Ossett is a market town within the metropolitan district of the City of Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is located near junction 40 of the M1 motorway, halfway between Dewsbury, to the west, and Wakefield, to the east. In the 2001 census, it was classified as part of the West Yorkshire Urban Area. At the 2011 Census the population of the Ossett ward of the City of Wakefield Council was 16,116. The town is roughly halfway between the west and east coasts of England. Ossett derives from the Anglo Saxon and is either “the fold of a man named Osla” or ” a fold frequented by blackbirds”.
Ossett is sometimes misspelled as “Osset”. In Ellis’ On Early English Pronunciation, one of the founding works of British linguistics, the incorrect spelling is used. The British Library has an online dialect study that uses the spelling. Origins Ossett appears in the 1086 Domesday Book as “Osleset”, which was in the Manor of Wakefield. The Domesday Book was compiled for William the Conqueror in 1086. “Osleset” was recorded as three and a half carucates which is the land needed to be ploughed by three teams of eight oxen. Woodland pasture measured “half a league long as much broad” (roughly six furlongs by six furlongs). Four villans and three bordars lived in Osleset, a villan was an upper status villager, a bordar was a lower status villager.
Industrial Revolution Coal-mining was, up to the late 1960s, Ossett’s second industry in terms of people employed and the first in terms of males employed. Coal has been mined since the 14th century and there were a large number of pits in Ossett during the 19th century. The pits included Old Roundwood, opened in 1851 mining the Gawthorpe seam.
The Haigh Moor seam opened in 1860 and the Silkstone seam opened in 1893. Pildacre pit shut due to flooding in 1875 but remained as a source of water for Ossett. Westfield shut in the early 1900s. The Chidswell riot in 1893 was caused by striking miners trying to reach Westfield to stop other miners working. Another pit down Healey Road was also the scene of tension between police and striking miners. Low Laithes pit shut in 1926, however the seams later flooded and were responsible for the Lofthouse Colliery disaster in 1973. Greatfield shut in the 1950s, Old Roundwood shut in 1966 and Shaw Cross, on the Ossett/Dewsbury border near the current Dewsbury Rugby League stadium, closed in 1968.
Author and local resident Stan Barstow said that Ossett and Horbury were the “border country” where the north-west of the coalfield merged with the south-east of the wool towns. Local historian John Goodchild said, “The place was essentially one of small mines and small mills”. The town was once a thriving centre of the “shoddy” industry; recycling woollen garments. Whilst some mill towns employed mostly females in its textile sector, Ossett’s mills always had roughly equal numbers of men and women. The town’s mills were generally small, but they had a reputation as high-quality producers. Whitehead’s Mill used to have a carnival float that said “We Export to the World” at the Gawthorpe May Pole parade. During the 1970s, Woodhead Manufacturing employed 1,500 people on this site in its two premises fronting Church Street and Kingsway. The shock absorber business was the last part of the site operations to close in the early 1990s.
The site is now a housing estate and Woodhead’s exists in name only and is run from an industrial estate in Leeds. There is however, a large old ‘mill type’ building situated on Church Street, which still shows Woodhead signage in large blue lettering, on the buildings’ facade. The building however, is in a very derelict and dangerous state, largely due to vandalism. Arson has been the greatest damage inflicted, leaving the buildings’ roof black and charred.
Also a lack of upkeep is to blame for its current state. It has had building work attempted many times in the past, but never completed and still remains in a derelict state that until now and is now being converted into apartments The yard and building has a large stone wall and locked iron gates to the front, which edges right up to the pavement on Church Street, and high metal fencing to the rear, which edges up to a grassed area next to the large housing estate.
The housing estate situated at the rear, is fairly large and has a selection of mixed style and sized modern houses and four storey flats, occupied by singletons, couples and families. Second World War In the Second World War, Ossett was accidentally bombed on 16 September 1940. Ten High Explosive bombs were dropped. No one was killed, save for a number of chickens and several properties were damaged. A V-1’s engine was reportedly heard to cut out, and came down at Grange Moor, to the west of the town.