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The Cross Tree

The Cross Tree

Byfield's "Cross Tree" inn got its name from a real tree. It was a lovely and very, very old elm, which regrettably has long-since been felled due to it succumbing to age and infirmity.

As you can see from the pub sign, there are a number of people in period dress assembled around a tree in full leaf, at the base of which is a cross.

                           

The remains of that old stone cross can still be seen near Byfield's War Memorial * on the corner of Banbury Lane and High Street (A361), NN11 6XQ. The cross wasn't a religious relic but a marker for a market's bartering place in times gone by, simply known as The Market Cross. That's where deals were done for the cattle and sheep assembled in the dip on the south side of Fiveways' corner, NN11 6XA (Boddington Road, High Street (main A361 south), Daventry Road (main A361 north), Woodford Road (Doll's Hill) and Church Street. The animals were on view behind and to the left of the current bus shelter on the main road's east side, where pens were to be found in the olden days.

The old elm was planted in 1753 and lived for just over 200-years. It was next to the Market Cross and became a well known shady spot and meeting place for local youth, and anyone else who needed to designate a location that wasn't one of the village's hostelries. Obviously people shortened the description and the elm became known as The Cross Tree.

Way back when Byfield had four pubs in the village, or maybe five if you count the Club, in the middle of the century before last a prominent Midland's brewery decided to build another, which was called "The New Inn" (location NN11 6UY). The other pubs, The White Lion, The Bell, The New Bell Inn and the Rose & Crown had fairly common names (for pubs) but as a name, "The New Inn", which anyway had received extensive modernisation in the 1920s, was certainly not inspiring, although it did reflect the name of the lane to its rear, New Terrace.

Now, in Victorian times, opposite the Market Cross on the east side of High Street there had been a butcher's shop, which also sold all the kinds of alcohol then available; that took its name from that nearby meeting place. In the image below, you can see that shop and if you look very closely, you can make out its "Cross Tree" sign, over the circular "Phipps", the proprietor's name board.

There had been some rumblings about The New Inn's rather bland name, and the lack of a snazzy icon depicting it on a pub sign. By then the old "off licence" had been displaced by other kinds of business, so some villagers had a competition to rename the new watering hole; "The Cross Tree" was chosen. The name was unusual in the world of pubs but because of that, and its sentimental association with a well known village gathering place, and popular booze retailer, the brewery embraced it.

The Cross Tree is now our only pub. The Village Club, its only remaining "public" competition, finally passed-away a year or more ago due to changing social trends, and market forces.

*On our page dedicated to the unveiling of Byfield's War Memorial, the remnants of the old stone Market Cross can be seen bottom left in the second picture on that page. If you look closely, you can also see it on the far left of the first monochrome image. When the elm was felled the War Memorial was moved further away from the increasingly busy main road. 

Time Capsule? When the old elm's roots were dug-out sometime in the 1970's, Byfield's school children prepared and buried a Time Capsule where the old tree had been. Finding it again would be a real tresure hunt for the youngsters of today.

 

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