In 1764, the population of Ossett was only 450 and the township was made up of a number of small hamlets. In the early 1700s, there were some houses in Dale Street, Ossett - from Town End to West Wells; some in Queen Street and others at Gawthorpe, Manor Road and Low Common in the Ossett Spa area. Teal Town (and Teal Street) at Ossett Low Common was so named because of the number of people named "Teal" and "Townend" living there.
Above: Part of the 1787 map by John Carey shows the layout of Ossett, with the hamlet of Streetside very clearly marked, however, there is no sign of Gawthorpe.
The Ossett to Halifax turnpike (1740-1870) passed about half a mile of Ossett town centre. There was still a lot of rough land, which had not been enclosed or used for anything but grazing. There was woodland at Roundwood and Southwood (Sowood). There were still very few roads and they were not metalled in any way. In wet weather, carts would sink almost to the axle in mud. In winter, there was no milk and little fresh meat; potatoes had probably arrived, but sugar was still unknown to most folk. Skin diseases were all too common because of the salty diet and lack of winter vegetables. Horses were becoming more popular and were replacing oxen in ploughing and carting, though the ox stayed in use for several future generations. Ossett's first documented powered textile mill, for scribbling, was built in 1780-81 in Healey Lane and further powered mills were built in the town from the 1780s onwards.
Many people in Ossett still produced woollen cloth in their homes with weaving machines. Making the cloth was very much a cottage industry. The sheep having been shorn, the wool would be combed or carded to straighten out the fibres, then spun into yarn with a spindle and woven into cloth on a simple loom. Perhaps a whole family would be involved, the children combing or carding, the mother spinning and the father weaving. The raw cloth would then have to go to be finished, which involved two main processes; fulling and dying. Fulling is the pummelling of the wet cloth to mat the fibres together and produce a knap on the material. If fuller’s earth is added to the water, then the natural grease in the wool - a useful lubricant when spinning - would be cleaned out so that dye could be absorbed more easily.
From Mayall's Annals of Yorkshire (1734 - 1736)
"The inhabitants of Ossett, a village three miles from Wakefield, have been employed in making broad woollen cloth from time out of mind. In this year the weavers, etc., employed in that trade, had to work 15 hours every day for eight pence. A horn was blown at five o’clock in the morning, the time for beginning, and at eight at night, the time for leaving their work. The clothiers had to take their goods to Leeds to sell, and had to stand in Briggate in all sorts of weather. "
Leeds Cloth Market
Once the cloth was made, it had to be sold and one of the major markets for Ossett's clothiers was the Leeds cloth market, which dates back to the early 17th century. At first, the cloth market was held on the narrow bridge across the Aire at the bottom of Briggate, but because of traffic congestion, the market was moved in 1684 to the wider expanse of Briggate. At the beginning of the 18th century, Leeds cloth market was described by Defoe as "a prodigy of its kind and perhaps not to be equalled in the world." The markets were held on Tuesdays and Saturdays and were attended by clothiers from the Batley, Dewsbury and Ossett districts. Some rode there on pack horses, but most went on foot. Some carried the cloth on their shoulders, while others used cloth barrows.
In 1736, Ossett clothier Richard Wilson made two pieces of broadcloth and carried one on his head to the Leeds cloth market, where he sold it. The merchant wanted to buy the other piece, so Wilson walked back to Ossett, then carried the second piece of cloth back to Leeds before walking back home to Ossett again - a distance of about 40 miles in one day. The length and weight of pieces of broadcloth had been fixed in 1552 and confirmed in 1597. The Northern broadcloths of the kind made around Leeds contained 23 to 25 yards (21 - 23 metres) of cloth, some 1.75 yards (1.6m) in width. These broadcloths weighed 66 lbs (30kg) at least and carrying one, on your shoulder or head, the ten miles to Leeds from Ossett must have been physically demanding.
The clothiers had to be at the market by 6 o' clock in the morning in summer and 7 o' clock in winter, which would mean a very early start, assuming that it would take nearly three hours to walk ten miles, especially with a heavy broadcloth to carry. In the winter, the clothiers would no doubt be cheered by John Jackson's famous clock at Woodkirk. John Jackson, nicknamed "Old Trash" lived in a house adjacent to the inn at Woodkirk on the road to Leeds and taught at a school at Lee Fair. Being a good mechanic, Jackson constructed a large clock and in order to make it useful to the clothiers from Dewsbury and Ossett on their long trek to Leeds, he kept a lamp burning near the face of the clock. The lamp was kept lit all through the winter nights and Jackson had no shutters or curtains on his windows so the clothiers could easily see the time. Jackson died in 1764.
Arriving in Leeds in the early morning after a hard tramp, the clothier would take his piece into one of the inns to await the opening of the market and order a clothier's "Twopennorth" or a "Brigg-Shot." This consisted of a pot of ale, a noggin of pottage (soup) and a trencher of boiled or roast beef, all for a cost of two pence. The Parrot Inn, Call Lane, Leeds was the favoured haunt of clothiers from Batley, Dewsbury and Ossett when going to the Leeds Cloth Hall1. Defoe who visited Leeds in 1715 gives a graphic description of the Leeds cloth market:
"About six o' clock in summer and seven in winter, the market bell at the old chapel by the bridge rings. As soon as the bell has ceased ringing, the factors and buyers enter the market and walk up and down between the rows as occasion directs. When they have fixed upon their cloth, they lean over to the clothier and by a whisper in the fewest words imaginable, the price is stated. One asks and the other bids, they agree or disagree in a moment. The reason for this prudent silence is owing to the clothiers standing so near to one another, for it is not reasonable that one trader should know the another's traffic. If a merchant has bidden a clothier a price and he will not take it, he may follow him to his house and tell him he is willing to let him have it. But they are not to make any new agreement for it, so as to remove the market from the street to the merchant's house. In a little more than an hour, all the business is done.
About 8.30 o' clock, the market bell rings again, upon which the buyers immediately disappear. By nine, the boards and trestles are removed, and the streets are left at liberty for the market people of other professions; linen drapers, shoe makers hardware men, etc.
Thus you see ten or twenty thousand pounds worth of cloth, and sometimes much more, bought and sold in little more than an hour, the laws of the market being the most strictly observed that I ever saw observed in any market in England."
Wakefield opened a Cloth Hall in 1710, in which cloth could be traded without exposure to the ravages of the weather. There had been constant disputes between Wakefield and Leeds and since Wakefield's new Cloth Hall threatened commerce in Leeds, it was necessary to act quickly. On the 14th August 1710, Ralph Thoresby rode with the Mayor and others to Lord Irwin's at Temple Newsham about the erection of a hall for white cloths in Kirkgate to "prevent the damage to this town of the one lately erected in Wakefield."
Irwin gave his enthusiastic support and he provided the site for the new hall, which was opened in April 1711. However, this was too small for the increasing trade and in 1755, the second White Cloth Hall was opened. By 1756, trade grew to such proportions that a large new Coloured Cloth Hall was built on a site near what is now City Square and this accommodated 1,770 stalls. Each stall was 22 inches wide and was the freehold property of the clothier, whose name was painted on the front.
Still trade increased and a third White Cloth Hall was opened in the Calls on October 17th 1775, following the closure of the Kirkgate site. This building was much larger than its predecessors and was divided into five long streets, each with two rows of stands. Still the trade grew, to such an extent that the Cloth Hall was moved yet again, in the nineteenth century, to King Street. From these cloth halls, material was sold to distributors all over the country.
The Lord of the Manor of Wakefield
At the beginning of the 18th century the rights of the Lord of the Manor still covered all aspects of life. All materials made for sale had to go to Wakefield Market and pay toll: 4d for a load of corn, 4d for the right to own a yardstick, a farthing for stamping an ale measure, and other sums for cloth, wool and everything else. All corn had to be ground at the Lord's mill in Wakefield. "All public houses and such as bake to sell" had to use the public bakehouse. A man named Abraham Beevers paid £25 for the lease of the bakehouse and charged half a penny for cooking a large pudding, one penny for six tarts and one penny for a large stew.
In 1709, the Duke of Leeds, who was Lord of the Manor, made a jail in Halifax and Ossett prisoners were taken there. The jailer paid £7 yearly to the Lord of the Manor for the privilege of being the jailer.He accommodated all kinds of prisoners and made a living by any means he could from his prisoners, and by letting rooms to lodgers. The Tax Collector paid for the privilege of collecting taxes, obviously making an unjust living by overtaxing, but this was normal. In 1750 James Braithwaite paid £50 for the office of Tax Collector, and Michael Parker £16 for the title of Collector of Rents.
There was no piped water supply, no sewerage system and no understanding of sanitation. Conditions were very crude, death from disease was common and life expectancy was short. This was true at all levels of society. Queen Anne died in 1714. She had been pregnant seventeen times, but no child survived her. In 1709, the Lord of the Manor let the fishing rights in the Calder to a man named John Auty for £3. The character of the Ossett district was beginning to change, however, Ossett had many handloom weavers and sometime during the century the Old Ossett Mill was built. It was worked by water wheel and undertook the washing and milling of cloth then dyeing. There were fish in the river Calder for another 100 years, but from the time the mill was operational, the water would not taste so good!
At this time, it became possible to send coal from Wakefield by river and canal. A small island in the Calder at Wakefield Bridge was the loading point. Coal was sent from local collieries and dumped on the island awaiting barges. The quantities handled were considerable. In 1726, the amount of stock at one time was said to be 2,450 tons, and in 1729 a big flood was said to have carried away £385 worth, perhaps 1,500 tons.
In Ossett there were a number of coal workings and some of the coal went to Wakefield. It is worth noting that all the work was done by manpower and horsepower; there were no steam engines and no railways. The roads were a sea of mud in winter and rutted tracks in summer. It was not always possible to move coal by horse-drawn or ox-drawn carts. In 1743, James Fenton worked coal at New Park, near Roundwood, which he leased from the Earl of Cardigan (the rent in 1755-56 was £31 10s 0d) and the coal was probably carried in panniers over horses' backs, because the Overseers of Alverthorpe and Thornes bought from him "50 hors loades of colles" for 25s. This same James Fenton was a man of great energy and drive who became very wealthy. He had various collieries, and at Greasborough near Rotherham, installed one of the very first steam engines, possibly by 1730 and definitely by 1750. There were three steam engines there in 1763, which were used for pumping. They were not rotary engines, which were first produced by James Watt in 1787, but they did pump water.
It has been mentioned above that James Fenton leased the New Park area from the Earl of Cardigan. In Thornhill from 1720, coal was being worked by the ancestors of the Dewsbury Alderman, E.T. Ingham, some of the workings being very shallow. Twenty-five years later, in 1745, there was general anxiety and fear because of the southward march of the armies of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who were little more than a starving rabble. They got as far south as Derby and then retreated to final defeat at Culloden. Whilst the army was in Lancashire, the people of the Calder Valley area took what precautions they could and some families lived underground in the Ingham collieries for several weeks. The colliery workings were so shallow that sounds from above could be heard below ground.
Women at work in Ossett
During the 18th century, the position of women was particularly unsatisfactory and in many places may have been worse than it was in Ossett. The spinning of wool yarn occupied many Ossett women, usually as part of the cottage cloth weaving industry, which was common in the town, but where there was no employment, and therefore, no maintenance, their position was extremely difficult. Women as a sex, were not legally men's equal. The ducking of wives on the appropriate stool and the burning of witches had both long ceased, but the emancipation of women lay in the future. The deeds of the Ossett Queen Street Methodist Chapel, which closed many years ago, began with the recital of the of the right of a member of the Brook family to receive a payment on agreeing to the marriage of a lady. This was towards then end of the 18th century.
A more striking occurrence took place on the 31st May 1782 when Articles and Agreements were drawn up between John Chapell of Ossett, a white cloth maker, on the one part and John Hartford of Nether Shitlington, weaver, of the other part, whereby Chapell sold his wife Barbery, together with all her weaving apparel, both woollen and linen, to Hartford for a sum of three guineas. All parties to the sale, including the wife, signed the agreement in front of four witnesses. Just why Barbery was sold is not clear but perhaps her husband was in debt? In the case just quoted, a legal agreement was made, but the selling of wives was a long-established custom, which was sanctioned by public opinion and appears to have continued long after its legal basis was removed. In Alverthorpe, a young wife was sold as late as 1880 in rather more romantic circumstances. Before marriage, she had had two suitors and not long after her marriage, the unsuccessful suitor managed to get the young husband involved in gambling with him. The husband lost three pounds - a debt he could not possibly pay. He was then given the choice of paying in cash or handing over his wife, complete with a horse halter around her neck, to the hitherto unsuccessful suitor. This was agreed to, and the lady was duly handed over. She appeared well satisfied with the change of husband.
The Ossett Workhouse was in existence before 1780, but probably dates back much earlier still. Luckily, some old accounts kept by Benjamin Hallas, one of the Overseers of the Poor for Ossett dating back to this period are still in existence. The Ossett Workhouse was located along the Wakefield to Dewsbury turnpike (toll) road in Flushdyke and Joseph Townend, of the Green, Ossett was master of the Ossett Workhouse between 1780 and 1786. It was Townend who kept a detailed book of accounts recording the activities of the workhouse for Benjamin Hallas.
Attached to the workhouse was some land, which was farmed, as the Overseers accounts show by their records of the occasional purchase of a cow, seed, mattocks and various other agricultural implements. Apparently, some of the paupers were engaged in spinning yarn and a few were employed by the cloth weavers of the district. We know that in 1834, the workhouse housed 80 inmates and was one of the largest in the district.
Townend records that “beef supplied to the workhouse” amounted to as much as 1,644 lbs in five months. Though the heading is “beef”, the individual items include “mutton”, and the butchers who supplied it were named Hawmshaw and Warin at a cost of 3¾d per pound. In the same period, “twelve load and one stroak” of wheat was purchased from Titus Stephenson, John Stephenson, John Shepard and Joshua Stephenson, while John Stephenson and William Ingham between them supplied thirty-two loads of oats. Mr Ingham was a maltster as well as a farmer, and of him and Mark Whitaker some ten sacks of malt were purchased, to be used probably in the brewing of ale as suggested by the item “hops 1lb at 1s 6d” appearing occasionally in Richard Brook’s bill. Both wheat and oats seem to have been in the form of meal. Oats cost 17 shillings per load of 12 stones, but the price of wheat is not stated. A “stroak” equalled two stones in weight.
The Stephenson family must have been cloth weavers as well as farmers or millers. They had spinning done for them at the workhouse, the value of which Mr. Townend set down against the wheat they supplied. For spinning yarn, 1s 1d to 1s 5d “a. w.” was the charge. Other items in this for were “John Heald 5w 5lb 14oz at 1s 1d aw 6s 5½d”; “George Wright 6w 1lb 2oz at 1s 2d aw 7s 2d” so “a.w.” is probably an abbreviation of a weigh and that a weigh was six pounds. A weigh was once a common term in the 18th century.
An advert in the local press of 18122 gives us a few more clues about the day-to-day running of the Ossett Workhouse:
"WANTED - By the township of Ossett, on the 11th day of January 1813, a MAN and his WIFE, to live in and manage the Workhouse. The man must be qualified to keep accounts, make out assessments, and collect them, give assistance to the overseers in paying the poor and transact the town's business. Testimonials of good character will be required and a steady, active man will receive a liberal salary.
Proposals in writing, post paid, will be received, addressed to Richard Sheppard, Constable of Ossett by the 4th say of January aforesaid, when answers will be given. N.B. A person having a family need not apply."
“Heald for George Stephenson 2 week 8 shillings,” “Received from Benjamin Hallas, Abraham Ellis wage from December 14th to February 10th, 10s 10d” “Ammaras Rennor for Samuel Sharp scribbling 3s 8d.” These entries show that workhouse inmates were hired out to local trades-people at low wages to do a variety of tasks.
Cloth was purchased in the piece, mainly from Bridget Wilson Rawlin, a “pees” or “two peeses” at a time and Townend duly recorded how it was distributed: “to Hannah Rayks 2¼ yards, Thomas Clark 5 yards, Thomas Lee 2½ yards, Young Joe Cudworth 2 yards, Meriah Ellis ½ yard,” and so on. Presumably, these are the names of some of the inmates in the workhouse, who would be given the cloth to make garments for themselves. However, there are entries for “new leather breeches, new coat and singlet” being supplied to “Little Tom Clark.” Some of the names are quaint such as “Robert Awsley,” “Ann Towlson,” “David Pickrin,” “John Hinsliff,” “Bett Ellee,” “Halice Morehous,” “Bett Hobkin,” and others, most of which will be recognised as the ancient forms of common names.
It was not unusual for men to abandon their wife and family to the Ossett workhouse in times of sheer desperation and this was taken extremely seriously by the Poor Law overseers who were forced to care for the unfortunate wife and children in the workhouse at the expense of the ratepayers of the town. An example of this was noted in the local press back in 1815 with a reward of two guineas being offered for the arrest of one Joseph Crowther: 4
"Absconded about twelve weeks since and left his wife and family chargeable to the Parish of Ossett, JOSEPH CROWTHER, by trade a husbandman; has dark brown hair, is marked with the smallpox, high-coloured in the face, and blue eyes; about 5 feet 8 inches tall, has a front tooth broken the upper side. Had on when he left his family, a bottle-green coat and a buff waistcoat. Whoever will apprehend the said Joseph Crowther and lodge him in any of his Majesty's gaols, giving information the Overseers of Ossett near Wakefield, shall receive TWO GUINEAS reward.
Benjamin Baines, Overseer, Ossett, October 31st 1815."
Horbury historian, the late Ken Bartlett gives us an idea about the nature of the occupants of the Ossett Workhouse in his detailed account of a neighbouring workhouse3 in nearby Horbury:
"The occupants of the workhouse were many and varied; some were old people with no money and no relatives to take care of them, some were middle-aged with no job with which to earn money, people too ill to work, young mothers with children whose husband had died or whose husbands were away in the Napoleonic wars.
Some lived in the workhouse, some in rented properties, the rent being provided by the Overseer. The older children were found apprenticeships with accommodation, some of the older poor were found part-time work with tradesmen in the town. There were many references to this and the money earned going into the general funds of the workhouse. Then there are the young girls who finding themselves pregnant are cast out of their homes, the fathers are to be found and made to contribute towards the girl and child. In a small town like Horbury there would not be much happening which wasn't already common knowledge."
One notable long-time occupant of Horbury workhouse was Hannah Metcalfe, whom had died aged 70 years. It was noted that she took to her bed aged 25 years some 45 years previously owing to a disappointment in love and never rose from it to the day of her death. It is calculated that this pauper had cost the parish of Horbury 500 shillings (£25.00), which was a significant amount in those days.
The following entry is sufficiently explicit to explain itself: "Doctor Green, bottle for Becka Hirst - bleeding from her nose violently," and again "Doctor Green, four bottles for Hana Westerman and Betty Cudworth." These, with "Hana Westerman bleeding 6d," are the only references to medical expenses. There are a few entries for the occasional purchase of simple remedies, such as "Green Dyocklum 1d," "oil of sweet ainions and surrop of violets 2d," "brimstone 1lb 8d," and "Doctor Green spirits 2d," and "alligor 1s."
In the early years of the 18th century, the Ossett district was making more cloth and mining more coal than ever before and the living of the Church of England in the town, worth £2 per year in 1650 had risen to £5 yearly in 1716 and a few years later may have been £25 per annum. But the relative prosperity of the district was perhaps in the number of Dissenters. There were not many Roman Catholics, but in the early years of the 1700s, a few people from Ossett went to Wakefield to worship at the Presbyterian Chapel in Westgate (now the Unitarian Church). Very soon they formed the Congregational Church on the Green in Ossett, now the United Reform Church, and which celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1967.
In 1712 a boy was born in Ossett near the present Ingfield Avenue, named Benjamin Ingham. He was related to the Inghams of Dewsbury, Thornhill and Palermo in Sicily. He was educated at Batley Grammar School and In 1732, he was at Queens College, Oxford. John and Charles Wesley were both educated at Oxford University. In 1726, Charles entered Oxford. This was about the time John was completing his work there. John then left Oxford for Lincoln College where he had been elected a fellow. After John’s departure, Charles, in 1729, started the Holy Club at Oxford, which Benjamin Ingham joined in 1732. Charles Wesley had graduated in 1730 and was a college tutor at Oxford and Ingham was one of his students. The term "Methodist" was first used at Oxford to refer to "Holy Club" members. Undergraduate students would jeer club members, calling them Methodists.
Above: A drawing of Benjamin Ingham's birthplace in Town End, Ossett, which was demolished in 1937. It was here that the Ingham family established themselves as maltsters and farmers in the early part of the reign of Charles I (1625-49). The Ingham family home was Georgian, but a closer examination showed that the rear of the building, under a second roof, was considerably older, especially parts of it, and indicate that this would have been the original home of the Inghams, and that as their family fortune increased, the house was extended to stay in line with their status. The extensive outbuildings, particularly the internal woodwork, also provided ample evidence of pre-Georgian existence.
Benjamin Ingham was ordained in to the priesthood of the Church of England in 1735. Ingham accompanied the Wesleys as a missionary for the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel to the colony of Georgia in America. In 1737, Ingham returned to Ossett intent on bringing his ideas to ordinary people. He began to form societies within the Church of England, initially in the Leeds area but soon beyond. This upset the established church and in June 1739 he was banned from preaching in churches in the Diocese of York. Instead he took to preaching in private houses, barns or in the open and drew a large number of followers.
In 1737, when the Revd. Ingham disagreed with the Curate of Ossett, a clergyman named the Revd. John Godly, he wrote to John Wesley about it, producing a sentence, which has often been quoted: "I have just been talking to Mr. Godly", he wrote, "You know, I believe he has been misnamed." Perhaps the Curate was entitled to a little sympathy. Anxiously, he reported to his superiors that, although the Headmaster of Ossett Grammar School was an Inghamite Methodist, he continued to take his pupils to the Established Church for religious instructions.
The picture on the right is a drawing of the very first Methodist Chapel that was opened in Ossett in 1778, principally by the efforts of John Phillips, a local preacher. It was later converted to two dwelling houses at numbers 32 and 34 Prospect Road. John Wesley preached at this Chapel in April 1790 when he was in his 87th year and he died the following year.
It was decided that this Chapel was not large enough and In 1781, nine members of the Methodist movement in Ossett: John Harrop, William Ellis, John Milner, John Phillips, Timothy Fozard, David Mitchell, Benjamin Hallas, Joseph Megson and James Fozard secured a piece of land for a new Chapel of 210 square yards in Wesley Street, then known as Oxley Lane and described in the deed as 'the highway leading from Ossett to Dewsbury'. It isn't absolutely clear when the new Chapel was built, but in a deed dated 1798, the Chapel is referred to as having been 'recently erected' and it had seating accommodation for 500. The Trustees who subscribed to the deed were John Phillips, Benjamin Hallas, Job Butterworth, Joseph Megson, Thomas Milner, John Wilby, Randolph Phillips, John Gartside, Benjamin Hallas, junr., Thomas Phillips, William Hallas and Mark Philip. In 1810 further land adjoining the new site was purchased at a cost of £31 10s. 0d., for the erection of a Sunday School.
By 1753, the position of the Ossett Curate, who by then was the Revd. Joshua Earnshaw had become truly difficult. The Vicar of Dewsbury (named Wheeler) was ill and he having control of the church in Ossett, as his predecessors had for more than 300 years was able to instruct his hard-working curate to work in Dewsbury rather than Ossett. Not surprisingly, Earnshaw resented this. There came a time when Wheeler instructed his curate to attend to Dewsbury Church, leaving Ossett unprovided for. At this time, the curate's feeling overflowed and he wrote to a friend about it. "Woe is me", he wrote, "that I did come to Dewsbury. Ye vicar would have me always. My dear people do withstand him and, with Christ's help, he will be overthrown." But the vicar did not take the criticism well and he made a note about it. "I would advise every succeeding vicar to have a watchful eye to ye Chapel of Ossett as there has lately been made, by lying and false representation, some steps towards independency on the Church of Dewsbury."
Profound changes in national affairs, however beneficial in the long run, are seldom good for trade and employment in the short run and in the 1780s, the woollen industry was entering a difficult period. The Directors of the fulling mill at Healey (Healey Old Mill) evidently felt improvements could be made and there is an entry in the Minute Book in 1786 recording their decision to install carding and spinning machines. The machines were installed, but for some years, the venture did not prosper. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars caused a virtual cessation of trade with the Continent and the coming of the steam engine completely changed trading conditions.
In November 1777, a baby with the unusual name of "Lovely Glover Wilson", the daughter of Ossett clothier Timothy Wilson and his wife Hannah, she was baptised at the Green Congregational Chapel in Ossett. It is not clear why the baby was called "Lovely Glover". Timothy Wilson had married Hannah Firth in 1770 but she sadly died in 1784 aged 32.
'The fuddled young husband stared for a few seconds at this unexpected praise of his wife, half in doubt of the wisdom of his own attitude towards the possessor of such qualities. But he speedily lapsed into his former conviction, and said harshly' —
"Well, then, now is your chance; I am open to an offer for this gem o' creation."
She turned to her husband and murmured, "Michael, you have talked this nonsense in public places before. A joke is a joke, but you may make it once too often, mind!"
"I know I've said it before; I meant it. All I want is a buyer."
The famous wife-selling scene in Thomas Hardy’s 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', first published in May 1886, was not as far-fetched as one may think. Some 400 cases of public wife selling are documented in Britain between the 17th and the early 20th centuries. It was widely believed that if a husband placed his wife in a halter, led her through the turnpike gate of a market, and publicly sold her before witnesses, then the transaction was legal. However, wife selling was not legal, with no divorce papers being issued to either party making the separation official.
On Thursday September 13th 1814, William Heslam of Thornhill brought his wife Margery to Wakefield Market Cross, with a halter around her neck, and there publicly sold her to the highest bidder. The sum of five shillings was offered by John Blagg and accepted by the woman's husband; the money having been paid, Blagg walked away with his purchase, the woman seemingly the most pleased of all.
As late as 1888, evidence was given in a Barnsley Police Court of the sale of a wife when Ann Holgate unblushingly stated that her husband had sold her for a half-crown to John Pearson with whom she was living.
Benjamin Ingham was born at Ossett in 1712. He was educated at Batley Grammar School and Queen's College Oxford where he became a member of the Holy Club. He was ordained in 1735 He joined the Methodists while at Oxford. He went with Wesley to Georgia in the USA spending 13 months there. He then visited the Moravian Settlement at Herrnhut in Germany.
Ingham had a conversion experience in North America and after his return to England, he became Vicar of Ossett and preached in the area between Halifax and Leeds where he enjoyed great success. Later he was prohibited from church pulpits in the Diocese of York for his non- conformist views.
In November 1741, Benjamin Ingham married Lady Margaret Hastings, daughter of the Theophilus the 7th Earl of Huntingdon (herself the founder of another religious sect.) Following their marriage they lived at Aberford Hall, just outside Tadcaster and their only son, Ignatius, was baptised at Aberford in 1745.
During the early years of his evangelical ministry, he was strongly influenced by the Moravians and in 1742, he joined the Moravians and placed his 50 small societies in Yorkshire under their control. Two years later he gave them land for a settlement at Fulneck which became the Moravian headquarters in the North.
During the later 1740s, Ingham began to drift away from the Moravians. In 1753, he severed his connection with the Moravians and the following year set up a new organization whose discipline was based on that of the Moravians but was less strict. In 1755 there were at least 80 Inghamite societies, mostly in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
It was proposed by Charles Wesley at the Methodist Conference in 1755 that the eighty Inghamite congregations be joined with the Methodists, but this was rejected by John Wesley.
The Inghamites made a formal break with the Anglican Church in 1755 (25 years before the Countess of Huntingdon's and 34 years before the Methodists made their break) and started to ordain its own preachers. But from 1760, the Inghamites began to break up; some joined with a similar sect based in Scotland, the Sandemanians; some joined the Methodists and a few remained loyal to Ingham.
After Ingham's death in 1772, new societies continued to be founded, while others expired. In 1814, after a year of debate, the remaining 13 Inghamite societies (with 252 members) were united with the Scottish Daleites, a similarly Calvinist group with 15 societies and 512 members. In 1837, an Inghamite church was founded at Farringdon, Ontario in Canada.
After that growth, the societies started to decline in numbers and strength. By the 1960s, there were only seven left; in Colne, Wheatley, Winewall and Cotton Tree in Lancashire; at Kendal in Westmorland; at Salterforth in Yorkshire and in Farringdon, Ontario.
There are some Inghamite Birth, Marriage and Death Registers in the PRO Kew, Surrey, but there was no central control, so the collection is somewhat mixed. The registers were treated as the private property of the minister, which he took with him when he moved to a new appointment.
Old Ossett Residents and Places
From an old Ossett tithe book covering the period between 1761 and 1791, a few of the names mentioned in it are Thos. Fozard, druggist; John Greenwood, surgeon, town; Thos. Oldroyd, surgeon; Mr. Batty, lawyer; Thos. Marsden, draper, Storg Hill; Widow Squire, shopkeeper, Town-end; Chas. Siswick, Ossett mill; Abin Pearson, dog whipper; Robt. Dews, piper; Robert Ingham, shop keeper; James Wilby, wire drawer; John Harrison, school master; Ben Whitworth, school master; and John Wilby, wolsey weaver - all of them still quite familiar names.
The addresses given in the book are familiar from those still used today but some have fallen into disuse. There is Sand Bed, Jig Hill, Sudge Hill, Twang, Twang Town, Old Nappe, West Wells, The Park, Middle Park, Upper Park, Back Lane, Little Common, Green, Hunger Hill, Longlands, Town Knowle, Little Town, Little Town End, the Street, Upper Street, Storge Hill, Low laithes and Gaw (Gawthorpe).