the Neapolitan Viceroy. He had been created a baron, through his marriage to the Duchess and he was on familiar terms with the highest ranking families on the island, many of which owed him money.
Ingham's Last years
To most of the Inghams and Whitakers, Benjamin Ingham was regarded as a bit of a tyrant, and his temper was supposed only to be equalled by that of his paramour, the Duchess di Santa Rosalia. It is likely that he treated his family harshly and being childless, he knew that they were after his money. He therefore indulged in a cruel game based on the contents of his Will: cutting people out, putting others in, raising hopes and dropping hints about heirs, so encouraging people to dance to his tune, often in humiliating ways.
It was said that Ingham hated waste of any kind and he does seem to have had a parsimonious side to his character. As an example, he complained constantly in letters to Ben Ingham Jr. when he was working on Ingham's behalf in the USA about his habit of staying in expensive hotels. Ingham hated bores, humbugs and people who procrastinated and would have had a hard time with some of the British and Sicilian bureaucrats that he came into contact with. He didn't mind rivals in business, provided he was satisfied that they were playing it straight, although he himself was not shy in offering bribes to the right people if he thought it might oil the wheels of commerce in his favour. With simple, guileless folk, he could be extremely charming since they posed no threat.
Above: A portrait of Benjamin Ingham, date unknown, but clearly when he was into middle age. It is said that a single glance of his portrait was enough to show that he was a man of exceptional intelligence and vigour, without a vestige of pomposity and completely sure of himself. His features were regular, his mouth and jaw firm, his eyes and hair dark. His build was heavy, his fingers thick and stub-ended. In middle age, he seems to have developed a liking for horizontally striped waistcoats. But for the clothes, his picture might be that of any modern boardroom giant the world over.
In the 1850s, Ingham and the Duchess moved to a pleasant eighteenth century villa in the Piano Sant'Oliva overlooking what is now known as the Piazza Castelnuovo, then just outside the city walls of Palermo. There exists a letter, which describes a party that was held at the Ingham house in January 1852 written by a young English woman, Mrs Tidman, to her sister. She was the wife of the Reverend Arthur Tidman, who had come to Palermo that winter because of his health and was acting as chaplain to the Protestant community, with whom he was very popular.
Palermo 24th and 31st January 1852
My dearest Ellen,
We have been rather gay this week for us. On Tuesday, we were at a large evening party given by Mr. Ingham, the English Croesus of these parts and the Duchess di Santa Rosalia, his wife. He is the greatest grower of marsala wine on the island, which he asserts furnishes the greater part of the wine drunk in England as madeira. He has resided in Sicily for about forty years and by energy and capital has introduced immense improvements both in the growing and making of wine for which he has been rewarded by the the title of Cavaliere of the Order of St. Ferdinand and another, but I forget what. He accordingly, always wears a blue and red ribband in his buttonhole. He is also a Barone of Sicily. Most of his life, he lived at Marsala [sic], and for some years he has entirely retired from active business and settled in Palermo, where he has married the widow of a certain Duke of Santa Rosalia. In consequence of this connection, he has associated much more with Sicilians and much less with English society than any other of what we call the colony. Still, he is a very stout Protestant and he professes great attachment to the Church and subscribes 60 ounces a year (£36 UKP - a lot in those days) and he has presented a silver community plate.
He treated us with great courtesy, hoped soon to see us to dinner and made an offer, which all Arthur's friends owe him great gratitude. We have been very anxious ever since we have been here to prevail on someone to read the lessons, which would be a great relief to Arthur. We have nearly once or twice prevailed upon the British Consul, but would not. On Tuesday, Mr. Ingham with many expressions of concern for Arthur's health most kindly volunteered to undertake the office. He was very kind in his manners and rather more scrupulously polite than is customary in England.
I won't describe you the party. It was very like an English one - about eighty or ninety people, nearly half English, the rest Dukes and Princesses, Marquesses and so on, whom we thought rather better than we expected. There was some singing and some dancing, and an excellent supper, and only one thing (except the Dukes) to which we are not accustomed, and no amount of custom will induce me to like - one room was set aside for cards and was full of gentlemen playing whist all the evening. The room, by the way, was the Duchess's bedroom. Altogether we spent a very pleasant evening. The Duchess cannot speak a word of English or French, but was very polite and showed us all sorts of nooks and crannies in her house. And I was specially overawed by the magnificent array of essence bottles and all sorts of aids to attraction marshalled upon her toilet table.
The Death of Benjamin Ingham and the Aftermath
Benjamin Ingham died suddenly in Palermo on the 4th March 1861 at the age of 76. No cause of death is shown on his death certificate in Palermo and his death is unrecorded at Somerset House. However, Federico Rigamonti from Sicily contacted me in February 2010 with details of a letter he has discovered that was written by the Firm on the 9th March 1861 to Barclay and Livingston, which records the actual details of Benjamin Ingham's death on the night of the 4th/5th March 1861:
"9th March 1861
At half past eleven, quite suddenly and no doubt from an attack of apoplexy, similar to what he had about two years ago. He was at the Consul's house until 8pm the same day and was as well as usual; took his usual drive, dined at 4.30 with a good appetite and was very cheerful. He thought a salad he had eaten largely of did not agree with him and was taking carbonate of soda as a remedy. He died without a struggle and his funeral took place on the 7th March and was very numerously attended."
It is known that Ingham was at the point of changing his Will, but there is mystery whether he had drafted another Will before he died. For at least a decade, the old man had been keeping the family on tenterhooks about his heirs. He wasn't saying whether the money would go to the Inghams, the Whitakers or even to the Ascensos (the fours sons of the Duchess di Santa Rosalia.)
Ben Ingham Junior and his wife Emily were childless. Joseph Whitaker's eldest son, Benjamin Ingham Whitaker (Benny), born 1838 seemed to be the most natural candidate. Ben Ingham Jr. was one of the executors of his uncle's Will and he had to sign an affadavit in London twenty months later, before the Will could finally be proven. Part of the affadavit is worth quoting, to give an idea of the furore that arose:
"13th November 1862
The said testator declared that he (Benjamin Ingham) had decided on making another Will and expressed his intention of placing it in the hands of the English Consul residing in Palermo. I further make oath that I have personally made enquiry of the English Consul, John Goodwin Esquire and have also made a diligent and careful search in all the places where the said deceased usually kept his papers of the moment and concern, in order to ascertain whether he had or had not left any other Will, but that I have been unable to discover any such Will."
The man whom Ingham had been threatening to nominate as his heir was his second cousin, aged 52, Judge Theophilus Hastings Ingham, a grandson of Ingham of the Inghamites. Although Ingham's second cousin, he had made quite a mark in his native Yorkshire, but was quite unsuited to inherit such a vast and complex business empire.
In the event, the eventual legal heir was Joseph Whitaker's second son William Ingham Whitaker (Willie), born 1841 and only 19 years of age at the time of his great-uncle's death. He was a lucky boy. How much Ingham left is difficult to say. Family tradition is that he left the equivalent of £4.5 million pounds sterling, but that is far below the actual figure, which is believed to be about £12 million pounds sterling at least. An incredible amount of money in 1861. The Italian estate alone was valued at well over £8 million and that excludes Ingham's huge American investments. Not that Willie Whitaker came into everything; he had to wait for others to die first, and then there were many individual legacies to be taken into account. Joseph Whitaker and Ben Ingham Jr. had life shares in their uncle's fortune.
The value of the railway shares in America and elsewhere had dropped by the time that Willie, over 20 years later, came fully into possession of his legacy. By inheriting Manchi e Scala, he had the right to the barony, though this was not confirmed by King Victor Emmanuel until February 1876. No provision was made in Ingham's Will for Ben Jr. and his wife Emily ever having children.
It is said that Joseph Whitaker's eldest son Benny was overruled as heir because of a talk he and Willie had been having with their great-uncle a few years previously. They had been discussing a journey, which the two boys had made. Benny had reached the destination first because he had paid to go over a toll bridge. Willie had preferred to walk the extra three miles to avoid paying the bridge toll. Such shrewdness on the part of Willie made an immediate appeal to Ingham's parsimonious nature, and he promptly altered his Will in favour of Willie Whitaker. Paradoxically, it was Benny who had a reputation in later life for being mean.
Actually, like all the younger Whitakers, Willie turned out to have little head for business and he left Palermo in 1877 and settled at Pylewell Park in Hampshire. Perhaps Ingham, sensing this before he died, had decided to leave his money to someone of his own name who had already proved himself a success in life?
"Your son has died, please send me another one" - this is allegedly a quote from one of Benjamin Ingham's letters to his sister Mary Whitaker after the death of her eldest son, William who had moved to Sicily from Yorkshire to work for his uncle Benjamin. However, this is more likely to be Whitaker family legend and not true, but it conveys a sense of the ruthlessness that Ingham exuded in his business dealings. In fact, when William Whitaker died mysteriously of fever in 1818, Ingham was terribly upset and deeply moved by the loss of his nephew.
William Ingham Whitaker (1796 - 1818)
William Ingham Whitaker was the eldest son of Joseph and Mary Whitaker and was born on the 10th January 1796 at the family home in Woodkirk, near Leeds. He was the first nephew to be asked to go and work for his uncle Benjamin out in Sicily in 1816, mainly on Ingham Bros & Co. business. Shortly after arriving in Palermo, where he was very much on approval, he was sent to Naples on the delicate task of investigating the rumours that two firms that Ingham was doing business with; Leydings and Vallin were in financial difficulties.
During September and October 1816, whilst Whitaker was in Naples, he was bombarded by complicated letters full of instructions and even shopping lists from his Uncle Benjamin. He was expected back in Palermo by the end of October at the very latest, but William Whitaker had disappeared completely off the horizon or was simply stringing his uncle along to delay coming back. There were no replies to Ingham's letters and by November, he was furious and sent this letter to his nephew:
23rd November 1816
I have been looking out for you on every vessel from Naples, the more so as you were acquainted with the accident I met with by the fall on my horse, and were besides aware that your presence was absolutely necessary here. Imagine, therefore of my surprise and disappointment at your not coming all through this week. There have been three eligible English vessels arriving from Naples. I am frantic in consequence.
Really William, such conduct can neither conciliate my affection as a relative nor inspire me with regard to your attention to business. You ought to recollect that you are in the commencement of life and must do something to put yourself forward, for if you show no exertion, you cannot expect that my brother Joseph (in Leeds) will ever consent to giving you an interest in our business.
Although so much displeased with your inattention, and although my mind labours under the severest agony in consequence, I subscribe myself as usual.
December came and then finally some news from the missing William Whitaker in Naples. Leydings, by all accounts, had been giving him "trouble and vexation" so he had made the decision to ask his uncle to fire them. He told his uncle in a letter that he hadn't wanted to trouble him or cause any undue worry during the difficult dealings with Leydings. Of course, this is what Ingham would have wanted and he soon forgave William for his lack of communication.
Uncle Benjamin was never to know that the actual reason for William Whitaker's delay in returning to Palermo (confided later to a younger brother) was that he had fallen for the seductive charms of a married, black-eyed and raven-haired Neapolitan baronessa called Clotilde who had been keeping him warm during the chilly autumn nights in Naples.
During 1817 and 1818, Whitaker had done well at the office in Palermo and was quite highly regarded by his uncle. The letter he had written threatening William with dismissal was forgotten and the two men were getting on well and advancing the family business. Sadly, towards the end of 1818, William Whitaker contracted a mystery disease that the doctors couldn't diagnose. He suffered recurring bouts of very high fever and after making a temporary recovery, he died in Palermo on the 21st November 1818.
Ingham was bereft with grief at the loss of his nephew and he wrote to several of his business contacts explaining how badly he felt about William's premature death. Soon, another Whitaker from the same family was to follow in the steps of William and this was his younger brother Joseph Whitaker (of Palermo) who, in due course, was to inherit his uncle's business empire.
Joseph Whitaker (1802 - 1884)
Joseph Whitaker was baptised in the church at Woodkirk, just north of Ossett on the 17th September 1802, and like his elder brother William, he was the son of Joseph Whitaker and Mary Ingham, Benjamin Ingham's older sister. Joseph went out to Sicily from Woodkirk in 1819, at the tender age of 17, shortly after his brother William's death in 1818. He was to become the most successful and most valuable of Ingham's five nephews employed in the family concern in Sicily.
Joseph stayed in Palermo all of his working life and ran the office there with metronome efficiency. It was noted that he left for the office in his carriage on every day but Sunday at 7:30 am in summer and 8:00 am in winter so regularly that people could set their watches by his punctuality. In fact, he was the perfect "desk man" and ran the "concern" so well that on the 2nd June 1851, he was made a partner in the firm, now called Ingham, Whitaker & Co.
Benjamin Ingham was able to announce to his customers and clients that he had retired from the active management of "all commercial affairs", and that his nephew Joseph Whitaker would be running the business from then on. In reality, Benjamin Ingham's "retirement" was in name only, and like all very successful tycoons, he mastered the art of delegating work. In Joseph Whitaker, he had found a lieutenant only too prepared to beaver away at the very smallest details of the very varied business.
Whitaker married Eliza Sophia Sanderson, born 23rd July 1816 in Malta on the 18th March 1837 in Naples. Sophie's family came from Durham and her father was a naval captain with an exemplary war record. The Sanderson family had moved to Messina to live, it is thought for commercial reasons and partly because of the beautiful setting of the port, with the fine view of the Italian mainland three miles away across the straits. Joseph and Sophie had twelve children, which she bore over a period of 23 years and on average, one every twenty-one months. Sophie was a quiet, acquiescent woman who was probably slightly afraid of Whitaker. He normally stayed late at the office, which was next to the Plazzo Lampedusa, but expected his dinner to be ready the moment he returned home, and he preferred eating in total silence.
Above: Joseph Whitaker in 1841, aged 39 years. Whitaker was the most successful of Ingham's nephews and was thought to be "of the right stuff" by his uncle Benjamin. It was said that Joseph Whitaker was so dour, with rather hooded eyes and a sardonic mouth, such that even his mighty uncle Benjamin was afraid of him! Somehow, I doubt that was true.
His will made on 4 March 1884 at Palermo was proved on the 7th February 1885 by his sons Benjamin Ingham Whitaker of Hesley Hall and John Arthur Whitaker of the Inner Temple and 5 Elvaston Place, Hyde Park. The gross value was £640,390-19-4, which using the changes in the Retail Price Index is equivalent to £44,461,038.85 in 2005 values.
Joseph Ingham (1803 - 1833)
Joseph Ingham, the son of Benjamin Ingham's older brother also Joseph, came out to Sicily in 1823 at the age of 20 after his uncle Benjamin had returned home to Ossett and asked him to join the "concern". Joseph was a rather gloomy individual and regarded eventually as a bit weak. After first working at the 'baglio' in Marsala, where he was too ugly to be of interest to "Old John" Woodhouse, he was sent eventually to Boston in the USA to develop trade there. Poor Joseph was kept hard at work by his uncle Benjamin and was often the subject of severe criticism for making bad business decisions. In 1829, Ingham sent this letter to his nephew, which demonstrates the pressure he was under:
"To Joseph Ingham, Boston
I beg you to be open and candid, and not expose yourself any remark which will injure your character and standing, for in a country like America such things have great and serious consequences. The 'Nestor' arrived here on the 31st May. It is a great pity that you asked for the staves and cloths to be sent to Marsala and not to Messina. As regards the staves, I have examined them and have found them fair, but nothing equal to the lot you sent on board the 'Pembroke' and many are knotty and not fit for casks. When we consider the high freight and duties (equal almost to the first cost in Boston) you will be aware that it is folly to ship to this country any other staves except those that are the very best dressed. The fact that you chose to send them in an American brig means that the seven bales of cloth will not enjoy the ten per cent reduction on duties allowed for British and other flags. You acted very wrongly in letting the wine on board the 'Pembroke' go in Boston at the miserable price of 80 cents a barrel and also in selling exclusively to the house of Munsen and Barnard. Now all the other buyers will be displeased."
Over the next few years, Benjamin Ingham saw to it that Joseph was kept very busy. With the market growing so quickly, he just couldn't afford to let him relax. Whilst in America, it is known that Joseph Ingham had some kind of 'deplorable accident' but the exact details are not known. A year later, he committed suicide in the City Hotel, New York on the 8th October 1833 by shooting himself. At his inquest, it was thought that he had been suffering from depression.
Benjamin Ingham (1810 - 1872)
Another nephew, Benjamin Ingham Jr. as he always signed himself or Ben as he was known in the family moved to Sicily in 1827 or 1828 to work for the "concern" and despite a few minor issues with his uncle, he became an essential member of the Ingham empire. He was sent to the USA in 1833 after his elder brother Joseph committed suicide and remained there for nearly two years, acting as a sort of roving business ambassador for his uncle. He was very successful in business matters in America, unlike his poor brother Joseph. After his work in America, Ben became the manager at Marsala 'baglio' from the 30th June 1834. He went back to America and was there in 1839 and 1840.
Ben was a genial looking person and was sturdily built. He was described as having a "mild and conciliatory disposition". Later in life, he became slightly bald and sported a flap of hair over the top of his head. It was thought that he would never get married, but at the age of 46 on the 29th March 1856, at the British Legation in Naples, he married 23 year-old Emily Bennett Hinton. Her stepfather was Mr Wood, the owner of the third largest British 'baglio' in Marsala and the family lived in the Palazzo Derix in Palermo. Later 'Baglio Wood' was absorbed by the Ingham, Whitaker firm, probably because of this marriage. A couple of years earlier, Ben took over the Saint Oliva villa in Marsala and from 1848, he was the acting British Vice-Consul in Marsala, protecting the interests of the British wine merchants who were based there.
Sadly, there were no children from his marriage to Emily Hinton and after his uncle's death in 1861, Ben was left the Palazzo Ingham in Palermo as well as a life interest in half of his uncle Benjamin's estate. After Ben's death in 1874, his widow Emily re-married General Medici and sold Palazzo Ingham to the Ragusas who transformed it in 1877 into the Hotel des Palmes, which is still in business today.
In April 186o, Ben Ingham visited Ossett on his way to the USA with his wife Emily and he subscribed £1,000 towards the construction of a church "more suited to the needs of a rapidly industrialising community" in the town of Ossett. This may have been a legacy from his uncle Benjamin, since Ben was born in Hunslet rather than Ossett. In the event, the donation helped with the construction of Holy Trinity Church in Ossett, which was completed in 1865.
Ben Ingham also donated £500 to the Ripon cathedral restoration fund. In 1871, he and Joseph Whitaker announced their intention of erecting, at their joint expense, a church in which "Services of the Church of England could be performed for the spiritual benefit of their protestant countrymen, whether resident or visiting Palermo". Ben Ingham donated the land in front of Palazzo Ingham to be used as the site for the new church. However, he died suddenly in Paris in 1872, before the work on the church started, but his widow Emily Ingham continued the good work and later, in 1872, the foundations were laid and building commenced.
All the expenses of the building of the Anglican Church in via Roma were paid for by the Ingham and Whitaker families. The chief architect was William Barber of London. Opening just after Ben Ingham's death in 1875, the church was incorporated into the Diocese of Gibraltar in 1876. Its Neo-Gothic grandeur, with pointed arches, stained glass, a rose window, creates a stunning effect.
On the 4th October 1872, Ben was having lunch in the Hotel Maurice in Paris when he suddenly choked on his food and by 2pm, he was dead. His English estate was less than might be expected at under £40,000. The eventual beneficiaries were the children of his sister Ann Brook, but naturally his wife Emily came in for the greater share including the Palazzo Ingham. Emily since the death of her stepfather was also now the owner of 'Baglio Wood' in Marsala and Palazzo Derix in Palermo.
Joshua Ingham (1811 - 1846)
Joshua Ingham was the youngest son of Benjamin Ingham's older brother Joseph and his wife Ann Hall. Joshua was born on the 2nd December 1811 at Hunslet in Leeds, where the Ingham brothers had moved from Ossett to set up the family business. He was the last of the nephews to join the "concern" and was in Sicily by 1829. Joshua was to replace his gloomy brother Joseph Ingham who had been sent to live in Boston as trade there was developing rapidly. Joshua spent almost all his time in Sicily at Marsala, where he successfully ran the winery.
Sadly, on the 22nd April 1846, Joshua Ingham died at Marsala after contracting TB. His uncle Benjamin was deeply upset by the loss of his "dear and ever to be lamented nephew", but Joshua's parents back in Ossett must have been even more upset after losing two of their sons in the employment of Benjamin Ingham. To make matters worse, Joshua Ingham died intestate. This caused complications since two of the "Concern's" wineries at Campobello and Mazara were in his name, and according to Sicilian law, the estate had to be divided equally between brothers, sisters and parents. How Benjamin Ingham managed to get around this not insignificant problem is not recorded. However, Joshua's estate in Sicily was valued at the then considerable sum of £30,000, which is an indication of how well Ingham's nephews were doing.
Renowned English author Stan Barstow (1928-2011) was born in Horbury, but lived for the majority of his life in Ossett from where his wife Connie originated. Both Barstow and his wife were pupils at Ossett Grammar School and their two children Neil and Gillian also attended the same school, by then a Comprehensive. Barstow’s most famous work “A Kind of Loving” was written in 1960 in his spare time whilst he worked as an engineering draughtsman at Woodhead Monroe, who manufactured hydraulic shock absorbers at their Ossett factory.
Considered a literary breakthrough for the frank depictions of life and marriage among the working class of Northern England, “A Kind of Loving” was made into a successful film directed by John Schlesinger, starring Alan Bates and June Ritchie. The film tells the story of Vic Brown (played by Bates in the film), a young man trapped by convention and circumstance in a “life-sentence” marriage to a woman he does not love (June Ritchie) and unable to escape from a mother-in-law from hell (Thora Hird).
The financial security afforded by the success of “A Kind of Loving” allowed Barstow to leave Woodhead Monroe in the early 1960s and establish himself as a full-time writer of novels, short stories and later very successfully as a television script writer. Perhaps his finest television work was adapting Winifred Holtby’s novel “South Riding” as a 13-part series for Yorkshire TV in 1974. The Barstow family lived for 26 years at Goring House in Ossett Spa and Stan Barstow was a regular at the Little Bull public house. In 1990, Stan Barstow and his wife separated and Barstow went to live first in Haworth and then in Pontardawe, South Wales with fellow author Diana Griffiths. Barstow died on the 1st August 2011, aged 83. Connie Barstow died on the 9th May 2012, aged 84.
Stanley Barstow was born into a working class family in Horbury on the 28th June 1928. He was an only child after the death, in infancy, of an older sibling Kenneth in late 1923. Barstow’s father, Wilfred (1899-1959), a coal miner at Crigglestone Colliery had married Elsie Gosnay (1900-1990) in 1921. The Gosnays were a Horbury mining family and when Wilfred’s father David Barstow died suddenly at the early age of 43 in 1905, young Wilfred was taken in by his bride-to-be’s sizeable family, headed by coal miner Smith Gosnay and his wife Lydia.
After their marriage, Wilfred and Elsie Barstow settled down in a small terraced house in Shepstye Road, Horbury and Wilfred walked to his work at Crigglestone Pit each day. After work, Wilfred Barstow played the cornet with some considerable aplomb for a number of well-known local Brass Bands, including a jubilant period with the Gawthorpe Victoria Prize Band after WW2 when they won many competitions. So it was that Stan Barstow was brought up in a classic Yorkshire working-class household where cleanliness was next to Godliness and money was tight; where everyone worked hard, but lived frugally or, as Barstow would define it in his autobiography, “poverty but not squalor.” Stan’s mother Elsie was a Methodist, a keen supporter of the Free Methodists at the Highfield Chapel in Horbury and he spent many hours there as a boy attending services and Sunday school, often three times a day.
Despite the setback of a stay in Wakefield’s Clayton hospital, when he was 11 years old, suffering from blood poisoning, Stan Barstow was a bright boy and he passed the County Minor Scholarship to win a place at Ossett Grammar School. With only 44 other boys and girls from the 20,000 or so pupil catchment area, he walked up the long tree-lined drive to the school for the first time in September 1939 and the tender mercies of headmaster Dr. H.G. Chapman. Partly through indifferent teachers and a syllabus that didn't entirely suit him, but by his own admission, from a lack of application, Barstow’s creative spark was never ignited at Ossett Grammar School. Seemingly frequent indiscretions caused the ire of his bête noire, the “Boss”, Dr. Chapman and unfortunately Barstow was to fail the School Certificate, which pre-dated “O” Levels and GCSEs. There were no half measures, you passed or failed and pass marks were obligatory in certain subjects such as Maths, English and German. Stan Barstow said he left Ossett Grammar School because he had nothing to offer the school and the school had nothing to offer him.
Above: Ossett Grammar School, Class 2B in 1940. Stan Barstow is on the back row, second from the right. The two teachers in the picture are (left) J. Carrington, Form Master (taught English) and right, Dr. H. G. Chapman, Headmaster. (Photo courtesy of Tom Linnington.)
WORK, MARRIAGE AND THE SPARK OF CREATIVITY
After leaving Ossett Grammar School, Stan Barstow had no firm career ambitions and it was a neighbour, Edgar Downing, chief draughtsman at Charles Roberts & Company’s engineering works at Horbury Junction who offered him a job as a trainee in the company’s drawing office. Charles Roberts and Co. were makers of railways wagons of varying types and the works premises covered a sprawling 45 acre site, including the adjacent Horbury Junction Iron Works, which had been taken over in 1923. During WW1 and WW2, the works were used for the manufacture of armaments like naval shells and trench mortars. During WW2, 1300 Churchill tanks were built by the company and in the 1940s, they were one of the largest employers in the district, but were notorious for paying low wages.
The Drawing Office that Stan Barstow joined as a trainee at the age of 16 was staffed almost exclusively with “lads”, i.e. young men under the age of 21 who were mostly trainees. Stan was required to study mechanical engineering, three nights a week, at the Technical College in Wakefield. The management of Charles Roberts and Co. were parsimonious employers, so day release for trainees to go to college was not even an option. Barstow reckoned they hankered after the depression days of the 1930s when men queued up outside the gates of the works for any jobs that could be had.
Above: Connie Kershaw (back Row, second from left) with her workmates at Charles Roberts and Co.
It was whilst Barstow was working at Charles Roberts and Co. that he met his future wife for the second time. Connie Kershaw had gone to Ossett Grammar School at the same time as him and they were aware of each other in a platonic sense. By the time Connie had worked at Charles Roberts as a tracer in the same Drawing Office as Stan, she had grown up somewhat and learned how to deal with men’s dry humour and to give as good as she got. Stan Barstow was somewhat impressed with this very sassy and attractive young lady. Before long, in the parlance of that time, they were “courting.” Connie hailed from Ossett, where she lived with her widowed mother and elder sister Vera. Her father Arnold Kershaw had been the manager of the butchery department at Ossett Co-op, but had died when Connie was only eight years old.
When the couple decided to marry, they agreed not to become publicly engaged whilst working together in such a small group at Charles Roberts & Co. and Stan started looking for a new job. Despite quitting his night school studies after a couple of years, Stan was interviewed successfully by the Works Manager at Woodhead-Monroe in Ossett and was soon working in the Drawing Office at their factory, which was located off Kingsway, not far from Connie’s home.
In September 1951, the couple were married at Ossett Parish Church and after a honeymoon in the Lake District, they settled down to live in Ossett. Thanks to Alderman Gladstone Moorhouse, the couple were able to rent a stone-fronted, two-up, two-down terraced house in Ossett, when rented houses were in short supply. Moorhouse, who ran a joinery business, had several houses in Ossett in his property portfolio and after an interview at his house “Ivy Bank” off Ryecroft Street, the couple were offered the house. People rarely bought houses in those days and as a result, rented property was scarce. The house needed a lot of renovation work and the newly-weds spent a lot of their spare time making the place habitable and having electricity installed when many Ossett houses were still lit by gas.
Left: Wedding picture of Stan Barstow & Connie Kershaw in 1951.
It was Connie who suggested that Stan Barstow might be able to write and she suggested that he might like to try writing short stories for women’s magazines. He decided to give it a try, so a Remington typewriter was purchased and a card table in a spare bedroom served as his office. The creative spark that would serve Stan Barstow so well in the future was igniting, but there were setbacks in those early years. His first efforts brought nothing but refusals and frustration. Two correspondence courses were started and abandoned; one on “how to write well” and the other on “how to make money from writing.” Barstow says these courses taught him what he didn’t want to do and in fact what he couldn’t do and they were, in their own way, a valuable lesson.
The real breakthrough came when the couple were on holiday and he bought a book of pre-war short stories by the author H.E. Bates (1905 – 1974), of “The Darling Buds of May” fame. Barstow was immediately struck by the economic yet stylish prose of Bates and the vivid pictures he painted with a minimum of words. Bates was an example to follow and what Bates had done in his writing about country people, Barstow felt he could write about the working class folk he had known all his life. Edward Garnett, one of the greatest literary editors had once suggested to H.E. Bates that “the path of the (writer’s) art is endlessly difficult.” Barstow knew that this was the path that was now before him. Nobody said it would be easy. By 1953, Barstow was enjoying his first taste of writing success with a couple of his short stories being accepted for broadcast on BBC radio.
A FAMILY AND A NEW HOUSE
In December 1954, the couple had extra cause to celebrate when their first child Richard Neil Barstow was born in Moorlands Maternity Hospital in Dewsbury. Around this time an auntie of Connie’s, who lived in Blackpool, died and left her £400, which was enough for a deposit on a new house, but with enough left over to buy new furniture. The couple spent the inheritance wisely on a house they had admired for some time. This was “Holmedene”, a semi-detached house with views across the Calder valley located on Birchen Avenue in Ossett for which they paid the princely sum of £1,495. Stan’s writing continued at the new house and the card table had now given way to a second-hand desk in a spare bedroom. He sold a third short story to BBC radio, but had no luck with published works for the popular magazines of the time. In 1956, a crime thriller novel was written, but was rejected by the publishing houses. The typescript of the unpublished novel was stored away and would prove very valuable at a later date.
Above: Stan and Connie Barstow with their two children Neil and Gillian at Goring House circa 1961/2.
Meanwhile, Barstow worked on his writing technique and studied the works of writers such as Smollett, Defoe and Fielding. He attended an evening class on English Literature at Leeds University as well as a residential summer school for aspiring writers at Worcester College, Oxford. Shortly afterwards in May 1957, he sold his first published work “The Search for Tommy Flynn” which appeared in John Pudney’s annual hardback collection, “The Pick of Today’s Short Stories”. He was paid just six guineas, which was the flat-rate fee, compared to the fifteen guineas he was being paid by the BBC for his other short stories. Barstow felt he was now on the way and he was delighted about his work at last being in print. The cheque was never cashed and he had it framed instead. However, further success was still two years away.
Above: Three generations of the Barstow family, L to R: Stan Barstow, Neil Barstow and Wilfred Barstow.
In January 1958, Stan and Connie had a second child, Gillian Rosemary Barstow, who was destined to become Head Girl at Ossett School in the 1970s. Unfortunately, bad news followed and in November 1959, Stan’s father Wilfred died from a heart attack at the early age of 59. At the time of his death, Wilfred Barstow was working as a Deputy at Lepton Edge Colliery, near Huddersfield.
"A KIND OF LOVING"
Barstow was now actively researching for his new novel and after inheriting his father’s moped, he made frequent trips to the towns surrounding Ossett, collecting information that he could incorporate into the fictitious town of Cressley. He looked at towns like Wakefield, Bradford and Huddersfield, but eventually decided that Cressley would be based on a smaller version of Dewsbury.
Inspired by books like Alan Sillitoe’s “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and Len Doherty’s “The Good Lion”, Barstow had, by the autumn of 1959, interested an agent in a “kitchen sink” novel of his own. Soon afterwards, “A Kind of Loving” was completed and sent off to the agent for consideration.
Vic Brown, the main character in “A Kind of Loving” is undoubtedly based on Barstow and his early years. Like Barstow, Vic works in the drawing office of an engineering company and his father is a coal miner. By drawing on his real-life experiences, Barstow brilliantly conveys the 1960s Northern working class lifestyle. Fifty years after the book was written, some of the vernacular used by Vic Brown sounds dated, but Barstow’s storyline is still powerful.
By the time Barstow wrote “A Kind of Loving”, he had sold four short stories in eight years and earned £78. Within two weeks of submitting his manuscript for the new novel, his agent responded to say that he would like to try it with one or two publishers. Four months passed with no news and then on Christmas Day 1959, a letter arrived from the agent with news that “A Kind of Loving” had been sold to Michael Joseph for an advance in royalties of £125. It was a very good Christmas for the Barstow family that year.
Also making their mark at this time in the publishing world were contemporaries, David Storey who wrote “This Sporting Life”, his bleak novel about the life of a Yorkshire rugby league player and also playwright David Mercer, both products of Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield and both with a similar working class background like Barstow’s. He was to get to know these two men well in the following years.
When “A Kind of Loving” was published in July 1960, it became the Book Society’s “Choice for July/August 1960”, which guaranteed a decent level of sales as well as generating a significant amount of publicity for Barstow. The book was widely reviewed and received many accolades. TV appearances followed for Barstow and he became a minor celebrity in his home town of Ossett.
Joseph Janni, an Italian film producer was interested in making a film of the novel and he paid Barstow £300 against an advance of £3,000 on 10% of producer’s profits. Janni had recently gone independent and wishing to make a film about English working-class life, he had bought the rights to Sillitoe’s “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” which, in the event, he never ever filmed and let it go elsewhere. Janni had also bought the film rights to Keith Waterhouse’s 1959 novel “Billy Liar” and after approaching Anglo-Amalgamated, he secured a two film deal for “A Kind of Loving” and “Billy Liar”.
It was decided that Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall would be the script writers for the film of Barstow’s novel and a young director of documentary films on TV, John Schlesinger begged Janni to give him “A Kind of Loving” as his first feature film. In retrospect, it was a good decision by Janni to do so and filming began in November 1961. Sadly, all the scenes in the film were shot in Lancashire. It was felt by Janni that locations in the West Riding had been already well used for the scenes in the film version of David Storey’s “This Sporting Life” so locations were found in Blackburn, Oldham, Bolton, Stockport and Manchester. Alan Bates was cast as Vic Brown and June Ritchie as Ingrid Rothwell with Thora Hird as the mother-in-law from Hell. The film opened in London in April 1962 to generally good reviews and won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Once on general release “A Kind of Loving” began to break box office records up and down Britain. The film was considered quite racy for the time with its candid sexual content and was given an X-certificate. If you wish, you can watch the entire film, which was shot in B&W on YouTube.
GORING HOUSE AND "ASK ME TOMORROW"
Stan and Connie had started to think about buying a bigger house now they had two children to care for. Even before the publication of “A Kind of Loving”, the couple had bought a plot of land, commanding one of the finest views in Ossett from a local solicitor for the sum of £90. In the event, Green Belt planning constraints prevented their house building project from going ahead. Instead, they sold the land on for 90 guineas, making a tidy 5% profit.
By the start of 1961 and with finances much improved, it was clear that the couple needed a bigger house with space for a study and separate bedrooms for the two children. Goring House, located at Ossett Spa was on the market for £2,400 and was attracting a fair bit of interest. Despite Connie not being too impressed with the location of Goring House, which was close to the pit stacks of Roundwood Colliery and without the panoramic views of “Holmedene” on Birchen Avenue, they bought the big, roomy detached residence and were to live there for 26 years.
The management at Woodhead-Monroe had been very understanding of Barstow’s newly found celebrity status with the need to take occasional days off to visit television studios, literary events and the odd film premier. However, by July 1962 it was time to make writing a full-time occupation and so Stan Barstow was to quit his secure job in Ossett, taking the massive gamble that he could properly support his wife and two young children. He need not have worried because he would enjoy great success in the years to come.
“Ask Me Tomorrow”, Barstow’s second novel was published in October 1962 to mixed reviews. The “Ossett Observer” literary reviewer Fred Armitage was particularly scathing, labelling the new novel a “nasty piece of work” and this greatly incensed Barstow and his wife. Both felt a sense of betrayal from their local newspaper and from the editor whom they both knew personally. After consulting his solicitor, Barstow approached the editor and a compromise was reached; a selection of alternative reviews from other sources was subsequently printed in the “Ossett Observer.” There were letters of support for Barstow’s new novel, but the couple could never understand the needless hostility from their local paper.
After a spell living in London following a spell of marital difficulties in 1963, Barstow finished his third novel “Joby”, which apart from “A Kind of Loving” would become his most successful work. Barstow stuck with his family and returned home to Ossett. 1964 was to be a much better year for him with the publishing of “Joby” to much critical acclaim, a radio adaptation of “A Kind of Loving” and the BBC promising a radio broadcast of his short story “The Desperadoes.” In April 1964, Barstow appeared on “Desert Island Discs” hosted by Roy Plomley with a music selection ranging from jazz to classical. He was to appear on the same programme some 22 years later when it was hosted by Michael Parkinson with much the same selection of music.
By now Barstow really had burst on to the British literary scene big time. His name was now being linked to fellow “kitchen sink” authors of that time such as Alan Sillitoe, John Braine, David Storey, Alan Plater and Keith Waterhouse. They all wrote about Northern life without pulling any punches; the working-class West Riding voice that had rarely been heard before in literature. Barstow was part of a golden generation of working-class Yorkshire writers.
Right: Barstow with Goring House pictured behind him.
LIFE AS A FULL-TIME WRITER
In the 1960s, following a miserable time after an ear operation to prevent deafness in one ear, Barstow was introduced to the simple pleasures of the English pub scene by one of his neighbours. Never a drinker, having been discouraged by his mother who frowned on strong drink and by his Methodist upbringing, Barstow was a late starter. The Little Bull, just a minute’s walk from Goring House provided him with the companionship and conversation he missed as a solitary writer working alone at Goring House. In the men-only tap room of the Little Bull, which was run by the Saville family at that time, he was introduced to the game of dominoes by the landlady’s father and many happy hours were spent at the pub. Barstow says he often came home still smiling after a night at the Little Bull.
A less pleasurable period was Barstow’s brief membership of Ossett Rotary Club. His liberal, left-leaning views were at odds with the majority of his fellow Rotarians, who were men drawn largely from Ossett’s business circles. By now, Barstow was mixing more-and-more with the artistic community of fellow writers, actors, musicians, producers and television people at the BBC or ITV. He was somewhat affronted at one Ossett Rotary Club luncheon when a fellow member cracked a couple of jokes about “queers”. As Barstow admits in his biography “this was just another example of what was hardening my response to the people I found myself among week after week.” In the event, Barstow was given an opportunity to quietly resign from the Rotary Club during a period when he was working away at the Granada studios in Manchester. When he resigned, it was understood, naturally, that business must come first.
Barstow settled into life as a full-time writer with a spell as a consultant to the production team of Coronation Street and this was one of many commissions he had with Granada TV in Manchester. Whilst he didn’t write any episodes of Coronation Street, he did contribute to the direction the TV drama would take with future story lines. His fifth novel “A Raging Calm” was published in 1968. It was his longest and most complex work to date, describing the lives of two couples who were having illicit love affairs. The novel was once again set in the fictitious town of Cressley, which was based on Dewsbury. In 1974, the novel was adapted as a seven-part TV series for Granada with Barstow writing the script for the first episode. “A Raging Calm” starring Alan Badel, Michael Williams and Diana Coupland was to be one of the most successful TV drama series produced by the Granada stable.
Above: Autographed photograph of Stan Barstow courtesy of Ossett historian Neville Ashby.
In the early 1970s, Barstow contributed to the Granada TV blockbuster “A Family at War”, which ran to fifty-two episodes. Barstow wrote the script for the pilot episode and was heavily involved with creator John Finch in planning the plot for the series. This was followed in 1974 by some of Barstow’s finest script writing, when he adapted Winifred Holtby’s novel “South Riding” as a 13 part television series. This was followed soon after in 1975 by a two-part Yorkshire TV adaptation of Barstow’s eponymous novel “Joby”, which was filmed on location in Horbury and starred Patrick Stewart as Joby’s father, Reg Weston. Set in the late 1930s, “Joby” was based heavily on Barstow’s childhood in Horbury and Joby Weston is an eleven year old boy who is just about to go to Cressley Grammar School when unexpected events change his life.
This was to be a very successful time for Barstow and the Royal Television Society gave Barstow the 1975 Writer’s Award for “A Raging Calm”, “South Riding” and “Joby.” He also won an award for the best radio play in 1974 for “We Can Always Fit a Sidecar” adapted from his short story “The Desperadoes.”
In 1966, Barstow decided to reprise Vic Brown in a sequel to “A Kind of Loving” with his novel “Watchers on the Shore.” In the book, Vic takes a job in the South of England, leaving his wife Ingrid back in Cressley. But while down south, Vic meets Donna Pennyman, a young actress and they start an affair. This led to the final book of the Vic Brown trilogy, “The Right True End” written in 1976 where Vic has finally left Ingrid and Donna Pennyman has left him. “The Right True End” was broadcast as a radio play in 1978 on the BBC.
Barstow, now preferring to go to a place of work each day, rather than working at home, had started writing from a ground-floor room in one of the Georgian houses, which formed Queen’s Square in Leeds. The property was owned by Leeds Polytechnic and Barstow, in return for the use of this new study, became their unofficial writer-in-residence. He was also very active as a tutor on a number of residential courses and workshops for creative writing, which were staged at various locations around the country for budding authors.
One of the locations for the Arvon Foundation writing courses was Lumb Bank, near Hebden Bridge, which quickly became a favourite destination for Barstow, “to help budding writers to write as well as they were able and to show them how it may be possible to write even better.” It was here that he met Diana Griffiths who was beginning to learn her trade as a writer with Barstow’s help.
A surge of creativity in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to a trilogy of new novels: “Just you Wait and See”, “Give us this Day” and “Next of Kin” about a young woman, Ella Palmer in a working-class family during WW2.
Above: 2005 picture of Stan Barstow with Diana Griffiths, his partner for the last 21 years of his life.
In 1990, Barstow’s personal life was changing and after 39 years of marriage to Connie, they parted, although they never divorced. Stan started a new life with his ex-pupil Diana Griffiths, now a writer in her own right, with eight original plays and nearly twenty dramatisations to her credit. He was surprised and upset by some of the less than complimentary tabloid interest his separation from Connie received. Diana was born in Neath, South Wales and was educated at Neath Grammar School and Sheffield University. They lived together first at Haworth, near Keighley and then moved to Pontardawe in South Wales, where Barstow was to spend the rest of his life. He was an honorary Master of Arts of the Open University, and also a Fellow of Academi (the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency). His last book, published in 2001 was his autobiography “In My Own Good Time.”
Stan Barstow died on the 1st August 2011, aged 83. Connie Barstow stayed in Ossett, living at Millfields off Wesley Street, before spending her last years in nursing home in Wakefield. She died on the 9th May 2012 aged 84.
A list of Stan Barstow's books and short stories in chronological order:
“A Kind of Loving” (1960)
“The Desperadoes and other stories” (1961)
“Ask Me Tomorrow” (1962)
“The Watchers on the Shore” (1966)
“A Raging Calm” (1968)
“The Human Element” (1969)
“A Season with Eros” (1971)
“The Right True End” (1976)
“A Casual Acquaintance and other stories” (1976)
“A Brother's Tale” (1980)
“A Kind of Loving (The Vic Brown Trilogy)” (1982)
“The Glad Eye and other stories” (1984)
“Just You Wait and See” (1986)
“Give Us This Day” (1989)
“Next Of Kin” (1991)
“In My Own Good Time” (2001)
Film and TV Credits:
Stan Barstow's film and television credits in chronological order:
“A Kind of Loving” (1962)
“Armchair Theatre - The Pity of It All” (1966) TV Episode
"A Family at War” (1970) TV Series (writer)
“A Raging Calm” (1974) (mini) TV Series
“South Riding” (1974) TV Series (adaptation)
“A Kind of Loving” (1982) TV Series (novel)
“A Brother's Tale” (1983) (TV)
“The Man Who Cried” (1993) (TV)
My thanks also to Neil and Gillian Barstow who contributed some of the pictures above and were kind enough to check this account of their father's life for accuracy.
When Douglas Brammer was born in 1937, Flushdyke was a self contained, thriving community. With bustling businesses, shopkeepers who knew everyone by name, churches and chapels where neighbours would gather to worship and celebrate, pubs and clubs with regular family events and a school, which was to become the heart of the community.
This was Flushdyke Council School. Douglas, and his younger sister, Margaret, first attended the school during the Second World War. Their mother, Eleanor Brammer, a much loved and highly respected dinner lady, worked here, from the 1940s until the 1970s. Their father, Sydney Brammer, became the manager of Ossett Co - operative's Branch No.5, after serving in East Africa during WW2. Work, school and places to play, all within walking distance of their home, which was adjacent to Johnson & Sowerby's Toffee Factory on Wakefield Road. Douglas left Flushdyke Council School and afterwards continued his education at Ossett Grammar School and it was here that he developed a talent for cricket and rugby.
Whilst speaking to Douglas about his rugby career, and as a newcomer to Ossett (having lived here only 10 years), I was surprised and delighted, to hear of a connection between him and my dad, John Fawcett. Amazingly they had played rugby together in the 1950s for Sandal RUFC. It was almost 40 years before their paths were to cross again. At the bar of The Red Shed, the Labour Club in Wakefield.
Douglas has a phenomenal memory and what he doesn't know about Flushdyke, I suspect isn't worth knowing. He is also a gifted story teller, immediately transporting the listener to the place of which he speaks. I visited him at the home he has shared, for 51 years, with his wife Sheila. I listened enthralled while Douglas explained to me about how a conversation with his friend, Don Boocock, over a pint at The Red Lion on Wakefield Road, had led to the beginning of his own journey back to the Flushdyke village of his youth. The two old friends recalled how, in the 1960s and 1970s, the village had been decimated. The close proximity of the M1 had made Flushdyke a prime location for development. This village community was soon overwhelmed with factories and traffic. Homes were seized, demolished and replaced with huge steel buildings and warehouses. Its soul ripped out and abandoned.
Don went on to say that he was born at Spring Mill and had also lived at Workhouse Yard, Flushdyke. Douglas' own father, Sydney, had started life at Spring Mill and he too had subsequently lived at Workhouse Yard. Other friends in the pub became interested in their recollections and wanted to know where these places had been. It was then Douglas realised how there was little photographic record of Flushdyke from before it was swept away by the industrialisation of the 1970s. Later that same week, Douglas drew his first sketch. It had to be Workhouse Yard. He returned to The Red Lion, for a pint with Don and took with him his sketch. All agreed that his sketch had captured much more than the buildings which once stood there. It had portrayed the essence, the spirit, the community and the people who would tell you it was their home.
After Workhouse Yard, all the other extinct buildings followed. All of Douglas' sketches are drawn from his amazing, photographic memory most often without reference to any photographs, were they to exist. They show parts of Ossett, and particularly Flushdyke, which have long been forgotten. Places where he played and where he lived for most of his formative years. The places he loved. His places. While there are many, these are just a few of those places which Douglas and his sketches have brought back to life: Spring Mill (Douglas' favourite) ; Roundwood Pit; Bickle's; Gothard's Stables; Flushdyke Fisheries; Sandbed Terrace; The Cross Keys; Longlands House; the Almshouses; Tommy Brooke's Farm; Wainwright's electrical shop; Ashton's Buildings; Kidger's Shoe Repair Shop; Eldon Terrace; St Oswald's Mission; the Spenstead Railway Bridge; Bethel Chapel and Flushdyke Council School. All sketched as they were in the 1940s and 1950s. This was his playground and his home
Douglas has long had a connection to Flushdyke School. First as a pupil where, he tells me, he was considered 'a waste of space' and was ' forever in trouble', and, as if to prove a point, as the Chairman of the Board of Governors at a time when the school needed help and guidance. At an Ossett Grammar School reunion for the class of 1951-52 Douglas was reunited with old classmate, Eric Cudworth, who was then Head teacher at Flushdyke School. He was impressed to see how Douglas had matured and developed to become the chairman of his school's governors.
It was during Douglas' time as a school governor that Wakefield MDC proposed the closure of the school. By the 1990s Flushdyke J&I School was without its own catchment area, the village no longer holding the attraction to families that it once did. Douglas had begun his career in the engineering industry, he completed a Certificate of Industrial Relations at Leeds University and became involved with the Labour Trade Union Movement. He later studied at Huddersfield University where he gained a Diploma in Social Work. He moved from engineering into the Probation Service but it was his later role as a social worker which gave him an awareness of the absolute necessity to retain Flushdyke J&I School. Still having an excellent reputation and effective teaching staff, Douglas and others ardently believed that children from beyond Flushdyke, who perhaps were not thriving in school, may benefit from a smaller, quieter, more attentive environment. Instead of closing an excellent school and transporting children from Flushdyke to other areas, should children from surrounding areas be accepted into the school?
Above: The iconic "Workhouse Yard" sketch.
Douglas, his wife Sheila, and other school governors outlined their proposal to Wakefield Councillor Phil Dobson, who was then Chair of Education. This included evidence of the success of other projects which Douglas had witnessed whilst working in the Kirklees area with vulnerable children and their families. The suggested closure of Flushdyke J&I School was subsequently abandoned by the Council. Always modest, Douglas tells me he is pleased to have been a part of the team who helped to keep the school open. Since sketching the Flushdyke of his youth, Douglas has returned to Flushdyke J&I School where he enthralled both pupils and staff alike, with his stories of what the village was like before it changed beyond recognition. Flushdyke J&I School continues to serve our children, as it has done since 1912.
Douglas Brammer is a man of firm beliefs and an innate recognition of right and wrong. His sketches, his place in the community and at Flushdyke School are evidence, were it needed, of his love for his home town. His work and his art are remarkable contributions in the history of his town of Ossett.
To view the entire Brammer collection visit Steve Wilson's brilliant www.ossett.net or visit Ossett Library to see the display currently on show. Huge thanks to Alan Howe for his guidance.
by Anne-Marie Fawcett, February 2017
First published in "Elite" magazine
The founder of Wheelwright Grammar School in Dewsbury, John Wheelwright was born in Gawthorpe, Ossett it is thought in around 1660. Wheelwright must have come from a fairly well-to-do family since he became a civil servant, collecting the King’s salt duties on behalf of William III, who ascended to the British throne in 1689.
It was said that John Wheelwright was “a bachelor of frugal habits” and his thrift enabled him to become a very wealthy man, owning a great deal of land in Dewsbury, Ossett and Halifax. In Dewsbury he owned what are now the Crown Buildings, Long Causeway; the land that the Town Hall was built upon, and also much of the Wakefield Road area. He owned farms in Ossett and at Halifax. For a time, he lived at Clay House, Greetland and also at Goat House, Rishworth, which is on the outskirts of Halifax. Rishworth road, behind Dewsbury Town Hall is so named because of Wheelwright’s land holdings at Rishworth,
Towards the end of his life, John Wheelwright was living at North Shields, close to the massive salt producing centre at South Shields, once the most important salt making town in Britain. Wheelwright was wise enough to live on the north bank of the river Tyne since South Shields was a most unpleasant place and the salt making gave the town a horrible, dense, eye-watering environment. The fumes from the huge salt pans numbering 150 or more could be seen clearly from Durham and according to Daniel Defoe, from the summit of Cheviot many miles to the north. So bad was the atmosphere that the wife of a local priest compared South Shields to “Sodom and Gomorrah.”
In the past, salt was a valuable commodity and workers were often paid in part with salt, hence the term “salary”. Salt was used for cooking, tanning and curing meat as a means of preserving it. It was also used as an antiseptic, hence the term “rubbing salt into the wound”.
William III was short of funds for the French wars after his accession to the British throne in 1689 and he brought over to England a number of creative Dutch accountants to think of ways to raise money from British taxpayers. As well as imposing heavy duties on alcohol and tobacco (nothing changes), a new form of salt tax was introduced in 1694. This levied tax at the point of manufacture instead of the point of use, an important distinction.
Salt had been sold previously at 2s/8d per bushel and the new duty imposed was an additional 1s/8d per bushel. A bushel of salt was approximately a 7 inch (or 17cms) cube. However, in 1697, salt duty was doubled to 3s/4d per bushel and an already unpopular tax became even more unpopular.
Coming back to Wheelwright, it is clear that he had moved from Yorkshire, probably in the early 1700s, to a fairly senior position at South Shields, which we know was the largest salt-making centre in Britain at that time. In the year 25th March 1714 to 25th March 1715, Wheelwright collected just over £50,000 in salt duties for the King from the salt producers at South Shields and another £38,000 in the previous year. These were huge amounts of money at the time and are testament to the efficiency of Wheelwright.
The Free Schools established by Wheelwright
Wheelwright died in 1724 whilst he was still living in North Shields. His body was brought back to Yorkshire and he was buried at Sandal Magna Church in Wakefield. Shortly before his death, he had drawn up a Will, in which he had made provision for the founding and ongoing maintenance of two Free Schools, one at Dewsbury and a larger one at Rishworth, Halifax, both specifically for the children of the poor. Free schools were basically a tax dodge and as charitable organisations, they paid no tax to the King and luckily, this loophole was rarely opposed.
In Dewsbury, Wheelwright only made provision in his Will for the education of two poor children and Richard Burnell was the first the master in-charge. Two children may seem like a small number, but in 1724 Dewsbury was a relatively small town and even by 1811 there were only 4,500 inhabitants. The first named pupil (in 1744) at Wheelwright’s school in Dewsbury was Charles Wood, the son of Abraham Wood, a tenant of one of Wheelwright’s farms in Ossett. It is likely that several other pupils had attended the Dewsbury Free School previously, but their names were not recorded.
Trouble came to the Dewsbury school when suspicions were aroused about the administration of the trust fund. It was discovered that the £100 allocated to the running of the school was being paid to several hard-up young curates based at Dewsbury Parish Church who were helping with the teaching duties at the school “within the pale of the church . . . . . . to eke out the miserable pittance vouchsafed to that worthy but unfortunate race of young men.”
By contrast, the other Free School that Wheelwright established at Rishworth made provision for 20 boys and girls. The Dewsbury school was very much the poorer relation, but after the huge boom in railways in the 19th century, this was to change somewhat. However, the Wheelwright school at Dewsbury would never achieve the prominence of Rishworth School at Halifax. In the early 19th century, much of the land that belonged to the Wheelwright Trust in Dewsbury was wanted by the railway companies who were prepared to pay high prices. Dewsbury Central Station was built in 1848 and Dewsbury was rapidly expanding as a major textile centre, specialising in the manufacture of shoddy (the recycling of old woollen items by mixing them with new wool and making them into heavy blankets or uniforms.) The Wheelwright Trust later sold land to Dewsbury Borough Council for them to build the Town Hall in 1889.
The Wheelwright Trust
In Wheelwright’s Will dated the 14th October 1724, which he made shortly before his death, there were specific instructions that his considerable estate should be administered by three trustees in the form of the Wheelwright Trust. Wheelwright was a bachelor without issue and one of the stipulations in his Will was that one of the trustees must be called Wheelwright. The first one so named was another John Wheelwright, a miller, of Norland, Halifax who was in no way related to his namesake. The other trustees were Ely Dawson, a merchant, who was living at Clay House, Greetland, which was a grand house owned by Wheelwright. The third trustee was Abraham Thomas, a clothier, of Dewsbury and who was responsible for the establishment of the Dewsbury Free School.
The chief trustee of the Trust and sole executor of Wheelwright’s Will was the miller from Norland, also called John Wheelwright and on his death his male heir was to replace him as the chief trustee. However, if there was no male heir, the other two remaining trustees had to appoint another man with the surname Wheelwright as the chief trustee. The chief trustee, who had to have the surname of Wheelwright, received an annual payment of £100, paid in four separate installments for administering the Trust. This was a considerable sum in 1724.
If the either of the other two named trustees died, then the chief trustee (Wheelwright) was charged with finding a suitable replacement. Curiously, the first person to be considered for the post had to be the man who was now the occupant of the deceased trustee’s house! If he was deemed unsuitable then Wheelwright could look further afield for trustees who were thought to be “honest, able and faithful.”
If there was any accusation that the Trust was being in some way mal-administered or if the bequests to the two schools were not being paid, the Archbishop of York was empowered in the Will to “enquire into, and rectify all and every such abuse or default and put the same again upon the footing intended, but without further power to intermeddle therein.” This suggests that John Wheelwright was on good terms with the Archbishop of York or perhaps was a patron of the Church of England?
The trustees were charged immediately with establishing a new school at Rishworth for twenty boys and girls chosen by the trustees from the poorest tenants of Wheelwright’s properties. If twenty could not be found then the trustees could make up the number by choosing children out of the poor of the Parish where the school was located. The schoolmasters were charged with teaching the children to read and write, and to prepare as many boys for the Latin language as the trustees judged to have the necessary ability. The trustees had to employ a schoolmaster for Rishworth at a salary of £50 per annum, who was skilled in the Latin and Greek languages.
In 1822, there was some controversy after all three trustees of the Wheelwright charity had died; the last one to die being Mr Wheelwright, the lead trustee, who had not appointed suitable successors as he was required to do. A Robert Wheelwright brought an action in the High Court of the Chancery against John Dyson and two others who had assumed control of the Wheelwright Trust. Robert Wheelwright claimed as his right the now vacant lead trusteeship and the right to appoint the other two trustees as per John Wheelwright’s. Will. The legal proceedings dragged on for another two years until the 28th May 1824, when William Courtney, one of the masters of the court, was charged with appointing three proper persons to be the new trustees. However, William Courtney effectively appointed four people as trustees, which was a strange decision.
The new trustees were the Rev. Charles Musgrave and George Priestley, esquire, of White Windows. However, the lead trustee was named as Mr John Wheelwright, who was formerly called Hoyle and who had assumed the name of Wheelwright by Royal Licence. Courtney also authorised the trustees to employ a Mr. James Wheelwright to manage the Charity and to pay him a sum of £100 per annum. Courtney also made the significant decision to greatly expand the school at Rishworth with a preparatory school and a grammar school being founded. As before, the Dewsbury Wheelwright School was to play a significant second fiddle to the facilities being authorised for Rishworth.
Dewsbury Wheelwright School
William Courtney did acknowledge in his 1824 court ruling that John Wheelwright had fully intended to maintain a school house and school master at Dewsbury. However, he only allowed the Wheelwright trustees to expend a sum not exceeding £100 a year in maintaining the school house there, and belonging to the Wheelwright charity. This award was to be used in paying the salary of a master and mistress to educate as large a number of boys and girls, who were the children of poor parents at Dewsbury, as the £100 a year would allow. The boys concerned were to be taught reading, writing and arithmetic, according to the national plan of education. However, the girls would be taught only “plain work”.
The £100 grant to the Dewsbury was significantly less than the sums that the Wheelwright Trust was expending at Rishworth, with provision for scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge and the £4,000 spent on building the impressive new school at Rishworth.
However, by 1830, a new school house had been built at Dewsbury, authorised by a decree of Chancery relating to the Wheelwright Trust at an expense of £600. By1837, the Wheelwright Trustees were still paying £100 per annum to the Dewsbury School, which was by now hosting 100 boys and 100 girls who were each paying one penny per week towards the cost of ink, pens and copy books. The school master at Dewsbury had a yearly salary of £50 with free accommodation in the school building and the school mistress was paid £40.
Later in the 19th century, it was clear that the people of Dewsbury needed a Grammar School for the rapidly expanding town. The nearest Grammar Schools were then at Thornhill and at Batley. Whilst people waited for a Wheelwright Grammar School to materialise out of the Wheelwright Charity, other factions formed their own establishments; the Anglicans forming St. Augustine’s Grammar School. This began in 1883 and by 1889 there were almost 50 pupils. Support dwindled in the next few years and by 1899, the school closed down.
Another experiment at higher school education was the High School for Girls which was opened in 1885 in the schoolroom of St. Mark’s Church, Halifax Road, Dewsbury, and later moved to Ashworth Road, near the railway station.
Last in the trio was Dewsbury Grammar School formed in 1884 by the Dewsbury Grammar School Limited. Each school was forced to close down eventually because of the competition later presented by the Wheelwright Grammar School or of the financial pressure forced on them by voluntary administrators.
The temporary Wheelwright was formed in 1889 in a Bond Street warehouse formerly occupied by the Dewsbury Grammar School, and in 1893 moved to the present location as the Wheelwright Grammar School. The girls occupied the upper floor of the building and the boys the ground floor.
You might have seen CH4’s adaptation of David Peace’s “Red Riding” quartet of books on television recently? The books, “1974”, “1977”, “1980” and “1983” were turned into a trilogy of two-hour films, with excerpts of “1977” featuring in all three episodes. “Yorkshire noir” is how some people have termed these ultra-dark and disturbing tales of child murder, police corruption, and the framing of Stefan Kiszko, all set to a backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders in the 1970s and early 1980s. In "1974", Eddie Dunford, the central character, is depicted as a young crime reporter working for the Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds. His parents address is given in the book as 10 Wesley Street, Ossett and his father is depicted as a tailor with a shop in the town. In fact, there used to be a B. Dunford - Tailor in Ossett. Also, in the book, Dunford is being interrogated by the police and hastily tries to make up the name of a solicitors' firm. He offers "Edward Clay & Son Ltd, Towngate, Pontefract." which the police soon work out to be false. There are constant references to Ossett in the Red Riding books and one character in "1977" is the Reverend Martin Laws who may be based on the Reverend Kenneth Laws who used to be at Holy Trinity Church in the 1970s.
The author of the “Red Riding” novels was Ossett's David Peace, who also wrote “The Damned United”, which describes Brian Clough’s disastrous 44-day reign as the manager of Leeds United in 1974. Written in a curious first-person style, “The Damned United” views the period from Clough’s perspective, although it has to be said his family and friends insist that the portrayal of Clough is totally inaccurate. The controversial film of Peace’s book has recently been released, starring Michael Sheen as Clough and Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor. Interviews with Leeds United players such as Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray, members of the 1974 team, confirm that some of the quotes attributable to Clough and used by Peace in his book are accurate.
David Peace was born in 1967, the son of Ossett primary school teachers Basil and Felicity Peace. Peace was encouraged to read at home and there was a wide variety of choice, from his mother’s religious books to his father’s huge range of contemporary novels. Peace read stuff by Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler as well as the novels of local writers such as John Braine, Alan Sillitoe and Stan Barstow (who lived in Ossett at the time).
In 1979, Peace went to Batley Grammar School, but he wasn't the archetypal academic type and was easily distracted from his studies by a fondness for comic books and punk rock. Influenced by the Leeds band Sisters of Mercy, by the age of 13, Peace had formed a band and was singing his own lyrics at pub gigs in support of the then striking miners. Coincidentally, Peace's father had been branded "Red Basil" in the local press for giving harvest festival donations to the families of striking miners rather than to needy pensioners.
During Peace's time at Batley Grammar School, Peter Sutcliffe, the "Yorkshire Ripper" was arrested in Sheffield and later brought to Dewsbury Magistrates Court for initial sentencing. Peace bunked off school to watch the angry crowds outside the court and there is no doubt that the events around those thirteen horrific Ripper murders had a major influence on him. He had lived most of his formative years in the period when thousands of men in Yorkshire were arrested and questioned by the police in their flawed search for Sutcliffe. It was a time when it was impossible to get away from news bulletins describing the murders or of pictures of the poor victims and the repeated recordings of John Humble, "Wearside Jack", the hoaxer who taunted the police on cassette tape.
Peace left Batley Grammar as soon as he could and by way of Wakefield District College, he eventually ended up at Manchester Polytechnic where he studied for a degree. For a short while, he lived in a flat on the Bull Ring in Wakefield and was a regular drinker at The College on Northgate and Henry Boon’s on Westgate. The final bloody shootout in the TV version of “1974” was supposedly in the (non-existent) Karachi Club, next to Batley Variety Club, but in the book, the finale is in the Strafford Arms on the Bull Ring in Wakefield. By 1992, Peace was disillusioned with life in the UK and he found Manchester a very unpleasant place to live. He was lonely and unemployed and says he was "sick and tired not just of Manchester, but of sitting around on the dole, drinking and spending afternoons asleep in cinemas." He decided to leave England for a job teaching English in Turkey where he stayed for a couple of years before moving to Tokyo in 1994 in an effort to clear his debts. He again found work as an English teacher in Tokyo, but by his own admission he was "quite a troubled and solitary man", but discovered he could save a lot of money by restricting his expenditure to "lavatory paper, bananas and cigarettes".
Peace had always been influenced by the blunt Northern realism depicted by writers such as Alan Sillitoe and Stan Barstow, but a bigger influence was the American author James Ellroy and his L.A. Quartet of novels set in the 1940s and 1950s - The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz. Peace wrote the first of his Red Riding quartet of novels in an old notebook after he had finished work each night. He spent long hours in the reference library at Nagatcho in central Tokyo pouring through the microfiches of British newspapers, which he used to painstakingly research the detail for his "Red Riding" novels.
Previously, during his time at Manchester Polytechnic, Peace had written his first book, which he calls the “great Manchester student novel” and it had been rejected by every publisher in the “Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook”. Moreover, he had been sent rejection letters that said “please do not send us anything again”, which must have severely knocked his confidence. However, when he was in Tokyo, Peace started writing again, mostly out of frustration and largely for himself. He wrote about the events that had happened back in West Yorkshire, portraying it as a bleak, cheerless place riddled with police corruption and horrific child murders. The result was his first novel “1974” and encouraged by his father who was visiting him in Tokyo to try his luck again, Peace found an agent in Tokyo who submitted the book to a London publisher.
In 1999, Peace exploded on to the British literary scene when the London-based independent publisher, Serpent’s Tail published the first of his Red Riding novels. Three more novels followed in quick succession about Yorkshire, “1977” in 2000, “1980” in 2001 and “1983” in 2002. The success of these books has allowed David Peace to write full-time.
After the Red Riding quartet and written in 2005 came “GB84”, which is a novel about the 1984 miners’ strike. In 2006, “The Damned United” was published describing Brian Clough’s disastrous 44-day tenure at Leeds United. In 2007, Peace published "Tokyo Year Zero", the first of his planned trilogy of novels set in Japan, which is based on the true case of Yoshio Kodaira, an ex-Imperial soldier who raped and murdered 10 women during the postwar period immediately after WW2. The next book in the trilogy is "Tokyo Occupied City", which Peace is currently working on and the last of the trilogy will be called "Tokyo: Regained."
Above: A recent photograph of David Peace
Peace lives in the eastern part of Tokyo with his Japanese wife and two children. The area where he lives was destroyed by the 1923 earthquakes and then bombed into obliteration by the Americans at the end of WW2. Before the war, the area was criss-crossed with canals, which were filled with rubble after the bombing and with the bodies of the Japanese dead. Most of the people who were killed were heaped into piles and used as landfill. As a result of his awareness of this, Peace has become fascinated with Shinto ideas of life and the after-life with ghosts from the past.
After twenty years in Japan, Peace and his family are considering returning to live in the U.K. and they will be living with relatives in Yorkshire over the summer of 2009 to see how they fare.
Peace is planning a book on Geoffrey Boycott, who he terms "the greatest living Yorkshireman" (opinions vary on that particular view). Peace says that he admires Boycott's sheer "bloody-mindedness and determination" and is intrigued by the friendship between Boycott and Brian Clough. Another four books are being researched by Peace, including a plot to overthrow Harold Wilson; the rise of Thatcherism and a reworking of the Ripper story, which Peace says is "less about the murderer and more about the harrowing of the north". They all sound like ideal subjects for David Peace's unique style of "faction".
Miss Hannah Pickard (1838-1891) was a member of a prominent Ossett textile family and lived her later life at "Green Mount", at the junction of Southdale Road and Ossett Green. 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. The Pickard family had existed in Ossett for generations.
When Miss Hannah Pickard passed away at her home, Green Mount, Ossett, on 29th June 1891, she left behind an estate worth in excess of £174,486. Hannah had inherited her fortune from her father, George Pickard, and her brothers David and Andrew. Having only one living heir, her nephew George (who died the following year aged 21), she set about making sure her wealth would be distributed near and far for the good of the poor and needy. The "Ossett Observer", dated Saturday, 11th July 1891, published a list of bequests totalling £34,950 contained in her will.
Institutions from Leeds to London were named but her home town was certainly not forgotten. Her legacy to Ossett included:
It was this last bequest which was to provide the most visual reminder of Hannah.
The Corporation chose a design by local architect Mr W. A. Kendall and a team of contractors including Messrs R. Tolson and Sons - masons, Mr P Wills - sculptor (who also supplied the granite), Mr J W Appleyard - sculptor, Leeds (who carved the figures near the base), and Messrs J Snowden & Son – plumbers, who carried out the work.
Above: The Pickard Fountain, Ossett circa 1900.
The "Ossett Observer" dated Saturday 28th October 1893 described the fountain and the opening ceremony:
"It occupies a conspicuous position near the centre of the Market Place, and is a very ornamental structure. Standing on a circular base of Aberdeen granite, the fountain itself is mainly of Bolton Wood stone, enriched with figures and other carving; but the shaft and massive bowl are of polished Peterhead granite. On the shaft is carved a lion (which is the crest of the Pickard family), the borough arms, and the following inscription:"
'"This fountain is the gift of the late Miss Hannah Pickard, of this town, to the Corporation of Ossett for the benefit of the inhabitants and was erected in 1893. W A Kendall, architect.” The whole is about 15 feet high, and four gas lamps are attached to the upper portion. The water flows into the bowl already mentioned, and from thence into four drinking troughs for cattle and as many smaller ones for dogs."'
The opening ceremony took place on Saturday, 21st October 1893. The Mayor, Cllr. F. L. Fothergill was the guest of honour. The "Ossett Observer" set the scene:
“The members and officials of the Corporation, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, Tradesmans’ Association, and Cooperative Society, with other gentlemen, met at the Temperance Hall, and, headed by the Borough Band, walked in procession to the fountain, which was surrounded by a crowd of two or three thousand spectators.
The Town Clerk (Mr Willie Brook) read two letters, which had been addressed by Mr J J Jackson, one of Miss Pickard’s executors, to the architect. The first stated that the executors were unable to attend, and suggested that the Mayor should undertake the opening. The second, which was dated 8th September, intimated that, owing to a sharp attack of bronchitis, there was no chance of the writer’s attending the ceremony, but trusted that everything would pass off well and that the good folks of Ossett would be pleased with the results of Mr Kendall’s labours. Mr Brook also read an extract from Miss Pickard’s will.
The band then played “Auld lang syne.”
The Mayor, in official robe and chain, informed those gathered that:
"Although he had not known the late Miss Pickard personally, he was informed that she was a very benevolent lady, always good to the poor, and they had some proof in the fact that she had bequeathed five sums of £1,000 each for the relief of the poor in her native town, and also two sums of £2,100 each for the foundation of scholarships. He trusted that the fountain would be kept in order and long remain an ornament to the town and not be allowed to become a nuisance as some people rather feared might be the case. The water was then turned on, and his worship filled one of the drinking cups and drank prosperity to the borough. His example was followed by several others."
Other Councillors also spoke highly of Hannah and her generosity. Alderman Clay said:
"…the donor of this chaste and beautiful fountain was a lady of very kindly and benevolent disposition, as shown by the large sums which she had bequeathed to charities, not merely in Ossett, but in other parts of the country. Her kindness in this instance had been shown by providing one of the essentials of life for man and beast. He hoped that the fountain would stand as a memorial of her goodness and generosity for many generations to come, and that the inhabitants generally would endeavour to preserve it in all its beauty. He trusted also that other ladies and gentlemen who had the means would endeavour to beautify their native town."
Alderman Wilson moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor and also spoke in complimentary terms of the design and construction of the fountain. Alderman Mitchell seconded the motion and added that:
"…other wealthy persons in Ossett had died, and their money had gone out of the town; but Miss Pickard had bequeathed large sums for the benefit of the inhabitants. The late Mr Gunson, of Scarborough, an Ossett gentleman, had also made provision for the erection of some almshouses. He hoped that others would follow suit in leaving a portion of their wealth to the town in which it had been made. The resolution was carried by acclamation."
The Mayor replied that it had been a pleasure to him to perform the task and that he considered the fountain a credit to the architect and contractors, indeed everyone who had had a hand in its construction. Councillor J. W. Smith motioned and Mr W. Patterson, president of the Chamber of Commerce seconded a vote of thanks to the architect and contractors. Mr. Kendall briefly replied on behalf of the contractors and himself.
"…the old stocks used to stand on the site of the fountain, but he was pleased to see the old bogey replaced by something more beautiful to look upon and useful to both man and beast. A nobler woman than Miss Pickard had never lived, and had she lived longer she would have been a yet greater blessing to the poor of the borough. He hoped that her example might do something to spur others who were quite as able but not so willing (a laugh).
The band then played the National Anthem and the procession returned to the Temperance Hall, where nearly 30 gentlemen were entertained at tea by the Mayor. At the conclusion of the repast, several complimentary speeches were made, and thanks accorded to his worship."
It must have been quite a spectacle to see. Unfortunately, the sentiments of the Mayor and Alderman Clay were to be fairly short lived as, by the early 1950s, the fountain no longer had its ornate lamps and the water troughs had been converted into flower beds. Sadly, in the late 1950s the decision was made to remove the fountain from the town centre. It was eventually relocated to Green Park where it remained until 2007. After suffering vandalism and neglect, a decision was made by Wakefield District Council to scrap the fountain. Most of it was given to a landscape gardener, Adrian Richardson, who took it to his farm in Sharlston.
Helen Bickerdike, May 2016
In the cold winter months of 1846, a baby son Eli was born to a hand-loom weaver, Mathew Henry Townend and his new wife Hannah who lived in a small cottage in old Church Street, near the centre of the town of Ossett. Eli Townend was baptised at the Old Church in Ossett on the 15th March 1846. 23 year-old Matthew Townend had married Hannah Harrop at Dewsbury in the summer of 1845. Eli was to be the first of their family of seven children.1
Sadly, Eli Townend had a bad start to life when he was born with a serious impediment to his eyesight, which made it impossible for him to learn how to read and write. The Townend family were desperately poor with many mouths to feed and young Eli never attended school. This was before the days of compulsory education and his parents couldn't afford the one penny a day to send him to one of the schools in the town.
Eli Townend later recalled his childhood days in one of his speeches:2
“This was when the families of working men rarely saw new milk, never saw butter and seldom touched meat and when the head of the family earned 12 shillings a week for nine months and nothing for the remaining months.”
Eli's father Matthew died in 1870 at the early age of 48 and Matthew's wife Hannah also died some three years later aged 49; their lives probably shortened by poor diet, disease and the primitive health care of the times. From this uncompromising start Eli Townend was destined to become one of Ossett's most notable and successful citizens. A noted philanthropist and people's champion, Townend became a wealthy factory owner who devoted over forty years of his life to serving the public of Ossett and was fondly remembered when he died in July 1910.
When Eli was 8 or 9 years of age, and to supplement their meagre income, his parents became caretakers of the “Saloon” on Bank Street, which was not a drinking establishment modelled on those in the American wild west, but was in fact a Temperance club, more often referred to as “t'owd saloon” by the Ossett locals.3 In the 19th century, Ossett people had a strong tradition of support for the Temperance movement, where the drinking of any alcohol was eschewed in favour of teetotalism. The “Saloon” was open to all classes of people, but was patronised largely by working men who went there in the evenings to play board games such as whist, chess and draughts; to read the daily newspapers and to discuss the topics of the day.
It was here that young Eli developed his remarkable mental faculties by listening to the conversations of the patrons, analysing what was being discussed and eventually storing a huge fund of knowledge on many varied subjects in his receptive young mind. Eli Townend would constantly add to this knowledge and use it to very good effect in later life.
SUCCESS IN BUSINESS
Eli Townend's rise in the world was rapid, but his first few jobs were menial. As a lad, Townend started work at an early age, doing any available job that was suitable for someone with very weak eyesight. When the “Ossett Observer” was first published in 1864 by Mr. T.R. Beckett, it was 15 year-old Eli Townend who operated the handle on the primitive printing press.
He continued this task for on a weekly basis for for some time afterwards. Townend's connection with the “Ossett Observer” continued in other ways long after that employment ceased and it was he that that laid the foundation stone of the Borough Printing Works, the opening ceremony taking place at six o'clock in the morning. In fact, for 25 years, Townend saved every issue of the “Ossett Observer” and subsequently presented the bound volumes to Ossett Library.
Coming back to Eli Townend's early work experience; he worked for a time at Healey Old Mill and then as a rag grinder for Mr. Henry Westwood, who had successfully contracted for the rag grinding at the Ellis Brothers' Victoria Mill. However, always seeking to improve his lot, Townend started to supplement his earnings by establishing an early take-away food business by selling hot peas to hungry pub-goers who were wending their way home after an evening's drinking in the many hostelries around Ossett. In the 1860s, wearing the cotton smock, which he only discarded as part of his normal daily wear when he retired from business forty years later, Eli Townend was a familiar figure to the residents of Ossett with his billy can of hot peas in the Market Place.
Townend was probably heavily influenced by his time at the Temperance Saloon because in his earlier days he was a teetotaller and non-smoker. This lasted until he was 35 years of age, but he always declared that he was “a teetotaller in principle, only lacking in practice.”
Always thrifty, Townend saved the money from his work as a rag grinder and from his hot pea venture until the real turning point came in his career. He saw and, importantly understood, how some enterprising Ossett men were doing well in the rag business, which was taking over from cloth production in the town as the main commercial activity. Townend speculated and spent all his savings on buying a bale of rags, which he then sold on at a good profit.
At first, Townend was in partnership with a friend and the business blossomed. Eventually, the partnership was dissolved and Eli continued in his own right for another 30 years or so as Messrs. Eli Townend from 1870 at Healey Low Mills as a mungo and shoddy manufacturer. Townend was a tenant of Healey Low Mill, but didn't own the place outright. Although the business was established before the great rush of competition began and during a period of good profits, Townend was able to steer the company through some difficult periods in the intervening years with a mixture of shrewdness, sound judgement, hard work and careful business methodology.
As a businessman, Eli Townend had a reputation for straight dealing. With him, a personal undertaking was as good a security as a legal bond and he gained the complete confidence in those with whom he dealt.
As an employer, he maintained excellent relations with his work people and whilst he required a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, he used to say that a request for an increase in wages was an offence to him, because when a man's work was worth more, he did not need asking. In 1900, Eli Townend retired from business, handing over control of the firm to his youngest brother George Townend.
At the same time, in July 1900, Messrs. Eli Townend joined the Extract Wool and Merino Co. Ltd. syndicate, which amalgamated several other Ossett mungo & shoddy businesses such as Giggal & Clay, Jessop Brothers and Fitton & Sons (based in Earlsheaton, but the Fittons lived in Ossett) in order to maximise buying power and to reduce business overheads.4 The firm was still trading as “Mesrrs. Eli Townend” as late as 1927. 5
Eli Townend married Ossett girl Sarah Ann Lockwood in the March 1868 quarter in the Dewsbury Registration District (probably in Ossett). They had at least four children: Emma born in 1868, Hannah born in 1873, a son Harvey born in 1875 and Ada born in 1877. Sarah Ann Townend died in the June quarter of 1898 aged 55 and Townend married his second wife Eleanor Clarkson in the September quarter of 1898, just a few months after his first wife had died. Eleanor herself died in Huddersfield, aged 48 in 1908.
In the 1881 and 1891 censuses, Eli Townend was listed as a mungo manufacturer living with his family at “Calder Villa” in Healey Lane not far from Healey Low Mill. By 1901, he is living with his new wife Eleanor and son Harvey at “Calder Villa”, but now as a retired mungo manufacturer. It is thought that “Calder Villa” in Healey Road was long-since knocked down, but in Townend's time the house had huge greenhouses and all kinds of interesting plants and ornaments in the garden. When Eli Townend died in 1910 he left his house to his son Harvey Townend.
Eli Townend's younger brother Frank Townend also started out in Ossett as a rag merchant, but after a family fall-out, he moved to Cut End Mill in Dewsbury and then later bought Spring Mill at Carlinghow, Batley in 1903. The billhead dated 1927 to the left suggests that Frank Townend & Sons were doing quite well at Spring Mill, which clearly was quite an extensive operation. Two of Eli's brothers, Walter Townend and Harrop Townend were also rag merchants in Ossett. Youngest brother George Townend was part of the Eli Townend business management team at Healey Low Mill.
Although Townend wasn't able to write anything more than his own signature and was never able to read, this didn't deter him from a lifelong quest for knowledge. He simply got his family and friends to read to him from books and newspapers. This greatly increased his already formidable intellectual capacity, which was limited in his youth by the handicap to his eyesight that dogged his life. Greater wealth allowed him to indulge in a passion for foreign travel and he visited several European countries, Egypt and the USA. On all these visits he collected mementoes of his journeys including many rare specimens. He collected among other things a valuable museum of natural history specimens housed in the greenhouses at his “Grange View” home on Healey Road.
A LONG PUBLIC CAREER
Townend was to commence an impressive public career in 1882, in his mid-thirties, when he was elected as a member of the Ossett Local Board and the Dewsbury Board of Guardians (who dealt with the Poor Law at the Dewsbury Workhouse, which included the Ossett poor.) Always a controversial figure, largely because of his negative stance on the vaccination of children against diseases such as smallpox, Townend's election to the Ossett Local Board was opposed by those who didn't know him better or appreciate his abilities. In his election address to the Local Board he protested against the “scurrilous assertions and slanderous statements, which are freely scattered”, assertions which as the “Ossett Observer” remarked at the time, “he appeared to have suffered less than his fellow candidates for his severest critic in print admitted him to be a man of undoubted energy and ability.” This was an accurate description, for on the Local Board, Townend proved to be one of the most active and progressive members. He possessed a ready flow of blunt yet vigorous language, a rough but keen humour and with a good strong voice, he was an able and telling speaker.
One of his first important acts at the Ossett Local Board was to join those calling for the construction of public offices and, in 1906, the Town Hall was finally built. Although supposedly a Liberal in politics, Townend demonstrated socialist ideals well before socialism and the Labour Party were fashionable. For example, in a time when most working class people rented the property that they lived in, he pressed for rates to be levied on the owners of the property instead of the occupants. Similarly, Townend wanted manufacturers to pay water bills, maintaining that otherwise the working classes would suffer hardship. He wanted public baths and recreation grounds building in Ossett and was the lead proponent for the purchase of the Wesley House estate for a public park and public offices following the death of William Gartside. Not always successful in some of his lofty aims, nevertheless he was a strong supporter for a School Board and for a public cemetery. He remarked in one of his characteristic speeches that if sanitation continued to improve, the cost of which was “saved in coffins”, then a cemetery would not be needed because “they had got the death rate to 10½ (per thousand head of population) and if they knocked that off, they would all live forever.” Following a fire at a local mill, he proposed that the question of purchasing a steam fire engine should be referred to a “thinking committee”. He strongly supported the first resolution passed by the Ossett Local Board in favour of applying for a Charter of Incorporation. However, in a speech in which he said that the dignity of municipal borough was desirable as long as there was nothing extra to pay for it. For one of Ossett's greatest improvements, the construction of Station Road, Townend was on the the side of the opponents, who were strongly against the scheme. Upon the incorporation of the borough in 1890 he was elected one of the first members, but on the expiration of his term of office, he did not seek re-election, retiring from public life altogether, but he was prevailed upon to become a member a candidate in 1903, and he continued to sit until his death.
In October 1889, Townend, now calling himself an Independent Liberal candidate, was elected a member of West Riding County Council and later, after the death of Mr. John J. Mitchell an Alderman. He was elected in the face of considerable opposition from amongst others, the Medical Officer of Ossett's Local Board, Dr. John W. Greenwood, who at a selection meeting proposed “that Mr. Townend is not a fit and proper person to represent the division on the County Council for the next three years.” Townend had strong, even extreme views on many subjects, but particularly on compulsory vaccination. He and his brothers were fined for not allowing their children to be vaccinated and this was the root of Dr. Greenwood's opposition to Townend. Other Ossett notables of the time such as Mark Wilby and Charles T. Phillips were also strongly opposed to Eli Townend being their representative on the West Riding County Council. However, Townend had strong support from the Ossett Conservatives led by his uncle, Gawthorpe schoolmaster, Benjamin Harrop.6 Once successfully elected, Townend lobbied for the management of the Poor Law to be transferred to the County Councils.
At one period of his life, he was a member of the Ossett Local Board (which met fortnightly), the Dewsbury Board of Guardians (1882 -1894) and the West Riding County Council and on each of these bodies he was known for his strongly independent attitude. Though wealthy himself, Townend respected neither wealth or person. A “son of the soil”, his sympathies were always with the working classes. As a member of the Local Board and the Board of Guardians, he fought many a protracted battle on their behalf. As a guardian, his sympathies with the poor who applied for relief were profound and usually exceeded his legal mandate. He opposed salary increases for Workhouse officials, insisting that the poor rate was for poor people and not to pay their exorbitant salaries and to him, money spent on lawyers was money thrown away. This made him popular and he was assured of being elected to any office where Ossett people had the power to elect him. A formidable opponent in local elections, Townend was always elected at the top of the poll (with only one exception), or returned unopposed. However, he declined the chairmanship of the Local Board and the opportunity to become the mayor of Ossett.
From what has been written, it is easy to see how Eli Townend made many political enemies with his uncompromising stance on life. However, this was a man who practised what he preached and this excerpt from his obituary in the “Ossett Observer” reveals his true philanthropic nature:
“But perhaps the phase of his character which earned him most of the respect and popularity in which he was held was his large-heartedness and his extreme generosity to those in need. His bluff, rugged exterior; the robust humour which, especially in the time of his vigour, was a marked characteristic; his independent, freelance, hail-fellow-well-met attitude, were combined with a tender gentleness towards those in circumstances the hardship of which he himself had felt. To hear of a needy case was to put his hand, often deeply, in his pocket, and he heard of them frequently for he was the one to whom scores nay, hundreds of persons turned for assistance in their difficulties. To render it was to him a pleasure. At Christmas, it was his practice to distribute blankets and coals among poor persons who were in receipt of poor-law relief. He has given as many as ninety or a hundred loads of coal in a year in this way. Only last Christmas, we believe the number was about ninety. Every local cause, which had for its object the relief of suffering had in him a liberal supporter. He was the mainstay of the Ossett District Nursing Association, an organisation in which he took a deep interest, subscribing handsomely to its funds. Public celebrations were several times made the occasion for liberality towards the old or poor folk of the borough, or the children, the latter of whom, as well as the former had in him a good friend. During his membership of the Dewsbury Board of Guardians, the inmates of the workhouse had reason for regarding him in the same light. On one occasion, all the workhouse children were conveyed to his residence in Healey-road and there entertained by him. It may be stated on good authority that his charitable dispensations in these ways amounted to several hundred pounds annually, over a long period of years.”
DEATH AND THE FUNERAL
Eli Townend died on Saturday, 16th July 1910, aged 65, after several years of failing health that had caused him to sometimes miss taking his seat on Ossett Town Council. Latterly, his condition had gradually become worse and he was rarely able to venture from home. His heart was failing and he suffered from bronchitis. The end was hastened by a stoppage of the bowels and a day or two before he died, his condition became critical, causing him to lapse into a coma. At this stage, there was no hope and he never rallied, dying about seven o'clock on Saturday morning. His death caused widespread regret among the people of Ossett.
Eli Townend was interred at the Wesleyan Burial Ground, South Parade, Ossett on Tuesday, 19th July 1910. The flag at the Town Hall was hoisted at half-mast and a muffled bell was tolling. Flags floated at half-mast over Ossett Liberal Club and on other building in the town. Blinds were drawn on many of the houses lining the route of the cortège. Near his house in Healey Lane, a large number of people, mostly dressed in funeral clothes, watched the funeral procession and hundreds if others watched the cortège on its way to the burial ground. The procession was an unusually long one; the longest of this sort remembered in Ossett at the time. There were between thirty and forty mourning carriages bearing the chief mourners as well as members and officials of other public organisations, the work people from Messrs. Eli Townend, friends and acquaintances of the deceased as well as many representatives from business firms in the Heavy Woollen District. A large number of beautiful floral wreathes were received and filled two of the carriages.
In the vicinity of the burial ground a large crowd assembled. The service, both in the chapel and at the graveside was conducted by the Rev. C.S. Reader, superintendent minister. Owing to the large number of persons attending the funeral, the public were excluded from the burial ground during the service. Several members of the Oak and Ivy Lodge of U.A.O.D. of which the deceased was an honorary member and some of the oldest workmen of Messrs. Eli Townend acted as bearers. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. G. Heald.
Eli Townend left £34,000, a considerable sum in 1910, as well as several Ossett properties, in addition to his home in Healey Road “Calder Villa”. In the 1911 Census, Eli's second wife Eleanor is recorded as a widow still living at “Calder Villa” with stepson Harvey Townend.
When Thomas Pierrepoint removed the safety pin from the gallows at Strangeways Prison at 9 a.m. on the 24th June 1926, the diminutive figure of 31 year-old Mrs. Louie Calvert dropped through the hatch and in 20 seconds her life had ebbed away at the end of a hangman's rope. Resigned to her fate after her conviction in court, she went to her maker quietly and in dignified fashion. Louie Calvert was one of the few British women ever to to be hanged and this was the first female hanging at Strangeways since that of Mary Ann Britland in 1886.
Her tragically short life had never been easy and Louie Calvert (nee Gomersal) had been dodging the long arm of the law ever since she was sixteen years of age. She had given birth to two children: a girl Annie and a son Kenneth, both out of wedlock, whilst she worked as a prostitute in the seedy parts of Leeds. There's no doubt that she led a double life, fabricated by a web of intricate lies and she alternated almost "Walter Mitty" like between a make believe world as a Salvation Army convert and the grim reality of scratching out a life in industrial Leeds after WW1. When you anlayse her story, sometimes it is hard to decide who really was the victim. Did Louie Calvert really murder two people or was she so mad, bad and committed to petty crime that the judge and both the prosecution and defence lawyers effectively gave up on her?
Louie Gomersal was born in Ossett on the 11th January 1895, the daughter of woollen weaver Smith Gomersal and his wife Annie Elizabeth (nee Clark). She was baptised at All Saint's Church, Wakefield on the 14th April 1895. In 1901, the Gomersal family were living at Glenholme Terrace in Gawthorpe. Louie was the fourth of five children in the family. By 1911, the family had moved to live in nearby Pickersgill Street, and Smith Gomersal was now working as a caretaker.
At the age of sixteen, in 1911, Louie Gomersal was bound over at Dewsbury Magistrates Court for two offences of theft. This was just the start of her criminal career, and in July 1912, aged 17 years, she was sentenced to a year in Borstal for two more offences of theft, this time in Batley. Louie Gomersal was short, thin, undernourished, not particularly attractive and coarse in manners. In fact she was less than five feet tall, but what she lacked in height, she made up for in assertiveness by way of a very strong personality. It was said that some people found her intimidating and they were genuinely scared of her.
Left: A 1920s prostitute waiting for a customer, but this is not Louie Gomersal. To date, no picture has been found of her, since her trial occurred during the General Strike when no newspapers were printed.
After leaving her home in Ossett, Louie Gomersal moved to Leeds, where she lived a hand-to-mouth existence as a prostitute. In about 1916, she gave birth to an illegitimate child called Annie, who went to live with Louie's sister in Ossett. She also had a second child in 1919, a boy called Kenneth on whom she doted. Louie was fond of using an alias and for the Salvation Army meetings she sometimes attended, she used the name Mrs. Louise Jackson and also Edith Thompson when she was on the game.
In 1922, Louie using her "respectable" alias of Mrs. Louise Jackson, went to work as a housekeeper for 49 year-old John W. Frobisher, who lived in Mercy Street, lying between St. Philips Street and Wellington Lane, near the city centre of Leeds. On the 12th July 1922, Frobisher's lifeless body was found 400 yards away from his house, near Monk Bridge, floating face down in the Leeds - Liverpool canal. He had a fractured skull and a massive head wound. Bizarrely, although he was found in the water fully clothed, Frobisher's boots were missing.
Although suspicion fell on Louie Gomersal initially, the police did not investigate further. At the inquest, Louie appeared and she stated that she had pawned John Frobisher's boots. Had Frobisher walked to the canal with no boots on? He lived a quarter of a mile away from the canal, yet the inquest recorded a verdict of death by misadventure and it was assumed that he had simply drowned. Louie continued to live in Frobisher's Mercy Street house until she was evicted a few months after his death for the non-payment of rent.
Above: Mercy Street, Leeds. The home of John Frobisher who was found dead in the Leeds-Liverpool canal on the 12th July 1922.
Arty Calvert, a poor night-watchman lived at 7, Railway Place in the Pottery Fields area of Hunslet, Leeds. In 1924, Louie went to live with Arty, ostensibly as his housekeeper, taking along her five year-old son Kenneth. Soon Louie and Arty were sleeping together and, after a while, Louie claimed that she was pregnant by him. Arty Calvert was old-fashioned and decided to do what he saw as being the right thing, so he offered to marry Louie. In the summer of 1925, the couple married in Hunslet, Leeds. Meanwhile, Louie managed to play out the deception that she was pregnant for some time. When no baby arrived. Louie initiated an elaborate web of lies. She wrote a note to herself, which she showed to the poor unsuspecting Arty, claiming it was from her sister in Ossett whom had invited her to stay during her confinement. After a brief visit to Ossett, she sent Arty a telegram to say that she had arrived, but in fact Louie had by then returned to Leeds.
Somehow, to keep the deception going, Louie had to produce a baby and she did so by the simple means of advertising in the local Leeds paper, offering to adopt a newborn child. A teenager from Pontefract had recently given birth to a baby girl and her mother saw Louie's advert in the paper. Giving birth to an illegitimate child in the 1920s was regarded much differently to today and there was great stigma attached to such events, which were all too common. Adoption provided a way out for the Pontefract girl and her mother. It didn't take long to arrange for the baby girl, who had been named Dorothy, to be handed over to Louie Calvert. Pretending the little girl was hers, and to explain her absence, she told Arty that the newborn was in hospital.
Instead of being at her sister's home, Louie Calvert had actually taken up lodgings just two miles away from her husband's house at Amberley Road, Leeds with 40 year-old widow, Mrs. Lily Waterhouse, a part-time prostitute and psychic, who to make ends meet rented out a spare room to working girls. Lily Waterhouse's husband George had died aged 59 years about a year previously. She now lived in grinding poverty and squalor in the tiny rented terraced house with wooden boxes serving as tables, bare plaster walls and bare floorboards, except for newspapers under the mattress. Mrs. Waterhouse had been in poor health for some time and her post mortem revealed that she suffered with both scabies and body lice. Despite her ill-health, she survived mainly by prostitution and often entertained gentlemen back at the house. It was reported in one of the local newspapers by one correspondent that "she was suffering from a social disease", which was a euphemism for some kind of venereal disease, although Lily's post mortem didn't substantiate this claim. It is easy for us to look critically at the morality of Lily Waterhouse, but these were very difficult times during a period of industrial unrest and staggering poverty. Making ends meet would have been difficult for a 40 year-old widow.
Above: Amberley Road, Wortley, Leeds, where Louie Calvert murdered Lily Waterhouse.
Louie Calvert's role was to act as some kind of maid servant or companion for Mrs. Waterhouse, though as we see later, they worked together as prostitutes. Unfortunately, the two women soon proved to be incompatible and to make matters worse Louie refused to do any housework, and then started stealing Lily's bedding and crockery, which she pawned. Discovering the thefts, Lily Waterhouse went to the police in Leeds to complain that her belongings had been stolen. Detective-Sergeant John Holland was assigned to interview Mrs. Waterhouse on the 31st March 1926, and he was well aware of her minor notoriety. Proceedings were started against Louie Calvert for theft, but that same night Mrs Lily Waterhouse was murdered. The killing had been a brutal one involving a "prolonged struggle before the knock out blow" and a "penetrating wound down to the bone" at the back of the head prior to strangulation. Lily had also been tied up.
Several neighbours heard the sound of a disturbance and loud banging from inside Mrs. Waterhouse's house. Shortly after the commotion stopped, Louie left the house with the baby and was carrying a canvas bag with some crockery in it. One of the neighbours, a Mrs. Clayton commented to Louie that she had heard Mrs. Waterhouse making strange noises. Louie replied "Yes, I have left her in bed crying because I am leaving her." Louie Calvert then caught the tram back to her marital home and her unsuspecting husband Arty.
Later that evening a policeman called at Amberley Road to find out why Mrs. Waterhouse hadn't returned to the police station to sign the complaint she had made against Louie Calvert. After hearing about the strange noises from the neighbours, the policeman obtained a key and let himself in. There he found Lily Waterhouse lying on her bed, with her hands tied, battered about the head and strangled to death. She was fully dressed, except for her boots, which were missing. There was no sign of a struggle and the dust in the room had not been disturbed, suggesting she had been killed elsewhere and carried to her room once dead. The killer had cut up some cloth to tie Lily's hands and feet, yet there must have been something else used to strangle her because the ligature marks around her neck were wider than those caused by the strips of cloth.
At last Arty had his wife back, and also what he thought was his baby, little Dorothy. This was a brief happy time for the Calverts. Unknown to him and bordering on the unbelievable, Louie had gone back to Amberley Road at 5 a.m. the next morning and filled a large suitcase with the few possessions left in Lily Waterhouse's home. Her compulsion to steal hadn't been diminished by the horrors of the previous evening and by the murder of Lily Waterhouse. Several neighbours at Amberley Road had seen Louie Calvert leaving the house at 5:30 a.m. with a large suitcase. Arty Calvert was also surprised to see the suitcase, that had not been there the night before, in the downstairs room when he got up the next morning. Even more surprisingly, when she returned to Amberley Road to steal more things, Louie had left a note to say she was collecting items that had been given to her by Lily Waterhouse. Had she not done that, there is a real possibility that she could have escaped undetected. Lily Waterhouse's neighbours had no idea who she was and she had only been at the house about three weeks.
The police in the form of Detective-Inspector Pass soon tracked down Louie Calvert and made their way to the marital home at Railway Place in Hunslet. When Louie opened the door, she was wearing Lily Waterhouses's boots and scarf. Maybe this was an echo of something that happened four years previously when her then employer John Frobisher had been found face down in the Leeds - Liverpool canal with his head bashed in and also missing his boots. The police worked quickly and efficiently and found Lily Waterhouse's few possessions in the house and in the suitcase. Louie was arrested, but crucially not charged until 24 hours later, which formed the basis of an appeal later on.
Remanded in Armley Prison, and by now an ugly, wizened woman of 31 years without a tooth in her head, Louie was finally brought to trial at Leeds Assizes on the 6th and 7th May 1926, where, after a two-day court case, she was found guilty of the murder of Mrs. Lily Waterhouse. With the prisoner condemned by the jury, the judge Mr. Justice Wright, had few reservations about imposing the mandatory death sentence on the woman that stood in the dock before him. It was said that Louie Calvert received the notice of the death penalty with an air of calm indifference.
During her incarceration, Louie Calvert was described as below by the prison authorities:
"The prisoner has been known as a prostitute of a low type in Leeds for some years. She has a bad record of theft and house breaking that started from the age of 15. She has two illegitimate children aged 9 and 6 years. The prisoner is idle and of very dirty habits."
Details of the trial are almost non-existent. Transcripts have not survived and there were no newspaper reports after the General Strike ended. Some information has been forthcoming from her Appeal, held on the 7th June 1926, which was fought on the grounds that "she was not charged within 24 hours after her arrest" and that during that time, she was subjected to an amount of questioning that exceeded what was allowable.
The appeal failed and the Lord Chief Justice responded that "nothing in the present case suggested that the police had gone beyond their duty." He also felt that his summing up had been both "clear and fair". He further commented that "Calvert did not give evidence, although her defence was that she was NOT the person who killed Mrs. Waterhouse." Clearly, Lord Chief Justice failed to maintain a neutral attitude towards the fact that Louie waived her right to give evidence on her own behalf. He concluded the hearing by dismissing her appeal without calling upon the Crown to argue, and without legal obligation to consider the fact that 25 witnesses had appeared for the prosecution, whilst NONE had appeared for the defence. It seems likely that the Judge and the Defence deemed it likely that Louie Calvert was an unsuitable witness who would not make a good impression on the jury due to her social class, lack of education, personality and general demeanour.
Louie's final act of desperation was to tell one more lie in the court room in a last bid to save herself by claiming that she was pregnant. Whilst it was hard to find any redeeming features with Louie's personality, there was plenty of opposition to her hanging. Mr. J. Lambert, a Leeds City Councillor who observed the trial declared that he was "full of pity for the poor woman, whether she was guilty or not. She was a thin, wan-looking creature only weighing a few stones. I should never legislate on the lines of hanging for women." Meanwhile, Dr. Watts an MP, felt sufficiently concerned about Louie's supposed pregnancy to raise the issue with the Home Secretary through a Parliamentary question. Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the Secretary of State answered that: "Any doubt which may have existed as to the prisoner's condition has since been dispelled, and it is now certain that there was no pregnancy."
Nevertheless, as the date of Louie's execution drew nearer, strenuous efforts were made to obtain a reprieve. The Labour MP for Consett, the Reverend Sir Herbert Dunnico organised a petition, which was signed by 3,000 people, many from Louie's home town of Ossett. There was also a motion for an address praying His Majesty the King to exercise his Royal Prerogative in the case of Louie Calvert, signed by six Labour MPs. However, it was all to no avail and Louie Calvert was moved to Strangeways Prison in Manchester to await her fate.
Whilst awaiting her execution, Louie Calvert wrote her "Life Story", which included her account of the events surrounding the death of Lily Waterhouse:
"I got into the company of the young women with whose death I am charged. We used to go out at night and visit public houses with the intention of getting hold of any man who had money, to get them drunk, then rob them of any money they had left. The last Sunday I was there, this woman brought a man home supposed to be a soldier from Beckett's Park hospital for wounded soldiers. After he had been there a few days we began to quarrel about him. She wanted him, and he wanted me, but I wanted neither. I wanted to leave them and go home again as it was beginning to get a little bit too hot. The detectives were on our tracks and we couldn't go out without them pulling up and getting us fined.
Well, on the Wednesday night, the day I was going to leave her, we went out and had a few drinks with this man and he fetched half a dozen pints of beer and stout home. After about half an hour we all started to quarrel and it got to fighting. Oh, the drink, it is the ruination of everything, for we do lots of things in drink and temper that we are most sorry for afterwards. Well he said something nasty to her and she landed out with her fist at him and they both rolled on the floor. When she got up and struck out again, I picked up the poker, which happened to be the nearest thing to me and my intention was to strike the man and make him leave off hitting her. Instead it struck her on the head through him dodging out of the road and she fell dead at our feet. He went mad and then got hold of a belt, strangled her and carried her upstairs. I got out and got home. God knows how I did it. I don't."
Louie's account makes it quite clear that a man was present at the killing. A Home Office memo confirmed that the legal teams at the trial had knowledge of the man being present at Amberley Road prior to her trial, a fact borne out by the neighbours of Mrs. Waterhouse who had seen the man. The police, when they visited Louie Calvert on the day after the murder, had found a piece of paper in her handbag with the (Canadian) address of a man called Crabtree and enquiry was made regarding the recent movements of a miner named Frederick Crabtree, who was an out-patient at Beckett's Park hospital.
Despite this evidence being provided by the Leeds police, when the Prison Governor passed Louie's "Life Story" to the Home Office after her conviction, a civil servant noted "this is the first time the prisoner has told her story." Fred Crabtree was actually summoned to appear in court as a witness, but he was never called.
Above: Strangeways Prison where Louie Calvert was hanged and where she was buried in an unmarked grave.
Louie's last request, before she was executed, was to see her 6 year-old son Kenneth and this was granted on her last afternoon when Arthur Calvert, her husband and Leah, her sister-in-law with young Kenneth all came to say goodbye. The meeting lasted half an hour and at the end, when the boy pathetically appealed to his mother to come home, he was told that she had to go to London to see the Queen.
On the 24th June 1926, the day of the execution at Strangeways Prison, a crowd of around 500 people gathered outside the prison walls. A little later than the usual time of 8 a.m. and upon a signal from the Prison governor, Thomas Pierrepoint, Britain's most established hangman entered Louie's cell, accompanied by two male prison warders. A woman warder told her to stand up and Pierrepoint took her arms and quickly strapped her wrists behind her back with a leather strap and then led the way out of the cell. Louie was led into the execution chamber and stopped whilst Pierrepoint marked out the letter "T" precisely over the divide of the trap doors. Pierrepoint's assistant William Willis then put leather straps around her ankles and thighs. A white handkerchief was placed on her head, followed by a hood.
Pierrepoint slipped the safety pin out and the trap doors opened. Louie Calvert was dead in less than twenty seconds and at about nine o'clock, a strange hush fell upon a section of the crowd when a bell inside the prison began to toll in faint, ghastly tones to announce that the deed had been done.
Looking back on all the evidence, it has to be said that there must be some serious doubts about Louie Calvert's conviction for the murder of Lily Waterhouse. Was Fred Crabtree really the murderer? There was little sympathy from the Lord Chief Justice given her criminal past and her appearance. However, there seems little doubt from Louie's confession in her condemned cell that she murdered John Frobisher in July 1922. Sadly, we shall never know the truth about what really happened at Amberley Road.
1. Gomersal family data - courtesy of Alan Howe, Ossett
2. "Yorkshire's Murderous Women - Two Centuries of Killings" by Stephen Wade
3. "Reconceptualizing Critical Victimology: Interventions and Possibilities" by Dale Spencer and Sandra Walklate
4. "Dead Women Walking - Executed Women in England and Wales 1900 - 1955" by Annette Ballinger, a thesis submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, September 1997.
5. "Daughters Of Cain: The Stories of Eight Women Executed since Edith Thompson in 1923" by Renee Huggett and Paul Berry
Stephen Wilson - April 2016
Thomas Tomlinson Cussons.
Thomas Tomlinson Cussons was born in Hull in 1838. He was the son of George Cussons and his wife Jane (nee Moss). He moved into Ossett in July 1880, taking over the chemist business of Mr Richard Moore. Prior to this he had been working as a chemist in Louth, Lincolnshire, dispensing for Doctors Sharpley and Higgins of that town. He also took over the position of postmaster at this time from Mr. Moore. He was already qualified as a chemist and druggist by examination. In his advertisement in the local press he stated that he skilfully extracted teeth, as well as having:
"a large and well assorted stock of patent medicines at reduced prices. A choice assortment of hair, tooth, nail, shaving, painters and other brushes. Also combs, toilet soaps, sponges, perfumery and other toilet requisites. The same quality tea and coffee, for which this establishment has so long been noted, will also be kept in stock, and may be relied upon. Agent for W & A Gilbey's wines and spirits, also for Bass's beers and Guinness's stout".
Apart from also producing his own baking powder, an essential requisite in those days. he provided veterinary medicines, which he would continue to make up from Mr. Moore's own recipes. In the 1881 census, he is recorded as living in Dale Street with his wife, three children and servant Charlotte Robinson, aged 19 years.
The premises in which he took over Mr. Moore's business were in Wesley Street, facing inwards towards the market place, roughly in front of where the Lloyds TSB bank now stands. In 1882, two years after moving there, he had to abandon his premises as they were compulsorily purchased by the Local Board of Health for the widening of Wesley Street and he moved business to the other side of the Market Place. The old premises were sold by auction on Monday, July 17th 1882 and it was reported that the energetic demolition of the old house commenced the same evening, for the recovery of the building materials. His address was now "Commercial Buildings". About this time, he was also refused a beer licence and had to give up that part of his trade, which had been carried on a long time by Mr. Moore.
Mr. Cussons had three children, John William (b. 1867), Alexander Thomas (b. 1875) and Florence (b. c1870). In May 1889 it was announced that his son John William had passed the Pharmaceutical Society's examination, and was now qualified to register as a chemist and druggist. He had been educated at Wakefield Grammar School, and commenced work in the post office in May 1882 as assistant to his father, a few months before their move of premises.
In 1892 Thomas Cussons retired his position as postmaster. He had seen 20 years of postmanship, the last twelve years of which were as a postmaster. For a while he had been running another chemist's business in Swinton, near Manchester, with his son John William Cussons as partner. He now took the opportunity to move to take personal charge of that concern. John William Cussons took his place as postmaster, and was presented with a handsome pipe and a silver mounted walking stick by the staff of the Post Office.
Pictured Right: John William Cussons b. 1867.
The business in Ossett continued to trade under the name of Cussons & Son. This was to be an important year in the life of John, for on Wednesday 22nd June of that year he married his fiancée, Catherine Wilby at South Ossett Wesleyan Chapel. She was a daughter of woollen manufacturer Mark Wilby of Manor House, Manor Lane.
By the end of 1892 they were advertising that they had a large stock of chemical apparatus and pure chemicals: "important to chemistry students". An illustrated price list was free on application.
It appears business was doing very well, for in April 1893 it was announced that Cussons had secured a site for building new premises for his shop and Post Office, on the corner of Prospect Road and the new Station Road. This was a new thoroughfare in the town, and was being rapidly developed. The "Dewsbury Reporter" at the time stated that it "was fast becoming the handsomest street in the Heavy Woollen district". It was to be a grand building, with Mr. Cussons' residence forming part of the building, his shop being on the corner, and Post Office business having a frontage of 27ft on to Station Road. A stone, carved with his entwined initials was to be set into the end wall. In early March 1894 the premises were occupied for the first time, the new Post Office opening on Tuesday, 6th March. On 22nd March, John William gave a dinner at the Coopers Arms to celebrate the opening of his fine new premises.
In 1895 John William was again applying to the Ossett Brewster Sessions to gain a licence to sell beer for consumption off the premises. However, it was pointed out that within 300 yards of his shop there were eleven licensed houses, of which four were fully licensed, the other seven being beer houses. On the grounds of the number of licences already issued in the area, his licence application was refused.
In 1897, John William Cussons was elected Hon. Secretary of the newly formed National Sub-Postmasters Association, however, after only two years in the position he announced at their annual conference that he would have to retire from the position and he was instead elected as vice- president. Two years later in October 1899 the "Sub-Postmaster", the official magazine of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, gave a portrait of John William, and biographical details. This portrait was reproduced in the "Chemist and Druggist" journal, which also gave the information that Mr. Cussons was also a member of the executive of the Dewsbury & District Chemists' Association. In June the following year he was the recipient of a beautiful marble timepiece, as a token of respect of the sub-postmasters for his services to the national federation.
However, later that year it was announced that John William Cussons would be retiring his position. At the same time he was disposing of his business as a chemist and druggist. This was in consequence of having purchased the manufacturing drug business of Messrs. Sherratt & Co., of Harpurhey, Manchester. The latter had been amalgamated with a similar business in the same district belonging to his father, Thomas. The whole would be carried on as Cussons, Sons & Co., with John's younger brother Alexander now being heavily involved in the family business. It was at this time that the Post Office in Ossett was to be separated from the family's other business ventures and became independent. The Cussons business was to go from strength-to-strength, to become the household name of Imperial Leather we are now familiar with.
At least one son of Ossett lived to become a millionaire, founding a firm which is known the world over. He was Alexander T. Cussons, younger son of Mr. T. T. Cussons, post-master and chemist, of Ossett Market Place. Father and son moved to Swinton, Lancashire where they began the manufacture of chemist's products such as brilliantine and scented cachous, salts, etc.
Mr. A.T. Cussons expanded the business and took over a derelict factory at Kersal Vale, Manchester, which he turned into a modern factory covering 14 acres. He concentrated on the manufacture of high-class soaps, cosmetics and talcum powder which are sold all over the world under the brand name "Imperial Leather".
A nephew of W. Cussons is Mr. L.W. Cussons of Berry Lane, Horbury.
"Ossett Observer Jubilee edition", July 4th 1964:
S. N. Pickard.
In November 1900 an advertisement appeared in the "Ossett Observer":
"Mr. S. N. Pickard begs to announce that he has purchased the business of chemist and wine & spirit merchant, carried on successfully for many years by Mr. J. W. Cussons. Having had a large experience of the dispensing of medicines, analyses and pharmacy, he hopes to be accorded a fair share of the patronage from his many Ossett friends, and the public generally. The purest drugs and chemicals only employed. Patent medicines at lowest London prices. Note the address: S. N. Pickard, Member of the Pharmaceutical Society, Dispensing and Family Chemist, Station Road, Ossett".
Samuel Norman Pickard, a native of Ossett, was educated at South Ossett Church of England school, and then at Ossett Grammar School, when it stood on the site of the present Town Hall. As a committed Christian, Pickard became a Sunday School teacher. He served his apprenticeship with George Saville, chemist, in Wakefield when he was 16 and qualified as a chemist from the South London College Of Pharmacy then later became a member of the Pharmaceutical Society after passing their examination, which included Latin, in the spring of 1886.
After this he went back to Mr. Saville for a short time as an assistant. He then moved on to become pharmaceutical dispenser at Clayton Hospital, Wakefield. Following this he took over the management of the business of Mr Handforth, chemist and dentist at 74 Manningham Lane, Bradford, around 1889 and subsequently acquired the business. He ran this business for 11 years before selling it to purchase the business of John William Cussons.
In March 1924 Mr. Pickard applied for transfer of his wines & spirits licence to new premises in Wesley Street, near to where the shop had stood, which Mr. Cussons had first taken when he moved to Ossett originally. The August 1st edition of the "Ossett Observer" for that year carried the advert:
“Change of premises: S. N. Pickard, chemist & optician, begs to announce that owing to expiration of lease he is transferring the business to larger and more commodious premises in Wesley Street, Ossett, which he hopes to open on Wednesday next, August 5th”.
This building was built around 1880 by Mr. J. Hampshire-Nettleton who ran his butchers shop from there before moving into the Market Place. Later, the premises were used as the town’s first Labour Exchange, before Mr. Pickard took up occupancy.
A little later, due to health reasons, he moved to Bridlington for a few years, but then moved back to Ossett shortly after war was declared. He celebrated his golden wedding anniversary on the 17th October 1943 at his home: The Knoll, West Wells Road. However, in November of the following year Pickard died in his 76th year. A photograph of Mr. Pickard was published in the "Ossett Observer" after his death. Mr. Pickard’s daughter carried on the business until his grandson, Mr. Ian Pickard Rigg, came out of the army and became manager of the shop in 1955.
Mr. Rigg had in his possession books in which prescriptions were recorded which had been dispensed, from earlier days. The first book contained 1,994 prescriptions. The last entry bore the date 1872 and the stamp of C. H. Lockwood, chemist, Dale Street, Ossett.
In August 1963 the floor space was increased by 50% after alterations. A new modern dispensary was built in a back room, which was formerly used as a kitchen. Shelves were fitted in the shop and stocked supermarket style so that customers could serve themselves from the displayed products. The shop offered a fine selection of wines and Mr. Rigg often travelled abroad to choose them.
The company had bought the business of D. Haigh, chemist of 140 Dewsbury Road, but after five years of being open this branch had to close in December 1970. It had run at a loss for the previous two years, with the staff of two being reduced to one.
He was born in York in 1866, but the majority of his days as a youth were spent in Normanton, where his father, Mr. William Marsh, was employed by Messrs. Henry Briggs, Son & Co, colliery proprietors. After he left Normanton National School, In 1881, Mathew Marsh took employment with Job & Carr, chemists, of Normanton and Wakefield. He stayed there until 1887 and for the last five years there, he was an articled apprentice. His father left Normanton to take up the position of deputy at Old Roundwood colliery in Ossett, and after living in Alverthorpe for a short while he moved to Ossett where he lived for 36 or 37 years before he died on "Peace Night" in 1918.
After leaving Job & Carr's, Matthew Marsh was employed for two years by Messrs. George Exley & Son, pharmaceutical chemists, Leeds, following which he became manager to Mr. John Day, chemist, Savile Town, Dewsbury. He was married in Leeds in 1891 to the daughter of an Armley builder, and shortly afterwards he moved to Great Stanmore in Middlesex, as manager to a chemist & druggist there. In 1895, he moved to Ossett where he commenced his business in Horbury Road, "Marsh's Medical Hall", opposite South Ossett Church, before moving to Victoria Buildings further along the road in 1900.
During his residence in Ossett he took a keen interest in public matters, and associated himself with many useful movements of the day. He was a staunch churchman as a sidesman at South Ossett Church and he also sat on the church council. For several years he was Hon. Secretary of the South Ossett Working Men's Institute, and a founder of the club in Belmont House. In gratitude for his services here he was awarded in 1906 a handsome marble clock and bronze ornaments.
He first took interest in local government matters in 1909 when he opposed Mr. Walter Townend, an ex-mayor, in the East Ward, and was returned by 398 votes to 192, a considerable victory. In 1912 he had a landslide victory, and since there were no elections during the Great War, he was not contested until 1919, when he was opposed by Mr. Alfred Renshaw, whom he defeated by 567 votes to 543, after the keenest contest in the history of the ward.
Marsh always sat as an independent, not being affiliated to any political party. While in office his administrative skills were soon recognised and in 1914 he was elected Chairman of the Sanitary Committee in the town council. While he was involved in public affairs he worked tirelessly. He represented the corporation at the Royal Institute Congress at Birmingham, Folkestone and Newcastle, and his reports of these and other conferences on health matters were always interesting and instructive. He was prominent in connection with the organisation of the festivities in association with the coronation of King George V in 1911, and was in charge of the festivities at Southdale School, where the schoolchildren of the borough were entertained to tea. He was similarly active when the king and queen visited Ossett in 1912, and at the peace celebrations in 1919.
During the Great War he proved himself a useful member of the Food Control Committee, and also acted as a Special Constable from October 1914 until the force was disbanded. His duties here included night patrol, where he would have been watching for air raids, and also the important matter of distributing butter and margarine. He was also a member of the Belgian Refugee Committee. It was these and other interests in public matters which eventually led to him being elected as Mayor of Ossett in 1921.
Don Cawthra had premises at 7, Prospect Road, Ossett until the late 1960s, when he moved his blacksmith's shop to the old Spa Mill, Ossett Spa. Don was Ossett's last working blacksmith and what follows is a short summary of his life and a few anecdotes. My thanks to Steve Armitage for the use of his photographs and for his recollections of Don.
Steve Armitage recalls:
"As young boys, my brothers and I would visit Don Cawthra's Stithy frequently, our family home was in Brook Street off Prospect Road and but a short walk away. It was an unforgettable experience to visit this black pitch-coated timber "lean-to" building. The dark and smoky interior consisted of a forge with a coke-fuelled furnace, an anvil and various assorted tongs and irons scattered about the smoke-stained work surfaces, shafts of light coming through cracks in the timbers added to the exciting atmosphere. The right half of the building was a horse stall where the horseshoes would be trial fitted whilst still hot from the forge. My first abiding memory was the rhythm of the anvil as Don hammered and shaped red hot iron into horseshoes, "clang, clang, clang, clang, clang, clang, cla-clang", always six single beats and the extra beat and a half!
Then there was that SMELL, like nothing I had experienced before or since, pungent, acrid smoke rose to the rafters as the red hot shoe was pressed into the horse's hoof that was held firmly against Don's leather apron. Once impressed into the hoof, a good and tight fit was ensured and the shoe was cooled before finally being nailed to the hoof and filed carefully to ensure there were no sharp projections. Don's party piece (designed to impress junior onlookers) was to take a glowing coal from the furnace, drop it into his leathery hand and toss it casually from palm to palm "would THA' like t'ave a go-a?" he always asked. No takers, but memories that have lasted a lifetime!"
Donald Cawthra was born on the 31st January 1929 and his birth was registered at Dewsbury. He was the son of miner Joseph Cawthra and Lily Hepworth who were married on the 9th October 1926 at St Barnabas Parish Church, Liversedge. Joseph, of Tanner Street Hightown, was 23 and Lily, a wire reeler of Clare Road, Cleckheaton, was aged 25. In addition to Donald the couple had another son, Stanford, who was born in June 1927. Sadly, Lily Cawthra, died in September 1938 aged only 36 years. Don was only 9 years old when his mother died. It's not known when Joseph and his sons moved to Ossett.
Don used to live with his father Joseph Cawthra at 10 Park Street, Ossett. After his father's death,in 1973, at the age of 69, Don moved to live in a house at the junction of Headlands and Westfield Road. The house is still there and fronts on to Headlands Road. Sometime later Don moved to Fairfield Road, Ossett, much closer to the Spa than Westfield Road, where he remained before moving to live in residential accommodation at Fitzwilliam.
He never married. When he wasn't at his forge he could usually be found in the Royal on Bank Street. Not a man to rush home it is said that he always bought himself a couple of pints just before "chucking out time". He was also well known locally as a featherweight boxer.
Above: Picture of Don Cawthra shoeing a horse belonging to John Myers on the right, believed to be early 1970s. The photograph shows the position of the lean to forge mentioned by Steve Armitage, with the building behind which is still there, but with the high level window blocked up. The Dewsbury & District Directory 1961 records D. Cawthra, Blacksmith, on Prospect Road in Don would then have been 32 years of age.
Alan Howe recalls Don Cawthra well:
"Don Cawthra was our smithy from the early 1980s (probably about 1982) but by then he had moved from Prospect Road to John Myers' Spa Mills where he set up his smithy shop. The building in which he set up is still there, dating back to the 1960s or so. It was single-storey building on John's land and fronting Spa Lane. The unremarkable building is still there and is now used as a stable. Alan's wife Pat recalls Don visiting her pony, Brandy, a rescue, she took on in about 1982, and which the Howes kept at Haggs Hill Farm in those days.
Don came down to the farm to try to shoe him. Brandy had been knocked about a bit before we got him and he didn't like men; even nice men like Don. He couldn't get near him and when he did, he couldn't shoe him at the farm. So Don's solution, uttered in typical Don understatement was: "Get that wooden bugger dah'n to my shop afore 'e kills somebody an a'hl rope 'im up and sort him theer."
In those days you did what you were told by the smithy and off we went. Don was ultimately successful, but Brandy always had to be fed treats to keep him calm on later visits. Sadly, Don had to have a leg amputated later in his life and moved from his Fairfield Road terrace home (opposite the 4th Bn KOYLI Drill Hall) into Residential accommodation. A friend of ours, sadly no longer with us, used to visit him regularly. He was a small built man, but a real character and kind at heart."
Above: The site of Don Cawthra's Ossett forge was inside the car "compound" adjacent to No. 7, Prospect Road, Ossett. The original line of the forge's sloping roof can still be seen on the wall of the brick building behind the Landrover. Picture by Steve Armitage.
Alan Howe's wife Pat recalls another Don Cawthra anecdote:
"In those days a hoof moisturiser called "Cornucrescine" was very popular to help with cracked hooves. You can still buy it today and a claim for the product was (and is) that it was:-
"Unique and wonderful - promotes and accelerates healthy horn growth and aids re-structuring of the hoof when used regularly. Also aids re-growth of hair on scars and rubbed areas."
Don was less than convinced about it and especially the claim that it was good for hair growth. Pat took Brandy down to him on one occasion and was talking to Don about the cornucrescine elixer and asked him if it was true that it helped hair growth. Don was a quiet man, and in typical fashion, actions spoke louder than words. He whipped off his cap (which he almost always wore), pointed to his balding plate and uttered: "Nah then lass does tha' think I'd 'av an 'ead like this if it worked?"
We stopped buying it after that."
Don Cawthra died in July 1996 aged 67. His death was registered at Wakefield. Don's elder brother, Stanford, died three years later in August 1999.
Napoleon's Blockade of Europe
On Friday 21st November 1806 some three weeks after his triumphal entry into Berlin, Napoleon issued his Berlin Decree, which marked the start of what became to be known as the Continental System. With his European foes defeated Napoleon sought a way to silence his British enemy. A military solution was not viable so he decided to try and use trade. The Continental System was a blockade aimed at denying the British any trading access to ports in Europe, theoretically destroying British trade and denying them the money they needed to fund Napoleons enemies on mainland Europe. Although in theory it seemed a good idea and if it had worked could have ended the Napoleonic Wars, in practice it proved unworkable and led Napoleon into the Peninsular War and most disastrously into the 1812 invasion of Russia which would eventually lead to his defeat.
While Napoleon had substantial success in disrupting American-British trade, he found it difficult to achieve the larger objective: excluding British and British-controlled neutral trade from the Continent except on terms disadvantageous to Britain. The continental system continued to spring leaks. Portugal and Spain, particularly following the insurrection in Spain in 1808, served as ports of entry for goods from Britain and its colonies. In addition, Britain used depots along the coast of Europe as smuggling centers. British merchants crowded into these centres in great numbers in order to conduct business. From Helgoland in the North Sea, smuggled British and neutral goods made their way to Leipzig, Basel, Strasbourg, and Frankfurt. In the Baltic, Göteborg became the center for goods forwarded to Prussia, Poland, and Russia. Gibraltar, Sardinia, Sicily, the Dalmatian and Ionian Islands, and Malta most of all served as the depots for British goods in the Mediterranean. After Britain gained a foothold in Turkey in 1809, Belgrade and Hungary received British goods forwarded from Salonika and Constantinople. As late as 1810, Britain bought over 80 percent of its wheat from France or its allies.
Marsala's fame came about quite by accident, when in 1772, the English merchant, John Woodhouse (1731-1812) found the wine at Trapani, where they were sheltering from a storm, a few miles north of Marsala. He took some of the Marsala wine home to England f or reaction and the response was enthusiastic.
John Woodhouse had a fishing fleet with depots in Liverpool,the Isle of Man and Ullapool, Scotland. It was John’s three sons John (1769-1826), Samuel (1771-1834) and William (?-1835) who developed the business from Marsala where they built the harbour and established many roads.
Marsala. was back then a sleepy town, much declined from the commercial prominence it had enjoyed in Roman and in Renaissance times. But the local inn served good wine, the strong, aromatic vino perpetuo, aged for years in the same cask, a portion siphoned off each autumn and bottled, and the cask topped off with new must.
A few glasses convinced Woodhouse that he had found something as good as the Madeira then in vogue in England, and instead of buying soda he shipped off 5,000 imperial gallons of wine, fortified with distilled alcohol so as to resist the sea journey and shipped in "pipes," the 100-gallon barrels that are still today the standard measure at Marsala. He then he awaited his partners' reaction.
Below: Bust of 'Old John' John Woodhouse.
The answer, when it arrived, was enthusiastic. Woodhouse bought up an old tunnery on the outskirts of town and transformed it into a winery, the 'Baglio Woodhouse'. He persuaded the local farmers to extend their vineyards by lending them capital in exchange for a monopoly on the harvest. By the end of the century he had built up a flourishing trade, and had signed a contract with Admiral Nelson in 1798, after the Battle of the Nile, to supply Marsala wine to the British Navy. Since it was becoming difficult to obtain Madeira wine and rum for the fleet because of Napoleon's blockade, Nelson's appreciation of Marsala set a fashion at once, and Woodhouse found it hard to keep up with demand. Woodhouse himself became notorious in the area as he would often consume copious amounts of Marsala, and while in an inebriated state would run naked through the vineyards. John Woodhouse died in 1826. He had been suffering increasingly from gout and had been starving himself, so he died of sheer weakness. Indeed his last portrait makes him look like a survivor from a WWII concentration camp. A family mausoleum was built for him, looking a bit like a marabout's tomb. Woodhouse's tomb was blown to bits by British bombs in 1943
Perpetuum - or perpetuo (literally, perpetual) is the method used for making Marsala wine and was produced by filling the cask with the wine of the latest harvesting and then drawn off according to need, the cask was then refilled - which contained some of the wine of all the preceding vintages - with new wine. A wine therefore undergoing a natural oxidation process according to its progressive emptying and taking “new life” with the adding of the wine from the new vintage.
Ingham's wine, some of which was later known as 'Colli', the better quality being 'London Particular', 'Inghilterra', or 'Bandiera' was usually a shade sweeter than Woodhouse's, which could have been rather like today's 'Oloroso' sherry, somewhat nutty flavour ed in the parlance of the wine trade. Another basic element in the making of marsala was 'passito', the juice of slightly dried grapes. This was mixed with brandy, in the ratio of three to one and then mixed with 'mosto', previously heated up to lose about 605 of its liquid, thus becoming denser and sweeter, the colour of caramel. The wine would be put in casks and left to age, a process which was supposed to last a year, but normally takes three or four years, It was reckoned that the result could be anything between 17% and 32% proof spirit, but usually about 20%. The 'solera' system was borrowed from Spain: a cask of mother wine never more than half emptied, being topped up by the next youngest wine every time a quantity of of the original was drawn off. Wines were always 'in the wood' and never bottled on the premises, and casks were made in the owner's cooperage yard out of oak staves, either Calabrian or, more usually American.
William Ingham's (1667-1723) Will of the 14th March 1723
I William Ingham senior of Ossett in the parish of Dewsbury to William Ingham my eldest son one house barn and malthouse etc. together with one Pighell called Sondel Pighell by estimation half an acre with one Sowdell Butt with one Croft called Claughton Croft containing one acre and one rood. One acre called Grice acre upon a Shutt called Wheatley in the East field of Ossett with one house barn and Orchard fold now in the occupation of Samuel Stevenson, lying and being in Horbury in the Parish of Wakefield, with half an acre of land lying in the Southfield off Horbury, and three Roods in the Milnefield and three roods in the West field and half an acre in the Stow Brigg field off Horbury aforesaid, all which buildings to my son, his heirs, etc. To Joseph Ingham, my second son two closes called two Little Low closes called Three Acres, with two closes called Bank and Bankend containing four acres, with four closes near Burchinhills called Five Acres, another close adjoining thereunto to these closes before mentioned Five Acres, all in the Township of Ossett, all bequeathed to him to enter in at the age of 21 and to his heirs etc with the proviso that he shall give forty shillings to his mother in two even payments at Whitsuntide and St Martin the bishop in winter, during her natural life. To Benjamin Ingham my third son, two closes called Marlings, commonly called Seven Accres, half an acre in the Eastfield of Ossett upon a shutt called Sowdell, one Acre in the Westfield upon Kirkstie containing four Lands, one off the four is the upmost towards Dewsbury and other two are called Crabtree Lands, and the fourth lies at the lower side off the two Lands, one piece of Land called Topling Butt and too Butt upon Peaslands, one close called Upper Priest Pighell called One Acre, one Rood off Oldfield, one Pighill near John Harrap's smithy called Three Roods, together with the sum off Twenty five pounds in the Hands of Joseph Taylor of Ossett, for which he hath given me a Bond for the payment of the same, all which said Lands and Tenements I give and bequeath unto said Benjamin Ingham, to him, his Heirs, Executors, Administrators, and assigns, with this proviso, that he pay yearly and every year out off the said Lands, after he shall attain to the age of Twenty one years that he shall enter to the same, the sum of forty shillings to Susannah his mother during her natural life at two even payments at Whitsuntide and Martinmas, I give to my fourth son John Ingham the house I now dwell in, with all the outhouses, barns, stables, foulds, workhouse, orchard, garden, with one Croft adjoining to the same, and half off the other Croft near to it, so far in it as I have right and title, one close upon Town Knowle containing one acre and half with one middle Priest Pighill called five Roods, be the same more or less, one acre and a rood of meadow in Healey upon Crabtree shutt with four swaths and one od swath besides, and seven swaths more containing fourteen yards, among the Dobs near Whomire Steel and one Butt adjoining to the Lands before mentioned, one acre in the East field upon a shutt called Wheatley, containing two Lands and two Butts with two Lands and two Butts in another field upon a shutt called Pail side in the North field, one Rood upon Lower Morecroft, now provided that my son John Ingham dies before coming to the age of one and twenty years, my will is that all the said crofts and house, with all the buildings thereunto belonging, orchard, fould and all the premises thereunto belonging, shall become Joseph Ingham's, and be his and his heirs for ever, and f or the other lands above bequeathed to him my will and mind is it shall be divided equally among my other two sons William and Benjamin, all which said housing, Lands, and tenements, I give to John Ingham to enter too and take possession off at the age of twenty one years, and I give the same to him, his Heirs, Executors, Administrators, and assigns, with this proviso, that he pay yearly and every year to his Mother Susannah Ingham during her natural Life the sum oft forty shillings at Whitsuntide and Martinmas by two even payments, I give to my four daughters Susannah, Elizabeth, Rachel, and Hannah, all the housing, malt kiln, gardens, backside croft in a street called Westgate in Wakefield, now in the possession of Mark Whitaker, John Casson, Thomas Naylor, William Batt, widow Hoyle, widow Ouldfield, William Jewison, to be equally divided amongst them, and they shall receive their proportions of rent equally amongst them after they attain to the age of twenty one years, And provided any of the four daughters die before they come to the age of Twenty one years, my will is that share of her that dies shall be equally divided amongst the surviving three daughters, and not any share of hers to fall to any of her Brothers. I give to my daughter Susannah Ingham, twenty pounds, to Elizabeth Ingham twenty pounds, to Rachel Ingham twenty pounds, to Hannah Ingham twenty pounds, to be paid to them by my Executor one year after my decease, or as they come to the age of one and twenty years.
Susannah Ingham's Will dated 28th November 1745
I Susannah Ingham of Ossett in the parish of Dewsbury and County of York. I give and devise to my eldest son William Ingham half of a close of freehold land called Bottom lying in Ossett with this proviso, that he pays the sum of twenty pounds sterling to my Daughter Elizabeth, wife of Joseph Wright of Wakefield, within one year after my decease, and also the like sum of twenty pounds sterling to my daughter Hannah, wife of Joseph Nettleton of Ossett, within the said time. Also I give and bequeath to my second son Joseph Ingham one Butt lying alone on the upper end of Moorcroft, and my dwelling-house with the yard and garden adjoining, to enter upon one year after my decease and not sooner, and peaceably to enjoy the same during his natural life; But after his decease the said house, with the yard and garden adjoining, as also the Butt aforesaid, shall go to my youngest son John Ingham and his heirs and assigns for ever. Also I give, devise, and bequeath to my third son Benjamin Ingham four lands being copy hold, lying all together at the bottom of a field in Ossett aforesaid called Kirkstie (the same being already surrender ed to the use of my Last will), also one seat in Ossett Chapel. I give, devise, and bequeath to my youngest son John Ingham half of t he close aforesaid of freehold land called Bottom, to enter upon one year after my decease and not sooner; Nevertheless with this proviso, that he pays the sum of twenty pounds sterling to my Daughter Susannah, wife of Isaac Whitaker of Lee Fair within one year after my decease I give and bequeath to my youngest son John Ingham, his Heirs, Executors, Administrators, and assigns for ever, three seats in Ossett Chapel, two below and one above, as also six Butts lying together on Moorcroft, being Copyhold [the same being already surrendered to the use of my last will, to enter into full possession thereof immediately after my decease. Also in order to prevent law suits, and lest any dispute should arise betwixt my two sons William and John touching their shares in the aforesaid close of land called Bottom, It is will and minded that the said close be divided in to two equal parts by a fence [the charge whereof shall be equal between them], but the fence shall begin just on the upper side of the stile by John Harrap's smithy towards Dewsbury and run a cross towards Lodge Hill; and my son William shall have that part which lies towards the other Bottom and Longlands; and my son John shall have that part which lies towards Ryecroft and Paleside, and also right of way through the old and usual gate by the Smithy aforesaid. Also I give and bequeath to my three daughters aforesaid, Susannah, wife of Isaac Whitaker, Elizabeth, wife of Joseph Wright Hannah, wife of Joseph Nettleton, or in the case of the death of any of them to their heirs, the rents, issues, and profits of the aforesaid close called Bottom, the four Lands of Kirkstie, the odd Butt on Moorcroft, with my dwelling house and yard and garden adjoining, for one whole year and no longer, to be equally divided amongst them, together with all my personal Estate, and I do hereby make, constitute, and appoint these my three daughters aforesaid to be the joint Executrixes of this my Last Will and Testament. I have hereunto set my hand and Seal this Twenty Eight day of November one thousand seven hundred and forty five.
Signed, Sealed, Published, and Declared by the above-named Susannah Ingham, as and for her last Will and Testament, in the presence of us who have hereunto subscribed our names as witness thereto in the presence of the said Testator and in the presence of each other.
Robert Chappell (1795-1864), Ossett Highwayman
Born in Ossett in 1795, Robert Chappell became notorious as a thief and highwayman. It was said that his crimes were more numerous than those of Dick Turpin, but not as serious. Unlike Turpin, Chappell didn't murder anyone, but it was said that in local Petty and Quarter Sessions his name was as familiar as a household word and that conviction had followed conviction almost as soon as he had been released from the prison gates.
In 1835, he was saved from transportation to Australia and instead given six months hard labour in Wakefield's House of Correction by the casting vote of John Armytage, Esq., the formidable Chairman of the Petty Sessions in Wakefield. Chappell pleaded for mercy because he was mortified at losing his wife and family.
Chappell married Hannah Oldroyd in Dewsbury on the 26th February 1818 and had a family of at least five children.
Following his release from prison in 1836, Chappell was summoned by Armytage to appear before a packed Petty Session courthouse at Wakefield. The Ossett Constable, a Mr. Pickersgill accompanied Chappell to make sure he turned up. In the event, Chappell must have been very relieved because Armytage simply wanted to publicly acknowledge Chappell's honourable behaviour:
"I well remember that you had a very narrow escape from transportation, of exile from your country, your home and your family. My casting vote decided your fate. You asked for mercy, and you appealed so fervently that I thought I should be justified in extending it towards you. You promised to amend your life, if spared to your home and family."
Armytage went on to say that he had watched the behaviour of Chappell closely during his six month spell in Wakefield prison. After his release, Chappell regularly attended church and apparently had not visited the ale house as had been his habit before his imprisonment. In addition, Chappell had finished with his former criminal friends and become instead:
"an industrious man, a kind father and husband and altogether as good a character as previously you were a bad one."
John Armytage then presented Chappell with a Bible and Prayer Book much to the acclaim of people in the courthouse. Chappell thanked the Magistrate and briefly warned the assembled crowd to beware of the consequences of attending public houses.
In 1841, journeyman clothier Robert Chappell was living at Low Fold, Ossett, roughly on the site of the Ossett Town football ground. He had married Hannah Oldroyd in 1818 and they had at least five children in the next seven years.
Chappell's wife Hannah died in 1842 and he remarried Harriet Butterworth very shortly afterwards, i.e. in the same September quarter of 1842. Robert Chappell and Harriet had two sons, Joseph Butterworth Chappell in 1843 and Benjamin Butterworth Chappell in 1845.
By 1851, Chappell, aged 56 was a dealer in woollen waste and still living in Low Fold with new wife Harriet aged 46 and their two sons.
It appears that Chappell continued to stay on the straight and narrow. He was still at Low Fold in 1861, now aged 66, with sons Joseph (17), now a weaver and Benjamin (15), a carter. His second wife Harriet had died in 1852 and Chappell himself died in 1864, aged 69 years.
From "The Cottager's Monthly Visitor" March 1836.
Ossett poacher involved in a fatal gunfight at Wakefield
It was reported in the "Leeds Mercury" in 1830 that there had been "a desperate and fatal affray with poachers" in Seckar Wood, Woolley, near Wakefield.
Francis Child and Mathew Ellis, two game keepers in the employ of Geoffrey Wentworth, esquire, met a party of five poachers in Seckar Wood. Ellis was first knocked over and then shot in the thigh and hand by one of the poachers. However, he was able to get a shot off himself and managed to shoot and disable two of the poachers.
Two of the poachers then attacked the second gamekeeper, Francis Child, and beat him up severely, fracturing his skull. Child managed to push aside the muzzle of a gun which was fired at him, and by doing so saved his own life. He then fired his own gun and severely wounded the two attackers.
After hearing the gunshots, others arrived on the scene and the two uninjured poachers fled the scene of carnage. The two gamekeepers and three severely wounded poachers were all found on the ground in a helpless state. After a wait of several minutes, they all had to be loaded on to a wagon to take them to the nearest house for medical assistance.
The names of the poachers were Joseph Appleyard and George Milner of Horbury and Jonathan Westerman of Ossett. Joseph Appleyard's leg was amputated by the doctors attending the scene and he died shortly afterwards. Westerman and Milner had their wounds dressed and were taken off to Wakefield House of Correction where they remained until the keepers recovered sufficiently for an official investigation.
It isn't clear what happened to Jonathan Westerman. He was married in 1821 to Hannah Ibbetson and had a family of three children. A fourth child, Sarah, was born in July 1830, but wasn't christened until January 1831. There was a six year gap and then a baby girl, Harriet Westerman was born in Ossett in 1836. This suggests that Westerman was in prison for at least five years.
What is more surprising is that Jonathan Westerman wasn't transported to Australia for his crimes because after 1828, if three or more persons assembled for the purposes of poaching and if one of them carried an offensive weapon, they were liable to fourteen years' transportation.
In 1851, Jonathan Westerman (55) is living at Pollard Row, South Ossett and his occupation is a weaver. With him are wife Ann (55) and three unmarried daughters Jane (33), Sarah and Harriet (15) all working as burlers.
In 1861, Jonathan Westerman (65), a wool weaver, was now a widower and living on Healey Lane, Ossett with two daughters. His wife Hannah had died in 1852.
Westerman died aged 75 at Ossett in 1871.
Barry Wood - Ossett's England Cricketer
Barry Wood was one of the best cricketers to be released (in 1964) by Yorkshire. Wood came to prominence in amateur cricket playing in the Central Yorkshire Cricket League for Mirfield rather than (Mirfield's arch rivals) Ossett C.C. in the early 1960s.
From 1966, he went on to play first-class cricket with Lancashire for over a decade scoring over 13,000 runs and taking more than 200 wickets. He also played in twelve Test Matches for England in the 1970s. At the end of his career, he went on to captain Derbyshire and was still playing for Cheshire at the age of 45 as late as 1988.
Wood was born in Ossett on Boxing Day, 1942. A hard-hitting and determined opening batsman for Lancashire and England, he belied his diminutive 5ft 6" stature by becoming a good exponent of the hook and pull shots against bowlers foolish enough to bowl him bouncers.
His twelve Test Match appearances were spread over a period of seven years between 1972 and 1978, and he never played for England more than three times in succession due to intense competition for the opener's slot among England's best.
His first England appearance came in 1972 against Australia when he scored 90 runs. He was recalled in 1975 to strengthen an England side, which had been battered by the fast bowling of the great Australians, Lillee and Thomson, and he did a very fine job for his country. He was again recalled for one Test at Lords in 1976, and played his final Test Match for England against Pakistan in 1978. Wood continued to represent England in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) until 1982, playing in 13 matches over a period of ten years.
Wood was a fine medium-pace bowler and an excellent fieldsman, especially in one-day games, which all added to his versatility as a cricketer. When playing for Lancashire, Barry Wood and Andy Kennedy, scored a record fifth-wicket partnership of 249 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1975, which survives to this day.
Barry Wood was probably, the finest player not to have represented Yorkshire at the first-class level of cricket.
Wood's son, Nathan played for Lancashire and Durham.
Ron Wood (1929-1990), Ossett and Yorkshire Cricketer
Barry Wood's elder brother Ron Wood was born in Ossett on the 3rd June 1929 and played for Yorkshire 22 times between 1952 and 1956.
Sadly for Wood, Johnny Wardle, one of the most skilful left-arm spinners the game has seen, was at the height of his powers and Ron Wood's appearances for Yorkshire were mostly at second team level.
A slow left-arm bowler, Wood had first-class match figures of four for 57 at Lord's on his début for Yorkshire, followed by seven for 67 at Worcester and four for 48 against Leicestershire at Sheffield.
Wood left Yorkshire to play in the Bradford League and when Lidget Green were champions in 1957, Wood took 67 wickets at 8.67 each.
He died in Wakefield aged 60 on the 22nd May 1990.
Neil Smith (1949-2003) Yorkshire and Essex cricketer
Neil Smith was born in Ossett on the 1st of April 1949 and was briefly the Yorkshire first-class cricket team's wicket-keeper in the 1970/71 season. He played in the Yorkshire second team from 1966 to 1972.
Smith had high hopes of replacing the legendary Jimmy Binks behind the stumps at Yorkshire, but was competing with 18 year-old David Bairstow. Smith had a shaky start as Yorkshire's wicket-keeper in 1970 and in mid-season 1970, Bairstow took his place.
In 1973, Smith left Yorkshire to replace David Taylor at Essex and became a permanent fixture as their wicket-keeper between 1973 and 1981.
He had a good pair of hands and, although not at first sight the most nimble of movers due to his bulk, he was a key part of the first Essex side to gain trophy winning success. Technically, a better wicket-keeper than Bairstow, Smith was always chubby and he irritated the Essex captain Graham Gooch by piling on even more weight. However, he put his bulk to good use as a powerful hitter of the ball with minimal back lift. When Smith hit the ball, it stayed hit so Essex sometimes used him further up the order as a "pinch hitter" especially in one-day games, when they needed fast runs.
Smith lost form and his his place in 1981 to David East. He then captained the Second XI for a season before returning to Yorkshire for a business career.
Smith attended Ossett Grammar School, where he excelled at sport. Nicknamed "Smeller" Smith at school, Neil was a year ahead of me at Ossett Grammar, but I remember him well. Smith was a hard, but fair sportsman, robust in stature, with a ready smile and a good sense of humour. None of us realised how gifted he was when we competed against him in games of cricket, football or rugby union. He was good at all three sports, representing his school in them all.
During his long spell as Essex's wicket-keeper, in 187 first-class matches, he took 395 catches made 51 stumpings and scored 3,336 runs as a pugnacious right-handed batsman. Smith later went on to play for Cheshire between 1987-1989 at 2nd class level.
Sadly, Neil Smith died from cancer at the early age of 53 on the 3rd March 2003 in Dewsbury.
Robert Elston Phillips
Mr. Robert Elston Phillips of "Sunnybank", Ossett died on Sunday evening, 8th January 1899 at Rhyl, North Wales in his 60th year. The news reached Ossett yesterday morning and was received with widespread regret, the deceased having been well-known and highly respected. The mayor, Councillor Fothergill in making the announcement at the opening of the Borough Court, expressed the deep regret of the magistrates that one of their number had passed away. Allusion was made to the fact that this was the first vacancy caused by death in the ranks of the Borough Magistrates, and the Clerk was directed to convey the sincere regret and sympathies of the magistrates to Mrs. R.E. Phillips.
The deceased gentleman was a native of Ossett, where he carried on the business of a mungo manufacturer and woollen rag merchant, having lately completed the erection of new and extensive mill premises in Gedham, Ossett.
In politics, he was a Liberal and for upwards of 40 years he was an attached member of the Wesleyan Society in Wesley Street, Ossett. Mr. Phillips occupied a seat for some years on the Dewsbury Board of Guardians, of which he became a senior vice-chairman, but retired in the early part of last year.
"Leeds Mercury", Tuesday, 10th January 1899.
Will of the Late Mr. R.E. Phillips of Ossett
The will and codicil of Mr. Robert Elston Phillips, mungo manufacturer of "Sunnybank", Ossett who died on February 8th at Winterbourne, Rhyl, have been proved in the Wakefield District Register of the Probate Court. The gross value of the deceased's estate is £33,990 19s 4d upon which the legacy duty charged amounts to £749 9s 11d. The executors are Mr. Oliver Myers, mungo manufacturer, Ossett; Mr. Thomas Worsnop, cashier, Ossett and the testator's widow, Mrs. Frances Mary Phillips.
The codicil appointed an additional executor, Mr. James Swithenbank, cloth manufacturer, Leeds, who, however, died shortly before Mr. Phillips.
"Leeds Mercury", Monday, 20th March 1899.
The death occurred on Sunday, April 15th 1900 at Weeton Grange, Weeton of Mr. William Westerman aged 59 years. The deceased gentleman was well-known in Leeds manufacturing circles and at one time carried on business at Westfield Mill, Ossett and Bilham's Court, Boar Lane, Leeds. Politically he was a staunch Conservative and in religion a churchman. The internment will take place at Weeton Church on Wednesday. The service to commence at one o'clock.
"Leeds Mercury", Tuesday, 17th April 1900.
John James Mitchell
Mr John James Mitchell who formerly carried on business as a cloth manufacturer at Ossett died at Sandal on the 24th May 1900. He took a prominent part in public matters and was for some time an Alderman of the West Riding County Council. He was aged 69.
"Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 2nd June 1900.
Above: J.J. Mitchell who was a member of the Local Board in Ossett for many years and was the Chairman in 1879. He was also one of the first members of the Town Council.
Mr Abraham Pollard of Longlands, Ossett, the only surviving partner of the well-known firm of Messrs. John Speight and Sons, mungo manufacturers, died on the 12th July 1900 at Askern Spa, near Doncaster. He was a director of the Lofthouse Colliery Company and president of the Ossett Agricultural Society, in which he took a great interest. His death is keenly felt by the poor of Ossett and district, to whom he was always a generous benefactor. He was aged 64.
"Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 21st July 1900.
OBITUARY - MARK WILBY OF MANOR MILLS AND MANOR HOUSE - 1912
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.
In October 2012, a lady called Caitlin Golaup contacted me asking if I knew anything about a piano that she had bought from her next-door neighbour, which bore the inscription "Albert Wilby, Ossett". Ossett historian Neville Ashby was able to provide the answer and what follows is the story of Albert Wilby.
In April 1950, the Ossett Observer reported on the retirement of Albert Wilby, after 60 years as a music dealer. He was 83 years old. For 55 of those years he was occupier of the house and shop which he built for himself after his marriage at 25 Station Road, Ossett. For forty years he taught and played the piano. For twenty years he was organist at Kingsway Methodist Church, and he ran a dance orchestra which fulfilled engagements in all parts of Yorkshire and beyond.
He was the fifth of eleven children, his father being Joshua Wilby who had a newsagent shop opposite Langley's Mill on Dale Street in Ossett, where the present day row of shops is located, which included Carl Stuart, the bespoke Taylor.
His parents died when he was in his early teens, and he had to look after the house and four younger children. He earned his first coppers selling the "Ossett Observer", which he collected from Ellis's Yard, Dale Street, where it was printed. Subsequently he spent eight years working at Ossett Co-Operative grocery store, where he got the idea to make it for himself in the world.
When the Observer offices were built at Station Road in 1890 he became the tenant of the shop next to the Observer office. Five years later he built his premises next door to Cussons' chemist, which in later years we knew as Allwares, now an Indian restaurant, opposite the Railway Club.
Not long after the turn of the century he was selling a piano every two or three days. They would arrive from the railway station in wooden crates, and would not be long in the shop before being sold. These were the days when many homes had pianos as their only form of entertainment. Before the outbreak of World War 2, sales had dropped to two or three a month.
Above: The piano originally sold by Albert Wilby, now in possession of the Golaup family.
In his early years he sold nothing but pianos and sheet music, but before the turn of the century he was one of the first to sell the American Edison-Bell phonographs with their cylindrical records. Then came the spring-driven turntable gramaphones, with their horns and disc records. Then in the 1920's he began to sell radio sets. Mr Wilby regretted that he would just miss out on selling television sets, which were just coming to our area as he was retiring.
For many years he taught piano lessons, which kept him occupied until bedtime on many evenings. He had one of the largest stocks of gramaphone records in his shop for miles around. His records were played in the
Palladium theatre - before this his sheet music was used by the orchestra there.
He had twin daughters, Irene and Marjorie. He died on October 23rd 1952, two years after retiring, after being in failing health for over a year. He was buried at St John's, South Parade.
From the "Ossett Observer" 22nd April 1950, courtesy of the Neville Ashby archive.