Illustrated books

Exley Head, The Shape of an Ancient Yorkshire Village


  Keighley W. Yorkshire BD22 6 and BD21 1
Latitude & Longitude
53.85° N 01.94° W
Decimal Lat & Long
53.85860, -1.931250
National Grid coordinates
404800 440200
Ordnance Survey grid
SE 046402
Other Maps

Thomas Jefferey's map of 1771

An 1822 description: "Exley Head, 3 or 4 farm-houses
in the township and parish of Keighley,
liberty of Staincliffe; 1 mile S. of Keighley."

Technically Exley Head back then was a hamlet not a village for it didn't have its own church.


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Everyone agrees that Ley or Lea is Old English léah, meaning a tract of open grass land. And that Head is Old English héafod meaning upper end. But the root of the word Ex has been long disputed. Suggestions included an field belonging to an Ecclesiastic or to a viking named Ecca. However it is hereby proved to be Old English oxa, meaning cattle domesticated for draught, milk or meat.

But which field exactly was it? The answer was found in a map in the Earl of Devonshire's Book of Possessions at Chatsworth House. There is a photographic copy of it in Bradford Central Library: National Archives Ref 64D75 "Keighley map by William Senior 1612" (9)


On the 1612 map it is seen that "Exley Head" means the top of Richard Widdops' six oxleys, marked here in light pink. The north end of his ox leys was a field called, in living memory, "Exley Bottom" where St John's Hospital was later built. The south end of his ox leys ran along the ridge thence called ox ley head. He also took in moorland to make the oblong Widops Incrochment marked here in orange. By superimposing on a 1945 map this oblong is found to match the area where the houses 30 to 60 Wheathead Lane were later built.

And just to its west a farmer called Beanland took in some moorland to form Beanlands incrochmt (1) marked violet. By superimposing the 1612 on a 1946 map you can see that is around where 59 Wheathead Lane was later built.



The earliest farming settlement in the Dales avoided the valley bottoms, which were damp, shady frost-hollows with soils of boulder clay, left by glaciation, heavy to cultivate. Early farmers sited their farms well up the slopes, especially on the better drained 'shoulders' which the horizontally bedded Millstone Grit geology provides.

Starting up the hill, coming running diagonally down the hillside is a watercourse of sparkling new spring water. It springs at 220m and "enters" and "issues" repeatedly on its way down 120m to Ingrow on the River Worth
I played joyfully with her as an infant, and I respectfully name her Exley Beck. Now I'm older I see she is less than one mile long -- but she was my first river.
Where the watercourse reaches the flat shoulder of the village, High Fold Farm rears up on her left stoppping her from making it into the Aire Valley. The beck pools under Oakworth Road then finally drops off into the Worth Valley instead, carving out a significant V-shaped valley down past the Tanyards.


1852-53 Ordnance Survey Map from with permission of


Altitude 221m. Lat Long +53° 51' 29.52", -1° 56' 7.80"
Decimal 53.8582,-1.9355

Reader's Comments

I lived at 163 Wheathead Lane, corner of Branshaw Grove. Our garden was constantly wet hence we paved it to stop the saturation. Jan

Please send your comments to David Kidd

Exley Head's sparkling head spring, at 221 meters, is now sadly paved over. Its location is near the bus stop on Wheat Head Lane near Wheat Head Crescent. Perhaps it's under this manhole cover?

Before humans made Wethead Lane into a proper road it seems likely this beck went straight downhill towards North Beck below Fell Lane, but the road makers dug a ditch on the hill side to stop the road being washed away in the wet season.


Beanland’s farmhouse was the first building recorded in Exley Head.

In colour the Earl of Devonshire's Keighley map by William Senior 1612 (9) superimposed on a modern map in black and white. Now number 59 is the top right of the violet rectangle.An encroachment means what we call an intake farm: moorland cleared and cultivated. Although the map shows Richard Widdop had also taken-in farmland no house is marked at High Fold, so Widdop must have lived elsewhere. The Beanland family also had much more land up Bracken Brow.

Left to right, 55, 57 and 59 Wheathead Lane. The right half of 59 was a barn until 1988.

Beanland's 1612 farmhouse would have been something like this: a wooden cruck frame thatched with Ling heather.

The later house was rebuilt in stone in the 18th century.

Taking into account the old map-makers did not precisely survey land the two farmhouses may really be on the same spot, built rebuilt. Early houses hereabouts were not built of stone but wood and heather thatch. Stone building came in when the Empire became wealthy by the woolen trade.

There used to be very few houses on the south side of Wheathead Lane, the uphill side. Half way up the lane stand numbers 55, 57 and 59. Before modern improvements they were known for being damp because the beck runs right under them. The taller one, number 55, now named Hobbit Hole, was built about 1900. But 57 and 59 are built in a much older style: hammer-dressed stone, gable chimney stacks and 3-bay windows with flat-faced stone mullioned windows are typical of early 18th century.

Number 59 used to be a farmhouse whose west end was a barn. It stands in what was field plot numbers 1331 and 1332. The 1884 census shows that the resident in 1884 was John Pickard, and the tithe map lists him as farmer of land owned by John Greenwood: 20 acres including fields numbered 1197, 1217, 1224, 1231, 1272, 1273, 1317, 1319, 1320, 1332 to 36 and 1375 - all pasture. Also 1318 arable. And 1220, 1272 and 1307 allotments.

The 1891 census lists the resident as Widow Steel, and next door in 57 lived my own great great grand mother.


The farm up top is where Wheat Head Lane gets its name. Yet in the past the road from High Fold to Hoyle Fold was called Hoyle Lane. Only the part from Hole Fold to Wet Head farm was called Wheat Head Lane. However from about 1890 the Post Office decided to extend that name to cover both parts of the road right down to Oakworth Road.

In 1884 the farmer was William Lund; the land owner Mrs Mary Clapham.

In 1889 the Keighley Guardians of the Poor Law Union reported that 634 paupers were being relieved costing over £56 a month. They decided to buy Wethead Farm's for £1,900 to be worked by the paupers. These had lived since 1858 in what was later called Hillworth Lodge, the old people's home down towards Keighley. Back in the 1950s the older residents of Exley Head still refered to Wheathead Farm as "The Workhouse Farm".

The milk from this farm also supplied St John's hospital.

In 1911 the Workhouse Farm manager Thomas Rhodes lived at Wet Head Farm with his family and his daughter's family. His assitant Thomas Johnson with his 5 children lived at Wet Head Cottage on the left.



Reader's Comments

The part on the right was addressed as Wheathead Farm. In the 1950s the Farm House had an indoor flush lavatory, and a bath with hot and cold running water. Luxury indeed! The Cottage on the left had a lavatory in an outbuilding, and bath-time was once a week in a galvanized tub filled by bucket. - David J.

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Up top of Wheathaed Lane looking back towards the village in 1964

Tithe map of 1844 shows Wet Head farm as farmer William Lund. Land owner Mrs Mary Clapham. 14 acres included fields number 1286 through to 1294.

Wheathead Farm. Photo taken 1964 by Jan at KHS.
Down the slope to the right behind the farmhouses was the Laithe where feed-hay was stored in the loft space above the 'shippens' or 'mistals' where the cows spent the cold months.
The distant buildings on the left are temporary structures—site huts—connected with the development of the land for building. Drains would be put in first.

Reader's Comments

I think that Wheathead Farm was one of the last farms in the area, and possibly the country, to operate almost entirely on horse power, as in powered by a horse. This included transportation. - David J.

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Going down the hill towards the village the mapmaker of 1852 called the outflow at 200m an "Issue" but the next cartographer named it "Spring". Whatever you call it, it is just below Springwell Cottages, 140 Wheathead Lane. Older maps also mark a well just up the hill from the cottages and some a well below the road.

About 1860 Springwell Cottages were built for the family of James Emmett and his wife Sarah Ratcliffe. They had been living at the Old Smithy up west of Bracken Bank. He was a mechanic and one son a builder. Unfortunately it turned out that five sons with big families didn't fit into 3 cottages.
Detail of a 1930 postcard by A Dewhirst & Sons.


Altitude 205m.
Lat Long +53 ° 51' 30.96", -1° 55' 56.28" Decimal 53.8586,-1.9323

The 1911 census lists four families at Springwell: Mrs Watson in a family of 3, Mr Hoyle in 2, Mr Emmott in 2, and Mr Clarke in a family of 8.


In 1889 the village’s only source of drinking water was a cistern. When typhoid fever infected 28 villagers, with six fatalities, that water was immediately suspected. Until it had been tested Keighley Town Council furnished a temporary connection.

Although there were two more fatalities the analysis by Dr. Atkinson found the cistern water uncontaminated so the Sanitary Committee directed the Town water be disconnected. However Alderman Ickringill found fault in the surveyor for not considering the drainage.

About 1889 there were also cases of lead poisoning reported in Exley Head and Keighley Corporation were directed to do something to avert the trouble.


The Census occupations show that the flourish of house-building in the 19th century was to accomodate workers at the expanding spinning and weaving mills in Ingrow and Keighley. Many of the new workers were from Craven.

First they were agricultural workers from the Dales who had been evicted in favor of sheep, followed by miners made jobless by the economic collapse of lead mining. For example Between 1851 and 1891 the population of Swaledale fell from 6,820 to 3,464.(1) Between 1851 and 1891 the population of Grassington fell from 1,138 to only 480. For example Elizabeth Davis was born in a shop in Market Place Grassington, but it went out of business 1871 so the family moved to Skipton. There Liz fell for Sam, an Exleyhead lad working up there, who brought her back to Hole Fold.


The author with his big brother in the back garden of 130 Wheathead Lane. Apart from Springwell Cottages our neighbours on three sides were cows.

Reader's Comments

Every day a farmlad and his dog drove the cows down the lane from higher pasture to Hoyle Fold for milking. But one day about 1950 an adventurous heifer led her chums into our back alley, Holden St, that lies behind these houses. There they scampered into our back garden. The lad shouting and the dog barking caused a stampede. That was the most exciting thing that hapened there until Coronation day. - David K

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Above Hoyle Fold was only fields until someone built numbers 110 to 130 Wheathead Lane. It was soon afer 1909.

As late as 1881 maps show the stretch from High Fold up to Hole Fold was called Hole Lane. Only the stretch from Hole Fold up to Wethead Farm was called Weethead Lane. These were originally farm road belonging to the farmers who made them. Also by custom roads are named after where they are going to.

Reader's Comments

The next most exciting thing that happened hereabouts was when a lass wearing slacks moved in over t' road. Our mums huddled round saying
"Nay I've never seen such a thing: a woman wearing trousers!"
"Whateer's next? What's the explanation of such a thing?"
"I've just found out, they's from Lancashire!"
"Oh! well that explains it!"
- David K


Me father used take me up to t’ watersheds, you know where the road changes, and say “Now remember lad: them as lives over there’s different from us”- Fred K

Please send your comments to David Kidd


+53° 51' 31.68", -1° 55' 51.60" Decimal 53.85903,-1.93129. Altitude 193m.

Hole Fold housing is numbered from right to left. On your right two workers cottages; then a tall block made up of a narrow house and a wide house where the farmer lived; lastly a tiny cottage at the back where many of my relatives were born.

Originally these houses had no numbers, they were just adressed as Hoyle Fold, the postman just had to remember who's who. House numbering began in accordance with the Postage Act of 1765. In 1881 Hole Fold was recorded as numbered: 94, 96, 98, 100, 104. However in 1891 the Post Office changed their numbers to 74, 76 78, 80, 82. That stuck except 82 (the tiny cottage out back) is now called 84; can any reader explain why?

About 1850 Farmer Smith was more interested in textile production than farming and let the farm workers cottages out to textile workers.

Reader's Comments

In the 1950s Irene Spencer lived in one of the cottages with her son Raymond and a daughter (Christine?) (Husband Walter?). A Mrs Whiteoak lived in the house at the far end I think. The farm itself was operated by the Chapman family: Kathleen and Nancy were the daughters.~ David J



The pastures behing the farm would have been too dry for cattle had there not been another water supply. I propose the name of the farm Hole refers to this vital Watering Hole. It was behind the farm houses on the left. It was not a sparkling spring but a large muddy area where all the cattle came up to drink. Isn't it odd that a spring is there out of line with the other springs? But the 1853 cartographer clearly distinguished between Spring and Issue.

Ariel Hoyle Fold
Aeriel Photo ca 1913. Back row: Hoyle Fold houses; the barn and Prospect House. Middle row 72 to 64 Wheathead Lane. Front row 59, 57 and 55.

This ariel photo shows Hoyle Fold back in about 1913. Behind the Barn is Prospect House. In the 1960s Hoyle Fold's fields were sold for housing. The barn was then used to store television sets until a big fire destroyed it and all remains taken down. The terrrace of five in front of the barn, 82 to 92 then 64 to 72, is now demolished and replaced. The cottages on the near side of Wheathead Lane are still with us, on the left is The First House in Exley head.

Reader's Comments

The gas lamps were installed in Wheathead lane up as far as the top of the row of terrace houses that begins where Hoyle Fold meets Wheathead lane. Originally lit at dusk by a man who rested a ladder on one of the horizontal bars visible in the picture, I think they were extinguished at the appropriate time by a clockwork mechanism ~ David J



In the 1930s Exley Head was still best known for pig farming,
but by the 1950s it was all cattle. Hoyle Fold kept a bull in the south end of their barn. The farm-hand use to scare us kids with stories about what it could do if it got out. Wasn't the bull called Tom?

Tithe map of 1844 shows Hole Fold Farm as Farmer John Smith. Land owner Mrs Mary Clapham: 21 acres including fields number 1233, 1237, 1238, 1265 to 1268, 1297




If you walked through Hoyle Fold farmyard there used to be a footpath around the end of number 74, past the spring, down to Fell Lane, but it was closed by the new housing. Going down that path the first two-acre pasture was shaped like a ladle: downhill it was a square but up top was like a handle, about 300 meters long, like a green road for the cattle to get up to the spring.

hole fold pasture

View from that field looking southeast. That's Hoyle Fold on the left and Holden Streett—the back of Wheathead lane—on the right.

the farmer around 1800 was Robert Smith
The census of 1841 lists farmer as John Smith
1851 David Smith
1861 Robert Smith
In 1884 tithes list farmer as John Smith
In the 1950s it was a Mr. Chapman


In Exley Head lived Joseph and Jane Tuley and their daughter Mary Ann. Joseph earned 18 shillings a week weaving worsted but supplemented his wage by raising pigs. At the 1847 York show he won first prize of £6 for best large sow. And in 1851 his prizewinning cross-bred "Matchless" was recognized as a new breed: the Middle White. Thereby Tuley became so famousthat the Duke of Devonshire let him have 25 acres to farm between Oakworth Rd and Fell Lane, and had a hand in building him a gothic cottage there that Joseph named "Matchless House". Beside pigs Joseph also won prizes for poultry: Bolton Grey and Chittaprat. By 1858 the family had moved to a bigger farm: Truewell Hall up Holme House Lane, and the old farm was built over. Yet his daughter Mary Ann always proudly wrote that she was born in Exley Head.



The Middle White’s short nose makes it a grazer not a rooter and is able to live mostly on grass alone. Hardy and early maturing makes it an ideal outdoor pig requiring no housing. It has a placid and easy-to-handle docile nature.

Exley Head became famous for pigs. The town-folk down in Keighley joked about it at Exley Head's expense. But by 1940s farming had changed and there were no pigs to be seen. However Tuley's Middle White breed has travelled world wide. It is now considered the best breed of pig by the Chinese!


In the1870s "Bill 0' th'Hoylus End" (William Wright) wrote:

"If ivver yah go t'craw road ta Howorth fra Keethla, an sud happen ta drop inta Exleaheead, a village famus fer pig breedin, pig feeders, an pig heyters, an it sum appen ta be on a Sundy -- mack up inta Stye Alley, an yah'll find um assembled, sum skrachin, sum weshin, and some givin' t'pigs meyl balls, wal uthers are amusin thersell wi pig argiments an pigology; an sud yah meet wi Harry Chine, just ax him wat he'll tak fer a chig peek."



Beanland’s farmhouse was marked on a map in 1612. The other farms were not marked because it only shows Lord Keighleys posessions, that came to the Earl of Devonshire by marriage.

In colour the Keighley map by William Senior 1612 (9) is superimposed on a modern map in black and white. Now number 59 is the top right of the violet rectangle.
An encroachment means what we call an intake farm: moorland cleared and cultivated. Although the map shows Richard Widdop had also taken-in farmland no house is marked at High Fold, so Widdop must have lived elsewhere. The Beanland family also had much more land up Bracken Brow.

Left to right, 55, 57 and 59 Wheathead Lane. The right half of 59 was a barn until 1988.

Beanland's 1612 farmhouse would have been something like this: a wooden cruck frame thatched with Ling heather.

The house was rebuilt in stone in the 18th century.

Taking into account the old map-makers did not precisely survey land the two farmhouses may really be on the same spot, built rebuilt. Early houses hereabouts were not built of stone but wood and heather thatch. Stone building came in when the Empire became wealthy by the woolen trade.

There used to be very few houses on the south side of Wheathead Lane, the uphill side. Half way up the lane stand numbers 55, 57 and 59. Before modern improvements they were known for being damp because the beck runs right under them. The taller one, number 55, now named Hobbit Hole, was built about 1900. But 57 and 59 are built in a much older style: hammer-dressed stone, gable chimney stacks and 3-bay windows with flat-faced stone mullioned windows are typical of early 18th century.

Number 59 used to be a farmhouse whose west end was a barn. It stands in what was field plot numbers 1331 and 1332. The 1884 census shows that the resident in 1884 was John Pickard, and the tithe map lists him as farmer of land owned by John Greenwood: 20 acres including fields numbered 1197, 1217, 1224, 1231, 1272, 1273, 1317, 1319, 1320, 1332 to 36 and 1375 - all pasture. Also 1318 arable. And 1220, 1272 and 1307 allotments.

The 1891 census lists the resident as Widow Steel, and next door in 57 lived my own great great grand mother.


Numbers 30 to 50 Wheathead Lane (50-70 Hole Lane) show unusally large area of the windows that demonstrate these were built as handloom weavers cottages. Weaving requires a lot of light to see details. By contrast thee woolcombers housing further up the lane had small windows to keep the cold out.

See how an obsolete weaver's window at 16 Exley Head was made smaller to keep warm in winter.



A loom took up a whole room and the family was expected to live in the other single room. These would be tied cottages: built and owned by a businessman and let-out only to those he employed. Should the worker die or become incapable the family would be evicted. Therefore the whole family was always a team, the eldest being apprentices and the younger kids assistants to ensure security of housing. The early census underlines this family-profession system.

In 1841 there were 73 handloom weavers in Exley Head.

Around 1860 Robert Smith of Hoyle Fold (80 Wheathead Lane) controlled Exley Head's textile production and warehoused his goods at Hoyle Fold Barn. He employed woolcombers and traded their product with the new spinning mills for spun yarn that he then distributed to his weaver's cottages.


Since mediaeval times England was still famous for exporting hand made woolen cloth. However textiles as an industry started with an 18th century fad for cotton, imported initially from India via Lancashire. However the hand spinning of cotton soon ended when the Spinning Jenny came into production c1770, powered by water for which West Yorkshire excells !


Spinning, having a light-weight product, was the first industry to employ a lot of children. In the spinning mills children started as doffers: removing the full bobbins from the frames and replacing with empty ones for 1s 6d (7.5p) a week.

Children started work in the mills half-time at 12 years old. Then school and mill alternated morning and afternoon until they were 13 years of age and could leave school.

Mill holidays were all unpaid: one week at Keighley Feast, two days each at Christmas, Easter and Whitsun.


Weaving as a cottage industry came to an end when power looms were perfected about 1800 and the mills sprang up.

By the 1840s India was no longer capable of supplying the vast quantities of cotton fibres needed by British power looms so traders turned to purchasing cotton from plantations in the United States and the Caribbean. But the American Civil War of 1861 the Union blockade caused the Cotton Drought.

The lack of cotton forced West Yorkshire mills to turn to the local product of wool. And worsted brought a boom in the cottage industry of woolcombing for wool-combing machines proved most the difficult to invent and perfect.


Woolcombing by hand demanded strength and skill and necessitated keeping the room stove burning day and night. It all smelled of putrid hot oils for they worked "in the grease": with the lanolin still in the wool. The smell of lanolin clung to your clothing and made the floors slippery, though they did joke it gives you lovely soft hands!

Combing's purpose is to force the fibre staples parallel to each other, butt-end to tip. The product is called a wool top, ropelike in apearance. With further combing it is called a sliver (rhymes with diver) and is ready for spinning.

In 1823 the Townend Brothers of Cullingworth invented a machine to spin worsted heald but it did not take-on. Hand woolcombing was peaking in 1851 when the first succesful machine was developed by Heilmann and Holden of Oakworth. Even so the 1861 census still lists some hand-combers in Exley Head.


In 1823 the Keighley region had 4 cotton mills and 44 worsted. By 1828 that had risen to 60 worsted mills. All the cottage industries petered out in the 1860s but the census shows that most young workers continued their family speciality but in the mills instead. In 1841 there were 73 handloom weavers in Exley Head. In 1851 only 10 were left but there were 69 powerloom weavers.The mills preferred mostly women for powerloom weaving and becoming the wage-earners had a dramatic affect on women's rights hereabouts.


At the East end of the village, under Oakworth Road, the valley is deeper than one little spring could make. That's because the whole of the the uphill side of the Village is riddled with seasonal springs that add their contributions. It used to be known as Spring Bank. It is at altitude of 205m, the same geological stratum as Springwell Cottages.

Reader's Comments

When they started building the new Boys Grammar School my Grandad John offered to tell the construction crew where all the springs and waterways were but was told to go away as they employed firms of surveyors to do that for them.

So of course they spent the next years running big diesel pumps 24/7 where they had broken through into the watercourses just so they could get the foundations built. And if I'm not mistaken the rugby/football fields are to this day waterlogged and unusable except for one which has been turned into an artificial playing surface at great expense.

John's advice was "If somebody's telling thee sumat allus listen and niver say 'Oh aye I knaw that'" -- Wise words from a wise man that perhaps the construction company should have heeded.

Please send your comments to David Kidd


In the 1950s however developers from Keighley bought it, renamed it Oakbank, and started to build modern houses there. The local old men warned them not to build there but the clever-dicks rejected their warnings, implying the old villagers are stupid and ignorant. The local lads were offended so shut-up and just watched.

Just after the purchasers moved-in the big rains started and their cellars filled with water! The builders had such trouble to sort that out and were furious with themselves. The old lads remarked "We told tha' so!"

A Wethead flood
. Photo by Ian Dewhurst



In the 1740s many villagers adopted the method of John Wesley and met at one of the cottages in Hole Fold. Initially Wesley insisted they regularly attend their parish church, for he did not want to start a 'break away' movement. All baptisms, marriages and funerals still had to be held in the parish church to be legal.

However in 1785 Wesley broke away from the Anglicans. Methodist baptisms started about 1816 and marriages 1845. Exley Head Primitive Methodist chapel opened in 1854, but in 1940 some villagers still got married and baptised down in the parish church insisting that was the way it had always been done.

The Sunday School downstairs really was a school for it taught the children how to read and write.

As for the Church of England Exley Head was in Keighley parish until about 1840. Then increasing population demanded that parish be divided up to provide adequate service. The chapelry of Ingrow was then made into a separate parish, including Exley Head. This was appropriate as the Bracken Bank road from Exley Head to Ingrow was then a primary road. Most millworkers of Exley Head worked in Ingrow and walked down the Fall then beside the beck to get there.


The Exley Head roll of honour of the forty-four men who served in WWI is now kept at Cliffe Castle museum.

Outside the Methodist Chapel the polished granite cross memorialises our lads killed in the wars:

• Gnr. J. Raymond Clapham, R.G.A. killed in action at Messines, Jul 21st 1917, age 19.
• Pte. Harold Whitefield, Duke of Wellingtons W.R.R., died of wounds received in acton in Flanders, March 17th 1918, age 22 years.

• Pte. J. Fairfax Dean, Y & L Reg, drowned off Tobruk, 1941, age 26.
• Cpl. Pearson Crossley, R.A.S.C. died in Japan* 1943, age 26.
• P.O. Douglas D. Smith, F.A.A. killed, Northern Ireland, 1945, age 21.


*Pearson Crossley was the son of John William and Mabel Crossley of High Fold Farm where he had been in business with his father. Pearson actually died in Thailand as a Japanese Prisoner of War from forced labor on that notorious Burma-Siam Railway recorded in the film "Bridge on the River Kwai".

Primitive methodism was a branch of Wesleyan Methodism. Primitive Methodists concentrated their mission on the rural poor and promoted education and equal rights for women. In 1883 Exley Head Primitive Methodist Chapel had zero female trustees yet by 1926 it boasted eight, almost one third of the board.


post box

The only postbox was here, a hub of the village, (altitude 187m). The VR pillar box was replaced with a GR flat box set-in to the stub wall of number 32 just to its left, see photo below.

Did old aged residents have to go down to Fell Lane Post Office to get their "Lloyd George" pension?


Originally only the road from Hole Fold to Weethead farm was called Weethead Lane. From High Fold to Hole Fold it was Hoyle Lane. And High Fold was addressed as Exley Head, as if the village bent around the corner.

But between 1891 and 1901 the Post Office changed its house numbering system. They redefined Wheathead Lane as coming down to Oakworth Road, subsuming Hoyle Lane. For the extended Wheathead Lane numbers they subtracted mostly 20, but 18 in one section. And the postal address "Exley Head" became only used for houses on Oakworth Road.

Exley Head

Wheathead Lane

High Fold
26 to 48

High Fold
6 to 28

50 to 70 (Hoyle Lane)

30 to 50
52 no house until recently
72 to 90 (Hoyle Lane) 54 to 72
Hoyle Fold
92, no number 94
96 to 102, no number 104

Hoyle Fold
76 to 84


Keighley town centre lies 72 meters below us, about 1.5 km down that steep hill. The road up from Keighley is now named Oakworth Road but the map of 1852 shows it was called Exley Head Lane up to Exley Head; and beyond it up to Oakworth it was then called Exley Head Road.

In 1755 an act of parliament, 28 Geo2 c50, permitted a Trust to make a turnpike from Bradford to Colne called the "Toller Lane, Haworth to Blue Bell" turnpike. From near Haworth the "Two Laws to Keighley" branch came through Exley Head. The nation's turnpikes closed during 1870s and were handed over to county councils created about 1888.

About 1852 at the meeting of Wheathead Lane and Oakworth Road were built these four houses for James Lund. In 1888 he sold a farm that included these cottages to the mill-owner Haggas for £5,600. The outside toilets were down the stone steps on the left.


In 1925 the Haggas Estates sold the back-to-backs on the right, 32 Exley Head and 1 Wheathead Lane, to the tenants for £250 job lot. From 1929 to 1944 Annie Bancroft was landlord and the rent of each was 6 shillings a week. The only water tap was cold and in the cellar, whose window that you can just see peeping out. Its sink was wide and shallow and cut out of a single slab of stone. They did the laundry in the cellar in a dolly tub and afterwards simply tipped the tub out onto the stone floor and mopped it around as it gurgled down a hole, thereby washing the floor too!

Reader's Comments

I still have one of those stone sinks in my cellar, about 6 or 7" thick with a 2.5 to 3" deep recess and a drain hole covered by a brass disc with holes in it. The disc would be removed and rags stuffed down the hole so I could sail my boats ~ John W.

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At one time ten people lived in 1 Wheathead Lane, where the attic bedroom went over top of 32 Oakworth Road. All the young men slept in that attic so when they got up and put their work-boots on the noise was right over the heads of those sleeping next door. They needed no alarm clock.


Reader's Comments

The house at No. 1 Wheathead Lane had just one quite large room which served as living room, sitting room, dining room and kitchen. There was a large range with an oven to one side of the open fire and hobs on either side of it. There was always a kettle ready on the boil on one of them. There was also a gas ring at the side for when the fire was out in the summer. The only water tap was at the top of the cellar steps; cold water of course. There was a large square table in the middle, a piano at one side and a large chest of drawers on the other.
Audrey B.

In 1925 Old Tommy Hudson bought the two on the left, 36 and 34, and rented them out. Dowstairs was a separate house: number 3 or 5 Wheat Head Lane. During WWII it was used as the ARP Air Raid Wardens' office, and after the war it became a Painter & Decoraters workshop. Today the downstairs has been joined up to the top to make proper two-storey houses.

Happily the outside toilets are gone but sadly the stream, whose bed was about four or five feet lower, has been filled in.



In 1755 an act of parliament, 28 Geo2 c50, permitted a trust to convert the rough old roads into a speedy turnpike from Bradford to Colne called the "Toller Lane, Haworth to Blue Bell" turnpike. And from near Haworth the "Two Laws to Keighley" branch came down through Exley Head.

In 1858 William Keighley and Robert Holmes wrote that Exley Head used to have a "little bridge". Maps show that between 1782 and 1848 the turnpike trust built a long embankment over the old little brige to make a level arterial road.

Sometime between 1782 and 1848 the level of Oakworth Road was raised. In between the Dyke and Oakbank School the embankment reaches abut 20 feet high. These buttresses are about 9 feet high.


The 1858 map Exley Head's shows that the beck issued before it went under Oakworth Road. I have highlighted it in blue. And elders tell me that in the 1930s there was still a tunnel under the embankment for they used to dare other children to paddle through it. It was tall enough for a child to stand up in, it had an arched roof, and was about four feet wide.

The downhill side was put into an underground culvert by the 1940s. This was revealed in about 1960 during a tremendous deluge. Inbetween the Dyke and the Tannery a cast-iron manhole cover, that had been hidden under soil ,was lifted by the sheer force of water and for a while the stream ran its natural course along the wall just to the south of the Tannery down into the wood below. Those woods are known as The Cliffs or the Delf.

On the uphill side however I remember in the late 1960s you could still see that little stream before it went under the road. But since then it was also been put into an underground culvert and the tiny valley been filled with gravel.


In 1910 Mr Bagshaw the Keighley Town Clerk investigated the waste land known as the “Dyke” because of a petition signed by 87 people to build a Village Institute there. (Although one Joseph Pickard objected that it may eventually become a club used for gambling). The Town Clerk studied a map of 1782 and found that the highway was then on the same level and unseperated from the Dyke however the Dyke was never part of the road. For it contained was a public well for watering cattle and domestic purposes [on the east side half way down to the stream]. Later the map of 1848 shows the road had been raised and a retaining wall built except at the Dyke top which was left unwalled and open for inhabitants to still go down to get their water. The Town Clerk declared that, although the soil belonged to the Lord of the Manor, under the Public Health Act Section 64 of 1875 all existing wells had been invested in the authority of the Keighley Local Board, but only for water supply. Therefore despite the well being not currrenetly in use they could not use the land for any building purpose.
In 1919 Councillor Whithead suggested that a recreation ground for Exley Head could be created by exchanging the Dyke with Mr. Haggas for a more suitable land. But local ratepayers objected and that idea was also dropped.

Reader's Comments

I remember when I was caught down the tip by Granny, then taken to her cellar sink and scrubbed with a big block of green carbolic soap. I never went down there again.

Please send your comments to David Kidd


The Dyke is a triangular open area off Oakworth Road facing Wheathead Lane. It is level at top but then plunges down about 25 feet where the bottom was full of 4 to 6 foot high Donkey Rhubarb.

The steep sloping part of the dyke was used as a tip for fire ashes of the houses nearby, and everything unwanted.

Reader's Comments

In the wall was the opening to where the Guy Fawkes bonfires used to be held. In the 1950s sum bloke fetched a load of sawdust and tipped it on. Of course t'fire nearly went out, so another fella got sum blokes to bring a 40 gallon drum of old engine oil which they flung ont' fire with ladles. We heard after that t'paint ont doors oft' houses opposite had got blistered. That were number 32 etc. 




In 1858 Mr. Keighley and Mr. Holmes wrote: "At the end of the little bridge is a large block of stone like the frustum of an octagonal pyramid with a hole in the middle, which was formerly the crown of a series of sloping steps, designated the Cross. It was the pedestal of a stone pillar or cross."

The local tradition is that when Keighley was in quarantine with the plague in 1645 an exchange was held here. Providers from up Oakworth way left food here and Keighley folk left coins in the hole which had been filled with vinegar as a disinfectant.

However I found exactly the same story is told in Settle in Craven. Historian Ian Dewhirst suspects this could be an "urban legend" for the same story is also told in Eyam, the famous "plague village" in Derbyshire where they show the tourists hole-stones.


cross base
the stump of the cross now at Exley Head

There must have been a wayside cross like this on every major road leading out of Keighley. If our stump is of a wayside cross then it would have been on the Keighley-Oakworth boundary. But that line since 1851 has been way up Bracken Bank. Was the boundary revised or was the cross originally up there? Suggestions are welcome.

When the constructors of the turnpike built the embankment they moved the cross stump a little north from near the beck up to opposite Wheathead Lane.

But in recently years the council moved the cross back a few yards south. There were complaints it should have been left in its proper place, but perhaps it is now nearer its original location.


Sadly most wayside crosses were destroyed in the civil war of the 1600s by Reformation iconoclasts who, following the second comandment, tore down graven images of God as idolatry.

When toppling crosses Calvanists liked to enact the Biblical verse 1 Samuel 5 "they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the temple of Dagon and set it beside his statue. Early on the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward before the Ark of The Lord, and his head and hands broken off ... only the stump of Dagon was left to him ..." which is why the Reformers deliberately left the stump. There are many stumps around England but very few crosses.

A rare surviving wayside cross in Lanlivery, Cornwall


In 1766 the owner of the farmland immediately below Oakworth Road was Nathan Clapham for he advertised it for sale. The tythes were four shillings a year suggesting its extent was 80 acres. But he was renting it out for 75 pounds a year to William Wade and William Clapham the younger.

In spring 1768 he was still trying to sell it. Ads in the The Leeds Intelligencer add that it now included tanyards and he also now sugested the land could be divided into several smaller farms.

We haven’t found yet if someone bought it but in 1814 the Tannery was run by one of the Pickards brothers from High Fold.

We do know that the Haggases finally bought the land because the tithes of 1844 list the owners and the farmers as themselves. Herbert Haggis was a keen breeder of cattle.

When Haggas bought the land he had The Tanyards made into a poultry farm. It was about 1/3 acre of hens, ducks, geese and guinea fowl. Eggs were to be delivered to Oakbank Hall kitchen door every morning, plus dressed poultry when required.


The older maps shows a gate opening straight down to the Tanyards as if Wheathead Lane carried straight over making a crossroads. But about 1895 a new road was made down from Low Fold Farm. The top of the earlier track was made into the little level area near the village cross.

Reader's Comments

This group of buildings only became a tannery in the 18th century and ceased being such in the late C19th. Yet in 1920-30 much of the machinery was still there - the oak bark chamber with the grinding mill was at one end - and it still stank. Its two cylindrical stones were driven around their pan from the floor below by a donkey. But the tannery floors rotted and the mill is all gone now except for the stone slip tubs - now flower beds. A copice named Oak Square, up the hill a bit, supplied the tannin bark.
Fred K.

Please send your comments to David Kidd

The Haggas's poultry farm, at number 19 Exey Head,
was run by Jim Smith from about 1900 until he died in 1929,
and thereafter by John Kidd.


After WWII the Haggas family sold the land to Keighley Borough Council for 18,000 pounds with a gentlemans agreement that it remain a green belt.


"Occupation Lanes" nationwide were built to give farmers access to every field after the Enclosure Act divide the common land by walls.


In 1672 The Duke of Devonshires map shows a house called Claphams incrochmt on the corner of Oakworth Rd and Occupation Lane, though I see nothing there on later maps until the house there today. Also there was no straight road to Bogthorn, they had to go down Ingrow Lane and back up again


In 1716 Mr. Jonas Tonson, a " fanatical Presbyterian" who lived in Exleyhead, left £100 "to be settled on a good and sure Freehold Estate of inheritance, for and towards a free school. He also endowed the rents from a house and 1 acre of land at Exley Head to pay for "an usher to teach and instruct such children as he can to learn ... in the English and Latin tongues". The Free School, or as it is sometimes called the Usher School, was built in 1716 at Oak Square. But sometime during the next 20 years The Usher School moved premises down to Keighley to become the preparatory school for Drake and Green's Free Grammar School on Cooke Lane. Yet the Usher was still paid by the Exley Head rents.

Exley Head was at that time in the Parish of Keighley and on 30th June 1739, at a vestry meeting, it was agreed to take the old school-house at Exleyhead for the use of the poor, at the yearly rent of forty shillings, which resolution was sanctioned by the parishioners. "Keighley Past and Present" 1858



Keighley Poor Law Union rented the buildings in Exley Head for use as the Keighley Workhouse from 1739 until 1858 when, triggered by the master of the workhouse being accused of murdering his wife with arsenic, the Commissioners built fine new premises down Oakworth Road below Fell Lane.(3)

After 1858 the buildings at Exleyhead became called Oak Square.

Although the Haggases bought that land in 1872-88 the buildings were still there in 1909 but were uninhabited and in ruin. They were demolished by 1910.

Oak Square in 1908 before demolition



Knurr and Spell is a game originating in West Yorkshire. The object is to hit the walnut-sized Knurr as far as you can. The Spell is made of ash with a pommel of hardwood. In other places the clay ball is shot into the air by a spring, but hereabouts the knurr is balanced in a loop hanging from a post. A successful strike will drive the ball over 200 yards. At the end of the game all strikes are measured and the longest wins. In its heyday very heavy betting took place.

This photo was taken at Newsholme Dean in the 1920s. From left to right: Charlie Taylor foreman grinder at Prince Smiths and a noted knur and spell player; Harry Kidd landlord of the Worth Valley Inn Ingrow; Irvin Lund; Dan Marsden; Tom Purdy; Harry Binns; Ben Hartley landlord of the Turkey Inn at Goose Eye; Harry Horsfall with the beard; Jack Capstick with the walking cane.

Click here for a video of this game being played just over the moor in Cowling (5km WNW).


In 1911 at number 60 Wheathead Lane there was a shop in the house on the corner run by a Lofthouse. Later a Mr and Mrs Willie Redmans ran a small shop at 38. Both gone before living memory.

But the only old shop known in th 1950s was at 20 Exley Head, on Oakworth Road. Before 1880 it was Joseph Laycock's, but since then it was a butcher and grocers owned by Joseph Pickard, one of the Pickards of High Fold farm.

In early 1900s Alice Kidd married Frank Shuttleworth and took over running the shop and moved into the adjascent 22 Exley Head. Like many very old houses it had no upstairs landing, only three bedrooms in a row; you had to go through one bedrooms to get to another. Frank was a motor mechanic in a Keighley factory whilst Alice and the little lads ran the shop. But before long Frank got a job as a chauffeur for a Wool Magnate out Bradford way and the job came with a tied cottage, so they moved on. The lads grew up there to became butchers in Bradford.

Arthur Lister took over the shop but he didn't live there. In the thirties Miss Midgley lived in the house part. It was very dark in Lister's shop

In stark contrast there appeared a new-fangled shop just as you start to descend into Keighley in a building inscribed "Sunny Hill 1928" was a shop called Fairleys. It was brightly-lit and staffed by cheerful young ladies in modern uniforms. To me it seemed like entering into another world from old Exley Head.



The shop seen here on the right was numbered 20 Exley Head

The shop has been closed for quite a while now and the house and shop knocked into one.


Map of 1612 showing the fields farmed by High Fold Farm 1n 1612 in pink

Map of 1844 showing the fields farmed by High Fold Farm in yellow.

17th century High Fold was farmed by the Widdops family
18th century by the Beanlands family
19th century by the Pickard family
20th century by the Crossley family

Reader's Comments

High Fold farm in the1920s still had a butcher's slaughterhouse. When the local lads had nowt to do of a week-end they'd go up there and beg a pig's bladder. This, tied-off and blown up, made a right good football.
Fred Kidd

On Coronation Day 1953 Mr. Crossley let the village hold its party in one of his meadows (number 1235) next to his farmhouse, the hay having been cut prior to the event. I recall three-legged races; sack races; and all our mums running in an egg-and-spoon race.


High Fold had always farmed lands extending down towards Fell Lane. In the photo below you can see how the growth of Keighley made it more profitable for the Earl to to sell land down there for housing about 1920.


Haymaking in one of Crossley's fields in 1936. The houses are on the land sold for housing in 1920.

High fold farm house today. The ground floorbuilt 1663 but upstairs was added 18th century

High fold barn is now converted into houses.

2, 4, 6, 8, Exley Head

The houses up on the ridge, at an angle, are numbered 2, 4, 6, 8. But the house next on Oakworth Road is number 16. So where have 10 to 14 disappeared to?

10,12,14 Exley Head

The 1911 census lists 10 to 14 Exley Head, and says that number 10 was a shop.

Could the modern house Ridgeway have covered them up? Well no it didn't, for all the maps from 1852 through 1957 clearly show there was only ever a field there.

So I deduce that 10 to 14 Exley Head are now called 2 to 10 Wheathead Lane. They are on the right up High Fold.


Below High Fold, the area of the northeast corner of the village stands Low Fold farm, its altitude only 180m.

In the 1844 tithes John Haw of Low Fold was farming 12 acres owned by John Greenwood including field numbers 1303 Crown Point, 1142, 1198, 1200 and 1201. Crown Point is up occupation Lane. 1142 and 1148 are down by Ingrow Fold. 1200 and 1201 are a bit East of Low Fold farm.

However we think John Haw farmed more fields thereabouts owned by somebody else. Could one of our readers peruse the 1884 tithe list further?

Around 1950 the farmer of Low Fold was a Mr Philipson.


Sketch of the tithe map of 1844 showing the 64 acres farmed by John Leech, although he did not live in Exley Head.

In 1884 the landowner was Ms Sarah Jowwett. However before 1888 the three on the left seem to have changed ownership because they were bought by the mill-owner Haggas from a James Lund. Had perhaps Ms Jowwett married James Lund? Could he be the origin of Lund Park down Fell Lane way?


In the ninth century Viking invaders took over this area from the Angles and gave it all Norse place-names.

Come the Domesday book of 1086 Exley was not listed but later documents indicate the manor of Exley was always considered a sub-manor of Bingley Manor.

Adjoining Low Fold is Exley's manor house, Exley Hall, built about 1411. In 1572 the feudal territory was sold for £240, of which the hall was a tiny part. It was Thomas Clapham who divided up the hall, farm and land.(10) The hall was re built in 1662. The Hall is now a grade II listed building. In 2009 the resale price of the Hall reached £275,000.(3)


At the top of William the Conqueror’s feudal system herebouts was the Lord of Skipton: the Romilles; until 1310 then the Cliffords. Under Skipton was Lord of Bingley: Gospatric, and under him Lord of Riddlesden: Montalte. But when Simon Montalte died ca 1400 he left only daughters and the eldest married a Robert Paslew from Leeds so the landlord's name became Paslewe. In 1515 Francis Paslewe granted some lands in Exley to his daughter and her husband Thomas Clapham living at Exley Hall. Thomas divided up the hall, farm and the land.

The Paslewes of Leeds were big in the church e.g., a cousin Thomas Paslew was Abbot of Fountains Abbey. So when Henry VIII set about dissolving the monasteries they were strongly opposed to that. Another cousin John Paslew was Abbot of Whalley and he was hanged in 1536 for taking part in the Pilgrimage of Grace uprising. In 1569 Francis Paslew’s son Walter joined the Revolt of the Northern Earls to put Mary Stuart on the English throne and ended up imprisoned in the Tower of London. By Chancery proceedings Robert Rishworth succeeded in ousting the remaining Paslewes from Riddlesden.

However Francis Paslew had granted Exley Manor to another cousin, John. The Manor included 18 houses, 2 cottages and lands. In 1584 he sold the estates to Hugh Laycocke of Carr Head, Cowling. In 1596 the Laycock family sold 3 houses and 3 cottages, with lands on Branshaw Moor, to Edward Wright, John Roper and Robert Roper.

But the Laycocks kept the rest and re-built Exley Hall in 1662. Two hundred years later the Laycocks sold the remaining Exley estate in entirity to Mr. George Griffin.(6)


Found in historic reords: In 1786 the a man called Hodgson leased some land to Jeremiah Booth, an inn keeper of Keighley. The lands were described thus: "several closes of land called Dick Croft, Great Knowle, Little Knowle, Well Knowle, the Knowling, Muck Spott, Margery Lands, Upper Delf Close and Lower Delf Close, in Keighley, all adjoining the road leading from Keighley to Exley Head" (5)



Do any of these names ring a bell with our readers?

"Delf " I found means a quarry, a pit dug or a ditch, but beyond that no idea.


In 1560 English ‘Wich’ meant "nearness in place"And the meaning "surrounding district" is first attested 1796. Vicinity (e.g. Greenwich) c.f. Du. wijk "quarter, district." fr L. vicinitas fr vicinus "neighbour , neighboring."

The Latin vicinus "neighbour ” brings us to an important point for me: apart from vicinus  the Romans changed people into objects! (PIE *weik- "clan" was changed by Romans into villa house). All other Latin words re vicus are about buildings which underlines the Roman antisocial materialistic attitude of conqerors.

But I am glad to find Wikipedia today defines village as “a clustered human settlement or community in a rural area” and doesn’t mention buildings at all. To me, each village was originally the settlement of a family, and the territory and the clan were synonymous. In old Scotland a visitor couldn’t settle anywhere in clan-areas without being adopted by the local clan and changing your name


Our community gathered together without exception, especially at harvest festival. And we partied together -- you should have seen us on Coronation Day! I am sure in small communities extended family can be literal. I recall the old ladies of Exley Head were especially adept at recognizing father's "looks" in babies. And they also knew exactly who'd been where and when. In villages there aren't any secrets. It's not so much that a village is like a big family, it is a big family, a clan.

A friend visited her great-uncle, a pioneer geneaologist, and asked “Who are we related to around there?” He leant close and replied in a confidential manner, "We're related to everybody around here!"

Reader's Comments

Such a great history of the Exley Head area of Keighley. You have pulled together some outstanding history of that area of the world. Thank you. Edd Utley


1. MORE OLD LOCAL PHOTOS historical nostaligic pictures

2. MODERN PHOTOS (enter SE 046402)


Keighley And District Local History Society Forum : The War Memorial : All about the workhouse at Exley Head

"Exley Hall on the market for 275,000, 25 March 2009 Telegraph and Argus, Property News


Keighley & District Local History Society Journal Feb 2010 p26 Haworth Woolcombers by Rev Lewis Burton : Oxenhope History Vale 'n Dale Keighley Past and Present by Holmes 1858

5. REGIONAL HISTORY West Riding Yorkshire.pdf The King's list of households in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1672. Connected Histories: British History 1500-1900 West Yorkshire Archive Service White Pig laundry tub and posser drystone walls



6. LORDS OF KEIGHLEY "Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley" 1898 by Harry Speight; page 807 "A Forgotten Manor - that of Exley" The Antiquary, 1907, Volume 43, page 155

wikipedia "The Pilgrimage of Grace" was a popular uprising in York during 1536 in protest against Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church and the Dissolution of the Monasteries

wikipedia "The Rising of the North" of 1569, also called the Revolt of the Northern Earls was an attempt by the Catholic nobles of the North of England to depose Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots


Down Memory Lane by Ian Dewhirst. 1983, Keighley News

The Oakbank History Trail by M. G. Smith. 1982, Countryside Publications Ltd. ISBN 861570480 and 0 861570537

William Keighley and Robert Holmes,1858


1945 map OpenStreetMap (OSM) GeoHack: links all mapping systems and satellite images Enter coordinates 404800 440200 Landmark Info Grp British History


9. MAPS ON PAPER Ordnance Survey British Geological Society 1:50000

Bradford Central Library, Prince's Way, Bradford, BD1 1NN. National Archives Ref 64D75: Keighley map by William Senior 1612

Chatsworth House art, library and archives collections


Much thanks and gratitude to my consultants:

John Waddington
Phillip Thornton
David Jessop
Jan Shuttleworth
Judith Hancocks
Fred Kidd


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