Tag Cut, Cromwell Bottom

Prior to the completion of stretch of the Calder and Hebble Navigation canal between Elland and Brighouse in 1808, barges on the River Calder would navigate meanders by temporary “cuts”. Tag Cut at Cromwell Bottom, constructed to provide water access to Elland Stone Mill, was built in 1770 but appears never to have been used. Today, its remains form part of the Cromwell Bottom nature reserve, running just below the railway line and Strangstry Wood.

During the early 20th Century the area was a popular beauty spot but the site was forgotten for many years whilst the area was used as gravel pits and then for landfill. However, the cut still holds water and whilst it has the appearance of being stagnant, there is actually a slow flow which contributes to the diversity of wildlife habitats. It’s one of the most important sites for dragonflies in damselflies in West Yorkshire, with at least ten different species recorded, not to mention herons, kingfishers and a range of flora.

It is certainly an atmospheric place. Due to the area’s history as a landfill site – including for highly alkaline fly-ash produced by the now-demolished Elland Power Station which once stood nearby – the trees cannot put down deep roots in the shallow soil and so appear stunted and unusually contorted. Meanwhile, the water in the cut is tinted orange on account of iron oxide and clay leaching through the soil from old workings at the disused Calder Mine on the hillside above.

It is not known why the cut was never actually used. It may be that it was simply superseded by the Calder and Hebble Navigation. However, a much more sinister possibility is that the area was once haunted by an apparition called Tag, a headless ghost who drove a carriage pulled by a two-headed horse down the length of the cut from a secret passage leading to Elland New Hall. It is even reputed that a room in the hall once went by the name of Tag Chamber.

An article in the Halifax Evening Courier & Guardian dated 6th August 1938 records the experience of one woman who often stayed at New Hall in the early Nineteenth Century. One night she was so disturbed by mysterious crashes emanating from Tag Chamber that she fled the building, believing it to be the sound of Old Tag setting out on his nocturnal travels. Nothing could persuade her to sleep at New Hall again for many years.

Meanwhile, an article in the Brighouse Echo dated 29th October 1971, speculates: “Has anyone seen a headless horseman recently? There is a local legend that such a gruesome apparition can be seen on windy nights galloping past Cromwell Bottom or along Elland Lane at the bottom of Lower Edge. The most likely origin of this tradition is a bitter dispute that occurred some 600 years ago and which has become known as the Elland Feud.”

Such an origin for the tradition would be very satisfactory indeed but on closer inspection it seems unlikely. Whilst New Hall became the home of what remained of the de Eland family after the Feud through marriage to the Saviles, at the time of his murder Sir John de Eland the Younger still lived at Elland Old Hall, sited on the other bank of the Calder to Tag Cut and New Hall, and it thus seems more likely that any such apparition would be associated with Old Hall instead.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My Grandmother was born in Tag Cut in 1887. On my research to Tag Cut I found the remains of the cottage where she was born. I was told by people, that it used to be a place where people went on weekends and holidays for picnics and children swam in the river. There was also boating trips held there by the Craddocks’ who also owned the cottages. I had many interesting conversation with people who spent happy times there.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christine. I came across an old article from the Brighouse Echo which talked about Tag Cut being a popular recreation spot in the early 20th Century. It seems so hard to imagine, looking at the place now!

      • Hi Kai, Yes, its changed so much. On my first visit to Tag Cut there where two houses just before crossing the bridge and we spoke to an old couple that lived there, they where very helpful. On our return they gave me a newspaper clipping from the Halifax Evening Courier showing an article by Kenneth Roberts. I rang him, he told me to write to him giving details of things I would like to know. He printed it in his next column. My phone didn’t stop ringing for two days, from people who new the place well and also from the great grandson of the Craddocks who did the boating trips and owned the cottages

    • Could you please let me know exactly where the cottage remains are. I would love to search around them with my metal detector. Any finds would be shared or passed to the local museum. Many thanks

  2. Hi Kai my name is Graham Haigh and im the present chairman of the Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group we are looking for any stories or photo’s of the area for a small book that we want to produce we have talked to many passing through or enjoying a day out that have memories of the place and would like to collate them all , full recognition will be given to anybody wishing to contribute.My address is 16 Abbey Walk , Coronation rd, Halifax . Hx30AJ. and if you know of anyone who could help we would appreciate it. yours Graham Haigh

    • Have you got any knowledge of where the name Cromwell came from Has it any links to Oliver Cromwell?

      • I can’t recall its meaning off the top of my head and sadly the reference library is closed so I can’t check the source (A.H. Smith’s magisterial Place Names of the West Riding), but I do remember that it has no connection with Oliver Cromwell.

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