Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town

Ossett Wilson Family: 1700 - 1900

Ossett in the 1760s
In 1764 around the time that Robert Wilson married Sarah Mitchell, Ossett had only 450 inhabitants. It was then a small village, built on a ridge of land, located just half a mile from the Wakefield - Dewsbury - Halifax turnpike, which was originally, a Roman Road. Ossett was made up from a number of small hamlets with Gawthorpe, for instance, being quite a separate entity. The Gawthorpe Willsons of this time used the alternative spelling with the double "L" of "Will" being retained.

1st Generation - Robert Wilson and Sarah Mitchell
Robert Wilson, with his wife Sarah, had eleven children baptised over a period of 20 years between 1768 and 1787, at the Independent Congregational Chapel at Ossett Green. Robert Wilson had been married to Sarah Mitchell on 29 April 1767 at the parish church of All Saints in Dewsbury. (Ossett lay within the parish of Dewsbury; and of course all marriages at this period had to be conducted in the Anglican Church.) The witnesses to the marriage were John Wilson and Thomas Mitchell; and all four of them signed their names, a clear indication for this period that both families were of some standing. It remains possible, therefore, that they might yet be found in the records of the manor of Wakefield. The occupation of Robert was unfortunately not given at his wedding; nor was it given in the chapel baptismal register for any of his children. However, given the evidence from land transactions in about 1792, we know that he was a clothier, like his father before him. It is likely that Robert and his siblings probably helped in the family cloth making as youngsters, and Robert grew up to be a clothier.

Weaving Cloth

The Family of Robert & Sarah Wilson
Robert and Sarah were not lucky with their family. The burials have been found at the Congregational Chapel of two or three of their children. These included twins: Anne and Thomas born 3-8-1775 and baptised 13-8-1775. They died in 1776 within a year of their birth. Thomas was buried 22-2-1776 and Anne was buried 19-3-1776. A third may have been their son George, born 22-5-1784 and baptised 10-6-1784, who died in 1791 and was buried 3-6-1791, but this child's age at death was given as nine when it should have been seven.

Their three eldest surviving children were all boys and all the other five who survived were girls.

John Wilson, born 23-8-1768 and baptised 21-9-1768.
Joseph Wilson, born 16-12-1769 and baptised 11-1-1770
Robert Wilson, born 5-1-1772 and baptised 9-2-1772
Mary Wilson, born 23-12-1773 and baptised 3-2-1773
Elizabeth Wilson, born 28-2-1777 and baptised 30-3-1777
Hannah Wilson, born 6-2-1779 and baptised 10-3-1779
Sarah Wilson, born 12-6-1781 and baptised 20-7-1781
Martha Wilson, born 16-12-1786 and baptised 21-1-1787

Naming the second son Joseph might indicate that Sarah's father was Joseph, because this was an old naming pattern, which Robert and Sarah did follow for their third son Robert. Interestingly, there is a record of a Sarah Mitchell being christened in Dewsbury on the 25th July 1752 in Dewsbury, the daughter of Joseph Mitchell. It is likely that this is the Sarah Mitchell that Robert Wilson married on the 29th April 1767 when she was 15 or 16 years of age.

John Wilson
It has not yet been possible to positively identify the history of Robert and Sarah's eldest son John Wilson. Unfortunately, there were three John Wilsons in Ossett at the end of the 1700s, all married and having children christened within the right time frame. However, the 1821 Ossett census gives us a very positive clue. There is just one John Wilson (out of four) of the right age in 1821. This John Wilson had been born on the 23rd August 1768 and by the time of the 1821 census, would have been 52 years of age. In the census, 52 year-old John Wilson is married to Nancy - also 52 years of age with one unmarried male child and six unmarried female children still at home. A John Wilson had married Ann (Nancy) Dews in Dewsbury on the 9th October 1793, which is within the right timeframe.

John Wilson and Nancy had six children as follows:

George Wilson, born 13.12.1795 and baptised 7 Jan 1796
Francis Wilson, born 18.8.1797 and baptised 21.9.1797
Ann Wilson, born 23.4.1799 and baptised 13.6.1799
Sarah Wilson, born 25.2.1805 and baptised 25.3.1805
Mary Wilson, born 31.12.1806 and baptised 8.1.1807 (twin)
Martha Wilson, born 31.12.1806 and baptised 8.1.1807 (twin)

Around 1969, the old burial ground for the Independent Congregational Church at Dimple Wells, The Green in Ossett was bought by a builder for redevelopment. The bodies were exhumed and moved to Gawthorpe Burial Ground. The records show that one grave containing Sarah Wilson, died 23.9.1834; Nancy Wilson, died 2.1.1843 and John Wilson, died 23.1.1848 were among those reburied.

In the 1841 Ossett census there is a John Wilson, cloth manufacturer, aged about 65 living with Francis Wilson, aged about 25 (probably his son) also a cloth manufacturer, at 96 Green Westside. This John Wilson had married Mary Westerman in about 1795 and had several children. Nearby, at 93 Green Westside is David Wilson, cloth journeyman, aged about 60 with Elizabeth aged about 40 and children, Helen aged 2 months and Thomas aged 2 years. John Wilson was christened 9th October 1775 in Ossett and a David Wilson was christened 3rd July 1777, both the sons of Isaac and Elizabeth Wilson. As previously discussed, Isaac Wilson could be the cousin of the Robert Wilson who married Sarah Mitchell.

Isaac Wilson is still alive in 1821, aged 70 and living in Ossett with his wife Elizabeth (nee Blackburn) aged 68. They had been married in Horbury on the 24th August 1772. At home with them are one unmarried male child and two unmarried female children. In the 1821 census, the children are usually not named.

Joseph Wilson
Apart from young Robert and perhaps John, the only child of Robert and Sarah who has so far been positively traced as an adult is Joseph, the second son, who also grew up to be a clothier in Ossett. Joseph was born on the 16th December 1769 and was married in Dewsbury on 22 March 1790 to Alice Stringer. An Alice Stringer had been christened in Dewsbury on the 18th April 1767, the daughter of Richard Stringer. The couple had seven children baptised in Ossett in the following ten years. These were:

Sarah Wilson, baptised 10-4-1791
Thomas Wilson, baptised 15-9-1792
Alice Wilson, baptised 16-6-1794
Susannah Wilson, baptised 13-9-1795
Elizabeth Wilson, baptised 26-12-1796
Lydia Wilson, baptised 9-4-1798
Hannah Wilson, baptised 16-9-1799

In the 1841 census for Ossett, there is a Joseph Wilson, aged around 70 years; a clothier, living at North Field with his son Joseph (20), daughters Martha (30), Eunice (20) and grandson John (2) who is the illegitimate son of Martha. This is almost certainly to be the same Joseph Wilson who had been born in 1769. Unfortunately, the 1841 census rounded ages off to within five years. The IGI index and 1841 census suggest that Joseph Wilson may have lost his first wife Alice Stringer and had married a second wife, Hannah Glover on the 17th October 1805 in Dewsbury. In the 1821 Ossett census, Hannah is aged 41 and living with Joseph Wilson aged 51 with one unmarried male child and six unmarried female children. It is not yet fully proven whether this is the same Joseph Wilson. Joseph Wilson had six children with Hannah as follows:

Martha Wilson, christened 12-4-1807
Ruth Wilson, christened 16-7-1809
Mary Ann Wilson, christened 13-10-1811
Jane Wilson, christened 20-2-1814
Eunice Wilson, christened 6-7-1817
Joseph Benjamin Wilson, christened 6-6-1819

Some of these are the children listed in the 1841 census, by which time second wife Hannah had presumably died, since she is not at home with Joseph.

In the 1851 census, Joseph's daughter Elizabeth Wilson, born in 1796, milliner is unmarried and living in The Green. Joseph Benjamin Wilson, 31, is now living at 4 Field Lane, Ossett and is a cloth manufacturer employing 6 men. His sister Eunice, 33, is at the same address and is employed as a house servant.

Hannah Wilson
The younger sister of Robert Wilson, Hannah who was born on the 6th Feb 1779 (and christened on the 10th March 1779), was married to Ossett machine maker John Archer at St. Peter's Church, Leeds on the 26th Feb 1807 when she was 27 years of age. John Archer was the son of Ossett machine maker George Archer. The following children were all christened at Ossett Green Independent Congregational Church to parents John Archer and Hannah.

Mariah Archer christened 28th December 1807
Susannah Archer christened 26th January 1810
Sarah Ann Archer christened 6th December 1811
Martha Archer christened 1st January 1814
Joseph Archer christened 7th May 1818
Edmond Archer christened 30th April 1821

2nd Generation - Robert Wilson and Willis Stringer
Robert Wilson junior was married at All Saints in Dewsbury at the age of 21 on the 13th May 1793 to Willis Stringer, who is likely to be related to Alice Stringer. Robert signed, while Willis marked. The witnesses were John Wilson (probably Robert's eldest brother) and Francis Mitchell (who was probably related to Sarah Mitchell of the previous generation), who both signed.

A Willis Stringer was baptised in Dewsbury on 4 December 1773, but was recorded as a boy, the son of Richard Stringer. It seems likely that this was a mistake since the IGI records show a female Willis Stringer being born about 1772, the spouse of Robert Wilson, which is likely to be the same Willis. The 1821 census for Ossett records Willis (Wilson) then aged 48, which confirms that she was born in 1772 or 1773.

Willis Stringer's name is obviously very unusual. Stringer is the North Country surname (there being a different one in the south), which was given to people who made and installed the strings of bows, and it was not uncommon in some parts of Yorkshire. Willis as the personal name for a girl in the 18th century must be unusual. However, there were several instances of female Willis Stringers in the Ossett area at that time. In 1746, a Willis Stringer was baptised in All Saints Church, Wakefield, the daughter of Thomas Stringer. The other likely children of this Thomas are as follows: Richard (baptised 24-5-1736), Hannah (baptised 21-1-1739/40) and Frances (baptised 10-10-1747). Willis Stringer married John Hampshire on 28 September 1766 in Wakefield and that Willis is likely to be the daughter of Thomas Stringer.

Another Willis Stringer is recorded as being christened on 6 January 1775, again at All Saints Church, Wakefield, the daughter of Thomas Stringer. A Willis Stringer married John Bradbury 10 January 1815 in St John's Church, Wakefield and it may well be this Willis, although she would have been 40 at the time of her marriage.

Willis' father Richard Stringer had been married at Dewsbury to Susannah King on 15-12-1762. It was one of his children, Alice, baptised on 18-4-1767, who was probably married to Robert's brother Joseph. Richard and Susannah Stringer had a series of children baptised at Dewsbury in the 1760s and 1770s after their marriage. It may well be that this Richard Stringer was born in Wakefield, six miles to the east in 1736, the son of Thomas Stringer.

Spinning Wheel 1888

The family of Robert and Willis Wilson
To return to Robert Wilson and his wife Willis, the couple bad a total of ten children in Ossett over a period of 18 years between 1794 and 1811. The first five of these children were baptised (excluding David who probably died at birth) in the Anglican Chapel of Holy Trinity in Ossett, while the last four were baptised in the Congregational Chapel where Robert had been baptised. The best explanation for the first group is that Willis was Anglican, as already suggested above. The reason for the return to non-conformism is not known. The eldest of the ten children was John, who was baptised in the Anglican Chapel on 4 March 1794. The remaining nine children were five boys and four girls, the last (Mark) born when Willis was 36. The full list of the ten children is as follows:

John Wilson, born 21-2-1794, died 24-4-1851
Thomas Wilson, born 10-11-1795
Benjamin Wilson, born 20-10-1797, died 15-4-1881
Mary Wilson, born 6-8-1799
David Wilson, born 3-1-1801 - probably died at birth
Ann Wilson, born 29-1-1803
Robert Wilson, born 20-3-1806
Elizabeth Wilson, born 8-1-1808
Grace Wilson, born 24-12-1809
Mark Wilson, born 2-5-1811, died 8-6-1881

By coincidence, like the elder Robert's family, the first three were boys. Since the younger Robert was a clothier, it can be expected that his children would have helped with the family cloth making in their earlier years; but John at least had some schooling and was able to read and write, and the same was probably true of at least the other boys. Ossett is a place where some of the early census records survive - in this case, the census for 1821, which lists Robert and Willis with the four youngest children still at home, ranging in age from 10 to 15. Robert is listed as 49 and Willis as 48. Robert died within the next twenty years; but Willis has been found at the 1841 census, with one of her grandsons living with her. No record has been found of the burial of either Robert or Willis - nor of the early death of any of their children. However, only four of the children (apart from John) have so far been found in later life.

In 1822, Ossett was in the parish of Dewsbury, Agbrigg division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 2½ miles W. of Wakefield, 3 miles from Dewsbury with population of 4,775.

3rd Generation - The children of Robert Wilson and Willis Stringer
This section of the Ossett Wilson history will deal with the 3rd Generation and will look at the nine children of Robert and Willis Wilson and their families.

John Wilson, the eldest son of Robert and Willis was married at the age of 19, on the 3rd February 1814, at the parish church in Dewsbury, to Ann Ellis, who was then 18. John is described in the register as a clothier, like his father before him. John signed and Ann marked the register. Witnesses at the wedding were Ann's two elder brothers, Joshua Ellis and James Ellis.

Ann Ellis had been baptised at the Anglican Chapel in Ossett on 16 August 1795, the daughter of James and Sarah Ellis. The surname Ellis is usually taken to come from the personal name Elias - though sometimes it may come from the diminutives of Elizabeth, such as Elise. In England, it is commonest in the south; but it is often found in the west of Yorkshire, and around Ossett is very common.

Ann Ellis wife of John Wilson

Above: Ann Ellis, wife of John Wilson, pictured shortly before she died in 1869.

Ann's parents, Ossett stonemason James Ellis and his wife Sarah, nee Sugden had married on the 10th October 1785 in Dewsbury. Interestingly, at the 1821 census there is a mason, James Ellis, in Ossett, aged 59, with a younger wife Elizabeth. A James Ellis had been christened on the 22nd August 1761, the son of Joshua Ellis. Another James Ellis was christened on the 14th September 1761, the son of Israel Ellis, both in Dewsbury. Either one could be the 59 year-old mason living in Ossett in 1821. By the time of the 1821 census, seven years later, John and Ann are shown as having four children living with them. In fact, John and Ann went on to have twelve children in the 23 years extending between 1812 and 1835. Their first son George was born two years before they were married, when Ann was just 16. The children were all baptised in the new Anglican Holy Trinity Chapel in Ossett, which was completed in 1807, with the exception of John who was baptised in the parish church in Dewsbury. The first seven of these were boys (so that John more than doubled the record of his father and grandfather on this point) and there were only two girls in all - Ann and Sarah, who was the last child, born in 1835 when her mother was 39. The elder daughter Ann died young, and the second son, Joseph, did also; so that the couple had ten children who survived into adulthood, only one of who was a girl. The full list of the children is as follows:

George Wilson, born 18-12-1812, died about 1845
Thomas Wilson, born 7-8-1815, died 11-6-1895
Joseph Wilson, baptised 3-8-1817, died 12-10-1818
John Wilson, born 23-8-1819, died December 1883
James Wilson, born 16-3-1821, died 23-4-1884
Robert Wilson, born 30-12-1822, died March 1900
Joshua Wilson, born 30-11-1824, died 1-9-1897
Ann Wilson, born 15-7-1827 and died young
Benjamin Wilson, born 11-6-1829, died 9-3-1906
Henry Wilson, born 16-5-1831, died 29-11-1897
Francis Wilson, born 18-4-1833, died before 1901
Sarah Wilson, born 2-5-1835, died 13-7-1895

As already mentioned, John had followed his father in the occupation of clothier, as was to be expected at the time. It was John's generation in Ossett, which had to react to the change in the traditional role of the clothier, brought on by the invention of workable machinery for making woollen cloth. In the case of the Wilson family in Ossett, they were better placed to do so. It seems likely that they were already among the clothiers who had some interest in one or more mills operating in some part of the clothing industry - for example, for fulling the cloth after weaving. This style of co-operation among clothiers continued in Ossett (as it did in Leeds) until about 1840; and until then John's occupation continues to be shown as clothier (e.g. in the baptism of his children).

It seems that John had already had sexual relations with Ann before he married her - as also, of course, had many other couples in this history. The difference is that George, "bastard son" of Ann Ellis, was baptised at the Anglican Chapel on 20 February 1814 - seventeen days after John and Ann were married. This can only be a case of truthfulness where dissembling might have succeeded, and must say a lot about John. George was acknowledged by his father, and was fully accepted into the family.

At the census of 1841, John and Ann are living with their seven youngest surviving children, ranging in age from 20 (James) down to 6 (Sarah), at West Wells, to the southwest of the Ossett village. The four eldest sons have by then all left home. John is described as cloth-maker, an ambiguous word; and so is James. The next two sons (Robert and Joshua), on the other hand, were already working in cloth making outside the family.

The next decade would have been decisive in determining whether John could continue working for himself in cloth making; and at the 1851 census, it is clear that he has succeeded in the transition. He is described as woollen mill owner, employing 6 men and 10 children. He is living in Field Lane, on the north-western side of the village, with his wife and two youngest (teenage) children, together with two Wilson grandchildren. These were Henry 9 and John 8. They were the children of his natural son George: the baptism of young John (on 2-4-1843) was at the Methodist Chapel in Wesley Street. George had died by 1851, and presumably his wife also. A third child of George was Ann 14, who in 1851 was living with her uncle Joshua as a 'nurse'. (The eldest, Sarah, has not yet been found in 1851.)

Field Lane is now called Church Street, and still contains old housing as well as old factory buildings. In 1851, John's new Northfield Mill had just been completed, also in Field Lane. John had obviously become very successful in pursuing cloth making on his own.

Is this Ossett?

Sadly, within a month of the census, John died, at the early age of 57, on 24 April 1851. He was buried in the Methodist cemetery in South Ossett, where his imposing gravestone can still be seen at Row 8, 3 yards north. He had adopted non-conformism at some stage in his middle life. Other evidence shows that much of the family had moved across to the Methodist church in this period, probably the late 1830s, and indeed were later strong supporters of it.

John's will, (Borthwick Institute: Yorkshire Deaneries: no.734 of volume 227 - 1852), which was made on 22 April 1851, when he was near death, left his estate to his widow Ann for her life or widowhood (i.e. until she might remarry), and then to all his nine surviving children - "and the children of my putative son George Wilson deceased" - in equal shares. John's widow Ann lived for another 18 years. At the 1861 census, she was living in West Field, to the west of the town, with one grandson, John now aged 18, a power-loom tuner, very close to several of her children. Ann (Ellis) Wilson died on 12 December 1869, at the age of 74, and was buried in the same grave as John in the Methodist cemetery.

All of John's children have been traced in their adult life. It can be taken that all of them received some schooling at least, and that the boys then helped their father in cloth-making in which he probably had an operation separate from the family home from an early stage - and then struck out on their own. All of John's oldest six sons stayed in the woollen trade in Ossett, and all married in the late 1830s or the early 1840s and started families of their own. Four of them soon set up cloth-making operations on their own account (and the last, Robert, did so somewhat later) - presumably with their father's help - and in co-operation, in a way, which was common among clothiers in this early period of wool mechanisation. At the 1851 census they were all living near each other, in West Field to the west of the village.

Thomas Wilson, the second son, was born on the 10th November 1795. Like so many of his siblings, no record has been found in later life and we can only assume that Thomas died in infancy.

Benjamin Wilson, the third son of Robert and Willis, became a successful woollen manufacturer and a pillar of the established church in Ossett. Benjamin was married on 8 September 1817 at Dewsbury to Elizabeth Lee who had been born in 1798. Benjamin and Elizabeth had eleven children as follows:

Joshua Wilson, born 3-7-1818, died 7-3-1894; Mary Wilson, born 13-8-1820, died 3-9-1884; Joseph Wilson, born 25-10-1822, died 5-12-1861; Ann Wilson, born 23-4-1825, died 1907; David Wilson, born 26-9-1827, died 23-1-1890; Edwin Wilson, born 6-10-1829, died 25-6-1885; Martha Wilson, born 21-1-1832, died 5-5-1915; Jane Wilson, born 30-3-1834, died 1910; Robert Wilson, born 5-9-1838, died 3-12-1878; Sarah Wilson, born 23-1-1840, died 1907; Annis Wilson, born 12-6-1842, died 27-11-1922.

At the 1841 census, Benjamin and Elizabeth were already in their forties, with Benjamin described as cloth manufacturer, and living at Field Head House with nine children (and another son nearby). This is in the part of the village known as Great Field. Both Benjamin and Elizabeth are listed as aged 40. Their children are Mary 20, Joseph 18, Ann 15, David 13, Edwin 11, Martha 9, Jane 7, Robert 4 and Sarah 1. Benjamin is master clothier, and both Joseph and Joshua are journeyman clothiers (i.e. a qualified worker in employment; the old formal apprenticeship system for clothiers having virtually disappeared). In Ossett is their son Joshua 20 with his wife Mary 20 and their first child Henry (Joshua was 22: he was born on 3-7-1818.)

Ten years later, Benjamin was doing well. Most of his children were still at home, though four of them were over 21 - usually a sign that a family had resources and they were still at Field End. Benjamin, woollen cloth manufacturer, is 53, Elizabeth 53, Mary 30, Joseph 28, David 23, Edwin 21 (all 3 sons woollen cloth weavers), Martha 19, Jane 17 (both burlers of woollen cloth - a burler repaired damage in the fabric), Sarah 11 and Annis 8 (both scholars). There was still value in the children working; Mary presumably was housekeeper.

Ten years after that, in the same area, four of his children are unmarried and at home in Great Field, where Benjamin built Great Field House (which still stands in Greatfield Road): Those still at home were Mary 40, Robert 24, woollen manufacturer, Sarah 21 and Annis 18.

Benjamin was organist at the Anglican chapel, and gave most generously, it is said, to the tune of 800 (a big sum in the 1860s) for the building of the new and most imposing Anglican Church of Holy Trinity between 1862-5 (built at a high point in the town's prosperity). In 1871, he and Elizabeth were still living in the same part of the town, both aged 73 with two unmarried daughters still at home (with 23 years difference in age between them). Benjamin and Elizabeth lived to celebrate their golden wedding, but Elizabeth died at the age of 80. Benjamin retired fully from the business in 1878. In 1881, Benjamin, at 83 had been joined by a grand daughter as well as his two daughters. The grand daughter is Sarah E. Illingworth, 28, unmarried. Sarah was the eldest child of Benjamin's daughter Ann, who was married to Henry Illingworth, butcher: at the 1861 census, the family was at South Towngate: Henry was 35, Ann 35, Sarah E. 8, Frederick 7, William 5 and Walter aged 3.

Nearby, in Great Field, lived Benjamin's son David, rag merchant, with his wife and seven unmarried children. David is 53, Mary 48, and the children Elizabeth 27, Eliza 25, Martha 23, Harrop 20, Charles 19, Robert 17 and Arthur 15.

OSSETT OBSERVER: 23 - 4 -1881
"As mentioned in last week's paper, Mr. Benjamin Wilson closed a long life at his residence Field Head House, Ossett on Friday 16th April 1881. His position in life was a private one and therefore one under ordinary circumstances not coming within the purview of the journalist. His decease seems, however, to call for some notice. The age, which he had attained, (upwards of 83) was an unusual one. Mrs. Wilson, his late wife, who died three years ago, was on a par as regards age with her husband. They had lived together in the bonds of matrimony more than half a century and celebrated their golden wedding. Mr. Wilson, who died possessed of considerable means, was the architect of his own fortune, having commenced life as an operative. We are not in possession of exact information, but we believe he carried on business as a cloth manufacturer for 50 years, only relinquishing the business about 3 years ago on the death of his son Mr. Robert Wilson, with whom he was in partnership.

One circumstance of his life is especially notable and worthy of mention at this time. We allude to his liberality in connection with the building of the handsome Parish Church, which Ossett now possesses. Towards the erection of that structure, he gave the magnificient sum of £800. The remains of the deceased gentleman were interred in the family vault in Trinity churchyard at noon on Wednesday 20th April 1881. The funeral cortege was very lengthy; Mr. E. Broadhead, Mr. M. Lockwood and Mr. Hepworth preceded the plumed hearse. Numerous grandchildren (of whom Mr. Wilson is said to have fifty) walked on either side of the hearse. Nine funeral coaches conveyed the mourners and friends and the rear was brought up by the private carriages of Mr. J. Whitaker J.P., Mr. J.W. Greenwood, Mr. A. Pollard and Mr. G. Harrop. The coffin, which was a very handsome one of polished oak, panelled with massive brass mountings was met at the west door of the church by the vicar, the Rev. Canon Addison. Mr. Nettleton, churchwarden was also in attendance. The deceased was borne into the church and to the grave by adult grandchildren. Among those who attended the funeral were Mr. G. Harrop, John Westerman and George Radley, directors of the Ossett and Horbury Gas Company of which the deceased was likewise a director and large shareholder. Among others were three of the executors: Messrs. A. Pollard, G. Richardson and T. Giggle and the family solicitor, Mr. T. Barker of the firm Haigh, Barker and Barker; Mr. J.W. Greenwood, Mr. W.W. Wiseman, Mr. J. Whitaker, Mr. Jarvis Brook, Mr. H. Nettleton and Mr. & Mrs. Lodge.

The deceased gentleman was Conservative in politics and by religious profession a churchman. He leaves three sons and six daughters."

Below: Wilson's Row, Ossett in 1962 prior to demolition. Benjamin Wilson and his family had built these houses for their workers and some of Benny Wilson's children lived in the end house on the right of the picture.

Wilson's Row, Ossett

Benjamin died very shortly afterwards, on the 15th April 1881; he and six of his children were buried in the imposing family vault at the churchyard of the new Anglican Church and this can still be seen today. These were Mary (died 3-9-1884) and Annis (died 27-11-1922), both unmarried; plus Joseph (died 5-12-1861 - well before the Church itself was built: his is said to be the oldest grave in the newly­ opened churchyard), David (died 23-1-1890), Edwin (died 29-7-1885, of Quarry House, Ossett) and Robert (died in 1878, of The Villa, Horbury) - plus 3 unmarried children of David: Elizabeth, Robert and Arthur.

Mary Wilson was born 6th August 1799, the eldest daughter of Robert and Willis Wilson. There is a record of a marriage in Dewsbury Minster Parish Church of All Saints on the 25th September 1817 of Mary Wilson to John Hemingway, an Earlsheaton clothier. Witnesses were Thomas Wilson and Thomas Hemingway. However, there are two other Mary Wilsons marrying in the parish of Dewsbury at the right time frame, to John Milne and Joseph Popplewell respectively.

Ann Wilson, the second daughter of Robert and Willis, was married in Dewsbury on the 23rd April 1821, at the early age of 18, to 21 year-old Joseph Firth, clothier, whose family had come from Carlton, near Barnsley, eight miles to the southeast of Ossett. Ann and Joseph had at least seven children before Ann died in her thirties, leaving Joseph to cope with a young family. The full list is as follows:

Mary Ann Firth, christened 21-4-1822
Joseph Firth, christened 16-11-1823
John Firth, born about 1826
Sarah Firth, christened 23-11-1828
Emma Firth, born about 1830
Ellen Firth, born about 1832
Thomas Firth, born about 1834

In 1841, Joseph has five children living at home at Town (the area near Dale Street) while one more is at each of their grandparents' houses.  The census entry for 1841 lists Joseph aged 40 - clothier journeyman, John 14, Sarah 12, Emma 10, Ellen 8 and Thomas 6. A girl Mariann 15 is with Thomas Firth 70, clothier journeyman, and Mary 65, at Field Head.  Eldest son Joseph 15, clothier is living with his grandmother Willis Wilson, 65, at Little Town Head.  The ages of Mary Ann and Joseph Firth have been rounded down to 15 years, which was common in the 1841 census.  Their actual ages were 18 and 17 respectively.

Robert Wilson, the fourth son of Robert and Willis Wilson, was born 20th March 1806 in Ossett.  A record of a marriage has been found, on the 25th December 1825 in Dewsbury, between Robert Wilson and Bridget Butterworth.  Bridget, born 15th October 1802, was the eldest daughter of Ossett coal miner Emmanuel Butterworth and his wife Hannah.  She would have been 23 at the time of the wedding, but Robert was only 19.  Robert and Bridget are known to have had at least two children born in Ossett as follows:

Hannah Wilson, christened 30-7-1826
Mary Wilson, christened 26-7-1829

Mary was christened at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Ossett, like many other Ossett Wilsons in this study.  By the time of the 1841 census, there is no sign of Robert and Bridget, or their two children.  It is not yet known what happened to Robert Wilson and his family, although it seems likely that they moved away from Ossett at some time.

Elizabeth Wilson was born on the 18th January 1808 and on the 24th March 1828 married Job Butterworth (born 22nd November 1806), the son of Ossett shoemaker, Benjamin Butterworth and his wife Hannah, nee Clarke.  The couple had at least six children all christened in Ossett as follows:

Benjamin Butterworth, christened 14-4-1829
Grace Butterworth, christened 3-10-1830
Eunice Butterworth, christened 11-11-1832
Lydia Butterworth, christened 2-11-1834
Eli Butterworth, christened 18-12-1836
Sarah Ann Butterworth, 16-2-1840

Grace Wilson was the youngest daughter born to Robert and Willis Wilson on the 21st December 1809. Grace married Thomas Wightman in Rothwell, near Leeds on the 30th April 1833. Thomas was the son of John Wightman and Hannah, nee Rhodes and was christened in Dewsbury on the 12th August 1810. The couple had at least five children, all christened in Ossett as follows:

John Wightman, christened 22-9-1833
Ann Wightman, christened 21-6-1835
Mary Wightman, christened 15 May 1837
Robert Wilson Wightman, christened 17-11-1839
Sarah Wightman, christened 18-7-1841

Mark Wilson was the youngest child of Robert and Willis Wilson and he moved completely away from the family's traditional work in textiles. At the 1851 census, he is in Ossett as an iron founder, with his elder children following in his new footsteps. He had been married on 28 December 1834 in Dewsbury to Elizabeth Naylor, who was christened in Dewsbury on the 27th September 1812, the youngest daughter of John Naylor and Hannah Blackley. The couple settled first in Leeds, before returning to Ossett where Mark had an iron foundry on Field Lane (Church Street) and a house located between the Red Lion and Flying Horse Inns on Streetside.

In the 1851 census, 39 year-old Mark Wilson is living in Streetside (to the north of Ossett) with his wife Bessy 38, and children John 15 (born Leeds), George 11 (both green sand moulders), Maria 8, Willis 6 and Mark 4.  The couple went on to have eight children as follows:

John W. Wilson, born 8-3-1836
George Wilson, christened 20-4-1840
Hannah Wilson, born 18-3-1842
Maria Wilson, born 4-6-1843
Willis Wilson, christened 24-11-1844
Mark Wilson, christened 24-1-1847
Robert Wilson, born 10-6-1850
Fred Wilson, born 1853

Sadly, four of the children died in infancy. By 1851, Hannah had died and by 1856 George, Willis and Mark were also dead. There were cholera epidemics in England in 1848/49 and 1853/54. The loss of their children may have influenced Mark and Bessy Wilson because they moved to the USA in 1856, spending a winter in Boston in 1857 before moving to St. Louis in Missouri where Mark was employed as a coal miner and eldest son John W Wilson worked as a moulder in the iron foundries of St Louis. In 1863, the family moved to Emmet Township, Macomb, Illinois where they set up a homestead in 160 acres of virgin farmland and subsequently made their living as farmers.

"The Ossett Wilsons to the USA" covers this story of Mark and Bessy Wilson, their families and their lives in the USA. The descendants of Mark Wilson still live in Illinois and Oregon today.

4th Generation - the children of John Wilson and Ann Ellis
This section of the Ossett Wilson history will deal with the 4th Generation and will look at the 12 children of John and Ann Wilson and their families.

George Wilson was the eldest son of John and Ann Wilson and as has been mentioned previously, he was born some two years before the marriage of his parents on the 18th December 1812 and christened 15 months later on the 20th February 1814 about two weeks after his parents were married. George was married on the 31st July 1834 in Dewsbury to Hannah Megson, who was the older sister of Ann Megson who would later marry George's younger brother James Wilson. Hannah Megson was christened on the 15th March 1811 in the Wesleyan Chapel, Ossett, the second eldest daughter of Samuel Megson and Sarah Dixon. George and Hannah Wilson had five children as follows:

Sarah Wilson, christened 14-6-1835
Ann Wilson, christened 18-3-1838
Henry Wilson, christened 15-8-1841
John Wilson, born 1843, died 10-11-1894
Seth Wilson, born 1845

In the 1841 Ossett census, George Wilson is described as a clothier journeyman living in Little Town End. Sadly, by about 1845, George Wilson had died and in the 1851 census, his two sons Henry aged 9 and John aged 8 are living with their grandparents John and Ann Wilson in Field Lane. Daughter Ann, now aged 13, is working for George's brother Joshua Wilson in West Field as a nurse. There is no record at Ossett in the 1851 census for George's wife Hannah, their eldest daughter Sarah or for the youngest son Seth. It is possible that they may have moved elsewhere to live or had possibly died.

Thomas Wilson was born on the 7th August 1815 and followed his father into the clothing trade, becoming a successful clothier in Ossett during the 19th century. By the time of the 1851 census, he was a cloth manufacturer employing three men and living next door to brother James in West Field. 21 year-old Thomas married 25 year-old Susannah Mitchell on the 5th March 1837 in Dewsbury. Thomas and Susannah had seven children as follows:

John Wilson, born 1838 - died young?
Hannah Wilson, christened 26-5-1839 - died young?
Elizabeth Ann Wilson, christened 6-6-1841
George Eli Wilson, born 1843, died 21-12-1904
Thomas Wilson, born 1845, died 19-7-1893
William Wilson, born 1847, died 28-5-1878
Phillip Henry Wilson, born August 1850, died 19-9-1928

John and Hannah are not listed in the 1841 or 1851 Ossett census and it is assumed that they died during early childhood. One daughter of Thomas (Elizabeth Ann, who married John Edward Wilby in 1860) has been found at the 1861 census, still living with her parents, having just had her first daughter. Thomas Wilson listed his occupation as a gardener in later life, although it is possible that this was after his retirement as a clothing manufacturer and refers more to his day-to-day interest in gardening than something he actually pursued for a living.

Thomas Wilson and wife Susannah

Above: Thomas Wilson with his wife Susannah in old age, probably in the 1890s.

Thomas Wilson and his family are all buried at St John's Methodist Cemetery, South Ossett in a large family vault with an impressive memorial stone. (See illustrations) Thomas died on 11-6-1895 aged 79, and his wife Susannah on 2-7-1886 aged 74. All of their four sons are also there: George Eli died on 21-12-1904 at 61; William died on 28-5-1878 at 30; Philip Henry died on 19-9-1928 at 78 (and his wife Sarah Ann on 9-4-1928 at 75); Thomas died on 19-7-1893 at 47 (and his wife Mary on 21-7-1925 at 79. Also there are two of their daughters Ada Jane who died on 20-10-1928 at 45; and Harriet Hannah who died on 24-1-1940 at 70).

Joseph Wilson was christened on the 3rd August 1817, but died very soon afterwards in 1818. The cause of death is not yet known.

John Wilson, the fourth son of John and Ann was born 23rd August 1819. John followed his father into the cloth making and probably helped in the family business during his early years. By 1851, John had established his own cloth making business employing two men, and was living near his brothers Thomas and James in West Field. The Wilson family owned a significant area of land at West Field. Ordnance Survey maps from 1854 show a large house with workshops and tenter sheds quite some distance from any other habitation. It is likely therefore that all the Wilson brothers had clothing businesses at West Field at the time their father was building Northfield Mill on Field Lane. John married Selina Mitchell in the December Quarter of 1840 in Dewsbury and Selina (born 1819 in Ossett) who was the daughter of Edward Mitchell and Sara Imber. The 1841 census shows John as being married and living in Back Lane, Ossett and working as a cloth journeyman. John and Selina had seven children as follows:

James Wilson, christened 18-8-1841, died June 1906
Alfred Wilson, born 4-6-1843, died 22-6-1913
Eli Wilson, born 24-4-1845, died September 1876
Sarah Ann Wilson, born 1849
Benjamin Wilson, born July 1850 (died in Wakefield lunatic asylum in 1882)
Mary Ann Wilson, born October 1855 and died in 6-7-1856
Annie Lois Tennant Wilson, born 1859, died 22-1-1860

John Wilson with wife Selina

Above: John Wilson, clothier, Ossett Board surveyor and later butcher with his first wife Selina.

John's first wife Selina died on the 28th May 1869 aged 50, and on the family grave in St John's Methodist Cemetery, South Ossett, John Wilson's occupation is given as surveyor. The grave is immediately adjacent to John's parent's grave in Row 8 and in this area are many other unmarked Ossett Wilson family graves.

John later married Mrs Susannah Peace, presumably a widow, and by the time of the 1881 census, living with John and Susannah Wilson were 3 stepsons - George Peace, aged 23 years, a woollen spinner; Arthur Peace, aged 14 years, a wool piecer and Charles Henry Peace, aged 12 years. Also there was a stepdaughter, Sarah Ann Peace, aged 18 years, a rag sorter and also John Wilson's grandson, William John Wilson, aged 9 years, son of Eli Wilson - one of his sons born to Selina. By 1881, John Wilson had changed his occupation again, this time to butcher, and was living in Headlands, Ossett. John Wilson died in December 1883, but no record has yet been found of his burial. He is not buried in the family grave with his first wife Selina at St John's Methodist cemetery

James Wilson was born on the 16th March 1821. He was married at the age of 20, on 25 July 1841, to Ann Megson (who was 22) in the parish church of All Saints in Dewsbury. James signed, but Ann made her mark. James is described as clothier, as also are both his father John and Ann's father Samuel. Ann Megson's family has been traced back further with certainty than any other in this history. Ann Megson was the younger sister of Hannah Megson who had married James' oldest brother George earlier.

James Wilosn with son BUnting around 1863

Above: My G.G. Grandfather, James Wilson with his youngest son Bunting pictured circa 1863.

James and Ann started their family at once and their first child, Martha, was born less than three months after their marriage. At the time of the 1851 census, James is described as woollen cloth maker employing five men. He and Ann have now five children, two girls and three boys. They are living in West Field, close to all of James' brothers. To jump ahead a few years, James and Ann went on to have in all ten children, five girls and five boys, over a period of 20 years, the last Emma, being born in 1861, when Ann was 42. These are as follows:

Martha Wilson, born 17-10-1841, died 12-10-1889
Ellis Wilson, born 11-2-1844, died 5-12-1919
Albert Wilson, born 24-12-1845, died 4-2-1896
Arthur Wilson, born 6-7-1848, died 31-12-1922
Sarah Wilson, born 23-7-1850
Ann Wilson, born 11-5-1852, died 14-12-1909
James Wilson, born 6-3-1854, died 9-12-1939
Mary Wilson, born 9-3-1856
Bunting Wilson, born 27-6-1858, died 13-1-1916
Emma Wilson, born 8-7-1861, died 15-8-1938

Dates of birth of all the children are taken from the family bible of James and Ann, now held by their great-grandson, John Wilson who lives in Horbury, and they correspond in all cases with those in the register of the Ossett Methodist Chapel where most of the babies were baptised.

All of the children but two were baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Wesley Street in the centre of Ossett, and all of them survived into adulthood. Martha alone was baptised at the Anglican Chapel in Ossett, on 26-12-1841. The baptism of Emma is not in the register at Wesley Street. It can be expected, though, that the record of it was lost. It is likely that James had moved from the established church to non-conformism in his younger life, perhaps at the same time as his father, and others of his family made the same move. This was probably part of the widespread reaction to the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church (launched in the 1830s, and aiming to emphasise and reinforce the Catholic roots of the Church of England), which led to many defections to the non­conformist churches.

James Wilson circa 1880

Above: James Wilson aged about 60 in 1881.

In 1847, James took over a small share (exactly: 2/135th shares) in the Wesley Field Mill (which lay probably to the west of the village) from George Wilson (George may have been his eldest brother, who died about this time). However, this may not have been the site of his first cloth-making operation: three years later, in 1850, four of the brothers (Thomas, John, James and Joshua) together divested themselves of Healey Field Mill ("Robert Illingworth & Co."), which there seems to be no record of their acquiring. Healey Field was well to the south of the village, on the banks of the River Calder: Healey Old Mill had been built there in 1787.

After the death of John in 1851, all five surviving brothers were running their own cloth-making operations, and some of them at least were in Northfield Mill for over ten years - the first to cease as a separate employer being Thomas (who by 1861 was listed as a weaver). Some of their children attended the Ossett Grammar School, an old foundation, whose attendance records have recently been made public at the Wakefield Archive.

After John died in 1851, James went into partnership with some of his brothers, presumably so that they could combine their cloth-making enterprises for lower unit costs. For this purpose they used the Northfield Mill, and here most of them worked together for ten years until 1861. They are listed together at this address in Kelly's Post Office Directory of the West Riding for both 1857 and 1861. There is an entry in the Register of Deeds for their taking over land in North Field in 1854; but they divested themselves of this same land in 1858. James and three others also acquired 2 acres south of the town, at Square Close, in 1854.

At the 1861 census, James and Ann are living in Field Lane with now nine children (all still unmarried and at home), a nursemaid and a new baby grand daughter - the baby, 10 days old (born 29-3-1861), later baptised Teresa, was the daughter of Martha, the eldest child, now 19. Both James and Joshua had moved away from the rest of the family at West Field and James now describes himself as woollen manufacturer employing six hands.

By the 1850s, woollen manufacture in the West Riding was rapidly changing. Once the use of machines was standard, technical progress occurred quickly. Particularly in the Bradford region, the making of worsted cloth came to predominate. Worsted is a finer and more densely woven cloth, requiring wool of a longer staple (e.g. merino), and based on a different spinning technique, which was used mainly for clothing, such as men's suits and women's costumes. Around Ossett, however, blanket and similar woollen materials were more common (and these sometimes used a cotton warp). By the 1850s, combinations of new and old wool were coming quickly into use, which required more specialised handling. Old material could be collected, even if it contained some cotton, and treated chemically to remove the cotton, so that the wool could be used again. For this reason, there was a rapid growth in trade in reusable old fabric: literally, the rag trade. This trade continued to be important in the life of the West Riding until after the second war, when the arrival of synthetics (which could not be separated) largely killed it.

The 1860s and 1870s were good times in woollen manufacture in Britain for those able to adapt, due to growing European demand (for example, around 1870, due to the Franco-Prussian War - and a bit later in demand for uniforms for growing services, both public and private), and Ossett as a whole prospered; but there were many pit-falls for the unwary. As an example of these vicissitudes, one of the Wilson brothers, Joshua, after a fast start (in 1861 he was employing 16 men) was declared bankrupt in 1869.

Through the 1860s, James and Joshua had continued to run their operations in the Northfield Mill, though for part of the time separately. After Joshua went bankrupt, he moved from Ossett to Leeds, where he started in 1874 as one of many tenant manufacturers in Park Mill near the river; but he later became an important manufacturer of worsteds and a wealthy man.

James Wilson continued in business as cloth manufacturer until about the end of the decade. He appears as woollen cloth manufacturer (alone) in Kelly's Directories for 1871 and 1877, and then retired, while retaining ownership of the mill. During this decade in particular, he took an active interest in local affairs: he represented of Ossett in the Dewsbury Board of Guardians for ten years from 1873 to 1882 (and was Vice-Chairman in 1879-80). He was also a Director of the Horbury & Ossett Gas Company. In addition, from an early stage, James took an active part in the work of the Methodist church in Ossett. He was appointed to be a trustee of the Methodist schoolhouse next to the chapel in 1851 at the age of 30, and continued in the position for many years. He was superintendent of the Sunday school in 1865 when he took a large part in the work leading to the building of the new Wesleyan Chapel in the following three years.

At the 1881 census, his address is given simply as Church Street, the new name for Field Lane and a retired cloth manufacturer, aged 60, living with his wife Ann, now 62, three of their daughters unmarried (including Emma, now 19 - all with no occupation listed), and three other grandchildren - In addition to Sophia (now 12), these are Ernest 9 and John 4. James did not live long to enjoy his retirement: he died on 23 April 1884 at Askern Spa near Doncaster, at the fairly early age of 63. He was buried in the Wesleyan cemetery at St John's in South Ossett, like his parents, but in a separate family vault - Row 47, 10½ yards north. The grave, which was heavily overgrown, has now been cleaned up and is shown in the illustrations.

Curiously, there is no marker for James or his wife Ann, and the only memorial on the large family grave is for son Ellis Wilson, who died in 1919, his wife Mary who died in 1937 and daughter Margaret Ann (McArthur) who died in Bournemouth in 1916. Because of James Wilson's standing in the local Ossett community, it is hard to believe that there would be no memorial stone on the vault. Substantial memorial stones are common among James' peer group of Ossett mill owners, several of whom are buried in the same cemetery. It can be pure speculation only at this stage, but it looks like the family of Ellis Wilson, who were the last ones to be interred in the vault, may have acted spitefully and had the memorial stone to James and Ann Wilson removed for some unknown reason.

Ann Megson

Above: James Wilson's wife Ann (nee Megson) in old age at home in Dale Street, Ossett circa 1895.

James made his will three months before his death; and his widow Ann was granted administration of it. After a legacy to his daughter Sarah, James left Ann the use of his estate for her life or widowhood, after which the estate was to be sold up (although the family could still decide to keep the mill in operation) and the proceeds divided equally (after various other legacies) among his eight children in England. Ann, in fact, lived on for 19 years after the death of James. In 1891, she was living with her granddaughter Sophia (an assistant teacher) next door to her son Arthur in Dale Street. She died on 23 October 1903, at the age of 84. She was buried with James in the Wesleyan cemetery at St John's in South Ossett.

Robert Wilson was born on the 30th December 1822 and like his brothers before him, followed the family tradition of working in the textile industry. In the 1841 census he is working as a cloth journeyman and by 1851, he is 28, a weaver, living in West Field close to his brothers, with wife Mary, 29 and four young children. Robert Wilson married his wife Mary Hewitt also from Ossett, the daughter of Nathan and Mary Hewitt in the March quarter of 1843 in Dewsbury. By 1844, first son Oliver had been born and he was to be the first of nine children born over a period of about 19 years from 1844-1863, as follows:

Oliver Wilson, born 11-11-1843
Joseph Wilson, born 25-12-1845, died January 1905
Hannah Wilson, born 1847
Frances Mary Wilson, born 1850, died March 1867
Robert Wilson, born 1852, died 20-4-1934
Sarah Elizabeth Wilson, born 1853
Jane Ann Wilson, born 1855
Annis Wilson, born 1859
Ruth Wilson, born 1863

By the time of the 1881 census, Robert Wilson was working as a cloth stumper and living West Wells. Also his granddaughter Francis Wilson, born about 1870 (aged 10 years) and his grandson Wilfred Wilson, born about 1875 (aged 5 years) are living with Robert and Mary. In addition, Jane (Wilson) Woodcock their daughter born about 1855 (aged 25 years) and son-in-law Robert M. Woodcock born about 1850 (aged 30) a blanket raiser are living in the house.

Robert's wife Mary died in April 1895 and was buried on the 17th April 1895 in St John's Methodist Cemetery, South Ossett - Row 15, 1 yard south. Robert Wilson died in March 1900 and was buried with his wife Mary on the 9th March 1900.

Joshua Wilson was born on the 30th November 1824 and like the rest of his brothers, but after a difficult start, he became a highly successful cloth manufacturer in his own right. 19 year-old Joshua married 21 year-old Jane Giggal, daughter of clothier Jonathan Giggal and Mary, nee Wilby on the 3rd September 1843 in Dewsbury. Joshua and Jane started their family immediately and a daughter, Mary Ann, was born on 24th December 1843, a few months after their marriage. Sadly, Mary Ann died, aged only 5 years, in January 1849. Joshua and Jane went on to have a total of 13 children over a period of 23 years. Their youngest son Gladstone Wilson was born in March 1866. The full list of children, all born in Ossett, is as follows:

Mary Ann Wilson, born 24-12-1843, died 10-1-1849
Frances B. Wilson, born 21-12-1845, died 1846
Henry Wilson, born 24-6-1847
Joshua Wilson, born 27-4-1849, died 9-6-1898
Samuel Wilson, born 16-1-1851, died 12-12-1918
John William Wilson, born 12-6-1852, died January 1916
Jane Wilson, born 24-12-1853
Denison Wilson, born 3-4-1855, died 11-8-1919
Andrew Wilson, born 17-8-1856, died 26-11-1896
Mary Ellen Wilson, born 11-3-1858, died 15-11-1905
Ada Wilson, born 27-1-1860
Beckett Ellis Wilson, born 27-8-1864, died 5-7-1900
Gladstone Wilson, born 11-3-1866, died 23-3-1946

Joshua Wilson died on the 1st September 1897 in Harrogate. His first wife Jane died on the 13th April 1883 and second wife Elizabeth (nee Thompson) died 9 Jan 1893, both predeceasing him by several years. Joshua Wilson's life and his family are discussed in detail in "The Ossett Wilsons to Leeds"

Ann Wilson was born on the 15th July 1827 and it is assumed that she died in infancy. No record has yet been found of her death or burial.

Benjamin Wilson was born on the 11th June 1829 in Ossett and it seems likely that he helped in the family cloth business like his other brothers. He applied for, and was granted, an assisted passage to New South Wales, Australia at the early age 19. He left London on the ship "Caroline Agnes" on the 8th March 1849 bound for Sydney, NSW with his 17 year-old brother Henry Wilson.

Henry Wilson was born on the 16th May 1831 and as has been noted above, he took an assisted passage to Australia at the age of 17. The life of the two brothers is covered in some detail in "The Ossett Wilsons to Australia".

Francis Wilson, the youngest son of John and Ann Wilson was born on the 18th April 1833. Francis joined his two older brothers Benjamin and Henry Wilson in Australia for a few years, before returning to England.

On his return to England, Francis married Mary Speight in about 1857. Mary was the daughter of mill owner John Speight and his wife Hannah (Westerman) Speight. By 1861 Francis, 27, weaver, and his wife Mary, 27, with two young children were living in West Field, close to the other Wilson brothers. The full list of children is as follows:

John Speight Wilson, born 1858
George Edward Wilson, born 1860
Mary Hannah Wilson, born 1863
Joshua Percy Wilson, born 1865
Francis William Wilson, born 1875

Francis was not found in the 1871 census, although curiously, his wife Mary is listed as a widow with the children, which is presumably a misunderstanding. By 1881 he had left Ossett to move to nearby Wakefield and he is still in the clothing trade as a supervisor, rather than an owner, with all his five children still at home. The 1881 census lists Frank Wilson 49, living at Mitchell's Yard, Alverthorpe, Wakefield, now working as a woollen mill overlooker with his wife Mary 48 and children John Speight Wilson 22 (woollen mill foreman), George Edward Wilson 20 woollen mill hand, Mary Hannah Wilson 17, Joshua Percy Wilson 15 (woollen mill hand) and Francis William Wilson 5.

Francis Wilson died at the age of 57 in the September quarter of 1890 whilst living in the seaside resort of Southport and it is possible that he and Mary had moved there in retirement. By the time of the 1901 census, 68 year-old Mary Wilson, now a widow was living with her youngest son Francis William Wilson (now a journeyman joiner and unmarried) at 59 Everton Road, Birkdale, Southport in Lancashire. There was also a young Irish live-in servant with them at Southport so presumably Mary had been left with quite a reasonable income. Mary died in the March quarter of 1906 at Southport.

Sarah Wilson, the youngest of John and Ann Wilson's children was born on the 2nd April 1835. In about 1854, she married David Fearnside, who became a successful Mungo Merchant in Ossett and the couple settled in Ossett, living eventually in Ryecroft Street. Sarah and David Fearnside had seven children between 1855 and 1871 and the full list is as follows:

Alonzo Fearnside, born 1855, died 7-1-1935
Lydia Fearnside, born 1857
Ada Fearnside, born 1859
Mary Ann Fearnside, born 1860
Wilson Fearnside, born 1863
Florence Fearnside, born 1866
Hilda Fearnside, born 1871

It was customary for Sarah (Fearnside) Wilson to give every grandchild a teacake, an egg, a pinch of salt and a silver coin for their first visit. Sarah died at her home in Ryecroft Street, Ossett on the 13th July 1895, aged 60. She was interred at St. John's Wesleyan burial ground in South Ossett on the 16th July 1895.

5th Generation - the children of James Wilson and Ann Megson
As already mentioned, all of the ten children of James and Ann lived into adulthood. Two of the sons, Albert and Bunting, will be dealt with in Chapter Five. All of the other three sons (Ellis, Arthur and James) married and settled in Ossett, and have been found in the censuses for both 1881 and 1891 (and two of them, Ellis and James, also in the 1871 census).

Martha Wilson, the eldest child, was born on the 19th October 1841. At the age of 19, Martha had given birth to a child out of wedlock, who was named Teresa and who was born on the 29th March 1861. Teresa was taken into the family of James and Ann as one of their own children, and she was always afterwards known as such in the family. James and Ann Wilson were strict Methodists and the birth of Teresa must have been a test of their faith and to some extent their standing in the local community. The experience would be repeated some years later when their daughter Mary had two children born out of wedlock. Martha, was married in 1866 to Joseph Broadhead, a butcher of Kirkhamgate, a village about two miles north-east of Ossett and often described as part of the larger neighbouring village of Alverthorpe. The marriage was on the 9­th October 1866 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Ossett (the witnesses being Ellis Wilson (Martha's brother) and Harriet Harrop (her future sister-in-law). Joseph's father (also Joseph) was a rope-maker. The couple settled in Kirkhamgate where they had two sons, Robert and James.

Joseph, who must have been a heavy drinker, died at the early age of 36, on the 7th October 1874, at Ossett, of cirrhosis. In 1880, Martha was remarried to Lewis Jewitt, a cloth finisher who lived in the same street of Kirkhamgate. Lewis was a bachelor some two years older than Martha and had been born in East Ardsley in 1839. The marriage was on the 24th May 1880 at the West Parade Chapel in Wakefield, the witnesses being Martha's brother James Wilson and Thomas J. Clark. Lewis's father John was a joiner. (Martha is named as Martha Jowitt in James' will.)

Martha and Lewis moved to Ossett and in 1884 they had a daughter, Alice. In 1881 they are in Ryecroft Street: Martha 39, Lewis 41, cloth finisher, Robert Broadhead 14, cloth weaver, and James Broadhead 8. (James Broadhead had been born on 3-5-1872.) Also living with them were Lewis' nephews Joe Jagger 17, blanket-raiser, and Sylvanus Jagger 15, cloth-finisher (both born Alverthorpe).

Martha died on 12 October 1889, when she was only 47. Her date of death is entered in the family bible. In 1891, Lewis, now a widower, is still at Ryecroft Street, aged 52, cloth-finisher and both his stepsons are unmarried, but listed as "son-in-law", working as mill-hands, and with them is Alice now aged 6 - the surname is spelt Jowett.

It is understood that James's brother Robert was married but had no children (and died in the 1930s). However, nothing is yet known of the later life of Alice Jowitt.

Ellis WilsonEllis Wilson, the eldest son was born on the 11th February 1844 and followed his father James into the textile business, although Ellis was destined to have a career as a rag and mungo merchant. Ellis was married at the early age of 18 or 19 (in the first quarter of 1863) to Mary Mitchell (who was the same age), and he set up his own business in the 1860s as a rag and mungo merchant, probably at that stage buying and selling only. This business was one of the by-products in the rapid change in wool technology, which has already been discussed. (Mungo was produced by grinding worsted cloth, to produce a new fibre.) In the 1870s, Ellis described himself as mungo manufacturer - it is understood that he was in partnership in about 1880 with his brother-in-law James Mitchell. In the 1881 census, Ellis is described as rag and mungo merchant, employing six hands. His partnership with James Mitchell ended in 1882.

In 1871, Ellis is in Dale Street, in the centre of the village, with his wife Mary, aged 27 and their first two children, Scott Mitchell 7 (scholar) and Margaret Ann 4. It seems that they had recently lost two children, both baptised at the Wesleyan Chapel: Ernest Ellis (baptised 12-9-1868), and Louise Ann (baptised 21-9-1870). In 1881, they are in Wesley Street, near the old West Field, with two further children, Edith Mary 7 (scholar) and Reginald Harry 3. Scott at 17 is now pupil teacher in certified school. By 1884, at his father's death, Ellis had moved to Runtlings Lane, a new area beyond West Wells. In 1891, they are in Church Street, near to Northfield Mill, with the three youngest children at home - including Margaret, now aged 24. Eldest son, Scott Mitchell Wilson, now a woollen manufacturer's manager had moved to live at Spring End with his new wife Emma Verity (Robb) and child Jessie.

At some point after his father's retirement (probably about 1882), he took over the Northfield Mill. Ellis survived the 1880s, but had some financial difficulties in the early 1890s, after there was a serious fire in the mill. He traded in the name of Ellis Wilson & Co. until he retired in 1896 when he was only 52. Kelly's Directories for 1893 & 1897 still list the company as woollen cloth manufacturers in Church Street. The Mill was again restored in 1910, but has now been mostly demolished. The Northfield Mill to the north of Crownlands Lane, which was rebuilt in 1888 is the mill originally built by John Speight. Ellis continued to own the mill through a second fire in 1910, though thereafter his ownership was shared by one of the Glover family. Ellis, in addition to his working life, followed his father in taking a keen interest in local politics, joining the Ossett Local Board (the local government body, which was established in 1871), and in 1882 he was its Chairman at the early age of 37.

Ellis Wilson was also a crack rifle shot, winning many prizes, including 27 at the West of Scotland Rifle Association meeting in May 1877. In May 1878, Ellis and his brother James Wilson were members of the 3rd West Yorkshire Volunteers (Dewsbury) rifle shooting team that won the inter-regimental shooting competition, (with an average score of 81.25) and which was open to the whole of England and Scotland. In June/July 1878, Sgt. Ellis Wilson and Private James Wilson were included in the Queen's Hundred at the Wimbledon Rifle Meeting (the forerunner to Bisley). Family tradition is that James Wilson was the better shot of the two brothers and this has been subsequently confirmed from results printed in the Dewsbury Reporter.

Ellis and Mary celebrated their golden wedding in 1913 and about this time, the couple moved again to live at the Gables, Station Road, Ossett, close to the railway station. Ellis died six years later on the 5th December 1919 aged 75. Mary died on the 23rd August 1937 having lived to the ripe old age of 94. They are both buried in the Wilson family vault at St John's Methodist cemetery in South Ossett - Row 47 10½ yards north, where their memorial (and daughter Margaret's) can still be seen.

Albert WilsonAlbert Wilson was born on the 24th December 1845 and he grew up like his brothers working in the family textile business. However, he was to lead a most eventful life marred with tragedy and incredible bad luck. It seems likely that Albert became a skilled mill machinery mechanic from what follows later. At the age of 21, Albert was married in the parish of Dewsbury (probably in Ossett) during the June quarter of 1867 to 20 year-old Sophia Hetherington. They started their family almost at once and their first child, James Lucien Wilson was born in December 1867, but died aged only 9 months in August 1868. He is buried in the Methodist Cemetery at South Ossett, Row 8, 1½ yards north in an unmarked grave. Undeterred, Albert and Sophia had another child, this time a baby girl called Sophia, who was christened on the 5th November 1868 in the Wesleyan Chapel in Ossett. Sadly, Albert's wife Sophia died in November 1868 shortly after her daughter had been born and she was buried with her baby son James in the Methodist Cemetery on the 5th November 1868. So, in one day, Albert had the joy of christening his daughter and the extreme sadness of burying his wife. This was to be only the start of his troubles.

Arthur Wilson was born on the 6th July 1848 in Ossett and like his brothers he was involved in the textile business in the town. Arthur was married rather later than Ellis in 1869 in Dewsbury to Harriet Harrop who was christened on the 8th April 1844 in Ossett, daughter of George and Harriet Harrop. He later followed Ellis' route in the rag trade, but as a rag merchant. In 1881, he is in Dale Street, rag merchant, with his wife Harriet 37 (5 years older than Arthur), and two children, George Frederick 8 (schoolboy) and Emily 4, and a young live-in servant-girl. They did not have further children. In 1891 they were still in Dale Street, with George Frederick, now aged 18 years, foreman in rag-shop (presumably his father's) and Emily 14.

Sarah Wilson was born on the 23rd July 1850. She was still unmarried at her father's death in 1884, but in the December quarter of 1888, she married 42 year-old John Jubb in the Dewsbury registration district. John Jubb was a retired Askern farmer born in Sykehouse, near Doncaster in about 1845. At the 1881 census, he was unmarried and living with his 53 year old mother at Fenwick Road, Askern. John and Sarah lived at Askern some 20 miles east of Ossett (and not far north of Doncaster) probably in Fenwick Road. By the 1901 census, 55 year-old John Jubb worked as a local tax collector in Askern. The census notes that Sarah had been registered as blind from 1900 and that John's 73 year-old widowed stepmother Susannah Jubb was living with them.

Sarah's father James Wilson actually died at Askem Spa, so that the family had connections with the area. A John Jubb was the secretary of a charity, which was set up in the 1880s to assist poorer people get treatment at Askern Spa and it seems likely that this was Sarah Wilson's husband.

It is understood that the couple adopted a child named Lucy, who later married. Sarah's last years were spent near Huddersfield, living with her niece Theresa Donkersley and her family.

Ann Wilson was born on the 11th May 1852 and was the third sister. She was married at an early age, when she was only 18 or 19, to Joseph Mitchell (usually known in the family as Joe). Joseph was the younger brother of Mary Mitchell who was married to Ann's eldest brother Ellis.

The parents of both Mary and Joseph were Seth and Margaret Mitchell. In 1851, they had been at Little Town End (to the east of Ossett's centre): Seth was 27, cloth weaver, Margaret 30, and their 4 children Mary 7, Eli 5, Levi 4 and Joseph 4 months. Seth Mitchell was in 1883, one of the continuing Trustees of the Methodist Chapel and School. He was a successful merchant in shoddy and mungo, who in 1867-8 built Ing Mill. He died in 1907, but his company traded into the 1920s. Seth in turn was the son of Joseph and Sarah Mitchell: in 1841, Seth was still at home in Pildacre lane: Joseph 45, cloth maker, Sarah 40, Seth 15, clothier journeyman, John 10 and Mary 6; and living with them Joseph and Ann Ellis, both 20 - so that Ann may have been an older Mitchell daughter. Joseph and Sarah Mitchell are not mentioned in the 1821 census.

The Mitchells were another Ossett family of clothiers, who successfully managed early transitions in the wool trade. At the 1881 census, Ann and Joe are in Dale Street in Ossett, in the middle part of the town, with five children and a live-in servant; Joe is listed as woollen manufacturer. Joseph is 30 and Ann 28. The children are Seth 9, Annie 7, Alfred Wilson 5, James 3, and William A. 10 months. The first three are listed as scholars.

Sadly, Joe Mitchell's business did not survive the 1880s and in 1891, he was a mill-hand, now with eight children at home at Ryecroft Street. Seth and Alfred W. are mill-hands also, whilst Annis is pupil teacher. There are three extra children: Louisa 8, Harold 5 and Herbert 4. Family tradition has it that his son Harold died in 1951 (and in turn had a son named Frank), and that his son Herbert had a daughter named Muriel.

James WilsonJames Wilson (left) was born on the 6th March 1854 and like the rest of the Wilson brothers, he was involved in the family textile business. In 1871 he was still at home with his parents. Brothers, Arthur and James Wilson, operated in partnership as cloth manufacturers in Northfield Mill, but their business failed about 1881 and it is likely that eldest brother Ellis took over Northfield Mill at this time. James was married in his mid-20s on the 4th December 1878 at St Lawrence Church, Corringham, Lincolnshire to Mary Annie Northing. Mary Annie was born in 1857 at Corringham near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, the youngest of eight children of corn miller and farmer of 137 acres, Henry Northing and his wife Jane (nee Brumby). It is not yet known how James met his future wife Mary Anne Northing given the travelling distance between Ossett and Corringham. However, family tradition is that James met Mary Anne at Askern Spa, where Jamess' father died in 1884.

In the 1881 census, James is still listed as cloth manufacturer (he later worked as a woollen mill engineer) and is living in Ryecroft Street, off (Church Street, with his wife Mary Annie 24 and their first child, Alice 1. In 1891 they are in Dale Street, now with 5 children: Alice 11, Maud 9, James Henry 7, Vincent 5 and Gerald 3. They went on to have 12 children in all:

Alice Wilson, born 17th September 1879
Maud Wilson, born 9th August 1881
James Henry (Harry) Wilson, born 15th July 1883, died 20th December 1969
Vincent Norman Wilson, born 27th July 1885, died 10th January 1974
Gerald Emil Wilson, born 12th August 1887, died 20th April 1971
Arthur Edward Wilson, born October 1889, died 10th May 1890
Irene Wilson, born 30th September 1891, died 13th May 1986
George Austin Wilson, born 20th December 1893, died 8th December 1945
Agnes Wilson, born 10th April 1895
Kathleen Wilson (twin), born 1897, died 18th January 1983
Edwin Northing Wilson (twin), born 1897, died 21st October 1928
Myra Wilson, born 1901, died 1st February 1984

In later life, James and Mary Annie lived at Moorcroft Cottage on Church Street (close to Holy Trinity church) in Ossett. The cottage was divided into two and was shared with the Wilsons and the Peace family. Moorcroft Cottage has now been demolished to make way for the Woodhead Engineering factory, although some of the stone perimeter garden walls are still standing to this day

James Wilson died on the 9th December 1939 aged 85 and Mary Annie died on the 1st December 1937 aged 80 years. James was buried in the St John's Methodist Cemetery - Row 52, 10½ yards north (near his father James' vault) with his wife Mary Annie, son Edwin Northing Wilson, who had died in a motor cycle accident in 1928 and baby son Arthur Edward Wilson, who died in May 1890 aged 7 months.

Mary Wilson, the fourth sister, was born on the 9th March 1854 and was married in her late twenties in the June quarter of 1881 at Ossett to Edwin Jubb who was eleven years her senior and the son of a successful local grocer. She is named as Mary Jubb in James's will. Edwin Jubb at the 1861 census had been at home with his family, a woollen cloth finisher aged 16, with his parents Mark, shopkeeper 43, and wife Harriett (or possibly Mary) 41, and 4 siblings, Emma 17, Joseph 8, Charles 7 and Arthur 5, South Towngate.

By 1891, the couple had had two children and they were in Ryecroft Street: Edwin, 46, rag-grinder, Mary 35, and they have two children: Clifford, aged 6 and Mary Ann aged 4. By 1901, they were still in Ryecroft Street and a third child; Emily had been born in the June quarter of 1894. An interesting point, given the moral tone of the period and James's standing in Ossett, is that Mary had had two sons before she married Edwin, the first when she was only about 16, and the second some five years later. After her marriage to Edwin, the two boys moved with Mary from her parents' house (where they were living with Mary at the 1881 census) to live with the new couple, and are listed with them at the 1891 census. These are Ernest Ellis Wilson 19, mill-hand, and John Wilson, 14, boot-and-shoe-maker's apprentice. They are both described as sons of Edwin - but, if this is so, it is strange that their father did not adopt them. It seems more likely that the family decided not to try to describe the relationship.

Bunting Wilson, the youngest son, was born on the 27th June 1858 and like his older brothers, it is likely that he was involved in his father's textile business. Bunting left Ossett to join his elder brother Albert in Australia in 1877 where he led a very eventful and varied life. His story is covered in detail in "The Ossett Wilsons to Australia".

Bunting is an unusual Christian name but since his father James Wilson was deeply involved in the Wesleyan Methodist movement in Ossett it is very likely that Bunting was named after the Reverend Jabez Bunting, D.D. and eminent Wesleyan Minister who had died aged 80 years on the 16th June 1858, just before Bunting was born.

Emma Wilson, the youngest child of James and Ann Wilson was born on the 3rd of July 1861at Northfield Ossett. She married Edward Brook on the 13th January 1885 in the Wesleyan Chapel, Ossett. About two years after he married Emma, Edward set up as a draper, at the age of 25, with his shop in the Market Place at Dewsbury. By the time of the 1891 census, Edward and Emma were living above their shop at 48 Market Place in Dewsbury, with three young sons and a live-in servant. The first son, Reginald 5, was born in Leeds, but the next two (Edward Stanley and Edgar) were born in Dewsbury.

Below: Emma Wilson in about 1885.

Emma Wilson

In Kelly’s Directories for 1893 and 1897 the business is described as a mantle warehouse. The premises are now occupied by the Yorkshire Bank. Some years later he gave up his Dewsbury premises, and moved with his wife and family (which had now reached its final size of seven children - six sons and one daughter) back to Leeds, where he started a pawn broking business (which he had known before moving to Dewsbury).

At some stage, apparently very early (when her last three children were still under six), Emma established her own business, a fancy-goods shop (at first concentrating on furs, but also selling mantles, at 15 The Arcade in Dewsbury - the Arcade leading off the Market Place - where she traded under her maiden name as E. Wilson. It may even have been before the family left Dewsbury: Kelly's Directory for the West Riding for 1901 lists both businesses: Brook's mantle warehouse at 48 Market place, and Wilson's furriers in The Arcade. The 1904 Directory lists the furrier business only. It is understood that, after the family returned to Leeds, Emma travelled each day to and from Dewsbury and, while there was a direct tram from Leeds to Bradford, there was none to Dewsbury. Her workshop was set up on the top floor of the house in Blundell Street.

Edward came to take a big part in the housekeeping at Blundell Street, so that his attendance at the pawnbroker's was probably less than full-time. Early in 1911, he was able to discharge his overdraft; and it is assumed that a major distribution was made from his father's estate at this time. Some at least of the sons of the family went to Central High School in Leeds, and/or to Cockburn High School in Dewsbury road south of the river (the eldest boys, while the family was still in Dewsbury, having attended the Batley Grammar School, to the north of Dewsbury). Thereafter, the elder sons of the family probably helped with the shop in Dewsbury, and two of them (Stanley and Edgar) made their later living in the retail industry. Edgar later took over the running of his mother's shop in Dewsbury from her.

Edward Brook died on 16 July 1932, at the age of 71, after he and Emma had moved from Blundell Street to Richardson Avenue in Headingley in Leeds's nearer northern suburbs. He was buried at the Lawnswood Cemetery in the north of Leeds, where his headstone still stands. He was a quiet and unassuming person, who was not well served by the commercial life. So far as can be discovered, his estate was not formally administered.

Thereafter, Emma lived with her son Stanley and his family in Bradford until 15 August 1938, when she died at the age of 77. Her will, made in 1931, appointed as executors her sons Stanley and Edgar. Emma left her shop (which she described as a fancy draper' to Edgar, and the rest of her estate equally among all her children. She was buried with Edward at the Lawnswood Cemetery. Emma was friendly and out-going, and was warmly loved by the family. As already mentioned, Edward and Emma had eight children, seven of whom were boys. However one of the boys, Walter Enoch Brook died as a young child in about 1898.

The full list of children is as follows:

Reginald Brook born 9-11-1885 Leeds
Edward Stanley Brook born 9-12-1886 Dewsbury
Edgar Brook born 18-3-1888 Dewsbury
Lillian Brook born 8-2-1892 Dewsbury
Walter Enoch Brook born 23-3-1895 Dewsbury died 1898
Albert Brook born 26-3-1896 Dewsbury
Harrie Brook (twin of Willie) born 21-5-1897 Dewsbury
Willie Brook (twin of Harrie) born 21-5-1897 Dewsbury

The Grandchildren brought up by James and Ann Wilson
Teresa Wilson was born on 29 March 1861, the daughter of Martha Wilson, the eldest daughter of James and Ann, who at the age of 19 had her first child out of wedlock. Teresa was taken into the family of James and Ann as one of their own children, and she was always afterwards known as such in the family. Teresa and Emma Wilson were of almost exactly the same age; they grew up together, and were very close. After her mother was married, Teresa stayed on with James and Ann.

Teresa was married on 8 December 1887, at the age of 26, to John Shaw Donkersley, in the New Wesleyan Chapel in Ossett. The witnesses were James and Sarah Wilson. Teresa's address is given as Dale Street, Ossett. John was three years older than Teresa, and already a widower: his first wife Sarah Elizabeth (nee Wood) had died at the birth of their third child, Amy, leaving John with a young family. John came from Berry Brow, then a village just south of Huddersfield (some 10 miles west of Ossett), and now a suburb of Huddersfield. He was described in the marriage certificate as grocer's assistant, while his father, Law Donkersley, was described as greengrocer. At the time of the 1881 census, when his first wife was alive, John had been described as grocer - at Robin Hood Hill in Almondbury, not far from Berry Brow.

By the time of the 1901 census, Teresa and John Donkersley were still living in Almondbury but had three children of their own: Harold aged 12, Ada aged 10 and Percy aged 7 all born in Huddersfield.

Sophia Wilson was christened on the 5th November 1868 and was the daughter of Albert Wilson and his first wife Sophia Hetherington, who had very likely died during childbirth. Grandparents James and Ann Wilson brought up Sophia as one of their own children when her father Albert Wilson moved to Australia in 1872. By the time of the 1891 census, Sophia was working as an assistant teacher and still living with her widowed grandmother in Dale Street, Ossett.

Shortly afterwards, Sophia married chemist's manager, Frederick Spencer in the March quarter of 1894 in the Dewsbury registration district (probably in Ossett). By the time of the 1901 census, Sophia (31) and Frederick (29) were living at 9 Bury Street, Gorton, Manchester with a young family as follows:

Charles Spencer - born about 1894
Frederick Page Spencer - born 1896, Batley
John Albert Spencer - born 1898, Hull
Lucy A. Spencer - born 1899 quarter, Mexborough
Arthur Melton Spencer - born 1901 Manchester

Sophia had another daughter called Eileen who was born in 1905 in Hampshire. Sadly, Sophia died in 1907 from an ectopic pregnancy whilst living in Southampton. Her husband Frederick was employed by the British Army as a pharmacist and he remarried Ethel Ellen Bustin in 1915 and had four more children, who were all boys.

Thanks to Shelagh and Cara Bower for help with tracing the later life of Sophia Wilson, her husband Frederick Spencer and their children. They have an excellent new website - the Spencer Family Tree, with further details of the Spencer family.

Ernest Ellis Wilson and John Wilson
As noted previously James and Ann Wilson's daughter Mary Wilson had two children out of wedlock, these were Ernest Ellis Wilson born in 1872 and John Wilson born in 1877. It is not known who the father of these two boys was, but it is unlikely that Edwin Jubb (whom Mary Wilson married in 1885) was their father since he never formally adopted them.

Ernest Ellis Wilson was born about 1872 in Ossett and married Lillian Harrison in the December 1895 quarter in the Dewsbury registration district. Lillian was born in Brighouse, Yorkshire in about1871. By the time of the 1901 census Ernest Ellis (29) was working as a rag grinder and living in Pildacre, Ossett with wife Lillian (30) and no children.

John Wilson was born in about 1877 and by the time of the 1891 census he was a boot and shoemaker's apprentice. By 1901, John Wilson was single and was living alone in Duncan's Yard, Beverley, East Yorkshire where he worked as a shoemaker.

Ossett never achieved the same scale as Wakefield to the east but certainly until well through the 18th century, it was a rival in size to Dewsbury to the west and in 1379, Ossett's poll-tax value was nearly double that of Dewsbury - and more than Bradford's. Ossett formed part of the manor of Wakefield in mediaeval days, and this link was important into the 18th century.

The main industries were textiles, coal mining and agriculture.  Handloom weaving continued on through the reign of Victoria, but on a diminishing scale. Ossett was a woollen town and the handloom weavers of Ossett had a great reputation for broadcloth.  Much of the cloth was sold in the Leeds market. That was a time when a great majority of the homes in Ossett had looms.  It was not until the coming of the power loom in the nineteenth century that the majority of workers went into the mills. This was the beginning of a great boom in the textile industry of Ossett and the town became famous for its Ossett Meltons. By the 1780s, the first powered textile mills were beginning to be built in Ossett.  Cloth production would be a cornerstone of Ossett’s industry and the Wilsons would play an important role in the cloth manufacturing business in Ossett throughout the 19th century. 

Kelly’s Directory – Yorkshire West Riding 1893
Ossett is a municipal borough and township on the north bank of the river Calder, with a station on the Wakefield, Batley and Bradford branch of the Great Northern railway, and there are also other stations at Flushdyke and Chickenley Heath; the town is 11 miles southeast from Bradford, 9 miles south from Leeds, 3 miles west northwest from Wakefield, about 2½ miles east southeast from Dewsbury and 179½ miles from London, and is in the Morley division of the wapentake of Agbrigg, Dewsbury petty sessional division, union and county court district, rural denary of Dewsbury, archdeaconry of Halifax and diocese of Wakefield.
Royal charter incorporated the town on the 16th July 1890, and the Corporation consists of a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors.  The municipal borough, comprising the township of Ossett-cum-Gawthorpe, is divided into four wards: - Central, East, North and West.  The Corporation act as the Urban Sanitary Authority.  The town and district are lighted with gas by a company formed in 1855, which also supplies Horbury.  By Act of Parliament obtained in 1875, waterworks have been constructed at a cost of £20,500, and sewage works at a further cost of £30,000; the water supply is purchased by the Corporation in bulk from the Dewsbury and Heckmondwike Waterworks Board.
The ecclesiastical parish of Holy Trinity was formed March 2nd 1858, from Dewsbury.  The church, rebuilt in 1806, was taken down and again rebuilt in 1865, at a cost of upwards of £20,000, and is a cruciform building of stone in the Geometrical style, consisting of a chancel, nave, aisles, southwest porch and a tower with a spire 116 feet high, rising from the intersection of the nave and transept, and containing a clock and 8 bells cast in 1865.  The east and west windows and several others are stained.  There are sittings for 1,000 persons.  The register dates from the year 1792.  The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £300, including 45 acres of glebe, with residence, in the gift of the vicar of Dewsbury, and held since 1877 by the Rev. William Fountaine Addison B.A. of Wadham College, Oxford and Canon of Gibraltar. 
Christ Church is an ecclesiastical parish formed November 27th 1846.  The church, erected and consecrated in 1851, is a cruciform building in the Gothic style, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles and an embattled western tower containing one bell.  Three of the windows are stained.  There are sittings for 520 persons.  The register dates from the year 1851.  The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £200, with residence in the gift of the Crown and Bishop of Wakefield alternately, and held since 1892 by the Rev. John Henry Kirk B.A. of Cambridge University.  The tithes, amounting to £120, are impropriated. 
The Catholic chapel, dedicated to St. Ignatius, was built in 1878, and is served from Wakefield.
The Congregational church, The Green, erected in 1883 at a cost of £5,500, is a building of stone in the Gothic style, comprising nave, aisles, transepts and an embattled tower 122 feet in height, with pinnacles and spire, and below the church are classrooms.  There are sittings for 1,000 persons.
There are Wesleyan, Congregational, Baptist, Particular Baptist, Primitive Methodist, Methodist New Connexion and Free Methodist chapels.
The Methodist New Connexion now uses the Sunday school, in High street, built in 1750, and rebuilt in 1844.  The Salvation Army have a hall and the Mechanics Institution and Technical School, in Station road, erected in 1890, at a cost of £3,300, is a building of stone in the English Renaissance style, and contains a basement, dye house, cloth manufacturing room and a lecture room; on the ground floor is a library of 1,200 volumes, reading room, physics and lecture room, conversation and chess rooms, and on the upper floor, drawing and modelling rooms, chemistry and lecture rooms.
The Temperance Hall, in Prospect road, was built in 1887, at a cost of £1,500.  There is a Hospital for infectious diseases at Storrs Hill road.
The manufacture of plain and fancy woollen cloths is carried on to a very considerable extent, there being several large mills, some of which are exclusively employed in making army, navy and police cloth.  This is one of the main centres of the woollen rag trade, a large amount of capital, labour and machinery being employed in the preparation of artificial wools for home and continental markets, mungo, merino and extract wools being among the specialities of the district.  There are also valuable coalmines, several woollen and rag machine manufacturers and a fireworks factory, worsted yarn spinning works, some flock manufactories and an athletic goods factory.
In the township are two spa baths, similar in their properties to the Cheltenham waters, and much frequented in the summer season by persons suffering from scorbutic and rheumatic complaints.
The Countess of Yarborough is lady of the manor and the Countess of Cardigan is chief landowner.  The soil varies from loam to clay; and the subsoil is clay and stone.  The chief crops are wheat and pasture. The area of the borough is 3,105 acres; rateable value £4,185 and the population in 1891 was 10, 984.

Wilsons in the Directory:

Ellis Wilson & Co. woollen cloth manufacturers, Church Street, Ossett
Arthur Wilson, rag merchants, Dale Street, Ossett
John Wilson, watch & clock maker & cycle agent, Church Street, Ossett
Joseph Wilson, rag & mungo merchant, Wakefield Rd, Ossett
Philip Henry Wilson, rag & mungo merchant, Bank Street, Ossett

Alderman George Henry Wilson, Heath House, Dewsbury Rd, Ossett (originally from Norfolk)
Joshua Wilson, Great Field, Ossett (eldest son of Benjamin Wilson)
Miss Wilson, Prospect Road, Ossett (Annis Wilson, youngest daughter of Benjamin Wilson)
Mrs Wilson, Dale Street, Ossett (Ann Wilson, wife of James)
Thomas Wilson, Bank Street, Ossett.

From the Ossett Observer dated 23rd April 1881: Obituary: The Late Mr. Benjamin Wilson: 1797-1881

As mentioned in last week's paper, Mr. Benjamin Wilson closed a long life at his residence Field Head House, Ossett on Friday 16th April 1881. His position in life was a private one and therefore one under ordinary circumstances not coming within the purview of the journalist. His decease seems, however, to call for some notice. The age, which he had attained, (upwards of 83) was an unusual one. Mrs. Wilson, his late wife, who died three years ago, was on a par as regards age with her husband. They had lived together in the bonds of matrimony more than half a century and celebrated their golden wedding. Mr. Wilson, who died possessed of considerable means, was the architect of his own fortune, having commenced life as an operative. We are not in possession of exact information, but we believe he carried on business as a cloth manufacturer for 50 years, only relinquishing the business about 3 years ago on the death of his son Mr. Robert Wilson, with whom he was in partnership.

One circumstance of his life is especially notable and worthy of mention at this time. We allude to his liberality in connection with the building of the handsome parish church, which Ossett now possesses. Towards the erection of that structure, he gave the magnificient sum of £800. The remains of the deceased gentleman were interred in the family vault in Trinity churchyard at noon on Wednesday 20th April 1881. The funeral cortege was very lengthy; Mr. E. Broadhead, Mr. M. Lockwood and Mr. Hepworth preceded the plumed hearse. Numerous grandchildren (of whom Mr. Wilson is said to have fifty) walked on either side of the hearse. Nine funeral coaches conveyed the mourners and friends and the rear was brought up by the private carriages of Mr. J. Whitaker J.P., Mr. J.W. Greenwood, Mr. A. Pollard and Mr. G. Harrop. The coffin, which was a very handsome one of polished oak, panelled with massive brass mountings was met at the west door of the church by the vicar, the Rev. Canon Addison. Mr. Nettleton, churchwarden was also in attendance. The deceased was borne into the church and to the grave by adult grandchildren. Among those who attended the funeral were Mr. G. Harrop, John Westerman and George Radley, directors of the Ossett and Horbury Gas Company of which the deceased was likewise a director and large shareholder. Among others were three of the executors: Messrs. A. Pollard, G. Richardson and T. Giggle and the family solicitor, Mr. T. Barker of the firm Haigh, Barker and Barker; Mr. J.W. Greenwood, Mr. W.W. Wiseman, Mr. J. Whitaker, Mr. Jarvis Brook, Mr. H. Nettleton and Mr. & Mrs. Lodge.

The deceased gentleman was Conservative in politics and by religious profession a churchman. He leaves three sons and six daughters.

When James Wilson died in 1884, there was an obituary printed in The "Ossett Observer" dated 26th April 1884 as follows:

Death of Mr James Wilson
It is with great regret that we record the death of Mr James Wilson, of North Field Mills, Church Street, which occurred at Askern Spa near Doncaster, at early morn, on Wednesday.

The deceased gentleman was of fine presence, and till recently anyone, personally unacquainted with him, might not unnaturally have predicted that he would be likely to live many more years. He was 63 years of age, but very upright, well proportioned and had a nice fresh colour. He had, however, suffered greatly for about twenty years past, from occasional and severe attacks of a painful disease.

Mr Wilson was a well-known and respected inhabitant, and his decease will cause a marked void in our midst. He was a cloth manufacturer of many years standing, and has been useful in his day, having occupied various public positions. He was one of the first directors of the Ossett and Horbury Gas Company, and represented Ossett on the Dewsbury Board of Poor Law Guardians for ten years, between 1855 and 1882, being the first vice-chairman in 1879 and 1880. In addition to being a leading member of the Wesleyan body in Ossett, he was one of the oldest trustees of the handsome chapel in Wesley Street. In politics, he was a life-long and consistent Liberal.

He leaves a widow and several sons and daughters to lament their loss. Two of the former are in Australia, and one, Mr Ellis Wilson, was for some time and efficient member of the Local Board of this township. Three brothers survive Mr Wilson - the eldest, Mr Thomas Wilson, of Headlands, Mr Robert Wilson, and Mr Joshua Wilson of Armley.

Death of Mr. Ellis Wilson of Ossett - A Veteran Volunteer and Public Man

The death occurred yesterday morning, at his residence, The Gables, Station Road, Ossett, of Mr. Ellis Wilson, a gentleman who in his day filled a prominent place in the public life of the borough. He had been in failing health for some years and latterly was confined to the house, but the end came rather suddenly. He was 75 years of age. The deceased was a member of a family long associated with the woollen industry, being the eldest son of the late Mr. James Wilson, woollen manufacturer, of Northfield Mill, Ossett, and on the death of his father carried on the same business, from which he retired over twenty years ago.

During his career he filled many public offices in the town, and few men were better known. He was chairman of the old local board forty years ago and remained a member of that body until the incorporation of the borough in 1890, when he was elected as a member of the council for the Central Ward, also being appointed one of the first four aldermen. After serving on the council for three years, however, he did not seek re-election. At various times he had held the offices of Joint Secretary of the old Mechanics’ Institute, as correspondent, treasurer and a manager of the Wesleyan day school, as secretary of the Ossett Liberal Club, and for some years as secretary of the Ossett Cricket and Athletic Club, and he was also associated with the Yorkshire Penny Bank in its early days

It was probably as a Volunteer, however, that Mr. Wilson was best known. He joined the movement on its initiation, in 1866, as a private in the Dewsbury Battalion of the 29th. West Yorkshire Regiment, and only severed his connection with it on reaching the age limit, after serving 33 years. For many years he was quartermaster sergeant of his battalion, and had several times been offered a commission. He was for a long time the crack shot of the battalion, and was also a competitor at Wimbledon for about fifteen years, during which time he won a large number of trophies. On one occasion he made a clean sweep of the first prizes offered in both the company and battalion competitions. For over thirty years he acted as executive officer of the Yorkshire Rifle Association, in which capacity he had the arrangements to make for the annual shooting competitions at Strensall, and on his retirement he was made a vice-president in recognition of his long service.

Six years ago, Mr. And Mrs. Wilson (who was a daughter of the late Mr Seth Mitchell) celebrated their golden wedding, which was the occasion of a family reunion. Mrs. Wilson, although an invalid, survives her husband, and there are four children living.

Ossett Observer 6th December 1919

Ossett loses and Old Stalwart - Death of Mr James Wilson - former "crack" shot and keen cyclist
The death took place on Saturday morning of one of Ossett's oldest and best-known residents, Mr. James Wilson, of Moorcroft Cottage, Moorcroft Street, at the age of 85. A native of the town, in which he had resided all his life, Mr. Wilson took an interest in many of its activities, although he never aspired to public life.

He was the son of Mr. James Wilson, who carried on business as a woollen manufacturer at Northfield Mills, Church Street, and was one of the pioneers of the woollen textile trade in Ossett. Upon his father's death his brother, Mr Ellis Wilson, took control of the business, and Mr.James Wilson participated for a time in the management, and was latterly the firm's engineer. He was a member and for many years secretary of the Yorkshire Mill Engineers Union.

Last of the Old Volunteers
He was the last surviving member of the old local "volunteers" of the K.O.Y.L.I. During his service with them he was well known as a "crack" shot with a rifle, and won several medals and prizes in shooting contests at Bisley and Wimbledon. An enthusiastic cyclist from the very early days, he took part in long cycling tours with the late Alderman J. H. Knowles, Mr. Joe Smith, Mr. R. P. Shaw and others, and was one of the first cyclists in Ossett to have a two-speed gear and pneumatic tyres. He did not give up cycling until after the age of 60. Mr. Wilson took a lifelong interest in the Liberal movement, and was one of the founders and the oldest member of Ossett Liberal Club. He acted as delegate to Liberal gatherings in the district on many occasions. He was for many years elective auditor to Ossett Corporation. He was also interested in the Co-operative movement, and served on Ossett Co-operative Society Committee for a number of years.

Vocalist and Gardener
Fond of singing, he was a prominent member of the old Ossett Glee and Madrigal Society for some years. It is said that he held a record for the number of attendances at performances of "The Messiah" in local churches, and he more than once went without his tea so that he could attend both afternoon and evening performances. An enthusiastic gardener, he was one of the founders of Ossett and District Allotment Society and was tending to his own allotment to his very last days. He was also founder, with the late Mr. R. Firth, of the old Ossett Association Football Club, which was in existence about 40 years ago. At one time, he was a well-known breeder of canaries.

Mr. Wilson, who was predeceased by his wife two years ago, had six sons and six daughters, of whom four sons and all the daughters survive: Mrs. E Jowett, Mrs. H. Hartley, Mr. James Henry Wilson, Mr. V. N. Wilson, Mr. G. E. Wilson, Mrs. G. Chamberlain, (Horbury), Mr. G. A. Wilson, Mrs A. Exley, (Mirfield), Miss Kathleen Wilson and Miss Myra Wilson.

The funeral took place at St. John's Methodist Church, South Parade, Ossett, on Tuesday, the Rev. J. H. Handley officiating. Grandsons of the late Mr. Wilson acted as bearers, and several members of the Liberal Club attended.

Ossett Observer 16th December 1939