Cross: OS Grid Reference – SD 95586 38608
Also Known as:
- Combe Hill Cross
Along the high moorland road between Laneshaw Bridge up towards Oakworth, on the Lancashire side of the moors a half-mile before reaching the Watersheddles reservoir, past the derelict pub until you reach the isolated Coombe Cross farmhouse on the tops. Across the road from here is a boggy footpath leading onto the moors. Walk on here for 100 yards, where the path bends left and another footpath veers up higher onto the moors. Walk up here for 20 yards and you’ll see the small monolith 10 yards away in the grassy heaths on your left.
Archaeology & History
Found on the old route between the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, this little-known wayside cross has seen better days. Found in relative isolation from other monuments by the ancient trackway (Herder’s Cross is a mile WNW, and the curious Water Sheddles Cross a mile east), its history is quiet and it was ignored in the general surveys of such monuments by Rimmer (1875), Tyack (1900) and Vallance. (1920) Thankfully the giant survey of Henry Taylor (1906) did not forget it—although he seemed to know little of its story, merely telling us,
“The base-stone and part of the upright shaft of this cross stand about one hundred yards in a south-easterly direction from (Far Combe Hill Cross)… Two hundred yards south of the Combe Hill Cross occur the words, ‘Cross Bent.'”
The near-square stone base—about 3 feet by 3 feet—is commonly ascribed as medieval in origin and it’s thought that the remaining upright cross-stump—over 2 feet high—is probably not the original one. When fellow antiquarian Ray Spencer visited the site recently, he reported there to be “a faint inscription on the base saying COMBE HILL CROSS.”
The most detailed account of this monument was to be found in Clifford Byrne’s (1974) unpublished paper on the antiquities of the region, where he wrote:
“The pedestal of this cross with a piece of stone sitting in it which may or may not be part of the original monolith is situated on a wayside hillock… On passing the Herders Inn above Emmot, scrutiny of the left hand side of the road at the top of the next rise ahead opposite a white farmhouse will show what looks like a stumpy finger pointing to the sky. Close inspection will show that at the site sits the pedestal of a cross, apparently settled on two steps. Note that the pedestal and the supporting stones beneath have a remarkable resemblance to Carlton Cross which stands on Cross Green between Tom Cross Ainslack and Carleton village near Skipton. It may be that both monoliths were erected by the same hands. Whether the supporting blocks beneath the pedestal were for purposes of kneeling, or merely to stop the edifice sinking into the moor is…open to dispute. An ancient track passes the cross site where it splits into two: one going east towards Keighley and the other going south towards Haworth by Watersheddles Cross. A continuation of the track westwards travels along the foot of Boulsworth Hill past Iron Age burials,* along a fine set of pack horse setts, past standing stones, old lime kilns, and eventually leaving behind some remains of the Wycoller Vaccary stones near Antly Gate Farm. It tops the brow of a hill and drops down through Thursden by the Cold Well itself a a little green gate in the reservoir wall. Marquis of Colne suggested that the Combe Hill Cross dates from the time of King Stephen in the 12th century, but does not say on what he based his surmise…. If the origin of the stone is dated correctly, it has stood near Colne for over 800 years.”
- Byrne, Clifford, A Survey of the Ancient Wayside Crosses in North-East Lancashire, unpublished 1974.
- Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
* These Iron Age burials may be Bronze Age as we have found remains of several hut circles dating from that period in this area. PB.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to Ray Spencer for use of his photos and additional data for this site profile.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian