Photo of Sowood Farm: Anne-Marie Fawcett                        

1300-1676 Controversy – The Dentons and The Black Death

Above the front door of Sowood Farmhouse is a datestone that carries the letters FM and the date 1689 but there is evidence that the farmstead is much older even than this. (West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to A.D 1500 M.L. Faull & S.A. Moorhouse 1981 page 471).


A section has been cut from the top right edge. Could this be a sign that the piece of stone was previously used in another building?

Between 1277 and 1709 the Manor of Sowood is variously referred to as Sowewode, Southwood Green, Soutwode and Southwode which means ‘south wood’ and derives from Old English Su and wudu. The Manor had been acquired, by purchase or grant, by Sir John de Horbury in the late 13th or the very early 14th century possibly at the time he acquired the Manor of Horbury in 1302.

Sir John de Horbury’s tenure of the Manor was short lived and he died before 1304 when the Manor reverted to the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield, the 7th Earl de Warenne. Records show that the Manor appointed new staff to operate the farm and during the period 1304-1323 it became a mixed arable and livestock farm of the Manor. During this period the farm was growing crops, including oats and wheat, and making hay and raising sheep and other animals for the Lord of the Manor’s table. This was the period of the Great Famine in England and not all went well at the farm with evidence of malpractice and poor administration. By 1323 the Lord of the Manor of Wakefield had tired of Sowood and it was leased to Thomas ALEYN.

In 1336 Aleyn sold the Manor to William de Scargill who died of the plague in 1349. By 1363 it was in the hands of William de Gargrave. Whilst war raged in 1462 in the War of The Roses at nearby Sandal Castle and again in the Civil War of 1642, little of local significance appears to have happened at Sowood for the next 200 years or so. Then, on April 25 1585 at the Manor of Wakefield Tourn ( local criminal court presided over by the sherriff) held at Wakefield………. Christopher Denton did not make his part of Sowodd lone gate: amerced 4d. The gate may have been a structure but was more likely to be a path or roadway – a gateway – between the nearby towns of Horbury and Ossett. Even in the late 19th century the Sowood Farmstead included land on the east and west of Denton Lane. For the next 300 years or so if you wanted to go to the farm from Horbury or from Ossett you would do so by taking the lane to Denton’s House. This lane subsequently became Denton Lane and was the street address of Sowood Farm well into the second half of the 19th century.

Sowood Farm would have earlier and later owners and occupiers than Christopher Denton but the significance of his lasting legacy in the name of the road which led to Denton’s House can be found in 1593. In the late summer of this year Christopher Denton, seven of his family and five others in the locality fell victims to the Plague, the Black Death, and died within days of contracting the virulent disease.

All were buried in unconsecrated ground at Denton’s House in Sowood. One of those plague victims was Joanye Brouke who was buried at Denton’s House on August 3 1593. The Denton family was decimated by the Plague. It was time for change for Sowood Farm.

1657-1797 – The Marsdens, Re-building, Stability & Early Deaths

In 1657 Edmund Lord of Sowood buried his son William at Horbury which suggests that he may have been at the farm by 1657.

In 1676 Francis Marsden (1651-1718) of Middlecliffe, Thurlstone, near Penistone acquired the copyhold interest in the messuage called Sowood, or Sowood House, from Thomas Purdue, gentleman, of Pudsey. In October 1670 he [Thomas Purdue] had married Priscilla Rayner at Bradford Cathedral. It is clear from the 1676 Wakefield Manor Court Roll that Thomas Purdue was not working the farm and associated land himself and that the house was tenanted by Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh. The 1672 Hearth Tax for Ossett records that Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh were charged tax on one chimney each suggesting that the dwelling, which preceded the existing farmhouse, may have been divided to provide accommodation for two families.

The 1676 Court Roll provides evidence that a dwelling stood at Sowood in that year and that it was known as Sowood House. By the early 1680’s Francisci Marsden, his wife Ann (née Tinker) and their three children had journeyed the 20 miles from Penistone parish to Ossett. The family came to work Sowood Farm and its 30 acres – to the east, west, north and south of the farm – and they also rented a farm under Storrs Hill from the Beatson family. There is no record of the Marsden family in the locality before 1680 but the Beatsons are recorded in Dewsbury as early as 1563 and in Horbury in 1599.

Francisci and Ann Marsden had three more children in the 1680’s, all baptised at Dewsbury, and by 1709 Francis is recorded as having a messuage and lands on Sowood Green (Ref: 1709 Wakefield Manor Book). The messuage was Sowood Farm which Francis Marsden built, or rebuilt, in 1689 when he left his mark on the datestone, FM 1689, above the door.

Church records in the late 17th century record the 1696 death at Horbury of Richard Marsdin of Sawid greene who probably came to the locality with his brother Francisci in about 1680. In 1699 Francisci’s eldest daughter Mary married a wealthy local man, William Pollard of Hallcliffe, and in 1704 at Dewsbury his next daughter Elizabetha married John Illingworth. Francis Marsden died in 1718, aged about 67 and a widower since his wife’s death the year before. In accordance with the custom of the time Sowood Farm and other copyhold landholdings were left to his son Johannes or John Marsden (1674- 1735), the eldest of his two sons.

John Marsden (1674-1735) married twice and had ten children and when he died, aged 61 in 1735, he left a Will which included an inventory of his belongings in his farm at Sowood. It is certain that he lived at Sowood since his Will also refers to the names of the fields adjacent to the Sowood Farmstead; names which were recorded in the 1676 Court Roll, and again, almost 170 years later, in the 1843 Ossett Tithe Award map. Most of these field names continued to be used to describe locations and ownership into the late 19th Century. John’s estates at Storrs Hill and at Sowood Farm (subject to a life interest in the east parlour of the house to his widow) were left to his eldest son, also called John Marsden (1704-1742).

John Marsden (1704-1742) was born at the farm but by the time he came of age or married he was living elsewhere, although nearby. His Will refers to him as John Marsden of Ossett Lights which suggests he lived part of his short life somewhere to the east of Sowood Farm. The 1790 Wakefield Manor Estate map shows a building closer to Horbury but still within Ossett parish. In 1731 John married his cousin Elizabeth Illingworth (the daughter of his aunt Elizabetha Marsden and John Illingworth). By the time of his death in 1742, aged 38, he left a widow and four children, all boys, under the age of 11. Unsurprisingly, his young widow re-married in 1747. His Will left a life interest in Sowood farm to his mother, who was living there in accordance with his father’s wishes. On her death the farm was to pass to his widow and on her death to his eldest son, Francis Marsden (1731-1765). Other land on Storrs Hill was left to his younger sons William, John and Thomas.

Francis Marsden (1731-1765) suffered a similar fate to his father and died young at the age of 34. He and his wife Hannah (née Haigh and the daughter of Robert Haigh of Haggs Farm, Ossett) had five children but two pre-deceased Francis leaving his widow Hannah with three children under the age of 8 at his death in 1742. By this time the significant landholdings established by his father, grandfather and great grandfather had been largely distributed to Francis’s siblings and uncles and he was left with Sowood Farm which he left to his eldest son also called Francis. His wife Hannah however had inherited land from her father, Robert Haigh of Haggs who was a wealthy man and son of the long serving Minister of Horbury Church, James Haigh and his wife Barbara (née Leeke) who also had extremely wealthy and influential origins. Francis had left in his Will a wish that his children be brought up at his home at Sowood and true to his wishes his widow Hannah remained at the farm until they were of age. In 1784 the 49 year old Widow Marsden married William Illingworth who was her late husband’s first cousin.

John Marsden (1764-1797) was farming land at Southowram (left to him by his uncle William Marsden of Hallcliffe) at the time of his brother’s death and he returned home to Sowood to farm his inheritance. He was a bachelor and he too died young in 1797 aged only 33. He was the last of the male line of this branch of Marsdens and he left his Ossett copyhold and freehold estates to his sister Elizabeth Nettleton (née Marsden) for life with the proviso that on her death the estates were to be divided equally between her children.Francis Marsden (1762-1792) was the eldest son of the earlier Francis, but he was only three years of age when his father died. He was to inherit Sowood Farm, to which his mother [Hannah] had tenant rights for as long as she remained a widow, when he reached the age of majority in about 1784 – the year his mother re-married. In 1775 Widow [Hannah] Marsden is recorded as the owner of the Farm. Francis married in 1790 and his Will made provision that if his wife was with child then that child should inherit Sowood. It was not to be and consequently when Francis died in 1792, aged 29, Sowood was left to his only brother John Marsden, aged 27. Francis left other land to his sister Elizabeth.

1798-1903 – The Nettletons and John Scholefield Horbury Attorney. Troubled times and legal complications.

Elizabeth Nettleton (née Marsden 1757-1843) inherited a life interest in Sowood Farm on the death of her brother John Marsden in 1797. It is probable that it was at this time that she and her husband, John Nettleton, who she had married in 1783, moved into Sowood. At her death the farm, and other land devised to her by John Marsden, was to pass to those of Elizabeth’s children who were alive at her death. In the 1821 Ossett Census John and Elizabeth Nettleton are recorded at Sowood suggesting John (aged 77) was still working the farm. Because the common law of the time meant that a wife’s rights and ownership of assets passed to the husband, most property records in the first half of the 19th century show John Nettleton of Storrs Hill, farmer, as owner and/or occupier of Sowood Farm. Even after his death in 1823 the Farm is recorded in property records as being in the hands of his Trustees/Exors (his son Joseph and his son in law Joseph Brook). In 1816, one of their children, Thomas, died leaving six children to share John Marsden’s Ossett estates on Elizabeth’s death.

John Nettleton died in 1823 making no reference to Sowood Farm in his Will. This was to be expected since he had no power over the distribution of the farm under the terms of John Marsden’s bequest. Prior to his death however he and his children had made agreements with John Scholefield, a Horbury Attorney at Law, businessman and landowner. It seems that the Nettleton children’s promised inheritance of Sowood, to which they would become entitled on their mother’s death, had been bought by John Scholefield.

Elizabeth Nettleton lived for another 20 years and died at Sowood Farm in 1843. By this time she had survived all but three of her eight children. In 1823 it seems they [the children] had each mortgaged their one sixth share of Sowood Farm; had they awaited their mother’s death then the survivors would have had one third shares each because three of their siblings died between 1823 and 1843. Of course they could not have anticipated that their mother would live so long or that three of their siblings would die before she did. However their actions in 1823 had lost each of them one half of the value of their inheritance.

John Nettleton died in 1823 but his estate had not been settled by 1843 and there is evidence that the issue was still live in 1881 and maybe even in 1903. In between, in 1836, there had been a Chancery Court action by William Barber who had entered a land transaction with John Nettleton in 1815. All of John Nettleton’s children, those individuals who witnessed his 1822 Will and 1823 Codicil, his executors and also John Scholefield were named as defendants in the action. Those individuals who were not family were questioned as to the signatures on the Will and Codicil, the length of time they had known John senior and the state of his mind in 1823 when he died. No evidence has emerged of the outcome of the 1836 Chancery case and it may be that it never came to Court but this and the 1823 Agreement may have caused the long delay in the closure of John Nettleton’s estate. It is possible that this affair which appears to have rumbled on for 80 years since the1823 Agreements with John Scholefield will forever remain a mystery. In 1904 Frances Battye, passed ownership of Sowood Farm to her son Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye – the great grandson of John Scholefield.

John Nettleton senior was buried on 20th October 1823 and the following notice appeared in the Leeds Mercury on November 29 1823.


TO BE LET, with Immediate Possession

 Either from Year to Year, or for a Term of Years. All that HOMESTEAD, situate at Stors Hill, In Ossett aforesaid, late In the possession of Mr John Nettleton, deceased; consisting of a good DWELLING-HOUSE, with Four Rooms on the Ground Floor, Pantry, Cellars, Two Barns, Two Granaries, One shop, with Chamber Nine Yards by Seven Yards, Stabling for six Horses, Cow Houses, Pig styes, Coal-house, and other necessary Outbuildings; and Twenty-three Acres of rich Arable, Mea­dow and Pasture AND lying contiguous thereto. N.B. The above place is well watered, and pleasantly situated, being Three Miles from Wakefield, and Three Miles from Dewsbury, and adjoining the Road leading from Ossett to Horbury, well worth the attention of any Person wanting much Room. Application to be made to Joseph Nettleton, Butcher, Ossett, or to Mrs. Nettleton, on the premises.

John Nettleton’s widow Elizabeth continued to live at the farm and the 1841 Census recorded her living either in the house or in a cottage there with a ‘servant’, Sarah Nettleton who was probably Elizabeth’s grand daughter. There was also a tenant farmer, John Hill, working the farm in 1841; this arrangement involving tenant farmers continued for more than 100 years until 1948.

In 1843 – the year of Elizabeth’s death – the Ossett Tithe Award records the farm still in the ownership of John Nettleton’s Executors ie his son Joseph Nettleton and his son in law Joseph Brook who had married John Nettleton’s eldest daughter Elizabeth Nettleton in 1815.  In 1876 Frances Battye (John Scholefield’s grand daughter by marriage) declared a right of inheritance of 144 acres of West Riding real estate – including Sowood Farm.

It was certainly the case in 1841 that Elizabeth Nettleton was living at Sowood Farm but so too was farmer John Hill suggesting that there may have been at least two dwellings located on the farm at that time. A deed of 1847 indicates ‘all those messuages etc with the barn stables folds shops some of which have for some time past been converted into and are now occupied as cottages at Storrs Hill, now in the occupation of John Marsden, Job Scott, David Westerman and others….’ It is clear from other references in the Deed that this is Sowood Farm. It records that, in addition to the farmhouse, there were at least three cottages.

Between 1851 and 1891 the farm was tenanted by working farmers. John Hill, who was tenant farmer in 1841 was still at Sowood in 1851 but by 1861 he was replaced by George Mitchell, rag merchant and farmer of 30 acres, and his wife Sarah (née Marsden) who built a house later in the 1860’s (Rock Cottage – demolished in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s) on the south side of Sowood Bend opposite Sowood Farm.

In 1871 and 1881 the tenant farmer was William Crowther also working 30 acres and, the Nettletons, in the form of J. Nettleton’s Trustees, were recorded in the 1881 Poor Law Assessment record as the owners of Sowood Farm and William Crowther and his under tenants were the occupiers. That record shows the Sowood land and ‘the house, kitchen, barn, stable/mistal, old cottage used as mistal, hen place, cart shed’. In addition there are five cottages also said to be owned by the Nettleton Trustees and occupied by named tenants or under tenants. In 1871 there are 35 people in six families living in dwellings at Sowood Farm.

It is difficult to reconcile the 1881 Poor Law Assessment reference to ownership by the Nettletons with an 1876 indenture between Frances Battye, [of 66 Queens Gardens Hyde Park London] and the Duke of Leeds, Lord of the Manor of Wakefield which confirms that Frances Battye (née Bibby) had inherited 144 acres of copyhold estate in Yorkshire including 16 acres at Sowood Farm. The description in the 1876 Deed refers to ‘two cottages & gardens Sowood House & Farm buildings,3 cottages adjoining, Great Ox Close, Little Ox Close, The Ing, Calf Croft…..’

All of the above buildings and dwellings were occupied by William Crowther and his undertenants. The field names recorded on the 1843 Tithe Award are referred to in John Marsden’s Will in 1735. Ox Close and the Ing are mentioned in the 1676 Wakefield Court Roll when Francis Marsden first acquired the copyhold interest in Sowood Farm.

But how was it that Frances Battye daughter of James Jenkinson Bibby of Hardwicke Grange Shropshire, High Sheriff of Shropshire and founder of the Bibby Shipping Line came to be owner of 15 acres of land and a farm at Sowood in Ossett?

In 1866 Frances Bibby married Richard Battye JP and Attorney at Law of Skelton Hall and Crosland Grange Yorkshire. Richard was the son of William Walker Battye and Margaret Scholefield who was the daughter of John Scholefield of Horbury. John Scholefield died in 1850 leaving the bulk of his estate, including Sowood Farm, to his daughter Margaret and her heirs. She died at Skelton Hall York in August 1869 surviving, by only five months, her husband William Walker Battye who died in March 1869. Their estates were left in large part to her eldest son Richard Battye, Barrister at Law, of Queens Gardens London, the husband of Frances Battye. He died at Hardwicke Grange, the home of his in laws, “the result of an accident” in 1873 and Frances inherited his estate, including Sowood Farm, upon his death. Frances Battye,  heiress to part of her father’s estate (valued at £1.773m at his death in 1893), was also to inherit a substantial part of John Scholefield’s estate as a result of the deaths of her in laws and her husband.

By the time of his death in 1850 John Scholefield was one of the largest owners of land in Horbury  – second only to architect John Carr. In 1873 the Return of Owners of Land in Yorkshire record the late Richard Battye and his late father William Walker Battye as owners of 331 acres of Yorkshire land – including Sowood. By 1900 Frances Battye was one of the largest owners of land in Horbury and her ownerships included Hallcroft, Horbury Hall and Nether Hall (later to be The Shepherd’s Arms Public House). Frances Battye continued to rent Sowood to tenant farmers and by 1891 John Tasker was farming Sowood. In 1896 Fredrick Brook (1864-1936), the grandson of Joseph Brook and his wife Elizabeth (née Nettleton), had become the tenant farmer of Sowood Farm. His grandfather, Joseph Brook, was a Trustee of John Nettleton’s estate in 1823 and his wife was John Nettleton’s daughter. Fredrick’s tenancy was to begin a long occupation by the Brook family which lasts until today (2013).

In 1904 shortly after Fredrick Brook’s arrival there was to be a change of ownership at Sowood Farm. During their short marriage Richard Battye and Frances of Skelton Hall and Crosland Manor, Yorkshire had children, the eldest was the only son born in 1867 and named Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye. He was educated at Eton and became a Captain in the 13th Royal Hussars. In May 1904 Captain Battye of Cadogan Square Kensington was party to a Deed with his mother Frances whereby he acquired several of her land and property holdings in Horbury and Ossett. Included in the transfer was ‘…house, barn, mistall, two cottages and 16 acres of land in the occupation of Fredrick Brook’.

In the early 1900’s the Wakefield & District Light Railway Company (WDLRC) had begun land acquisitions and work to develop a tram or light rail link from Ossett to Agbrigg via Horbury. The line, which required the acquisition of a strip of frontage land to be purchased (West Yorkshire Deeds Registry Ref: 30 942 427) from Frances Battye to widen the road at Sowood, opened in August 1905 and closed in July 1932. Until July 2009 the three line tramshed depot stood opposite Sowood Farm but today the only legacy of tram journeys past Sowood Farm is the collapsed wall, built by the WDLRC in 1904, at the roadside south frontage of the farmhouse. The road level at Sowood is much higher than the 17th  and 18th Century buildings which it skirts, partly as a result of the foundations for the laying of the tram tracks in the early 20th century. [The tramshed site is now a housing estate].

The Brook and Battye families were to continue their owner/occupier relationship well into the mid 20th century. In 1910 the Inland Revenue Valuation shows LRJS Battye as owner and Fred Brook as tenant. The record shows ‘Milk Farm known as Sowood Farm….there is a good building frontage on two sides – Trams pass to and from Wakefield frequently’. Fred Brook is also shown as owner and occupier of a “wood mistal” at the farm. The 1911 Census records Fredrick Brook, cattle dealer and farmer, living in the six roomed Sowood Farm.

Fredrick Brook died on March 4 1936 and the farm tenancy was taken over by his only son Bennett Brook (1891-1980). Bennett’s Farm Account Book from this time has survived and the first entry is dated March 4 1936.

Captain Battye died, a bachelor without issue, in May 1947 and his executors began to sell his land holdings, including Sowood Farm. On 1 October 1948 Bennett Brook purchased …all that farmhouse cottage and farm buildings together with land thereto belonging known as Sowood Farm situated on Sowood Road formerly in the occupation of Fredrick Brook but now of the purchaser the land being formerly described as 16 acres but the whole by recent admeasurement having been found to contain15 acres, 1 rood and 35 perches….”

Except for a break in 1917-18 whilst Bennett Brook was serving with the Army on the Western Front as a Machine Gunner, he had worked the farm from being a young man, assisting his father on the land and with the stock. His widowed mother Lilly continued to live at Sowood Farm after her husband, Fred’s death in 1936 but whilst Bennett took over the running of the farm he lived with his family on the other side of Sowood Bend at the 1860’s built Rock Cottage.

Lilly Brook died at Sowood Farm on September 29 1957 and shortly afterwards Bennett Brook moved to Manor House on Manor Lane. In the meantime, Bennett’s only son, David Brook (1928-2002) had married Dorothy Ingham in 1951 and they began their married life at Barmby Fold before moving to Sowood Farm in 1957 following Lilly Brook’s death. Their two children Christine and Peter were born in the mid/late 1950’s.

In the 1980’s David and Dorothy Brook began to contemplate improvements to the 17th Century working farmhouse at Sowood and in 1981 they were visited by the National Commission of Historic Monuments. This led, in 1988, to the farmhouse being Grade II Listed and it remains today the only Listed Building in Ossett, which is still used as a dwelling.

But even the 1988 listing documentation left unanswered questions about the identity of the builder of the farmhouse and the building itself. That documentation includes reference to the lintel/datestone above the south facing front door of the Farmhouse which bear the initials FM and the date 1689. Between these two markings there is barely legible lettering which the listing has variously reported as being the word flackender and F Mackender. The listing attributes the building of the 1689 Farmhouse to a person of the same name, stating … The present house built in 1689 by F Mackender incorporates a timber partition between the body of the house and the outshut…

Had the listing sources called upon the Horbury local historian, Ken Bartlett, he would have told them about ‘the Marsden family from Ossett, mainly from Sowood Farm, just over the Ossett Horbury boundary and how the lintel over the farm’s front door has the initials of the Marsden family and a late seventeenth century date’.             

Ken Bartlett, of course, was correct and the builder was Francis Marsden. The barely legible lettering on the lintel above the doorway reads neither flackender nor Mackender but Marsden.

FB_IMG_1653686966299‘Mackender’ was shown to be ‘Marsden’ written in the old style lettering of the day. Thank you to Neville Ashby for this image and information. 

The listing also states, categorically, that ‘work has revealed substantial rafters which probably came from the buildings of the Medieval manorial centre which is known to have existed on the site from at least 1302’.

The argument in favour of Sowood Farm being the site of an earlier manor is based upon 14th century Court Rolls which refer to farming activity at Sowood. Other evidence suggests that the Manor may have been situated further west, possibly with a manor house, on Storrs Hill Road near Sowood Green. A dwelling known in 1850 as the Manor House built in 1684 and demolished in 1958/59 stood on a lane leading westward from Storrs Hill Road – the lane now leads to Ossett Academy. The Manor House was built on land which was owned by Edward Oates in 1775 and his father, William Oates, was recorded in 1709 as the Lord of the Manor of South wood green. The Oates ownership in this location stretched to 121 acres and in 1349 the Manor was described as a messuage and carucate of land which is generally taken to be about 120 acres.


Douglas Brammer produced this sketch showing what the old Manor House, Storrs Hill Road looked like before it was demolished in the late 1950s. The old Manor House had a datestone of 1684, making it older than Sowood farm by 5 years. Courtesy of Sheila Brammer and Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA).

Previously unknown evidence has now been discovered that, in 1676, the present day Sowood Farm was the site of a dwelling – probably a farm – called Sowood House. This substantiates the contention that an earlier building stood here before the present farmhouse was built or rebuilt in 1689. This earlier building may also have had a long history and may have included an earlier Manor House. Whilst it is not claimed that the Storrs Hill Road Manor House and the associated Oates 120 acres landholding was the site of Sowood Manor and House its credentials are at least as worthy of further research and consideration as the Sowood Farm site.

In 2012 Sowood Farm is owned and run by Dorothy Brook and her children Peter Brook and Christine Burnell (née Brook). Since 1689 the Farm has been owned by the Marsden family who built it, the Nettletons who married into the Marsden family, the Scholefields and the Battyes who [may have] acquired it by default and the Brooks who tenanted and subsequently purchased it.

Many interesting facts have emerged during the course of this research but two family connections are particularly fascinating.

  • In 1593 Joanye Brouke died of the plague and was buried at Denton’s House [which we now know as] Sowood Farm. The present Brook family are almost certainly 9th generation descendants of Joanye Brouke’s family.
  • Moreover, the study has revealed a relationship between today’s owners and the 1689 builder which was unknown to the current owners of the farm, the Brook family. The farm was built in 1689 by Francis Marsden and one of his descendants married a Nettleton who had a daughter who married a Brook. These happy events led to Peter Brook and his sister Christine being related to Francis. In 2012 Peter and Christine are working the Farm which 324 years ago was built and worked by their 8x Great Grandfather Francis Marsden.

Sowood Farm Timeline 1277-2013

1277 Wakefield Court Roll [WCR] reference to Soutwode

1302 Sowood probably purchased by Earl de Warenne from Sir John de Horbury and leased back to Sir John for his life

1304 Sir John de Horbury dies and Manor reverts back to Earl de Warenne

1309 Wakefield Court Roll reference to Southwode manor

1315 Henry Sprigonel appointed forester of Sowood. Adam son of William Shilnyng fined 50s (£1000 current value) for malpractice at Sowood & three former graves of Horbury fined for not repairing the manor house at Sowood

1316 Henry de Flockton, lord’s shepherd at Sowood fined for trespass

1323 Sowood leased for seven years to Thomas Alayn

1327 Feoffment reference to Henry, Thomas Del Hill & John Alayn of Southwode

1336 Manor sold to William de Scargill and his wife Joan

1349 Warin de Scargill, son of William, died of Plague – manor is a messuage and carucate in hands of tenants at will

1363 Sold to William de Gargrave and his wife Christian

1585 Christopher Denton fined for not maintaining his gate on Sowood Lone[Lane]

1593 Plague at Sowood. Eight Dentons and five others buried at Denton’s house

1657 Edmund Lord of Sowood buries his son William at Horbury. In 1654, 1655 & 1661 he also buried still born children but these records do not refer to him as being of Sowood

1672 Hearth Tax shows Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh each paying tax on one chimney

1676 Francis Marsden acquires copyhold interest in Sowood from Thomas & Priscilla Purdue (nee Rayner). Farm tenants Edmund Lord and Edward Haigh

1680 The Marsden (Francis and brother Richard) family arrive in Sowood/Storrs Hill

1689 Francis Marsden (re)builds Sowood Farm and has three children baptised Dewsbury

1709 Francis Marsden (1651-1718) recorded as owner of messuage and lands at Sowood.

1718 Farm inherited by eldest son John Marsden (1674-1735)

1735 Farm inherited by eldest son John Marsden (1704-1742). Farmhouse Inventory

1742 Farm inherited by eldest son Francis Marsden (1731-1765)

1765 Farm inherited by eldest son Francis Marsden (1762-1792) Farmhouse Inventory

1775 Widow Marsden in occupation of the farm

1792 Farm inherited by John Marsden brother of Francis Marsden (1765-1792)

1797 Farm Inherited by Elizabeth Nettleton (née Marsden) sister of John Marsden (1764-1797)

1798 John Nettleton owner (as Elizabeth’s husband)

1813 Inclosure Order shows John Nettleton owner (as Elizabeth’s husband)

1814 John Nettleton junior signs Agreement with John Scholefield, Horbury Attorney

1823 John Nettleton Executors’ recorded as owners. Agreements with John Scholefield signed by all surviving Nettleton children of John and Elizabeth

1843 Ossett Tithe Award John Nettleton Execs (but mortgaged to John Scholefield)

1876 Frances Battye, wife of John Scholefield’s grandson, registers rights to ownership

1881 Poor Law Rate records. J. Nettleton’s Executors as owners.

1888 Probate granted re John Nettleton’s son (also John) who died December 1867

1896 Fredrick Brook becomes tenant of Sowood Farm

1903 Probate granted re John Nettleton’s grandson (also John) who died April 1866

1904 Captain Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye, son of Frances, becomes owner.

1936 Bennett Brook takes over tenancy on death of his father, Fredrick (whose widow, Lilly continues to live at Sowood)

1948 Bennett Brook, son of Fredrick purchases the farm but lives nearby

1957 Bennett’s son David Brook and his wife Dorothy (née Ingham) move to Sowood after death of David’s grandmother, Lilly

1980 David inherits Sowood Farm on the death of his father, Bennett Brook

1988 Sowood Farmhouse is Grade II Listed

2002 Dorothy Brook and her children Peter Brook and Christine Burnell (née Brook) take over running of the farm

This research was first published on

Pat Brothwell told me this photo was taken at Sowood Farm by her grandfather Ernest Ely. The farmer is Bennet Brook.

These are the triplet calves born to one of Bennet Brook’s Ayrshires. Apparently, the odds of having triplets is 1 in 10,000 so no wonder this photo was featured in the Ossett Observer.

Anne-Marie Fawcett 

Sowood Farm Bennet Brook and triplets

Highfield House & Cottage was my childhood home. I went to Ossett Library to see what I could find about the Pickard family, who had owned the property at one time. My conversation with the librarian was overheard by Neville Ashby, who said that “he knew someone who had researched the Pickards”. I asked if he would give me the person’s details and he said ” I will pass your email address to him but I am not sure if he will reply, because he is very busy!! The same evening I received an email from Alan Howe and to use Alan’s words we have been “buddies” ever since.

When Alan first gave me a copy of his Sowood Farm material I felt that there would be a connection with the Marsdens who owned Clarendon Villas. (See Ossett Houses) Some of these Marsdens lived on Storrs Hill and Spring End (Hall Cliffe). However, the connection that I found was an entirely different one!

In 1811 Benjamin Marsden (Bapt 1765 in Dewsbury) bought the land (on which Clarendon would eventually be built) from the Duke of Leeds. Eventually this land was owned by his children Hannah and Joseph (who in 1851 was living at Spring End).

After the death of Joseph and later Hannah the land passed to Sarah Ann Mitchell (née Marsden) their niece.

In 1866 the land was sold to John Hey and John Hemingway (Woollen cloth manufacturers) who built and lived in the villas, which were directly in front of the Vicarage. (Rumour has it that they built them to spite the Vicar of Sth Ossett, Rev Neary, because of a dispute about Rates). However, in 1879 the Hey/Hemingway Partnership was dissolved and the Villas were possessed by the Wakefield & Barnsley Union Bank.

 In 1891 on the 14th October (my birthday and the very date that I am writing this!) Clarendon Villas were sold to Benjamin and John Thomas MARSDEN (sons of Joseph).

John Thomas Marsden was to become Mayor of Ossett in 1908 when the new Town Hall was opened, and the owner of the Manor House where the Brook Family were to live later. 

Joan P Smith 14/10/2014 


John HEY and Hannah, (born c. 1764). Hannah was buried 8/8/1838 aged 74 in Alverthorpe

The child of this marriage was:

David HEY born on 22nd May 1799 in Alverthorpe, baptised on 7th June 1799 at the Zion Chapel Wakefield.

David HEY married Sarah GODLEY (daughter of John & Ann GODLEY bapt. 17/3/1799 at Dewsbury) on 26th May 1823 at St. John’s Church, Wakefield

The children of this marriage were:

Sarah Ann HEY, born 14th February 1824, Bapt.19th April 1824. On the 1851 Census, aged 28 she is working as a servant in Wakefield. She had an Illegitimate son, Robert John, born 1853). Sarah Ann died between 1853 and 1861.

Emma HEY, born 25th November 1825, Bapt. 7th February 1826, married John BARKER, carpenter, son of William BARKER, at South Ossett Church on 20th March 1852.

Benjamin HEY, born 5th November 1828, Bapt. 29th Dec 1828. Married, aged 23, Jane Littlewood aged 23, daughter of William Littlewood 26th Sept 1852 at South Ossett. Benjamin was buried 17/6/1911, aged 82 at South Ossett.

Hannah HEY, born 8th November 1831, Bapt. 22nd January 1832.

John HEY, born 20th Aug 1834, Bapt. 12th October 1834

Jane HEY, born 26th June 1837, Bapt. 23rd July 1837, (living at Thornes Lane) married Joseph HUNTER, aged 26, Farmer, 6th March 1859 at St. James Church Thornes.

They were all born in Alverthorpe and Baptised at the Zion Chapel Wakefield.

David (1799) Died 10th September 1875 in Wakefield and was buried 13/9/1875 aged 76 at South Ossett

Sarah was buried 24/10/1865 aged 66 at South Ossett

John HEY married Ann JENKINSON, daughter of Joseph JENKINSON and Harriet BARKER, (Bapt. 9th September 1827 in Ossett.) Apl/Jun 1856 – reg Dewsbury (Siblings were Eliza 25/11/1821; Emma 29/5/1825; Eunice 12/4/1829 and William  29/5/1831).

The children from this marriage were:

Jenk HEY Born 1860

*Lilly HEY 1865

Ann – Died Between October/December 1905 aged 78 Reg. Dewsbury 9b 407

John Died at Sowood Farm Ossett on 6th February 1912 aged 77. His Will was administered 28th February to his daughter **Lilly Brook, wife of Frederick Brook of Sowood Farm: effects £157,19s (£9,061 today)

*On the 1871 Census Lilly and her parents were living in Clarendon Villas.


I also have a personal connection with the Brook Family. After my first marriage in 1957 we went to live at No 5 Barmby Fold, Manor Rd., Ossett owned by the Brook Family. David, Dorothy and Christine lived in the farmhouse, which faced onto Manor Rd. We lived in the cottage on the right of the Fold.

 Barmby Fold

They were a very friendly couple and once when I fell on the cart track, when I was heavily pregnant David helped me into their house and Dorothy cared for me. I cannot say that I enjoyed my time at Barmby Fold, especially when one of the cows put its ‘back end’ through the kitchen window! As our cottage was attached to the barn and the roof covered both buildings I could hear rats running about when I was in bed. I was very relieved when my husband, a Prison Officer, was posted to Thorp Arch Prison and we went to live in Wetherby. My mother visited Sowood Farm regularly when David & Dorothy lived there and we had some lovely eggs (& Christmas Dinners) from their fowls.

Joan P Smith 14/10/2014