Cheshire

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Cheshire
United Kingdom
Big Mere and church at Marbury - geograph.org.uk - 205379.jpg
Big Mere, Marbury
Flag of Cheshire
Cheshire
[Interactive map]
Area: 1,027 square miles
Population: 1,667,342
County town: Chester
County flower: Cuckooflower [1]

The County Palatine of Chester is a shire. The county town, after which it takes its name, is the ancient City of Chester.

The lie of the land

West to east, Cheshire reaches from the windswept Wirral peninsula up into the Peak District. The north encompasses industrial towns and the suburbs from Manchester and Liverpool, fading into the agricultural south of the county. The City of Chester retains many mediæval features, including the only surviving complete town wall walk.

Inland Cheshire forms a vast plain separating the mountains of Wales from the Peak District of Derbyshire. In the Cheshire plain are fine oak woodlands and countless small lakes or meres. At the county's western extremity is the Wirral, a flat peninsula some 12 miles long by 7 miles wide separating the Dee and the Mersey. The Wirral is now largely urbanized. At its easternmost extremity the parish of Tintwistle runs up into the Peaks; a narrow strip between Derbyshire and Lancashire. Cheshire excels in dairy farming, resulting in Cheshire cheese.

Much of central Cheshire is a salt-mining area, as it has been since Saxon times, chiefly around Nantwich, Northwich and Middlewich. There are also coal and iron mines. Runcorn is home to bulk chemical factories.

The county's northern border is the River Mersey, across which lies Lancashire, all the way from the sea to the mountains. To the west lie Flintshire and Denbighshire, to the east Derbyshire, and to the south are Staffordshire and Shropshire.

Cheshire is heavily populated along the Wirral and the large towns along the River Mersey and those within the southern part of the Manchester conurbation. Chester too is a major town. Outside these areas, Cheshire is mostly rural, with a number of small towns and villages that support an agricultural industry.

The county is home to some of the most affluent areas of England, including Alderley Edge, Wilmslow, Prestbury, Tarporley. Knutsford and Altrincham were named in 2006 as the most expensive places to buy a house in the north of England. The area is sometimes referred to as “The Golden Triangle” on account of the area in and around these towns and villages.[1] This has also led to Cheshire's being called "the Surrey of the North".

Buildings

Nantwich High Street

Neolithic burial grounds have been discovered at The Bridestones, near Congleton and Robin Hood's Tump near Alpraham is Bronze Age.[2] The remains of Iron Age hill forts are found on sandstone ridges at several locations in Cheshire, such as Maiden Castle on Bickerton Hill, Helsby Hillfort and Woodhouse Hillfort at Frodsham.

The earliest solid building works in the county are Roman fortress and walls of Chester. They are built from purple-grey sandstone.[3]

The distinctive local red sandstone has been used for many monumental and ecclesiastical buildings throughout the county: for example, the mediaeval Beeston Castle, Chester Cathedral and many parish churches. Occasional residential and industrial buildings, such as Helsby Station, Helsby (1849), are also of this sandstone.

Many surviving buildings from the 15th to 17th centuries are timbered, particularly in the southern part of the county. Notable examples include the moated manor house Little Moreton Hall, dating from around 1450, and many commercial and residential buildings in Chester, Nantwich and surrounding villages.

Early brick buildings include Peover Hall near Macclesfield (1585), Tattenhall Hall (pre-1622) and Pied Bull Hotel in Chester (17th century). From the 18th century, orange, red or brown brick became the predominant building material used in Cheshire, although earlier buildings are often faced or dressed with stone. Examples from the Victorian period onwards often employ distinctive brick detailing, such as brick patterning and ornate chimney stacks and gables. Notable examples include Arley Hall near Northwich, Willington Hall[4] near Chester (both by Nantwich architect George Latham) and Overleigh Lodge, Chester.

From the Victorian era, brick buildings often incorporate timberwork in a mock Tudor style, and this hybrid style has been used in some modern residential developments in the county. Industrial buildings, such as the Macclesfield silk mills (for example, Waters Green New Mill), are also usually in brick.

Physical geography

Looking towards Kelsall

Cheshire covers a boulder clay plain separating the Cambrian Hills from the Peak District of Derbyshire, the area known as the Cheshire Gap. This was formed following the retreat of ice age glaciers which left the area dotted with kettle holes, locally referred to as meres. The bedrock of this region is almost entirely Triassic sandstone, outcrops of which have long been quarried, notably at Runcorn, providing the distinctive red stone for Liverpool Cathedral and Chester Cathedral.

The eastern half of the county is Upper Triassic Mercia Mudstone laid down with large salt deposits which were mined for hundreds of years around Northwich.

Separating this area from Lower Triassic Sherwood Sandstone to the west is a prominent sandstone ridge known as the Mid Cheshire Ridge. A 34-mile footpath, the Sandstone Trail, follows this ridge from Frodsham to Whitchurch passing Delamere Forest, Beeston Castle and earlier Iron Age forts.[5]

History

North section of city wall, Chester

Cheshire's name is first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Legeceasterscir[6] from Legeceaster (Chester; city of legions).[7] Although the name first appears in 980, it is thought that the county was created by Edward the Elder around 920.[7] By the eleventh century Chester had become Ceaster and its county Ceasterscir and in the Domesday Book of 1086, Cheshire was recorded as Cestrescir.

Cheshire's western border was unsettled into the Middle Ages. The Domesday Book records Cheshire as having two complete hundreds across the Dee (Atiscross and Exestan) which later formed Flintshire and part of Denbighshire. Part of the Duddestan Hundred became known as Maelor Saesneg, part of Flintshire. [8]

Shire on the March

The lands between the Mersey and Ribble are referred to in the Domesday Book as "Inter Ripam et Mersam" and are recorded with the returns for Cheshire.[9][10] Exhaustive research indicates that the boundary between Cheshire and what was to become Lancashire remained the River Mersey.[11][12][13]

In 1397, Cheshire took lands in the march of Wales and was promoted to the rank of principality in gratitude for the support the men of the county had given to King Richard II, in particular by his standing armed force of about 500 men called the "Cheshire Guard". The King's title was changed to "King of England and France, Lord of Ireland, and Prince of Chester". On Richard's fall in 1399, the Principality of Chester ended.[14]

Economy and industry

Cattle farming in the county

Cheshire has a diverse economy with significant sectors including agriculture, automotive, bio-technology, chemical, financial services, food and drink, ICT, and tourism. The county is famous for the production of salt and silk. Cheshire cheese comes as a result of its rich agricultural land.

A mainly rural county, Cheshire has a high concentration of villages. Agriculture is generally based on the dairy trade, and cattle are the predominant livestock. Land use given to agriculture has fluctuated somewhat, and in 2005 totalled over 4,609 holdings.

The chemical industry in Cheshire was founded in Roman times, with the mining of salt in Middlewich and Northwich. Salt is still mined in the area by British Salt, but by the method of brine extraction, pumping water at high temperature and pressure into the ground. This has however led to substantial subsidence problems and a state compensation scheme run by the Cheshire Brine Compensation Board. The salt mining led to a continued chemical industry around Northwich. Brunner Mond was based in the town, later becoming a founding part of Imperial Chemical Industries. Other chemical companies have plants at Runcorn. The Shell Stanlow Refinery is at Ellesmere Port. The oil refinery has operated since 1924 and has a capacity of about 12 million tons a year.

Crewe was once the centre of the British railway industry, and remains a major railway junction. The Crewe railway works, built in 1840, employed 20,000 people at its peak, although the workforce is now less than 1,000. Crewe is also the home of Bentley cars. Also within Cheshire are manufacturing plants for Jaguar and Vauxhall Motors in Ellesmere Port.

The county also has an aircraft industry, with the BAE Systems facility at Woodford Aerodrome, part of BAE System's Military Air Solutions division. The facility designed and constructed the Avro Lancaster and Avro Vulcan bombers and the Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod.

On the border with Flintshire is the Broughton aircraft factory, more recently associated with Airbus.

Tourism in Cheshire from within the United Kingdom and overseas continues to perform strongly.

Cheshire is considered to be an affluent county. Due to Cheshire's proximity to the cities of Manchester and Liverpool, counter-urbanisation is common, which is to say people moving out of the cities to the towns on the fringe.

Towns and villages

The county town is the City of Chester. Other major towns include Birkenhead, Congleton, Crewe, Stockport, Ellesmere Port, Widnes, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow.

The main cities and towns in Cheshire are:

Chester
Stockport Viaduct

City

Towns

References

  1. "Why Cheshire fat cats smile". Times Online. London. http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/buying_and_selling/article1087249.ece. Retrieved 2006-03-06. 
  2. "Cheshire County Council: Revealing Cheshire's Past". .cheshire.gov.uk. 2004-09-01. http://www2.cheshire.gov.uk/Archaeology/RCP/PrehistoricSitesToVisit.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  3. "Images of England". Images of England. http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/. Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  4. "Detailed Record". Imagesofengland.org.uk. http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/details/default.aspx?pid=1&id=55781. Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  5. "Walking Cheshire's Sandstone Trail". http://www.sandstonetrail.co.uk/. 
  6. Harris, B. E. and Thacker, A. T. (1987). p. 237.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Crosby, A. (1996). page 31.
  8. Davies, R. (2000). The Age of Conquest: Wales 1063–1415. 
  9. Morgan (1978). pp.269c–301c,d.
  10. Sylvester (1980). p. 14.
  11. Harris and Thacker (1987) write on page 252: Certainly there were links between Cheshire and south Lancashire before 1000, when Wulfric Spot held lands in both territories. Wulfric's estates remained grouped together after his death, when they were left to his brother Aelfhelm, and indeed there still seems to have been some kind of connexion in 1086, when south Lancashire was surveyed together with Cheshire by the Domesday commissioners. Nevertheless, the two territories do seem to have been distinguished from one another in some way and it is not certain that the shire-moot and the reeves referred to in the south Lancashire section of Domesday were the Cheshire ones.
  12. Phillips and Phillips (2002); pp. 26–31.
  13. Crosby, A. (1996) writes on page 31: The Domesday Survey (1086) included south Lancashire with Cheshire for convenience, but the Mersey, the name of which means 'boundary river' is known to have divided the kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia and there is no doubt that this was the real boundary.
  14. Davies, R. R. 'Richard II and the Principality of Chester' in The Reign of Richard II: Essays in Honour of May McKisack, ed. F. R. H. Du Boulay and Caroline Baron (1971)

Further reading

  • Beck, J. (1969). Tudor Cheshire. (Volume 7 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Bu'Lock, J. D. (1972). Pre-Conquest Cheshire 383–1066. (Volume 3 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Dore, R.N. (1966). The Civil Wars in Cheshire. (Volume 8 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Driver, J. T. (1971). Cheshire in the Later Middle Ages 1399–1540. (Volume 6 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Harris, B. E. (1979). 'The Victoria History of the County of Chester. (Volume 2). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-722749-X.
  • Harris, B. E. (1980). 'The Victoria History of the County of Chester. (Volume 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-722754-6.
  • Hewitt, H. J. (1967). Cheshire Under the Three Edwards. (Volume 5 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Higham, N. J. (1993). The Origins of Cheshire. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-3160-5.
  • Hodson, J. H. (1978). Cheshire, 1660–1780: Restoration to Industrial Revolution. (Volume 9 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council. ISBN 0-903119-11-0.
  • Husain, B. M. C. (1973). Cheshire Under the Norman Earls 1066–1237. (Volume 4 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Morgan, V., and Morgan, P. (2004). Prehistoric Cheshire. Ashbourne, Derbyshire:Landmark Publishing Company. ISBN 1-84306-140-6.
  • Scard, G. (1981). Squire and Tenant: Rural Life in Cheshire 1760–1900. (Volume 10 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council. ISBN 0-903119-13-7.
  • Scholes, R. (2000). The Towns and Villages of Britain: Cheshire. Wilmslow, Cheshire: Sigma Press. ISBN 1-85058-637-3.
  • Sylvester. D., and Nulty, G. (1958). The Historical Atlas of Cheshire. (Third Edition) Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Thompson, F. H. (1965). Roman Cheshire. (Volume 2 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Tigwell, R. E. (1985). Cheshire in the Twentieth Century. (Volume 11 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Varley, W. J. (1964). Cheshire Before the Romans. (Volume 1 of Cheshire Community Council Series: A History of Cheshire). Series Editor: J. J. Bagley. Chester, UK: Cheshire Community Council.
  • Youngs, F. A. (1991). Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England. (Volume 1: Northern England). London: Royal Historical Society. ISBN 0-86193-127-0.

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