When you look at any old pictures of Ossett, especially those pictures taken from the outskirts of the town, an enduring feature is the sheer number of smoking mill chimneys that punctuate the skyline. Every respectable Ossett textile mill had a chimney and usually a mill dam too. So numerous and prominent were these huge brick structures that you might think that there had been a competition among those pioneering Ossett businessmen to see who could build the biggest and best mill chimney. The smoke pollution from the mill chimneys was a constant nuisance and the stonework on Ossett Holy Trinity Church has been permanently stained by soot from the smoke from coal-fired steam boilers that powered Ossett's industry. Several Ossett mill-owners were prosecuted in the 19th century because the smoke from their mill chimneys was regarded as a public nuisance.
The rag and mungo trade was unquestionably Ossett's primary industry and there were rag warehouses and textile mills all around the town. In 2011, only the mill of Edward Clay and Sons on Wesley Street has survived the gradual decline in the industry. What follows is an attempt to document the history of Ossett's textile mills, which were, in the first instance, woollen cloth mills, but as the 19th century came to an end, Ossett was increasingly a centre for the production of recovered wool cloth made from rags called mungo and shoddy. There have been a couple of cotton mills in Ossett and other related businesses such as flock manufacturing, a dye works and blanket making. However, the primary Ossett business that evolved from the old hand loom cloth weavers and power looms was the manufacture of mungo and shoddy. In addition, a large number of rag businesses were set up to serve the needs of the town's cloth mills.
Above: Picture of Ossett taken from the fields at Runtlings in the 1920s. Park House or Ossett Grammar School can be seen to the left of the tree, but also visible are a couple of large mill chimneys, which still dominated Ossett's skyline at that time. Picture courtesy of Neville Ashby.
Of course, Ossett's textile mills and mill chimneys were miniscule in size compared to Benjamin Gott's Bean Ing Mill in Leeds or the equally impressive Lister's Mill in Bradford. What Ossett lacked in the way of the size of its mills, it certainly made up for in the sheer quantity of the mungo, shoddy and worsted cloth mills, which were scattered all around the town at the end of the 19th century.
Spring Field Mill at Ossett Spa was built on the site of Ossett's first documented powered textile mill, which was used for scribbling, and was built between 1780-81. Further powered mills started appearing in Ossett from 1780 onwards. Ossett's new mills were powered by steam engines and the steam was generated by coal-fired boilers. All the sulphurous smoke from the burning of tons of locally produced coal had to be dissipated somehow into the atmosphere and that was the role of the mill chimneys. No wonder Ossett was a grimy little place. The cleaning up of countless smoke-blackened buildings must have helped to enhance the profits of sand-blasting companies ever since Ossett's rag trade went into decline and smokeless zones were invented.
In 2007, there were still three operational textile mills in the town. These being Ings Mill, off Dale Street, which now processes recycled textiles; the Victoria mills off the Green, close to Ossett School, produces carpets under the 'Burmatex' label and finally Edward Clay & Son Ltd on Wesley Street manufactures felts for mattress making and the horticultural industries.
Other Ossett mills have been converted into industrial units: some of the most prominent being Royds Mill on the Leeds Road roundabout and the large congregation of mills in the Healey area. Some mills remain derelict, such as Healey New Mill with its large chimney.
Albert Mills were part of the Northfield Mills complex in the 19th and early 20th century. The mill was owned by Ellis Wilson, who had named the mill after his late brother Albert Wilson who died in Australia in 1896. A fire at Albert Mills, which started in a rag grinding shed, did damage estimated at a cost of £300 in 1900. The mill was occupied at the time of the fire by A. Barrowclough & Company.1
1. "Ossett Observer", 18th August 1900; "Yorkshire Factory Times", 24th August 1900; "1901 Poor Rate Valuation List of Ossett", West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield.
Borough Mill (previously known as Greaves Mill and Street Side Mill)
It was reported in 1893 that Hanson & Wormald had renamed Greaves Mills, which they had recently bought to Borough Mills.1 Shortly before this, they were advertising eight rag machines to let in Borough Mills.2 The name Borough Mills seems not to have lasted because in 1908, Hanson & Wormald Ltd., rag merchants, were listed in Kelly's Directory as then occupying Royds Mill.3 Hanson & Wormald still occupied the mill in 1915.4
1. "Ossett Observer", 15th April 1893
2. "Ossett Observer", 18th March 1893
3. "Kelly's West Riding Yorkshire Directory", 1908
4. 1915 Valuation List of the Parish of Ossett, WYAS, Wakefield.
Bottomfield Mill located on Wakefield Road at the bottom end of Dale Street was probably built in the 1850s and was certainly in existence in 1869 when it was operated by the firm of Langley & Sons who introduced power looms there.1 Langleys were the tenants at the mill, which was actually owned by Joseph Ward, a recovered wool maker. Ward had three rag machines in the mill in 1878 and six rag machines there by 1886.2 Planning permission for a weaving shed and a warehouse was granted in 1877.3
Later, in 1901, C.W. Eastwood, a woollen manufacturer was a tenant in part of the mill complex.3 When Joseph Ward died in 1905, he was described as a well-known businessman who had built up a large and successful mungo manufacturing firm. The firm had recently become a limited liability company.5 In the following year, rooms, power and two sets of machines with willeys, mules and looms were advertised to let in the mill.6 Joseph Ward Ltd. occupied the mill in 1915, when it was described as a shoddy mill, but the buildings were owned by Joseph Ward's executers.7 Two of Ward's daughters donated the Town Hall clock in 1906.8
The mill continued as Joseph Ward Ltd, shoddy and mungo manufacturers right up to the 1970s when the mill was taken over by Jonas Woodhead and Son Ltd, the car spring manufacturer as their Research and Development Department. Later on, in the 1960s through to the 1980s, Woodheads used the site for the repair of leaf springs and shock absorbers.9 They occupied the premises for a number of years until again the mill premises were unoccupied for a time. Woodheads gave up the Bottomfield Mills site in the early 1990s 9 and the site was eventually taken over by a property group who developed the entire site into a business park, taking in the adjacent Sandbeds Industrial Estate. The industrial estate is still in operation, but is now known as the Ahed Estate.
Parts of the old mill are still visible from Wakefield Road, but are hard to define. The mill chimney, of which part is still evident, is of an unusual square construction, unlike the majority of other mill chimneys in Ossett, which were round.
1. "Ossett Observer", 27th February 1869
2. "The West Riding Recovered Wool Industry c. 1813 - 1939" York PhD thesis 1979, page 282, by J.C. Malin
3. "Ossett Observer", 15th September 1877 and "Ossett Observer", 20th October 1877
4. "Kelly's West Riding of Yorkshire Directory", 1901
5. "Ossett Observer", 8th April 1905
6. "Ossett Observer", 3rd March 1906
7. "1915 Valuation List of the Parish of Ossett", WYAS, Wakefield
8. "Ossett Observer", 15th December 1906
9. Information thanks to Pam Studd who, with her father, worked at Bottomfield Mill for Woodheads in the 1970s.
Briggs Mill see Storrs Hill Mill
Brooks Mill was located on West Wells Road and is still there today. The mill building has now been converted into a five-bedroomed private house from the dilapidated building shown below and is now called "Brookdale Mill". The house has some original features including the flywheel from the original steam engine, which has been set within the exposed oak structure of the ceiling. The house is currently on the market (November 2011) at £450,000.
Brooks Mill was built for Joseph and Thomas Brook, recovered wool makers, who already owned Providence Mill in Little Town End and were to build another mill at Flushdyke as well as this one on West Wells.
The mill was first envisaged in 1876 when brothers, Joseph and Thomas Brook had plans passed by the Local Board in Ossett for a warehouse, brick machine shed, office, dyehouse, engine house, boiler house, blacksmith's shop, privy ashes pit.1 The new structure that was started in 1876 was an extension of an earlier building that stood on the site. The masonry work suggests stonework dating back to the 18th century. This older building can be seen on the 1850 O.S. map and the map of the 1843 Tithe Award. It is not clear who actually owned the land on which this earlier building stood nor what the building was used for, but adjacent landowners were William Phillips and Joseph Thornes so either one may have been the original owner.
By 1877, the mill was finished and work was in progress for a second Brook Brothers mill at Flushdyke, which was for dyeing of cloth and the manufacture of bricks by steam and other processes.5 Further plans were submitted in 1878 for a dyehouse and three cottages next to the mill at Flushdyke.6 By March 1878, Brook's second mill at Flushdyke was completed and was described in the local press as "capacious".7 By 1900, the mills of Joseph and Thomas Brook were registered as a limited company with a capital of £25,000 in £5 shares8 and the new company was now called "J and T. Brook Limited, Wool Extractors and Mungo Manufacturers", Brooks Mill.2
Thomas Brook died in 1899 aged 56 and Joseph Brook aged 68 in 1901 having both pursued very successful careers in the recovered wool industry. Joseph Brook was also a property developer and was responsible for the development of Brook Street and much of Station Road in the late 19th century.
1. "Ossett Observer", 8th April 1876
2. "Kelly's West Riding of Yorkshire Directory", 1901
3. "1915 Valuation List of the Parish of Ossett", WYAS, Wakefield
4. "Ossett Observer", 9th December 1899; "Ossett Observer", 18th May 1901
5. "Ossett Observer", 2nd June 1877.
6. "Ossett Observer", 23rd March 1878
7. "Ossett Observer", 30th March 1878
8. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 26th January 1901
Calder Vale Mills
William Gartside's extensive Dye Works were built in 1864 on the site of the Healey New Canal, which was partly filled in by the late 1850s. Part of the old canal was then used by the dyeworks and later Calder Vale Mill, as the dyeworks were to become, as a mill dam which can be clearly seen on the 1938 O.S. map shown above.
In 1867, there was a disastrous fire at the works and the "Lancaster Gazette" dated 29th June 1867 had this story about the blaze, which gives some indication of the organic materials that were used by Gartside's company to dye cloth rather than chemicals, which became the norm later:
"On Saturday morning, about one o'clock, a fire broke out in the est end of a pile of new buildings, the property of William Gartside, dyer, Healey, Ossett. The building was quickly enveloped in flames, their being a large quantity of logwood, fustic, saunderwood, various red woods, myrabolam nuts, and other valuable dye wares, stored there. The fire was discovered by a widow woman living near to the premises. Ellis Brothers' and the Healey Old Mill Company's fire brigades arrived at the conflagration about half-an-hour after the discovery, and having plenty of hose and a good supply of water at hand, they played upon it very effectively, but were unable to save any large portion of the building from the flames, for in less than an hour after the alarm was given, the roof fell in with a loud crash. The efforts of the firemen were then directed to saving the engine and shafting, and large piles of dye woods in close proximity to the building outside.; these were nearly all rescued. Mr. Gartside had caused 50 tons of dyewares to be removed from the compartment only a week previous, otherwise the damage would have been much greater. There was a good deal of new machinery in the building, but by the judicious management and forethought of Richard Johnson, the engine man, it was preserved almost entirely from damage. The flames were extinguished about half past three o'clock and the fire was finally put out by nine o'clock. Mr. Gartside estimates the damage at £1,500 or £1,600 and he is only partially insured in the Liverpool, London and Globe office. It is not ascertained how the fire originated, but it is supposed that the dye wood, which had been ground to powder and stored to heaps in the chamber, ignited spontaneously."
Gartside, came from a family of dyers who, it is thought, moved to Ossett from the Huddersfield area in the late 1700s. Gartside was unmarried and after his death on the 22nd November 18761 at the age of 62, his extensive estate of land in Ossett was kept largely intact until it was auctioned off in 1902. However, the Healey Dye Works, which in 1876 was employing 60 local men was sold to the firm Fielding & Co. whose principal was James O. Fielding who had come to Ossett from the Sowerby Bridge area. Fielding committed suicide in 1879.
"The body of James O. Fielding, of the firm Fielding & Co., Healey Dyeworks, Ossett, was found in the river Calder yesterday afternoon. The deceased went to his works soon after nine o'clock yesterday morning in a cab and after speaking with a book-keeper in his counting house, left at ten o'clock and was seen going in the direction of the store in which the dyewares are kept, a few yards from the river bank. He was not seen again alive, as far as it present known. About two o'clock, a man saw his body, which was partly immersed in the river Calder, not far from the bank, about a quarter of a mile lower down the river than the spot where the works are situated and not far from Horbury Bridge. His watch had stopped about noon. It is thought that he might have been walking by the river side to Messrs. Harrop's Albion Mill, Horbury Bridge and have fallen into the water whilst in a fit.
He was 35 years of age and formerly carried on business at Sowerby Bridge, but came to Ossett eight months ago to take the business carried on for many years by the late Mr. William Gartside. He was unmarried and is stated to have been somewhat ailing in health lately. Last week the deceased was presented with a testimonial from the congregation of the Independent Chapel at Sowerby Bridge, with which he used to be connected. The body was removed to his late residence to await an inquest."
Subsequently, the dye works were run by Joseph Hodgson, who was made bankrupt in 1882.2 Walter Berry, a woollen manufacturer, later bought the works and by the time he sold them in 1887, he had installed scribblers and mules.3 In 1887, the dyeworks were sold to the firm Fawcett, Firth and Jessop, rag merchants and mungo and extract makers who were apparently attracted by the good water supply there and in 1887 they had installed six rag grinding machines at the mill.4 In June 1887, previous owner, Walter Berry was auctioning "the valuable woollen machinery and effects equal to new" at Calder Vale Mills after buying outright Westfield Mill in Ossett, which already had mill machinery. However, like the other mills at Healey, accidents to the workers at Calder Vale Mills were common and this account of the death of 17 year-old John William Butterworth gives us an insight into the way the mill was run in 1887:
"SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO MILL OPERATIVE AT OSSETT - Early yesterday morning, an accident occurred at Calder Vale Mills, Healey, Ossett by which a young man named John William Butterworth, aged 17, sustained a compound fracture of the skull and other injuries. Butterworth was employed as a layer-on in the rag-pulling department, the machines in which had been running through the night. He went to his work shortly before six, when the engine man shut off the steam in order to allow the machinery to be oiled ready for the day. No person appears to have seen the accident, but it is supposed that Butterworth was adjusting a bolt on a drum, near to which two other workmen found him lying in an insensible condition. He was taken to his father's house in Bank Street and died in the afternoon."
The 1889 valuation lists the names of Joshua Swallow Fawcett, Charles Firth and George Jessop as the owners and occupiers of the mills.5 Two years later in 1891, the premises were fitted throughout with electric light.6 Shortly afterwards, in 1891, one of the partners George Jessop died at the early age of 53, "having only recently erected a handsome new residence in Healey Lane". 7 The business became a limited liability in 1898 when Fawcett and Firth Limited was created with a capital of £40,000 to take over the business of Joseph F. Fawcett and Charles Firth at Calder Vale Mills.8 When Fawcett died in 1908 aged 66, the firm was described as "one of the most extensive engaged in the local trade".9 The company of Fawcett and Firth Ltd. still owned and occupied the mills as late as 1915.10
1. "Ossett Observer", 25th November 1876
2. "Wakefield Express", 1st July 1882
3. "Ossett Observer", 11th June 1887
4. "Ossett Observer", 8th August 1908; "The West Riding Recovered Wool Industry c. 1813 - 1939" York PhD thesis 1979, page 282, by J.C. Malin
5. "1889 Ossett Valuation List", WYAS, Wakefield
6. "Ossett Observer", 14th February 1891
7. "Ossett Observer", 16th May 1891
8. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 29th April 1898
9. "Ossett Observer", 8th August 1908
10. "1915 Valuation List for the Parish of Ossett", WYAS, Wakefield
The Cotton Mills see Royds Mill
Dale Street Mills or Langleys Mill
Dale Street Mill (later Langley's Mill) was located on Dale Street, next to the Horse & Jockey public house, which can just be seen on the right of this picture. The mill was probably for William Glover, an Ossett mungo manufacturer. Glover obtained planning permission for a mill in Dale Street in 18721 and the mill was subsequently built. In 1876, a fire in the rag grinding shed caused damage estimated at between £200 and £300.2 Glover was jailed for a year in 1878 for the forging of three bills of exchange with a total value of £616 17s 0d.3 The case was notorious in Ossett at the time because Glover absconded in June 1877 and was thought to have gone to America. The "Leeds Mercury" on the 4th August 1877 carried a notice from the West Riding police offering a £200 reward for information leading to the arrest of William Glover. He was subsequently arrested in December 1877 after giving himself up to the police in Exeter and was described in the "Police Gazette" as being "of gentlemanly appearance, respectably attired, 51 years of age and 5ft 11½ inches in height." Glover was declared bankrupt in 1877 in absentia and in 1880 the mill and a rag warehouse was bought by Samuel E. Langley.
The Langley brothers, John Langley and Samuel Langley ran the mungo and shoddy business at the mill in Ossett and also another one in Batley until October 1869 as "J & S Langley and Son". After the partnership was dissolved, the business in Ossett continued under the ownership of Samuel Langley and his son Williamson Lawton Langley, who was the company's financial director. The company was described as rag merchants, merino and mungo manufacturers in 1901 and the Langleys still owned and occupied the mill in 1915.4 When Langley Brothers ceased trading, the premises were taken over for a short while by the firm of Jack Stross Ltd. of Batley who were rag merchants and shoddy manufacturers.
Above: Langley's Mill in Dale Street in the late 1960s with the Gawthorpe Maypole procession passing by.
The mill premises were taken over in the early 1960s by Northfield Industrial Fabrications, owned by the Oddy Family, who also had a factory in Northfield Avenue, Ossett. Dumper trucks were built at Langley's Mill until closure and eventual demolition in the 1990s.
The site of Dale Street mill was developed as a supermarket first by Kwiksave and then was taken over by Somerfield.5 The Co-operative Society bought the Somerfield chain and closed the store, presumably because of the proximity of the nearby Co-op store. Following closure it was occupied (2010-2011) by Nisa supermarket, part of Mill's Group of Whitley Bay who were subsequently bought out by TESCO. This was a journey too far south for the north-east supermarket chain and Nisa closed after a short while. The site is now occupied (from mid 2011) by The Original Factory Shop.6
1. "Minutes of the Ossett Local Board, Volume One, 8th April 1872", WYAS, Wakefield
2. "Ossett Observer", 4th November 1876
3. "Ossett Observer", 19th January 1878
4. "Kellys West Riding Yorkshire Directory", 1901; "1915 Valuation List for the Parish of Ossett", WYAS, Wakefield
5. Notes by the late Neil Abbott on Ossett's Industrial Buildings and the Mungo & Shoddy Trade
Edward Clay and Sons
Edward Clay and Son Ltd. were established in 1870 by Ossett's first mayor Edward Clay, who was elected in 1890. The mill is located on Wesley Street on a site that used to be a farm. Originally, Edward Clay & Son were mungo manufacturers, but diversified in the 1960s into the flock and mattress filling business with additional premises at Palesides on Wakefield Road.
After the collapse of the recovered wool business in the 1970s, the firm was still able to continue and in fact is still operational in 2012. The business is owned by descendents of Edward Clay and is believed to be the longest established textile business still operating in Ossett.
Field Lane Mills see Northfield Mills
Flushdyke Mill see Whitley Spring Mills
Gawthorpe Mill see Royd's Mill
Gedham mill was specifically built as a medium sized, mungo manufacturing works between 1897 and 1898 for Robert Elston Phillips1, who was already a shoddy manufacturer in Dale Street, Ossett, in the mill owned later by J. and S. Langley and Son. Gedham Mill was located at the lower end of what would become Kingsway, close to the Co-op stores. Robert Elston Phillips was an established manufacturer, but it is not known where the company had been based before its purchase of the Gedham property.
Above: Gedham Mill drawn by Richard D. Glover, who has also written a comprehensive history of Gedham Mill, which can be downloaded as a PDF file from the Downloads area of this web site.
It was built on land put together in a number of purchases; by 1897 three pieces of land had been amalgamated (one of 3 roods and 29 perches, another of about 1 acre, the third of 760 square yards) and later purchases (of 1395 square yards in 1898, and of 1021 square yards in 1900 added land to the north. The resulting plot forms a long, narrow parcel of land, set back from the main thoroughfare in Ossett town centre and in all probability originating in either croft holdings or field strips of medieval Ossett.
The 1898 description lists the departments as rag warehouses, shaking and sorting rooms, dyehouse, grinding sheds, willeying and carding rooms and other buildings. The inclusion of a dyehouse, the surviving fragments of which lie on those parts of the site bought in 1898 and 1900, indicates that in 1897 Phillips may not have owned the whole site at first but instead leased neighbouring land which he was very soon to purchase.
Most of the buildings were on one floor and power was supplied by a Robey 30 horsepower horizontal steam engine. The new mill at Gedham was designed on modern principles, being largely single-storeyed, powered by steam and lit by electricity generated on site. Electric lighting and telephones were installed in 1898 by Walter Robb of Ossett.2 Phillips died in 1899 at his winter residence in Rhyl and his estate was maintained in trust for a number of parties.3 Gedham Mill was then leased a period of by John Henry Glover and Walter Ellis under the name of Glover & Ellis for ten years at a rental of £300 per annum, but the mill still belonged to Phillips' executors in 1915.4
The Glover family had been active in the textile industry since the mid-nineteenth century. William Glover had been a mungo manufacturer in Ossett before moving to Wakefield. His son John Henry Glover had returned to Ossett to work with Robert Phillips, and entered the family through his marriage to Phillips daughter Mary Helena. Glover’s partner in business, Walter Ellis, was among the interested parties listed in Robert Phillips’ Will, where he was described as of Gedham, manufacturer. The partnership formed after Phillips’ death, therefore, was an association of two men involved in Phillips’ manufacturing enterprise probably since the establishment of Gedham Mill.
John Henry Glover, who in his life was a dedicated, practising christian, a magistrate, special constable, and chairman of several organisations. Glover was also a considerable property developer, philanthropist and a keen sportsman. He ‘ worked hard and played hard’. Walter Ellis, the other partner was a Methodist lay-preacher and whilst Glover ran the mill on a day-to-day basis, Ellis was the firm's representative for the Huddersfield and Holmfirth area, assisted by Alvar Peace, the firm's representative for the Leeds and Bramley area.
Glover and Ellis occupied Gedham as tenants for the next decade and more. They renewed their lease in 1907, and in 1910 the mill, recorded as being owned by the executors of R. E. Phillips, was valued at £280 per annum for rating purposes. The business was evidently a success, for in 1913 the partners bought Northfield Mill, a little to the north of Gedham. They were able to purchase Gedham Mill in 1916 for £4,000, and in 1918 the partners transferred their property at both Gedham and Northfield from their own names to a newly formed company, Glover and Ellis Ltd.
The articles of association name only two shareholders, John Henry Glover and Walter Ellis, both rag merchants and mungo manufacturers. Northfield Mill was sold in 1919, possibly indicating a post-war slump in the fortunes of the business. The firm continued in production at Gedham, however, and the mill remained in company ownership until 1959, when it was sold to Charles Reginald Vause. It is reported to have ceased mungo production only in 1965. In the late 1960s, the business became the RGS Pattern Book Company Ltd, producers of sample books for floor coverings, owned once more by the Glover family and run by Richard D. Glover and his family.
Part of the mill and the mill chimney at Gedham Mills were demolished in 1970.
Above: Gedham Mill in the 1930s.
The RGS Pattern Book Company ceased trading in 2001 and the mill was demolished in 2009 to make way for the construction of the Ossett Health Village, opposite the Lidl Supermarket. The Ossett Health Village includes the former Church Street and Prospect Road surgeries and also a new pharmacy.5
1. "Yorkshire Textile Mills 1770 - 1930" by C. Giles and I.H. Goodall, London 1992, Page 216
2. "Ossett Observer", 21st May 1898
3. "Ossett Observer", 14th January 1899
4. "1915 Valuation List for the Parish of Ossett", WYAS, Wakefield; "Ossett Observer", 3rd March 1929
5. From notes by Alan Howe
Greaves Mill also known as Ossett Streetside Mills and Borough Mills
Greaves Mill was built at Gawthorpe, roughly on the site of the big Ossett bypass roundabout between 1826 and 1829 for Thomas Greaves, a local blanket manufacturer who had extensive business interests in Ossett. The mill continued as a family business until 1884 with the Greaves family owning Greaves Mill plus warehouses, a counting house and cottages.1 Three brothers Joseph, Joshua and Thomas Greaves ran the woollen mill first built for Thomas Greaves. Joseph Greaves, who was born circa 1800 was the eldest of the three and he passed on the mill and other family businesses to his sons George and Henry in 1861 when another of the Greaves, John Greaves, then the senior partner in the firm left to set up business on his own account. At that time the Greaves were described as woollen manufacturers and rag & mungo dealers.2 George was born in 1823 and Henry was born in 1827 and besides running the mill, both were also farmers. George Greaves, built Heath House in 1854 for his new bride, 15 year-old Ann Heaton. The house, which sits in nearly five acres of land, was built immediately adjacent to the mill. Henry Greaves, who never married, lived at Greaves House (later renamed Quarry House), also very close to the mill. Greaves Colliery, between Streetside and Bridle Lane, Gawthorpe was owned between 1855 and 1860 by Joshua Greaves of the same family.
Like most mills at the time, Greaves' Mill suffered from fire. One fire in 1864, which started in the rag grinding room used by the Greaves, spread to the main building rented by John Smith for scribbling and carding.3 Another fire in 1873 did more than £3,000 of damage in a warehouse, which had been built in 1849. The cellar of the warehouse was fitted with oil vats and cisterns; the ground floor of the warehouse was used for storing mungo and rags with the first floor occupied by rag pickers employed to sort the rags. The warehouse was one of three blocks that the mill was divided into, with the other two blocks being the mill proper and the last block, the workshops and offices.4
George and Henry Greaves were bankrupted in 1884 with liabilities of £18,000. The brothers (as mentioned previously) had diversified into farming by renting 800 acres of land in Gawthorpe from the Cardigan Estate. The brothers attributed their failure to losses in trade, bad farming seasons and depreciation on the value of their property. Their illegal use of accommodation bills to keep their failing businesses going also led to the bankruptcy of six other local people, some who were already in very poor circumstances.5
When Greaves Mill was put up for auction under the name of Ossett Streetside Mills later in 1884, there were no bids for the property. Clearly, the 1880s were a very difficult time for the textile businesses in Ossett and a common thread is the number of failures. Included in the sale of the mill were two steam engines, two boilers and eight rag grinding machines.6 By 1885, Greaves Mill was still unoccupied, but three years later in 1887, a fire at nearby Royds Mill led to the firm of Hanson & Wormald, mungo merchants and rag merchants moving to Greaves Mill temporarily whilst their mill was rebuilt. Abraham Pollard, head of John Speight & Son, followed Hanson and Wormald's example in 1888 with the rental of Greaves Mill after a disastrous fire at Northfield Mill.7
In 1892, George Hanson and Henry Wormald of Hanson & Wormald purchased Greaves Mills, which had been standing empty for several years. They were renamed as Borough Mills in honour of Ossett's recent elevation to the status of a municipal borough. It was Hanson's intention that the mill would also provide additional employment for people living in Gawthorpe. Sadly, George Hanson was to pass away in 1893 shortly after the purchase of Greaves Mill. Part of what was described as Greaves Mill and some adjoining cottages were sold to a Mr. Manners in 1897 for conversion into a rag warehouse.9 The remainder of the mill seems to have continued under the ownership of Hanson & Wormald Ltd., but in the 1901 and 1915 Ossett rate valuations it is no longer distinguished from Royds Mill and Borough Mills are not mentioned in trade directories.
At the time of George Greaves' death in 1899, he was living at Lodge Hill Farm, Gawthorpe. His brother Henry Greaves died in 1895 and was living at New Park Farm, Gawthorpe.10
1. "1826 Ossett Rate Book Assessment" and "1829 Ossett Rate Book Assessment", WYAS, Wakefield
2. "Leeds Mercury", 20th April 1861
3. "Wakefield Express", 20th August 1864
4. "Wakefield Herald", 26th June 1873; "Wakefield Express", 28th June 1873; "Ossett Observer", 28th June 1873
5. "Ossett Observer", 2nd August 1884; "Ossett Observer", 23rd August 1884
6. "Ossett Observer", 11th October 1884
7. "Ossett Observer", 10th September 1887; "Ossett Observer", 27th October 1888
8. "Ossett Observer", 15th April 1893
9. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 15th August 1897
10. Notes by the late Neil Abbott on Ossett's Industrial Buildings and the Mungo & Shoddy Trade.
Greenfield Mill was located at the bottom of Warneford Avenue, Ossett. The mill was built after 1922, but before 1933 and is shown in the picture and 1955 map below. It can be seen from the sign on the gate that the mill was run by James Mark Briggs and Sons, Mungo and Shoddy manufacturers.
At some stage, the firm of J.E. Glover, also mungo and shoddy manufacturers occupied Greenfield Mill. The firm of J.E. Glover, who also had premises in Wesley Street were closely associated with J.M. Briggs and Sons.
Above: Greenfield Mill circa 1960 when it was still operated by J.M. Briggs and Sons.
Above: 1955 OS map showing Greenfield Mill on Warneford Avenue. There is no sign of the mill on the 1922 OS map and it first appears on the 1933 OS map.
The entrance to the mill was originally on Warneford Avenue, but when the mill closed down, the new occupier Grampian Foods, a division of the Malton Bacon Company made a new entrance, which opened directly on to Dewsbury Road, opposite the Red Lion public house.
Guildford Street Mill
The mill, established in 1897, was owned by Ernest Hepworth, and was situated on Guildford Street, Healey Road, Ossett. In the 1950s, they were mungo manufacturers, rag merchants, carbonizers and dyers. Later it became Cockcroft's Mill.
Healey Low Mill
Another early Ossett scribbling and fulling mill, which dates from the early 19th century and was probably built circa 1815. Healey Low Mill was owned in 1819 by James Briggs and in 1834 by Samuel Ellis and Company. The mill was sited right on the bank of the River Calder at Healey before the river was diverted when the railway marshalling yard was constructed in the early 1960s. Like other textile mills erected at that time, the building height was very low, machines were located close together so that working space was tight.
In 1882, the mill was owned by Joshua Ellis and Bros. who were advertising1 for a power loom tuner against the trend elsewhere in Ossett where the textile industry was in the grip of a recession. In 1883, another advertisement appeared in the local press2 detailing an auction for a one-eighteenth share in Healey Low Mill. The mill was described as being constructed of stone with a dyehouse, loom shed, office, six cottages all set in six acres of land. As can be gathered from the 1883 auction, Healey Low Mill was sub-divided between various tenants as was common with many of the textile mills in Ossett. In 1889, there was a fire in a two-storey dyehouse, the business premises of Ossett worthy, Eli Townend where the dryhouse and another one-storey dyehouse were gutted. The total loss was estimated at £500 - £600 and the buildings were uninsured. At the time, the buildings were owned by the Healey Low Mill Company, but the machinery, fittings and contents were owned by Eli Townend, the tenant.3 Townend wasted no time and a couple of weeks later, the dryhouse was being rebuilt with the rags instead being dried at nearby Victoria Mills.4
Later in 1889, the Ellis Brothers, cloth manufacturers, who had owned Healey Low Mill for many years, moved all their stock to Victoria Mill and Healey Low Mill was bought outright by Eli Townend, rag merchant. It was noted at the time that the old engine house was being demolished and new dryhouses erected.5
In 1898, Eli Townend Ltd., was registered with capital of £40,000 in £10 shares to take over as a going concern the business of Eli Townend, rag merchants.6 In the early twentieth century, Healey Low Mill had sixteen carding machines, but the space between them was so small that workmen had difficulty in cleaning them. The mill continued in use until 1930.
1. "Ossett Observer", 7th January 1882
2. "Ossett Observer", 8th September 1883
3. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 5th July 1889
4. "Yorkshire Factory Times", "19th July 1889
5. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 6th September 1889
6. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 28th January 1898
Healey New Mill
Built in 1826-27 as a steam-powered scribbling and fulling mill by established Ossett clothier, Benjamin Hallas. After Hallas went bankrupt in 1830/31, the mill was sold first in 1833 to Ossett maltster Joshua Whitaker and then leased to a partnership of up to thirty-three local clothiers who ran it as the "Healey New Mill Company. The original mill is built of stone and brick, and is of three storeys with an engine house between the main working part (eight bays) and a two bay narrower end perhaps used for warehousing. The mill is of fireproof construction with cast-iron beam and joist and a stone-flagged floor. Minor buildings included a dyehouse and a single-storey heated cloth dryhouse. After 1881 the mill was mainly used for the manufacture of shoddy and mungo, and a rag warehouse and a rag-grinding shed were built. The building is Listed as "Healey New Mill, including attached chimney".
In January 1836, a deed of settlement was signed relating to co-partnership between twenty-seven of the working partners, to agree to carry on business as scribblers, carders, spinners of wool, fullers of cloth at the mill. There were to be 81 shares in the business, presumably with each working partner holding at least one share. The new co-operative business was to be managed by a Committee of Management and would be called the "Healey New Mill Company". This idealistic concept, however well-meaning was sadly doomed to failure since not unexpectedly, some of the better-run businesses did well and others failed.
By 1860, several of the original partners had moved on to build their own mills, for example John Wilson, who subsequently died in 1851. Some of the original partners or their replacements were struggling or had gone bankrupt. For example, James Ellis and Joseph Emmerson were both bankrupt by 1838. However, in 1862, the mill was in the ownership of Ossett clothier Benjamin Wilson and Company, who was in business with his son Robert Wilson, until Robert died in 1878. Wilson maintained the co-operative with the other clothiers and there were now 117 shares in the business. However, the business was not in good financial shape and when George Harrop, Horbury clothier bought one of the shares, he had to pay £29 18s 9d, which was his part of the outstanding bank debt of £3,503 2s 9d that had been owing since 1843. The Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank forced the owners of Healey New Mill to surrender the deeds of the mill against debt of £6,381 16s 0d, which had built up because some of the partners hadn't paid their rents,or had gone bankrupt, despite some very good trading years in the 1860s.
The report of the Rivers Pollution Committee of 1871, which was published in 1873, noted that the Healey New Mill Company of Fullers, Millers and Scribblers employ fifteen staff. The company was scribbling and fulling 360 tons of goods per annum to a value of £20,000. It was noted that the mill was steam powered with a 32 horse-power engine and that no dyes or bleaches were used at the mill.
On the 11th February 1879, the Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank gave notice the managers of the Healey New Mill Company( at that time Robert Illingworth and George Nettleton) to the effect that they required payment of the outstanding debt of £6381 16s 0d plus accrued interest, a sum of over £7,900, otherwise they would put the mill up for sale. Clearly, the co-operative was struggling and the local press carried a notice, which asked the creditors of the Healey New Mill Company to send in their claims by the 15th July 1879. The company was eventually wound up in 1880 after a Court of the Chancery petition by Benjamin Wilson and George Harrop. The Chancery Court ruling was that the heavy debt liability built up over the years had to be shared between the Company's shareholders16 much to the relief of Benjamin Wilson, who at 82 years of age was now close to death and keen to leave the bulk of his estate to his surviving children. Wilson died on the 15th April 1881, just before Healey New Mill was sold at auction.
The Healey New Mill was offered for sale at auction in February 1881 as follows:
"1. All that valuable three-storeyed mill called Healey New Mill with land of 2 acres, 3 roods and 28 perches, together with cottages, dyehouse, warehouse, engine and all fixed machinery.
2. All the unfixed machinery, consisting of scribblers, carders, condensers and other machinery.
Stewart & Sons, Solicitors, Wakefield and Haigh, Barker & Barker, Solicitors, Horbury Bridge."
One of the tenants at Healey New Mill was David Giggal, a wool extractor and he bought the mill and the machinery at a public auction held on the 28th April 1881 for £6,200. However, it was noted that just a month before the auction that one of his rag machines at the mill worth £50 had been destroyed by fire. David Giggal was one of the Ossett industrialists who had moved away from weaving cloth using power looms into the manufacture of shoddy (and later mungo) and this was to become the dominant textile industry in Ossett. In 1885, Giggal entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law, Edward Clay at Healey New Mill, but the partnership only lasted twelve years because David Giggal died in 1897. The company carried on as a limited company after Giggal's death and Giggal & Clay Ltd. was set up in 1898 with capital of £10,000 in £10 shares to take over Healey New Mill. However, by 1901, Kelly's Directory shows that Giggal & Clay Ltd had become a branch of the Extract Wool and Merino Company Limited, but were still trading at Healey New Mill, but had sold some of their land to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company. By 1905, Healey New Mills was disused and Edward Clay was in business as Edward Clay & Sons in Wesley Street, Ossett.
It isn't known how long the mill was disused, but by 1914 it was being used for leather dressing and 1919 the Extract Wool and Merino Company sold the premises to John Thomas Townend for £3,000, suggesting that the mill was in decay. Townsend subsequently let the mill, described as having mungo and shoddy machinery, to the Langley Brothers, who had premises in Dale Street, Ossett. Finally, in 1929, John Townsend, described as a mungo manufacturer sold Healey New Mills to Wilson Briggs and Norman Briggs, Ossett rag merchants for just £1,000.
Healey New Mill is still in the ownership of Wilson Briggs & Sons and is currently used, in 2010, as an industrial business park providing lock-up premises for small firms specialising in things such as car bodyshop repairs, metalwork manufacture, brick manufacturing, sports equipment manufacture, electrical services and even a shop selling pine furniture.
The mill building, which is now Grade II listed is built from coursed squared rubble (north and east elevations) and brick (south and west elevations) with stone slate roofs. There are three storeys and an attic. The main building is an eight-bay construction facing north-south with a single-bay engine house to the south and a further two bays, less wide, further south.
Above: Wilson Briggs & Sons, Healey New Mill is now a series of industrial units. The building is unusual in that the walls facing Ossett are finished in stone, but the walls facing Thornhill over the Calder & Hebble canal are all finished in red brick. Healey New Mill was a large co-operative concern in the earlier part of 19th century, providing the fulling and milling of cloth for Ossett's many hand-loom weavers. The mill even had its own gas works with gasometer storage to provide lighting and heating in the mid to late 19th century. After 1881, Healey New Mill was mainly used for the manufacture of mungo and shoddy and was owned by Giggal & Clay Ltd., Wool Extractors. A rag warehouse and rag grinding shed was built to service the mungo and shoddy business being carried on at the site.
Note: This information about Healey New Mill is duplicated in the Healey section of this website where there is a a full list of references.
Healey Old Mill
First built by a co-operative of local clothiers in 1787 and one of Yorkshire's first mechanised scribbling and fulling mills, Healey Old Mill was the first of four large mills to be built at Healey during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Healey Mill Company was a joint-stock business where a number of Ossett clothiers formed a company to purchase land, build and operate a mill for the scribbling and carding of their own wool; the slubbing into a yarn suitable for weaving on hand looms and then the fulling or finishing of the woven cloth. Typically, these joint stock companies, which were common in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the late 18th century, had between ten and fifty partners with company shares of £25 each. Each partner taking as many shares as he could afford.
John Emmerson was a partner in the building of Spring End Mill, Ossett, one of the first scribbling mills in the district circa 1780/81. Emmerson was a principal speaker at a meeting of clothiers held in Ossett in September 1785, where it was decided to raise a subscription to build a new fulling mill in Ossett. A further meeting of potential subscribers was held a month later, when it was decided to go ahead with the building of the mill and that shares in the new mill company should only be available to cloth makers or merchants or their families. In the event, the new Healey Mill Company was jointly financed and subsequently run by local clothiers, including members of the Ossett Mitchell, Phillips and Dews families.
It was decided at the meeting to purchase land at Healey for the construction of two-storey, water-powered fulling mill with an attached dyehouse. The mill was to have twelve fulling stocks, powered by a waterwheel on a mill goit 814 yards long and 12 yards wide, fed from a shallow weir in the river. The design of the new works was entrusted to local civil engineer Luke Holt from Middlestown, who had gained some fame in 1776 for the surveying of Sir John Ramsden's canal linking the Calder & Hebble Navigation at Cooper Bridge into Huddersfield. Holt was also one of two resident engineers involved in the construction of Hull Junction Dock, which was opened in 1829.
The first share offer to raise £2,200 was made in March 1786 when forty-four £50 shares were issued to local clothiers and businessmen. Eighteen of the shares were bought by seventeen Ossett investors, with the remaining shares going to investors in Wakefield (18), Horbury (2), Alverthorpe (2), Earlsheaton (2) and Dewsbury (2). Five trustees were appointed; four of them being Wakefield merchants and also Ossett woolstapler Joshua Haigh, who was also appointed as treasurer.
As the construction of the mill rapidly progressed, the initial money raised quickly ran out and it was decided to raise another £3,000 on mortgage. The trustees of the White and Coloured Cloth Halls in Leeds approved the part loan of £1,200 towards the sum required and the rest was raised elsewhere. In late 1786 or early 1787, the mill was completed and in November 1786, the company's managing agents: John Archer junior and John Nettleton tendered for three scribbling machines and a willeying machine, which again left the company short of money and in February 1787 they had to borrow another £1,300. The mill was probably fully operational by June 1787, when a price list had been published for striped cloth, grey lists, coarse white cloth, middle cloth and coloured cloth. The scribbling business at the mill was taken over by Ebenezer Aldred of Wakefield in early 1788, whose machines were to be worked by the "South Out waterwheel." However, the more important milling process was carried on by the proprietors Healey Mill Company. Charles Chiswick, the miller at Healey was being paid 7d a cloth for "broads" and 2d for "narrows."
The company was managed by five trustees who were responsible for half-yearly shareholder meetings, which were held at the Star Inn, Wakefield. The first general meeting was chaired by Pemberton Milnes (1729 - 1795), JP, DL, a leading Wakefield cloth merchant, social leader, dissenter and Whig. There is some evidence that the four dominant Wakefield trustees on the management committee and who were either Unitarians or Presbyterians, may have been in conflict with the working clothier shareholders at the mill. At the general meeting in February 1787, two of the trustees, Ben Heywood and Jere Naylor, both Wakefield cloth merchants were each fined half-a-guinea for non-attendance. The one guinea fine that was levied was to be spent at the next general meeting on refreshments.
Building work was still being carried out in 1791 as the finishing off works at the mill were completed. Archer and Nettleton were still managing the mill in 1791, but in 1788 they were awarded £100 each by the trustees "In consideration of the trouble which they have had relative to the building and completion of the mill." It was originally proposed to award them one share each in the company, but in the event, this wasn't possible under the terms of the trust deed. However, despite the appreciation of the work done by Archer and Nettleton, the trustees made the decision to let the whole mill for a period of twenty-one years in December 1791. The previous part-tenant at the Healey mill, Ebenezer Aldred took over a small scribbling mill in Alverthorpe Road, Wakefield and took with him some of the now dated machinery. This proved to be a bad move, because he went bankrupt in 1794. The mill was let by public auction in January 1791 to a consortium of eight Ossett clothiers at an annual rental of £800 per year. This was a substantial sum in 1791 and the equivalent to £80,000 in 2009 prices using RPI as the meausre.22 This level of rent demonstrates the prosperity of the mill and the high demand for the wool processing and cloth finishing in the Ossett district. A rent of £800 per annum represented 14.5% of the total capital cost of the £5,500 required to finance the building of the mill and for the purchase of the machines. Payback would take only seven years, which was a very healthy return on shareholder investment. The dyehouse at the mill was let separately for similar lengths of time to the main mill. However, in 1812, it was used for the grinding of indigo.
The goit was doubled in width in 1791 and an additional waterwheel was installed. There was also a proposal for another goit, which was to be covered or underground in construction, but this was never followed up. The lack of water in the river Calder and increasing trade at the mill necessitated the purchase of a powerful steam engine to supplement the two water wheels. In 1803, the firm of Aydon & Elwell, Shelf Ironworks, near Bradford were contracted to supply the steam engine at a cots of £1,750 and to maintain it for a period of two years. The stone for the new engine house was quarried from the land adjoining the mill and evidence of a small quarry is still visible today. Some of the cost of the new steam engine was levied on the mill tenants who were asked to pay 7.5% interest on the capital outlay.
Ossett Mill was an important part of the West Riding cloth industry at the end of the 18th century. Of the sixty broadcloth mills in the West Riding, only Armley, Calverley and Dewsbury Old milled more cloth than Ossett and in 1796/97 Ossett Mill milled 8,274 broadcloths. So successful was the mill that in 1797, it was working day and night to keep up with the demand.8 The fourteen year lease on the mill was renewed in 1812 and was taken on by eight Ossett clothiers at a rent of £700 per annum, which is £35,000 at 2009 RPI values. The scarcity of water to power the waterwheels was a constant problem at the mill and it was decided that the fulling machines should take precedence to the carding and scribbling machines during times of drought.
Five years late in 1817, the mill was again put up for let, despite the fourteen year lease signed in 1812. Perhaps the high rental costs were the problem, because this time there were no takers and instead, the owners decided that they would run the mill themselves. It is likely that John Wilby was appointed mill manager in 1817 and the mill became known as "Wilby's Mill". He was succeeded in 1838 by his son, who later became a trustee, on a salary of £80 per annum (£63,000 a year in 2009 using inflation based on average earnings.) Gradually, Ossett men took over as trustees in the business and by 1822 only Jere Naylor remained of the original trustees. As a consequence, half-yearly meetings were held in Ossett rather than Wakefield. In 1824 and 1825 dividends of 10% were still being paid to shareholders, which demonstrated the success of the business.
From 1839, to comply with the new requirements of the Factories Acts, a doctor was paid for to sign children's' certificates and the Mill Feast bills were paid from the year 1841/42. The mill enjoyed its period of greatest prosperity in the mid-1840s, with dividends of 30% being paid in two consecutive years. Like the other two mills at Healey, Healey Old Mill had its own gasworks and gasholder, which were built circa 1844/45 and any surplus gas was sold. The company also did a little bit of farming on the pasture land around the mill and in 1838/39, a profit of £80 was made on cows bought for feeding up. Spinning mules to produce yarn were introduced at the mill in 1840, bit otherwise very little changed for many years.
The dyehouse at the mill, although owned by the company had always been rented out to tenants and William Gartside was probably a tenant rather than the owner. By the late 1870s, the Healey Old Mill directors had decided to sell the dyehouse, as this advertisement in the "Leeds Mercury" dated 10th August 1878 shows:
"To be sold by private contract, the dyehouse at Healey Old Mill, Ossett lately occupied by the late William Gartside, containing ten indigo vats, two dye pans, scouring appliances, etc. together with a close of land adjoining containing, and including the site of the buildings, about 4,400 square yards more or less. The property abuts on to the river Calder and the water mains of the Ossett Local Board pass along the front."
From 1870, income from slubbing and spinning for the first time exceeded income from milling and in the last full-year of the company operation, milling income had dropped to less than £1,000. The mill was still geared very much to the rapidly declining hand-loom industry and the end was now close. The amount owing to the bank had risen from £100 in 1865 to £3,000 by 1876. To emphasize the decline in the mill's fortunes, in 1876, there was little interest in bidding at a public auction when one of the mill shares was offered.
In 1877, the entire mill was let to Ossett woollen manufacturer, Walter Berry who had a new building erected in 1877 at a cost of £1,850. The new building was designed by Ossett architect, S.H. Kendall, who was also a schoolmaster at Ossett Grammar School. For safety reasons, the height of the mill chimney was reduced by one quarter in 1883; it had been out of perpendicular since it was built by Ossett masons, Goodacre and Dews.
The rental income from Walter Berry reduced the deficit owing to the bank from £2,745 in 1875/76 to just £5 in 1881/82, rising to a credit balance of £1,315 in 1886/87. Berry continued for about ten years, probably with scribbling, spinning and fulling, which helped put the mill back into a healthy financial state and in 1882, the mill directors were awarded £50 each for their good work over the previous five years. However, everything changed in 1887 with the arrival of of a new tenant, J.J. Mitchell who spent £3,000 installing power looms and shafting, making Healey Old Mill a power loom mill, like many others in the district. This turned out to be a retrograde move in some respects because rental income dropped from £1,391 in 1886/87 to below £775 with a corresponding reduction in dividends from 20% to 10% plus an unwelcome bank deficit of £1,305, which dropped to £540 when the Healey Old Mill Company was finally wound up.
The mill was purchased in 1892 by John William Smith, manufacturer of mungos and shoddies and his company John William Smith Ltd., occupied Healey Old Mill from 1892/93 up to the 1920s. The business was formed into a limited company in 1904. Smith had started in the mungo and shoddy business in Ossett with Eli Townend in 1871, but after the break up of their partnership in 1883, Smith leased room and power from J.S. Fawcett (and others), the owners of Calder Vale Mills, which were previously William Gartside's Healey Dye Works.
John William Smith Ltd., were principally the makers of pulled and carded shoddy and their specialty cloths were made of all shades of dyed merino, serge, and worsted materials. The principal part of their trade was export, which was done indirectly through Bradford merchants, also Messrs. John William Smith, Ltd. Smiths' also did commission carbonizing, dyeing, pulling and carding. John William Smith lived a short distance from Healey Old Mill in the impressive "Green Lea" just up the hill on Healey Road before he died at the end of 1915.
Note: This information about Healey Old Mill is duplicated in the Healey section of this website where there is a a full list of references.
Built around 1875 by William Cudworth who was the owner and occupier of a shoddy mill in 1881.1 By 1883, Cudworth was operating a worsted spinning factory and producing worsted woolen cloth at Highfield Mill.2 However, in July 1884 the business trading as W. Cudworth & Son, which was managed by William Cudworth and John Robert Cudworth failed.3 William Cudworth had started in trade in 1876 with a capital sum of £6,000 and in about 1883, he had taken his son John, a minor, into partnership. Cudworth had invested £21,000 in mill machinery and other property up to 1884. The value of the property was now estimated at only £11,000 in 1884.4 This was a particularly difficult time for the cloth-making businesses in Ossett and Cudworth had endured heavy losses in 1881, partly as a result of the failure of his own business and partly because of the failure of the Greaves Brothers business at Gawthorpe in which he had a stake. Highfield Mill was sold in September 1884 on behalf of the mortgagees to John Senior of Earlsheaton for the sum of £3,230.5
In 1884, at the County Court in Dewsbury, William Cudworth and Son were declared bankrupt. It was noted there that William Cudworth had started his business in 1869 in partnership with Alfred Milner with a capital of £300-£400. In 1871, the partnership was dissolved and Cudworth set up in his own right again in 1872 before his involvement with Highfield Mill.6
Walter Walker and Sons, Woollen and Worsted Yarn Spinners and Dyers were next to occupy Highfield Mill in 1897.7 Walter Walker and Sons Ltd. registered as a limited company in 1897 with a capital sum of £30,000 in £10 shares operating a business as yarn spinners and dyers at Watergate, Dewsbury and as Walter Walker and Son Ltd., worsted manufacturers at Highgate Mill, Ossett trading as the Highgate Mill Company.8 The business seems to have continued until at least the early 1970s with power looms much in evidence. Eventually, the firm became carpet yarn manufacturers and amalgamated with Carpet Traders Ltd., based in Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury who themselves are still producing carpet yarn under the control of an Irish company as the Riverside Spinning Company.9
Highfield Mill has now been demolished and housing has been built on the site of the mill buildings.
1. 1881 Valuation List
2. "Ossett Observer", 15th December 1883
3. "Ossett Observer", 26th July 1884
4. "Ossett Observer", 9th August 1884
5. "Ossett Observer", 13th September 1884
6. "Ossett Observer", 25th October 1884
7. 1889 Rate Valuation List
8. "Ossett Observer", 6th February 1897
9. Notes by the late Neil Abbott on Ossett's Industrial Buildings and the Mungo & Shoddy Trade.
Hope Mill/Ginns Mill
The mill was built between 1819 and 1823 by Joseph Brooke who was the first owner-occupier. Brooke produced worsted woollen cloth at the new three-storey mill, which we can speculate was first called Brooke's Mill. Around 1830, Brooke died and his wife Jane Brooke carried on the business in her won right until 1832 when the mill was put up for sale. The ownership us unclear at this stage and it may be that the mill was tenanted by Joseph Rhodes, but Mrs. Brooke retained full ownership.
By 1843, the mill had been sold to corn miller Joseph Ginn, who in the 1841 census was aged 51 years and living in Low Common, Ossett with his family. Ginn operated a steam-powered corn milling business from the mill and the first O.S. Maps from the 1850s name the mill as Ginn's Mill. By 1850, the mill was for sale in the local press:
"TO BE SOLD BY PRIVATE CONTRACT, all that capital steam mill, now used as a corn mill, with the messuage or dwelling-house, outbuildings and close of grass adjoining, all which premises are situate at Ossett Common, near Wakefield, and contain an area of 2 acres, 2 roods, and 2 perches or thereabouts, and are now in the occupation of Mr. Joseph Ginn, corn miller. The premises are freehold and are well supplied with water. The mill is in excellent repair and is fitted up with every requisite for a complete corn mill, and may at trivial expense, be converted into a woollen or worsted mill."
Joseph Gomersal, a maltster from the Spen Valley area bought the mill in 1850 and continued to run the business as a corn mill until 1865. Both Ginn and Gomersal may have sub-let the premises or used contractors at the corn mill and in 1856 Edward Walshaw was running the corn mill. The 1861 census records Edward Whitaker, corn miller, living adjacent to the Fleece Hotel and two doors away is James Fryer, also a corn miller, but employing three men, one of whom may have been Whitaker.
Horbury-born cloth manufacturers Henry Giggle and William Brook with George Teal, a wool sorter from Bradford purchased Ginn's Mill in December 1865. The new owners changed the use of the mill to a flock manufactory, which previously had been Giggle's trade. Henry Giggle had dissolved a business partnership with John Leech Barber in May 1865 19 and previously the two of them had been trading as a Giggle & Barber, Flock Manufacturers in nearby Horbury
By 1872, the mill was again offered for sale in the local press together with two houses then occupied by Henry Giggle and George Teal, whose occupation is now given as a painter. In addition the sale included a 1200 square yard area of "garden land", occupied by John Fletcher, which was probably a smallholding, fronting the main road at Spring End a few hundred yards from the mill.
A fire damaged the mill in May 1887 and William Brook’s subsequent planning application for two rag machine rooms was approved by the Ossett Local Board of Health. In November 1887, wool extractor William Brook was declared bankrupt and it was noted at the subsequent creditors’ meeting that he had been in business for twenty-five years and that he had been insolvent in 1876. Perhaps this was why he was not named in the sale particulars in 1874?
By 1889 Albert Metcalfe and Co. occupied the mill as tenants of the Wakefield and Barnsley Bank and were operating a reclaimed wool business. In December 1905 an action was brought by Messrs Bentley Bros. of Hope Mill, mungo manufacturers, at the Leeds Assizes against Messrs. Metcalfe & Co. also mungo manufacturers of the same address. Bentleys were seeking to recover £202 compensation from Metcalfe which they (Bentleys) had paid to the widow of their employee, John Henry Dews,who had been killed at the Mill on 1st April 1905. Dews had been killed by the bursting of a drum in an engine (used to power the rag machine) that was known to be faulty and had a tendency to “run away” (i.e. speed up and shake uncontrollably). Bentleys rented a room, a rag machine and power from Metcalfe. Bentleys claimed that they were entitled to rely on their tenancy agreement that the engine was safe and that any maintenance was Metcalfe’s responsibility so consequently, it was they who should also be responsible for widow Dews’ compensation. In the event, the Court found in favour of Bentley.
The report also tells us that Metcalfe and Co. were themselves renting the mill from the Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank on a ten-year lease from October 1902 at £100 per annum. Bentley took out a lease from Metcalfe in the same month. The engine had been installed in July 1902. The head of Messrs. Metcalfe and Co. was Mr Albert Metcalfe and he stated that the firm had taken possession of the mill in 1888.
In May 1907 the mill was offered for sale by auction by the United Counties Bank by which time Metcalfe and Co. were paying a rent of £105 per annum. By 1910 Albert Metcalfe is recorded as the owner and occupier of the mill and this remained the case through to 1921 when the Poor Rate Valuation List still records Metcalfe and Co Ltd as owners and occupiers.
Ings Mill located in Dale Street was built in the second half of the 19th century, probably around 1870 for the Ossett Mitchell family, later there were early 20th century structural alterations. In 1881, the failure of the woollen cloth making business, operated by Seth Mitchell, at Ings Mill was reported in the local press.1 In December 1881, the situation was made worse when fifty or sixty power loom weavers at Ings Mill went out on strike because of a reduction in their wages.2 However, a week later the dispute was settled when the weavers returned to work.3
The mill was occupied in 1882 by J.J. Mitchell and in the same year, Mitchell & Co., Ings Mill, Ossett were fined for employing three women who worked through their dinner hour against the regulations laid down in the Factories Act.4 Ings Mill was extended in 1887 with new buildings and J.J. Mitchell also took over Healey Old Mills.5 Mitchell & Co. were still in business in 1901 and were listed as woollen cloth manufacturers.6
1. "Ossett Observer", 22nd October 1881
2. "Ossett Observer", 31st December 1881
3. "Ossett Observer", 7th January 1882
4. "Ossett Observer", 11th February 1882 and 11th March 1882
5. "Wakefield Express", 24th December 1887
6. "Kelly's Directory", 1901
Jagger's Mill see Perseverance Mill
Langley's Mill see Dale Street Mills
Manor Mill was owned by partners David Pickard and Mark Wilby, both Ossett men. The mill was built in 1854 and was used for rag grinding and scribbling employing at one stage 210 people. When David Pickard died suddenly in July 1882 aged 52, without making a will, Mark Wilby carried on the business alone and later with Pickard's brother Andrew. David Pickard was the brother of Andrew and Hannah Pickard of “Green Mount”, The Green, Ossett. In the 1881 census Mark Wilby is listed as a Woollen Cloth Manufacturer employing 40 people.
It was noted in the local press1 that in 1870, there was a fire in a drying chamber above the boilers of Pickard and Wilby's Manor Mill which did £70 of damage.
In 1883, after Andrew Pickard had taken on his late brother's role of the joint management with Mark Wilby at Manor Mill, Ossett and another textile mill at Horbury Bridge, the 67 workers at Manor Mill were each given a Christmas present amounting to £1 for each year's service. In total about £500 was distributed to the grateful staff at manor Mill and Thomas Hetherington, who had the longest period of unbroken service for the company received £25, quite a significant sum in those days.2 Clearly, Manor Mill was a good place to work and in 1889 it was reported that the weavers at the mill, now owned by Mark Wilby were "very throng".3
In 1895, Manor Mill was purchased by the firm of Tennant and Rodley, cloth manufacturers, Leeds. The premises were subsequently extended with additional facilities for dyeing cloth built at the mill.4 In 1898, Tennant and Rodley Ltd. became a limited company and registered with a capital of £15,000 in £10 shares to take over the firm of Joseph Tennant and John Rodley, Manor Mills, Ossett.5 The business at Manor Mills was described as Tennant and Rodley Ltd., worsted and woollen manufacturers, dyers and finishers.6
Above: Manor Mill in the 1970s when in the ownership of Windsor & Firth.
In the early 1970s Manor Mill was under the ownership of Windsor & Firth Ltd., but was severely vandalised on the 29th March 1971 before being demolished on the 8th February 1975.
1. "Ossett Observer", 23rd April 1870
2. "Ossett Observer", 29th December 1883
3. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 16th August 1889
4. "Ossett Observer", 16th November 1895
5. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 9th December 1898
6. "Ossett Observer", 10th December 1898
Middle Hill Mill
This was a very small concern, lasting only a few years, probably located in the Westfield area of Ossett and operated by James Wilson who was also involved with the joint ownership of Northfield Mill as J and J Wilson.1
1. "Ossett Observer", 24th August 1872
Prior to 1939, Hepworth Brothers Ltd., rag merchants and shoddy manufacturers occupied the Kingsway end of Moorcroft Mills. The principal of the business was Halifax-born Bernard Hepworth assisted by his three sons. It was their intention to to extend the mill premises right through to the Church Street entrance, which had just been completed and they were ultimately successful in doing so. The idea was to take raw materials such as wool waste in at the Kingsway entrance and then process it into cloth in the mill fronting the Church Street entrance.
Above: The Kingsway entrance to Hepworth Brothers, Moorcroft Mill in 1936.
At the beginning of of WW2, the UK government was looking for vacant premises to establish new armaments and aircraft factories and Moorcroft Mill was requisitioned from Hepworth Brothers. During the war, the mill was occupied by a firm called Rotol who manufactured the wings and propellers for aircraft.
Immediately after the war, Moorcroft Mills were occupied by Airmec, the export arm of the USA company Philco Radio and Television Corporation, who manufactured valve-powered domestic radio equipment at the site. Airmec ceased operations in Ossett in 1948 in view of the UK government controls on supplies of certain essential materials. Airmec (or Philco) believed that the non-radio activities would be the areas for growth in future.
Above: Hepworth Brothers wagon pictured in April 1938 with bales of rags ready for processing at the mill.
In the event, the Church Street end of the Moorcroft Mill was taken over by Jonas Woodhead and Son Ltd. from Leeds, who were coil spring manufacturers. The factory was divided into two parts and the Kingsway end of the site manufactured shock absorbers in conjunction with Monroe Shock Absorbers Co. based in the USA under the name of Woodhead-Monroe.1
At its peak, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Woodhead organisation was Ossett's biggest employer, with over 1,500 employees. The shock absorber business lasted until the early 1990s when the business was closed. The Church Street end of Moorcroft Mill was demolished and houses and apartments have been built on the site. The Kingsway end has been partially developed with housing, but some factory buildings still remain, but it is not known what their current usage is.
Above: The entrance to the Sorting Room at Moorcroft Mill from Church Street in 1941.
1. Notes by the late Neil Abbott on Ossett's Industrial Buildings and the Mungo & Shoddy Trade.
2. Pictures provided by Richard Hepworth, great-grandson of Bernard Hepworth.
Northfield Mill (1)
Northfield Mill, originally called Field Lane Mill, was built in 1850-1851 for John Wilson, an Ossett cloth manufacturer who died in 1851. The mill was then occupied by his sons, Joshua and James, who traded as J. & J. Wilson. The partnership between the brothers was dissolved in 1861 and Joshua took over the running of the mill, although the brothers remained joint owners of the premises. Joshua went bankrupt in 1869 and his new house, the mill and their contents were advertised for sale. In 1870 Joshua's brother, James, purchased the creditors' share in the mill and Joshua was discharged from bankruptcy.
Joshua moved to Leeds where he set up a new business with his sons. By 1885 he had taken over Bean Ing Mills and he was able to pay off the £6,000 he still owed his creditors. James remained in Ossett and ran the mill until his death in 1884.
Following James' death Northfield Mill was run by his son, Ellis Wilson. The firm suffered a setback in 1891 when a fire at the mill resulted in the loss of buildings and stock worth £1,500. The damage was only partially covered by insurance and in the following year the business was in financial difficulties, but Ellis Wilson was able to retain control of the mill. He retired from trade in 1896 and leased the mill to tenants. In 1910, when the mill was badly damaged by a fire, the tenant was J. Lomas Wylde, cloth manufacturer. Three years later the town council's building committee approved plans for the restoration of the mill drawn up on behalf of Glover and Ellis.
The mill was sited in what was in the 1850s Field Lane and is now Church Street. To its north, and separated from it by Crownlands Lane, was another mill also called Field Lane Mill and later Northfield Mill. This was an older mill and was built for John Speight in 1848-1849. It burnt down in 1853 and again in 1888. The stone mill building in Church Street dated 1888 and called Northfield Mill was rebuilt as a result of this fire.
Local rate valuations give some indication of the buildings making up the Wilsons' mill. The 1855 valuation, for example, refers to the mill, a 32 horsepower steam engine, two warehouses, a rag house and a cottage. The reference to a rag house shows that the Wilsons were making reclaimed wool, either shoddy or mungo.
The advertisement placed in the local newspaper in 1869 offering the property and its contents for sale mentions the mill, an office, a burling room, a tentering room, rag machine sheds and a reservoir. There were two steam engines of 16 horse power each and two boilers. Joshua Wilson's house had on its ground floor a kitchen and dining, drawing and breakfast rooms, while on the first floor were five lodging rooms. There was also cellaring and an out kitchen.
Northfield Mills (2)
John Speight and Sons, Northfield Mills were built by Speight's son-in-law, Abraham Pollard in 1888 after a disastrous fire gutted the previous mill buildings. Later it became Bickles Mill and the Bickles lived at Northfield House. Later still, the upper floor was used as offices by Woodhead Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The mill is now (2007) derelict and currently for sale with a likely destiny as a modern apartment block.
Above: Northfield Mill in the 1990s pictured from Northfield Avenue.
Three generations of the Bickle family were to follow the Speight family as owners of Northfield Mill, where they traded as shoddy and mungo manufacturers, whilst living at the adjacent Northfield House. Northfield Mill closed in the 1960s when much of Ossett's textile industry was coming to an end. The mill was purchased by the Woodhead Group, who occupied the adjacent Moorcroft Mill further along Church Street. The mill was used by Woodhead-Monroe partially as office space and partly as warehouse accommodation. With the closure of the Woodhead-Monroe, the mill has remained empty and has fallen into dereliction in recent years. Local builders Asquith's have recently purchased the mill building and it is likely to be converted into apartments if the housing market recovers.
1. Notes by the late Neil Abbott on Ossett's Industrial Buildings and the Mungo & Shoddy Trade.
Owl Lane Mill
This mill was built around 1830 on the site of the Rank, Hovis, MacDougal bakery on Owl Lane for John Rowley and first appeared in the 1830 Rate Book for Ossett with John Rowley as the owner and occupier. By 1837, the extensive mill premises consisted engine house, boiler house, spinning rooms, sorting room, warehouse, wash-house, combing shops, warping shop and a counting house.1 Further extension of Owl Lane Mill was carried out in 1849 when a large boiler was conveyed through Dewsbury drawn by 15 horses, intended for Messrs. Rowley of Ossett. The boiler, weighing more than 16 tons, was manufactured by Mr. Horsefield at the Vulcan Works in Leeds and was 30ft in length and 10ft in diameter.2 There was a little bit of trouble at the mill in early 1850 when George Bates, an overlooker at Owl Lane Mill was fined 5 shillings at Dewsbury Court House for striking a girl in the firm's employ.3
In early 1849, the firm was operating as Rowley & Sons, worsted manufacturers when one of the principals of the "extensive business at Ossett", William Rowley, who was the main company salesman, died in Keswick, Cumbria from cholera after a business trip to Glasgow. William Rowley had called his brother Joseph Rowley and his favourite nephew Edwin Rowley to his deathbed where he had made his last will and testament with them as executors and leaving the majority of his estate to Joseph and Edwin. A court case was brought in July 1850 by another brother, James Rowley who sought to overturn the terms of the will, but he was unsuccessful and it was deemed by the court that William Rowley's will was perfectly legal and that it should stand.4
Rowley and Sons seem to have suffered from the general depression in the textile business during the 1880s and in 1881 the Ossett Local Board were informed that the business was closing on the 15th October 1881 with the loss of all jobs.5 Two years later, the mill was still unoccupied.6 The Rowleys never returned to Owl Lane and eventually the mill building was demolished to be replaced in 1947 or 1948 with a new modern mill building constructed with brick for the Hepworth Brothers, who had been working Moorcroft Mill on Church Street until those premises were requisitioned by the Government for the production of aircraft parts during WW2. After WW2, the Hepworth Brothers decided not to return to Moorcroft Mill, but build what was probably the most modern textile mill in the UK. The firm were involved in all aspects of shoddy manufacturing such as carbonising, dyeing and the recycling of old woollen rags. A large mill dam was constructed to provide a good supply of water for the steam boilers and the dyehouse.
Above: Owl Lane Mill with ducks and geese around the mill dam in the 1950s
Sadly, tragedy was to play a part in the eventual demise of Hepworth Brothers as a business concern. By 1956, Bernard Hepworth who was the founder of the firm had retired and his three sons, Joseph, Ernest and Thomas Hepworth were now running the business. In November 1956, the eldest son, Joseph Hepworth had a serious accident in the dyehouse, which resulted in his death. Joe Hepworth had been a Japanse PoW during WW2 and arrived back in England from his ordeal in very poor shape. It took him several years to recover physically, but the mental scars never left him. It isn't clear whether the accident at Owl Lane Mill when he fell into a vat of boiling dye was related to his treatment at the hands of the Japanese. However, Joe Hepworth was the business brain of the company and his early death resulted in the break-up of the firm. The mill premises, which were very modern, were taken over by Moores bakery. After an extensive clean-up and re-modelling of the premises, production of "Moores Luxury Loaf" continued for many years. The premises are still owned by the Rank, Hovis MacDougal Group and at present the site is used to manufacture breadcrumbs.
1. "1837 Rate Evaluation", John Goodchild Collection at Wakefield Library.
2. "Leeds Intelligencer", 7th April 1849
3. "Leeds Mercury", 30th March 1850
4. "York Herald and General Advertiser", 27th July 1850
5. "Ossett Observer", 22nd October 1881
6. "Ossett Observer", 10th November 1883
The mill located on Dewsbury Road, Ossett was built originally by Joshua Swallow, probably in the 1860s or 1870s for the prime purpose of cloth finishing. By 1881 Paleside Mill had been converted for rag grinding and spare capacity with on-site dyeing facilities was being offered to let by Swallow.1 The mill was subsequently put up for sale in 1892, but was withdrawn from auction after not being sold.2 Another similar advertisement appeared in 1895 with the mill being offered for sale or to let.3 It is not known if the mill was sold in 1895, but by 1901 the buildings were occupied by Bickle Brothers, rag merchants and mungo manufacturers together with J & G Lawrence, mungo manufacturers.4
1. "Ossett Observer", 9th July 1881
2. "Ossett Observer", 19th March 1892
3. "Ossett Observer", 7th December 1895
4. "Kelly's Directory", 1901
Perseverance Mill, located on Dewsbury Road, Ossett was built in 1873-4 at a cost of £13,000 (including machinery) for the manufacture of mungo and woollen extract from rags. The founder of the business was Joseph Jaggar, an established rag, shoddy and mungo dealer who rapidly ran into debt in 18791 and who was forced to sell out in 1881. Jagger had total debts of £10,984 and assets of only £3,266 and by 1879, the mill was now valued at only £6,000.2 The mill comprised a storeyed office, warehouse and rag-sorting block, a single-storey rag grinding shed with attached engine house and boiler house, as well as a contemporary carbonizing shed.
In 1881, Perseverance Mill had been bought out by F.W. Reuss and Co., of Dewsbury, but the mill was occupied by several tenants including Henry Bickle. In 1886, a fire at the mill in the premises of Henry Bickle caused £150 of damage to the building and to some rag machines.3 Another fire at the mill in 1887 caused £400 of damage to rag grinding equipment owned by Mawson and Co., mungo manufacturers who rented part of the premises from F.W. Reuss and Co.4
The rag-grinding sheds at Perseverance Mill was a single-storeyed structure and originally had three north-facing saw-tooth roofs. Only the western ends of the two now survive. The shed has a single row of cast-iron columns along its centre, rather than two rows under the roof valleys. The shed was divided by brick walls into bays housing rag-grinding machines; this arrangement made the leasing of the mill on a room and power basis easy to effect. Attached to the south-east end of the sheds is a tall, narrow and long engine house. Its proportions, despite the absence signs of an entablature beam or beam floor, suggest that it housed a beam engine. The attached boiler house is wide enough to have taken two boilers on the ground floor with a drying floor over.
A two-storey office, warehouse and rag-sorting block to Perseverance Mill. Built in 1873-74, it runs back from the street frontage along the west side of the site. Along the front is a one-bay deep suite of offices with a five-bay deep warehouse behind; over both is a first-floor rag sorting room. The street elevation of this block is more elaborately treated than the others and has carved stone detailing to the doorway and flanking windows of the ground floor offices. The doorway itself is carved with the initials of Joseph Jaggar, the mill's builder, and the date 1873. The north-west wall of the whole block is blind, but the other walls have windows, that to the south-east also has a side door to the offices, and that to the north-west, central taking-in doors. The north-east wall is separated from the sheds by a roofed-over bay which enabled rags to be delivered to the building and to be moved between it and the sheds under cover. Internally the building has timber beams and joists, a central row of cast-iron columns on each floor, and a double-span roof with timber king-post trusses.
The now demolished dye-house as Perseverance Mill stood at the south-east end of the reservoir. By 1883 the site had four dyepans. A carbonizing shed at Perseverance Mill probably dates from early in the mill's life. Woollen extract, made at the mill when first founded, was the waste obtained by carbonizing rags with woollen weft and cotton warps, cotton being destroyed in a chemical solution and the rags afterwards dried. The shed was used for carbonizing rags for shoddy manufacture in the 20th century, with coke-fired retorts coupled to a cage. Acid in the retorts created gas in a sealed atmosphere. Ten-fifteen hundred weight of rags were revolved in a cage for two and a half to three hours in this acidic atmosphere, the cotton turning to dust which fell out of the cage and was sent to the Kent hop fields.
The mill was still owned and occupied by F.W. Reuss and Co. in 1910.5 The mill has had many owners and tenants over the years. From the early 1950s, the mill has been owned by J.M. Briggs, J.E. Glover and then Edward Clay and Sons. In 1972, the mill was purchased by Airsprung Beds Ltd. under the ownership of Edward Clay and Sons Ltd. to provide fillings for beds on behalf of the Airsprung Group. This carried on until 1999 when the firm, Flamatex Fillings Ltd. was closed down and production transferred to the Group HQ at Trowbridge in Wiltshire. Perseverance Mill is now owned and used again by Edward Clay and Sons for the manufacture of fillings for the bedding industry.
1. "Ossett Observer", 8th February 1879
2. "Ossett Observer", 8th March 1879
3. "Wakefield Express", 6th November 1886
4. "Wakefield Express", 5th March 1887
5. "Ossett Valuation Book, 1910", WYAS Wakefield
Pildacre Mill, one of the earliest textile mills built in the West Riding and was constructed between 1791-1793 for Benjamin Hallas, an Ossett cloth weaver and blanket maker. Hallas had the far-reaching idea of bringing all the aspects of cloth manufacture under one roof, that is the initial scouring of the dirty wool right through to the weaving and finishing of the final material. Benjamin Hallas was baptised in Elland in 1748 and his father and grandfather had been clothiers in Stainland near Halifax, but Hallas's mother was from Ossett and so Hallas moved to Ossett to set up business as a master clothier in the 1770s. His eldest son, Benjamin who would later run the business was educated at Ossett's Free School, which later became Ossett Grammar School. A Methodist, Hallas was one of the trustees of the Methodist chapel built in Ossett under a trust deed in 1781. In 1785, Hallas subscribed £50 for a share in the newly formed Ossett Mill Company, which had established Healey Old Mill so it is likely that his decision to establish Pildacre Mill after seeing the success of the joint enterprise at Healey.
So it was that in 1791, Hallas paid £800 for the 13 acre field in Ossett called Pildacre and then two months later a further £600 for land in the Top Field, Ossett, which would become the site of his new mill. The site for the mill, to the north-west of Ossett and close to the westerly blanket weaving district may well have been chosen to reflect Hallas's business interests. Money for the construction of the mill was raised by a variety of loans and by mortgaging the site at Pildacre to the executors of Katherine Nevile, of Cheviot Hall, Wakefield.
Cloth was dyed at Pildacre Mill as early as 1793 and in 1795 machinery at the mill included two 40-spindle jennies, a 26-spindle billey, a number of power looms, a carding engine and a scribbling machine. A new engine was bought for the mill in 1798 but also in 1798 Benjamin Hallas sold his interest at Pildacre Mill to his two eldest sons Benjamin II and William (who was still only 21) for the sum of £2,310, spread over a period of eight years.1
A very serious fire in 1814 burned Pildacre Mill to the ground at a total loss of over £10,000.2 The mill was subsequently rebuilt because the 1819 Rate Valuation lists the mill, dyehouse, shops, cottages, barn, garden, dam and fold owned and occupied by Benjamin II and William Hallas. However, by 1830, Benjamin Hallas II was bankrupt and his share of Pildacre Mill was assigned to Henry Simons of the Bowling Ironworks and Thomas Collett of Ossett, a machine maker, in trust for themselves and other creditors.
In 1831, William Hallas died and his share of Pildacre Mill was passed on to his two sons William II and Benjamin III. In the same year, the mill was auctioned for sale containing the fulling and scribbling fireproof mill, dryhouse, dyehouse, spinning shop, weaving shop and warehouses.3 Presumably there were no buyers because in 1832, the half share in the mill previously owned by Benjamin II was offered for again auction with the inclusion of barns, stables, cow houses, two dwelling houses and a gas house with gas apparatus.4 Evidently, the Hallas brothers produced their own coal gas for lighting the mill and probably the houses in a small gasworks located on site.
Above: An aerial view of the Pildacre Mill complex before demolition in 1970.
In 1835, William Hallas II was fined for employing children in the mill without a surgeon's certificate in breech of the 1833 Factory Act. In 1836, William II died and Benjamin II then ran the mill as Gartside, Humble and Co. in partnership with two relatives by marriage. In November1853, a year before the stone warehouse was built, the mill finally passed from the Hallas family when it was offered for auction5 as "a well-built fireproof mill, three storeys high, nine billeys, thirteen scribblers, nine carders, two rag machines, three pairs of mules, a 45 horse-power engine with two boilers, nearly new, dryhouse, warehouse, gas apparatus, five cottages, barn, outbuildings, six acres of grassland, two large reservoirs, the greatest part of the machinery nearly new and in first-rate condition." The mill was eventually sold to Richard Crawshaw of Dewsbury, a retired railway contractor, who subsequently let the mill to Anthony Garforth of Earlsheaton after advertising the tenancy of the mill in the local press. The mill was again offered for let in 1857 with machinery as recently occupied by Anthony Garforth and Sons.6 In 1861, the premises passed to Cooke, Son and Wormald, predecessors of Wormald and Walker Ltd. In the 1870s the mill was occupied by William Dews, woollen manufacturer on a yearly rental of £425 in 1894.
After the death of Thomas Crawshaw in 1894, who presumably inherited all or part of the mill from Richard Crawshaw, the mill was again put up for auction after an action brought in the Chancery Division of the High Court, Rhodes versus Crawshaw. The trustees named in the terms of Crawshaw's will were wanting to realise their inheritance and it appears that the Pildacre Mill Estate had to be sold to meet the conditions laid down in Crawshaw's will.7 The Pildacre Mill estate was described as land at Ossett and Soothill, amounting to 6 acres, 3 roods and 32 perches with two scribbling or fulling mills, engine house with a beam condensing steam engine with cylinder and Mather & Platt's piston with patent steam carb, boiler house with two boilers, dryhouse, loom shed, smith's shops, warehouse, office, cottage and stables. In the event there were no takers and in fact no bids at all.8
In 1895, after the mill had been unoccupied for some time, it was sold to A. Fitton and Sons, wool extractors, Batley.9 In 1897, the mill was taken over by James Fitton and Sons, mungo and shoddy manufacturers who came from Providence Mill, Bradford Road, Dewsbury. In 1900, Fitton and Sons became a branch of the Extract Wool and Merino Company Ltd, like some of the other mills in Ossett. Pildacre mill was owned by the Extract Wool and Merino Company until 1969 when the mill was bought by S. Lyles and Sons, carpet yarn spinners of Earlsheaton.
The red brick mill building which stood parallel to the road was demolished in 1970 and may have incorporated parts of Hallas's original mill since the cast ironwork in this structure dated back to the early 19th century.
1. "Wakefield District Heritage", Kate Taylor (1976), page 128-129
2. "Wakefield and Halifax Journal", 18th February 1814
3. "Wakefield and Halifax Journal", 18th February 1831
4. "Leeds Mercury", 28th April 1832
5. "Leeds Mercury", 25th June 1853
6. "Leeds Mercury", 26th September 1857
7. "Ossett Observer", 29th September 1894
8. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 5th October 1894
9. "Ossett Observer", 23rd November 1895
Located near the centre of Ossett, the first indication of the construction of a mill here was the sale of land in Little Town End, Ossett to Joseph Brook, mungo manufacturer in 1868.1 Construction started on the mill proper in 1869 and by 1876, the mill was in full operation because the owners, Joseph and Thomas Brook, extractors and rag grinders were summoned in the local court for allowing their mill chimney in Little Town End to send forth black smoke in such quantities that it caused a nuisance. In fact, there had been similar complaints in 1871 and 1872, suggesting that Providence Mill was fully operational as early as 1871.2
Above: The smoking mill chimney at Providence Mill circa 1901
The Brook brothers still ran Providence Mill in 1881 when a small fire caused £50 of damage.3 By 1892, the mill was being advertised for sale or to let in the local press4 and by 1901, the mill was being operated by R.P. Jaggar, rag merchant and mungo manuafcturer.5
1. West Riding Registry of Deeds, 612, Page 688
2. "Ossett Observer", 8th July 1876
3. "Ossett Observer", 22nd January 1881
4. "Ossett Observer", 26th February 1892
5. "Kelly's Directory", 1901
Royds Mill also known as Foster's Mill, the Cotton Mill and Side Mill
Royds Mill, previously known as Fosters Mill on Leeds Road was often described as a "the cotton mill" since, when it had opened in the 1820s, it had been used for cotton spinning and weaving, which was unusual for Ossett. In 1826, the mill was occupied by Robert Blakey and Son,1 and they had obviously recently had a steam engine installed because they were advertising for person, preferably a smith, who understood the firing and working of steam engines to look after a 36 horsepower engine made by the Low Moor Company of Bradford. Applications were to be made to Robert Blakey and Son, Streetside, Ossett.2 However, this must have been in vain because only five months later, Robert Blakey and Samuel Blakey of Ossett, cotton spinners and calico manufacturers were bankrupt.3 After the Blakeys went bankrupt, their stock and the mill was advertised for sale by auction where it was described as Three Horse Royds, five acres 3 roods and o perches with a house occupied by Samuel Blakey and a recently erected mill used for the spinning of cotton and power loom weaving. The mill was four storeys high, 72 yards by 15 yards with good attics. The engine house and boiler room with the 36 h.p. Low Moor Company steam engine had only been in use for two years. The machines in the mill were made by Baley & Co. Machinery and included fourteen throstles with 2,100 spindles, sixty power looms and eight mules with 2,704 spindles.4 By 1829/30 the owner and occupier of Royds Mill was William Hanson and Sons.5 However, the mill had been taken over in 1832 by Collett & Smith and they were still there in 1842.6
The partnership of William Hanson and Sons was dissolved in early 1832, which probably precipitated their sale of Royds Mill.7 In fact, Thomas Collett was a machine maker in Streetside, Ossett, but was also a partner in Collett & Smith, who continued to make cotton cloth at Royds Mill. Operation of the mill was disrupted in 1832 by a fire8 and then in 1833, the mill was completely destroyed by a more serious fire.9
In 1843 and 1844, the mill was empty, but was now owned by Joshua Whitaker, possibly the Ossett malster who built Croft House.10 An advertisement for the sale or let of the substantial mill on Ossett Street Side appeared in the local press and it appears that after the fire in 1833, the mill was completely rebuilt because it was no five storeys high and 26 yards long by 14½ yards wide. There was a wooleying house at one end with a chamber over together with a blacksmith's shop, 38 horsepower steam engine and two boilers, supplied with excellent water. There were also two houses next to the mill; one described as being suitable for a respectable family and the other suitable for the manager.11 The mill was sold to George Foster and he is noted as the owner and occupier in 1851 having bought the mill in 1845.12 In 1847, the company was listed as Foster and Co. scribbling and fulling millers so the usage of the mill had changed after the demise of the Collett & Smith business enterprise.13
In 1853,14 the ownership of the mill changed again and it was owned by Robert W. Simpson. However, by 1857 this had changed again and John Lee and Sons, who were blanket manufacturers had taken over the mill. The company were fined £3 plus expenses under the terms of the Factory Acts for not lime washing the mill walls. Also Lee, Scott and Fenton, Royds Mill, Ossett were fined £2 plus expenses for employing young persons without a surgeon's certificate.15 In March 1860, the mill was advertised in the "Leeds Mercury" for sale by private contract with a detailed description of the entire site and buildings:16
In December 1860, a fire attended by five fire engines caused considerable damage to a two-storey mill 40 yards long at the Royds Mill premises of Messrs. Lee, Scott & Fenton, the joint proprietors. The mill was completely gutted with the roof and floors falling in at the height of the blaze, destroying machinery and woollen material. The total loss was between £2,000 and £3,000 and was fully insured.17 In 1875, there was a strike of willeyers, fettlers and feeders at Royds Mill who wanted wages at the old rate, but with a small reduction in hours. In the event, Messrs. Lee made the desired concession and it was expected that other local mill owners would follow suit.18 However, by 1877, it was reported that the business of John Lee & Sons, blanket manufacturers, Ossett Streetside and Earslheaton had failed.19 In August 1878, there was an auction advertisement for the sale of the machinery and stock-in-trade of Royds Mill.20
By 1879, after John Lee's business failed, the mill was bought by George Hanson (1837 - 1893) and Henry Wormald, two local men from Gawthorpe. At some time after 1854, the name of the mill was changed to Royds Mill. However, some of George Hanson's ancestors had owned the mill a generation or two previously, presumably between 1829 - 1832, when the mill was owned by William Hanson & Sons. Hanson and Wormald had started their partnership in March, 1875 as rag and mungo merchants, first renting rag-pulling machinery at Greengates Mill, Chickenley Heath and then moving to Greaves Mill at Gawthorpe.
Above: Royds Mill, Leeds Road, Ossett in the 1950s
George Hanson was the senior partner with Henry Wormald in their business concern at Royds Mill, which they operated as woollen rag and mungo merchants, buying in huge stocks of rags. In 1881, they employed 25 men and 90 women as mungo manufacturers, letting part of their extensive premises to other manufacturers. In 1881, there was an advertisement to let at Royds Mill a detached mill or warehouse some 90ft square and three-storeys high with a dyehouse and a dryhouse plus crane.21 Like many of the other mills in Ossett, Royds Mill was troubled by fires and in October 1881, they experienced a fire on the premises, the first of several more to come.22 Royds Mill itself had been extended several times from a single mill building running parallel with Leeds Road before it was bought by Hanson and Wormald and they were granted planning permission in 1884 to build a new extract plant.23 There were still tenants at Royds Mill in 1884, despite Hanson & Wormald's burgeoning business and the failure of one of these tenants, Alfred Blakeley, cloth manufacturer of Chickenley Lane was noted in the local press.24
By 1887, there were three large mill buildings; two were four-storeys high and one three-storeys high with additional offices, stables, dye-house and an engine house complete with a 300 horse-power, steam-powered, condensing beam engine and two Cornish boilers with a dry-house over the top of them.
Disaster struck on September 6th 1887 when fire broke out during the night in a rag warehouse at the mill. This was at a time when they had a higher stock of rags than ever before, having availed themselves of recent price fluctuations in the market to buy heavily. The bales of rags were piled up from floor to ceiling on the first and second floors in two of the large mill buildings and in all there were hundreds of tons of rags in the mill buildings.
Sadly, because of the prevailing drought in the summer of 1887, the water supply to Gawthorpe was turned off overnight. For over an hour, there was no water for the high-pressure hosepipes and the fire very quickly took hold, completely destroying Royds Mill. It was said at the time to have been the most extensive and rapidly destructive fire ever to have taken place in Ossett within living memory. The fire caused £30,000 to £40,000 of damage if the losses of the other occupants of Royds Mill; Mr Joseph Briggs and Messrs. Briggs and Waterhouse, cloth manufacturers were also taken into account.
Above: The burned out remains of Royds Mill in 1887 as depicted in Cockburn's Ossett Almanac.
About 170 workers were made redundant overnight because of the fire. Part of the gutted building fell into Leeds Road causing it to be closed to traffic and the embers of the building burned for days. However, almost immediately, Hanson and Wormald resumed operations at nearby Greaves Mill, which had been unoccupied fro some time.25
By August 1888, Royds Mill had been rebuilt with one storey sheds replacing the previous four-storey buildings, despite only being insured for about half of their considerable £26,000 loss as a result of the fire. A new horizontal 350 horse power steam engine christened "Queen & Empress" was also commissioned during the rebuilding of the mill.26 By 1893, all the tenants had left the Royds Mill site and it was occupied solely by Hanson & Wormald.27 They were listed in the trade directories of the time as "Hanson & Wormald, rag and mungo merchants, Royds Mill.28
Both George Hanson and Henry Wormald were involved in public life and became Mayors of Ossett. Sadly, George Hanson died at the early age of 55 from a bout of pneumonia during his term of office as Ossett's mayor. He was staying at Southport over the Easter holiday in 1893 in an attempt to recuperate from his illness when he succumbed and died. Hanson, a lifelong teetotaller and stalwart of the Zion Congregational Church in Gawthorpe, was also an ex-Chairman of Ossett's Local Board, and was a very popular and well-liked man. He was afforded a public funeral at Holy Trinity Church, Ossett where he was buried with many tributes to his contribution to public life. The "Ossett Observer" said of him in 1889 " Of him it may be said that Gawthorpe never furnished a member more attentive to its particular interests, or one who took a wider and more intelligent view of local matters generally."
Henry Wormald J.P. (1837 - 1901) lost his wife Sarah Ann in October 1891 and sadly the couple had no children, so, after the death of George Hanson in 1893, Wormald enthusiastically put his heart and soul into running the business at Royds Mill and he also decided to take part in public life by getting involved with local politics. In 1900, Wormald and Ellen Hanson converted the mungo and rag business at Royds Mill into a (private) limited liability company with £20,000 in £10 shares to carry on the business of manufacturers of and contractors for and dealers in mungo, shoddy, wool, woollens and rags of every description.29
A native of Gawthorpe, as a young man, Henry Wormald was a piecener at Royds Mill, when it was a blanket factory and he was subsequently employed in the mungo trade in Ossett and Morley before going into partnership with Hanson. Wormald succeeded George Hanson as councillor for the North Ward in Ossett, being re-elected several times without opposition. He became mayor of Ossett in 1899 and had a reputation for working hard on behalf of the Borough and for his native Gawthorpe. A staunch Congregationalist at the Zion Church in Gawthorpe, Wormald was also president of the North Ward Liberal Club. Wormald had been ill for some time and died on the 16th July 1901. He was buried in the family vault at Holy Trinity Church, Ossett with his wife.
1. "1826 Rate Book", WYAS Wakefield
2. "Leeds Mercury", 28th January 1826
3. "London Gazette", 17th June 1826
4. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal", 25th May 1827
5. "1829 and 1830 Rate Books", WYAS Wakefield
6. "1832 and 1842 Rate Books", WYAS Wakefield
7. "Leeds Mercury", 18th February 1832
8. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal", 5th October 1832
9. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal", 12th July 1833
10. "1843 & 1844 Rate Books", WYAS Wakefield
11. "Leeds Mercury", 28th October 1843
12. "1851 Rate Book", John Goodchild Collection
13. "Whites Directory 1847"
14. "1853 Rate Book", WYAS Wakefield
15. "Leeds Mercury", 23rd July 1857
16. "Leeds Mercury" 8th March 1860
17. "Leeds Mercury", 20th December 1860
18. "Ossett Observer", 24th July 1875
19. "Ossett Observer", 26th May 1877
20. "Ossett Observer", 17th August 1878
21. "Ossett Observer", 1st January 1881
22. "Ossett Observer", 29th October 1881
23. "Ossett Observer", 23rd February 1884
24. "Ossett Observer", 16th August 1884
25. "Ossett Observer" and "Wakefield Express", 10th September 1887
26. "Ossett Observer", 25th August 1888
27. "Ossett Observer", 15th April 1893
28. "Peel's Directory", 1897
29. "Wakefield Express", 8th September 1900
Runtlings Mill was purpose built for shoddy production in 1907 for Arthur Townsend, in red brick, with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. There were seven bays of rag grinding sheds with an engine house, boiler house and a square sectioned chimney. The mill was powered by tandem compound horizontal steam engine christened "Rhoda" built by Marsden's Engines of Heckmondwike, which was installed on the 13th April 1908. This steam engine was rescued in 2007 when the mill was being demolished and is now located at the Markham Grange Steam Museum near Doncaster where it was fully restored.
By 1920, the mill was operating as A & W Townend Ltd. and was also processing rags for mungo production as well as shoddy. In 1928, the mill was bought by Henry Edward Briggs of J.M. Briggs and Sons, who also bought Queen Street Mills from the liquidators at around the same time to be used as a rag warehouse serving Runtlings Mill. J.M. Briggs and Sons was originally founded in Ossett in 1880 by Mr. J.H. and Mr. Sam Briggs, sons of James Mark Briggs, who was a hand-loom weaver based at West Wells in Ossett. The business was moved to Northfield Mill, Church Street, Ossett in 1900. Mr. Sam Briggs retired in 1912 and when Mr. J.H. Briggs died in 1915, the business was carried on by his two sons.2
Above: Plan of Runtlings Mill, Ossett showing the main buildings clustered around a central courtyard. The mill was built in 1907 and demolished to make way for the Calder View housing development in 2007.
The mill worked day and night during WW2, employing 40 men of which 8 worked in the dyehouse. An electricity generator was installed in 1955 and the business continued until Briggs retired in 1976. The mill became the business premises of Oakliffe Engineering, manufacturers of industrial cleaning and washing systems. Runtlings Mill was briefly listed from July 2004 to December 2004. However, in 2007, the mill was demolished and the Calder View housing development was built on the old mill site.1
2. "Ossett Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Handbook - 60 Years" published in 1950
The last of three cloth manufacturing mills to be built in Ossett Spa was Spa Mill, which was built circa 1854 for Priestley and Sussman. Unusually for Ossett, which was predominantly involved with the manufacture of woollen cloth, Spa Mill with the associated dyeworks was purpose-built for the manufacture of cotton cloth.
In May 1854, a local press report tells of an inquest held at the nearby Fleece Inn after the unfortunate death of two workmen who had been killed during the construction of Spa Mill when an archway leading to the cellars had collapsed and crushed them to death. A verdict of accidental death was returned by the coroner.
At around the same time that Spa Mill was being built, James Marchent, iron founder and machine maker of Cole, Marchent & Co, Prospect Foundry, Bowling, Bradford was acquiring land on the south side of Ossett Spa. Marchent was to play an important role in the development of Ossett Spa in future years. Marchent was born in Leeds in 1794 and in 1857 dissolved his partnership in Cole, Marchent & Co, although the company continued to trade with the same name. Marchent began his acquisition of land and assets in the mid-1850s and had bought Spring End Mill, formerly Emmerson's MIll (detailed above) in about 1855 as well as more land at Ossett Spa.
Almost immediately after Spa Mill and Dyehouse had been built, it was put up for sale by the owners and a notice appeared in the local press in January 1855:
"SPA MILLS AT OSSETT, NEAR WAKEFIELD - TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, by Mr. Thornton at the house of Mr. John Berry, Hare and Hounds Inn, at Ossett, in the county of York on Thursday, February 1st 1855, at five o'clock in the evening.
All that newly erected MILL, situate and being at Ossett Common, in the county of York, with the Engine House, Boiler House, Warehouse, Counting House, Stables, Coach House, and spacious Yard within the premises. Also, that newly erected DYEHOUSE conveniently situated near the Mill. The whole of the premises with the open yard and vacant ground attached comprises one acre or thereabouts. The length of the Mill is 174ft and the breadth 110ft and the length of the dyehouse is 90ft and the breadth is 45ft. The whole of the premises have been recently erected in a most substantial manner for manufacturing or dyeing purposes; are well suited to worsted manufacturers; and no cost has been spared to make them convenient for the purposes required. The premises are at a convenient distance from the important manufacturing towns of Leeds, Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield and Wakefield and are about one mile from the Railway Station at Horbury Bridge. The property is in the centre of a large coal district.
To view the premises, application may be made to Mr. Goldsmith, at the Spa Baths, near to the premises and further particulars, or to treat by private application may be made to Mr. Radcliffe, Architect, Huddersfield; the Auctioneer; or at the offices of Mr. Barker, Solicitor, Huddersfield, where a plan of the estate may be seen.
Huddersfield, January 9th 1855."
James Marchent bought Spa Mill and the Dye House, which fronted Spa Street after this auction and between 1855 and 1860, Marchent had a huge property and land portfolio at Ossett Spa with his ownership of Spring End Mill, Spa Mill and the Dyeworks. What his intention was is not clear. He may have intended to run the mills as a going concern, alternatively, he may have been a speculator with an eye on a quick profit.
In the event, on the 8th December 1860, Marchent sold a large area of land at Ossett Spa, Spring End Mill, Spa Mill and the Dyehouse to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company. It was noted in the conveyance that Spring End Mill had been in the tenure of Abraham Riley and David Lucas; the three-acre smallholding attached to Spring End Mill and fronting the Ossett to Horbury road was in the tenure of Reuben Dews (and previously Benjamin Fothergill).
The Lancashire and Yorkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company Ltd. made their intention clear in this 1860 public notice.
"THE LANCASHIRE AND YORKSHIRE COTTON MANUFACTURING COMPANY - Limited, Capital £100,000, in 10,000 shares of £10 each. This company is formed to carry on the business of cotton spinning and manufacturing in all its departments.
The premises intended to be purchased by this Company are situate about half a mile from Horbury and about the same distance from Ossett in Yorkshire, have been built expressly for the spinning of cotton and compromise two new and one old mill, with three boilers, three engines, shafting warehouses, offices and every convenience. The whole of these premises compromise (including the site of the said buildings) about 5½ acres of land, full of excellent clay for the purpose of brick-making, free from any chief rent, land or other tax, except about £1 6s 8d per year, are within about a mile from Horbury Station, and situate in a neighbourhood where coals are cheap, and within a few hundred yards of these mills, and where labour is plentiful
The profits of the concern will, it is presumed, be on average of 25 to 30 per cent. The Executive Committee will compromise practical workmen, well versed in each department, so as to ensure the most economical working of the concern.
Applications for shares may be made to, and further information obtained from, Mr. William Hoyle, grocer, New Church-road; Mr. William Tagg, draper, Rochdale-road, Bacup; or of Mr. James Raby, inn-keeper, Peel's Hotel, Bury, Lancashire; or of Mr. William Sykes, manufacturer, Church-street; Mr. Richard Greenwood, agent, Flatts, Dewsbury; Mrs. Richardson, inn-keeper, Horbury; or of Mr. James Stephenson, Temperance Hotel, Broad-street, Halifax, Yorkshire."
However, it seems that despite a relatively prosperous period for some of Ossett's mills and manufacturers in the 1860s, the cotton manufacturing venture at Ossett Spa was to fail. Trade Directories from the 1860s show that Edward Dews and Richard Holford were occupying Spa Mill as tenants by 1866, which suggests that the Lancashire & Yorkshire Cotton Manufacturing Co. Ltd only reigned for five or six years at Spa Mill and maybe a year longer at Spring End Mill before failing.
James Marchent died at his home in Bishopthorpe Terrace, York on August 30th 1863 aged 69, leaving a wife and four children. Marchent was an important player in the history of Ossett Spa and he clearly worked hard to acquire the mills and the land there over a five year period prior to 1860. His motive for this massive investment in Ossett isn't clear. He had a successful seven-year business career with Cole, Marchent & Co., which he founded with John Cole in 1848. John Cole Sr. also died in (April) 1863, but the company continued as mill engine makers and general engineers at Prospect Foundry, Bowling, Bradford well into the 20th century.
In 1871, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Cotton Company sold the freehold of Spring End Mill (across the road from Spa Mill) together with 3 acres and 9 perches of land to Henry Oakes. Also, in 1871, after the failure of John Robinson, worsted manufacturer (who was renting part of Spa Mill as well as Spring End Mill), all the mill machinery associated with woollen worsted cloth manufacture at Spa Mill was offered for sale. There was also a second sale of Robinson's mill machinery, the latter occasion was the result of Robinson's lease running out.
Edward Dews and Richard Holford purchased Spa Mill in 1872 and on the 22nd February 1872, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Cotton and Mining Co. Ltd. (and John Cole junior of Cole, Marchent and Co.) entered into a deed with Edward Dews and Holford whereby they acquired Ossett Spa Mill plus land and the buildings associated with the business. Dews' business at Ossett Spa mill survived, but business partner Richard Holford is not mentioned in records and by 1880, Edward Dews alone was listed in the Ossett Valuation list as the mill's owner. Similarly, the 1881 Kelly's Directory records only Edward Dews, Yarn Manufacturer, Spa Mill, Ossett.
Dews was sub-letting some of the buildings at Spa Mill by 1875 to Thomas Robb, a flock manufacturer and Spa Mill suffered a very lucky escape in 1875:
Fire at Ossett
"On Monday afternoon a fire broke out in two sheds adjoining Mr. E. Dews's Spa Mill, Ossett, and burnt for several hours before it was extinguished. The fire was caused, it is thought, by some hard substance accidentally being amongst some material which was in the act of being ground into flocks in a machine rented and worked by Mr. Thomas Robb, a Scotchman (sic), in one of the sheds. A pipe conveyed the ground flocks and dust into a wooden shed, and thus both sheds were set on fire. Had the wind not changed suddenly from west to east, the whole mill, a large one, would have been in flames in a short time. The buzzer of a neighbouring mill gave the alarm, and many persons assembled at the Spa Mill to render assistance. There was plenty of water at hand, and no fire-engines were sent for. The wood shed and its contents were completely destroyed. The brick shed was much injured, and altogether the damage reached £90 to £100. It is understood that Mr. Robb's loss is covered by insurance."
Dews suffered another setback in 1887 when his mill was deliberately put out of action for several days:
"OUTRAGE AT OSSETT - Early on Monday morning some evil-disposed person or persons tapped a large steam boiler at Mr. Edward Dews's worsted spinning factory, The Spa, Ossett. About one a.m. the engine-man, who lives close by, got up and went outdoors in consequence of hearing a noise and found the boiler empty. A large key which had been used was also carried some distance away. The other boiler at the mill was not in use at the time, as it was about to be replaced by a new one, and the consequence of this malicious act is to stop the mill for a week."
The 1889 Valuation List for Ossett Township records Edward Dews alone as the owner and occupier of Spa Woollen Mill, but also names Thomas Robb as the owner/occupier of adjacent rag grinding premises (most probably in wooden sheds in the grounds of Spa Mill) and Benjamin Crowther as the owner/occupier of the dyehouse immediately adjacent to Spa Mill. In 1889 it was reported that Edward Dews was about to hand over the business to his eldest son Ezra Dews, who was already by now managing the mill and living in the cottage which was on the Spa Mill site, set back a little from the Ossett to Horbury road.
Ezra Dews and subsequently another son, Frederick Dews became more involved in the family business at Spa Mill after the death of their father Edward Dews at the age of 68 years at his home, Whinfield House, Ossett Spa on the 26th June 1890. This was to be a bad decade for the Dews family and Ezra Dews died, aged 51, on the 1st of June 1896 after losing his wife Emma, aged 48 in 1892. Frederick Dews, who had some experience as a dyer now took over the running of Spa Mill after the death of his brother Ezra Dews. Sadly, Frederick Dews was to die at the early age of 44 in early 1898. Both Ezra and Frederick Dews had been owners of the nearby Fleece Inn and Frederick was the licensee as late as 1889 before they were involved in the management of Spa Mill.
The deaths, all within eight years of Edward Dews and his two sons Ezra and Frederick, was a substantial setback to the remaining members of the Dews family. In the event, none of the remaining members of the Dews family had the ability or perhaps the inclination to take on the running of Spa Mill. The youngest son Edward junior set up a drapers shop in Kirkgate, Wakefield with money given to him by his father, but had been declared bankrupt with liabilities of £500 in 1888 after just one year in business. Not surprisingly, the remaining members of the Dews family sought to sell Spa Mill with the manager's house and garden plus about two acres of land in July 1900, but bidding only reached £800 (about £45,000 in today's prices) and consequently, the auctioneer was unable to achieve the reserve price.
Later in 1890, another auction was held on the instructions of Edward Dews' executors to sell off the mill machinery at Spa Mill. Having failed to sell the mill earlier in the year as a going concern, the executors took the alternative of breaking it up to realise the value. The second auction was held on the 26th September 1900 and all of the mill machinery plus some 8,000 lbs of wool and waste were sold.
In October 1900, Spa mill now devoid of mill machinery was signed over to the Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank by Harriet Dews and commercial traveller, Thomas Marshall. In 1901, the Ossett Valuation List records the bank as owners of an unoccupied worsted mill. Jessop Brook is shown as the owner/occupier of a shoddy mill, which was probably the adjacent dyehouse or sheds.
On the 17th March 1904, Spa Mill was sold to Elijah Tate, Theodore Medhurst and Annie Potts, all of Liverpool. Edward Simpson, soap manufacturer of Walton Hall, Wakefield provided the mortgage funds for the purchase. By 1905, Potts and Medhurst had sold their shares in Spa Mill to Elijah Tate, rag merchant with mortgage finance for the purchase this time provided by Mr. F.H. Oates. In 1910, the Inland Revenue Valuation records Jessop Brothers as occupiers of a mill and Eli Tate as the owner of a flock mill on Ossett Spa. Later in 1915, the Ossett Valuation List records Fawcett and Co. as occupiers of Spa Mill and Elijah Tate as the owner of "Extract Works."
In 1916, Elijah Tate, formerly of Ossett and now of Harrogate, Gentleman sells his ownership of Spa Mill to Herbert Squires and Henry Arthur Fawcett "Wool Merino Extractors carrying on business at Ossett Spa in the style of Fawcett and Co." The land and property sold by Tate to Fawcett and Co. comprised 1926 square yards of land with Spa Street frontage plus two cottages (formerly one larger house), outbuildings, conveniences, a warehouse and sheds. In addition, the sale included Spa Mill, a dwelling house and three cottages with outbuildings, conveniences and other buildings. The total area of land was about 2 acres and is shown on the drawing below. Jessop Brothers are shown as owner/occupiers of a similar facility elsewhere in Ossett Spa, most probably the dyehouse next to Spa Mill.
By October 1929, Fawcett and Co. Ltd, who had incorporated in April 1921 as a limited company, were in severe financial difficulties. This was as a result of the Great Depression of 1929-32, which broke out at a time when the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was still far from having recovered from the effects of the First World War. The firm defaulted on the payment of a debenture and were effectively bankrupt and so the banks foreclosed and called in the Official Receiver in the form of one Gordon Ball who put Spa Mill and the associated buildings and land up for sale in 1930. The sale was split into Lots 1, 2 and 3 as can be seen from the drawing above. In the event all three lots were sold for just £600, which was £200 less than the best offer made and rejected in 1904 and equivalent to about £20,000 today. The buyer was fellmonger Joseph Illingworth of Springbank House, Ossett who would be associated for this part of Ossett Spa for the next 70 years or so.
Illingworth immediately sold the bungalow and 1,250 square yards of land to Harry Smith, who had been renting the bungalow previously. The sale price of the bungalow and land was just £280 so in less than a year, Joseph Illingworth had already recouped almost half of the purchase price of the Spa Mill estate. The bungalow, now a two-storey house is still standing in 2010 and was recently offered for sale at £425,000. In August 2010, the house (currently owned by Fred Burrows) was subject to a police investigation when it was discovered that the house, on the market for sale, but being rented out pending a sale, was being used by Vietnamese tenants illegally for the growing of cannabis.
In 1933, Spa Mill was disused as can be seen on the 1933 O.S. map of Ossett Spa Mills further up this page and in 1949, Frank Chambler and ice cream merchant, who lived on Spa Street, bought Spa Mill for £200. Between 1951 and 1953, Chambler sold the mill and land to Fred Douglas, a miner, also of Spa Street. It is likely that Chambler and Douglas had already demolished Spa Mill during the period of their respective ownerships. Finally, in 1967, John and Joan Miriam Myers buy the Mill site and move from Royds Villas in Gawthorpe to live in one of the cottages on Spa Lane. John Myers is currently (2010) living in a detached bungalow off Spa Lane, built circa 1987, on the site of the former mill.
Note: This information about Spa Mill is duplicated in the Ossett Spa section of this website where there is a a full list of references. My thanks to Alan Howe for his original research on the history of Spa Mill, which this piece is based upon.
This rag warehouse was built in 1864-5 as a combined dwelling and warehouse, the latter for rag storage and grading. One of a number of such rag warehouses in Ossett serving local recovered wool, and especially mungo manufactures. The work of a rag merchant involved sorting, seaming, ripping, cutting and packing of rags, and these processes were usually arranged within the warehouse in a sequence, starting on the top floor and working down. The site also includes a stable built in the last quarter of the 19th century. The firm of Spedding Oddy had occupied the site since the 1930s and continued in business until recent years. The site is now Dearden Gallery, which is used by a company called Visual Retailing.
Spring Mill was located in the area off Queen's Drive, Ossett and where the golf course is now. There are relics of the mill and the mill dam in the area, which is now a local beauty spot. In 1848, the site of the mill, formerly the property of the late Richard Raywood was sold to Ossett clothier and farmer Mark Stephenson.1 In 1853, there was a fire at a workshop belonging to Mark Stephenson, Ossett manufacturer where the entire building with looms and a quantity of cloth was destroyed. The total loss was £700, which was not insured.2 The 1856 Rate Book reveals that Stephenson's mill had a 20 horsepower steam engine.3 In 1861, the partnership at Spring Mill between M. Stephenson, G. Stephenson and E. Stephenson was dissolved.4
By 1861 Mark Stephenson was farming 150 acres at Owlers Farm, Flushdyke, but not all went well and following his death in 1867, his son, Charles, took action in 1874 against Mark’s executors including Ephraim Hall whose family, controversially, worked the farm for a few years in the late 1860s/early 1870s.Unfortunately, due to a heavy failure of the cloth trade in 1874, Hall & Stephenson, woollen cloth manufacturers at Spring Mill, Ossett filed for bankruptcy with liabilities of about £18,000. The failure of the business caused a large number of workers at the mill to be made redundant.5 Things were made worse when a fire at the mill in 1876 caused considerable damage. However, by now, the mill was no longer owned by Hall and Stephenson, but by Ossett dyer William Gartside who presumably bought the mill in 1874 after the liquidation of the previous business at Spring Mill.6 Just before the death of Gartside, Spring Mill, consisting a 20 h.p. steam engine and two boilers with spinning and carding machinery plus looms was advertised for sale or to let in October 1876.7 In 1877, the mill was leased by Gartside's trustees to William Archer of Ossett, manufacturer and Henry Ritchie of Coleman Street, London for three years at a rent of £350 per year. At this time there were twenty power looms in the weaving shed.8 The lease was not renewed by Archer and in 1880, Spring Mill was once again advertised for let, being described as a mill and shed, five condenser sets with mules, twenty broadlooms, five cottages and ten acres of land.9 In fact the mill was leased by Gartside's trustees to Oliver Nettleton, manufacturer of Ossett for a period of ten years at an annual rental of £300.10
Above: Spring Mill in a state of dereliction before it was demolished in the 1970s. Picture by Kevin Stephenson.
By 1890, the mill had changed hands again and belonged to C.T. Phillips & Son who suffered a mill fire in the rag grinding department of what was called Spring Mill, Flushdyke and this is assumed to be the same mill as described previously.11 In 1891, C.T. Phillips and Son were reported as having fitted a Grinnell sprinkler at their mill at Flushdyke.12 If the mill owned by the Phillips family is the same Spring Mill as Oliver Nettleton had leased, it appears that by 1897 and some considerable time after Oliver Nettleton had died in 1892, a schedule of machinery at the Spring Mill site was drawn up by his executors.13 The Nettleton family leased the mil until 1897 as Oliver Nettleton & Son, but in 1897 there was an advertisement to let the main mill, which was described as consisting three storeys and an attic, 72ft by 43ft with a weaving shed 90ft by 42ft plus stores with a pattern weaving room over. There were warping, twisting, willeying and finishing sheds, a steam engine, five condenser sets, six self-acting mules, twenty power looms, six cottages, several closes of land, Whitley Spring Wood and Beck Ing and a reservoir totalling in all 10 acres, 1 rood and 3 perches.14 A month later, there was another advertisement for an auction at Spring Mill of the manufacturer's stock of wool, shoddy, mungo, bobbins and baskets after the decline of the business of Oliver Nettleton & Son.15
The mill was leased again in 1898 from William Gartside's trustees to John Lodge.16 There was a fire at Spring Mill in 1899, then occupied by John Lodge and Sons, woollen manufacturers. The main mill building consisted three storeys and an attic, containing scribbling, spinning and milling machinery with an engine room at one end of the building. The weaving sheds were detached from the main building, which was gutted by the fire and the engine house also damaged badly. Total losses were between £5,000 and £6,000 and it was noted that none of the workers at the mill were in the Textile Union.17 The "Ossett Observer" noted in their report of the fire that the main building was built from brick, with three storeys and an attic, eight windows long and three windows wide with an engine house at one end. The building was erected in 1848 by Mark Stephenson, woollen manufacturer and for many years occupied by the late O. Nettleton with the weaving shed and other buildings added after 1848. The owners in 1899 were the trustees of William Gartside and the occupiers were John Lodge and Son, cloth manufacturers, who removed to it about eighteen months earlier from Leeds. The ground floor was used for milling, the second floor for scribbling and the top floor and attic for spinning. About forty workers were previously employed and were now all out of work.18 John Lodge seems to have decided to move on from Spring Mill because it was again advertised for let in November 1901.19
Above: Spring Mill and Dam before demolition circa 1960s. Picture is courtesy Stuart Ibbotson and the Ossett Through The Ages Facebook group.
1. "Particulars and Conditions of Sale, Gartside Manuscripts", from the John Goodchild Collection, Wakefield
2. "Leeds Mercury", 26th February 1853
3. "1856 Rate Book", John Goodchild Collection, Wakefield
4. "Daily News", 7th August 1861 and "Bradford Observer", 15th August 1861
5. "Wakefield Express", 21st February 1876
6 "Ossett Observer", 26th August 1876.
7. "Ossett Observer", 7th October 1876
8. "Gartside Manuscripts", John Goodchild Collection, Wakefield
9. "Ossett Observer", 2nd October 1880
10. "Gartside Manuscripts", John Goodchild Collection, Wakefield
11. "Ossett Observer", 13th December 1890
12. "Ossett Observer", 12th December 1891
13. "Gartside Manuscripts", John Goodchild Collection, Wakefield
14. "Ossett Observer", 29th May 1897
15. "Ossett Observer", 12th June 1897
16. "Gartside Manuscripts", John Goodchild Collection, Wakefield
17. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 16th September 1899
18. "Ossett Observer", 16th September 1899
19. "Ossett Observer", 23rd November 1901
Spring End Mill
The earliest recorded scribbling mill in Ossett and one of the earliest in the West Riding of Yorkshire was built in the Spring End area of Ossett Spa in about 1780 by Ossett master hand loom weaver, John Emmerson and his partner Joshua Thornes, an Ossett worsted cloth manufacturer. By 1782, the partnership of the mill was extended to include James Mitchell and John Oakes, both Ossett master clothiers.
Mitchell, Oakes and Emmerson are listed in the Ossett Rate Books as tenants of the mill and Emmerson also owned the surrounding land as well as the site of the mill itself. Thornes was never a tenant of the mill and it is likely that he was just an cash investor in the mill enterprise, which was leading edge technology at the time. Joseph Thornes died in October 1838 aged 85 years and his shares in the mill were sold.
The mill is described in the 1813 Ossett Inclosure Order as Emmerson's Mill but was more commonly known as Spring End Mill and then later as Spring Field Mills (bottom right on the map below) and cost £343 17s 8d to build, it is thought in 1779 or 1780. The partners each managed the mill one year at a time:
1781-82 - James Mitchell
1782-83 - John Oakes
1783-84 - James Mitchell
1784-85 - John Emmerson
The partners were probably more skilled at producing cloth than they were at keeping financial accounts and disaster struck in 1785 when John Oakes was declared bankrupt with total liabilities of £127 5s 10d. A Wakefield solicitor had to be employed by the partners at Spring End Mill to convert their crude financial records into an appropriate business accounting system. These records show that five shillings a year was paid for rent for the use of the mill goit that was built to turn the water wheel, which powered the early mill machinery. John Emmerson received £25 per annum for the rental of the mill premises.
Spring End Mill did well with a income of £63 18s 2d in the year up to August 1784. This was made up from £7 16s 6d earned from willeying and a healthy £55 17s 8d from scribbling, of which 25% was work done for external customers and the rest on behalf of the individual partners. Compared to the original £343 cost for the building the mill, it can be seen that an income of £64 a year was a significant return on investment. However, outgoing costs were £72 14s 0d in the same period in 1784, and would have been for the purchase of oil, candles, resin and coals for the mill as well as for staff wages. However, the partners should have been able to make a reasonable profit after the sale of the cloth, which had been processed in the mill, was added to their income stream. In 1786, the water course was widened, giving a better flow of water, then the willeying machine was repaired and recovered in cards, which resulted in increased income of £14 7s 3d for willeying operations.
In 1791, another mill was built at Spring End, just across the Horbury boundary, whose main purpose was the fulling of cloth, as opposed to scribbling and willeying at Emmerson's mill just across the boundary in Ossett. The main problem was that the water course, which powered Spring End Mill was not potent enough to power both mils, which were almost geographically adjacent. The amount of fall (land gradient) between the two mills was very small and so the water course for both the water wheels was really not adequate, particularly in times of drought.
Always forward thinking, Emmerson and his partners commissioned a new steam engine and this was installed in 1797, solving the problem of a sustainable power source for Spring End Mill. In addition, they also started fulling cloth at the mill in direct competition with the new upstart mill over the Horbury boundary.
In March 1798, David Emmerson (probably a close relative) of John Emmerson) agreed to sell his share in the "Spring End Mill Fire Engine and all its Appurtances" to another Ossett clothier, David Dews for the sum of £200. In the following year (1799), Dews was one of six Ossett clothiers who formed a partnership with John Emmerson and agreed to work "all that large building or scribbling mill called Spring End Mill", near Ossett Common, with "the dam, goit, watercourses" and some 3.75 acres of nearby land, which was occupied by the partners. Use of the steam engine to power the fulling stocks and mill machinery was included plus the use of a drying house as well. However, the steam engine and machinery were owned by the co-partners rather than Emmerson who was the landlord. Shares in the partnership were in sixteenth parts, but with most partners holding two shares each, i.e. one eighth share. The agreement was for a period of eighteen years and the partners paid an annual rental of £95-10s-0d to John Emmerson. In December 1800, a one sixteenth share was sold to the trustees of Miss Frances Eastwood of Horbury, for £150 with one of the trustees being James Eastwood who owned the competing mill over the border in the town of Horbury.
John Emmerson, a yeoman, was most likely born in Wakefield in 1751 and married first Grace Mitchell in 1771 and then his second wife, Sarah Wood at St Peter's Church in Horbury on the 5th July 1804. In 1813 as part of the Ossett Inclosure Act, Emmerson was awarded the land in the Ossett Common area and also the site of the mill dam, which encroached into the Manorial Estate of Wakefield.
By 1821, Spring End Mill was being worked by Benjamin Emmerson and Co. Benjamin was presumably one of John Emmerson's sons, but the relationship has not been proven yet. After John Emmerson's death (date unknown), his executors let the buildings at Spring End Mill to Wheatley, Overend and Collett, who in 1834 employed 22 males, 17 males and probably several others as well. Of these employees, nineteen were under the age of sixteen years.
An 1837 rating valuation describes the "mill with engine house, willeying rooms, drying house, etc." and suggests some extensions were taking place "the newer part not being finished, is not valued." For a time in the 1840s, the mill stood empty, but was occupied again in 1847 as a scribbling and fulling mill after being bought by Thomas Phillips. After Phillips' death in 1851, Spring End Mill and three acres of land was again offered for sale. Later on in 1856, the mill became the subject of a Chancery Court action between Messrs. Butterworth and Riley and as a consequence was offered for sale in with four other lots, which included the nearby Fleece Hotel and five acres of land, all the mill machinery and a two acre plot of land at Little Bircher Hill Royd, Ossett.21 The mill was described in the advertisement as:
"A stone and brick-built mill, covered with grey slate, partly two storeys, partly three storeys high with engine-house, boiler house, warehouses adjoining, known by the name of 'Spring-End Mill', situate at Spring-end in Ossett aforesaid, with an excellent condensing steam engine of 30 horse-power, boiler of 40 horse-power, shafting, going gear, steam pipes, gasometer and fittings in and about the premises."
At this stage, the mill may have been bought by James Marchent, who definitely had ownership of Spring End Mill in the mid 1850s. Earlier, in May and June 1856 22 & 23 machinery at Spring End Mill was offered for sale after the bankruptcy of one of the tenants. By 1861, the mill now manufactured cotton cloth having been bought by the Bacup-based and snappily named "Lancashire and Yorkshire Cotton Manufacturing and Mining Company." The original partners of this new venture were all Bacup men, with the exception of David Lee, a manufacturer based at nearby Earlsheaton. The company was registered in 1860 and formed for the "spinning, weaving and manufacturing for sale, raw cotton, silk and yarn", in this case at Ossett Spa, but with business interests elsewhere. In addition, the company was to "establish a gasworks to light local mills and would acquire and work coal or other mines." The company was still working Spring End Mill in 1867 and the new owners had added another new twenty-five horse-power steam engine in 1860.
By January 1869, the mill was let to John Robinson as a worsted spinning mill. Robinson had earlier had been the principal at Silcoates Mill in Wakefield. He gave up the tenancy in June 1871 and the mill was sold to Henry Oakes, a worsted spinner who had earlier been in partnership at Flanshaw Mill in Wakefield. Oakes' machinery at the mill was advertised for sale in January 188224 and the next occupier, Albert Mitchell (as M. Mitchell and Sons, mungo merchants) went bankrupt during the great depression in 1884. His machinery was advertised for sale in March 1884.25 A longish period of disuse seems likely before the mill was acquired in the 1890s by Jessop Brothers, who were involved in the manufacture of mungo from rags. By 1900, Jessop Brothers joined the new Extract Wool and Merino Co. Ltd. and in later trade directories Spring End Mill was referred to as Springfield Mill.
One yet unexplained reference to Spring End Mill is a it being called "Black Engine Mill" in the "Ossett Observer" In 1883.26 As yet, the reason for this curious name has not been discovered. The mill was extended significantly in the 20th century with the addition of sheds and is still in existence today as part of a thriving industrial estate. Springfield Mill now has a shop fitting company, an electrical retailer, a tropical aquatics shop, an alternate medicine shop, a carpet fitter, a commercial printer and for the more adventurous an adult "sauna". I suspect that the original partners would be surprised at the sheer diversity of businesses on offer at Spring End Mill in 2010.
Storrs Hill Mill also known as Brigg's Mill
Briggs Mill appears in land tax returns from 1826, but its first appearance in the Ossett Rate Book is in 1836 when it was occupied by G., J. and J. Briggs.1 The mill was situated very close to the Weavers Inn on Storrs Hill Road and was a much smaller operation than Victoria Mill on the other side of the road almost opposite. According to Whites Directory of 1838, the mill was then occupied by George Pawson and Company, cloth millers, but the same directory gives George, Joseph and John Briggs as woollen manufacturers in South Ossett. It is possible that the mill premises were shared at this time.2 The mill continued in the ownership of the Briggs family throughout the 19th and early 20th century at least. The 1870 rate assessment shows ownership and occupation divided between George Briggs and Sons and Edmund Briggs and Brothers.3 In Match 1882, the partnership of Edmund Briggs, Mark Briggs and William Briggs, trading as Briggs Brothers, cloth manufacturers at Storrs Hill Mill was dissolved.4
In July 1884, after Edmund Briggs became bankrupt, there was an auction at the Bank Chambers in Batley of various sundry items from the mill, including eight Pearson & Spurr tappet looms, a Bywater beaming & warping machine, an Avery weighing machine and weights, shuttles, gears, tools, desk, stool and a quantity of wool.5 In 1889, Briggs and Company was wound up so that one of the partners could be paid off and the firm then resumed under its old name.6 Robb & Mitchell of Ossett fitted Brigg's Mill with electric light in 1900.7 In 1915, the mill was owned and occupied by George Briggs and Sons.8 The mill was still shown on the 1972/75 1:10,500 OS Map.
1. "Land Tax Return, 1826" and "1836 Ossett Rate Book", WYAS Wakefield
2. "White's Directory, 1838" and "1838 Ossett Rate Book", WYAS, Wakefield
3. "1870 Rate Assessment", John Goodchild Collection, Wakefield
4. "London Gazette", 24th March 1882
5. "Leeds Mercury", 26th July 1884
6. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 19th July 1889 and 27th July 1889
7. "Yorkshire Factory Times", 26th January 1900
8. "1915 Valuation List of the Parish of Ossett", WYAS, Wakefield
Textile mill built in the second half of the 19th century off Field Lane or Church Street. Owned in 1913 by Mr. F.L. Fothergill.
Construction of Victoria Mill started in 1851 at a total cost of about £50,000. In 1855, the first power looms to be used in Ossett were installed by the Ellis Brothers, the then owners of the mill.1 By 1859, part of the Ellis Brothers partnership was dissolved when Joseph Ellis left the business of John Ellis and Brothers of Ossett, cloth manufacturers.2 Two endorsements for some of the machinery in use at Victoria Mill give us a clue to the type of operation, which was clearly state-of-the-art at the time. The mill had a J.L. Norton's drying, stretching and tentering machine, 3 and also Green's improved fuel economiser, which the Ellis Brothers reckoned saved them between 30 and 35% in coal.4 In 1863 a shed was built at the mill to house an additional 120 power looms.10 In the same year, Benjamin Simpson, a cloth manufacturer and an Ossett resident, but with a mill in Mirfield and a warehouse in Leeds, successfully sued the Ellis Brothers for £45 15s 6d for damaging some cloth that was being finished for him at Victoria Mill.5
Above: Victoria Mills, Ossett in the 1950s. Ossett Grammar School, previously Park House, the home of Philip Ellis is shown on the top right. Picture courtesy of Neville Ashby.
In many ways, the history of the Ellis Brothers and Victoria Mill is a classic story of Victorian boom and bust. The firm consisted John, Philip and Eli Ellis, the latter two being the mainstays of the business with John Ellis for a long time playing no active part. John Ellis, then of Storrs Hill House died in 1889.7 The brothers made a small fortune during the prosperous 1860s and 1870s by manufacturing cloth for army, navy and police uniforms. Apparently, Ellis Brothers enjoyed the highest repute as manufacturers of blue cloth for navy uniforms and had the monopoly status for this kind of business in the West Riding. Victoria Mills was very well equipped with modern machinery and was the most extensive mill of its kind in the district. As a result, business boomed. In addition, a large proportion of small cloth manufacturers in Ossett and district had their cloth finished at Victoria Mill with considerable trade being done in this branch of the Ellis's business. However, no cloth dyeing was carried out at the mill and this was done instead at Gartside's Dyeworks at nearby Healey.
Ellis Brothers not only used the many power looms at the mill for weaving cloth, but employed 300 external hand-loom weavers as well who were paid good wages for working from home. Victoria Mill had reservoirs, a gas works for gas lighting and heating, plus smiths and joiners shops. Many local people in South Ossett worked at Victoria Mill and soon a miniature town with numerous private houses and shops all belonging to Ellis Brothers began to be built in the near vicinity of the mill.10 During the 1860s, at the height of their business success, Ellis Brothers regularly advertised for power loom weavers.6
Business was exceptionally good until the death of Philip Ellis in 1877, shortly after he had built Park House, next to Victoria Mills, at a cost of £20,000.8 At this point events were to conspire against the remaining Ellis Brothers. There was now greatly increased competition in the market and the virtual monopoly position they once enjoyed was gone forever. The company had a huge stock of raw material, which as a result of a downturn in business was greatly depreciated in value. William Gartside, who did much of the cloth dyeing for Ellis Brothers also died shortly after Philip Ellis and Gartside's executors called in a debt of £40,000 to be paid in cash, owed by the Ellis Brothers. In addition, bad debts lost the business another £20,000. These were huge sums in those days and the business was forced to provide their bankers, the West Riding Bank with security for the loans they provided to keep the business running. The entire estate of Victoria Mills including Park House and Storrs Hill House, but excluding the mill itself were handed over to the bank as security. The houses were let to tenants and the mill was mortgaged to Eli Ellis's brother-in-law Charles Dixon of Bruntcliffe Lodge, Morley for £12,000, but six years of accumulated arrears brought the sum up to £15,000.9
Eli Ellis was left to run the business single-handed in the face of increasing competition, domestic affliction and personal ill-health10 and he himself died in April 1894 leaving two sons and two daughters.11 The business had truly gone from boom to bust and for several years Victoria Mill lay empty and unused after Charles Dixon, who also owned Low Moor Mill at Morley as well as Victoria Mill died in June 1897.12 The plant in the mill including 101 power looms was sold off to brokers and in addition a small colliery in the mill yard which had provided coal for the gas plant at the mill was also sold.13 By 1901, the mill was occupied by Thomas Robb & Sons, flock manufacturers.14 In 1905, fire destroyed a three-storey building at Victoria Mills, which was 30 yards long and 12 yards wide, occupied by Woodhead & Son, leather curriers who employed 16 hands. This building was just a few yards from another building that was burned down in early 1905 and owned by Bennett & Fothergill.15
Above: J.F. Burrows, Victoria Mills, Ossett wagons. Picture courtesy of Neville Ashby.
By 1912, Victoria Mill was partly occupied by tenants and partly empty. There was a fire in a four-storey building some 40 yards long, which was occupied by E. Cookson & Co. and Arthur Priestley, who was about to move elsewhere. Both firms were engaged in the rag business. Priestley estimated damage at £1,000 and Cookson and Co. at £4,000 - £5,000 putting 40 to 50 rag sorters out of work. The damage to the mill, which was now owned by Mrs. Sarah Dixon of Morley was estimated at several thousand pounds.16
Later Victoria Mills came under the ownership of J.F. Burrows and then carpet makers Burmatex, who have recently sold the site for housing.
Above: Victoria Mill in the 1950s with female staff leaving for home after a hard day's work. Picture courtesy of Neville Ashby.
1. "Ossett Observer", 13th August 1904
2. "Morning Chronicle", 14th September 1859
3. "Huddersfield Chronicle", 21st June 1862
4. "Huddersfield Chronicle", 14th October 1862
5. "Leeds Mercury", 14th March 1863
6. "Leeds Mercury", 27th February 1864
7. "Ossett Observer", 4th January 1890
8. "Ossett Observer", 4th February 1893
9. "Ossett Observer", 11th February 1893
10. "Ossett Observer", 25th March 1893
11. "Ossett Observer", 28th April 1894
12. "Ossett Observer", 3rd July 1897
13. "Ossett Observer", 5th November 1898
14. "Kelly's Directory", 1901
15. "Ossett Observer", 9th December 1905
16. "Ossett Observer", 29th June 1912
Westfield Mill, Wesley Street was originally built by John Westerman in the 1850s, and was run by the Westerman family until the 1890s. Westerman had built a rag warehouse also in Wesley Street before starting construction of Westfield Mill. About 1850, Westerman also built Westfield House (now 33 Wesley Street) almost opposite Westfield Mill. In the 1851 census Westerman is described as a master clothier and rag dealer, employing 24 men and 30 women. Westerman's rag warehouse was located adjacent to this house and was demolished about 1975.
Jonas Glover, born in Gildersome, Leeds in 1859 bought the mill with his partner Edwin Fearnside in 1894 after they outgrew their old premises at Canal Mill, Armley. The partnership was dissolved in 1900 and Glover continued on successfully at Westfield Mill, extending the premises as the business of manufacturing woollen cloth continued to grow. Jonas Glover died in 1913 whilst living in Harrogate, but the business was carried on for some time afterwards by his family.
In 1939, the mill had stood empty for several years, but during WW2, Westfield Mill became a billet for the army and the site also included a radio school for the Royal Corps of Signals and may thousands of army personnel were stationed at Ossett during the war years giving the town a strong military presence. When the army vacated Westfield Mill, it was again left empty for a while before Readicut International trading as Velmar Printed Fabrics took over the premises. When the iconic Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, located nearby on the other side of Wesley Street was demolished in 1961, the rubble was used to fill in the mill dam of Westfield Mill. When Readicut finally closed the Velmar operation, the mill was demolished in 1983.
Above: Westfield Mill in 1928 with Wesley Street and Pildacre in the background.
After demolition, the land that the mill stood on was sold and used for new housing. The Millfields housing estate now stands where Westfield Mill used to be and no trace of the old building is evident.
Whitley Spring Mill also known as Union Mill and Flushdyke Mill
The mill dates back to the early part of the 19th century when it was owned and occupied by the Union Mill Company1, and a steam engine was installed there as early as 1815.2 In 1819, Union Mill was advertised in an auction where it was described as a newly erected scribbling, carding, spinning and fulling mill located on Ossett Streetside contiguous to the turnpike road. The mill had a 34 horse power steam engine and the buildings were three storeys high, stone built, 34 yards long and 12 yards wide. The machinery inventory included three 60 inch scribblers, three 54 inch scribblers, six 37 inch scribblers, nine carders, nine billeys with fifty spindles on each machine, four woollies, six fulling stocks, four fullers, two pushes, two large dye pans. There was also a fireproof drying house 20 yards long and 6 yards wide adjacent to the mill, which was constructed from brick with a slated iron roof. Also included in the sale were two cottages, a close of land and a reservoir. At the time of the auction David Oakes was agent at the mill.3
Above: Whitley Spring Mills in 1928
The mill, which was now called Whitley Spring Mill was again up for auction in 1827 after the failure of Wentworth, Chaloner and Co. who presumably bought the mill in 1819. The auction lists two mills with a steam engine and two closes of land amounting to seven acres, 2 roods and 33 perches.4 At this stage, it seems likely that Thomas Rishforth and his son, also Thomas, bought into the business and kept it alive for another two years.5 However, by 1829, the mill was once again up for sale following the bankruptcy of Wentworth, Chaloner, Rishworth and Co. at Whitley Spring Mill.6 Four year later, things had not yet been resolved properly and following the bankruptcy of Godfrey Wentworth, Robert Chaloner, Thomas Rishworth and Thomas Rishworth the younger, a meeting of creditors was called to seek means of compelling the purchaser of Whitley Spring Mills to complete the purchase of the mill.7 The eventual purchaser was Jeremiah Carter and it was noted that later in 1837 he was the owner and occupier of Whitley Spring Mill.8
Carter seems to have made a success of running the mill, but in 1842, the business was again up for auction where Whitley Spring mill was described as a carding, scribbling and fulling mill available at a rental of £600 per annum. The mill was 54 yards long by 13½ yards wide with a 32 horse-power steam engine. There were wool chambers, weaving, raising and packing shops attached and an excellent piece drying house together with a wool dyeing house with iron floor, a separate dyeing house and a counting house plus a house and garden. It was noted that "excellent business had been carried on there for several years by Mr Carter".9
In 1851, the mill was occupied by Thomas Tolson, but was still owned by Jeremiah Carter.10 The mill had acquired its own gas works by 1880,11 when it was once again up for sale by private contract with the machinery, which consisted scribbling and carding machines, spinning machines and 23 broad carpet looms with Jacquard machines and coverlet looms all for sale by auction.12 In 1881, Ossett industrialist Henry Bickle purchased Whitley Spring Mill, which previously had been a carpet manufactory for many years under the ownership of the late Thomas Tolson and Sons.13 A new steam engine was installed and started running in March 1883 when it was noted that the old engine had been operational since June 1815.14 Henry Bickle sold the carpet making machinery in 1884 and the auction included two pairs of mules, 408 spindles, 40 box and Jacquard looms.15
In 1897, the mill was occupied by Richard Wright Thompson of Mallin House, Queen Street, Ossett, (Mallin House is now occupied by R.N. Sanford, Dentists) but he was killed by an express train at Flushdyke Station in April 1897.16 In the late 19th century, Whitley Spring Mill was owned and operated by C. T. Phillips and Son, the mill carried on in production after the death of Charles Thornes Phillips, aged 82 in 1918, and his son Thomas Wilby Phillips, aged 50, in 1915.
1. "1819 Ossett Rate Evaluation", John Goodchild Collection
2. "Ossett Observer", 17th March 1883
3. "Wakefield and Halifax Journal", 28th May 1819
4. "Wakefield and Halifax Journal", 4th May 1827
5. "1829 Rate Book", WYAS, Wakefield
6. "Wakefield and Halifax Journal", 17th July 1829
7. "Wakefield and Halifax Journal", 12th July 1833
8. "1837 Rate Evaluation", John Goodchild Collection
9. "Wakefield Journal", 15th July 1842
10. "1851 Rate Book", John Goodchild Collection
11. "Ossett Observer", 24th April 1880
12. "Wakefield Express", 12th June 1880
13. "Ossett Observer", 19th March 1881
14. "Ossett Observer", 17th March 1883
15. "Ossett Observer", 17th October 1883
16. "Ossett Observer", 1st May 1897
This series of notes about Ossett's textile mills is partly adapted from work carried out by the late Neil Abbott, whose widow kindly allowed access to his written notes. Some more information was presented previously in the "Ossett Healey" and "Ossett Spa" pages here on this website, but the vast majority of information presented here is from a series of notes kindly provided by Ossett historian, David Scriven. David provided many of the references and has researched the history of the town of Ossett at great length. My thanks to him for his kindness in allowing me to use some of his excellent work and to share it here.
Mungo & Shoddy
The grinding of old woollen clothing has been carried out for many years in the West Riding of Yorkshire. From the late 18th century it was known as "rag wool" and was used as the filling for horse saddles, bedding and furniture.
In 1813, it was reported that a man from Batley, Benjamin Law, had produced a material from old, discarded woollen clothing, which local woollen manufacturers found they could card and spin into a woollen cloth. This discovery revolutionised the cloth weaving trade and by mixing these recovered fibres with ordinary woollen cloth, a cheaper material was produced that was affordable to all classes of people. These recovered fibres from woollen rags were to be known as mungo and shoddy.
Shoddy was the recovered material obtained from shredding old woollen knitted clothes such as cardigans and sweaters, which produced a lofty, threaded material with good length.
Mungo was quite different material being a compact, short and very fine fibre produced by shredding old felt hats, worsted suits or any woollen material that was fine and had short fibres.
Forgeries by an Ossett Manufacturer:
William Glover, 49, woollen manufacturer pleaded guilty to three charges of forgery and uttering bills of exchange at Ossett. Mr. Tindal Atkinson, addressing the court in mitigation of sentence said the prisoner had shown his contrition, so far as lay in his power, by surrendering himself to the police and pleading guilty to the charges preferred against him.
The prisoner had carried on business for 25 years in Ossett and he (Mr. Atkinson) was instructed that during that period he had earned the respect of all persons who had business transactions with him. For some time he was connected with a Penny Bank and in his dealings with the bank he had always proved honest and trustworthy. The prisoner had a wife and eight children dependent upon him.
A memorial headed by the vicar and signed by 54 inhabitants of Ossett, who had known him a number of years, bore testimony to his previous good character. His Lordship (Mr. Justice Grove), in passing sentence said there were distinct charges of forgery relating to sums amounting altogether to £600. It was impossible to treat a case of that sort other than severely. He was willing to take into consideration what had been said in the prisoner's favour, although there was not much to be said in mitigation of the offence; other than that his character had previously been good. Forgery, however, was far too serious a matter in a mercantile community to be passed over lightly, and he could not pass a sentence less than 12 months imprisonment.
"Huddersfield Daily Chronicle", Wednesday January 16th 1878.
For more information on William Glover see Dale Street Mills.
October 22th 1888 - Fire at Northfield Mill:£15,000 damage No little excitement was caused in Ossett and district on Monday last by the occurrence of an extensive fire at Northfield Mill, Church Street, the property of Abraham Pollard (Messrs. John Speight and Sons, mungo manufacturers), the destruction being such as to rival in rapidity and completeness, if not in extent, that which took place at Gawthorpe some thirteen months ago (Royds Mill). The fire originated in the main building, which was of stone, some fifteen windows long and five wide, comprising three storeys and and an attic. The ground floor contained two rag grinding rooms with eight machines, also a stock room; the second storey was used partly for rag sorting and partly for warehousing; and the third storey and attic were filled with a very large and valuable stock of woollen rags, chiefly of the more expensive kinds, such as are used in the production of high-class mungo. The engine house adjoined the main building at the south-west corner, and it seems that the engine was started as usual by the man in charge (G. Newsome, an old servant of the company) about 6 o'clock. It had been running nearly an hour when the "neck" of the main shaft of the driving gear, near the flywheel became badly heated by friction, and set fire to a wooden partition. The latter, being saturated with oil, quickly burst into flame. A workman in the grinding room at that corner of the building, named Thomas Illingworth, gave the alarm. Recourse was made to a powerful steam pump or fire-engine, fixed in the mill yard near the engine house, in readiness for such a contingency. Had this been capable of immediate use, as expected, there is little doubt that the progress of the fire would soon have been stayed, as by its means a powerful jet or jets, drawn from the dam, could have been thrown completely over the mill if necessary. Most unfortunately, however, this was not the case. The water in the dam seems to have got too low, in spite of instructions to keep it adequately supplied from the town's mains; and the consequence was that, when it was attempted to start the pump, the suction pipe was choked with sludge. Precious time was spent in striving to overcome the difficulty, and probably the failure had a somewhat disconcerting effect upon the work people and other willing helpers. Meanwhile, however, other hose-pipes had been brought from Temperance Mill and Mr. Ellis Wilson's. Four were affixed to two hydrants in the street, and several jets of water were directed into the lower storey. A small amount of stock was also got out. Unfortunately, one hydrant was was soon disabled by pulling a hose-pipe, which was rather too short; and the other, rather strange to say, was afterwards broken by a passing wagon. Water was still procurable from a fire-plug in the yard in front of the mill, but all this time the flames had been gaining ground. A mounted messenger had been despatched for the Victoria Mills (Messrs. Ellis Bros.) fire brigade, who received the call at about 25 minutes to eight, and turned out at once with their manual engine, under the command of their captain (Mr. J. E. Wilby). The brigade covered the intervening distance of a mile as quickly as a pair of horses would take them, but when they arrived on the scene, the main building was obviously doomed to destruction. They, however, got their engines at work by the side of the dam, and devoted their energies mainly to preventing the spread of flames to other adjacent buildings, notably a new engine-house. The fire burnt with with intense fury, and within an hour of the outbreak, floor after floor fell through, followed by the roof, hundreds of tons of rags dropping in a huge pile to the bottom. Then the wall at one end fell with a crash into the dam, and the rest was left swaying dangerously. Water was poured upon the ruins throughout the day, and during the following night, and the smell of burning woollen material was noticeable at a distance of several miles. The damage is estimated at from £13,000 to £15,000, and is probably nearer the latter amount than the former; a large portion of it is also uncovered by insurance, so that Mr. Pollard is a very heavy loser, and general sympathy is expressed with him. It is reported that certain policies had been allowed to lapse pending re-arrangements of the premises. The firm of Messrs. John Speight & Sons is believed to be the oldest in the mungo trade, being well known throughout the woollen district, and Mr. Pollard is the son-in-law of the founder. The mill now destroyed was built in place of a previous and smaller one, which was burnt down in November 1853. It was of a pattern now considered obsolete for this type of business. Rag machines have acquired such a bad name among insurance companies that the latter charge almost prohibitive rates for insuring buildings containing them. On the sale of the estate by the trustees of the late Mr. Speight, in May last, Mr. Pollard became the purchaser, and decide to at once build six new rag grinding sheds in the mill yard, also a new engine house, etc. with the intention of in future using the mill for warehousing only. The new buildings are now in progress. Fortunately for Mr. Pollard's work people, about 60 in number, he was able to rent Greaves Mill, Dewsbury Road, for temporary use in carrying on business.
DANGEROUS MILL FIRE IN OSSETT - DAMAGES ESTIMATED AT £5,000
A disastrous fire occurred on Thursday night at Northfield Mill, Church Street belonging to Mr. Ellis Wilson and occupied by Mr. J. Lomas Wylde, cloth manufacturer and Messrs. J.M. Briggs and Sons, mungo manufacturers (as sub-tenants). Before the fire was extinguished, damage estimated at £5,000 was done to the buildings, machinery and stock. The outbreak appears to have been discovered by several persons simultaneously about a quarter past ten. Smoke was seen to be coming from some of the buildings, but owing to the mill being in close proximity to Temperance Mill, belonging to Mr. F.L. Fothergill, it was difficult to at once ascertain to which part of the premises the outbreak had occurred.
Mr. Fothergill was aroused, his buildings inspected and the fire was found to be in the adjoining premises. The yard gates of Northfield Mill being closed and locked, a little delay occurred in forcing them open. In the meantime, one of the workers employed at the mill, Richard Halley and E.H. Spencer, tinsmith, had gained entry through some of the buildings.
There were quickly plenty of willing helpers on the spot. The fire was found to be located in the engine house, where at that time it was confined and had there been efficient apparatus quickly available, it is probable that the fire would have been easily extinguished. But valuable time was lost. The position of the fire-plug had to be discovered by searching and when a hose was attached to it, the latter burst or was found to be defective. Hosepipes were obtained from one of the Corporation boxes at the mill of Messrs. Speight and Co. By the time the jets of water were brought to play, the fire had spread to the four-storey mill adjoining the engine house. In the meantime, Councillor G.H. Briggs had been summoned, the Dewsbury Corporation fire brigade sent for and a message sent to Mr. Wylde, who must have been leaving Ossett where he attended a meeting about the time the fire was discovered. Mr. Keywood, the Borough Engineer greatly increased the pressure of the water in the mains by cutting off the water supply to other parts of the town. A line of hosepipes was also laid from the pump at the mill of Messrs. Speight and Sons, fed from the dam and another from the mains. The fire brigade arrived about eleven o’clock. It was then far too late to save the mill for the fire progresses with astonishing rapidity. Soon the whole of the interior of the main building was seen to be ablaze from top to bottom. An occasional “thud” told of falling machinery, the slates cracked like fireworks and pieces flew high into the air accompanied by clouds of sparks. Before long, the roof fell in a body and the building was a white-hot furnace, sending up one huge flare and giving off a heat so intense that the mill yard was quickly cleared of persons who had crowded into it. Shouts of “Come down!” conveyed to a Territorial and another young man who in their desire to assist had climbed on to the roof of one of the buildings so that they were in danger.
A quarter of an hour after the fire brigade arrived, parts of the wall fell with a crash. The firemen who were in the charge of Inspector Barraclough assisted by voluntary helpers worked hard to save the remainder of the buildings obtaining water from the dam, which closely adjoined the burning mill. By midnight they had materially reduced the danger of the fire spreading and singularly enough about that time the fire engine broke down and became of no further use. The dam of Messrs. Speight’s mill was rapidly emptying. It was replenished from the mains and a second hosepipe was fixed to the pump, which proved of great service throughout. There was from both the dams and the mains a capital supply of water, but all that could be done was to watch the main building burn itself out and to prevent others from catching fire. The firemen and many others stayed until 5 o’clock in the morning and left behind them bare walls enclosing a tangled mass of smouldering debris.
Fortunately, there was only a slight breeze and it blew from the direction of Mr. Fothergill’s mill. There was, however, no little uneasiness as to the safety of the latter upon which a jet of water was played as a safeguard. Damage was done by the heat to the extent of £80. The fire attracted a large crowd who watched the progress excitedly. Among the spectators were several members of the Corporation, some of which rendered assistance. Inspector Denny and several members of the police force were on the spot soon after the outbreak was discovered, there being no lack of help. Next morning, the burning mill was still smouldering and water was occasionally poured upon it. The building had contained on its four floors, mules and carding machines, all of which were of course destroyed. The engine house and the engine were a complete wreck. Four of the five rag grinding machines, which were in smaller buildings were also destroyed, while a considerable quantity of shoddy and other material had perished in the flames. How the fire was caused is so far as we could gather, quite unknown. The total damage caused by it is estimated by the occupiers as about £5,000, the whole of which is covered by insurance.
Transcribed from the 'Ossett Observer' 18th June 1913
Brickworks at Pildacre Mill
Clay as well as coal is to be found in the vicinity of Pildacre and by 1820 when bricks were supplied to the overseers of Ossett by Benjamin and William Hallas, a brickworks was being run in conjunction with the main business of cloth making at Pildacre Mill. The brickworks were opened again in the late 19th century and continued in operation until the mid 20th century when the works finally closed.
Shocking Death on the Railway
Mr. R.W. Thompson, woollen manufacturer of Leeds and Ossett was killed by an express train on the Great Northern Railway at Ossett late on Wednesday night. (28/4/1897) The deceased gentleman carried on business at Burley Vale Mills, Kirkstall Road, Leeds and at Whitley Spring Mills, Flushdyke, Ossett.
It seems that he was in company with some friends on Wednesday evening, apparently quite in his usual health and spirits. At about quarter past nine o'clock, he left them saying that he had to go down to the mill at Flushdyke, but would return. A little after ten o'clock, the signalman on duty in the box at Flushdyke Station saw the deceased ascend the steps to the platform. Thinking that Mr. Thompson was about to cross the line, he shouted to him to look out for the express, which leaves Wakefield at 9:47 p.m. and runs through to Ossett Town Station without stopping at intermediate stations.
Mr. Thompson, however, was knocked down by the engine of the express and was shockingly mutilated and killed. The body was removed to the Railway Hotel, Flushdyke and shortly afterwards identified.
The deceased was 37 years of age and leaves a widow and three children.
"The North Eastern Daily Gazette", Friday April 30th 1897
Factory Acts and Victoria Mill
In 1868, a proposal was made by mill workers in the Ossett locality to extend the scope of the Factory Acts to limit the working week of adult male workers to 60 hours. This was as a result of the forced overtime that had to be worked each day, which was common at that time in Ossett's textile mills.
The proposal for a shorter working week was supported by many local factory owners, but one who objected was Philip Ellis, one of the principals at Ellis Brothers who ran Victoria Mills in Ossett.
Ellis argued in a public meeting that industry in the country as a whole would be damaged by a shorter working week and that the mill operatives had not made a viable case. Mr Ellis said that his experience as a cloth manufacturer showed him that the fulling of some kinds of cloth could not be completed within the hours suggested for a shorter working day.
"Leeds Mercury", 3rd November 1868
Godfrey Evans, Kent & England Cricketer
Many thousands of troops passed through Ossett during WW2 when they were stationed at Westfield Mill on Wesley Street, which had been converted into a Royal Signals Training School. One or two famous people spent a few months billeted in Ossett before going off to war.
One such person was cricketer Godfrey Evans, who at that time was Kent and later England's wicket-keeper. He went along to Ossett cricket club to ask if it was possible to have a game, but didn't say who he was. He was offered a game in the Ossett 2nd XI and even if he had said who he was, it is doubtful if he would have been believed.
Mickman Hosiery was situated down Dale Street, near Ings Mill (nowadays Nova Scotia Works). Mickman Brothers had relocated to Ossett from Scarborough before WW2 and were hosiery manufacturers. They also made vests and underwear, employing a large number of female machinists from the Ossett area.
One of the Mickman family, Philip, was well-known locally for swimming the English Channel. At the age of 18, in 1949, he swam from France to England in 23 hours and 8 minutes, making him the youngest person to have done so at the time. At the age of 21, he achieved the distinction of being the youngest person to swim the English Channel in both directions and in fact, was only the fourth person to have done so at that time.
Extract Wool & Merino Company Ltd.
Formed in July 1900 and originally the Wool and Merino Co. Ltd before then, the Extract Wool and Merino Company Ltd. was a co-operative of several local mungo and shoddy companies who amalgamated under one company banner to maximise profit by bulk buying, lower management overheads and an agreed pricing structure. They specialised in producing high quality mungo and shoddy material.
The companies involved were Giggal & Clay (Ossett), Eli Townend Ltd. (Ossett), Jessop Brothers (Ossett), Fitton & Sons (Dewsbury), E. Fox and Sons (Dewsbury), Lee, Nephew & Co. (Ravensthorpe) and G. Hirst & Sons (Birstall) Wagons bearing the initials "E.W.M." were a common sight around Ossett and Dewsbury before the company finally folded in 1973.
Queen Street Mills
Queen Street Mills was the rag warehouse and sorting department of J.M. Briggs who were at that time located at Runtlings Mill. Rags were sorted and graded here before being transferred to the mill at Runtlings for processing.
When the premises became vacant, they were taken over by Kedgwick Denim Conditioning Co. who treated denim cloth for a leading denim clothing producer. When they moved out to larger premises on the industrial estate on Wakefield Road, the premises were taken over by Quantrip who manufactured denim jeans.
P.B. Oates were located on Illingworth Street, Ossett opposite the Temperance Hall. They were "new clip" merchants, i.e. they would buy the waste materials from the local bespoke and multiple tailors. Although the material they bought was usually in small pieces, they sorted the cloth into different colours and quality. The appeal of new clips"was that they had never been worn and were clean with the properties of brand-new fibres. Hence the name "new clips" as opposed to old woollen rags.
The sorted clips were then sold on to the local shoddy and mungo companies, who then shredded them into fibrous form to be sold on to the woollen cloth manufacturers who included the material into their woollen blends for producing new cloth.
When the firm closed down, the premises were sold to Betterware, a national firm of door-to-door sales people and was used as their northern depot.
After about 20 years as a Betterware depot, the premises were sold to C.W. Harrison Ltd., a firm of auctioneers who are still there in 2012.