Cross Roads developed as a name as the Ingrow- Denholme road crossed the older Haworth-Barcroft-Hainworth-Keighley road at the end of the 18th century whilst Lees comes from the Anglo Saxon “leys” meaning meadows.
The first mill, powered by the stream was built in 1571, and by 1712 the area was described as having “an industrial population scattered in the hills”, combining farming with spinning. With more mills in the late 18th century, the 1851 census showed that 90% of the population was employed in textiles.
There had been churches in the area since the Middle Ages and Cross Roads cum Lees was in the Bingley parish. However by the early 19th century Ingrow parish had been formed and Cross Roads was transferred to this. Lees Methodist church was founded in 1844 and with the building of more mills and housing, plans for the provision of Church of England worship were made by the diocese of Ripon and the Vicar of Ingrow.
The Mission Church
On July 25th 1886, a mission house-church was founded by the Rev’d J Knowles, assistant curate of Ingrow Parish Church. Nine months later services moved to an iron mission church, erected at a cost of just under £450 on the site of the present church. The adjoining Sunday School/church hall was built (in stone) in 1892.
The church remained in Ingrow parish until a resolution to make Cross Roads cum Lees into a separate parish was passed 5th April 1908. Parishioners also undertook “ to do our utmost towards the erection of a permanent stone church in the new parish”. This was agreed, and later that year a Building Fund was opened. Such was the response to the appeal that the following year, on August 29th, the last service was held in the iron church, and the following day work began on the new church.
St James Church
The foundation stone was laid by Mr M Merrall. Rev. D E James,(curate), the rectors of Keighley and of Haworth and the vicar of Ingrow attended the service. During the following eleven months, the parishioners continued fundraising. The church choir, which numbered 24 in 1910, was active in the Church’s social life, taking part in musical weekends and fundraising concerts, as well as worship. The Merrall family gave generously and the church was completed in 1910. It is a stone building with a 4 bay nave and fine oak pews, carved choir stalls and organ chamber, (hence its Grade 2 listing in 1992.)
The Church in 1960
Following an order by the council in November 1911, Cross Roads cum Lees was made a separate parish on 9th March, with Rev. D E James inducted as the first vicar.
The original design of the church included a tower but only the lower section was completed. The organ was installed in 1916 by Laycock and Bannisters and officially opened at a special service 16th May by Mr Winterbotton, (the organist in the iron church). There was not enough money to complete the tower so a Clock and bell Tower fund was started. Completion proved impossible but a bell cote and bell was erected in 1962, above the west window, a memorial and gift by the Laycock family.
The Sunday School and Church Hall
Sunday school classes used the Sunday school, along with the Dramatic Society with its plays and pantomimes, Scouts and Guides, Youth Fellowship and ladies groups amongst others. Membership of these groups was not confined to church members only.
Sadly by the 1980s, dry and wet rot meant that repair was impossible. The Church Hall Appeal Fund, (CHAF) was launched with the intention of replacing the Sunday school with a smaller building. The many and varied fundraising activities included cake sales, car washing, silent auction, ceilidhs, and grant application. The old hall was demolished in 1993 and part of its site was sold, helping to fund the new hall.
After several amendments to the plans, work began on the new hall, which connects to the church through a door in the south aisle. During building, a time capsule was buried in its foundations. With efficient heating, a modern kitchen area and toilets, loft storage and reasonable floor space, the new hall was completed in 1994. It was formally opened by Rt Rev’d David Smith, (Bishop of Bradford) on 25th January 1995.
Into the Twenty-First Centuary
Three stained glass windows have been installed. The windows depicting Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the Whale were dedicated in 1999 and the third, three years later
Grills have been added to windows and the church was re-wired in 1995.
An electric piano was bought in 2009 (thanks to generous donations and fundraising) to supplement the existing organ rather than replace it.
St James’ Centenary was celebrated 2009-10
Autumn 2016, St James has undergone extensive repairs to the roofs of the north and south aisles, porch and vestry, replacing rotten timber and re-slating the roofs. The high-level stonework, clerestory windows and bell cote have also received attention and great improvements have been made to the drainage and gutters on the roofs. Grants from HLF, Garfield Weston, Allchurches, and YHC Trusts and others, with still more fundraising have made this possible.
In addition to Sunday and weekday services, St James hosts some social events such as concerts, fashion shows and craft shows. In the hall, there are regular coffee mornings and lunchtime socials, Bible Study, French and Spanish Conversation groups and Rainbows.
St James also has links with churches in Virginia, USA and in the Sudan.