Ossett - the history of a Yorkshire town

Ossett's Water Supplies

These days, clean drinking water is available at the turn of a tap. We can take a shower or a bath at any time and luxuriate in the clean water delivered to our houses, often from reservoirs many miles away. Two hundred years ago, it was a different story entirely and our ancestors had fetch their water from wells.

Polluted Water
Ossett was a dirty and unhealthy place to live in the mid-19th century. It was reported in the Ossett Observer in 1875, "heaps and sometimes tons of filthy ashes intermixed with excrement and decomposing vegetable products are everywhere to be found." People literally threw their rubbish into the streets and sewage ran down the roads in open drains in front of the houses. House cellars were undrained and were cesspits of foul-smelling liquid, several feet deep, for which there was no drainage outlet. In winter, the heavily rutted roads were a stinking sea of mud and in high summer the stench must have been unbelievable. It was just beginning to be commonly understood that disease, as a result of polluted water supplies was a national problem, and Ossett's wells, were at that time, the only source of drinking water. A prominent member of Ossett's Board of Surveyors, the group that preceded the Local Board, ridiculed the idea that anything more was necessary.

Most Ossett folk had to use public wells, and the majority of these are marked clearly on old Ordnance Survey Maps from 1851, 1882 and 1890. In 1874, the new Local Board employed Ossett's first medical officer, Mr John W. Greenwood, and he described the wells in the town as "plague spots", which were the source of an inadequate and dangerous water supply.

In the ten years preceding the hard-won introduction of the Local Government Act in Ossett in 1871, which brought about the introduction of a public water supply and proper drainage. The mortality rate in Ossett had sometimes reached 26 in every 1,000 - a truly appalling statistic, given that Ossett had a population of 9,200 in 1871. Child mortality rates were worryingly high and diseases such as scarlet fever, typhoid and even smallpox were relatively common. It was noted in the Ossett Observer that "wells were maintained with few exceptions at private cost, and were the only source of an imperfect and often tainted water supply."

Ossett's Wells
There were twenty-five public wells in Ossett as follows:

South Ossett Depth of Well in Yards Depth of Water in Yards
Horbury Lane Well 9.5 6
Storr's Hill, Briggs's Well 9 3
Giggal Hill Old Well 12.25 2
Giggal Hill New Well 12 7
Manor Lane Well 4.5 3.5
Low Common, Fothergill's Well 3.5 1
Low Common, Emmerson's Well 4.5 2.5
Low Common, Teall Town Well 6.5 3
Green Well, Top of Healey Lane 11.75 9
Dimple Well (New) 1.75 1
Dimple Well (Old) 0 0
Healey, Cold Well Spring 0 0
West Well, Ossett 4.25 3
North Ossett    
New Well, Old Church Site 18 5
Well Lane Well, Town End 6 3.5
Type Well, Dale Street 7.75 5
Dale Street, Old Well 3 1
Nelly's Well 2.25 1.75
Lower Street Well 2 1
Spurr Hill, Cross Keys 3 0
Streetside, Old Toll Bar 18 4
Town Well, Rhodes's 12.75 7
Low Well, Bottom of Town 18 4
Tatham Lane Well 10.5 6.5
Chidswell Lane 3 2

In September 1877, Ossett's Local Board asked their Medical Officer, Dr. John William Greenwood to inspect the town's public wells and produce a detailed report. The report didn't make encouraging reading:

"To the members of the Local Board: Gentlemen - In compliance with your request, I have recently, with Mr. Harrison, the Inspector of Nuisances, visited all the public wells to be found in the parish of Ossett. The depth and quantity of water each contained has been ascertained, and the quality noted, and the local surroundings examined, with a view to detecting the causes of pollution. We have no pleasing picture to present. Very few of the wells are fit for drinking purposes, many of them ought to be forthwith disused, others require most careful filtration. Some are situated in such close proximity to local drains and gutters as seriously to imperil them, others undoubtedly contain sewage matter. We have endeavoured to group them in order of merit.

Within the last twelve months, one very noted spring (which from time immemorial had continued to pour forth uninterruptedly a stream of delicious sparkling water) has ceased to flow; the cause of this misfortune is probably due to increased mining operations carried out in the locality. I allude to Cold Spring, situated near the Flatts in Healey. This spring was very justly celebrated for its purity, and its loss will be much felt in a district where literally there is 'water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

In the entire township there are 25 wells, 13 in the Southern division, 8 in the Northern and 4 in the Gawthorpe district.

Three have become dried up, viz, Dimple Old Well, Cold Spring and Spurr Hill Well.

Five have fallen into disuse for some years on account of their acknowledged impurity, viz, Healey Lane, Fothergill's, Well Lane Well, Dale Street Old Well, and Ossett Streetside Well.

Five call for immediate condemnation, viz, Manor Lane Well, Storr's Hill Well, Giggal Hill Old Well, Emmerson's Well and Gawthorpe Low Well.

Three remaining wells at Gawthorpe can be regarded as a little better.

Horbury Lane Well, Giggal Hill New Well, Teall Town Well, Dimple New Well, Old Church Site Well, Lower Street Well, and Nelly's Well are all of about equal merit, but very far from a state of purity, and should only be used after careful filtration.

West Well and Type Well are decidedly the best specimens.

The amount of rainfall during the past year and the present exceptionally wet summer, have to a considerable extent, mitigated the evil, that is as regards quantity.

The effects produced by the drinking of impure water are not instantaneous or readily observed. They creep on insidiously and gradually undermine the health, and as Dr. Corrigan truly remarked 'those who are not familiar with such subjects will scarcely be prepared to believe the small quantities of poisonous material capable of producing injury, as well as the length of time through which they will exercise their slow poisoning.'

In the course of domiciliary visitation three years ago, the water supply received special attention, and nearly every well, tank, reservoir and receptacle throughout the township was carefully examined. The conclusion arrived at was that the water obtainable from either public wells or from numerous and varied private sources was miserably deficient in quantity and very bad in quality, and hence the urgent need for public waterworks then contemplated.

The cry everywhere was for water, people had to trudge long distances in search of it. The most questionable fluid was eagerly seized and carried away in triumph by the lucky individual who happened to be first at the well. The presence of a water cart in any district was the signal for a general stampede with pitcher, can or bucket. I myself have witnessed into the teens of women patiently, or should I say impatiently, waiting their turn at the tap. So universal was the want that on more than one occasion the question of endeavoring to meet the difficulty by engaging a staff of water carriers with horse barrels, and retailing the coveted article at a price hardly sufficient to cover the necessary expenditure was under consideration of this Board. "

Improved Water Supplies
In the early 1870s, the Local Board had already turned its attention to providing a piped water supply. As already noted, Ossett was still drawing water from wells and throwing sewage out of the house door. There was a project to join with Horbury in providing a water supply, but Ossett said "No." Eventually, it was agreed to take a supply from Batley, or if necessary, from Dewsbury. If piped water is supplied then drains must be provided as well. That meant spending money, which must necessarily be borrowed and the requisite Act of Parliament was passed on the 5th March 1874. This authorised the spending of £5,000 on street improvements, £24,000 on a sewage works, and £20,000 for a water supply. Huge sums of money in those days.

Many locals were unhappy about the new piped water supply and there was a letter from a resident to the Ossett Observer in October 1878 protesting against the sale of public wells by the Local Board. The main points of the letter made by the correspondent were as follows:

"We elect the Board to preserve our rights and defend them if necessary, not confiscate them. The poor will be deprived of their just right to have their water free. The town's new water supply is expensive and uncertain and since the Board can give no title, whatever may be built on the wells may be destroyed and pulled down by any ratepayer."

Strong words indeed, and clearly not everyone was happy about being provided with a piped water supply. However, that did not stop the Ossett Local Board from filling in wells and selling off the land, whether they had title or not. The Ossett Observer in August 1878 notes that "having filled up the Type Well in Dale Street with the spoils of the drainage ditches, which had been laid in the road, the Local Board sold the site of about 23 square yards - triangular in shape and partly intersected with the property of the Co-op to Mr. R. Nettleton (Butcher) for £50."

At the Local Board meeting on the 5th August 1878, it was agreed that some of the other wells in Ossett should also be filled up and the land sold off. These were the wells on the Green, at the top of Healey Lane, Storr's Hill Road and Emmerson's Well, Ossett Common. Also that the well, located on Giggal Hill, should be filled up with dross. An advertisement for the sale of the sites of the old wells subsequently appeared in the Ossett Observer.

However, also In 1878, a Dr. Thorne carried out a medical examination for the Dewsbury Registration District, of which Ossett was then a part. His report for Ossett-cum-Gawthorpe was not too complimentary:

"There are occasional outbreaks of enteric and scarlet fever. Houses in some parts are built without means of through ventilation. Some outlying portions of the district have a polluted water supply. Some parts, notably so-called 'private streets' are ill-sewered. Midden privies are a source of nuisance and of danger to health. Great neglect as regards removal of excremental and other filth. New works of water supply and sewerage are in progress."

Ossett bought water from Batley at a cost of 8d. per thousand gallons and later from Dewsbury at a better rate of 6d. per thousand gallons. In May 1876, construction began of a pipeline from Staincliffe to a new reservoir at Gawthorpe. Opposition to the new schemes was very strong in Gawthorpe, and when the new reservoir was filled up, it leaked. Someone had maliciously placed two planks in the foundations.

Ossett's Private Wells
Many houses, inns and businesses in Ossett had (and still have) their own wells, some having their own names like Clayton's Well on Field Lane. Some of these private wells were fitted with hand pumps and there used to be one at the bottom of Wesley Street owned then by Mr. Frank Burton. The house used to be a a stable and coach house and the well would have been used to water the horses.

Dr. John Greenwood's report to the Local Board in September 1877 was damning in its condemnation of many of Ossett's private wells:

"The numerous holes honoured with the name of wells, which everywhere riddle the township (and are to be found in the most inconceivable quarters, from cellar to stable, underneath inhabited rooms, in and adjoining farm yards well stocked with manure and in close proximity to heaps of excrementitious matter still more objectionable) these holes have become full, yes to overflowing, but the quality remains bad as ever. The solvent power of water enables it to take up all these impurities and they are carried by wholesale into the sources from whence we draw our supply.

These shallow wells are undoubted causes of great mischief, containing as they do, merely surface water, which has percolated through the loose porous soil, itself highly impregnated with all sorts of organic impurities, derived from neighbouring ash pits, middens, cesspools, etc. The very filtration, which such water has undergone, may have given to it a bright tempting appearance, but it has not removed from it the poisonous elements capable of producing disease, elements which cannot easily be detected by our ordinary senses, but requiring chemical tubes and microscopic power to demonstrate their presence. "

The location of Ossett's old Public Wells
Water WellSome of the town's wells were fed with spring water, which follow the clay beds that Ossett is built upon. New Well, Old Church Site was one of the main public wells in Ossett and was located along the old Church Street at the back of what used to be Pickard's chemist's shop, approximately opposite the Peace Memorial Stone that is set in the wall of the Methodist Church. In the 1877 survey of Ossett's wells by Dr. J.W. Greenwood, New Well was not without criticism and it was suggested that the water should only be used after filtration.

Here, the water level is about 3 metres down and the old well was about 2.5m in diameter and fed through a square culvert made of blocks of stone where it ran through to the far side of Wesley Street.

One of the cleanest wells in the town was the West Well, which was located at the back of the George Inn on the old lane that ran parallel with Bank Street. There were other wells in that part of town called West Wells at the bottom of Headlands, near the old Pinfold, but West Well was not located there. The location of the West Well can be seen on the 1851 1:10,560 OS Map.

There was another major public well in Ossett called Nelly's Well, which was opposite Greenland House on Dale Street. In 1874, Nelly's Well was so polluted by sewage that the water could not be used, but after pot pipes had been substituted for an old rubble drain, which ran by the top of the well, the well became usable again. Nelly's Well and Clayton's Well on Field Lane (now Church Street) were fed by a major stream, originating from the top of Church Street or possibly on the hillside towards Kingsway, and feeding the old Northfield Mill Dam (Bickles), now a car park, across Church Street, through the recreation ground, under Greenlands House and across Dale Street.

From Nelly's Well, the spring fed another mill dam at the bottom of Ingfield Avenue, continuing to the Spring Mill Dam and then on to Ossett Spa, going underground again, probably through Horbury to the River Calder.

Manor Lane, off Manor Road used to be called Cave's Well Lane and Cave's Well was located at the very end of the lane, almost on the Ossett and Horbury border. This was another public well although it was situated quite a way from any obvious habitation. It is likely that Cave's Well was known later as Manor Lane Well, which Ossett's Medical Officer suggested should be immediately closed because of pollution in his 1877 report.

Nearby, off South Parade and towards Hagg's Hill were at least five wells in close proximity. These are likely to include the three known public wells in the area - Emmerson's Well, Fothergill's Well and Teall Town Well. The first two were badly polluted and only Teall Town Well was recommended for use (after filtering) in Greenwood's 1877 survey.

There were four more wells off Storr's Hill Road - two close to the Weaver's Arms and probably private wells belonging to the old Manor House, which pre-dates Park House (later Ossett Grammar School). The other two wells were located at the very top of Storrs Hill and may have been public wells. One of these was Briggs's Well, which in 1877 was polluted and it was suggested that the well should be "immediately condemned".

There were also several wells in the general vicinity of Green Park and Giggal Hill. Giggal Hill Old Well was another polluted well, which had been condemned for closure due to pollution but Giggal Hill New Well was in a slightly better state and was usable if the water was first filtered.

There were two public wells known as Old Dimple Well and New Dimple Well. Old Dimple Well had dried up prior to the 1877 survey, probably as a result of mining subsidence, and the water from New Dimple Well was only usable after "careful filtration."

A pump is shown at the Red Lion Hotel on Dewsbury Road, which will have been used to pump water from a well. Also, there was another well between the Red Lion and Flying Horse Inns, along Dewsbury Road, which is likely to have been the Streetside Old Toll Bar Well. This public well was disused by 1875 because sewage was running into it.

Wesley Street Well 1970s

Above: Picture of a well found near Wesley Street, Ossett in the 1970s. In June 1870, Ossett's Board of Surveyors decided to sink a new well, using the Board's own men, near Mr Harrison Hewitt's, in the centre of town some 5 yards in diameter and 10 yards deep, "if it should be necessary to go so deep." It is believed that this was named the New Well, the main public well in the town, and is the one pictured above.

The Pildacre colliery first opened in 1872 and was owned first by Hargreaves, Naylor and Co. then, from 1877, just by Naylor and Co. For some time, the colliery was managed by Mr Henry Westwood J.P. whose family owned the nearby Westfield Pit between 1882 - 1908. Pildacre colliery was flooded on the 6th November 1910 by a vast inrush of water, estimated as entering at 30,000 to 50,000 gallons an hour. The colliery was closed and 250 men and boys were made redundant overnight. This natural and very unexpected event was seen as a potential source for a much-needed new water supply for the rapidly expanding town of Ossett.

Pildacre Colliery 1908

Above: 1908 Map showing location of Pildacre Colliery, later Pildacre Water Works. The railway line is the branch line between Ossett Station and Chickenley Heath Station that went on to Batley.

Responsibility for Ossett's water supply was undertaken initially by the Local Board of Health, forerunner of the Council before the borough was incorporated, after it came into being in 1873. Short-term arrangements were made with the Waterworks Committee of Batley Town Council for water to be bought from Batley Corporation reservoir near Holmfirth, and on the 20th May 1876, the first sod of the water reservoir at Gawthorpe was cut by Mr. John Whitaker. In the early years of the 20th century, Ossett was still without a permanent source of water. On the 1st June 1907, the Town Council entered into a 30-year contract with the Dewsbury and Heckmondwike Waterworks Board to take a minimum of 2 Million gallons of water per week from its reserves.

The steady increase in population and trade forced progress in the supply and distribution of water in Ossett. As the demand for water in the Ossett area grew, the Dewsbury and Heckmondwike Waterworks Board gave warning that it could no longer guarantee to meet this increasing need. In fact, the situation was so critical that water supplies to manufacturers often had to be curtailed and very little water was available in reserve for domestic purposes. It was said that at best there was only two day's supply and at worst, less than one day's supply. Ossett had been taking water from Staincliffe as fast as the pipes would allow, but this didn't meet the demand and several manufacturers had decided against establishing their businesses in Ossett. It was this that made Ossett Town Council turn to the vast untapped reservoir of water, which was underground at Pildacre. In August 1887, during a severe drought, water in Ossett was being rationed and was turned off altogether between noon and six p.m. every day. In order to keep the woollen mills running, the potential of the Pildacre site was realised when it was decided to pump water out of Pildacre Colliery directly into the mains network: 1

"THE WATER QUESTION IN OSSETT - Two or three mills in Ossett are now standing for want of sufficient water and the stoppage of others is imminent. Yesterday at noon, the supply was shut off at the reservoir until six o'clock in the evening; the only notice being the sending round of a bellman in the morning. It was expected that yesterday afternoon a large double ram pump would have been at work pumping water from Pildacre Collieries into the mains for the use of the mills, etc., but through some mishap this proved not to be ready. The report from Mr. T. Fairley, F.R.S.S., the Leeds analyst, upon a sample of water from the collieries states that the organic matter in the water is probably of vegetable origin. It is practically free from sewage impurity. It is, however, strongly alkaline, containing much carbonate of soda, such as to be found in other waters having medicinal properties. On the other hand, it would be good water for scouring and similar manufacturing purposes."

An Act of Parliament in 1922 gave authority for the provision of a new water supply and and the disused Pildacre Colliery was purchased so that headgear could be erected to draw off water. The Pildacre Waterworks, at a cost of £48,667, was opened on the 25th February 1928 by Councillor J. H. Moorhouse, then the Chairman of the Ossett Water Committee. The Pildacre Waterworks scheme had been launched in 1923 by Councillor Peace who had subsequently fallen ill and as a result, the scheme foundered for several years, with much criticism of the Town Council from local people. Moorhouse was seen as a dynamic person and he was given responsibility to move the scheme along, which he did successfully.

Nevertheless, Moorhouse was subjected to much local criticism in the year following the completion of the scheme, particularly in respect of the cost. The water was also criticised by the town's womenfolk who complained that the water had a little hardness. The Town Council hoped to eliminate this and also assured local residents that the hardness in the water was not a fault from a health point-of-view.

Amid great ceremony on the 25th February 1928, the public were invited into the Pildacre Machine Room to witness the christening of the two huge pumping engines installed to draw up the water from the old mine workings and then pump it to the new water tower at Gawthorpe. This was performed by the Mayoress, Mrs. Armitage and Mrs. Moorhouse. Each lady completed the task by breaking a bottle of champagne over the machinery, with the respective engines being named "Maud" and "Edith". Engineering contractors for the project were Hathorn, Davey and Co. Ltd. and the United Water Softeners Ltd. Afterwards, visitors were entertained to an excellent tea at Ossett Town Hall, the "health of the King" having been drunk with musical honours. Councillor Moorhouse then submitted a toast "The New Waterworks" and gave a speech. It was also noted that Ossett was a progressive place with some beautiful new streets and with 'spa' water now available at Pildacre, it should make an attractive residential centre. Firms driven out of Ossett previously by a shortage of water could return and it was hoped that other trades in addition to coal and shoddy would be attracted to Ossett.

An element of mystery still surrounds the origins of the water, which poured into the Pildacre pit in 1910. Traditionally, it was believed that the source was an artesian borehole. It was known that miners refreshed themselves from an artesian well at the bottom of the shaft. About 20,000 gallons per hour sprung out of the ground and it was said that it was "the purest and coldest water that could be drunk." At the time that the water broke into the pit, it was noted that although the pumps were at full pressure, they "might as well have been standing for the impression they were making". The water simply poured in over a width of three or four feet and a depth of about a foot. Pieces of timber thrown into the water were "swept into the cellars of the workings in a flash."

In addition, a further supply of water was tapped from Whitworth's old colliery in Runtlings and the combination of this with the artesian spring already at Pildacre was felt to have given the town a practically inexhaustible water supply for all time. Sadly, this was not to be the case.

In more recent times, a leading geologist, Mr. Edgar Morton, who investigated Pildacre said that the mine water was almost certainly surface water, filtered down from an above ground catchment area. By the early 1970s, the water at Pildacre had almost dried up. The surrounding area has become increasingly urbanised and surface water caught on the roads or house roofs is now drained off and channeled ultimately back to the rivers, instead of filtering naturally through the ground.

The Pildacre workings continued to provide water for Ossett until September 1974 when the source was transferred to the Fixby treatment works near Huddersfield (Fixby is adjacent to Junction 24 on the M62 West).

Pildacre Works in 1983

Above: Pildacre Water Works in a derelict state in the early 1980s after closure in 1974.

Gawthorpe Water Tower dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles around. It is located at the highest point of the Ossett-cum-Gawthorpe area, mid-way along Chidswell Lane in Gawthorpe at 418ft above sea level. This huge concrete structure was constructed between 1922 and 1928 to store drinking water for the town, which was pumped from the Pildacre Water Works some 1.25 miles away. The 25-foot trough has a capacity of 200,000 gallons or nearly 1 million litres. The pinnacle of the tower is now also used to accommodate collinear mobile telephone aerials.

Gawthorpe Water Tower from Owl Lane, Ossett

Above: Gawthorpe Water Tower as seen from Owl Lane. Picture by Samantha Cheverton and licensed by the Creative Commons Licence

Ossett's Sewerage Works
Things have moved on from the vile practice of our 19th century forebears in throwing their sewage out in the street, and Ossett built two sewage disposal works to deal with the town's effluent. These were the Southern Outfall at Healey, and the Eastern Outfall at Ossett Spa, which was constructed in 1875 and consisted at that time of three settling tanks and two acres of land. Further extensions were carried out in 1896 and 1907.

The Local Board sanctioned another addition to the Spa works in 1913, which necessitated the reconstruction of the main outfall sewer. Two new screening chambers and a storm overflow chamber were constructed, and also two new settling tanks with a joint capacity of 103,500 gallons. The percolating filters were increased in number from three to seven, each 100ft in diameter.

Under the Ossett Corporation Act (1914), the Council obtained powers to make a charge for the treatment of trade effluent, which was dealt with at both the Spa and Healey Works. Those charges in May 1921, varied from 2d to 4.5d per gallon, according to the trade.

The Spring End installation is a miniature undertaking, complete in itself, comprising detritus pit, continuous flow settling tanks in duplicate and auto-close valves to regulate the dosing of the filter. Many costly schemes have been tried from time-to-time to solve the difficulty of dealing with the Spring End outfall by experts who failed to see that it could actually be worked by gravitation. The whole of the works, with the exception of the engine house was carried out by local direct labour, without friction or mishap of any kind. The new works were designed on the simplest lines, having due regard to efficiency and economy, and were expected to be capable of meeting all requirements for many years to come.

From October 1961, sewage from the Southern Outfall at Healey Lane was sent for treatment to the larger Dewsbury Corporation plant at nearby Mitchell Laithes.

In 2007, Yorkshire Water undertook a major programme of improvement and rationalisation of sewage works, including the closure of the old Southern Outflow at Healey in Ossett. The Mitchell Laithes sewage works, Clough Lane, Earlsheaton owned by Yorkshire Water, will be refurbished at a cost of £17.5m and are part of Yorkshire Water's Riverlife project, which is expected to improve the quality of the water in the River Calder. Mitchell Laithes sewage works was opened in 1879 and reconstructed in 1928 and again in 1957. The refurbished sewage works will treat waste water from houses in Dewsbury, Batley, Mirfield and Ossett.

1. "Leeds Mercury", Friday, August 26th 1887.

In 1868, Ossett suffered a very hot summer, followed by a serious drought, and the 'Ossett Observer' from July 25th 1868 noted:

"The shortage of water and the conditions of the town's wells formed the main subject at the meeting of Ossett Board of Surveyors. It was reported that after the West Well was recently cleaned out, the level of the water had risen 18 inches in 40 minutes. It was decided to sink a new well at the Common, 'opposite to Joseph Mitchell's', the Assistant Surveyor stating that they would only have to go down 2 or 3 yards in order to obtain water. Two members said that they had taken it upon themselves to have cleaned out the Gawthorpe well during the drought, which was full of mud and stones."

In August 1868, the subject of water was still being discussed. It was reported that when a well was sunk at the top of Giggal Hill, water had been found at a depth of 6ft 6", and the level had risen 1ft overnight. It was decided to open out an old well in The Green, near the railway bridge.

At the meeting of Ossett's Board of Surveyors on the 16th June 1870, they were discussing the perennial problem of water supplies and wells. Some conversation took place about a well at the bottom of Gawthorpe, and a coal owner there, who it was said had declared that there was water there, but it would be necessary to sink about 30 yards and bore the remainder of the depth. He offered to find all the implements and sharpen the picks for nothing. However, the Board was of the opinion that the cost would be too great and that the well would be too remote to be of any use to the inhabitants of Gawthorpe. Instead, Mr. Terry suggested that the ground should be bored at the top of "Bridle Stye", where a man had offered to bore seven yards deep for 12 shillings. It was resolved that a depth of ten yards be bored at the same rate. The well at 'Bridle Stye' was eventually constructed, however, later in the year, it was reported that this well was such a success that the water overflowed and damaged nearby land. In the event, a drain was set up to take away the surplus.

The 'Ossett Observer' for the 16th July 1870 reporting on the Ossett Local Board meeting that week that: "The Chairman called attention to Vicker Well in Manor Mill Lane, which was very shallow and children had got into the habit of bathing in it. Mr. Ellis moved and it was seconded that it be sunk another two or three yards deeper to prevent children from bathing in it and that it be covered over."

Drowned in Ossett Well
In February 1875, 27 year-old Rachel Butterworth drowned in Green Well, near the top of Healey Lane. Since contracting typhus fever as child, Rachel was weak both bodily and mentally. She also suffered frequent fits and had never been able to work. Rachel lived with her widowed mother Harriet Butterworth on Ossett Green. It seems that poor Rachel had been sitting on the edge of the well, dangling her bare feet in the water when part of her clothing dropped into the water. It seems that she fell into the well, trying to retrieve the clothing and drowned. Her body was recovered by dragging the well, eleven hours after she went missing. Green Well had been disused for some years owing to known impurities.

Brewing Ossett Ale
Keepers of Ossett's ale houses did their own brewing in the 19th century and had to fetch water from the town's wells in barrels. Jack Berry, the landlord of the old Hare & Hounds Inn from 1847-1871 regularly took his barrel to the West Well to fill and nearly as often as he did so, he had to return home, explaining that he had "left t'bung 'oil at home".

The Hare and Hounds was a unique establishment and the recognised "sporting" establishment in the town. It was a place where cock fighting, dog fighting and prize fights between the inn's pugilistic patrons were commonplace. Located opposite the Queen Street end of Prospect Road, the Hare and Hounds closed in October 1873 after trading for over 100 years. It is believed that the inn was demolished in 1875.

In July 1878, the average daily consumption of water from the public supply recently instituted by the Ossett Local Board was 30,000 gallons. Batley Corporation had agreed to supply Ossett with 100,000 gallons a day and the Board was bound under the agreement to pay for a minimum of 2/3rds that quantity i.e. 66,000 gallons per day.

At a Local Board meeting in July 1878, Dr. J.W. Greenwood, the Board's Medical Officer passed around a bottle of water. Everyone agreed that the water smelled awful. Greenwood said that the water was taken from a jug placed on a table for the children's dinner at one of the houses in Pildacre. The only water supply for the house was from rain water collected in tubs.

A Voice: "Wicked"
During the opening ceremony for the Pildacre Waterworks (25th February 1928), Councillor Hartley of Horbury said that he understood Ossett Council had been looking upon Horbury as prospective buyers of Pildacre water and he believed that if it had not been stated two or three years earlier that "Pildacre water was not fit for pigs!" then Horbury would have taken supply from them instead of going elsewhere.

The critical comment about Pildacre water was attributed to newspaper correspondence by someone signing A Voice: "Wicked"

Yorkshire Water
Do you know that for every gallon of water that you take from your taps, your local Water Company charges you for it twice? Once for the water from the taps and once for the same amount of water to be disposed of down your drains. Yorkshire Water in particular is expensive in this regard since they have the second highest average bills of any water company after South West Water.


Yorkshire Water also currently charge you another £34 per annum for rainwater that lands on your roofs and then goes into the drains via gutters and downpipes.

Not a bad return for a private monopoly who seemingly have the ability to increase bills each year (9% last year) well above the rate of inflation and all apparently authorised by the water regulator OFWAT.