Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town

The Ossett Virtual Blue Plaque Project

Blue Plaques are historical markers normally located on the sites of historical interest in a town or city. The 'official' scheme in the U.K. is administered by English Heritage, but their scheme is limited to blue plaques located only in the Greater London area, which ignores any person or building of historical significance anywhere in the rest of England. The motto of English Heritage, a charitable trust that received £100 Million from central government in 2013/14 is "Step Into England's Story".

Hannah PickardAlthough English Heritage aren’t involved in them, other Blue Plaque schemes do exist outside of London and these are usually administered by Local Authorities, Civic Societies, Residents' Associations and other organisations.

Anyone or any organisation can establish such a scheme or mount a Blue Plaque so long as the owner of the property on which it is mounted has given approval. In certain cases Local Authority planning consent may be required and approvals are required in the event that the building in question has Listed status.

Unlike many towns of its size and status Ossett had no Blue Plaques to commemorate the town's famous landmarks, buildings and notable residents. Ossett had long considered the establishment of a Blue Plaque Scheme but by the end of June 2019 nothing had materialised. It was that this time that the concept of Ossett Virtual Blue Plaques (VBP) was shared by its creators, Stephen Wilson and Alan Howe, on the Facebook Group, Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA). Some examples were offered and members of OTTA had their opportunity to express a view about the proposal and to suggest names of individuals and/or buildings to be included in the VBP Project.

Since, at that time, Ossett had no Blue Plaques this Virtual or On-Line Blue Plaque Project was proposed as simply another way of trying to commemorate some of the people and the buildings that make Ossett the unique, historic Yorkshire town it is. The VBP Project will superimpose a Blue Plaque image on a dwelling or a building which is of significant historical interest in its own right and/or because someone of repute built it or lived or worked there.

The Virtual Blue Plaque Project was always intended to be a means to an end. The hope was that it would fire the imagination of the community and provide information about people and places and demonstrate what could be achieved in their memory. In that way the VBP would increase the enthusiasm for real Ossett Blue Plaques and provide an impetus to those were in positions of power to create a real Ossett Blue Plaque Scheme. It would be a fillip to those who had spoken of such a scheme but who, for one reason or another, had not been able to put those words into action.

The criteria for any person selected for an official English Heritage Blue Plaque is for them to have been dead for 20 years or have passed the centenary of their birth. In our virtual world, we have no such inhibitions, but we think it only right that any person selected shouldn't still be living. We wouldn't want to cause unnecessary embarrassment to them or to their families. Anyone is eligible for a Virtual Blue Plaque, just so long as they have made a contribution to Ossett history through their achievements or altruism.

In this virtual world of the Internet, there are no restrictions about where a Blue Plaque might be positioned in Ossett, but it makes sense to nominate where the plaque might be placed if eventually Ossett does get real Blue Plaques.

You can jump straight to any Virtual Blue Plaque that might be of interest to you by clicking on the list in the right-hand sidebar. That will take you straight to much more information about the place or the person listed on the plaque. The VBP Project is a work in progress and some of those people and places included in the right-hand sidebar are being developed. In that sense they are virtually Virtual.

The First Real Ossett Blue Plaque

On 11am on the 28th September 2019, Ossett got it's very first real Blue Plaque, which was erected at the Brewers Pride in honour of Reginald Earnshaw, the youngest known WW2 casualty who sadly died at the age of 14 years in 1941. Reggie Earnshaw lived the first five years of his short life at the Millers Arms, which later became the Brewers Pride with his single mother Dorothy and her widowed father Wilson Earnshaw, who had been the licensee there since 1914.

By 1932, Reggie had moved with his mother and her new husband, Eric Shires, to Dewsbury. Seven years later Eric gained new employment in Edinburgh and the family, now with two more children: Pauline and Neva, relocated. Come February 1941, Reggie left school at the statutory age of 14. He joined the Merchant Navy at Leith Docks, telling them he was 15 and born in 1926.

Sadly, he served in the Merchant Navy for just five months. On July 5th, his merchant ship, the SS North Devon, was attacked by German bombers, off the east coast of England, fracturing its main steam lines. In the early hours of the following morning, the stranded vessel was attacked again. Six men were killed, including cabin boy Reggie.

Ossett Brewery and several individuals have sponsored the cost of the Blue Plaque at the Brewers Pride and at the unveiling ceremony, Reggie's sister, Pauline Harvey, and her two daughters, Louise and Frances, were present. In recognition of Reggie’s Scottish connection and his Edinburgh burial place a Piper plaid to commence proceedings.

Following brief introductions Ossett born, 98 year old veteran John Hirst, who also joined the Merchant Navy in 1941, unveiled the Blue Plaque to honour his Merchant Navy colleague. The Royal British Legion lead an Act Of Remembrance to include bugle calls for the Last Post and Reveille. Pauline Harvey laid a Merchant Navy Wreath for her brother Reggie following which the Piper played to conclude proceedings.

Ossett Civic Society

Ossett Civic Society is a non-political, voluntary organisation made up from volunteers drawn from all walks of life in Ossett. The members have one interest in common: the conservation and improvement of Ossett and its immediate surroundings. Their aims are simple, to represent Ossett in all aspects of civic and community matters, caring and raising awareness for the town and its buildings including planning matters and promoting civic pride in our town. We speak out on behalf of the town to ensure Ossett receives its rightful share of any funds. The Trust does this by liaising with the town's local Wakefield councillors.

Ossett Civic Society are now moving forward with the provision of another Blue Plaque for Ossett, which will be placed on the Town Hall in the near future.

Ossett's second Blue Plaque was placed on Green Mount, Ossett Green in honour of Hannah Pickard in November 2020. Others are planned for Trinity Church and the Bistro 42 (formerly the Carpenters Arms).

Virtual Blue Plaques

1. Hannah Pickard and Green Mount

2. Ossett Town Hall

3. Trinity Church

4. South Ossett Church

5. Reggie Earnshaw and Brewers Pride

6. Ossett Palladium

7. Stan Barstow and Goring House

8. Red Lion

9. Eli Marsden Wilson

10. Phillip Mickman

11. Ossett Station (site)

12. Bar 42 (ex Carpenters Arms - Ossett's oldest pub)

13. Yorkshire Bank (Cussons)

14. Park House (Ossett Academy)

15. Mechanics Institute (Old Library)

16. Gawthorpe Maypole

17. William Arthur Kendall

18. Edward Clay

19. Eric Richmond

20. Zbigniew Klatkiewicz