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, half-way 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. The town is roughly half-way 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.
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.
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.
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, with some building materials still left dumped in its front yard. 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.
Ossett was, for a brief period in the 19th century, a spa town. Having been founded by a local stonemason who was inspired by Harrogate and Cheltenham, the waters were popular with those seeking relief from certain skin diseases in the early 19th century, but it remained a small spa during this period. In the 1870s, a plan to transform Ossett into a "second Harrogate" ended in failure, and the spa closed as a result. The south-east of the town is still known as "Ossett Spa".
Ossett cum Gawthorpe was a township in the ancient parish of Dewsbury; it became a civil parish in 1866, and was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Ossett in 1890. Under the Local Government Act 1972, it became an unparished area in the City of Wakefield. In an earlier draft of the Act, Ossett was to be part of the Kirklees district on the grounds that the area was originally part of Dewsbury; after an appeal by the Ossett Labour Party, it was decided Ossett would be part of the Wakefield district.
Ossett has changed its parliamentary constituency several times. In 1983, the town transferred from the Dewsbury seat to the Normanton constituency. The seat has been continually represented by Labour since 1885: longer than any other British constituency.
Since the 2010 election, Ossett has been part of the Wakefield seat, held by Mary Creagh. When Ossett was part of the Dewsbury constituency, the MP was David Ginsburg, one of the Labour MPs who defected to the Social Democratic Party. On transferring to the Normanton constituency, the MP for many years was Bill O'Brien until he entered the House of Lords and was succeeded by Ed Balls.
Most of the town is in the Ossett ward on the local council, but the south-eastern part of the town is in the Horbury and South Ossett ward. There is a small area of Ossett (defined within the pre-1974 boundaries) in the Wakefield West ward, but this is mostly a business area with few residents. The Ossett ward is extremely marginal, and has been won over the last ten years by Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and UKIP candidates. As of 24 May 2014, the ward is represented by one councillor each from Labour, Conservative and UKIP. Horbury and South Ossett is less of a marginal seat and is represented by three Labour concillors as of 24 May 2014, although it has elected Conservatives in some past elections.