Ossett Pictures - Belgrave Street

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Mayfield House, Belgrave Street

A fine photograph taken of "Mayfield House", Belgrave Street, Ossett, which was built in 1901/02, and showing a family in their Sunday best. Note the position of the dog underneath the carriage. Belgrave Street was one of the more up-market addresses in Ossett at that time the picture was taken, probably between 1901 and 1920. Behind and to the right of the house can be seen The Gables on Station Road.

The land that 3, Belgrave Street was built on was bought on the 13th June 1901 by Sarah Bottomley, wife of James Bottomley of Greatfield Road, Ossett. In 1901, James Bottomley was a drapery manager, born in Holmfirth and his wife Sarah, then aged 37, was born in Tong, Bradford. One of the three joint sellers was Ossett doctor, Alexander Digges la Touche of Prospect House, New Street, who had been born in Sri Lanka in 1859. He qualified as a physician in Ireland in 1884 and as a surgeon in Edinburgh in 1888. It seems likely that he came to live in Ossett in the mid/late 1880s. The other two sellers were Joseph Tong Tolson and his nephew Harold Lee Tolson, both blanket and rug manufacturers living in Earlsheaton. Because 3, Belgrave Street was in joint ownership in 1901, it is assumed that it was bought as an investment property and rented out to tenants before being sold to the Bottomleys.

In 1904, the Bottomleys resold 3, Belgrave Street to mechanical engineer, Thomas Perrin, possibly again as an investment property, since the Perrins never moved to Ossett and actually lived at that time in Sheffield. Two years later, in 1906, the house was sold for £500 to Laura Eastwood, the wife of Clifford Ward Eastwood, Dewsbury Rd., Ossett, a woollen cloth manufacturer. Laura Eastwood was actually the daughter of Thomas Perrin, the seller. The Perrin family originated from Cheshire and Laura Perrin married Clifford Ward Eastwood in 1898 in Cheshire. However, like the Perrins previously, it is possible that the Eastwoods didn't live at 3, Belgrave Street. However, they did name it "Mayfield House". The 1911 census shows the occupants of Mayfield House as George and Ada Smales, plus their young son Ronald and a live-in servant Sarah Bonnette. George Smales was a bank cashier, born in Sheffield and probably worked at the Wakefield & Barnsley Union Bank, Bank Street, which is now Barclays Bank. By 1911, the Eastwoods had moved to live at Ashton-under-Lyne, with Laura's parents Thomas and Alice Perrin.

Rufus FirthIn March 1916, Mayfield House was sold by Laura Eastwood, of Hodge House, Broadbottom, Cheshire to John Henry Glover, then aged 47, a mungo manufacturer with premises at Gedham Mill, Ossett. The Glovers never lived at Mayfield House and the house was again most probably bought as a buy-to-let property. In 1919, John Glover's eldest son Henry Glover married Ethel Firth, who gave her address at the time of the wedding as Mayfield House, Belgrave St., Ossett. John Henry Glover's diary, which is now in the possession of his grandson Richard Glover tells us that Ethel Firth's father, Rufus Firth went to see John Glover in 1920 and it was agreed that Mayfield House would be sold to Mr. Firth for £550, with 5% interest payable on the loan of the £200 difference between Rufus Firth's £350 mortgage with the Dewsbury and West Riding Permanent Benefit Building Society. The sale was made on the 27th April 1920 and Rufus Firth became the proud owner of Mayfield House.

Rufus Firth (shown left), was one of nine children and was born in Thornhill in 1868. It is thought that he was a mungo manufacturer like his father. Rufus married 23 year-old Jane Gleghorn on the 19th June 1890 at Holy Trinity, Ossett. Jane was the daughter of Thomas Gleghorn, a pit manager. Rufus Firth's son, George Firth was born on the 31st January 1893 and married Gertrude Ramsden in September 1922. It seems that George married well because Gertrude's father, Sydney Ramsden built two houses in Park Square, Ossett as wedding presents for his two daughters Gertrude and Eva. George Firth carried on business in Ossett as a grocer and died in 1960 in Horbury.

When Rufus Firth died in 1922, aged just 54, probate was granted to his wife and son George in the sum of £2,750 17s 8d. Rufus' will states that he was living at Mayfield House and died there on the 6th September 1922. His widow Jane stayed at Mayfield House for the rest of her life, but on her husband's death, she had to take out a joint mortgage on Mayfield House with her children Mary Anne Bickle (the widow of Harry Bickle who died in WW1), Ethel Glover and George Firth. The mortgage was finally paid off in 1933 with a final payment of £150 and ownership of the property transferred to Jane Firth and her three children named above. Jane Firth died intestate on the 24th March 1949, aged 82 years and was buried at Holy Trinity in Ossett. Because there was no will, it took her son George Firth two years to sort out his mothers affairs and eventually in January 1951, letters of administration were granted. Mayfield House was then sold to William John Battye and his wife Annie for the sum of £1,400 in February 1951.

Much of the information about the Firth family and the picture of Rufus Firth is courtesy of Helen Bickerdike who now lives at Mayfield House, Belgrave Street. Helen has done a detailed study of the previous occupants of her house and in particular the Firth family. My sincere thanks to her for sharing her work and allowing me to reproduce some of it here. The identity of the people in the picture has been the subject of some debate, given the fact that the Firth family first rented Mayfield House in 1916 an then bought it outright in 1920. The picture was taken some time after 1901 when the house was first built, most probably around 1904/1905.

Richard M. Broomhead has contacted me (April 2016) and says the family shown in the picture are his ancestors as follows: the man by the window is Charles Firth (b. 1845), the man on the step by the gate is Rufus Firth (b. 1868). The little boy in the carriage is George Firth. George was Richard's great-grandfather, and he was born in 1893. The lady in the carriage is Rufus Firth's wife, Jane Firth, nee Gleghorn, with her daughter, most probably Doris G. Firth who was born in 1903 and her son George Firth. Another son Arthur Firth was born in 1900. It is likely the Firths were visiting the occupants of Mayfield House in 1904/05, but if this picture was taken in 1916 or afterwards, when the Firths lived at Mayfield House, the ages of the children shown in the picture don't fit the dates. Another theory is that the people shown in the picture are the Smales family, who were the occupants of Mayfield House in the years prior to 1911. We leave it to the reader to decide who is who in the picture without prejudice.