Cross Gates - from Pit village to Commuter Suburb

Cross Gates - from Pit village to Commuter Suburb
by David Owens
Honorary Vice President of ELHAS

Cross Gates History
Compared to its neighbours Cross Gates came late onto the scene as a place of settlement. And as late as the 16th century the area would have been an uninhabited, wooded valley which local people would have passed through as they travelled between the ancient villages of Seacroft, Halton, Austhorpe and Manston. A look at some early maps shows Cross Gates on a junction between the major local route north-south (the later Hollyshaw Lane) and that to the east towards the villages of Manston and Austhorpe. In a 15th century Will, there is a mention of "ye cross gates near Whitkirk" and this is thought to be the first ever mention of the area, though it appears to be shown as an object, gates, as opposed to the actual location.

In early times gates often formed a boundary between local estates or defined the property divisions of the village community.

In addition, gates were also used to define boundaries between parishes and townships, so it is possible the hamlet was a significant local boundary feature and took its name from that. Cross Gates was always divided between the parishes of Whitkirk and Barwick, significant as until the 19th century local government was very rudimentary and based around the parish, which raised tithes and issued Poor Relief; the township, which raised taxes and through the local constable, maintained order and local defence. Cross Gates was in the township of Seacroft, but the boundary with Templenewsam township ran to the south of Cross Gates, along the line of the modern railway.
So in addition to being divided between two parishes, Cross Gates lay at the boundary of two townships - could this be the reason for the name?
Were the gates in question used as some sort of local, and identifiable boundary? Certainly where the name is mentioned in early records (such as births) and deaths there is often a reference to the crosyeate or Crosyates, as if it were an object.
Confusingly, it is also spelt as either one word or two in early records and sometimes with an s at the end of 'gate'. But ultimately gates control entry and exit for tolls and animals, and Cross Gates, as either as a structure or a place to live, was on the only route for people passing through the area - the road known as Allershaw Lane.

Cross Gates in the early 19th century
One family are almost entirely responsible for helping Cross Gates become the highly populated area it is today. The Wauds from York built virtually every amenity in the village and their legacy is still with felt in 2007. Samuel Wilkes Waud opened a number of pits near Shippen Hall near Manston in 1811. This led to a significant number of miners moving into Manston from outside the area, and Waud, as a responsible employer, had some cottages built to accommodate them. These were in and around Church Lane and also along what would now become Station Road; one row survives today as shops, another was demolished to make way for the Arndale Shopping Centre in 1967.

By 1822 Waud's early Manston pits were experiencing difficulties after working through to bad coal. But in 1827 Waud sank a new shaft into the Beeston coal seam at nearby Cross Gates - at the side of the current Crossgates Shopping Centre, behind the Station Hotel - and shorty after two more pits were sunk at the top of Church Lane. Waud decided to retire from the coal business and control passed over into the hands of his son Edward who was fortunate that it coincided with the opening of the Leeds-Selby railway which passed through Cross Gates.

The Age of Steam
If there was on thing to transform the village of Cross Gates, then the invention of the railway was definitely it. The 20 mile Leeds Selby route was opened for passenger traffic in September 1834 and when the first train left Marsh Lane some 20,000 people were lining the route up to Halton. But bad weather meant that, much to the crowd's dismay and derision, the train of nine coaches took 70 minutes to get to Cross Gates. Here is an interesting point to consider-did Waud know the exact route of this railway when he sank his Cross Gates pit in 1827? In 1834 the pit lay next to the railway line, and Edward Waud was to have a spur line built to connect them, evidence of which still survives today. In addtion he also had a waggonway connection built to his pits in Church Lane, which were named Victoria, Sandbed and Prince Of Wales. The value of the additional link is highlighted by the fact that in 1850, a total of 110,848 tons of coal were being carried from the Cross Gates and Manston pits by either the railway or the Aire-Calder Navigation to stations on newly built York and North Midlands systems supplying coal to places as far afield as Scarborough, Whitby and Hull.

Although Cross Gates ceased to be a significant coal mining area after the 1880s, the coming of the railway had already set in motion changes that would ensure the village did not go the way of so many former mining areas. After all, we have seen ourselves in recent decades the devastation wrought upon these communities after the loss of their local coal industry. When the Wauds' went bankrupt in 1866 and the pits were closed by 1882, there may well have been a sense of foreboding in the area as to what the future held, but an examination of the 1871 Census for the village shows that changeswere already being set in motion.

In 1841 there were only 15 separate trades listed by those living in the village, and most of those related to mining industry or work on the local farms. By 1871 the population had nearly trebled to 749, whilst the number of different trades had gone up to 67. Fifty one of those trades had nothing to do with the coal mining industry and reflected the arrival in the village of workers from outside the village. Those such as Freddie Robinson, who was a banker's clerk who had moved here from Leeds that year; as had John Barrow who was a boot and shoe manufacturer. Some of the other trades given by residents reflect the changes in social status; amongst the new arrivals there was a commercial traveller, an architect, an auctioneer, a buyer of woollens, and a woollen merchant, as well as three school masters. And the number of servants, gardeners, cooks and errand boys living in Cross Gates also reflects the changing society in the village.

But there were also now nine farmers in the village, and it must not be forgotten that agriculture still played a significant part in the life of the village well into the 20th century. The village was also being served by a number of retail trades - there was a butcher, a grocer and innkeeper, a milliner, a watchmaker, and three other shopkeepers listed in the growing village. The growth of the village at this crucial time can perhaps best be seen by looking at the history of Cross Gates Methodist Church. Methodists in the village had originally used several houses in the village to hold their services, including the cottage of Mrs Colley in Station Road, and the cottage that was opposite the present Chapel in Austhorpe Road, and which features in early photographs of Cross Gates. Plans to build a Methodist Chapel in the village were first put in motion in January 1876 when a building fund was established.

Then, on 26th May, 1882, Mr Isaac Chadwick of Whitby donated the land for the building of a chapel, along what is then described as Seacroft and Manston Road, but what we now know as Austhorpe Road. Local builder, GB Marshall tendered for the building work, and on the 28th June the memorial stones were laid by the daughters of Isaac Chadwick. The land on which the chapel was built, and indeed that either side, had originally been owned by William Chadwick, then later by Isaac Chadwick, who in the 1841 Census is shown as a 21-year-old bookkeeper, but by the 1861 Census is described as Colliery Manager. He had obviously retired to Whitby to enjoy the sea air. The first Wesleyan Methodist church in Cross Gates was opened on the 6th December, 1882; the ceremony took place in a fierce snowstorm. The building cost £836. 15. 7d and was dedicated by the Revd Marshall Randles, who also preached at the opening ceremony. By May 1885, the chapel was considered too small for the rapidly developing village, and an adjacent piece of land was given by Mr Chadwick. The architect GF Danby proffered several plans before the design of the present chapel was accepted in March 1892. The new Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was opened on the 13th May, 1893, and was built to accommodate about 350 people at a cost of £1,500, including the furnishings. The story of the Methodist chapel mirrors that of the village itself, a story of rapid growth and a changing landscape. In the year following the opening of the Methodist Chapel, the Cross Gates, Halton and Seacroft Gas Company had been formed in the village, and this brought significant changes to the area with the introduction of gas lighting in the streets and houses. In 1897 a large post office was opened on Station Road, and in the same year Bass's drapers shop also opened for business. Bass's would become a long-standing feature of Cross Gates, and many older residents have fond memories of visiting the shop, Further changes came at the end of the century with the opening of a police station in the village, a building that became a familiar feature on many a postcard of Cross Gates. But over to the west of the village though there were other changes; in 1898 Leeds Corporation opened an Infectious Diseases Hospital in the former New Manston Hall, the forerunner of the modern Seacroft Hospital. The dawn of the new century was marked locally by the closing of the school on Austhorpe Road and its transfer to a new site in Sandbed Lane, close to the parish church. But the new century was also marked by the death of Queen Victoria, during whose reign both Britain and Cross Gates had changed so much.

A Desirable Residence
By the late 19th century the population of the village had more than doubled in just 30 years, to 1,600 and the number of different trades had increased dramatically, from 67 in 1871 to over 150 recorded in the 1891 Census. But of more importance for the future of the village, and a revelation of what was going on, were the types of trades described by citizens of the village in the census returns. There were now only 38 miners in the village, but by contrast there were 18 clerks; 13 travellers; three artists; 11 teachers; three cloth manufacturers; several boot manufacturers; two architects; a foreign correspondent; yeast importer; clothiers, including one Isaac Dewhirst, draper; several insurance managers; a musical entertainer; and a comedienne, as well as a large number of those working in the retail trade. The large increase in workers from the retail trade demonstrates the growing prosperity Cross Gates witnessed by the end of the 19th century. For whilst many retail workers may have worked in the centre of Leeds, we know from the trades' directories of the time that a good many were carrying on their trade in Cross Gates itself.
In fact, there was one local trader in particular who was of great significance for the future of Cross Gates and the surrounding district, and that was John Wright Hague. In 1888 Hague opened a stationers' business in a converted cottage on Station road and from this shop he sold, amongst other things, postcards depicting photographs he had taken of local sites. These postcards can still be seen today and they portray life in Cross Gates at the height of its transition from pit village to residential suburb.

Whilst the population of Cross Gates may have been in transition at the end of the 19th century, some things remained the same. The Booths' still ran Cross Gates Farm, now it was the younger George who is described as both farmer and Inspector of Nuisances. And there is also Alvara Chadwick, bankers' clerk and parish councillor for Cross Gates. There are also some familiar names around the village - the Atacks, Lumbs and Atkinsons who grace the 1841 Census are still local family names 50 years later - but also the Revd Hamilton was still in charge at the parsonage at St James's. Other residents of the village in the 1891 Census became more familiar names to future Cross Gates residents - Linson, the cabinet maker; Stringer, the gardener; and Marshall, the builder. These three gentlemen made their mark on the village, perhaps none more so than Marshall who built several streets of terraced housing in Cross Gates along Austhorpe Road. Stringer opened an early version of the garden centre behind the houses on Station Road and on the present site of the Arndale Centre; whilst Mr Linson became a funeral director, and his large premises were situated at the Ring Road end of Cross Gates Road. At the beginning of the 20th century the Station Hotel opened next to the railway station , catering for commercial visitors, such as travelling salesmen and merchants visiting the newly opened shops, and recently arrived residents. For these new residents housing had been erected along Austhorpe Road and Hollyshaw Lane. These were large, attic-style housing, with room for servants, and which clearly indicated the wealth that was being attracted to live in the area. We can get a sense of this new Cross Gates suburban society by studying the local parish magazine. Here in its pages The Seacroft and Manston Magazine gives us a sense of what local people were doing at the beginning of the 20th century. Reports show the growing popularity of the Cross Gates Flower Show; in the archives there is a photograph of lines of carriages waiting along Austhorpe Road to transfer visitors back to Leeds. Also in the parish magazine there are reports of the Cross Gates Whist Tournament, where we can see how the Cross Gates Chess Club had fared against Leeds. Meanwhile, the Cross Gates and District Camera Club were hearing a paper on "Stereophonic Photography". There were also reports from preachers active in the notorious East End of London and in deepest, darkest Japan. Whilst inside the magazine are also to be found tips for housewives entitled "Home Words for Heart and Home." This was a time when the British middle-class dream was for a large family house, with a garden, preferably out in the country, but certainly well away from the industrial heartlands. These new suburban families often had servants even if only an underpaid and overworked young girl or daily help. Alvara Chadwick, who we met above, lived with his mother, Ann, and a domestic servant Ellen Bulmer, who was aged 17. Such was the demand for domestic help by the new residents of Cross Gates that in the early 1900s, Mrs Stott opened an agency for servants on Austhorpe Road.

But why had the social composition of Cross Gates changed in such a short period? And probably more importantly, why hadn't Cross Gates died when the pits closed? To answer the last question first, when the Wauds went bankrupt their Cross Gates lands were bought out by the Wilsons of Seacroft Hall, and therefore a good deal of local knowledge, and continuity, was maintained. Crucially, the Cross Gates land was well removed from the heart of Wilson's Seacroft Hall and village, and so he was very amenable to offers for the land from speculative builders, hoping to cash in on the area's proximity to the booming city of Leeds. But the railway station was the main attraction, with its ease of access to central Leeds. Compare Cross Gates with either Halton or Seacroft and you can see the effect the railway had on Cross Gates. Both Seacroft and Halton were long established and larger villages on main roads out of Leeds, yet both remained tiny villages, unaffected by population changes until well into the 20th century. But Cross Gates, whilst isolated from either of the main roads out of Leeds was, on the other hand, easily accessible from the nearby city by rail. Nearly all the trains travelling into and out of Leeds stopped at Cross Gates station, approximately 80 trains per day. An annual contract into the city in the early 20th century cost £3. 10s. 0d and by 1904 there were 347 contract holders in Cross Gates. For many travellers through the station, the closure of the pits in the centre of the village had virtually returned Cross Gates to its former rural status, a major attraction for anyone wanting to move out of the smoky city. What had changed by the late 19th century was that cheaper public transport and better wages now enabled a wider range of citizens to make the move. No longer was suburbia the preserve of the rich, now the middle-class and even better-off artisan could take his family out of the city and into the countryside, whilst still keeping a job in town. The modern commuter world had arrived in Cross Gates.

By studying the census returns we can see not only how the social composition of the village breaks down, but also where these new residents had come from. Those born locally list themselves as working in the traditional Cross Gates trades as miners and labourers, whilst those listing managerial, clerical or sales type employment were born out of the area. A large number give Leeds as their place of birth; and this is more important for our study when we note that this is particularly true of the children, demonstrating how recent the movement to Cross Gates had been. So looking down the census there is the Butcher family, whose head was Henry, a clerk who was aged 39 and born in Leeds. As was his wife, Rosa, aged 36, and his children Louisa Ann, aged 18, Lavinia aged 14 and Alfred aged 12. Similarly with William Clerk, a cashier, whose children aged 3 to 12 were all born in Leeds. Whilst Frederick Taylor, aged 29, who was a gold jeweller, and his wife Fanny, also 29, had obviously waited until the arrival in the country to have their children, Edith Mary, aged 5, and Charles, aged 3, and both born in Cross Gates. They are but a cross section of the vast numbers who had fled the city for the suburban delights of Cross Gates.

Cross Gates had changed during its transition from pit village to commuter suburb, in 1851 it was a small village in the countryside, based around one main street - Station Road - with its rows of miners' cottages and a village green flanked by Cross Gates Farm and several blocks of cottages. When we compare this with the Cross Gates of the early 20th century, we see everything has changed, for in addition to the houses on Station road, where are now houses flanking both sides of Austhorpe Road, with those on the southern side of the road, including the Marshalls, stretching down to the railway lines, and then also extending east beyond Manston Lodge and around towards Austhorpe Hall. Many of the houses on Austhorpe Road had a small garden to the front and large gardens to the rear; further along the road the larger houses were staffed by servants who were recruited locally. You can still see these houses today, and they are a testament to the wealth that moved into Cross Gates in the early 20th century. In addition, by the end of the first decade of the 20th century Halton and Whitkirk grew steadily, with Hollyshaw Lane being developed, linking Whitkirk with Cross Gates station. The railway station was the first thing that new arrivals into Cross Gates saw, and its attractive gardens, hanging baskets and a tidy set of platforms ensured that the station won a number of prizes and gave the right impression to visitors and residents alike.

There was a stationmaster and several porters on duty, and the station also had its own Railway Ambulance Class. It is worth noting that at this time about 80 trains a day stopped at Cross Gates, it was a busy link to Leeds. And the station was the reason why Cross Gates became a much sought after place of residence, it was the common thread of local history; from the pit village that grew around the original station halt in 1834, to the commuter stop it became in the early 20th century!

Crossgates Carnival - 1907

Acknowledgment: ELHAS acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the website for photos used from time to time and we recommend visitors to visit this valuable resource for information and pleasure purposes. SEE OUR LINKS PAGE.