Nantwich

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Nantwich
Cheshire
High Street, Nantwich.JPG
High Street
Location
Grid reference: SJ652523
Location: 53°4’1"N, 2°31’19"W
Data
Population: 12,515  (2001)
Post town: Nantwich
Postcode: CW5
Dialling code: 01270
Local Government
Council: Cheshire East
Parliamentary
constituency:
Crewe and Nantwich

Nantwich is a market town and in Cheshire, one of the famous salt towns of Cheshire; the "Cheshire wiches", that include Nantwich, Middlewich and Northwich, the latter two standing to the north.

Nantwich is on the Cheshire Plain, on the banks of the River Weaver, approximately four miles south-west of Crewe and 20 miles south-east of Chester.

The Shropshire Union Canal runs through the town on an embankment, crossing the A534 by an iron aqueduct. The basin is a popular mooring for visitors to the town. The Shropshire Union makes a junction with the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston to the north.

This is a major road junction, being the meeting point of the A51, A500, A529, A530 and A534 roads.

History

The origins of the settlement date to Roman times, for the Romans saw the value of the salt to be extracted here.

In the Domesday Book, Nantwich is recorded as having eight salt houses. It had a castle and was the capital of a barony of the earls of Chester, and of a hundred (one of the seven sub-divisions of mediæval Cheshire). Nantwich is one of the few places in Cheshire to be marked on the Gough Map, which dates from 1355–66.[1] It was first recorded as an urban area at the time of the Norman conquest – the Normans burned the town to the ground[2] leaving only one building standing.

The town is believed to have been a salt-producing centre from the 10th century or earlier.[3] The Norman castle was built at the crossing of the Weaver before 1180, probably near where the Crown Inn now stands. Although nothing remains of the castle above ground, it affected the town's layout.[4][5] During the mediæval period, Nantwich was the most important salt town and probably the second most important settlement in the county after Chester.[6][7] By the 14th century, the town held a weekly cattle market at the end of Beam Street, and was also important for its tanning industry centred on Barker Street.[8]

Churche's Mansion

A fire destroyed most of the town to the east of the Weaver in 1583.[9][10] (Churche's Mansion is one of the few buildings in Nantwich to survive the fire). Queen Elizabeth I personally contributed to the town's rebuilding, which occurred rapidly and followed the plan of the destroyed town.[11] Beam Street, one of the main streets of Nantwich, was renamed to reflect the fact that the timber to rebuild the town was transported along it.

During the Civil War Nantwich declared for Parliament, and consequently it was besieged several times by Royalist forces. The final, six-week long, siege was lifted following the victory of the Parliamentary forces in the Battle of Nantwich on 26 January 1644, which has been re-enacted as Holly Holy Day on its anniversary every year since 1973 by the Sealed Knot re-enactment society. The name comes from the sprigs of holly worn by the townsfolk in their caps or clothing in the years after the battle, in its commemoration.[12]

The salt industry peaked in the mid-16th century, with around 400 salt houses in 1530, and had almost died out by the end of the 18th century; the last salt house closed in the mid-19th century.[13][14][15] Nikolaus Pevsner considers the decline in the salt industry to have been the critical factor in preserving the town's historic buildings.[13] The last tannery closed in 1974. The town's location on the London to Chester road meant that Nantwich served the needs of travellers from the mediæval era.[6][16] This trade declined in the 19th century, however, with the opening of Telford's road from London to Holyhead, which offered a faster route west, and later when the Grand Junction Railway bypassed the town.[14]

Parish church

St Mary's Church

The parish church is St Mary's in the town centre. It dates from the 14th century (and is listed at Grade I listed).

Sights of the town

The Crown Hotel

Nantwich has the largest collection of historic buildings in Cheshire outside Chester.[17] The listed buildings are clustered particularly in the town centre on Barker Street, Beam Street, Churchyard Side, High Street and Hospital Street, and extending across the Weaver on Welsh Row. The great majority are located within the 93.9 acres of conservation area, which broadly follows the boundaries of the late mediæval and early post-mediæval town.[7][18]

The oldest listed building is St Mary's Church. Two other listed buildings are known to pre-date the fire of 1583: Sweetbriar Hall and the grade-I-listed Churche's Mansion are both timber-framed, "black and white" Elizabethan mansion houses.

A few years after the fire, William Camden described Nantwich as the "best built town in the county",[19] and particularly fine examples of timber-framed buildings constructed during the town's rebuilding include 46 High Street and the grade-I-listed Crown coaching inn. Many half-timbered buildings, such as 140–142 Hospital Street, have been concealed behind brick or render. The town contains many Georgian town houses; good examples include Dysart Buildings, 9 Mill Street, Townwell House and 83 Welsh Row.

Several examples of Victorian corporate architecture are listed, including the former District Bank by Alfred Waterhouse.

The most recent listed building is 1–5 Pillory Street, a curved corner block in 17th-century French style which dates from 1911. The majority of the town's listed buildings were originally residential; churches, chapels, public houses, schools, banks, almshouses and workhouses are also well represented. Unusual listed structures include a mounting block, twelve cast-iron bollards, a stone gateway, two garden walls and a summerhouse.

Dorfold Hall is a Jacobean mansion in the nearby village of Acton. It is listed at grade I,[20] and was considered by Pevsner to be one of the two finest Jacobean houses in Cheshire.[21] Nantwich Show, including the International Cheese Awards, takes place in the hall's grounds each summer.

Nantwich Museum is on Pillory Street. It has galleries on the history of the town, including Roman salt making, Tudor Nantwich's Great Fire, the Civil War Battle of Nantwich (1644) and the more recent shoe and clothing industries. There's also a section on the local cheese-making industry.

Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, based a few miles outside the town, is a former government-owned nuclear bunker located in the village of Hack Green. It is now a museum.

The 82-seat Nantwich Players Theatre is on Pillory Street in the centre of town. It puts on around five plays each year.[22]

Sport

The Weaver Stadium
  • Football: Nantwich Town FC
  • Rugby Union:
    • Crewe and Nantwich RUFC
    • Acton Nomads RFC
  • Rugby League: Crewe & Nantwich Steamers

Media

  • Nantwich Chronicle
  • Crewe and Nantwich Guardian
  • Sentinel
  • The Dabber

Outside links

Commons-logo.svg
("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Nantwich)

References

  1. The Gough Map (interactive version) (accessed 21 April 2008)
  2. Holly Holy Day Society website
  3. Lake, 1983, p. 1
  4. McNeil Sale R et al. (1978), Archaeology in Nantwich: Crown Car Park Excavations, Bemrose Press 
  5. Phillips & Phillips, eds, 2002, p. 32
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hewitt, 1967, p. 67
  7. 7.0 7.1 Borough of Crewe & Nantwich: Nantwich Conservation Area: Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Review (January 2006)
  8. Lake, 1983, pp. 3, 30
  9. Lake, 1983, p. 67
  10. Beck, pp. 34–35, 75–76
  11. Lake, 1983, pp. 76, 91
  12. Battle of Nantwich... and Holly Holy Day, Nantwich Museum, UK.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Pevsner & Hubbard, 1971, p. 12
  14. 14.0 14.1 Lake, 1983, pp. 131–32
  15. Phillips & Phillips, eds, 2002, p. 66
  16. Lake, 1983, pp. 30–31, 35
  17. Take a Closer Look at Nantwich (booklet), Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council 
  18. Borough of Crewe & Nantwich: Replacement Local Plan 2011: Insets: Nantwich Town Centre, Acton, Aston, Audlem, Bridgemere School, Buerton, Hankelow, Marbury, Sound School, Worleston School, Wrenbury (downloaded from [1]; 4 June 2010)
  19. Hall, 1883, p. 255
  20. Images of England — details from listed building database (56919) Dorfold Hall
  21. Pevsner, p. 22
  22. About Us, Nantwich Players (accessed 17 November 2010).