Sacred Well (lost): OS Grid Reference – SE 160 339
Archaeology & History
In an essay by great regional historian Harry Speight (1912) on the ancient tracks of Bradford and district, he mentions this “Cruckleswell” which was first described in 1602. Mentioned again in 1612 land deeds and several times thereafter, the site has long gone (been built over), but may have been a place where local people ascribed there being water spirits, or naiads.
Although the local historian W.E. Preston (1932) described the place as being in fields between Manningham Stoop (an old boundary stone, now lost) and Hallfield Cross (perhaps an old stone cross site, also lost), a more detailed article appeared a few years later by Wilfrid Robertshaw (1935), telling of its approximate location. He wrote:
“The interesting field-name of Cruckleswell occurs in 1664. Cruckleswell was situated between Manningham Stoope and Hallfield Cross. The latter name is here applied to some closes of land near the Bradford-Manningham boundary and not to a monument; but from this qualifying statement must not be inferred the opinion that a stone or wooden cross of the name never existed. From Manningham Stoope, whose location I have not traced, a lane led to Fair Gapp, which was just within the town of Bradford; but in 1686 there was a close called the Stoope, which adjoined Manningham Lower Lane on the left-hand side from Bradford to Manningham. The occupiers of Cruckleswells were ordered by the jurors of the Bradford Manor Court to take in the water which ran by their premises. The occurrence of a water-course thereabouts, together with the name, Cruckleswell, suggests that here, as in the Panewell Feilde, was a holy well of a kind. Perhaps the derivation of the name may be found in the Yorkshire dialect word ‘crukle,’ meaning to make crooked, or to bend or twist. In a sense, therefore, Cruckleswell was another pin well, into which bent of ‘cruckled’ pins were cast. Cruckleswells, or Crookewells, as the three closes of land were called in a deed of 1658, were then granted by Tempest Brighouse, of Bilbie in the county of Nottingham, to James Mitchell of Bradford, yeoman. But…I have found a deed of sale by Christopher Pighells of Bradford, yeoman, to John Nicholls of Horton, clerk, of the close of land called Cruckleswell… Nicholls purchased Cruckleswell in 1612, the year before Saxton produced his plan, on which the small field is shown adjoining others belonging to Pighells. Thus the plan fixes the location of Cruckleswell; it adjoined the east side of the highway leading from Bradford to Frizinghall and was just within the Manningham township.”
This would put it close to the Holy Well Ash well and its long-lost standing stone. The 1852 OS-map of this area shows an unnamed well between the Holy Well Ash and the boundary line, as highlighted above; but another unnamed well is to the north of the holy well. If we cross over the boundary line south and out of Manningham, three other wells existed less than 200 yards away. Anyone of these may have been the Cruckleswell.
Mr Robertson’s idea on the word ‘cruckle’ is echoed in A.H. Smith’s (1961) place-name analysis of the site, where he relates how the word is “possibly connected with the obsolete crookle, ‘to crook, bed.'” This is shown to be the case in Thomas Wright’s (1898) gigantic tome. And as “cruckling” pins was a common animistic practice in earlier centuries, this derivation of it—as being a well where offerings were given to the spirit of the waters—is not unlikely.
- Preston, W.E., ‘Some Local Holy Wells,’ in Bradford Antiquary, June 1932.
- Robertshaw, Wilfrid (ed.), West Yorkshire Deeds (2 volumes), Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society 1936.
- Shepherd, Val, Historic Wells of Bradford, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 1995.
- Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.
- Speight, Harry, ‘Ancient Streets and Lanes of Bradford as Portrayed in the Manor Court Rolls,’ in Bradford Antiquary, New Series 3, 1912.
- Wright, Thomas, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1898.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian