Cross Lane is now a quiet village lane. With the exception of a few old houses, mainly at the top of the lane,there is very little of the original housing to help us visualise what it may have been like in the days when the canals flourished. Most of the present houses were built after the Second World War, but the lane has had a colourful history.
The Cross, which gave it its name, stood at the top of the lane. It was built as a way mark for the route between the convents at Banbury and Nuneaton. Standing on a stepped platform it had an octagonal shaft eleven feet high, cut from a single block of stone. Carved on its sides were figures representing the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Cross stood until 1780 when it was demolished, broken up and used to fill holes in the road !
The building of the canals brought a great change to Cross Lane, as cottages were built to house all the extra workers needed for the building, operating and support of the canal and its industry. These cottages, some of them little more than hovels, stretched down to the brickyard with two on the canal bank. Some of the cottages were built round yards. On Boxing Day 1914, Pittoms Yard was destroyed by fire, which spread from the blazing thatch of Mr Pittom’s cottage to the cottages in the yard behind. Some 32 people from 8 families were made homeless, and a committee was formed to provide relief.
Although life was tough and dangerous for those working the canals, there was plenty of work for those left ashore. It brought prosperity to the village as a whole and great activity in crowded Cross Lane. All the people involved in the canal industry needed food, clothing and supplies so many small industries and services appeared. There were shops in Cross Lane including a sweetshop run by Mrs Foster, who was nicknamed “Tuckey”, also a clothing and haberdashery shop, run by Mrs Gladys Clarke, just below where the garage is today. Nearby was a Saddlers owned by Mr Rushall, known as “Shilling Billy”, who wrote letters for boat people if they could not write their own and would also help with legal problems. It is said that his son, charging more than his father, was known as “18 penny bill”! On the path crossing the lane was a Fish and Chip Shop, while on the corner opposite the Butcher was a Baptist Chapel. Three public houses or alehouses are also said to have been in the lane: “The White Swan”, “The Tally Ho” and the “Jolly Boatman”.
The cottages were condemned in 1939 and the residents still living there were moved to 72 new houses, between Welton Road and Ashby Road, on August Bank Holiday. A month later the Second World War began and the cottages were reprieved to house evacuees from Shoreditch in London