The Day School was started in 1850, the year of Denis Creighton Neary’s appointment as Curate in Charge, with a view to building up the new parish of South Ossett. It was held in a long room previously used as a weaving chamber in what were called Fawcett’s Buildings on Middle Common, when there were only footpaths where Station Road now is, Sowood Lane and Horbury Lane being little more than occupation roads and Manor Road was the one main road from Ossett to Horbury.

New Church Schools were erected in 1856–7 and opened 15th April 1857, close by the church. A pair of small cottages occupying part of the site was converted into a Schoolmaster’s House and it was to this house that Mr Joseph Cox came as Master in 1858, Miss A. Ainley (known to many later as Mrs Ben Priestley) at the same time taking charge of the infants then in the north end of the big room.


Joseph Cox, the second Mayor of Ossett from 1896 – 1897, when he visited Buckingham Palace on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

Many people think that the Church of South Ossett was financed by the State – this was not so. The Ecclesiastical Committee, from which the Vicar got his stipend was only appointed by Parliament to secure the best administration of Church funds in public investment, had much the appearance of a State Department, whilst the Government Grants based on the average attendance of scholars did help to finance the school the same grants were made to others e.g. the Wesleyan School in Wesley Street, Ossett.

Joseph COX was born circa 1833 and baptised 4th Nov 1833 in Holme-upon-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire; the son of John COX, an agricultural labourer and Jane BILLINGHAM, who were married in Holme on Spalding 10th February 1829. In the 1851 census Joseph was aged 17, living with his parents, his occupation being given as a ‘scholar’! This suggests that he may have been studying whilst working, (possibly a correspondence course or even as a Pupil Teacher), but this would have not earned much, if any, money to contribute to the family of an agricultural worker. Perhaps we will never know the answer to this but he was evidently very clever and gained his qualifications to be a teacher.

Joseph, aged 24, married Sarah ANELAY, born circa 1834 and baptised 11th January 1835 in Eastrington between July & September 1857 (registered in Howden).Sarah’s family were also agricultural labourers, and in the 1851 census she is described as a servant. Joseph evidently gained sufficient teaching experience during the next 10 years to be offered the post of Headmaster of South Ossett Christ Church School in 1859; Sarah was also installed as Schoolmistress. Perhaps she was taught by Joseph? She was an experienced needlewoman, possibly learning this skill when she worked as a servant.

Sarah COX must have been an exceptional working mother as over the next 20 yrs she produced 13 children! They were: Annie, 1858; Frederick 1859; Eleanor 1860; Lizzie 1862; Bertram 1863; Emily 1864; Mary Jane 1866; Gertrude 1868; Ernest George 1869; Harry Anelay 1872; Florence Edith 1873; Catherine Maud 1874 and Sydney 1877.This was in addition to teaching needlework in the school. How she coped with the demands of a mother, especially nursing the children through the usual childhood illnesses prevalent at that time, such as Scarletina (Rubella) Chicken Pox, Small Pox and Measles, it is hard to imagine.

In 1864 the three youngest children were very ill; two of the children died in the space of 8 days. Bertram was buried on Oct 12th aged 16 months and Lizzie on Oct 20th aged 30 months. Amazingly baby Emily aged 3 months survived. As a working mother for a time, I cannot begin to imagine how difficult and stressful this must have been!

1881 Census Joseph Cox and family living on Manor Road, Ossett

Joseph and Sarah’s daughters Annie, Emily, Mary Jane, Gertrude and Catherine Maud all followed in their parents’ footsteps and became teachers. Two of his sons Sidney and Ernest were ironmongers. His son Harry Anelay COX was a clerk but later became a Rag Merchant with large premises in Dewsbury.Mary Jane married Samuel Norman PICKARD on 17 Oct 1893 in South Ossett Christ Church and Harry Anelay COX was later known to have lived in Highfield Cottage in 1907 (former home of the author) when it was owned by Alfred Hinchliffe PICKARD. He later purchased Sowood House from Lois Pickard.

Joseph Cox retired from his position as Headmaster of the school (sometimes affectionately referred to by ex pupils as ‘Cox’s College’) on 10th November 1899 after almost 40 yrs dedicated service. He helped out again in 1900 and acted as a School Manager for the next 6 yrs. He died on 17th and was buried on 21st September 1906. His wife Sarah survived him by only 8 months and was buried on the 6th May 1907. They lived on Storrs Hill Rd., Ossett and their burial services took place at Holy Trinity Church. They were both aged 72 yrs. Two very remarkable people!

Information from the South Ossett School Log Books, published in the Ossett Observer in 1986), posted on the ‘OLD OSSETT’ website by Joe HONEY, Gt. Grandchild of Joseph Cox.