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Building work was still being carried out in 1791 as the finishing off works at the mill were completed. Archer and Nettleton were still managing the mill in 1791, but in 1788 they were awarded £100 each by the trustees "In consideration of the trouble which they have had relative to the building and completion of the mill." It was originally proposed to award them one share each in the company, but in the event, this wasn't possible under the terms of the trust deed. However, despite the appreciation of the work done by Archer and Nettleton, the trustees made the decision to let the whole mill for a period of twenty-one years in December 1791. The previous part-tenant at the Healey mill, Ebenezer Aldred took over a small scribbling mill in Alverthorpe Road, Wakefield and took with him some of the now dated machinery. This proved to be a bad move, because he went bankrupt in 1794. The mill was let by public auction in January 1791 to a consortium of eight Ossett clothiers at an annual rental of £800 per year. This was a substantial sum in 1791 and the equivalent to £80,000 in 2009 prices using RPI as the meausre.22 This level of rent demonstrates the prosperity of the mill and the high demand for the wool processing and cloth finishing in the Ossett district. A rent of £800 per annum represented 14.5% of the total capital cost of the £5,500 required to finance the building of the mill and for the purchase of the machines. Payback would take only seven years, which was a very healthy return on shareholder investment. The dyehouse at the mill was let separately for similar lengths of time to the main mill. However, in 1812, it was used for the grinding of indigo.
Pildacre Mill, one of the earliest textile mills built in the West Riding and was constructed between 1791-1793 for Benjamin Hallas, an Ossett cloth weaver and blanket maker. Hallas had the far-reaching idea of bringing all the aspects of cloth manufacture under one roof, that is the initial scouring of the dirty wool right through to the weaving and finishing of the final material. Benjamin Hallas was baptised in Elland in 1748 and his father and grandfather had been clothiers in Stainland near Halifax, but Hallas's mother was from Ossett and so Hallas moved to Ossett to set up business as a master clothier in the 1770s. His eldest son, Benjamin who would later run the business was educated at Ossett's Free School, which later became Ossett Grammar School. A Methodist, Hallas was one of the trustees of the Methodist chapel built in Ossett under a trust deed in 1781. In 1785, Hallas subscribed £50 for a share in the newly formed Ossett Mill Company, which had established Healey Old Mill so it is likely that his decision to establish Pildacre Mill after seeing the success of the joint enterprise at Healey.
Owl Lane Mill
This mill was built around 1830 on the site of the Rank, Hovis, MacDougal bakery on Owl Lane for John Rowley and first appeared in the 1830 Rate Book for Ossett with John Rowley as the owner and occupier. By 1837, the extensive mill premises consisted engine house, boiler house, spinning rooms, sorting room, warehouse, wash-house, combing shops, warping shop and a counting house.1 Further extension of Owl Lane Mill was carried out in 1849 when a large boiler was conveyed through Dewsbury drawn by 15 horses, intended for Messrs. Rowley of Ossett. The boiler, weighing more than 16 tons, was manufactured by Mr. Horsefield at the Vulcan Works in Leeds and was 30ft in length and 10ft in diameter.2 There was a little bit of trouble at the mill in early 1850 when George Bates, an overlooker at Owl Lane Mill was fined 5 shillings at Dewsbury Court House for striking a girl in the firm's employ.3
By 1890, the mill had changed hands again and belonged to C.T. Phillips & Son who suffered a mill fire in the rag grinding department of what was called Spring Mill, Flushdyke and this is assumed to be the same mill as described previously.11 In 1891, C.T. Phillips and Son were reported as having fitted a Grinnell sprinkler at their mill at Flushdyke.12 If the mill owned by the Phillips family is the same Spring Mill as Oliver Nettleton had leased, it appears that by 1897 and some considerable time after Oliver Nettleton had died in 1892, a schedule of machinery at the Spring Mill site was drawn up by his executors.13 The Nettleton family leased the mil until 1897 as Oliver Nettleton & Son, but in 1897 there was an advertisement to let the main mill, which was described as consisting three storeys and an attic, 72ft by 43ft with a weaving shed 90ft by 42ft plus stores with a pattern weaving room over. There were warping, twisting, willeying and finishing sheds, a steam engine, five condenser sets, six self-acting mules, twenty power looms, six cottages, several closes of land, Whitley Spring Wood and Beck Ing and a reservoir totalling in all 10 acres, 1 rood and 3 perches.14 A month later, there was another advertisement for an auction at Spring Mill of the manufacturer's stock of wool, shoddy, mungo, bobbins and baskets after the decline of the business of Oliver Nettleton & Son.15
Ossett Mill was an important part of the West Riding cloth industry at the end of the 18th century. Of the sixty broadcloth mills in the West Riding, only Armley, Calverley and Dewsbury Old milled more cloth than Ossett and in 1796/97 Ossett Mill milled 8,274 broadcloths. So successful was the mill that in 1797, it was working day and night to keep up with the demand.8 The fourteen year lease on the mill was renewed in 1812 and was taken on by eight Ossett clothiers at a rent of £700 per annum, which is £35,000 at 2009 RPI values. The scarcity of water to power the waterwheels was a constant problem at the mill and it was decided that the fulling machines should take precedence to the carding and scribbling machines during times of drought.