Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town

The Sowood Area of Ossett

Ossett historian Alan Howe has provided this account of the history of the Manor of Sowood, Sowood Farm and the Marsden family who lived at Sowood Farm for many years. Alan has also solved the mystery of how Matty Marsden Lane derived its name, something that has puzzled Ossett and Horbury historians for many years. What follows is an edited version of Alan's detailed history, but the full text is available in the Downloads area of this website.

In 1302 the Manor of Sowood or South Wood Green, was granted to John de Horbury by the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield but little is known of its history since that time. A study of the history of the Grade II listed Sowood Farmhouse has revealed information about the manor which has hitherto been unknown.

The research which follows includes The Manor of South Wood Green - A collection of historical references about the location and size of the Manor, the identity of the Lord of the Manor and where he might have lived. The study draws upon previous research and, for the first time, identifies new information which may influence some of those earlier thoughts and findings.

The influence of the 17th & 18th Century Marsden family on Sowood, Storrs Hill and part of the Horbury Westfield is included in the sections about Halfway House& Matty Marsden Lane Horbury, The History of Sowood Farm and The History of Rock Cottages.

The research offers views about life in the medieval Manor and how the 14th Century Famine and Black Death affected life there. The Black Death struck again in the late 16th Century and there is evidence that many of those who died were buried in unconsecrated ground at Sowood. The arrival of the Marsden family in the early 1680’s led to the rebuilding of Sowood Farmhouse in 1689. Some sources believe that the Farm was the site of an earlier Manor House but new findings suggest an alternative site on Storrs Hill Road, a house built in 1684, which has credentials at least equal to those of the farm site. Both sites display evidence of medieval farming.

As the Marsden family grew they built 18th and 19th Century dwellings at Sowood and Storrs Hill leaving evidence of their occupation and the contents of their homes in Inventories included with their 18th century Wills. These homes included dwellings now known as Rock Cottages and the Old Halfway House and new findings suggest, perhaps for the first time, an answer to the question “Who was Matty Marsden?"

The original objective of the research was Sowood Farm and the study deals in detail with the Marsden, Nettleton, Battye and Brook owners and occupants of the Farmstead over the 323 years of its existence. Along the way it finds that the 1689 builder of the Farmhouse was not the one reported in the 1988 Grade II listing documentation but someone entirely different who, remarkably, was an ancestor of the existing owners – previously unbeknown to them.

There are many other twists and turns too with a solution to the mystery of the “Sowood Stone”, tales of litigation and a Chancery Court case, delays in the settlement of personal estates which rival Dickens’ Bleak House story of Jarndyce v Jarndyce. A Captain in the 13th Hussars comes to call and there is the discovery of the initials of the man who built a manor House on Storrs Hill Road in 1684. His full identity however remains a mystery and a challenge.

Not least though these are stories of a tiny manor about which so little was known and a quite remarkable family Marsden and one in particular, Francis, who set out from Penistone in 1676 and left his mark in the landscape and buildings of Sowood and Storrs Hill.
The histories are often very detailed because they deal with the lives of those people who lived and worked at Sowood and Storrs Hill. Lives are often complicated and detailed and the study of them is equally so. Hence the following notes are sometimes only the summaries of those findings which can be discovered in more detail in the Downloads section.

The Manor of Sowood or Southwood Green, Ossett

Introduction, Summary and Conclusions.

In 1316 three former Wakefield manor officials were fined for not repairing the Sowood manor house and in 1349 the manor was described as “a messuage and a caracute of land” A carucate was a measure of land generally taken to be 120 acres but could be more depending on the terrain and the quality of the land. A messuage was a dwelling house generally with curtilage, outbuildings, orchard, garden and courtyard.

These references from the Manor of Wakefield Court Rolls inform us that Sowood was a manor in its own right and that it had a manor house, which stood in its own grounds, and extended to about 120 acres. Until now the major consensus was that Sowood Farm and its farmhouse, which was built or re-built in 1689, stood on the site of an earlier medieval manor house. Previously undiscovered documentary evidence1 has now emerged that confirms the existence of a pre 1676 dwelling at Sowood Farm which supports the view that there was an earlier building at Sowood Farm.

Sowood Manor area 2013

Above: An approximation of the area bounded by Sowood Manor on a modern day map.

However other evidence has also been discovered that reveals the existence of a dwelling further west off a lane leading westwards from the road now known as Storrs Hill Road. This dwelling, recorded as Manor House on the 1850 Ordnance Survey map of Ossett, was built in 1684 and demolished in 1958/59. The dwelling stood on the north side of the lane which, today, leads from Storrs Hill Road to Ossett Academy. A photograph of the dwelling’s date stone records the date and the builder’s initials “EG” but his or her full identity has, thus far, remained elusive. “In mediæval times the manor was the nucleus of English rural life. It was an administrative unit of an extensive area of land. The whole of it was owned originally by the lord of the manor. He lived in the big house called the manor house. Attached to it were many acres of grassland and woodlands called the park. These were the “demesne lands” which were for the personal use of the lord of the manor. Dotted all round were the enclosed homes and land occupied by the “tenants of the manor”.2

The above description of a manor, gives some clues as to the nature of a medieval manor, its house and land but also the presence nearby of manor tenants and workers. If this was a description of Sowood Manor where would it, and its Manor House, have been located?

The area known as Sowood in 21st Century Ossett is represented by the land at the top of Storrs Hill, between Storrs Hill Road and Horbury Road, including The Green, and bounded, more or less, to the south by Sowood Avenue. Sowood’s modern day description would also include land to the east of Sowood Lane from Manor Road (Sowood Cottage) to Sowood Bend (Sowood Farmstead).

Not many of Sowood’s residents in 2012 are likely to know of the long history of Sowood which dates back to the 13th Century. Sowood, or South Wood, appears first in 12773 as Soutwode in the Manor of Wakefield Court Roll. About this time Sowood was a Manor in its own right and became known as "The Manor of Southwood or Southwood Green." By most reckoning the manor area was quite different then and may not have included much of the land we think of today as Sowood.

The following representational map suggests (in red) the possible area of the Manor in medieval times It suggests that most of the manor was located between Storrs Hill Road and an ancient drove road to the east of Healey Road and extended as far east as Sowood Farmstead. 1709 Wakefield Manor Book references record that the whole of the Manor was situated within the Ossett boundary and that it abutted Horbury graveship4 in the east.


Sowood Green Manor

Above: Representation of the area thought to be Sowood Manor in earlier times.5

Before the Norman invasion in 1066 the Sowood land was terra regis (Crown Land) but in 1086 or so it was part of the Wakefield Manor Estate awarded by the conquering Norman King William (The Conquerer) to the Earl de Warrene who was one of his right hand men at the Battle of Hastings. Thus the Earl de Warenne became Lord of the Manor of Wakefield.

Plague - burying the deadSome sources consider it likely that Sowood was purchased by Earl de Warenne from Sir John de Horbury in 1302, at the same time that he acquired the Manor of Horbury.6 This suggests that the de Horbury family owned the Sowood manor land before 1302 although no evidence of this has emerged. In 1302 de Warenne leased Sowood back to Sir John de Horbury but he died in about 1304 and the land reverted to the Lord of The Manor of Wakefield.

From that time until 1323 Sowood Manor and the farm, was run as a demesne farm by and for the benefit of the Earl de Warenne, Lord of the Manor of Wakefield. This was the beginning of the ‘Little Ice Age’ poor, wet and cold summers led to poor crop yields and in 1315-1317 the Great Famine caused many deaths. The manor brought in new men, including Henry de Flockton as shepherd and Henry Sprigonell as forester, to run the mixed arable and livestock farm at Sowood.

These were desperate times and records reveal 20 years or so of corruption and malpractice and by 1323 the farmstead was leased out to tenants. The Earl de Warenne subsequently granted the manor to John de Breus who sold it to William de Scargill. In 1349 there was a serious outbreak of the Great Plague or Black Death which led to many deaths including Warin de Scargill, the son of the then owner. Life in the 14th Century Manor was hard.

In 1585 ‘Christopher Denton did not make his part of Sowodd lone [lane] and was fined 4d.which was equivalent to two weeks wages. In those days, and as recently as 1881, if you wanted to go to Sowood Farm from Ossett of from Horbury, you did so by taking “the Lane to Denton’s House” and for 300 years thereafter the road was known as Denton Lane.

The Plague arrives in Ossett
Things were to get much worse for Christopher Denton for in 1593 he and seven of his family died of the Plague. They and five others were buried at “Denton’s House” [Sowood Farm] in Summer 1593. Almost 100 years later, in 1689, the farm house was re-built by Francis Marsden using stone from the nearby Storrs Hill quarries.

The 14th Century references to Sowood indicate the presence of a manor house and farming activity at Sowood but none of those references specify the location, within Sowood, of the manor house or the farm. In the light of documentary evidence discovered in 2012 this study considers two possible locations for the Manor House, its associated land and the farm.

The first of the possible locations for the Manor House is Sowood Farm

Sowood Farm datestone

Above: Datestone and initials on Sowood Farmhouse –weathered name Marsden below “FM”

In 1689, the farm house, which stands there today, was built or re-built by Penistone born Francis Marsden. In 1676 Francis acquired the copyhold interest in Sowood House and 29 acres of land which was then owned by Thomas Purdue and his wife Priscilla (nee Rayner) of Pudsey. The dwelling was tenanted by two families, Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh. The 1676 Wakefield Manor Court Roll is the earliest evidence to emerge of a dwelling existing on this site.

In 1988 Sowood Farmhouse was granted Grade II Listed Building status and the source document for the listing is as follows:

Ossett, Sowood, Farm, West Yorkshire, (SE 28451903): D.J.H. Michelmore of Historic Building Specialists Ltd. Reports that work at Sowood Farm has revealed substantial rafters which probably came from the buildings of the medieval manorial centre which is known to have existed on the site from at least 1302 (see West Yorkshire: an archaeological survey to A.D. 1500, p.471). The present house, built in 1689 by F. Mackender,7 incorporates a timber-framed partition between the body of the house and the outshot."

The source report by D.J.H. Michelmore of Historic Building Specialists Ltd (who undertook refurbishment works at Sowood Farm in the late 1980’s) discovered substantial rafters in the Sowood farmhouse roofspace. These, it was surmised, may have come from a medieval manorial centre. A timber framed partition was also found between the body of the house and the outshot but the report is silent regarding the origins.

It is a reasonable assumption that both the rafters and the partition came from an earlier building which stood on the site and the discovery of the 1676 acquisition of Sowood House by Francis Marsden confirms that a building stood at the Sowood Farm site earlier than 1689. The listing source quotes West Yorkshire: an archaeological survey to A.D. 1500, p 471 ( D.J.H. Michelmore 1981) as its source for the comment that it was known that a manorial centre existed on the site since 1302. As indicated earlier the 14th century references do not specify the location, within Sowood, of the manor house or of a medieval manorial centre or, indeed, of the farm. It is possible that Sowood Farm was the site of a medieval manorial centre but it is by no means certain and evidence has not emerged to confirm Sowood Farm as the location.

The site of today’s Sowood Farm was known as Sowood House in 1676 confirming the address as Sowood and suggesting, perhaps, that in earlier times the site had been part of an area or entity called Sowood. It is known that in 1709 the Manor of South wood green had an eastern boundary with Horbury graveship which suggests that Sowood Farm would have been at the very eastern edge of Sowood. 17th Century References to other residents of Sowood often refer to them as being of Sowood Green and a Wakefield Manor Estate map of 1790 shows dwellings in that location (the area known today as The Green). The same map shows dwellings in the vicinity of Sowood Farm but it is known that all of these dwellings were built by the Marsdens in the late 17th and the 18th Century.

On the other hand the Sowood Farm site is close to Horbury Township and would be convenient for Sir John de Horbury the 13th or early 14th century owner of Sowood Manor.

The other possible location for the Manor House is on a lane off Storrs Hill Road

Sowood Manor datestone

Above: Datestone and initials on the Manor House which stood off Storrs Hill Road.

In 1684 a house8, known in 1850 as Manor House, was built just to the west of Storrs Hill Road – on the side of the drive which now leads to Ossett Academy. The builder’s name has not yet been discovered but a datestone carried the legend “E G 1684” The dwellinghouse was later converted into two dwellings and was demolished in 1958/59.

In 1349 the manor was described as a “messuage and a carucate of land” The description suggests a single dwelling (messuage) and about 120-180 acres of land. The Wakefield Manor Book 17099 records that William Oates was the Lord of Southwood Green. By 1775 William Oates’ son Edward had become owner of 121 acres of land in Sowood all of which, including a house and orchard, was rented to local farmers. It also included field names consistent with a park area, with a river frontage, enclosures for game animals for pleasure and the table and a collection of other buildings, barns etc in the vicinity of the Manor House.

As with all dynasties time took a hand and by 1843 the major landowner in Sowood, with 55 acres was William Moseley Perfect who inherited the land from his ancestor Edward Oates. Some sources10 believe that the 1684 Storrs Hill Road ‘Manor House’ site was the Sowood Manor House which could have been a 17th Century replacement for an earlier structure mentioned in 1316.

The location and the 121 acres described suggests that this area, owned by the Oates family, might at one time have comprised the whole of Sowood Manor. At its most northerly point stood a Manor House, on a lane leading off Storrs Hill Road, looking southwards over the Calder valley and the park and farm land which comprised the manor estate. Nearby stood the settlement of Sowood Green which, perhaps, was home to the men and women who worked on the nearby manor.

What conclusions can be drawn from these findings?

The Manor area to the west of Storrs Hill Road totals about 120 acres. In 1676 Sowood Farm is described as Sowood House suggesting the Manor may once have included land, including the Farm, on the east of Storrs Hill Road – but within the Ossett Township boundary. This total area is also shown on the representational map above and brings the total acreage to about 180 acres – still within the 14th Century description of the Manor as a messuage and a carucate of land.

Aerial photographs of Sowood Farm and the Storrs Hill Road Manor House show signs of medieval farming suggesting that both were sites of medieval activity. Both sites have characteristics consistent with the one time presence of a Manor House.

Sowood Farm, built 1689, has evidence of a pre 1676 dwelling which may have been of timber construction and it was a farm. There is also evidence of occupation – Denton’s House - in the late 16th Century. Its location though was peripheral to what would have been the Manor area and it is more distant from Sowood Green which appears to have been more of a population centre for Sowood.

The Storrs Hill Road Manor House, built 1684, was a part of a 120 acre parkland owned by single a family, a member of which, in 1709, was Lord of South wood green. This was the acreage of the Manor in the 14th Century. Known as Manor House in 1850 it was also located close to Sowood Green and consequently bears more of the characteristics of a typical manor as described by Denning (see above)

The evidence from this study casts doubt on the certainty of assertions that the 1689 Sowood Farm was known to be the site of a medieval manorial centre. The study concludes that the 1684 Storrs Hill Road Manor House site offers a possible location with equal credentials to the Sowood Farm site and that both deserve further consideration as the location of Sowood Manor House.


1. Wakefield Manor Court Roll 1676 [Yorkshire Archaeological Society] & History of Sowood Farm [Alan Howe 2013]
2. Lord Denning, Corpus Christi College Oxford v Gloucestershire County Council [1983] QB 360.
3. Place Names of South-West Yorkshire Armitage Goodall M.A University Press 1913.
4. 1709 Wakefield Manor Book - Charlesworth 1939.
5. Map from Medieval & Post Medieval Landscape of Ossett Township Manor of Wakefield Richard D Glover 2008. The colouring to denote the likely Manor area is from Glover and the writer’s 2012 research. The Manor area on this model extends to approximately 180 acres.
6. West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to A.D 1500 [1981], page 471.
6. 1813 Ossett Inclosure Order map ‘Sowood House’, in 1850 /1890 maps ‘Manor House’. Demolished in 1958/9.
7. The datestone lintel of the farmhouse includes weathered letters which the source has interpreted as Mackender but documentary evidence and a more careful examination of the date stone shows the letters read Marsden.
8. 1813 Ossett Inclosure Order map ‘Sowood House’, in 1850 /1890 maps ‘Manor House’. Demolished in 1958/9.
9. Manor of Wakefield Book 1709.
10. Medieval & Post Medieval Landscape of Ossett Township (Richard Glover 2008).

Sowood Manor Timeline

1277 - Wakefield Court Roll [WCR] reference to Soutwode.

1302 - Manor possibly purchased by Earl de Warenne from Sir John de Horbury & leased back to Sir John for life.

1304 - Sir John de Horbury dies and Manor reverts back to Earl de Warenne.

1309 - Wakefield Court Rolls reference to Southwode.

1315 - Henry Sprigonel appointed forester of Sowood. Adam son of William Shilnyng fined 50s for malpractice at Sowood (Farm) &three former graves of Horbury fined for not repairing the manor house at Sowood.

1316 - Henry de Flockton, Lord’s shepherd at Sowood fined for trespass.

1323 - Sowood leased to Thomas Alayn.

1327 - Feoffment reference to Henry, Thomas Del Hill & John Alayn of Southwod.

1323 to 1335 - Earl de Warenne grants manor to John de Breus.

1336 - John de Breus sells to William de Scargill and his wife Joan.

1349 - Warin de Scargill, son of William, died of Plague - manor is a messuage & carucate in hands of tenants at will, i.e. about 120 acres.

1363 - Sold to William de Gargrave and his wife Christian.

1585 - Christopher Denton fined for not maintaining his gate on Sowood Lone[Lane].

1593 - Plague at Sowood, eight Dentons & five more buried at Denton’s home. Several more Sowood deaths.

1660 - Restoration of the Monarchy. Manor possibly granted to the Royalist Oates family.

1676 - 1689 Francis Marsden acquires Sowood Farm & builds/re-builds the farmhouse.

1684 - Manor House built by “EG” on land off Storrs Hill Road.

1709 - William Oates recorded as Lord of Manor of Southwood Green.1775 Edward, son of William, Oates owner of 121 acres including Manor House at Storrs Hill.

1775 - Edward, son of William, Oates owner of 121 acres including Manor House at Storrs Hill.

1807 - Ossett Inclosure Order records Edward Oates’ nephew John Crowder as owner of land on which stood Storrs Hill Road Manor House.

1843 - Ossett Tithe Award records Edward Oates’ great great nephew William Moseley Perfect owner of 55 acres of the Manor including Storrs Hill Road Manor House

1959 - Storrs Hill Road Manor House demolished.

A History of Sowood Farm

Introduction and Summary

1300-1676 Controversy, The Dentons and The Black Death
Above the front door of Sowood Farm house is a datestone which carries the letters “FM” and the date 1689 but there is evidence1 that the farmstead is much older even than this. If we are to believe this evidence then in the early 14th Century the farm was undergoing significant changes and not all were successful.

Between 1277 and 1709 the Manor of Sowood is variously referred to as Sowewode, Southwood Green, Soutwode and Southwode which means ‘south wood’ and derives from Old English Su and wudu. The Manor had been acquired, by purchase or grant, by Sir John de Horbury in the late 13th or the very early 14th century possibly at the time he acquired the Manor of Horbury in 1302. Some sources2 believe that the 1689 house, which stands there today, was constructed on the site of a former manor house and that beams from that structure, which would have been of timber construction, were used in the building of the present farmhouse.

Sowood Farm in 2012

Sir John de Horbury’s tenure of the Manor was short lived and he died before 1304 when the Manor reverted to the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield, the 7th Earl de Warenne. Records show that the Manor appointed new staff to operate the farm and during the period 1304-1323 it seems likely that it became a mixed arable and livestock demesne3 farm of the Manor. During this period the farm was growing crops including oats and wheat and making hay and raising sheep and other animals for the Lord of the Manor’s table. This was the period of the Great Famine in England and not all went well at the Farm with evidence of malpractice and poor administration. By 1323 the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield had tired of Sowood and it was leased to Thomas Aleyn.

In 1336 Aleyn sold the Manor to William de Scargill who died of the plague in 1349 and by 1363 it was in the hands of William de Gargrave. Whilst war raged in 1462 in the War of The Roses at nearby Sandal Castle and again in the Civil War of 1642, little of local significance appears to have happened at Sowood for the next 200 years or so. Then, on 25th April 1585 at the Manor of Wakefield Tourn4 held at Wakefield. Christopher Denton did not make his part of Sowodd lone gate: amerced 4d.5 The “gate” may have been a structure but was more likely to be a path or roadway – a gateway - between the nearby towns of Horbury and Ossett. Even in the late 19th Century the Sowood Farmstead included land on the east and west of Denton Lane such that the road between Horbury and Ossett, Denton Lane, ran through it.

The 1585 reference places Christopher Denton at Sowood Farm in the late 16th Century and for the next 300 years or so if you wanted to go to the Farm from Horbury or from Ossett you would do so by taking the lane to Denton’s House. This lane subsequently became Denton Lane and was the street address of Sowood Farm well into the second half of the 19th century.

Sowood Farm would have earlier and later owners and occupiers than Christopher Denton but the significance of his lasting legacy in the name of the road which led to ‘Denton’s House’ can be found in 1593. In the late summer of this year Christopher Denton, seven of his family and five others in the locality fell victims to the Plague, The Black Death, and died within days of contracting the virulent disease.

Plague victimsAll were buried in unconsecrated ground at Denton’s House in Sowood. One of those Plague victims was Joanye Brouke who was buried at Denton’s House on 3rd August 1593. 300 years later the Brook family, almost certainly descendents of Joanye’s family, became tenants, and later, owners of Sowood Farm.

No doubt it took some considerable time for the farm to recover from this episode in its history. The Denton family was decimated by the Plague and the farm almost certainly would have seen new owners and/or occupiers in the 17th century. It may however have been an unattractive prospect for potential purchasers or tenants and the farm may have fallen further into decline.

If, as some believe, a timber manor house once stood on the site then, if it survived into the 17th century, it may have been in poor condition. Even if this was not the case there would be a farmhouse here which may have been timber built and in poor condition due to its age and, perhaps, even derelict following the tragic events at the end of the 16th Century. It was time for a change for Sowood Farm.

1676-1797 The Marsdens – Re-building, Stability and Early Deaths
In 1676 Francis Marsden (1651-1718) of Middlecliffe, Thurlstone, near Penistone, in South Yorkshire acquired the copyhold interest in the messuage called Sowood, or Sowood House, from Thomas Purdue, gentleman, of Pudsey. The circumstances by which Purdue came to possess the farm is uncertain but in October 1670 he married Priscilla Rayner at Bradford Cathedral. Rayner is a long established Horbury family name and it may be that Priscilla came from this family and that the Rayners owned the Sowood Farm copyhold interest from sometime earlier in the 17th century. It is clear from the 1676 Wakefield Manor Court Roll6 that Thomas Purdue was not working the farm and associated land himself because the house was tenanted by Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh and the land was being worked by Edmund Lord or his assigns. The 1676 Court Roll is the earliest evidence to emerge of the property and land being called Sowood. During most of the 18th and the early part of the 19th Century the Marsden and Nettleton owners and occupiers were described as being of Storrs Hill.7

The 1672 Hearth Tax for Ossett records that Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh were charged tax on one “chimney” each suggesting that the dwelling, which preceded the existing farmhouse, may have been divided to provide accommodation for two families. In 1657 Edmund Lord of Sowood buried his son William at Horbury which suggests that he may have been at the Farm by 1657. His first child was born in May 1648 and whilst the record does not refer to him as being of Sowood it is possible that he lived at the Farm as early as 1647/48 which is a mere 50 years or so after the earlier Denton owners/occupiers died of the Black Death.

The 1676 Court Roll provides evidence that a dwelling stood at Sowood in that year and that it was known as Sowood House. By the early 1680s Francisci Marsden, his wife Ann (nee Tinker) and their three children –all baptised at Penistone - had journeyed the 20 miles from Penistone parish to Ossett. The family came to work Sowood Farm and its 30 acres – to the east, west, north and south of the farm - and they also rented “a farm under Storrs Hill” from the Beatson family. In total the holding was probably close to 80-100 acres. There is no record of the Marsden family in the locality before 1680 but the Beatsons are recorded in Dewsbury as early as 1563 and in Horbury in 1599 – shortly after the Sowood Plague which may be significant. It is also likely that the families knew one another since each had occupied New Hall Farm at Overton; the Marsdens between1615-1651 and the Beatsons during most of the 18th century.

Francisci and Ann Marsden had three more children in the 1680s, all baptised at Dewsbury, and by 1709 Francis is recorded as having a messuage and lands on Sowood Green.8 The messuage9 was Sowood Farm which Francis Marsden built, or rebuilt, in 1689 when he left his mark on the datestone, FM 1689, above the door so that all could see he had arrived and meant to stay.

Church records in the late 17th century record the 1696 death at Horbury of Richard Marsdin of Sawid greene who probably came to the locality with his brother Francisci in about 1680. In 1699 Francisci’s eldest daughter Mary married a wealthy local man, William Pollard of Hallcliffe and in 1704 at Dewsbury his next daughter Elizabetha married John Illingworth. The Marsdens were already marrying well. It is clear too that whilst Francis was baptised at Penistone he had close links with families in the Holme Valley and Wooldale areas around Holmfirth and Scholes. Francis Marsden died in 1718, aged about 67 and a widower since his wife’s death the year before. In accordance with the primogeniture custom of the time Sowood Farm and other copyhold landholdings were left to his son Johannes or John Marsden (1674- 1735), the eldest of his two sons.

John Marsden (1674-1735) married twice and had ten children and when he died, aged 61, in 1735 he left a Will which included an inventory of his belongings in his farm at Sowood. It is certain that he lived at Sowood since his Will also refers to the names of the fields adjacent to the Sowood Farmstead; names which were recorded in the 1676 Court Roll, and again, almost 170 years later, in the 1843 Ossett Tithe Award map. Most of these field names continued to be used to describe locations and ownership into the late 19th Century. John’s estates at Storrs Hill and at Sowood Farm (subject to a life interest in the east parlour of the house to his widow) were left to his eldest son, also called John Marsden (1704-1742).

John Marsden (1704-1742) was born at the farm but by the time he came of age or married he was living elsewhere, although nearby. His Will refers to him as John Marsden of Ossett Lights which suggests he lived part of his short life somewhere to the east of Sowood Farm. The 1790 Wakefield Manor Estate map shows a building closer to Horbury but still within Ossett parish. In 1731 John married his cousin Elizabeth Illingworth (the daughter of his aunt Elizabetha Marsden and John Illingworth – the gene pool was narrowing) By the time of his death in 1742, aged 38, he left a widow and four children, all boys, under the age of 11. Unsurprisingly, his young widow re-married in 1747.

His Will left a life interest in Sowood farm to his mother, who was living there in accordance with his father’s wishes. On her death the farm was to pass to his widow and on her death to his eldest son, Francis Marsden (1731-1765). Other land on Storrs Hill was left to his younger sons William, John and Thomas.

Francis Marsden (1731-1765) suffered a similar fate to his father and died young at the age of 34. He and his wife Hannah (nee Haigh and the daughter of Robert Haigh of Haggs Farm Ossett) had five children but two pre-deceased Francis leaving his widow Hannah with three children under the age of 8 at his death in 1742. By this time the significant landholdings established by his father, grandfather and great grandfather had been largely distributed to Francis’s siblings and uncles and he was left with Sowood Farm which he left to his eldest son also called Francis (1762-1792). His wife Hannah, however, had inherited land from her father, Robert Haigh of Haggs who was a wealthy man and son of the long serving Minister of Horbury Church, James Haigh and his wife Barbara (nee Leeke) who was also had extremely wealthy and influential origins. Francis had left in his Will a wish that his children be brought up at his home at Sowood and true to his wishes his widow Hannah remained at the farm until they were of age. In 1784 the 49 year old Widow Marsden married William Illingworth who was her late husband’s first cousin.

Francis Marsden (1762-1792) was the eldest son of the earlier Francis, but he was only three years of age when his father died. He was to inherit Sowood Farm, to which his mother had tenant rights for as long as she remained a widow, when he reached the age of majority in about 1784 – the year his mother re-married. In 1775 Widow [Hannah] Marsden is recorded as the owner of the Farm. Francis married in 1790 and his Will made provision that if his wife was with child then that child should inherit Sowood. It was not to be and consequently when Francis died in 1792, aged 29, Sowood was left to his only brother John Marsden, aged 27. Francis left other land to his sister Elizabeth.

John Marsden (1764-1797) was farming land at Southowram (left to him by his uncle William Marsden of Hallcliffe) at the time of his brother’s death and he returned home to Sowood to farm his inheritance. He was a bachelor and he too died young in 1797 aged only 33.He was the last of the male line of this branch of Marsdens and he left his Ossett copyhold and freehold estates to his sister Elizabeth Nettleton (nee Marsden) for life with the proviso that on her death the estates were to be divided equally between her children. This was to be the beginning of the end for the family’s ownership of Sowood Farm which now passed, by marriage, to the Nettleton family.

1798-1903 The Nettletons and John Scholefield Horbury Attorney – Troubled times and legal complications

Elizabeth Nettleton (nee Marsden 1757-1843) inherited a life interest in Sowood Farm on the death of her brother John Marsden in 1797. It is probable that it was at this time that she and her husband, John Nettleton, who she had married in 1783, moved into Sowood. At her death the Farm, and other land devised to her by John Marsden, was to pass to those of Elizabeth’s children who were alive at her death.. Elizabeth and John Nettleton had eight children (one died aged 6 months in 1791) and it was almost inevitable that the farm would have to be sold to fulfil John Marsden’s wishes.

In the 1821 Ossett Census John and Elizabeth Nettleton are recorded at Sowood suggesting John (aged 77) was still working the farm. Because the common law of the time meant that a wife’s rights and ownership of assets passed to the husband, most property records in the first half of the 19th century show John Nettleton of Storrs Hill, farmer, as owner and/or occupier of Sowood Farm. Even after his death in 1823 the Farm is recorded in property records as being in the hands of his Trustees/Exors (his son Joseph and his son in law Joseph Brook). In 1816, one of their children, Thomas, died leaving six children to share John Marsden’s Ossett estates on Elizabeth’s death.

John Nettleton of Storrs Hill died in 1823 making no reference to Sowood Farm in his Will. This was to be expected since he had no power over the distribution of the Farm under the terms of John Marsden’s bequest. Prior to his death however he and his children had made agreements with John Scholefield , a Horbury Attorney at Law, businessman and landowner. The detail is sketchy but it seems that the Nettleton children’s promised inheritance of Sowood, to which they would become entitled on their mother’s death, had been “bought” by John Scholefield. It seems likely that in 1823 Scholefield advanced the Nettleton children an amount equal to the value of Sowood Farm which allowed them to “cash” their promised inheritance earlier than the death of their mother. John Scholefield, effectively a mortgagee, secured these advances against Sowood.

Elizabeth Nettleton lived for another 20 years and died at Sowood Farm in 1843. By this time she had survived all but three of her eight children. The views of the surviving three children are unknown but the implications of their earlier decision to enter the 1823 agreement must have been clear. In 1823 it seems they had each mortgaged their one sixth share of Sowood Farm; had they awaited their mother’s death then the survivors would have had one third shares each because three of their siblings died between 1823 and 1843. Of course they could not have anticipated that their mother would live so long or that three of their siblings would die before she did. However their actions in 1823 had lost each of them one half of the value of their inheritance.

John Nettleton died in 1823 but his estate had not been settled by 1843 and there is evidence that the issue was still “live” in 1881 and maybe even in 1903. In between, in 1836, there had been a Chancery Court action by William Barber who had entered a land transaction with John Nettleton in 1815. All of John Nettleton’s children, those individuals who witnessed his 1822 Will and 1823 Codicil (which made changes to his Will to reflect the John Nettleton junior episode) his executors and also John Scholefield were named as defendants in the action. Those individuals who were not family were questioned as to the signatures on the Will and Codicil, the length of time they had known John senior and the state of his mind in 1823 when he died.

No evidence has emerged of the outcome of the 1836 Chancery case and it may be that it never came to Court but this and the 1823 Agreement may have caused the long delay in the closure of John Nettleton’s estate. It is possible that this affair which appears to have rumbled on for 80 years since the1823 Agreements with John Scholefield will forever remain a mystery but it can be no coincidence that in 1904 his grand daughter by marriage, Frances Battye, passed ownership of Sowood Farm to her son Captain Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye – the great grandson of John Scholefield.
John Nettleton senior was buried on 20th October 1823 and Sowood House was advertised for sale shortly afterwards in the "Leeds Mercury."

Sowood HOuse advert in Leeds Mercury

Above: Advertisement for Sowood House from the "Leeds Mercury" dated 29th November 1823

In 1841 John Nettleton’s widow Elizabeth continued to live at the Farm with the Census recording her living either in the house or in a cottage there with a ‘servant’, Sarah Nettleton who was probably Elizabeth’s grand daughter. There was however also a tenant farmer, John Hill, working the farm in 1841 and this arrangement involving tenant farmers continued for more than 100 years until 1948. In 1843, the year of Elizabeth’s death - the Ossett Tithe Award records the farm still in the ownership of John Nettleton’s Executors i.e. his son Joseph Nettleton and his son in law Joseph Brook10 who had married John Nettleton’s eldest daughter Elizabeth Nettleton in 1815.

Whether or not the Nettletons legally owned the farm between 1823 and 1903 is uncertain but most property records suggest that various Nettleton Executors did have a hold of some sort. In 1876 Frances Battye (John Scholefield’s grand daughter by marriage) declared a right of inheritance of 144 acres of West Riding real estate – including Sowood Farm.

It was certainly the case in 1841 that Elizabeth Nettleton was living at Sowood Farm but so too was farmer John Hill suggesting that there may have been at least two dwellings11 located on the Farm at that time. A deed of 184712 indicates ‘all those messuages etc with the barn stables folds shops some of which have for some time past been converted into and are now occupied as cottages at Storrs Hill..now in the occupation of John Marsden, Job Scott, David Westerman and others....’ It is clear from other references in the Deed that this is Sowood Farm. It records that, in addition to the farmhouse, at least three cottages, some perhaps converted from farm buildings, stood here from some time earlier than 1847. It is possible that some of these dwellings or conversions were undertaken in the early part of the 19th Century by the ageing John Nettleton who needed to secure a steady income which required less effort than farming.

Between 1851 and 1891 the Farm was tenanted by working farmers. John Hill, who was tenant farmer in 1841 was still at Sowood in 1851, but by 1861 he was replaced by George Mitchell, Rag Merchant and farmer of 30 acres, and his wife Sarah (nee Marsden)13 who built a house later in the 1860’s (Rock Cottage - demolished in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s) on the south side of Sowood Bend opposite Sowood Farm.

In 1871 and 1881 the tenant farmer was William Crowther also working 30 acres and, the Nettletons, in the form of J. Nettleton’s Trustees, were recorded in the 1881 Poor Law Assessment record as the owners of Sowood Farm and William Crowther & his under tenants were the occupiers. That record shows the Sowood land and the house, kitchen, barn, stable/mistal, old cottage used as mistal, hen place, cart shed .In addition there are five cottages also said to be owned by the Nettleton Trustees and occupied by named tenants or, perhaps, under tenants. In 1871 there are 35 people in six families living in dwellings, probably including converted agricultural buildings, at Sowood Farm. By this time Sowood Farm was a busy community.

It is difficult to reconcile14 the 1881 Poor Law Assessment reference to ownership by the Nettletons with an 1876 indenture between Frances Battye, [of 66 Queens Gardens Hyde Park London] and the Duke of Leeds, Lord of the Manor of Wakefield which confirms that Frances Battye (nee Bibby) has inherited 144 acres of copyhold estate in Yorkshire including 16 acres at Sowood Farm. It seems that the ownership was still in dispute and as we have seen this conflict must hark back to the 1815 and 1820’s Agreements and the 1836 Chancery case. .

The description in the 1876 Deed refers to ‘two cottages & gardens Sowood House & Farm buildings, three cottages adjoining, Great Ox Close, Little Ox Close, The Ing, Calf Croft.....’ All of the above buildings & dwellings are occupied by William Crowther & his under tenants. These are the field names recorded on the 1843 Tithe Award and those same field names are referred to in John Marsden’s Will in 1735. Ox Close and the Ing are mentioned in the 1676 Wakefield Court Roll when Francis Marsden first acquired the copyhold interest in Sowood farm.

But how was it that Frances Battye (nee Bibby) daughter of James Jenkinson Bibby of Hardwicke Grange Shropshire, High Sheriff of Shropshire and founder of the Bibby Shipping Line came to be owner of 15 acres of land and a farm at Sowood in Ossett? In 1866 Frances Bibby married Richard Battye JP and Attorney at Law of Skelton Hall and Crosland Grange Yorkshire. Richard was the son of William Walker Battye and Margaret Scholefield who was the daughter of John Scholefield of Horbury. Richard Battye was grandson to John Scholefield.

John Scholefield died in 1850 leaving the bulk of his estate including Sowood Farm, to his daughter Margaret and her heirs. She died at Skelton Hall York in August 1869 surviving, by only five months, her husband William Walker Battye who died in March 1869.

Their estates were left in large part to her eldest son Richard Battye, Barrister at Law, of Queens Gardens London, the husband of Frances Battye. He died at Hardwicke Grange, the home of his in laws, “the result of an accident” in 1873 and Frances inherited his estate, including Sowood Farm, upon his death. Thus Frances Battye (nee Bibby) heiress to part of her father’s estate (valued at £1.773m at his death in 1893) was also to inherit a substantial part of John Scholefield’s estate as a result of the deaths of her in laws and her husband within a four year period 1869-1873. She thus became the owner of large tracts of land and property including land at Horbury and Sowood Farm.

By the time of his death in 1850 John Scholefield was the second largest owner of land in Horbury (the largest owner being John Carr). In 1873 the Return of Owners of Land in Yorkshire record the late Richard Battye and his late father William Walker Battye as owners of 331 acres of Yorkshire land, including Sowood. By 1900 Frances Battye was one of the largest owners of land in Horbury and her ownerships included Hallcroft, Horbury Hall and Nether Hall later to be The Shepherd’s Arms Public House.

Frances Battye continued to rent Sowood to tenant farmers and by 1891 John Tasker was farming Sowood In 1896 Fredrick Brook (1864-1936), the grandson of Joseph Brook and his wife Elizabeth (nee Nettleton), had become the tenant farmer of Sowood Farm.. His grandfather, Joseph Brook, was a Trustee of John Nettleton’s estate in 1823 and his wife was John Nettleton’s daughter. Joseph would have known Sowood farm which may have been the reason for him leaving his farming at Gawthorpe in the 1820’s to assist his aged father in law to farm at Sowood. Sowood Farm was no stranger to the Brooks and Fredrick’s tenancy was to begin a long occupation by the Brook family which lasts until today (2013).

In 1904 shortly after Fredrick’s arrival there was to be a change of ownership at Sowood Farm. During their short marriage Richard Battye and his wife Frances (nee Bibby) of Skelton Hall and Crosland Manor Yorkshire had children, the eldest was the only son born in 1867 and named Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye . He was educated at Eton and became a Captain in the 13th Royal Hussars. In May 190415 Captain Battye of Cadogan Square Kensington was party to a Deed with his mother Francis whereby he acquired several of her land and property holdings in Horbury and Ossett. Included in the transfer was ‘...house, barn, mistall, two cottages and 16 acres of land in the occupation of Fredrick Brook.’

In the early 1900’s the Wakefield & District Light Railway Company(WDLRC) had begun land acquisitions and work to develop a tram, or light rail, link from Ossett to Wakefield Agbrigg via Horbury. The line, which required the acquisition of a strip of frontage land to be purchased16 from Frances Battye to widen the road at Sowood, opened in August 1905 and closed in July 1932. Until July 2009 the three-line tram shed depot stood opposite Sowood Farm, but today the only legacy of tram journeys past Sowood Farm is the collapsed wall, built by the WDLRC in 1904, at the roadside south frontage of the farmhouse. The road level at Sowood is much higher than the 17th and 18th Century buildings which it skirts, partly as a result of the foundations for the laying of the tram tracks in the early 20th Century.

Tramlines at Sowood

Above: The above photograph from about 1910 shows a workman on the roadside outside Sowood Farm with an Ossett - Horbury - Agbrigg tramcar in the distance.. It appears also that a horse and cart, or trap, is making its way towards the Farm. The 26ft high sectional steel poles carrying the overhead electric lines for the tramcars can be clearly seen on the south side of Sowood Lane.

1904-2012 Captain Battye and the Brook family
The Brook and Battye families were to continue their owner/occupier relationship well into the mid 20th Century. In 1910 the Inland Revenue [‘Domesday’] Valuation shows LRJS Battye as owner and Fred Brook as tenant. The record shows Milk Farm known as Sowood Farm "....there is a good building frontage on two sides. Trams pass to and from Wakefield frequently." Fred Brook is also shown as owner and occupier of a “wood mistal” at the farm. He is there too in 1911 when the Census records Fredrick Brook, cattle dealer and farmer living in the six roomed Sowood Farm.

Bennett Brook early 1900s

Above: Bennett Brook at Sowood Farm in the early 1900s.

Fredrick Brook died on 4th March1936 and the farm tenancy was taken over by his only son Bennett Brook (1891-1980). Bennett’s farm account book from this time has survived and the first entry is dated 4th March 1936. It was during Bennett’s tenure that the Farm was purchased by the Brook family. Captain Battye died, a bachelor without issue, in May 1947 and his executors began to sell his land holdings, including Sowood Farm. On 1st October 1948 Bennett purchased "...all that farmhouse cottage (formerly two cottages but some time ago converted into one) & farm buildings together with land thereto belonging known as Sowood Farm situated on Sowood Road formerly in the occupation of Fredrick Brook but now of the purchaser being formerly described as 16 acres but the whole by recent admeasurement having been found to contain 15 acres 1rood 35 perches....”

Except for a break in 1917 - 18 whilst Bennett was serving with the Army on the Western Front as a Machine Gunner17, he had worked the farm from being a young man, assisting his father on the land and with the stock. Bennett’s widowed mother, Lilly continued to live at Sowood Farm after her husband, Fred’s death in 1936 but whilst Bennett took over the running of the Farm he lived with his family on the other side of Sowood Bend at the 1860’s built Rock Cottage which he rented. Lilly Brook died at Sowood Farm on 29 September 1957 and shortly afterwards Bennett Brook moved to Manor House18 on Manor Lane. In the meantime, Bennett’s only son, David Brook (1928 - 2002) had married Dorothy Ingham in 1951 and they began their married life at Barmby Fold, before moving to Sowood Farm in 1957 following Lilly Brook’s death. Their two children Christine and Peter were born in the mid/late 1950s.

In the 1980s David and Dorothy and Brook began to contemplate improvements to the 17th Century working farmhouse at Sowood and in 1981 they were visited by the National Commission of Historic Monuments. This led, in 1988, to the farmhouse being Grade II Listed and it remains today the only Listed Building in Ossett, which is still used as a dwelling. But even the 1988 listing documentation left unanswered questions about the identity of the builder of the farmhouse and the building itself. That documentation includes reference to the lintel/datestone above the south facing front door of the Farmhouse which bear the initials ‘FM’ and the date ‘1689’ Between these two markings there is barely legible lettering which the listing has variously reported as being the word ‘flackender’ and ‘F Mackender’ .The listing attributes the building of the 1689 Farmhouse to a person of the same name, stating "the present house built in 1689 by F Mackender incorporates a timber partition between the body of the house and the outshut."

Had the listing sources called upon the Horbury local historian, Ken Bartlett, he would have told them about ‘The Marsden family.......from Ossett, mainly from Sowood Farm, just over the Ossett Horbury boundary. The lintel over the front doorway has the initials of the Marsden family and a late seventeenth Century date’ Ken Bartlett, of course, was correct and this research has taken his work a step or two further and identified the builder as Francis Marsden. As for the barely legible lettering on the lintel above the doorway it reads neither flackender nor Mackender but Marsden.

The listing also states, categorically, that ‘work has revealed substantial rafters which probably came from the buildings of the Medieval manorial centre which is known to have existed on the site from at least 1302’

Whilst it may be the case that a manorial centre existed at Sowood Farm it is by no means certain. The argument in favour of Sowood Farm being the site of an earlier manor is based upon 14th century Court Rolls which refer to farming activity at Sowood but this is not evidence that this activity took place at the site of the modern day Sowood Farm. Whilst this may be the case, other evidence suggests that the Manor may have been situated elsewhere in Sowood.

This evidence19 suggests Sowood manor may have been situated further west, possibly with a manor house, on Storrs Hill Road near Sowood Green. A dwelling known in 1850 as the “Manor House” built in 1684 and demolished in 1958/59 stood on a lane leading westward from Storrs Hill Road - the lane now leads to Ossett Academy. The “Manor House” was built on land which was owned by Edward Oates in 1775 and his father, William Oates, was recorded in 1709 as the Lord of the Manor of South wood green. The Oates ownership in this location stretched to 121 acres and in 1349 the Manor was described as a messuage and carucate of land which is generally taken to be about 120 acres.

Previously unknown evidence has now been discovered that, in 1676, the present day Sowood Farm was the site of a dwelling – probably a farm, called Sowood House. This substantiates the contention that an earlier building stood here before the present farmhouse was built or rebuilt in 1689. This earlier building may also have had a long history and may have included an earlier Manor House. Whilst it is not claimed that the Storrs Hill Road Manor House and the associated Oates 120 acres landholding was the site of Sowood Manor and House its credentials are at least as worthy of further research and consideration as the Sowood Farm site.

In 2012 Sowood Farm is owned and run by Dorothy Brook and her children Peter Brook and Christine Burnell (nee Brook). Since 1689 the Farm has been owned by the Marsden family who built it, the Nettletons who married into the Marsden family, the Scholefields and the Battyes who acquired it by default and the Brooks who tenanted and subsequently purchased it. As it turns out, they brought it back to the family who built it.
Many interesting facts have emerged during the course of the research but two family connections are particularly fascinating.

In 1593 Joanye Brouke died of the plague and was buried at Denton’s House or Sowood Farm. The present Brook family are almost certainly 9th generation descendants of Joanye Brouke’s family. Moreover the study has revealed a relationship between today’s owners and the 1689 builder which was unknown to the current owners of the Farm, the Brook family. The Farm was built in 1689 by Francis Marsden and one of his descendants married a Nettleton who had a daughter who married a Brook. These happy events led to Peter Brook and his sister Christine being related to Francis. In 2012 Peter and Christine are working the Farm which 324 years ago was built and worked by their 8x Great Grandfather Francis Marsden.


1. West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to A.D 1500 M.L. Faull & S.A. Moorhouse 1981 page 471.
2. Ibid. There is another contender for the location of an earlier Manor House. This was built on Storrs Hill Road in 1684 and demolished in 1959. See “Sowood Manor A collection of historical references” (Alan Howe 2013.)
3. Demesne – operated by the Lord of the Manor for his own use.
4. Tourn Local criminal court presided over by the sherriff.
5. Christopher Denton did not repair his section of Sowood Lane roadway to Horbury/Ossett & was fined 4d.
6. The entry refers to a “messuage” in the singular suggesting it was a single dwelling – perhaps divided?
7. This is likely to be because the majority of the land worked from the Farm was situated at Storrs Hill.
8. 1709 Wakefield Manor Book.
9. Messuage – Plot of land usually containing a dwelling.
10. Joseph Brook married Elizabeth Nettleton in 1815. She was the eldest daughter of John Nettleton and his wife Elizabeth (nee Marsden). By marriage the Brook family became related to the Marsdens, the builders of Sowood Farm.
11. There is also evidence however that the farmhouse was divided to provide accommodation for two families.
12. West Yorkshire Archives Service Deeds Registry. Deed reference 1847 QE 333 340.
13. Sarah Marsden was the 4 x great grand daughter of Francis Marsden (1651-1718).
14. It may be that the Scholefield Agreements allowed time for the Nettleton children to redeem the mortgages and that this period had not yet elapsed and/or the litigation of the early 1800’s remained unresolved. There is no doubt however that the Battye descendants of John Scholefield owned the Farm, or the rights to the Farm and this was borne out in 1904.
15. In 1903 the estate of John Nettleton (died 1867) and his sister Harriet (died 1865) was proved. John was the grandson of John Nettleton (died 1823). Was it coincidence that a year later the Farm passed by Deed from Frances Battye to her son? Perhaps there was some form of covenant on the land which expired after 80 years.
16. West Yorkshire Archives Service Deeds Registry Deed reference 30 942 427.
17. Bennett’s War Diary 1918 has survived & an extract is in the full "History of Sowood Farm" at www.ossett.net/downloads
18. Manor House, Manor Lane, Ossett, Mark Wilby (1827-1912) [Alan Howe 2009] www.ossett.net/downloads
19. See Sowood Manor - A Collection of Historical notes [Alan Howe 2013] www.ossett.net/downloads

Sowood Farm Timeline 1277-2013

1277 - Wakefield Court Roll [WCR] reference to Soutwode.

1302 - Sowood probably purchased by Earl de Warenne from Sir John de Horbury & leased back to Sir John for his life.

1304 - Sir John de Horbury dies and Manor reverts back to Earl de Warenne.

1309 - Wakefield Court Roll reference to Southwode manor.

1315 - Henry Sprigonel appointed forester of Sowood. Adam son of William Shilnyng fined 50s (£1000 current value) for malpractice at Sowood & three former graves of Horbury fined for not repairing the manor house at Sowood.

1316 - Henry de Flockton, lord’s shepherd at Sowood fined for trespass.

1323 - Sowood leased for seven years to Thomas Alayn.

1327 - Feoffment reference to Henry, Thomas Del Hill & John Alayn of Southwod.

1336 - Manor sold to William de Scargill and his wife Joan.

1349 - Warin de Scargill, son of William, died of Plague -manor is a messuage & carucate in hands of tenants at will.

1363 - Sold to William de Gargrave and his wife Christian.

1585 - Christopher Denton fined for not maintaining his gate on Sowood Lone[Lane].

1593 - Plague at Sowood. Eight Dentons & five others buried at Denton’s house.

1657 - Edmund Lord of Sowood buries his son William at Horbury. In 1654, 1655 & 1661 he also buried still born children but these records do not refer to him as being of Sowood.

1672 - Hearth Tax shows Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh each paying tax on one chimney.

1676 - Francis Marsden acquires copyhold interest in Sowood from Thomas & Priscilla Purdue (nee Rayner). Farm tenants Edmund Lord & Edward Haigh.

1680 - The Marsden (Francis and brother Richard) family arrive in Sowood/Storrs Hill.

1689 - Francis Marsden (re)builds Sowood Farm and has three children baptised Dewsbury.

1709 - Francis Marsden (1651-1718) recorded as owner of messuage and lands at Sowood.

1718 - Farm inherited by eldest son John Marsden (1674-1735)

1735 - Farm inherited by eldest son John Marsden (1704-1742) Farmhouse Inventory.

1742 - Farm inherited by eldest son Francis Marsden (1731-1765)

1765 - Farm inherited by eldest son Francis Marsden (1762-1792) Farmhouse Inventory.

1775 - Widow Marsden in occupation of the farm.

1792 - Farm inherited by John Marsden brother of Francis Marsden (1765-1792)

1797 - Farm Inherited by Elizabeth Nettleton ( Marsden) sister of John Marsden (1764-1797)

1798 - John Nettleton owner (as Elizabeth’s husband)

1813 - Inclosure Order shows John Nettleton owner (as Elizabeth’s husband)

1814 - John Nettleton junior signs Agreement with John Scholefield, Horbury attorney.

1823 - John Nettleton Executors’ recorded as owners. Agreements with John Scholefield signed by all surviving Nettleton children of John & Elizabeth.

1843 - Ossett Tithe Award John Nettleton Execs (but mortgaged to John Scholefield).

1876 - Frances Battye, wife of John Scholefield’s grandson, registers rights to ownership.

1881 - Poor Law Rate records J. Nettleton’s Executors as owners.

1888 - Probate granted re John Nettleton’s son (also John) who died December 1867.

1896 - Fredrick Brook becomes tenant of Sowood Farm.

1903 - Probate granted re John Nettleton’s grandson (also John) who died April 1866.

1904 - Captain Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye, son of Frances, becomes owner.

1936 - Bennett Brook takes over tenancy on death of his father, Fredrick (whose widow, Lilly continues to live at Sowood).

1948 - Bennett Brook, son of Fredrick purchases the Farm but lives nearby.

1957 - Bennett’s son David Brook and his wife Dorothy (nee Ingham) move to Sowood after death of David’s grandmother, Lilly.

1980 - David Brook inherits Sowood Farm on the death of his father, Bennett Brook.

1988 - Sowood Farmhouse is Grade II Listed.

2002 - Dorothy Brook and her children Peter Brook and Christine Burnell (nee Brook) take over running of the farm.

The Marsden Family of Ossett and Horbury 1

The Old Halfway House and Matty Marsden Lane Horbury - Who was Matty Marsden?

The Old Halfway House Horbury stands at the junction of Westfield Road and Matty Marsden Lane but for much of the 19th century, and before, this stretch of Westfield Road was known as Denton Lane. The building displays signs of several alterations over the years and includes some stonework along the road frontage which suggests 18th Century beginnings.

Halfway House

Above: The Old Halfway House with Matty Marsden Lane to the right

At that time Denton Lane began at this building and ended in Ossett Parish at the junction of the roads now known as Horbury Road and Sowood Lane Ossett. Along Denton Lane, closer to Ossett than to Horbury, stood Sowood Farm which in the late 16th century was occupied by the Denton family who worked and lived at the farmstead. Sadly tragedy struck the farm and the Dentons and three generations of the family died in summer 1593 when they contracted the Plague, The Black Death.

The Dewsbury Parish Burial records of the time reveal that thirteen people, including eight Dentons, were buried of the plague at Denton’s House. This tale is pertinent to the story of Matty Marsden Lane because it is a reminder that pathways, bridleways, roads and lanes were often named after the people who lived there or close by. It is also pertinent because it meant that Sowood Farm was no longer occupied and that new tenants were required to work the farm which some believe was the site of an earlier Medieval manor.

At the end of the 16th and throughout most of the 17th century Sowood Farm would be in decline. The buildings, almost certainly timber structures, were old and neglected and It was almost 100 years before any serious efforts were made to renew the farmstead. In the early 1680’s farmer Francis Marsden (1651-1718)2 left Penistone parish with his wife and three children and journeyed the 20 miles to Ossett to rent land and a farm “under Storrs Hill” from Thomas Beatson who was considering a future elsewhere at New Hall Overton.

By 1689 Francis Marsden had built or rebuilt Sowood Farm and he had three more children all of whom were baptised at Dewsbury. Of his six children, John the eldest and William the youngest were the only boys. They, their father and their descendants were to leave a significant legacy on the Storrs Hill landscape in the next 100 years.

Francis Marsden died in 1718 leaving his son John Marsden (1679-1735) to work Sowood whilst young William (1689-1757) went to farm at Hallcliffe, with his brother in law William Pollard. William Marsden died a bachelor without issue but John Marsden was a father of ten children including the eldest child, also named John (1704-1742) and a second son named Joseph Marsden (1714-1758). Six of John’s ten children were boys.

As was the custom in those days the eldest son inherited most of the father’s estate and so it was in 1735 that John Marsden inherited Sowood Farm leaving the rest of the children to find their own way in the world and often this meant they must seek their fortunes elsewhere. For Joseph Marsden, the second son, this meant him leaving Sowood and making a new home in nearby Horbury. When he died in 1758 Joseph Marsden was referred to as being “of the Township of Horbury “ and in his Will he left to his wife, Mary, his dwelling house and the land upon which it was built, which was “held under” (rented from) Anby Beatson of New Hall. This land was on Storrs Hill and was probably the same land which Joseph’s grandfather Francis had worked earlier.

Joseph Marsden had nine children but only three were to survive him. The youngest and only surviving boy was Francis, or Frank Marsden (1751-1797) who was five years of age when his father died. It is likely that he continued to live with his mother, Mary (nee Peace) and two other surviving siblings at their home on Storrs Hill where they eked out a living from farming the land left to them by their father.

Joseph also left an inventory with his Will which records the contents of his home and whilst it is clear that his dwelling is in Horbury and on Storrs Hill the actual location is not certain. By 1775 Frank Marsden is 24 years old and farming about 28 acres of Horbury land including the 4 acre Sallot Royd field situated on the east side of Denton Road and a 4 acre “close under the house”. The same 1775 record shows that “Mrs Marsden” was also farming land in Horbury mainly in the area close to the River Calder. The Ossett Valuation 1775 records a Widow Marsden renting land with the same field names from Edward Oates and it is thought that Mrs Marsden and Widow Marsden were one and the same – the widow of Francis Marsden of Sowood Farm. The land shown in the 1775 records for Ossett and Horbury were in the area shown on the map (below) denoted by “These lands are assessed to both Townships of Horbury and Ossett”.

Sowood 1795 Map

The map (c 1795) is interesting too because it shows a building at the junction of Denton Lane (Westfield Road) and Matty Marsden Lane and other buildings further south on what is now known as Matty Marsden but then may have been part of an old, perhaps ancient, route from Storrs Hill (Stauge Hill) to Horbury town. Note too that the map shows that the lane adjoining Denton Lane is depicted as a more substantial route than the stretch adjoining Storrs Hill Road. This suggests that the main access to the buildings shown there was from Denton Lane.

The evidence is that Francis or Frank Marsden was living on Storrs Hill and working land there and on the east side of Denton Lane. The 1795 Estate Map shows buildings in which he may have been living. One of those buildings is the one which sometime later would become the Halfway Beerhouse.

By 1778 Frank had married Martha (nee Kirshaw) and by the time of his death in 1797 he was the father of nine children aged between one and nineteen. The eldest was also called Martha Marsden (1778-1852) after her mother. Consequently in 1797 Martha Marsden was a widow with nine children. No evidence has emerged that she re-married after 1797 and it is likely therefore that she remained living at her home on Storrs Hill. Four of Martha’s children were boys. One died in the 1797, the same year as his father, two others went off to Cumberland and Bradford, but the youngest boy, Benjamin Marsden (1790-1867) remained living in Horbury until about 1820 when he moved to Healey in Ossett.

Benjamin Marsden had eight children and only his eldest child, Francis or Frank Marsden (1817-1886) was baptised in Horbury before his father moved to Ossett. The 1841 Census records this Frank living in the only Horbury parish dwelling on Denton Lane. This property can only be the building which was to become the Halfway Beerhouse. Frank must have left Horbury to live in Ossett with his parents in about 1820 but he returned to Denton Lane perhaps in 1837 when he married Eliza Wilby.

The 1848 Horbury Tithe Book records plot numbers 240, 241 and 242 in the ownership of Thomas Marsden (Frank’s younger brother) and in the occupation of Frank Marsden. The reason for this is perhaps apparent in the events of 1851 recorded below. The plots are described as “House & Yard, Garden, Croft and Shop”. The 1857 Tithe Book shows that ownership has passed to George Thompson but the occupier is Frank Marsden suggesting that he and his family were still living there. The description of the three plots numbered 240, 241 and 242 is Halfway Beer House, Cottage, Cow House etc, Garden and croft.

By 1851 Frank Marsden is in York Castle Debtors’ Prison and the London Gazette of 6th June 1851 records that Frank Marsden (sued with John Wilson) late of Horbury, out of business, a prisoner for debt, cloth manufacturer in co-partnership with John Wilson, under the style of Messrs Wilson and Marsden and also in co-partnership with David Clafton, Joseph Wilby and John Wilson in Power and Machinery in the Victoria Spinning and Slubbing Mill. Frank’s wife, Eliza, and their children continued to live at the dwelling in 1851 (which by now has an address of Westfield Road) but by 1857 the property is named the Halfway Beer House and it has the same description in the 1861 Census. By this time Francis has been released and is working as a rag grinder and living on Horbury Road Westgate Wakefield where he was to spend of his life. He died in 1886.

In 1866 the following press report from the "Leeds Mercury" on 1st February 1866 suggests that the Halfway Beer house has changed its name to The Green Man. Even the tragic case of Nathaniel Illingworth has a Marsden connection for he was the great-great-grandson of Francis Marsden who built Sowood Farmhouse in 1689. He was also married to Fanny Clafton who may have been a relative of the David Clafton who was a business partner of Francis Marsden pre 1851.


An inquest was held on Tuesday night at the Fleece Inn, Horbury before Mr. T. Taylor, coroner, on view of the body of Nathaniel Illingworth, of South Ossett, aged sixty nine years. The evidence went to show that deceased had been at the Green Man Inn, between Ossett and Horbury, sometime on Monday night, and left there about half-past nine, with the intention of returning home. It would seem, however, that instead of turning to the right when he left the public-house, he turned to the left, and thus got on the wrong track. When he had proceeded a few hundred yards from the Green Man, it is supposed that he had fallen and was unable to rise. He was seen at the foot of Storr's Hill, close to the stone quarry, at four o'clock on Tuesday morning by a man named Booth, who was going to work. He then had his coat and hat off and was covered in mud. Booth asked him if he were not going home, and deceased replied that he was at home and proceeded to take off his boots. Witness then left him. In reply to the coroner, witness said he did not think the deceased was in such a helpless condition, or he would have rendered him assistance. Other witnesses deposed to finding him in the same place at six o'clock, but he was then unable to speak. At seven o'clock he was found by a man named Levi Teal, nearly dead; he only breathed a minute or so after the arrival of Teal, who gave information to the police, and had the deceased conveyed to the Fleece Inn. The jury returned a verdict of "Died from exposure to cold."

The 1871 Census records the Public House once again as the Halfway House suggesting that The Green Man name had not long survived. The origin of the name will be lost in time but the change of name may have coincided with the arrival of the landlord, John Nichols, from Sleaford Lincolnshire who, in 1861, describes himself as a fish dealer and beer house keeper. Was The Green Man a reminder to him of an earlier time in his life when he may have had an uncomfortable time learning the fish trade whilst working the boats?

By 1874, much to the annoyance of the Horbury Local Board, the lane was being used by their Ossett counterparts to tip household refuse suggesting that the adjacent quarry had, by then, come to the end of its useful life4. This must surely have resulted in the strengthening of the lane’s surface to allow vehicular (horses and carts) access and egress to the tip. There may also have been some widening to the lane although the 1795 map suggests some width to the lane even in those early days.

What can be made from the above information as it relates to the dwelling which became the Halfway beerhouse between 1851 and 1857 and does this have any bearing on the name of the adjacent Matty Marsden Lane? It is certain that Frank Marsden (1817-1886) was living there by 1841 and he would have been there in 1851 were it not for a prior engagement at York Prison. It is also likely that Frank was born there like his father Benjamin Marsden (1790-1866) who probably lived there until his move to Ossett in about 1820. Benjamin’s father, Frank Marsden (1751-1797) was working 28 acres of land on Storrs Hill and Denton Lane in 1775 and living in the house with his wife Martha Marsden and nine children including his eldest daughter who was also called Martha. This would be the house that Frank’s father, Joseph Marsden (1714-1758) mentioned in his Will as being on Storrs Hill and rented from Anby Beatson of New Hall.

The building, now known as the Old Halfway House is shown on the Manor of Wakefield Estate map 1795 and today displays several building styles suggesting several extensions and some re-modelling over the years. Parts of the building do however suggest 18th Century construction and it is possible that this section of the building was constructed in about 1739 in readiness for Joseph Marsden to move into with his new bride, Mary Peace, who he married in Horbury on 5th January 1740.

The late Ken Bartlett, the renowned Horbury historian had this to say about Matty Marsden Lane:

"The road from High Street to Ossett via Westfield Road had two names: Westfield Road or Lane from Highfield Road to the Half Way House and from the Half Way House to the Ossett boundary it was called Denton Lane. The road then turned left through Sowood and the Green into Ossett. There was no Station Road and that was built later. Matty Marsden Lane is obviously called after someone of that name, but in all my research, I have not come across anyone of that name, either Matthew or Matilda. The Marsdens were an Ossett family mainly and Matty was probably an Ossett person. A branch of the Marsden family lived at Sowood Farm, just over the Ossett boundary, their initials are over the door with the date 1689."

Ken Bartlett had it almost correct, but just 30 years or so ago he didn’t have the resources available to him that can be accessed in the 21st century. Ken was searching for a Matthew or Matilda Marsden but, not surprisingly, he couldn’t find one. That’s because they don’t exist. However a search of the several Family history websites now available will reveal many a Martha who is also known as Matty.

Closer to home in Horbury the name Matty was also in use in the late 18th /early 19th Century For example in November 1804 William, the son of William Rayner and Matty was baptised at Horbury. In January 1803 the same William Rayner and Martha had their son Joshua baptised at Horbury. They had only the two children it seems; unusual except that on 4th December 1805 Martha Rayner wife of William Rayner was buried at Horbury. This demonstrates that Matty was an alternative name for Martha and also that the name was in use in Horbury. Even Wikipedia has it that Matty is an alternative name for Martha.

This study has revealed two women called Martha Marsdens. The first was Martha Marsden, the wife of Frank Marsden (1751-1797) living on Storrs Hill from about 1780 and probably at the dwelling which became the Halfway beerhouse. Martha was widowed in 1797 when she was mother of nine children, one a babe in arms and the eldest, also called Martha Marsden (1778-1852). This fact alone, a 39 year old widow with nine young children, may have been sufficient for her to be remembered in the name of the lane adjacent to her home.

That she also had a daughter named Martha Marsden may have led to one of them becoming known as Matty to differentiate one from the other. Martha junior married in 1802 so it is likely that the two Martha Marsdens lived there for (at least) 20/25 years The lane itself is likely to be an 18th century creation, linking Denton Lane to an old, perhaps ancient, route across Storrs Hill to Horbury town. This lane would also have allowed access to the dwellings on this old route which are shown on the 1795 Estate map. Although no evidence of this has emerged, it is also possible that some or all of the 18th century dwellings shown on the 1795 map along the lower stretch of Matty Marsden Lane were built by and occupied by the Marsden family. The lane, already established by 1795, would thus be well used by the Marsdens and this too may have been further reason for the naming of the Lane.

Lanes need names and what better description than one which links a person’s abode to the location of the lane. Matty Marsden lived at the junction of Denton Lane and a lane with no name. Are these the reasons why it became Matty Marsden Lane?

A final comment and acknowledgement. Horbury history owes a huge debt to the tireless and quite remarkable work of the late Ken Bartlett, a man very much ahead of his time. Had he lived longer he would have found the answer he sought much sooner than 2012. As it was the transcription of the documents he termed “Horbury Fields” was part of his legacy to us and one which has been the light along the way.

This research and these findings are a nod of the head to him, and to my grandson, Jack Wild, who whilst walking with me along Matty Marsden Lane one day in August 2012 insisted I discover Matty’s identity.

For Ken and Jack, this is my best effort.

Alan Howe November 2012


1. This history is one of several about the Marsden family published by Alan Howe in 2012 – also see the histories of Sowood Farm and Rock Cottages.
2. Francis probably lived close to the Silkstone boundary with Penistone – almost certainly within a mile radius of Oxspring.
3. The Horbury Tithe 1775.
4. Neville Ashby from articles published in the "Ossett Observer." 

History of The Rocks – Rock Cottages, Storrs Hill, Ossett

In around 1680 Francisci, or Francis, Marsden (1651-1718) travelled from his home in Penistone to Sowood in Ossett. In 1689 he built, or rebuilt, Sowood Farmhouse and before his death in 1718 he and his son John Marsden (1674-1735),who had made the journey with him, set out their plans for the future Marsden generations.

The Marsdens were farmers and the key to their futures lay in the land. Not just land that they would farm but land upon which they would build their homes and raise their children. In the earliest days of the 18th Century this meant the Ossett and Horbury borderlands and that meant Storrs Hill. Before his father’s death in 1718 John Marsden had twice married and had seven of his ten children. Six were boys most of whom would need to make their own way in the world since the practice then was to leave the major landholdings to the eldest son. He was also named John Marsden (1704-1742) and he had four children who were all boys. These were named after their forebears Francis, William, John and Thomas who were all under the age of 11 when their father died.

Rock Cottages before 1981

Above: The Rocks sometime before 1984 – the stonework has been rendered, but otherwise this is the little changed building constructed in 1763 by William Marsden.

Time was pressing and land was short to accommodate all the Marsdens who had been born since Francis’ arrival in about 1680. Most of the girls had been married, several to well-to-do Horbury and Ossett men and others had wed those from their original homelands of the Holme Valley to the south west of Huddersfield. Some had not made adulthood but hardly any remained single and that almost always meant more children.

For John Marsden’s second son, William Marsden (1733-1777) life would be hard. He was barely nine when his father died in 1742 and he was left a three-acre close of land, Storrs Hill Close, on which to make his living and bring up his family. In 1762, William married local girl Sarah Firth and built a home for them on the rocks of Storrs Hill. This home, known in this study by its late 19th Century name of "The Rocks", was more than just a home however, for it also provided the space and facilities in the upper chamber for William to earn a living as a cloth maker. On the three acres left to him by his father in 1742, William also kept the odd cow and sheep. He also grew corn to make bread for himself and his wife and two children, Mary and Sarah.

In common with many male Marsdens of the time, William Marsden died at an early age. He was only aged 44 when he died in 1777 and his youngest daughter, Sarah, died shortly afterwards in 1781, leaving his wife, Sarah, a widow with one child, Mary Marsden (1763-1851). William’s Will includes an Inventory describing the contents of the Rock in 1777. His widow Sarah remained there at least until the mid 1780’s and by October 1783 his daughter Mary had met and married local husbandsman, Joseph Illingworth who was seven years her senior. They began their married life at the Rocks dwelling left to her by her father although common law was such that her property became her husband’s. Their eight children were almost certainly born at the Rocks, all before 1809, and Joseph Illingworth had changed his occupation and become a butcher before his death in 1818.

At least two of their sons became butchers with outlets in Ossett town and by the early 1820’s Mary Illingworth had left the Rocks for a home in north Ossett and, later, in the town adjacent to Joseph Illingworth Lane (now known as Illingworth Street) where she also owned land upon which the Ossett Community Centre now stands. Joseph’s work as a butcher was probably influential in the move from the Rocks on the outskirts of Ossett to the town and in 1821 the local Census suggests the Rocks dwelling was uninhabited. However it was not long before Mary’s eldest son, William Illingworth (1790-1861), who was born at the Rocks, returned and took up residence in about 1825.

William Illingworth, a clothier like his grandfather William Marsden, married Rachel Berry in 1813 and the 1821 census records the couple elsewhere in Ossett with 6 of the 13 children they were to have. At least five of the children would be born at the Rocks between 1826 and 1837. William Illingworth lived the rest of his life and died there in January 1861 leaving his widow, Rachel, living there with three of her grown children until her death in 1863.

One of Rachel’s sons living with her at her death was John Illingworth (1826-1872) who was born, lived and died, a bachelor, at the Rocks. He too was a cloth weaver and, although he was not the eldest son, he had been left the Storrs Hill land and the Rocks by his father in 1861 and he continued to live there until his death in 1872. By this time his sister Elizabeth Illingworth had married John Harrop and they and their daughter, Winifred, were living with John Illingworth at the Rocks.

Elizabeth Harrop (nee Illingworth) inherited the land and dwelling from her brother John Illingworth. She and her husband and daughter lived at Rocks until 1884 when they sold it to George Harrop of nearby Rock House. George Harrop was a very wealthy mill owner and woollen manufacturer and may have purchased the land and property to expand his already substantial Storrs Hill estate or he may have bought it help his cousin, John Harrop, who was then living with Elizabeth and his daughter at the Rock. It is certain that George Harrop would not have lived at the Rocks.

George Harrop died in 1892 and by this time the Rocks had been divided to provide accommodation for three families. Two of the dwellings each had two rooms and a central dwelling had three rooms. Whilst George Harrop owned the Rocks at this time the tradition of Illingworth occupation was to continue a little longer because the largest of the three dwellings was occupied by Andrew and Sarah Illingworth (nee Illingworth).

On his death in 1892 George Harrop left many of his land holdings, including the Rocks and the adjacent Storrs Hill Close to his son Joshua Harrop. After a bit of matrimonial difficulty, he sold it, and 7 acres of adjacent land, in a 1908 Auction to Thomas Baines Teale, a Blackpool bank clerk (although he was born in Ossett) and his wife Emma (nee Nettleton). Between 1901 and 1911, the Rocks continued in multiple occupation and in 1901 (the first census to record the address as 93, 95 & 97 Horbury Road The Rocks ) the tenants included Joshua Illingworth, who lived in two bedroom accommodation with his wife and family. This was to be the final vestige of an Illingworth or Marsden presence at the Rocks almost 140 years after it was built by William Marsden in 1763. Thomas Baines Teale died in 1945.

The Rocks continued to be tenanted until 1959 when widow Emma Teale’s executors sold number 93 Horbury Road The Rocks to Phyllis Wrigley (the sitting tenant) and numbers 95 & 97 to Frank Wood.(the sitting tenant). In January 1957 an article in the Ossett Observer, tells that there were four families living at the Rocks and Phyllis had something to say about how she loved her home and its surroundings which were compared to the Cotswolds. At this time number 93 provided a home to Phyllis who lived in the converted single storey former weaving shed. A Mrs A Hardcastle appears to have lived in the northern most part of the 1763 built dwelling, possibly number 95, and the remainder of the dwelling carried the address of 97 Horbury Road The Rocks.

Sometime after 1959, number 97 ceased to be an address and in 1984 number 95 ( the whole of the 1763 dwelling) was purchased by John and Brenda Martin who lived next door to Phyllis Wrigley She continued to live in number 93, the converted weaving shop, until her death in 1989 ,aged 92, when this was also sold, perhaps to Kathleen Thompson.

Today (see aerial photograph below) the property is much altered from that described by John Illingworth in1861 as all that messuage or dwellinghouse, weaving shop, mistal and other buildings.... at Storrs Hill now in my own occupation. Indeed it is barely recognisable as the dwelling which stood here as recently as 1984 as adaptations and extensions have been made to make the building fit for 21st Century living. In 2012 John and Brenda Martin continue to own and live in number 95 and number 93 is in the ownership of John Watson and Caron Beverley Lee-Robinson.

Rock Cottages 2012 aerial view

Above: Aerial view of Rock Cottages in 2012

Next year is 2013, the 250th anniversary of the William Marsden built dwelling which came to be known as The Rocks or Rock Cottages. A fitting tribute to the Marsden family who came to Ossett in about 1680 and left their mark on the physical and social landscape of the town and ,in particular, upon Sowood and Storrs Hill.

There is more about the 18th century Marsden family of Storrs Hill and Sowood in companion histories "The History of Sowood Farm" and "The History of Halfway House and Matty Marsden Lane" and more of Sowood in the "History of Sowood or South Wood Manor" published by Alan Howe in late 2012 and available in the DOWNLOADS area of this website.

The Rocks – Rock Cottages - Timeline

1680 - Francis Marsden (1651-1718) arrives in Sowood and builds/re-builds Sowood Farm.

1733 - William Marsden (1733 -1777) great grandson of Francis.

1762 - William Marsden marries Sarah Firth and builds The Rocks.

1777 - William dies and leaves the Rocks to his widow for life & then to his daughters (one dies in 1781).

1783 - William’s surviving daughter , Mary Marsden (1763-1851) inherits the Rocks and marries Joseph Illingworth.

1790 - Mary & Joseph’s eldest son William Illingworth (1790-1861) is born.

1818 - Joseph Illingworth, butcher. The Rocks appears to be uninhabited in 1821.

1825 - Joseph & Mary’s eldest son William Illingworth & wife Rachel move to the Rocks.

1826 - William & Rachel have their 7th child at the Rocks and have 6 more children born there.

1851 - Mary Illingworth (nee Marsden) dies elsewhere in Ossett aged 88 & William inherits the Rocks.

1861 - William Illingworth dies at the Rocks & leaves to wife Rachel for life then to his son John (1826-1872).

1872 - John Illingworth, bachelor, dies & leaves the Rocks to his married sister Elizabeth Harrop who is living with him in 1871.

1884 - Elizabeth Harrop & family live at Rocks and sell to George Harrop of Rock House. Rocks is divided to provide 3 homes for tenants. Two homes have two rooms and one has three rooms. An Illingworth couple still live there.

1892 - George Harrop dies and leaves to son Joshua Harrop.

1901 - The Rocks, now known as 93, 95 & 97, Horbury Road is still let. An Illingworth family live in one.

1908 - Joshua Harrop sells to Thomas Baines Teale and his wife Emma Teale (nee Nettleton).

1957 - The Rocks is home to four tenant families - 3 in the 1763 dwelling, including Frank Wood and Miss A. Hardcastle. Phyllis Wrigley lives in the converted single storey weaving shed (no.93).

1959 - Widow Emma Teale dies. No. 93 The Rocks (i.e. the weaving shed and land) is sold to Phyllis Wrigley (sitting tenant) & nos 95/97 ( 1763 dwelling & land) sold to Frank Wood (sitting tenant).

1961 - Phyllis Wrigley is living at no.93 with Frank Wood at 95 and Jean Brook at 97, Horbury Road.

1984 - John & Brenda Martin buy no. 95 the Rocks from Frank Wood.

1989 - Phyllis Wrigley dies, aged 92, and no. 93 is sold, perhaps to Kathleen Thompson.

2012 - John & Brenda Martin own 95 and Neil John Watson & Caron Beverley Lee-Robinson own 93. Both dwellings have been much adapted since the 1980s.

2013 - the 250th Anniversary of the building of the Rocks, Storrs Hill, Ossett.

Rock Cottage, Westfield Road, Horbury

The 1907 Ordnance Survey map of North Horbury records the existence of a building situated on the Horbury side of Westfield Road (formerly Denton Lane) within Horbury Parish. Opposite the site of this building is Sowood Farm situated within Ossett Parish. By 1972 the Ordnance Survey map of the same area no longer shows a building in that position.

Not surprisingly therefore few people today are aware that a building, a dwelling, ever stood in this position and there is little visible evidence of its existence. The Horbury/Ossett Parish boundary runs along the stretch of Westfield Road between this former dwelling and Sowood Farm and whilst they are in different parishes the two buildings were closely linked by their original Marsden builders and subsequent Brook occupiers.

The dwelling was known as Rock Cottage and took its name from its location on Storrs Hill, sometimes known as Storge Hill or The Rocks. The dwelling was built in the early 1860’s and demolished in the late 1950’s and is not to be confused with a re-furbished and much extended 18th Century cottage once known as The Rocks which today goes by the name of Rock Cottages.

Rock Cottage Map

Above: Aerial photograph showing the location of the former dwelling known as Rock Cottage.

Rock Cottage is another example of the influence which the Marsden family had on Sowood and Storrs Hill between the late 17th and the mid 19th Century The above illustration records that influence1 at Sowood Farm, The Rocks, Matty Marsden Lane/ Halfway House and former dwellings, Rock Cottage and a late 18th/early 19th Century dwelling built by Benjamin Marsden on the site which subsequently became the site of Sowood Tramsheds.

Rock Cottage was built by Sarah Ann Mitchell (nee Marsden) and her Rag merchant husband, George Mitchell, in the early 1860’s shortly after their marriage in 1859. Sarah Ann Marsden (1833-1882) was the only daughter of Benjamin Marsden (1800-1844) and the 4th great grand daughter of Francis Marsden. Francis acquired the copyhold interest in Sowood Farm and associated lands in 1676 and re-built the exiting Listed Farmhouse in 1689.

Several parcels of Marsden land at Storrs Hill and Sowood had passed down several generations of 18th Century Marsdens including Benjamin but it did not include the land on which Rock Cottage was built. This land was purchased by Benjamin shortly before his death in 1844 when he left it in trust to his only daughter, Sarah Ann who inherited it when she reached the age of 21. Before that Benjamin, a fellmonger, lived at a dwelling built by him or his father, also Benjamin, in the late 18th or early 19th Century in the location subsequently occupied by the Sowood Tramsheds.

Sarah Ann lived at that property, looked after by her Aunt Hannah and Uncle Joseph following the early deaths of her mother in 1840 and her father in 1844 by which time Sarah was only 10 years old. After her marriage to George Mitchell in 1859 the couple lived and worked Sowood Farm for a short time around 1861 before moving to Rock Cottage.

Rock Cottage 1956

Above: Rock Cottage, Horburyin 1956

Sarah Ann died in 1882 and her husband continued to live at Rock Cottage until his death in 1902. It then passed to their son, Arthur, an Emley farmer who rented it out and in 1911 it was occupied by William Robinson a retired Police Inspector. Arthur Mitchell died in 1934 when the property passed to his son, George Arthur, and was rented to Bennett Brook (1891-1980) between 1935 and 1955.

Bennett and his family lived here whilst he worked Sowood Farm before and after his father’s death in 1936. Bennett acquired Sowood Farm in the late 1940’s but never lived there. He moved to Manor House, Manor Lane in 1955 because of a reluctance by the owners of Rock Cottage to improve the dwelling which was fairly dilapidated by this time. This was the beginning of the end for Rock Cottage and the dwelling was demolished in about 1957.
Alan Howe October 2013

1. There is more about the history of Sowood Manor and the above properties in the Downloads section of this site.

Rock House
Rock House, hidden in the trees between Matty Marsden Lane and Rock Cottages was built in 1874 by Horbury mill owner George Harrop (1813 - 1892), the principal of Albion Mills, clothmakers, based at Horbury Bridge. Harrop also had a part share of Healey New Mill in Ossett in the 1870s.

When George Harrop died on the 1st July 1892, he left £121,725 in his Will to his two sons Arthur and Joshua Harrop and also his son-in-law Joshua Wilson who had married his daughter Bridget Harrop in 1877. Harrop's second wife Mary continued to live at Rock House until her death in 1904.

Rock House

In the 1960s, Horbury builder, Jack Smith bought Rock House and the house was converted into apartments. More recently, Rock House has been bought by Andy Booth, who has embarked on an extensive (and expensive) programme of restoration.

It has been rumoured that a tunnel exists between Rock House and Park House (Ossett Academy), but no evidence exists to support this urban myth.

The Sowood Stone
In 2010, Peter Brook, the current owner of Sowood Farm found a mysterious carved stone in the grounds, between the front of the farmhouse and Horbury Road.

Sowood Stone

The stone is irregular in height, width and depth, but is approximately 28cms high, 43cms wide and between 4 and 7cms thick. The stone would be heavy but for it being broken into two almost equal parts.

Sowood Stone enhanced

The legend inscribed on the stone is difficult to read, but thanks to some gentle cleaning and re-constructive photography by Neville Ashby, the inscription reads:


In 1841, a 35 year old miner, James Jackson, was living with his wife and six children on Denton Lane (east), in a property within the curtilage of Sowood Farm. There is evidence that he may have been  living there in 1829

James Jackson and his family were still living at Denton Lane in 1851 although the address is Storrs Hill which echoes the Farm address during the 18th Century. It is certain that they are still living in a property at Sowood Farm and one of their children is named James, born about 1844. The 1851,1861  & 1871 Census also record James Jackson senior living in a cottage at Sowood Farm although by 1861 his son James has left to live elsewhere. James Jackson senior died in 1872 having lived at the Sowood cottage for more than 30 years.

The Sowood cottage however is still occupied in 1881 by the Jackson family because James’ eldest son William has taken over the tenancy and he has a son, named James Jackson born in 1856. William died in 1883, aged 48, but his widow continued to inhabit the property and in 1891 she was living in the four room cottage with her children, including James Jackson born in 1856.

James was the grandson of the James Jackson first recorded here in 1841 – fifty years earlier. More importantly his occupation is recorded as a “mason’s labourer” and the likelihood is that the Sowood Stone was his work. The date on the Stone is illegible and there is no sign of James in 1891 although his mother remains in the cottage (which appears not to have occupants in 1901)

No record of James Jackson, born 1856, has emerged beyond 1891 but it is certain that his grandfather James, Uncle James and father William occupied the Sowood Cottage between  about 1830 and sometime in the 1890’s – approximately 60 years of occupation by the Jackson family.

The date on the stone is obscured by weathering and  a severe breakage but it appears to read 18?4. Perhaps this was the year that mason’s labourer James Jackson moved on from Sowood Cottage. The stone itself was found close to the dwelling which once stood to the front of Sowood House  which was demolished in the late 20th Century to make way for a new farm worker’s single storey dwelling. A photograph of this old dwelling is shown below and it seems likely that this was Ivy Cottage, home to the Jackson family, for more than 60 years.

Ivy Cottage, Sowood Farm

Research by Alan Howe and Neville Ashby, November 2012.

Ossett to Wakefield Trams

The first tram from Wakefield to Ossett travelled past Sowood Farm on August 15th 1904 en route to Ossett.

Ossett to Agbrigg Tram in Station Road

Above: A tramcar travelling down Station Road in Ossett en route to Agbrigg circa 1906.

Two tramway systems operated from Ossett , one going west to Dewsbury, 2½ miles away, and another east to Wakefield, about 3½ miles away. By changing tramcars at such places as Dewsbury, Wakefield, or Leeds, it was possible to make very long journeys from Ossett entirely by tram.

In 1901, the Wakefield & District Light Railway Company had first applied for 5.5 miles of extensions to their existing routes, including a 1.5 mile extension, which would extend the existing Horbury tramway to Ossett, one mile of this route being in the borough of Ossett.

The enquiry into these extensions was held at Ossett Town Hall on the 5th October 1901. The consulting engineer, Robert Green estimated the cost of the enlarged system as £118,500, which was made up of £43,000 for laying the tracks; £20,000 for the electrical equipment; £14,000 for the tramcar sheds, repair shops, offices and land; £14,000 for twenty new tramcars at £700 each; £12,500 for road widening and another £15,000 for legal costs plus the cost of obtaining a Board of Trade Order. To run a ten-minute service would require 15 tramcars, but a five-minute service would require 24 tramcars, so a ten-minute service was evidently assumed. The only objections from the extensions came from two railway companies (G.N.R. and L. & Y.R.) who were afraid that the tramways and light railways would affect their revenue. In this case, the objections were unsuccessful and the powers requested were granted in the Wakefield and District Light Railways (Extensions) Order in 1902.

The main contractor for the new tramways was Dick, Kerr & Co. Ltd. of Preston. The track was laid to a gauge of 4ft 8½ inches in the hope that there would be through running into Leeds, which used the same gauge.

Laying new tram tracks in the Bullring, Wakefield circa 1904

Above: The laying of tracks for the new tramway in the Bull Ring, Wakefield, circa 1904.

In constructing the track, the roadway was excavated to a depth of 12½ inches and a bed of concrete 8 inches deep was then laid to carry the track and paving; this bed being 8ft wide for single track and 17ft wide for double track. On nine miles of the track, the roadway between the rails was filled with tarmac, which the company replaced with setts at considerable expense some years later. The rails were of the girder type, weighing 95 lbs per yard and laid in 15 yard lengths. They were 6½ inches deep with a groove 1½ inches deep. Quite long sections of track were laid at one side of the road, especially on the single line stretch between Horbury and Ossett, where the track was on the south side of the carriageway.

The overhead line was suspended from 31ft steel poles, of which six feet were sunk into the ground and fixed in a bed of concrete. The poles were made up of three sections of steel tube and were generally placed 40 yards apart. Side poles with bracket arms were the most common, but there were sections on which the overhead was suspended from span wires and the stretch in Westgate, Wakefield initially used centre poles. In the towns, the roadside poles carried ornamental scrollwork, but elsewhere were plain. A suggestion that the poles should be connected to the sewerage system and act as vents was not adopted, though a later agreement provided for some poles in Castleford to carry gas street lighting.

The principal depot was at Belle Isle, Wakefield, on the Sandal route, about half a mile south of Chantry Bridge. It contained five tracks plus one leading to the paint and repair shops and was next to the company's generating station. There were two smaller depots, each containing three tracks and a sub-station, one at Rothwell Haigh and one at Sowood Lane, Ossett. They were constructed mainly to reduce "dead mileage" on the two longest routes, when the voltage drop in the cables became a problem.

Sowood Avenue Tramshed

Above: The Sowood Avenue tram shed and sub-station circa 1908. The tram sheds have now been demolished.

The Ossett to Agbrigg route, via Sowood Lane and Horbury started in Bank Street, Ossett until the Dewsbury and Ossett tramways were constructed, when the terminus was moved to a common loop in the Market Place in readiness for the Dewsbury & Ossett opening on the 12th September 1908 and the spur in Bank Street was lifted. The line then ran along the south side of Station Road to Horbury, mostly as a single line with passing loops. Later the track from Sowood Lane onwards doubled, but there was always a stretch of single line through the very narrow roadway in the centre of Horbury, near Queen Street. From Horbury, the line was double right through to Wakefield.

The last tram to run from Ossett was to Agbrigg, Wakefield on the 24th July 1932.

1741 Poll Book

The Poll
a Representative in Parliament
for the
County of York

In the room of the
Right Honourable Henry, Lord Visc. Morpeth,
Deceas'd ;

Begun at the Castle of York
on Wednesday 13th of January 1741

George Fox, Esq.
Cholmley Turner, Esq.

George Fox (1697-1773) was the Tory MP for the Yorkshire Borough of Hedon from 1734-1741, then MP for the City of York from 1742-1761. He lived at Bramham Park, Yorkshire and in 1751 changed his name to George Fox-Lane by Act of Parliament. He was created 1st Baron Bingley in1762, but had no surviving issue to carry on the title.

Cholmley Turner of Kirkleaham, was a Whig (Liberal) MP who served Yorkshire from 1727-1741.

Voting took place in the city of York and lasted 8 days. Votes had to be cast by a spoken declaration, in public, at the hustings.

Turner, defending his seat for the third time, won by a very small margin, though the results below show that he wasn't the popular choice of candidate in Ossett.

Above: 18th Century Hustings.

By today's standards it seems extraordinary that in the 18th Century only two parliamentary elections saw seats contested in the Yorkshire County Constituency, the considerable expense involved in standing for election and the possibility of public disorder at the hustings encouraging the knights of the shire to decide among themselves who should stand for election unopposed.

 A General Election was held in 1734 when four candidates contested the two available Yorkshire Constituency seats, while the second election in 1741 was a by-election following the death of sitting MP Viscount Morpeth. Cholmley Turner (Whig) and George Fox (Tory) contested the seat, the poll beginning on 13 January 1741 and lasting eight days. Turner prevailed with 8,005 votes to Fox's 7,049. (This was a lower turnout than in 1734 when just over 23,000 voted in the same constituency.)

All intending to vote had to travel to the hustings held at York Castle and make a public declaration of their votes which were recorded by clerks in a poll book, poll books having been introduced in 1696. The poll books were later held in Chancery but destroyed in 1907, however some local versions survived, such as the pamphlet collating the 1741 poll results in Yorkshire, published in 1742.

Only male owners of freehold property were enfranchised, each parish in Yorkshire deciding the precise criteria for who should vote. Twenty nine Ossett men had their votes recorded in York in 1741, with 20 of them voting for George Fox. The pro-Fox men were predominantly farmers. The Turner supporters could be said to have been in favour of the political status quo, supporting the party of Sir Robert Walpole.

The persuasiveness of Fox and his agents could have played a part in convincing so many voters to support Fox, the Tory candidate, as could a dissatisfaction with the Whigs, the main party of government since the accession of George I. The Whigs led by Walpole, First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer 1715-1717 and again from 1721, were returned with a comparatively slim majority of between 16 and 18 at the 1741 General Election called in May 1741.

 Reasons for the Whigs' declining popularity included resentment with Walpole's support for taxing salt, in 1732, and attempting to change the tax arrangements for tobacco and other imported goods. Walpole's further time in office was short lived as he resigned in February 1742 after he lost the confidence of the House of Commons. He then took his seat in the House of Lords as the Earl of Orford.  Fox, who lived at Bramham Park,  was defeated in the 1741 by-election, was subsequently elected as MP for the City of York and later served as Lord Mayor of York in 1757.

Qualification for the vote
Prior to the Reform Act 1832, the franchise to vote for a County MP was only held by the owners of freehold land valued at 40 shillings or more, a situation which had persisted since 1430. The expense and difficulty of voting at only one location in the (very large) county, together with the lack of a secret ballot contributed to the corruption and intimidation of voters, which was widespread in the unreformed British political system. Contested county elections were unusual due to the expense and the leading families of the county would agree on the candidates to be returned unopposed whenever possible. In the 100 years before the Reform Act there were 20 general elections, but in Yorkshire the 1741 election was one of only 4 that actually went to a ballot.

Yorkshire was the largest of the historic counties and the constituency comprised the whole county, represented at this time by two MPs. Yorkshire also contained several boroughs which each returned two members to Parliament,

Ossett voters 1741 Yorkshire Poll:

Voters for  Cholmley Turner (Whig);
John Ellingworth, Joseph Foster, John Grave, Joshua Haigh, Joseph Moxon, Joseph Nettleton, Robert Piccard, Benjamin Scott, Joshua Thorns

Voters for George Fox (Tory);
John Fothergill, Isaac Glover, John Godley, Richard Graham, Joshua Haigh, Joshua Hepworth, Josias Hepworth, Thomas Hepworth, Charles Hollins, John Ingham, John Marsden, William Marsden, John Milner, John Musgrove, Christopher Pearce, Jon Pearce, Richard Robinson, Timothy Scholefield, Joseph Thornes, John Wooley.

Of 29 Ossett voters only 9 voted for the Whigs who were the party of Government since 1720 with Walpole as Prime Minister. The By Election in Yorkshire resulted in a defeat for the Tory Fox. The Ossett voters must have seen the writing on the wall in spite of an overall Yorkshire vote for the Whigs. Within 12 months Walpole and the Whigs had gone after 21 years in power.

It is said that many who voted for the Whigs were farmers but in Ossett the distinction is less clear. Perhaps Ossett voters took the view that it was time for a change. What is also interesting is that Joshua Haigh’s name appears on the voting list for each candidate. In 1741 there were two Joshua Haighs in Ossett; father (1670-1746), son (1714-1784) and it seems one voted for the Whigs and the other for the Tories. It would be an interesting journey to York for father and son and perhaps a futile one since they effectively cancelled out the other’s vote. Perhaps even more interesting for Joshua junior because Richard Robinson, listed as voting for the Tories, was his father in law.

 From 1430 until 1832 a small group mainly consisting of landowners, often referred to as "forty shilling freeholders, were the only ones who had the Parliamentary franchise to vote in county constituencies, the qualification being the ownership of freehold land valued at 40 shillings or more.

We know then that those listed for Ossett in 1741 fell into this category ie they were all freeholder owners of land worth at least 40 shillings.