Exley Head Cross, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SE 04818 40146

Getting Here

Exley Head Cross base, at roadside
Exley Head Cross base, at roadside

From Keighley town centre, take the main road to Oakworth (B6143) and you’ll see it right by the main roadside, about a mile up on the left-hand side upon a small grassy area in Exley Head, just past the turning up to Wheathead.

Archaeology & History

The upright stone monolith, or cross, which would once have stood here has long since disappeared.  All we are left with today is the large cross-base by the roadside: roughly squared, with a large hollow at the centre in which the upright stone cross originally stood erect!  In the past, a number of archaeologists and historians have speculated that the Exley Head Cross dated from as early as the 9th up till the 15th century. We may never find out for certain, though it’s likely a post-Domesday medieval relic.  It’s position at the roadside gives it the category of being a ‘Wayside Cross’ and it is likely one in a deliberate sequence that were placed along the ancient route from above Keighley, to Oakworth and over the border into Lancashire, near Wycoller and beyond.

Close-up of Exley Head Cross base
Close-up of Exley Head Cross base

Quite why it was placed here is something we may never know: though it is close by an old crossroads and could have replaced an earlier heathen site, but I’ve found no records to indicate this. Its position in the landscape would also have been more impressive before the housing was here, previously giving a wide open view of the Aire Valley below.  I’d be grateful for any more info on this site.

References:

  1. Brigg, J.J. & Villy, F., “Three Ancient Crosses near Keighley,” in Bradford Antiquary, New Series 6, 1921.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.857518, -1.928234 Exley Head Cross