|Population||5,781 (2011 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Crofton is a village near Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England, about 4 miles (6 km) south-east of the city, some 6 miles (10 km) to the west of the town of Pontefract, and 4 miles (6 km) from the town of Featherstone. The population of the civil parish at the time of the 2011 census was 5,781.
Crofton is listed in the 1086 Domesday Book as Scroftune.
The village has one church, the cruciform All Saints' Church, which is Anglican. It dates from the 15th century. It shares an incumbent with the Church of St Peter the Apostle at Kirkthorpe. A Roman Catholic church built in the 1920s closed in 2008.
Crofton New Hall was built in the 1750s for the Wilsons, who lived in the village until 1935, when a Colonel Wilson sold out. The hall was used by the army during the Second World War and later by the National Coal Board. It housed Brown's Tutorial School until 1980, when the building was demolished. Shortly afterwards, a housing estate was built there. Some of the Wilson family are buried in a large mausoleum in the cemetery.
Richmal Mangnall, author of an innovative schoolbook, was educated at Mrs Wilson's School at Crofton Hall. She stayed there as a teacher, then took it over in 1808 and ran it until her death on 1 May 1820. The eldest two Brontë sisters (Maria and Elizabeth) briefly attended.
The earliest free school in the village opened in 1877 as Crofton Board School. The building of the earlier school, which had been used by the local high school as a drama hall, was demolished in 2003 and is now the site of a youth centre. A blue plaque dedicated to Miss Magnall was installed on the new building in 2013.
Crofton was predominantly a farming community, but the mining of coal became important in the 19th century and continued until the 1980s. There were three coal mines within two miles of the village, at Nostell, Walton and Sharlston. By the early 1900s, Lord St Oswald had built houses at New Crofton, known locally as Cribbens or Scribbens Lump, for the workers of Nostell Mine. This area was populated until the 1980s, when it was demolished along with the closure of the mines. "The Lump" also had a mission hall, a local shop and a fish-and-chip shop, locally as "The Leaning Chippy" due to subsidence from the local mine at Nostell. In the 1970s, there were two shops near the Lump: "Alf's", which was a corner shop located where the Slipper public house is today, and another attached to the local car garage, "Mrs Moody's". There is also a disused well from which villagers used to get their water. It can still be seen, but the well itself has since been filled in, as a hazard for local children.
The houses at the Lump were demolished due to severe subsidence from Nostell mine, it being was cheaper to demolish them than to repair the damage the subsidence had caused. Once demolished, the area remained a wasteland for many years, but the old cobbled streets and other roads were still visible. Eventually the land was sold and a new housing estate built on it. Most of the old subsidence has stopped, with many of the old mines collapsed and filled in years ago, but some remain and will affect the surrounding areas for years to come.
When the miners at Nostell were clearing new coal seams, they came across what was described as an underground church, which the monks from Nostell Priory had built years before. This church was complete with tunnels, which the monks used to use for transporting coal to the monastery. The church had wooden doors and seating inside. Exactly why they built it underground is unclear. The entrance and tunnel was eventually sealed off. Local miner and Nostell safety officer Leslie Simpson Sr and a fellow miner carved their names into the wood of the church door just before the tunnel was sealed. One theory is that the monks built the underground church to pray and worship in private, the monastery attached to Nostell Priory being dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540.
Crofton Castle was built in Towers Lane in 1853 by John Blackburn in the style of a Gothic manor house, complete with a parapet. The house acted as a prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War for captured Italian soldiers. The house was then bought by the Abbott family, who allowed it to fall into disrepair. In 2004 the house suffered a blaze that led to its demolition.
Rumours of hauntings and paranormal activity at the mansion surfaced. Many schoolchildren and some adults have reported seeing a white figure standing at the back window, locally known as the Grey Lady. Over the years, there were rumours of suicides and hangings in and around the castle, but most were unsubstantiated or exaggerated. Since the castle was demolished, a new housing estate has been built on the site, but the developers were mindful of the stories behind the castle and so planned the new estate that no houses would occupy exactly the same position as the castle had, which is nowadays covered by a road. Even so, events from the legend of the Grey Lady and other strange phenomena are still being reported from the new estate.
Today, Crofton is seen as a commuting village, with many inhabitants leaving daily to work in nearby cities such as Leeds and Wakefield and to a lesser degree Sheffield and York. The village has two post offices, one in New Crofton and one in the High Street, two fish and chip shops - one in New Crofton - mini-markets and a carpet store. The village also boasts several pubs: the Crofton Arms and the Cock and Crown, both on the A638 road, the Royal Oak, and The Goose & Cowslip. Also serving drink are a working men's club and the Crofton Community Centre, formerly known as the Nostell Miners' Welfare. The Crofton Arms is now an Indian restaurant. Of other earlier pubs, Weavers Green has been demolished to make way for new houses, and The Slipper has been converted into flats. The Goose and Cowslip was formerly known as the "Lord of the Manor", and residents still call it The Manor.
Crofton made national newspaper headlines when a noted motel in the village, The Redbeck, had stayed open for 21 years without ever closing, working its way through renovations, leaks and power cuts. The Redbeck is now a diner, hotel and long-haul truck stop on the outskirts of Crofton, located on the A638.
Crofton has had a makeover in the last few years. The old Nostell Mine and its surrounding area have been transformed into a nature park, with a small pond and walking areas that many locals use. The walk comprises around 3-4 miles of ash path from start to finish, with some being concreted (remnants of the old opencast mining area). It can be followed on foot or by bike, right to the Trans-Pennine Trail and through Walton Forest. Use in some years is marred by surges in the tick population, which particularly affect dog walkers and farm cattle.
In July 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the decision to route the West Midlands to Leeds leg of the future high-speed rail link HS2 through the eastern side of the village. At the same time, it was announced that a large maintenance depot, proposed for south of the village, will be built east of Leeds.
Crofton is in the centre of what is locally known as Rugby Land, with the local team Crofton Cougars contributing to the maintenance of the rugby league tradition. It was formed in 1996 and plays in the CMS Unison Division 1. It won the CMS Division 2 title in 2006. The home ground of the Cougars is Cougar Park, which is part of the Crofton Community Centre facilities.
Crofton cricket team play at The Sidings Playing Fields, as do Crofton Juniors AFC and Crofton Sports FC, which has two teams playing in the Wakefield Saturday League and are based at the Weavers Green pub.
In birth order:
Crofton Infants School was opened in 1877 and then known as Crofton Board School.
In 1920, Crofton School suffered a horrific scene, when 19-year-old Jane Darwell was murdered in the hall during the dance by her ex-boyfriend Edwin Sowerby, in front of several witnesses. Sowerby was sentenced to death and hanged at Armley Prison in Leeds on 30 December 1920. A later student relates that the children of Crofton Hall School were convinced the building was haunted.
In 1955, Crofton Secondary School opened in the Old Hall. Crofton Slack Lane Junior School and Crofton High School were built in the 1960s. A Junior and Infant school opened in Shay Lane in 1972. In summer 1995 a fire destroyed most of the High School; a new school opened in 1998. In 2007 Crofton High School scored GCSE pass rates that put it in the country's top 100 state schools. In August 2011 it became Crofton Academy.
Until the 1960s the village was served by the Hare Park & Crofton railway station before it was demolished. It stood on the Great North Eastern Railway and on the Wakefield Line. The sidings were also used as part of the Dearne Valley Line. Crofton, a smaller station, stood next to Doncaster Road, on the current Pontefract Line, behind the Crofton Arms pub. That station too was closed in the 1960s, but derelict remains of the station building can be seen from the A638 and on trains passing from Wakefield Kirkgate railway station towards Pontefract.
Crofton is located 26 miles (42 km) from Leeds Bradford International Airport, which has flights to European and Asian destinations such as Paris, Milan, Rome, Alicante, Tenerife, Larnaca and Islamabad. Crofton is the same distance from Doncaster Sheffield Airport, at Finningley in Doncaster, which serves a smaller range of European destinations. The nearest fully international airport is Manchester, 69 miles (111 km) from the village.