It is thought that Gawthorpe is named after a Viking from Denmark called Gauke who settled there with his family over 1,000 years ago. Gauke also meant ugly in the Viking language, so Gawthorpe was perhaps a place of ugly people, but of course it isn’t now.
Gawthorpe was a self contained village right up to the 1970s, with a school, public houses, shops, butcher, hairdresser, fish and chip shop, post office and a church. In 1866 the village was joined with Ossett and became part of the town.
A large coal mine called Low Laithes Colliery provided work for many Gawthorpe people, including children from the 1800s up to 1926 when the pit closed after a strike by the coal miners.
The village is famous for the World Coal Carrying Championship that takes place every Easter Monday. You might have seen the male contestants carrying a 50kg bag of coal over their shoulders on TV. The women contestants have to carry a 20kg bag of coal. The race is over a 1012 metres and the 1st prize for men is £750 and £500 for women. There is a shorter fun run for children if you would like to take part next year.
Gawthorpe is also famous for the Maypole celebration in early May each year when the children from the local school dance around the Maypole in the centre of the village. The Maypole procession led with a float carrying the Gawthorpe May Queen covers a 4.5 mile route touring around Ossett and Gawthorpe.
The 55m high water tower at Gawthorpe is a local landmark.
Flushdyke looks very different now to what it once was.
At one time, it was a thriving community, not reliant on Ossett town centre for anything.
It had its own Church, Railway Station, School, Pubs, a Co-op, a Garage, Working Men’s Club, Post Office, Grocers, Fish & Chip shop, a Toffee Factory and even a Fireworks Factory!
What it also had, was Ossett’s largest house called Longlands Hall. It was built in 1766. The Haigh family who owned the house, also owned 10% of all the land in Ossett. They were very generous with their money and gave a lot to education and other good causes. It was over 200 years old when it was demolished.
The wall that surrounded this huge house is still there on the main road.
Top Left Above: Longlands Hall, Top Right: Spenstead Railway Bridge, Bottom Left: Flushdyke Railway Station and Bottom Right: Snow drifts at Flushdyke School 1957/58 winter.
The Fireworks Factory had the biggest local tragedy of its time. The company was started back in 1844 and by 1920 it was the third largest in the country. They made fireworks that you see at the biggest displays. On the 20th August 1927, there was an explosion. A huge explosion. Nobody ever knew why it happened, but it blew out the windows of all nearby buildings. There were 4 men working at the time. One of these men was in an outhouse and was saved. The other 3 sadly died. All lived on Springstone Avenue, all left a wife and one child. A horrible coincidence.
Some of the buildings I’ve mentioned are still there, although they look different today. The Toffee Factory building is still there, although I’m sure it doesn’t smell as lovely as back then!
As is the Garage but that looks very different too.
The Co-op, Working Men’s Club and the School are also still there. You can see signs of the Railway too.
There are lots of signs of what was there previously. See if you can find them.
Bordering the river Calder and the Calder & Hebble canal, Healey was one of several villages that made up the town of Ossett. Healey had its own community and traditions. There used to be a Queen of Healey back in the 1950s.
At one time there were three large textile mills and a dye works at Healey, each providing jobs for the people that settled there.
Only 50 years ago the river was polluted and smelled strongly of the chemicals pumped into the river by the mills on the river bank. There were no fish or any kind of life left in the river as a result.
Ossett at one time had a gasworks and gas for cooking and heating for the town was produced by burning coal. The gasworks closed and was demolished in 1984.
Can you imagine how dirty the air was in Healey back then with all the nearby mills and the gasworks belching black smoke from their chimneys?
Healey Mills Railway Marshalling Yard was built on a massive 140 acre site and was opened in 1963, replacing several smaller yards in the area for the shunting and re-ordering of railway goods wagons. After the marshalling yard closed in 1987, the site was used for storage of trains and locomotives, but finally closed in 2012 and is now derelict.
Few people live in Healey today, but Kerry Foods on the site of one of the old textile mills provides employment for many Ossett people.
The Figure of Three Locks on the bank of the canal at Healey is one of the most picturesque parts of Ossett, but not many people know how to get there. Sadly, the locks and canal bank were damaged in the recent floods.
Have you ever walked at the side of the canal and seen the locks and the wildlife?
Who knew trees had history too? I suppose they all do. None more so than these impressive lime trees.
Planted in 1864 as part of the “Little Harrogate” scheme, these trees were to be part of the “New Montpelier Pleasure Gardens”. This was to include huge gardens, a boating lake, rides and amusements. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Sadly all that’s left of these huge plans are the trees and Goring House.
Goring House was built around 1883 by Dewsbury builder John Tennant and Batley entrepreneur Matthew Wharton. There were many “Little Harrogate” schemes in England at the time. Also unsuccessful.
By 1884 Wharton was bankrupt. He had no money left. This ended his plans.
John Tennant also encountered money problems and in April 1888 at the age of 49 years old, he tragically committed suicide in Goring House. He left a note to his son with the words.....
“Dear Son, this is more than I can bear. I blame no one but myself. Forgive me and do the best you can for yourself, Mother, Clara, Sarah-Anne and lastly Emily. Your father in trouble John Tennant”
He must have been so incredibly sad and worried. Had his and Wharton’s plans been successful, Ossett Spa would be an entirely different place.
Can you imagine how it would have been?
Ossett had many cloth making mills. The skyline back then was filled with huge brick built chimneys. Smoke billowed out of these chimneys and made the town a dark and smoky place.
Trinity Church is permanently stained by the soot!
The mill owners were often fined as it was considered a public nuisance to have this smoke polluting the town. Most mills had a dam too.
The water was used to help with the production of the cloth in massive steam engines.
Spring Mill is now a lovely open space and a local beauty spot. But it did have a mill. There are many signs of it being there. Including the dam.
In 1848, it was owned by Mark Stephenson.
In 1853, there was a fire. A huge fire which destroyed the entire building including the looms and cloth.
Over the next 50 years, the mill had a further four owners. It also had three more fires. Seriously damaging the mill every time.
In the summer months, people used to swim in the dam. The water would have been pumped in and out of the mill so would have already been dirty.
Add to that all the duck and geese poo, I’m sure it wasn’t a great swimming experience!
See if you can find bits of the mill still around. They are there . . . . . .
In June 1924, a successful business man, Alderman Joseph Illingworth (who went on to become Mayor of Ossett) gave 5 1/2 acres of land to be used as a recreation ground.
Hence, the name Illingworth Park.
Green Park takes its name from the large house that once stood in the park, Green House.
When it was demolished, the bricks were used to make the cottage that stands at one of the entrances to Green Park.
At one time it had a model boating pool and a pitch and putt. Although I do remember a few of us paddling in the boating pool. I don’t think we should have. As time went on, it was drained and is now filled in.
In 1925, Capt. Guy Shafto Rowley made a gift to the village of the land, located on Chidswell Lane (previously called Jack Lane), for the Gawthorpe Recreation Ground.
The Recreation Ground was refurbished extensively in August 2019.
The full range of the Gawthorpe Recreation Ground. includes capacity for 71 children to use it at any one time with 62 play features.
Dating back to at least the 1950s, Church Street Recreation Ground is shown above.