The Village of Cross Roads with Lees is not really a village but a collection of small Hamlets that are now regarded as a Village. If you are a tourist, on your way to Haworth to pay homage to the Bronte shrine or a traveler just passing through. Don't blink, or you might miss it, and in that blink, you miss the product of 12,000 years of history. The Brigantes fought the Romans from this spot, long before the crossroads appeared and later it became a point on the Roman road to 'Olicana' (Ilkley). In Mediaeval times, the areas came under the auspice of Rievaulx Abbey and Nostell Priory. The hamlets of Lees, Barcroft and even Bingley Road were mentioned in documents as far back as 1338. Therefore, to dismiss Cross Roads as a little place one passes through on the way to Haworth does little justice to the village. I would rather refer to it as 'The Gateway to Bronte Country' , and as you pass through this portal, try to hold back that blink as you consider its history.
The History Of Cross Roads
Ten thousand years before Christ, the area we call Cross Roads with Lees was a 'glaciated valley' one could imagine this as we look across the land where Sugden reservoir and Sugden End Farm still stands. This was formed by waters moving toward what is now Cullingworth after the lower parts of the Worth Valley were still covered by ice. Later, during the Iron Age, Castlefield Ring, which lies just beyond Flappit Springs on Cullingworth Moor was used as earthwork fortification by Brigantes to repel the invading Romans. After The Romans conquered Britain, The Romans built a road to 'Olicana', which is now known as Ilkley, which run parallel to the Cullingworth - Guide Inn road that is used today
In Anglo-Saxon times, the word 'leys' was used to signify a meadow and the hamlet of Lees was originally spelt in this way. Proof of this are mediaeval records still in existence and the 1770 map of Yorkshire. The word 'Barcroft' meant 'place where barley is grown'
Because of the large deposits of building stone in the area, building a home in the valley was never a problem and since the earliest times the valley had families who divided their time between the quarries and the farms which were spread out over the hillsides and the cottages which lined the roadsides as well as the farms were hives of activity and members of families had to be able to turn their hand to wool combing and weaving as well as tending their land. By 1338, the hamlets of Lees and Barcroft were well established, as was Bingley Road as all were mentioned in documents of the time. Since the early middle Ages, all the land in the area belonged to either Rievaulx Abbey or Nostell Priory but by 1338, the major landowners were The Knights Hospitallers, who ran The Hospital of The Order of St John in Jerusalem to care for injured Crusaders and other sick people in Jerusalem. The Order placed a steward in Lees to look after their land and the profits from the property at Lees went to the support the Order's work in the Holy Land. It is more than likely that Lees Farm that stands on Haworth Road dates back to this period. The land next to Lees Farm was called 'Hospital Rode' (the word 'rode' meaning 'clearing') in 1338 and in 1631 was called 'Hospital Royd'. In old photographs of Lees Farm, the sign of the Knights Hospitallers ( ? ) is visible to the left of the window above the porch. Until 1665, persons who resided on Knights Hospitallers property were granted sanctuary and were exempt from many taxes and immunity from the law.
In 1571, the first mill was built on the site of, what was, The Scouring Company complex. And is mentioned in records of that period as Syke Mill. It was water powered from a stream (now underground) that ran from Sugden Swamp (now a reservoir) down to The River Worth. With the advent of steam power, in 1844 Lees Mill was built on the site of Syke Mill and to this day locals still call the road 'The Syke'. It was built by The Merrall Brothers who also acquired it's sister mill at the bottom of Ebor lane around 1851. The Merralls and their successors owned the mill until 1966.
It was the weaving trade at Bocking which gave rise to the name for that part of the village. The roots of the woolen industry are to be found in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and dates back to the time of the Saxons. Norfolk, for example, had been, for centuries, famous for the long wool which, when spun, was much sought after by the Netherlanders and the Flemish. Each variety of woolen fabric had it own district and Worsted, in Norfolk took it's name from the material by which it was most closely identified. In much the same way, the town of Bocking, in north east Essex became known for a certain type of fabric. This fabric was imitated in various weaving sheds across the country and the local name of 'Bocking' is most probably borrowed from that of the material woven on the hand 100m of 'Bocking Ben', a craftsman in that part of the village.
There are houses at 6 - 8 Vale Mill Top and in view of a Charter, recently found, that dates back to the reign of Charles I, it can be established that these houses were there before 1635. The rear of23 Haworth Road appears to have been built between 1600 and 1650. Brow Top Farm was built in 1699 and has a plate to ascertain the fact.
In 1712, Defoe toured England and kept a diary of his travels. In it, he speaks of this area, saying, "an industrial population scattered in the hills.. .combining farming with spinning" At this time building was still going on and it is established that 15, 17, 19 and 23 Haworth Road were all built between 1700 - 1770. Lees Farm, for example combines a frontage of somewhere between 1650 -1750 with an eighteenth century Georgian porch, its rear facade is considerably older and the core of the house seems older still. These are several other properties in the area that date from this period. Hollins Farm can be established to 1741, Barcroft Farm and Green Head Farm were there before 1700.
In 1794, the road from Ingrow to Denholme (via Cross Roads) was built and the Bar House, built in 1805, standing proud of all surrounding buildings at the top of Keighley Road still stands. This road assisted in creating a rush of industrial activity in the area. Work had begun on the building of Ebor Mill in 1790 and Vale Mill was built in 1798. And with Lees Mill in 1844, Haworth and Cross Roads became fully established as a wool producing community. There were other mills too, at Bocking, which was built by Messrs, Haggas in 1869, which was subsequently converted into a Joinery Works, and Saltaire Mill, built by Messrs. Bailey in 1866 which accommodated a stone sawmill in the basement, a Joiners on the first floor and a weaving shed on the second floor. By 1851 the census showed that 90% of the population were employed in textiles and in 1861, the enclosure of the land around the village took place (prior to this there were open fields).
Also in 1861, another phenomenon took place in the village. The coming of the Co-operative Society. A mere 15 years after The Rochdale Pioneers had created the notion, a Co-operative Society was formed in the village, opening its first shop at the junction of East Terrace and Haworth Road. Later the main Co-op was established near the centre of Cross Roads A doorway can still be seen there beating the legend 'Lees and Cross Roads Co-operative Society, no. 88'. This was one of the earliest Cooperatives in the country, a remarkable achievement for a village so small. The tentacles of the Co-op spread throughout the village with a Co-op No1 Branch adjacent to Vale Mill Lane. (It is now an Antique Shop) and Co-op No2 Branch at Bocking (now a gaming machine outlet). Eventually in the 1960s, all the Cross Roads Co-ops were absorbed by Keighley Co-op and were eventually closed down
The Bronte Sisters were not the only literary talent to live in this area. Cross Roads had its own share of talent. In 1790, the poet, Joseph Hardaker was born at Lees. Hardaker had three volumes of verse published, many with a science fiction bent. The Author, Halliwell Sutcliffe was brought up in the village and his father was the Headmaster of the local school
Barcroft, The croft by the Bar House can be traced back to the time of the old turnpike trusts when highways were constructed and paid for and maintained by the levy of tolls on those who travelled on them. As well as the Bar House, which was in operation unti11870, there were others at Lees and side Bar which were in operation until 1875 and 1877 respectively
'T beear 'at wor burnt at t'Cross Roads'
The slight rise from St James Church up to the Cross Roads itself was known to locals as 'Smithy Hill' and was the scene of a moving incident during the spring of 1854. It would appear that a foreigner and his wife had occasion to visit the village and had brought with them a dancing bear why answered to the name of 'Donna'. The man and his wife stayed with friends and had placed the bear in a disused building on the other side of the road (this was later the site of the Smithy), Believing that the bear was safe the couple bedded down for the night. However, a group of local young men, no doubt spurred on by curiosity, climbed onto the roof of the bears sleeping quarters and, through a gap in the slates lowered a candle on a Plasterers lath. Because of the excitement and their eagerness to catch a glimpse of the novel beast, the candle was dropped and it set fire to the straw. Seeing what they had done the men made a run for it, leaving the poor unfortunate animal to its fate. The alarm was raised but in the panic, the key to the building could not be found and they were unable to force the door. Although every effort was made to save the beast, it was to be in vain and the bear perished. Even though one public-spirited local offered a reward for information as to the names of those involved in the misdeed, the identities of the culprits were never revealed. The cremated remains of the bear were interred in Sugden Swamp and the villagers raised a respectable sum of money to compensate the foreigners for their loss. It appears that the incident was a blessing in disguise for the couple as it was later heard that the couple were touring the country selling verses recounting the tragic tale. The tale was told many times by thevillagers themselves and the story of 'T beear 'at wor burnt at t'Cross Roads' was still being recounted over 50 years later
Cross Roads, as can be seen has more than it's own share of history and tradition and whilst it is a portal to the historical venue we know as Haworth and The Bronte Country, it is an area of historical note and a place with it's own story to tell, much more than can be recounted in these few pages.
Parish Councillor for Cross Roads