Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town

Ossett Spa - Little Harrogate

The area of Ossett forming the south-eastern boundary with Horbury at Spring End is known as Ossett Spa. This is a reference to the natural springs that provide a perpetual supply of water and whose health-giving properties were seized upon by 19th century entrepreneurs keen to promote the area as a Little Harrogate or perhaps a Yorkshire version of Cheltenham Spa. James Ward and William Craven built the competing Cheltenham Sulphurous Baths and the New Cheltenham Baths on almost adjacent sites off Spa Lane in the early part of the 19th century. Ossett Spa Mill, which was built in the 1860s opposite the site of the New Cheltenham Baths had a mill dam fed by a natural spring The natural spring is still there today and feeds a pond in the back garden of the bungalow owned by Mr. John Myers.

However, the history of Ossett Spa goes back before the Little Harrogate schemes to the late 18th century with the building of Spring End Mill, one of the earliest scribbling and carding mills in Yorkshire by Ossett resident John Emmerson. Ossett Spa also played host to an 18th century colliery owned by the Naylor family and Jefferey's 1775 map Of Wakefield shows the "Black Engine" used to pump water out of the mine workings.

Later still, there was an influx of miners to the area from places like Barnsley and Wakefield to work at nearby Roundwood Colliery. Although first opened in 1847 as a small day hole enterprise, Roundwood was massively expanded by the Greaves family towards the end of the 19th century as a deep mine colliery. It was reckoned that by the year 1900, close to 1,000 men were employed at Roundwood, many of whom made their homes close to the pit in the Ossett Spa area.

Little Harrogate
Goring House, Ossett Common, once the home of Ossett author Stan Barstow, is virtually all that remains of an ambitious project at the end of the 19th century to develop part of Ossett Common as the "New Montpellier Pleasure Gardens", likened to a Little Harrogate by Batley Carr entrepreneur and former drugget manufacturer, Mathew Wharton. Goring House was built by an associate of Wharton's, John Tennant, a Dewsbury property developer and auctioneer who committed suicide in one of the bedrooms of Goring House in April 1888 after he also encountered severe financial difficulties.

Goring House 2010

Above: Goring House, Ossett Spa, the first and only villa built as part of the failed "Little Harrogate" scheme.

Alfred KilbankGoring House was once the home of Ossett novelist Stan Barstow and was also previously owned by John Tennant, James Butterworth, Joe Bentley and Alfred Kilbank. For a while the house was converted into two flats.

The original owner of Goring House, John Tennant committed suicide in 1888 after getting into financial difficulties (see below). In 1896, Goring House was occupied by James and Stella Butterworth. James was an athletic goods manufacturer, making athletic, cricket and lawn tennis goods at premises in Manor Road, Ossett.

Another owner of the house was Joseph William Bentley, an Ossett mungo manufacturer with premises at Ginns Mill or Hope Mill, Ossett Spa. He the younger brother of two times Ossett mayor Thomas Wilby Bentley. Joe Bentley married in his late 40s and probably moved to Goring House sometime after 1911 when at that time he was living at Clarendon Road, Ossett.

Bingley born Alfred Kilbank (pictured left) was the Managing Director of Pickles, Ayland and Company, paint manufacturers and contractors who were based at Sowdill Works, Ossett. It is thought that he lived at Goring House until his death in 1952.

The little Harrogate scheme, to which Goring House stands a a single memorial seems first to have been mooted in 1879. In January that year, the "Ossett Observer" reported:

"It was informed on reliable authority that the first section of a project for transforming Ossett Spa into a second Harrogate, as a summer residence for visitors, is to be immediately carried out. Land has already been purchased, several acres in extent, and the services of an experienced architect engaged to lay out the same into sites for residences, boarding houses and other buildings of a public character. The whole of the streets are to be planted with trees in the continental style."

New Montpellier Pleasure Grounds
The lime trees, which still form avenues in Goring Park Avenue and the adjoining streets were planted in 1864, but advertising of the sites for villa residences "to be purchased over a period of six years on a quarterly installment plan" seems to have had no takers and only Goring House stands as a reminder of the ambitious scheme to develop this part of Ossett.

In 1884, part of the Spa estate land was taken over by a Batley Carr manufacturer, Mathew Wharton, with the aim of developing it as the New Montpelier Pleasure Grounds with extensive gardens, a boating lake, rides and amusements. There was an advertisement in "The Era", a London Newspaper on March 22nd 1884, as follows:

"WANTED - Violins, Flute, Double-Bass and a complete orchestra. Six-month season commencing on Good Friday (rehearsal, Thursday, April 10th) for the New Montpellier Gardens, South Ossett Spa. Apply, stating terms to J.W.R. Binns, 78 Reuben Street, Leeds."

A public entertainment was staged in Ossett over the Easter holiday in 1884 when the main attraction was the "African Blondin", one Carlos Lamentine Trower of American or Puerto Rican origin. Billed as the "Prince of the Air", he performed with a number of other variety acts of the time. Trower had moved to England and married Annie Frances Emmett at Barnstaple in 1875. He had a fixed contract as a "funambulist" at the Rotherville Gardens in Essex from 1881-1886 and appeared at Foresters, Chatham Recreation Grounds, Kent in 1882. Trower died in the Grove Hall lunatic asylum, Bow, London in 1889.

African Blondin

Above: An advertisement for the Montpelier Pleasure Grounds that appeared in the "Ossett Observer" on the 12th April 1884. Thanks to Kylie Robinson for this image and her work on the "African Blondin."

Sadly, the venture was no more successful than the rest of the "Little Harrogate" schemes and by June, Wharton was bankrupt. Wharton had a history of financial failures in the textile and entertainment businesses, including the loss of £1,000 leasing a pier on the Isle of Man. The first notices appeared in the local press by July 1884 1 :

"IN BANKRUPTCY - Notice is hereby given that Mathew Wharton, Jun., of Upper Road, Batley Carr, Dewsbury and Montpellier Gardens, Ossett Spa both in the County of York, was on the 10th day of July, 1884 adjudged bankrupt by the County Court of Yorkshire holden at Dewsbury - John Arthur Deane, Official Receiver."

At the subsequent bankruptcy hearing held in August 1884, Wharton's less than honest dealings with John Tennant were first revealed: 2

"The next examination was that of Mr Mathew Wharton, who has from some time back entered into rash speculations as a public entertainer. The debtor resides at Batley Carr. In reply to the Official Receiver, he said that from 1880 up to a fortnight before Easter, he had carried on no business. He was formerly a drugget manufacturer and when he ceased in 1880, he had a capital of £8,000, which he invested in property. He then went to the Isle of Man and lost £1,000. Since he gave up business as a manufacturer, he had kept no books except rent books. He sold his furniture at the latter end of April 1884 and went to live in a less house. He had had two sales of furniture. The one in April realised £70. It was sold to John Tennant. His father died in 1880 and left him £6,000 and at his mother's death £800 came to him. The debtor was examined by Mr. R.W. Evans, solicitor, respecting the failure of his last speculation, the Montpellier Pleasure Gardens, Ossett and the disposal of various articles connected therewith, for which he owed money to various tradesmen and admitted having sold goods which cost £300 to John Tennant for £36. He did not know where Tennant was, but he had told him that he was going to the south of England. The examination was adjourned and a restraining order was granted against Tennant to prevent him from selling a dancing platform and other fixtures in his possession."

Goring House was the only villa residence to be erected as part of the Little Harrogate scheme and was built by a man named John Tennant, who was possibly also the promoter for the Little Harrogate and New Montpellier Gardens project and had bought into Mathew Wharton's big scheme. Tennant was a colourful character who started off in life as a joiner and builder in Dewsbury, but went into property speculation in a serious way. He was also in partnership with a Leeds man called Leon Gross in a money-lending business until the partnership was dissolved in 1888.4 Tennant was also in a partnership with a man called Oldroyd as "Tennant & Oldroyd, Auctioneers" in Dewsbury.

Interestingly, Tennant had been in trouble with the local magistrates in 1886, which might give an insight into his character: 3

"At Dewsbury on Thursday, Mr. John Tennant an auctioneer and large property owner, was fined £20 with the option of three months imprisonment for letting some of his house properties for immoral purposes. It was shown that the houses were of the worst possible character and Tennant's knowledge of the use to which they were put was proved to the magistrates satisfaction."

Tennant's method of paying his creditors had been to give them plots of land on the Ossett Spa Estate. The ensuing obscurity of ownership led to large areas of the land being left derelict up to at least the 1980s. By April 1888, 49 year-old Tennant was in serious financial trouble and committed suicide in one of the bedrooms of his residence at Goring House: 5

"SAD DEATH OF DEWSBURY GENTLEMAN - Mr John Tennant, a retired joiner and builder, late of Dewsbury, where he is well-known as a property owner, was found dead in his bedroom at the Spa, Ossett yesterday morning. The deceased gentleman got up to light the fire and shortly afterwards returned to his bedroom, telling his wife that he had done so. Mrs. Tennant afterwards went downstairs, leaving him there and about a couple of hours later, as he did not make an appearance, she went to seek him. His bedroom door was locked and eventually assistance was obtained to burst it open. The deceased was then found hanging from the top of the bedstead with a piece of clothes line round his neck and quite dead. He was forty-nine years of age. At the inquest last evening, it was stated that the deceased gentleman was strong and healthy, but since Christmas last had been in low spirits, having had trouble in his business and lost a great deal of money. In his pocket was a letter dated the previous day to his son John Thomas Tennant:- "Dear Son - This is more than I can bear. I blame no-one but myself. Forgive me, and do the best you can for yourself, mother, Clara, Sarah-Ann, and lastly Emily. - Your father in trouble, John Tennant." A verdict was returned in accordance with the facts."

Ossett Spa 2010 Map

The medicinal springs in the neighbourhood of Goring House, from which Spa Street, Spa Croft Road and Spring End Farm take their names, were developed commercially earlier in the nineteenth century. For a number of years in the nineteenth century, the workhouse in Horbury was supplied with water from the Spa.

"Cheltenham Sulphurous Baths"
Research by John Goodchild, reveals that James Ward (1746-1832), a Horbury stonemason was awarded land at Low Common at the time of the Ossett Inclosure (1807-13) and he was the first to recognise the restorative properties of the water. There were two separate public bath establishments at Ossett Spa, although it isn't known exactly when Ward opened the "Ossett Baths" later called the "Cheltenham Sulphurous Baths", they were still owned by him when they were offered for let in 1829.

Ward's baths were described in the advert as follows:

"The premises are delightfully situated and the waters have been analysed by several eminent men and spoken of by them as a little inferior to Cheltenham. They have gained a very high reputation from the many surprising cures they have performed. These waters are celebrated for curing gout, rheumatism and the scrofula."

This advertisement appeared in the "Ossett Observer" 14 in 1864 for the original baths, but presumably by now rented to George Shaw, but probably owned by John Chappell:

"MINERAL BATHS - The original Ossett Spa Baths are open daily from 8am to 8pm. The waters are recommended by the faculty for Scorbutic and Rheumatic complaints. Sulphurous baths 1s 3d; Hot baths 1s; Cold baths 6d. Every accommodation in Refreshments, Beds and Stabling. Proprietor: George Shaw."

Things had moved on again by 1873 and the "Old Original Cheltenham Bath" had recently been refitted with new baths and cisterns and was being offered for sale in the "Ossett Observer" 15 complete with a stable, coach-house and greenhouse by the then proprietor John Chappell, who was retiring because of ill-health.

The '"Cheltenham Sulphurous Baths" were operated from 1864 by John Chappell and then subsequently by Henry Nettleton, and was offered with a number of cottages, cottage garden and an orchard, for auction following Chappell's death in 1884. The auction was described in the "Ossett Observer" 16 and included, besides the baths, two dwelling houses, a grocer's shop, nine cottages and four parcels of land.

An advertisement in the "Ossett Observer" 17 tells us about the new proprietor of the old baths after the auction had been completed:

"Re-opening of the Old Cheltenham Sulphur Bath by J. Marsden, proprietor of the Wakefield Turkish Baths. Slipper and sulphur baths 6d each. Refreshments and stable accommodation available."

"The New Cheltenham Baths"
The second and competing bath house at Ossett Spa was called the "Spring End" or "New Cheltenham Baths" and dates back to 1823 when it was established by William Craven of Horbury. By 1826, the New Cheltenham Baths were tenanted (but not owned) by David Land. An advertisement 7 from that time describes the baths as follows:

"Consisting of medicated vapours, sulphurous, sitting, shower or plunge baths, with a separate establishment for the poor at a reduced rate."

Land seemed to be doing well and the baths were clearly well patronised 8:

"D. Land proprietor of the New Cheltenham Baths is grateful for the support last summer and that cold, warm and shower baths were available. Accommodation is also available in respectable houses in the neighbourhood."

The last comment is interesting and it seems likely that Land had premises adjoining the New Cheltenham Baths where people could stay and take the Ossett Spa waters or enjoy the apparent health-giving properties of his baths. This was common in other Spas, such as Askern, Harrogate or Cheltenham and it is likely to have influenced later generations who sought to develop the area as a "Little Harrogate".

In 1831, it is believed that David Land bought the baths and they were advertised 9 for sale in the local press and were described as follows:

"FOR SALE - New Cheltenham Spa and Baths and four dwelling houses, now or lately occupied by William Willison, Edward Moulson, Joseph Chappell and others. The premises recently fitted up and contain two china baths, one china sitting bath, two cold baths, a shower bath and a plunging bath with new cisterns and boilers."

A further advertisement 10 a few weeks later gives us an idea of the cost of using the baths:

"New Cheltenham Baths - D. Land, opened for the season on the 1st May 1831. Annual subscription available for bathing: one person to the warm and cold baths, 10 shillings. For a family to the warm and cold baths, £1; sulphurous baths each 2 shillings. Board and lodging available at the bath house."

By May 183212, Land had bought both of the competing Ossett Spa bath houses, which it is stated actually adjoin each other. This advertisement in the local press relates the announcement:

"OSSETT SPRING END CHELTENHAM BATHS - D. Land in occupation for the last six years has taken the adjoining bath establishment with medicated vapour, warm, sulphurous, sitting, shower and plunge baths. A separate establishment is provided for the poor at reduced rate. Board and lodging available. W.B. Thornton, M.D. attends the baths, Monday, Thursday and Saturday to give advice. Medicated vapour baths 3 shillings; sulphurous vapour baths 2 shillings; warm and shower baths 1 shilling; cold and plunge baths 6d."

The baths were extensively used by Ossett people and one Ossett man described how the baths helped his rheumatism13, but that only married couples were allowed to bathe together. Land's circular bath house had a well in the centre (see pictures below of the derelict bath house) where bubbling water could be seen. A large house (most probably Spa House) was built to accommodate those people visiting to take the waters.

Ossett Spas in 1893

Above: An extract of the 1893 1:2500 OS Map showing the actual location of the Ossett Spa buildings off Spa Lane, immediately opposite Ossett Spa Mill. It can be seen that the round bath house pictured below was separate to the rest of the Spa Bath buildings. The trees and garden area to the north of the Spa buildings are close to Whinfield Terrace and it is thought there may have been a connection.

By 1849, it seems that the two Ossett Spa bath houses were once again in separate ownership and the New Cheltenham Baths were owned by a man called Ezekial Goldsmith. The baths were offered for sale by his widow after his death aged 64 in early 1877. However, the baths had been offered for sale earlier in 18536 and the advertisement gives us a good description of the premises:

"FOR SALE - All that messuage, tenement or dwelling-house situate on Ossett Common, with the Spa House, hot and cold baths, boiler house, stable and other buildings to the name belonging, called "THE NEW CHELTENHAM BATHS" also the close of land and garden adjoining thereto and the private road leading therefrom into the Horbury and Ossett road, containing together, including the sites of the buildings 1 acre, 0 roods, 3 perches or thereabouts and now in the occupation of Mr. E. Goldsmith. The celebrated spa well from which the baths are supplied is on this lot. The water was analysed some years ago by the late William West, F.R.S. and was found to be very similar to the waters at Cheltenham.

The baths, which were established upwards of 30 years ago by the late William Craven, Esq., of Horbury are much resorted to by persons suffering from rheumatic affections. They have also proved highly efficacious in all complaints and in cases of general debility. The baths are capable of considerable extension and improvement and will be found to be a lucrative investment."

People living in Ossett Spa still collected bottles of the spa water for their own consumption right up to the 1920s. A single small circular stone bath-house is still just about standing behind what used to be Illingworth's fellmongers. The wall of the bath-house was over five feet high until 1990, when the then owner J.T. Watson reduced it to around 18 inches and installed an iron gate across the entrance. The site was then bought by Alan Morris.

Ossett Spa

Above: The only remaining bath-house at Ossett Spa containing the mineral spring that used to feed the mill dam at Illingworth Bros. fellmongers. This picture was taken in the 1970s. The mill dam, with the ducks in the picture above, at Illingworth Bros. was built after WW2 and is first shown on the 1955 OS map as a "tank".

In 1896, Albert Illingworth set up a fellmongering business (taking the wool from sheep pelts) in buildings adjacent to the bath house pictured above, so that he could utilise the ample supply of water. One of the same Illingworth family was still running the business when it finally closed down in 1986. Later occupants of the site capped the well and demolished the walls of the bathhouse. They also drained the pond to extend the size of their car park. Sadly, important Ossett history erased for ever. 11

It had been feared in 2007 that the entire site would be levelled since the site has been earmarked for a new warehouse by developers Niels Larsen. Sadly, there is still much confusion about the land boundaries and this important reminder of Ossett's heritage may soon be lost forever.

However, by March 2008, the land dispute had been resolved and the land that the bath house stands on was given to the owners of Spa Farm, who have taken steps to make sure that the site is preserved. Work is now in progress to fence off what is left of the Ossett Spa to prevent damage from horses kept in adjacent fields and to allow access for visitors accessing the site from Spa Lane.

Ossett Spa Bath in 2010

Above: This is what is left of the old bath at Ossett Spa in September 2010. The height of the walls has been reduced to about 18". The land is now owned by the Skinner family, who in 2010 cleared the site with a view to reinstating the spring water well inside the demolished bathhouse. The Nils Larsen warehouse can be seen to the right of the picture, built over the site of the Illingworth Brothers dam, which can be seen in an earlier picture above.

Spa Bath 2020

Above: The remains of the Ossett Spa bath ten years later in February 2020 (Photograph by Rachel Driver) after the site was cleared of weeds and brambles that had virtually covered the old bathhouse.

Influx of Miners
Ironically, the presence of its spa waters in the many wells and springs in the area seems to have had less permanent effect on the development of Ossett Common than the opening of Roundwood Colliery, which brought an influx of miners from Barnsley and Featherstone to settle in the area.

Until the 20th century, the typical miners dwelling was still the low stone croft cottage. At Ossett Spa, a miners cottage has recently been restored (see below). In a survey of the living and working conditions of Yorkshire miners made in 1841, the inspectors describe the cramped conditions of large families living in similar cottages, usually consisting of just two small rooms.

Miners Cottage at Ossett Spa

Above: An old miners cottage at Ossett Spa that is currently being used as a stable. The two- roomed cottage was typical of the type of house that some Ossett miners lived in during the early 19th century.

The Mills in Ossett Spa
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 handloom 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.

Ossett Spa Mills

Above: 1933 O.S. Map of Ossett Spa Mills

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, 19 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.

Ginn's Mill or Hope Mill, Spa Street
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 20  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 27 and William Brook’s subsequent planning application for two rag machine rooms was approved by the Ossett Local Board of Health. In November 1887 28, 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 29 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. 30 By 1910 Albert Metcalfe is recorded 31 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.

Fleece Inn, Ossett Spa

Above: The Fleece Inn, dating back to circa 1825 was once owned by the Dews family and is located adjacent to the site of the now demolished Hope or Ginn's Mill, Ossett Spa.

Spa Mill and Dyeworks, Spa Street
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 32 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: 33

"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 conveyance11 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.34

"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.35 There was also a second sale of Robinson's mill machinery 36 , 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 42
"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 37 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 38 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 40 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, 41 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.

Spa Mill Auction 1930

Above: Drawing taken from Ossett Spa Mill sale particulars 1930.

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.

Spa BungalowLeft: The Bungalow on Spa Lane referenced in the sale drawing above.

Illingworth immediately sold the bungalow (shown also on the top left of the drawing above ) 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.

The 18th Century "Engine" and Windmill at Ossett Spa
Alongside the description "Engine", a mysterious symbol that looks like a windmill is shown in the fields of South Ossett on Jeffreys 1775 map, which is one of the earliest known maps of Ossett. Was there a windmill at Ossett Spa in the late 18th century or is a further clue given in the 1795 Manor Map of Ossett, which shows a structure in the same area named "Roundhouse"? And what was the "Engine?" A few years later than the Jeffreys map, the 1790 Manor of Wakefield Estate Map  similarly shows “Round  House” and “Steam Engine” in different locations all in the vicinity of Ossett Spa.

The Jeffreys map and the Manor Estate map reference to “engine” or “steam engine” can be attributed to the engine at Spring End Mill which was known to have stood there about the time of Jeffreys’ survey. The nature of the Round House or Windmill is more speculative.

Tower windmills are certainly round, but in this case, it is unlikely that it was a windmill, but in fact a pumping engine on the site of an 18th century coal mine that was owned then by the Naylor family. It is likely that this was actually on the site of Manor Colliery, which was owned at one stage by Terry, Greaves and Co, of Roundwood Colliery fame and then in December 1857 by John Mitchell, who leased the area known as "Drain Close" from the Ingham family in 1843, at the time of the Tithe Award. Drain Close is adjacent to the field named Whynn Ginn in the 1843 Tithe Award in which the Round House appears to have stood.

The 1890 O.S. Map for Ossett shows a circular structure in a field between Spa Lane and Manor Road. This field is marked on the 1842 Tithe Award Map as "Whinn Gynn" and some Ossett historians18 believe this can be interpreted as “Windmill Engine”. In 1843 this field was rented by John Wilby from The Earl of Cardigan. Wilby’s son was Joshua Wilby who was a farmer and a collier and late in his life he became owner of Runtlings Colliery.

The remnants of the roundhouse structure may well have still been there in 1890, alternatively, the feature shown on the map could be a pond caused by the land sinking in the area of the now filled-in coal mine shaft.

Newcomen Beam EngineThe site of the roundhouse, in the fields between Spa Lane and Manor Road is in a distinct dip in the surrounding land and would have been a very poor choice for the site of a windmill. In the early 18th century, a man called Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) developed a steam-powered pumping engine called a beam engine, which was widely used in coal mines for pumping out water from the workings. In 1712, Thomas Newcomen together with John Calley built their first engine on top of a water filled mine shaft and used it to pump water out of the mine. This new development allowed the coal masters to develop deeper mines, which gave access to the rich coal seams, which abound in this part of Ossett. Intriguingly, some of Newcomen's beam engines were housed in circular buildings made from stone or brick. There was plenty of water and coal on site at Ossett Spa to power the steam engine and one plausible explanation for the structure shown on the early maps is that it was a Newcomen beam engine or something similar. My thanks to Neville Ashby for suggesting that Roundhouse may have been the housing for a Newcomen steam-powered beam engine. It is my view that the "Roundhouse" refers to the round building that used to house the early water pumping engine at Naylor's Pit.

Left: A picture of a Newcomen Beam Engine in operation during the mid 19th century. This is not the one at Ossett Spa, but it gives an indication of what the structure might have looked like. Some of the larger Newcomen engines had a square housing, which looked more like a house. Although the engines were not particularly efficient, they could pump water out of coal mines at least 200ft deep and many hundreds were built long after Thomas Newcomen had died.

In July, 2010, Neville Ashby and Alan Howe did some further surveying work on the approximate site of the roundhouse with a metal detector after first getting permission from the landowner at Brookes Farm, Horbury Road. There is a land drain running through the site at a field boundary that would have been built to take away the pumped out water from Naylor's Pit. Although there was much evidence of coal fragments on the site, there was little evidence of stone or brick, which must have been used to build the structure housing the steam chamber and beam engine. However, it is likely that the old pit shaft was filled in with the building rubble when the roundhouse was demolished.

Some bits of wrought iron metal machinery of indeterminate age were found with the help of the metal detector as well as some early 19th century copper-alloy buttons. There was certainly some kind of engine on this site, but as yet no firm conclusions can be made. There may yet be some record of early land sales and wayleaves agreements granting access for the mining of coal under the land in the Wakefield Archive, but as yet this has not been researched.


  1. "Leeds Mercury", Monday, July 21st 1884.
  2. "Leeds Mercury", Wednesday, August 20th 1884.
  3. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, March 20th 1886.
  4. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, January 7th 1888.
  5. "Leeds Mercury", Friday, April 20th 1888.
  6. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 28th February 1853.
  7. "Ossett Pubs ", by Brian Smith, Ossett Historic Society
  8. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal", Friday, 25th May 1827.
  9. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal ", Friday, 27th May 1831.
  10. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal ", Friday, 10th June 1831.
  11. "Ossett Spa", a detailed historic account of the Ossett Spa area, researched in 2010 by Alan Howe.
  12. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal ", Friday, 4th May 1832.
  13. "Ossett Observer ", Saturday, 23rd July 1864.
  14. "Ossett Observer ", Saturday, 13th August 1864.
  15. "Ossett Observer ", Saturday, 5th July 1873.
  16. "Ossett Observer ", Saturday, 28th June 1884.
  17. "Ossett Observer ", Saturday, 13th June 1885.
  18. "Medieval and Post Medieval Landscape of Ossett Township", by Richard Glover, first published in 2008 by Rickaro Books, ISBN 978-09546439-2-8
  19. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 6th May 1865.
  20. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 2nd March 1872.
  21. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 20th September 1856.
  22. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 17th May 1856.
  23. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 14th June 1856.
  24. "Ossett Observer", Saturday 28th January 1882.
  25. "Ossett Observer", Saturday 1st March 1884.
  26. "Ossett Observer", Saturday 3rd November 1883.
  27. "Ossett Observer", Saturday, 14th May 1887.
  28. "Ossett Observer", Saturday, 5th November 1887.
  29. "Ossett Observer", Saturday, December 16th 1905.
  30. "Ossett Observer", Saturday 18th May 1907.
  31. " Inland Revenue Valuation Book", 1910
  32. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal", Friday, 26th May 1854.
  33. "Wakefield & Halifax Journal", Friday, 19th January 1855.
  34. "Leeds Mercury"., Saturday, 24th April 1860.
  35. "Bradford Observer", Tuesday, 9th May 1871.
  36. "Wakefield Express", Wednesday, 21st June 1871.
  37. "Leeds Mercury", Wednesday, 30th March 1887.
  38. "Factory Times", Friday, 23rd August 1889.
  39. "Leeds Mercury", Thursday, October 13th 1859.
  40. "Sheffield & Rotherham Independent", Tuesday, 8th May 1888.
  41. "Leeds Mercury", Thursday, July 26th 1900.
  42. "Leeds Mercury", Saturday, 16th May 1875.

Spa Water and Cures
The name derives from the Belgian town of Spa, whose mineral springs have attracted patients since the 14th century. The earliest spas date from Roman times.


It was claimed that the sulphur-rich waters like those at Ossett Spa could cure almost anything including nervous tension, gout, rheumatism, lumbago and scrofula (swollen neck glands, possibly a form of tuberculosis.)

Here are some of the treatments that were popular - this list came from one of the Harrogate Spas.

Saline Sulphur Baths
Used for gout, rheumatism and hepatic disorders.

Alkaline Sulphur Baths
Used mainly for skin diseases.

Alkaline Sulphur Electric Baths
Constant, interrupted and sinusoidal currents used for muscle weakness and muscle atrophy.

Carbonic Acid (Nauheim) Baths
Both ’still’ and ’aerated’ baths used for heart disease.

Massage Douche (Aix System)
The patient would be seated on a wooden stool or recline on a board, a continuous needle spray would be directed against their spine and a massage carried out under a warm douche in a flexible tube by the attendant. This treatment was used for gout, arthritis and lumbago.

Vichy Massage Douche
The patient would lie on a mattress while being massaged under a spray douche. This treatment was used for gout, arthritis and lumbago.

Plombieres’ - Intestinal Lavage Treatment
This was a combined bath and sub-aqueous douche, used for constipation and mucous colitis.

Peat Baths
There were four kinds of peat baths:
· Mineral Peat Bath with the addition of Sulphur water.
· Brine Peat Bath
· Electric Peat Bath with a constant electric current
· Basic Peat Bath
These baths were used to treat muscular rheumatism, lumbago and sciatica.

Sulphur Foam Baths
Natural Sulphur water converted to foam by compressed air used to treat obesity, gout and arthritis.

Bergonie Treatment
The rhythmic and graduated exercise of muscles by stimulation used for obesity, insomnia and muscular and
nervous afflictions.

Thermo-Paraffin-Wax Baths
The patient was immersed in wax and afterwards massaged. Used to ease stiff and painful limbs.

Ionisation, Cataphoresis or Ionic Medication
A weak electric current would be applied to the skin through a pad to ease pain in rheumatic joints and muscles.

Drugget (from the French "droguet") - It was stated that Mathew Wharton, the founder of the Montpellier Pleasure Gardens at Ossett Spa was formerly a drugget manufacturer in Batley.

Drugget is coarse woollen cloth, which was used as a floor covering or carpet lining in the 19th century and in some cases as a coarse woven fabric of wool or half wool for clothing.

Ossett Spa in 1878
Few who would have remembered the Spa's former glory are left to speak of it.

On Monday morning, our reporter Elizabeth Blakely was invited to drink some of the water by Mr. C. Illingworth of Illingworth Brothers who said that he thought it had sulphur content, though he hastened to add that he did not drink the water himself. At one time, he said, the spring water left a bright red deposit wherever it flowed, but now the deposit was bright orange.

The water, which comes to the surface in bursts seems to contain air bubbles and seeing these, thoughts of underground caverns, stalactites and stalagmites immediately spring to mind, but the much less romantic explanation of sulphur gas bubbles is probably nearer the mark.

The flow is now controlled and for almost 40 years has filled the dam, which supplies the mill with water. Mr. Illingworth said he had never known the flow to decrease and when the dam is emptied and cleaned out, it is refilled from the spring within about 12 hours.

So although the spring has brought little fame to the town as healing water, it has served a very useful industrial purpose for many years. And whilst stories of footbaths and large baths where people could be fully submerged in the water are seldom heard today, one wonders what really did happen and whether spring water really did effect any cures all of those years ago.

From an "Ossett Observer" dated 1958

Manor Colliery, Ossett Spa
This rather gruesome report describing a fatal accident at Manor Colliery, Ossett from the Lancaster Gazette, dated December 26th 1857 provides some information about the coal mine, which existed in the Ossett Spa area in the 18th and 19th century. Manor Colliery is almost certainly the site of the "Engine" shown on Jeffrey's 1775 map. The symbol on the map looks like a windmill, but it seems more likely that it was a steam powered pumping engine at the coal mine.



"Mr. Taylor, coroner for the town of Pontefract, held an inquest, on Saturday last at the Weaver's Arms, Ossett, on the body of Joseph Rushworth, blacksmith, 46 years of age. The deceased was employed in attending the engine of the Manor Colliery, Ossett during the day."

(NOTE: Manor Colliery is given as located in Middle Common, Ossett and in the ownership of colliery proprietor John Mitchell in the Leeds Mercury report of the same accident on 22nd December 1857).

"Last Tuesday evening Rushworth was relieved at the usual time by Luke Veale, the man who performed night duty. Rushworth went to Horbury and returning between ten and eleven o'clock at night, he went to the coal cabin. At that time he was tipsy. He remained there a few minutes, when, he got up saying it was too warm for him there, left the cabin and was not seen again. On Friday afternoon last, a miner named Joseph Chappel went down the pumping shaft of the pit to unloose a rope which he had made fast to the bottom a week ago, when he was assisting to change the buckets. When he got about forty yards down the shaft, he saw the body of Rushworth suspended by a stay, his head and legs resting on the plank. The body was mutilated, the legs broken, and the jaw-bone crushed in. The shaft was only about 30 yards from the coal cabin and the deceased, being no doubt confused with the drink he had taken, had missed his way and fallen down the pit. Verdict -found dead with fractures."

It was noted that John Emmerson, a leading Ossett industrialist who founded Spring End Mill, Ossett Spa in 1783 was a yeoman when he married for the second time in 1804. What then was a yeoman?


A Yeoman was a large-scale farmer, usually farming freehold land over 100 acres in area as opposed to copyhold or tenanted land. Yeomen sometimes held land in more than one parish and were distinguishable from other farmers by their wealth and status. A yeoman would more than likely still work on his land and so would be different from a gentleman farmer or member of the so-called gentry. He would produce a marketable crop surplus each year and would employ non-family members to work for him. These men constituted a rural middle-class; below the ranks of the gentry, but above the ranks of husbandmen and labourers.

In terms of wealth, the the wealthiest yeomen could be as rich, if not richer than the minor gentry and could enjoy a similar standard of living. Yeomen were socially ambitious and were capable of promoting their sons to the rank of gentry by educating them at the right places and by providing them with enough land.

Yeomen filled many roles from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century. They were often constables of their parish, and sometimes chief constables of the district, shire or hundred. Many yeomen held the positions of bailiffs for the High Sheriff or for the shire or hundred. Other civic duties would include churchwarden, bridge warden, and other warden duties. It was also common for a yeoman to be an overseer for his parish. Yeomen, whether working for a lord, king, shire, knight, district or parish served in localised or municipal police forces raised by or led by the landed gentry.

Henry Giggle
After the sale of Ginn's Mill, Ossett Spa in 1872, Henry Giggle, one of the owners, decided to depart for a new life in the USA.

Henry Giggle

In June 1874, Henry Giggle and his wife Ann (nee Haigh) and their three children set out from Horbury Bridge Station to Liverpool where they boarded the steamer S.S. Britannic and sailed, in steerage class, for New York. They arrived there on the 6th July 1874.

In the USA, Henry Giggle continued in the cloth manufacturing business. He died in Philadelphia, PA on the 13th June 1901.

Edward Dews
Edward Dews and his family became major players in the history and development of Ossett Spa, with ownership of Spa Mill and the Fleece Inn plus several large areas of land which were all acquired in the mid-19th century.

Dews also built Whinfield Terrace, a row of upmarket houses when they were built in the 1860s. Dews himself lived at Whinfield House, just to the west of Whinfield Terrace, which he rebuilt and extended in the 1860s.

Edward Dews was born in Horbury and was baptised there on Christmas Day 1821, the eldest of the four sons of weaver George Dews and his wife Mary. Two of Edwards's brothers, George junior and Ezra emigrated to the USA; Ezra in 1848 and George junior before 1860. Both were living in New Haven, Connecticut by 1870. William Dews, Edward's remaining brother moved from Horbury to Hunslet in Leeds and only Edward stayed close to his parents and his roots in Horbury.

Edward married 17 year-old Anninal Earnshaw in Huddersfield in 1843. The couple went to live near Anninal's birthplace of Newmillerdam when they moved to live at Dewsbury Road in Wakefield soon after they married and where Edward carried worked as a yarn spinner or weaver like his father. In 1851, Edward was most probably employed in a Wakefield mill as an operative. However, by 1859, Dews was working as a grocer with premises on Dewsbury Rd, Westgate, Wakefield.

One low point in Dews' career was in 1859,39 when he was named publicly for accepting a bribe of £20 to vote for George Leatham, the Liberal candidate for Wakefield in the Parliamentary elections that took place that year. 1859 was the first election in which the Liberals (an alliance of Whigs, Peelites, Radicals and the Irish Brigade) had stood for Parliament.

Edward Dews arrived at Ossett Spa from Wakefield in 1864 with his wife and seven of their ten children. He immediately set about acquiring land in the area and soon established himself in Ossett. Dews bought Spa Mill in Ossett Spa in 1872 and successfully ran a worsted spinning business there until his death in 1890.

His wife Anninal had pre-deceased him and died in July 1887 aged 62 years, but Dews married for a second time on the 11th November 1888 to Emma Stead, the widow of William Stead, a Leeds accountant. The marriage ceremony took place at Burley Church in Leeds. However, the marriage wasn't to last long and Edward Dews died on the 26th June 1890, aged 68 years at his home in Ossett Spa. The "Leeds Mercury" recorded details of a public auction to dispose of his extensive estate:

"When Mr. Edward Dews, Whinfield House, Ossett, a partner in Ossett Spa Mill and a major shareholder in the Ossett Gas Company died in June 1890, a public auction was held at the Bull in Wakefield to dispose of his shareholdings and estate."

Edward Dews and many of his family are buried in the Baptist Lane Burial Ground, which was desecrated several years ago when all the gravestones and memorials were bulldozed.

The Will of Edward Dews was proved at Wakefield on the 17th July 1890 by James Henry Exley of Whinfield, Ossett Spa and Edward Dews's son William Dews, innkeeper of Horbury. Edward left £9,618 15s 11d in his estate, which is approximately £575,000 by today's values.

Edmund Robinson
Edmund Robinson was born in 1826 and worked in the Lancashire cotton mills as a skilled operative. He married 29 year-old Rachel Warburton in late 1852 in their home town of Bury. By 1861, Edmund and Rachel had two children: a daughter, Mary aged 4 years and a son, Arthur Fleming Robinson, aged 10 months. Both children were born in Bacup, where Edmund was now working.

Edmund Robinson

Above: Edmund Robinson

By 1861, Edmund and his family had moved to live in Ossett Spa and were living next door to Spa House, close to Spa Mill where Edmund was now working as a cotton carder. Skilled men like Edmund Robinson were brought to Yorkshire to work for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company Ltd. who had started business in a very serious way at Ossett Spa by buying Spring End Mill and Spa Mill to manufacture cotton cloth, an industry not previously associated with Ossett. The manager of the Ossett Spa cotton mill was William Horsfall, who in 1861 was living next door to Edmund Robinson and was most likely brought over from Lancashire to head up the operation. In fact, the firm of Collett & Smith had a cotton spinning and manufacturing business on Street Side in the north of Ossett as far back as the 1830s, but it is thought that this had failed by the 1850s.

Ossett was considered an ideal location for the manufacture of cotton with abundant natural resources like coal and water for the mills; a skilled and plentiful work force and a railway station at nearby Horbury for transport.

Unfortunately, for Edmund Robinson and his employers, the cotton boom that Lancashire had enjoyed between 1859 and 1860 was not to happen in Ossett, largely because of the "Cotton Famine" or the "Cotton Panic" which occurred between 1861 and 1865. This was brought about by the virtual cessation of baled cotton imports caused by the American Civil War (1861-1865).

The "cotton famine" caused the premature end of cotton cloth production at Ossett Spa, simply because the two mills ran out of raw cotton to process and also because of difficult trading conditions caused by the boom years of 1859 and 1860 when more woven cotton had been produced than could be sold. The cotton weaving expansion into Yorkshire by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company Ltd in the late 1850s could hardly have been timed worse.

As a consequence, Edmund Robinson and his family left Ossett by 1864 and headed back to Lancashire. Edmund was soon employed again as a mill manager at Shore Mills in Littleborough where he remained until retiring in 1876. Ossett was clearly the poorer for the loss of Edmund Robinson as this testimonial from his workers tells us:

ADDRESS OF THE WORKPEOPLE - accompanying a presentation to Mr. Edmund Robinson:

"We, the operatives of Messrs E Clegg and Sons, Shore Mills, Littleborough desire on this occasion to express our sincere regret that failing health has caused you to resign your connexion with the above Firm which you have had for many years as their Manager and to place upon record our sense of the fair and impartial manner in which you have dealt with us as Workpeople.  As our Manager you have always combined the qualities of justice without severity and kindness without partiality and have been ever ready to comply with our reasonable requests when your Employer's interests would permit, thus advancing the well-being and prosperity of all connected with this establishment.

We earnestly pray that your health may be soon fully recovered and your life long spared for the good of your family and all your connexions."

On behalf of the Workpeople:

Abraham Hoyle
Elijah Priestley
Daniel McIntyre
Thomas Rigg
Jeremiah Robinshaw
Joseph Cook
Richard Rigg
Joseph Ackroyd
James Grindrod
Joseph Ackroyd

Robert Haworth
Chairman of the Committee 30th December 1876.


CHURCH leaders have been branded 'sacrilegious' after they sanctioned the bulldozing of more than 100 gravestones.

Demolition crews started clearing the site off Baptist Lane, Ossett, last Friday leaving headstones in a crumpled heap in the corner including that of an eight-month-old baby.

More than 100 bodies now lie in unmarked graves leaving relatives nowhere to lay flowers or pay their respects.

One such relative, Roy Ellis, 65, said: "It's a disgrace - my grandparents are buried in that cemetery."

Wakefield Civic Society leaders are now calling for ministers at South Ossett Baptist Church to explain the actions, branding them 'disrespectful'.

Police have been called in to investigate the damage which has wrecked thousands of pounds of marble and stone.

Complaints have also been made that bonfires were built on top of the graves to burn trees that had been cut down.

Civic society chairman, Brian Coe, said: "It is worse than sacrilege. I can't believe this kind of damage and disrespect happened in a graveyard which was in use up to 30 years ago. I'm absolutely heartbroken. We have to think of the relatives of the people who are buried there and it breaks my heart that the families will have to find out what has been done to their graves. It would kill me to find out my relatives were the victims of such desecration. The damage that has been caused to the headstones is irreparable."

Mr Chris Hawley, minister at South Ossett Baptist Church, said: "We had some complaints from health and safety officials saying some of the gravestones were unsafe. Our top priority is the safety of the public so we mounted a clean-up operation in the cemetery.

"The cemetery itself has not been used for 30 years and no-one even visits it. We intend to put the graves back in a way they would be safer to the public and are asking for their patience with us while we do that.

"The last thing we wanted to do was upset people but we had to make the cemetery safe. There is no easy way to do this and I hope people can just keep their patience while we finish the job."

But neighbours have revealed the church had tried to sell the land to them on two occasions before the gravestones were knocked down.

Janet Sidebottom, whose house adjoins the cemetery, said: "We did some research into this and found out that the minister would have to contact the family of every person interred at the site as well as post notices there. We saw no notice go up before the damage was done."

Margaret England, whose house also backs on to the cemetery, said there were regular visitors to the graves of people who wandered round looking at the headstones.

Peter Price, a spokesman for the Baptist Union Corporation, said: "We certainly advise sensitivity in issues like this. We would always advise that consultation should be carried out with people that would be affected."

Some of the gravestones which remained readable after the bulldozing were engraved as follows:

- James, son of Benjamin and Ann Archer of Ossett, born Feb 19, 1856, died Feb 9 1875. Also of Anne their daughter who died March 21, 1861, aged eight months.

- In loving memory of Thomas Graham, only son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Graham, who died Feb 5, 1930, aged 65. At rest.

- John Chapple, of Ossett Spa, who died July 20, 1873, aged 52.

- Lyndon Pickles, died June 1, 1972, aged 74.

"Wakefield Express", Friday April 26 2002

In 2010, the burial ground remains a neglected mess of broken gravestones and weeds. So much for the assurances of Chris Hawley, the then minister at the now demolished South Ossett Baptist Church.