William Crossley




William Crossley was born on Christmas Day 1771 at Grain Farm near Peckett Well in the Township of Wadsworth, West Yorkshire. He was the fifth child of William and Mary who were committed Baptists and worshipped at Wainsgate Particular Baptist Chapel. Grain is a pleasant place, perched high up near Wadsworth Moor on the old road to Haworth. It boasts two datestones, both of 1604.

Grain in 2007

By William's time it was a substantial stone-built farmhouse with at least 3 attached cottages, a barn and a few acres of land with much sought after rights of pasture on Wadsworth Common. In addition to hill top farming, the Crossleys were websters, and judging by the style of the house it seems they may have run a family business by distributing wool for others to spin and weave in their homes.

Some time in the 1790's the family split up. William's oldest siblings married and stayed in the Wadsworth and Hebden Bridge area. His younger brothers, Miles and Thomas, moved to live in Ancoats, Manchester. His brother John was the most successful of the siblings, founding the firm John Crossley & Sons (Hebden Bridge) Cotton Manufacturers. William moved to Walsden.

He arrived in Walsden as a young man, taking up employment as a carter for Bell Parkin who was a corn miller at INCHFIELD MILL between Inchfield Bottom and Square.


He was living in Gauxholme in the year 1798, which is the year that he married Betty Haigh. She was a member of the successful farming family from Inchfield and was known by everyone as "Scroggy". This was a dialect word meaning "short and stout".



Scroggy most likely lived with her Uncle James Haigh who was landlord of the NAVIGATION at Gauxholme. After their marriage they continued to live at Gauxholme and it was there where their first 3 children were born.

Betty's Uncle James, still at the Inn, died childless in 1807. He was a wealthy man and left a WILL distributing his assets amongst his brothers and his wife. Betty received £10 from the will, and as she was the only niece or nephew to receive a bequest it is likely that she was a favourite and that maybe she and William had lived with James. After James' death, William and Scroggy moved to live at SQUARE in Walsden. It was there where their remaining five children were born.


A photo of Square as it was


For the greater part of his life William was known as "Toys", then "Old Toys", and this nickname stayed with his descendents for over 100 years. Rumour has it that he obtained the name following a disastrous journey to Halifax. He had been sent there to pick up a cartload of toys for the forthcoming Todmorden Fair. On the return journey he called at one pub too many and, being so drunk, he fell on the toys or some other nasty accident happened that on arrival back in Walsden all the toys were broken. Henceforth, he was William Toys.

On June 28th. 1822, William's boss, Bell Parkin, met a tragic death. He was returning from a trip to the Manchester Corn Exchange riding his horse past Firwood on Inchfield Pasture when he was bludgeoned from behind by an unknown assailant. He fell from his horse and died. William then took up the occupation of handloom weaving and moved his family to KNOWSLEY COTTAGE at Inchfield. This was lucrative work at that time, Knowsley was a pleasant place, and life would have been good for the family. They raised 7 sons and a daughter there. The house was a low, squat building with a considerable area of land, which William began to cultivate. Knowsley is quite isolated even now.


Knowsley Cottage in 1906


About 1840 or so, a group of his friends met and decided to set him up. They met at the Hollins Inn where they devised a plot to catch him selling his home brewed ale at his house, a thing he was known for doing and which was illegal without an excise licence. His ale was known as "hol'd thi tong". A man was sent up to Knowsley to call for a pint of this ale. Scroggy supplied the man with his ale but because he was an old acquaintance she refused to take his money. William apparently was not around at the time; he was weaving in his shop. The man supped up and left, leaving two pence on the table.


Shortly afterwards William was summonsed to appear before the magistrates at Todmorden Petty Sessions held at the WHITE HART INN. The whole plot had been concocted at the Hollins Inn where the landlord, James Pearson, and several other friends, were in on the game. James and the others were all present in the Court when William appeared charged with selling ale by retail without a licence. The witness was called and he told his story of how he had called for a pint and had been served and had paid for it. William denied this saying he was weaving in his shop and it must have been Scroggy who gave him the pint because he hadn't.

The presiding magistrate, Mr. John Crossley of SCAITCLIFFE HALL, suggested that "Scroggy" must be fetched. William would not hear of this and, having once been a hand weaver for Mr. Crossley's father-in-law, Mr. Ramsbottom, at once said back "Aye, fotch Old Rom's lass!"   Everyone present in the Court now had smiles on their faces and William's spirit of retaliation was roused. There were whispered words of a very serious case, head shaking and knowing looks, but William stood his ground until the conversations were over, whereupon he was fined one shilling plus expenses. William said he would pay nothing so his friends paid up as they had enjoyed the proceedings, and afterwards they took him back to the Hollins Inn where they had a few drinks and a good feast . William took it well and called them a lot of devils but felt no guilt at drinking at their expense.


The Hollins Inn


William and Betty had 8 children, one daughter and seven sons, although their sixth son, Richard, died at Knowsley aged 20. Sons Henry and Robert married local girls and remained in Walsden. Daughter Hannah went to live with William's brother Thomas who was long-term landlord of the Grapes Inn on John Street, Ancoats in Manchester. She married late in life and ended her days in Fairfield near Buxton, Derbyshire. Son Thomas went back to his father's roots in Wadsworth, whilst son John moved to Oldham. The whereabouts of their remaining sons, James and William, is yet to be discovered.

William tried his hand at various occupations including that of matchmaker, and in his later years he also did garden work for his friends and neighbours. In those days ordinary matches were not in common use. Men used various methods of lighting their pipes but needed a fire as a starting point. When the men were out walking, a common event, they had to knock on doors to find a light for their pipes. It was only about 1835 when a local man visited Ashton under Lyne and whilst there found and purchased a box of matches for 6d. The matches were pieces of flat stiff paper with the red tip and had to be drawn sharply between pieces of doubled up sandpaper. Shortly afterwards these matches became available in Todmorden and were later made of wood.

By 1841, William's wealthy brother John had died and left him a small annuity to supplement his casual earnings as a gardener and handloom weaver. He was well respected amongst the inhabitants of Walsden, known for his good humour and sound judgement. The Walsden cotton manufacturers sought him out to ask this and that, and always provided him with a jug of ale as recompense for his advice.

William Toys and Scroggy lived into old age at Knowsley, surrounded by sons Robert and Henry and their families. They died within 12 months of each other and are buried at St. Peter's Church in Walsden. William died of degeneration, presumably old age, and Betty of dropsy. Neither was receiving medical attention before their deaths. They had been married for 55 years.

Over 100 years after the death of William, my father, who was his great great grandson, was known in Walsden as Toys.

He never knew why.