Cross Keys pub is closely connected with the story of Abraham Law,
a clog maker of Square in Walsden, and it is worth telling his story
as he is the one who built the Cross Keys and as such is the main
person involved in its history.
the cottage where Abraham was born
was born in 1796 at Square in Walsden, one of the youngest
of an enormous family. He
became a clog and pattern maker, as his father had been. Whilst
only about 19 years old, he married Susan Fielden and they
settled at Winterbutlee in Walsden where they had a family
of four children before Susan died prematurely in 1822, just
6 months after the death of their 4th child. Abraham moved
back to his own family home at Square where he continued with
was not long before he took a second wife. She was Nancy Crabtree,
a neighbour from Square. Nancy looked after her three stepchildren
and provided Abraham with a further nine. They
lived at the present number 10 Square Road, and following the 1830
Act, they opened a beerhouse calling it the Cloggers Arms.
1840, when the railway was being built, the area was full
of railway labourers, and the beerhouse did well. However,
the Railway Company was building a new road, which by-passed
the old highway along a piece of land between it and the canal.
The photo shows the old road (Square) and the new.
old photo shows the old and new roads runing parallel to each
other with a pavement separating them, looking towards the
Cloggers Arms, which is in the middle of the terrace of cottages
on the left of the picture.
was worried this new road would prove detrimental to his trade.
Travellers on the highway would no longer pass his door. He
and Nancy decided to build a brand new beerhouse right on
the new road between it and the canal. The front door would
attract the road travellers and the back door would be a welcome
sight to the canal men. The beerhouse was built with four
attached cottages, known as Birks Cottages, and Abraham and
Nancy moved in.
rear entrance to the pub from the canal tow path
extra space that the building gave them would be welcome with the
amount of children they had. Another good reason, which may have
swayed Abraham into its construction. The story of one of their
sons, Tom Law, can be read HERE.
name of Cloggers Arms was retained initially and the business thrived.
In addition to selling wines, ales and porter, the beerhouse was
also a family grocers and tea merchants.
Church was also built during the 1840's. In 1848, it was consecrated
and dedicated to St. Peter. The sign associated with St. Peter is,
apparently, crossed keys. It seems that for this reason, the beerhouse
was re-named the Cross Keys; a name it still carries today.
died at the relatively early age of 54 in 1850 whilst living at
the Cross Keys. Nancy
lived on at the beerhouse, keeping the business running successfully
at least until 1866 by which time James Crowther was the landlord.
She died in 1869 aged 64 and is buried at St. Peter's, Walsden.
Crowther had been a grocer at Strines before he moved to the Cross
Keys. He had a good business and had been running it for many years,
so his trade and his good name would no doubt follow him to the
Cross Keys. James'
sister Jane was the first wife of the noted local historian John
married Mary Unsworth, a local girl, in 1843 and they had three
daughters and a son, all born before they moved to the Cross Keys.
The son, Joseph, later married Elizabeth Hudson, who was the sister
of Mary Jane Hudson wife of Oscar Howarth, who was to become the
next landlord of the pub after James Crowther.
must have been good as James was able to retire by 1881, and the
pub passed to Oscar Howorth, who as mentioned, had a slight connection
to the Crowthers by marriage. Oscar
was the son of William and Mary Howorth of Pexwood, a family of
mill workers. He
married Mary Jane Hudson, daughter of John and Mary and they had
one son, Albert, born in 1875.
boarder at the pub in 1881 was a blacksmith, who may have found
work in the pub stables, as many horses would have stopped at this
convenient location. The carters with their horses and carts at
the front and the canal horses at the back would all need some attention
moved on from the Cross Keys to become a hotel keeper at Station
Road, Haslingden, which is where he died. His
brother William then took over as landlord of the Cross Keys with
his wife Lydia and their three children, Fielden, John William and
Arthur. William died in 1895 but his wife and son Fielden carried
on running the pub. Lydia Howorth became a well-respected landlady
and when she died in 1905, her death was reported in the yearly
Almanac, remarking that she had been the landlady for nearly 21
years. This left Fielden, the son, to be the last representative
of this family's connection with the Cross Keys. He died in 1929,
still at the pub and his death ended nearly 50 years of the Howorth
family's connection with this popular local hostelry.
later landlord in the 1930's was John Williams. He and his wife
Janie were the licensees when Janie died in 1935. He left the pub
some time after and died 11 years later in 1946. They are buried
together at St. Peter's.
is interesting to note the various different addresses for
the pub taken from the census:
5, Birks Terrace
5 & 7 Birks Cottages
649 & 651 Rochdale Road
this, it looks as if the pub was enlarged in the late 19th
century by taking over one of the original cottages. This
can bee seen by the photo, showing the Cross Keys and three
cottages where once there were four.
shows, which were very popular, were held regularly at the Cross
Keys, and one in 1881 had 58 almanacs on show, with one almanac
dating back to 1702 that was the star attraction. A
year later, 240 were entered, showing how the popularity of these
entertainments had grown. They
would have generated a lot of trade for the pub and became quite
a social event.
fair share of tragedy also occurred, and one such case happened
in the January of 1889, when William Blezzard was found dead in
the stables. He was 42, the chance child of Ellen Blezzard and he
lived at High Wicken, Moorcock. His work was as a collier and at
times, a coal carter. A
sad end for a hard working chap.
lighthearted entertainment was had by bets of various sorts. One
of the most popular was taking bets on how far and fast could be
walked or run in a stated time. In May 1900, George Pearson, a local
chap undertook to walk from the Cross Keys to the Moorcock up Inchfield
and back in 30 minutes. He did it with 3minutes to spare, so winning
his 10 shillings, which he no doubt spent at the bar. He was obviously
a very fit man, or he knew a few short cuts.
Cross Keys eventually got a full licence in 1960 and it continues
to offer food, drink and a warm welcome to travellers, be they local
people, walkers, cyclists on the canal towpath, passers by in cars
on the busy road, or holiday makers on barges who can moor right
outside the back door, which is a very convenient arrangement. What
could be more agreeable on a lovely English summer's day and what