Category Archives: Aldford

The 1898 mile posts between Farndon, Churton, Aldford and Huntington

The milepost just outside Holly Bush Cottage, the nearest one to Farndon, close to the Barnston Monument. It sits at a slight tilt today.  This is the best one for seeing the manufacturer’s logo, which reads W.H. Smith and Co, Makers, Whitchurch. Milestone Society National ID: CH_CHTP08a.  What3Words ///dressing.sublime.lunge My photos, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Between Farndon and Aldford there are three very fine 1898 milestones dotted along the road, following the line of the Farndon branch of the old Chester to Worthenbury turnpike (toll road), all on the west side of the road. The photos here show those mileposts that remain between Farndon and Aldford along the B5130, organized from south (Farndon) to north (Aldford) via Churton.  Two other photos show milestones between Aldford and Huntington, but I have no idea if there are some missing along that particular route. 

The photos of the milestones along the Farndon to Aldford stretch are mine, but the two to the north of Aldford, as the B5130 approaches Huntington, are by other people, found online, because I have not yet managed to track them down in the real world.  Please see the captions for image credits.  All photos can be clicked on to see the bigger image, in which the text on the mileposts can be read clearly (except, of course, where vegetation blocks the view).  For the ones I’ve seen myself, I have taken What Three Words readings to fix the location.  What Three Words is a smartphone app that assigns three words to uniquely describe areas a little smaller than the size of a parking space.  It’s simpler than other location systems, and fixes locations very precisely, world-wide.  It is particularly useful for finding people in emergencies, but I thought it would be useful for enabling people to relocate the mileposts when they become overgrown.  

Churton milepost, next to Greenfields, the last house in Churton at its north on the way to Aldford. Milestone Society Milestone Society National ID CH_CHTP07. What3Words ///blatnatly.backers.comic. My photos, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

All English turnpike Acts, each created by a separate Act of Parliament, had expired by the end of the 19th Century.  The Local Government Act of 1888 put responsibility for roads into the hands of local councils, making nearly all of the remaining turnpikes redundant.  Sections 92 to 98 of the 1888 Act, however, provided for some exclusions and section 97 enabled Chester County Council to initially avoid taking responsibility for the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike.  Eventually, the Council was forced to take over all the local roads and in 1898 it erected a number of particularly handsome mileposts in Cheshire, including those along the route of the former Chester to Worthenbury turnpike, by then defunct, as well as the Farndon branch of the turnpike.  I have posted about the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike – part 1 about the background to turnpikes and part 2 about the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike in particular.

The milepost outside Glebe Farm, between Churton and Aldford. The red dot is apparently something to do with a cycle race.  Milestone Society National ID CH_CHTP06. What3Words ///decently.hatter.slide. My photos, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

None of the  mileposts that must have been erected during the 1854 turnpiking of the road have survived.  Milestones or mileposts were erected from the first half of the 17th Century onwards, starting in southeast England, mainly for the benefit of mail coaches and other passenger vehicles.  Turnpikes were merely encouraged to install mile posts from the 1740s but they became a legal requirement from 1766 when it was found that as well as being useful for coachmen and passengers, it enabled accurate measuring of distances for the pricing of different routes.  It also helped to improve improved the reliability of timetables, something to which the turnpikes themselves, had enabled, particularly relevant in bad weather.  Assuming that mileposts were erected when the 1854 turnpike was established, they were presumably removed when the 1898 milestones were installed.

I was unable to find the Crook of Dee milestone, but in the Milestone Society’s survey (over 18 years ago) it is listed it as near Cheaveley Hall Farm, opposite Cheaveley Hall Cottages.  It is marked on the Ordnance Survey Map and on the above Public Map Viewer with the letters MP. Milestone Society National ID CH_CHTP04. Image sources: Geograph and the Cheshire West and Chester Public Map Viewer

The 1898 mileposts are all the same, painted white with black lettering, and consisting of hollow metal posts with two sides meting in the middle, topped with a triangular cap that is tipped towards the road.  The triangular cap says, in all cases, “Chester County Council 1898.”  The two sides, each facing into the oncoming traffic, give the number of miles to key destinations in each direction.  On the southernmost face, the manufacturer’s mark “W.H. Smith and Co., Makers, Whitchurch” is shown below the mileages.  There are no backs on the mileposts.  The ones shown here are in good condition. Being on the side of a very busy road, they are vulnerable to exhaust fumes and road dirt sprayed during rainy periods.  I don’t know who maintains them, but in other parts of Cheshire many have needed to undergo restoration, some having been in very poor condition.  A lot of this work has been lead by the Milestone Society in co-operation with the relevant council.

Huntington milepost.  Milestone Society National ID CH_CHTP02. Photograph taken in 2013. Source: Wikimedia Commons by User Rept0n1x. CC BY-SA 3.0

The survival of these mileposts is remarkable and a pleasure to see.  Although I haven’t yet found them, there are apparently two others on the B5130 north of Aldford.

One is at Crook of Dee shown above left, decoratively peeping through a fine show of dandelions and dead nettles.  However, the photograph was taken during the Milestone Society’s national survey over 18 years ago.  It is supposed to be located near to the entrance to Cheaveley Hall Farm, opposite the Cheaveley Hall Cottages, but although I went up there yesterday I couldn’t find it.  There’s no pavement, and the traffic is very fast on two blind bends, so I wasn’t able to have a good rumble in the undergrowth.  This therefore needs checking in the winter when the vegetation has died off, to ensure that it is still there and hasn’t been lost due to traffic accidents or road widening.

There is also one at Huntington, that I haven’t yet looked for, shown above right.  Does anyone know exactly where it is?  If there were any others recorded along the road, please do let me know.

The milepost at Shocklach, on the route to Worthenbury. Milestone Society National ID CH_CHTP12. My photo, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

According to the Ordnance Survey map, there should be another run of mileposts between Churton and Worthenbury.  The first heading south from Churton towards Worthenbury should be somewhere along Sibbersfield Way (which I have repeatedly looked out for in the car when nothing has been behind me, but I still haven’t found) and the rest on the leg of the road south of the bypass that runs towards Worthenbury via Crewe by Farndon and Shocklach through blissful rural fields and past several estates and  farms. I made an attempt to locate them during the summer, but only found the nice one in Shocklach, at that time pleasingly accompanied by some lovely roses.  I suspect that the rest were hiding in overgrown verges.  As with the Crook of Dee milepost, when the vegetation has died down in the winter I will have another go at locating them.

Sources:

Books and papers

Benford, M. 2002. Milestones.  Shire Publications

Crosby, A.G. 2012.  New Roads for Old. Cheshire Turnpikes in the Landscape 1700-1850.  In (eds.) Varey, S.M. and White, G.J. Landscape History Discoveries in the North West.  University of Chester Press, p.190-223.

Local Government Act 1888 (51 and 52 Vict. c.41). Section 97, Saving as to liability for main roads.

Wright, G. N. 1992. Turnpike Roads. Shire Publications Ltd.

Websites

Milestone Society Restorations in Cheshire 2008-2009
The Milestone Society
https://www.milestonesociety.co.uk/archives/Downloads/In%202008%208-Cheshire%20County%20Council%20Highways%20Services%20were%20suc..pdf 

Turnpike Roads in England and Wales
Turnpikes.org.uk
http://www.turnpikes.org.uk/Tollhouse%20design.htm

 

The Big Butterfly Count 2021

The Big Butterfly Count runs i Britain between 16th July to the 8th August, so we are just in time to join in.  Every year I do the Big Garden Birdwatch, counting birds that land in the garden in a given hour.  It ran this year in January 2021, before I moved to Churton, but I’ll be talking about that next year when it comes around again.

I had not, however, heard of the Big Butterfly Count.  It was reported in the latest edition of the magazine New Scientist, so I fired up my web browser to get the details.

The Big Butterfly Count “is a UK-wide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment simply by counting the amount and type of butterflies (and some day-flying moths) we see.”  The idea is to sit in a promising spot (for example, in your garden, in a park or along a footpath) for 15 minutes and take note of everything you see in that time.

You will need to register for an account, which is free, after which you can download and print off a butterfly identification chart (which also lists the species in which they are interested), and then send in your results.  You can do this via a free smartphone app or via your web browser (computer, tablet, etc).

I am going to spend my 15 minutes in front of my Black Knight buddleia, which is a great butterfly attractor.  A tremendously good excuse for abandoning the weeding and mellowing out with the wildlife 🙂  I had to chase out a peacock butterfly from the living room only this morning.  On a recent walk there were many types in the hedges flanking the footpath section of Knowl Lane at its western end as it approaches the Dee, and I suspect that I will find that the species that prefer those hedges and the ones gracing my garden will be very different.

Find out the details on the Big Butterfly Count website.

 

Courgettes grown by 9-year-old Harry at the Aldford Village Store

Chatwin’s bread bought from the Aldford Village Store, and a sandwich made with warm home-made tarragon mayonnaise.  The tarragon mayonnaise is warmed by stirring freshly boiled and chopped eggs into it.  For the basic mayonnaise recipe see my earlier post

The managers of the Aldford Village Store, Emma and Will Jones, opened the Aldford Village Store in 2018.  Most Sundays I go up to the store to collect a loaf of brown bread.  It is by far the best brown bread in the area, rich, malty and slightly sweet and so fresh-tasting that it is almost moist, but with more than enough texture for the bread knife to go through it without a fight.  Utterly delicious and a wonderful compliment for egg mayonnaise (made with Churton honesty eggs of course).  The brand is Chatwins, a company based in Nantwich, established in 1913 and at that time their deliveries were made with horse and cart.  It’s not locally-made bread, but it tastes great.

One cannot quibble in any way about how local the store’s courgettes are.  Last Sunday, a basket in the shop had a great crop of green-striped globes and long banana-shaped yellow courgettes, and a label attached to the basket proclaimed them to be “Harry’s.”  I instantly formed a stereotypical vision of an elderly but upright smiling fellow with a deep sun tan, battered broad-brimmed hat, dungarees and probably a pitchfork (I grew up amongst Americans), who had been lovingly tending his courgettes for the last six or more decades.  Nope.  When I asked the friendly girl on the till who Harry might be, it turns out that he is the 9-year old son of the managers, Emma and Will.  Brilliant.

According to his Dad, who I was speaking to a couple of days later when I popped in with my father, Harry is saving up for a Lamborghini, not because his is interested in the brand’s celebrity status, or is impressed by the price tag, but because it is the epitome of fine engineering, and that is what fascinates him.  At a pound per courgette, that’s at least 160,000 courgette sales for a basic Lambo Huracan, 240,000 courgettes for the Spyder version and a horrifically substantial number more courgettes for the insurance, tax and ongoing servicing, and that’s without factoring in the start-up costs of seeds, compost, and his time 🙂   I love courgettes, but I’m not sure that I can eat that many, although we do have until his 17th birthday to try.

To honour Harry, here’s the first of three posts about what I cooked with Harry’s courgettes.  This first one is based on my Mum’s recipe, and has been one of my favourites forever.  Mum’s recipe was for stuffed marrow, but it translates beautifully for Harry’s stunning globe courgettes.

Stuffed Globe Courgette, with thanks to Harry Jones

Oh that globe courgette! What an absolute beauty.  Harry had grown various sizes that were for sale in the store, and this one was about the size of a small galia melon.  I sliced it in half and removed the soft centre, together with the seeds, using a spoon.  I chopped this ready to put it in the sauce that I was just about to cook.

Next, the stuffing and the sauce are both done in the same pan, because the stuffing is also the base of the accompanying sauce.  This is a two-part process.  The first part is simply sausage-meat (or sausages removed from their skins), a finely chopped onion onion, a little finely chopped garlic, the scooped out middle of the courgette, and a lot of sage (fresh or dry) gently all fried in olive oil.  A little liquid is added to prevent it drying out, either hot chicken stock or a mix of chicken stock and white wine.  I also add fennel seeds, just because I love them.  On this occasion I also had lovage growing in the garden and the diced remains of a fennel bulb from the Bellis farm shop in Holt, which always has them, so these went in too.

This rather wet stuffing is used to stuff the marrow, and you will have a lot left over.  The stuffing dries a little when cooking, particularly as 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time you grill it to let it brown slightly.  After heating this stuffing through, I spooned it carefully into the scooped-out reservoir in the courgette half.

To cook the courgette, it is placed in an oven-proof dish full of hot (just off the boil) chicken stock, which is then placed in an oven, either with either a proper lid or a foil tent.   I used an ancient oval Pyrex bowl and covered it in foil and put the whole thing in a baking tray in case the the stuffing leaked.  I take the foil off and grill the whole thing five minutes before serving.  A little butter stroked over the top helps it to brown and crisp, but is not actually necessary.  Normally I do this recipe with marrow rings, which takes about half an hour once the marrow rings are in the oven.  Cooking an entire half globe was always going to take longer, and it took an hour on 220C (static, not fan), plus the five minutes for grilling.

Lovage

The second part of the saucepan process is the sauce that is served alongside the stuffed courgette.  This is done by adding peeled tomatoes and, if you like a bit of heat, chillis to the stuffing.  The chillis can be either fresh or dried.  I find supermarket tomatoes almost completely tasteless, so I use the ripest vine tomatoes that I can find, add a squirt of tomato paste and then a good glug of Big Tom (a spiced tomato drink).  If you don’t mind tinned tomatoes, those would work but I gave up using them a long time ago as they are far too sweet for me.  I also add more hot stock or stock + white wine to the mix, because this is the sauce and needs to be rather more fluid than the stuffing.

Sage

As to quantities, I’m dreadful at writing out recipes, but I used a whole 450g pack of Waitrose sausagemeat as I wanted to make sufficient to freeze down for future meals.  For that amount of sausagemeat, I used a medium-large onion, two cloves of garlic, and added the herbs and liquid to taste.  The first part of the sauce doesn’t want to be too liquid,  as you are going to use it as stuffing, so the trick is to add it in increments and just stop it sticking.  When you start adding stock and tomato to the sauce, it becomes much more liquid, and that’s just a matter of taste.  Again, just add the tomato and stock incrementally until it looks the way you want it to.

The idea of separating out the stuffing and the sauce is to give the stuffing a mild, distinctive flavour all of its own based on the sausagemeat and sage.  In the second part, the addition of tomatoes, chillis and other herbs provides a lovely bold Mediterranean contrast when both are on the plate. You could grate Parmesan cheese over the top, or (before grilling) breadcrumbs for crunch.  I find it sufficiently filling in its own right, but Mum liked it served with a salad and my father likes it with plain white rice to soak up the juices.

It is not an elegant dish.  At least, I’ve never found a way of making it look particularly presentable on the plate, but the flavours rock.  If you are wondering why the stuffing and the sauce look the same in my photographs (congratulations on spotting the far from deliberate mistake), it is because I screwed up.  On this occasion, I forgot to separate the process into two parts and ended up putting the various tomato combinations into the sauce before I had stuffed the courgette with the basic mix, so found myself stuffing it with the tomato-enriched sauce.  That is because I often serve the part 2 version of the sauce over pasta and was working on auto-pilot.  I was more than a little miffed with myself, because it is much better if the two-part process is followed.

The outer peel or rind on the globe courgette is chewy but edible, but on another occasion I would peel it before cooking it.  To serve it, I halved the half-globe.  Short of eating it with a spoon, I wasn’t sure how else to tackle it!  But however it looks, it still tasted terrific, and the Mediterranean feel made it summery.

If you have any sauce left over, it freezes brilliantly, and goes wonderfully over tortellini.  If you have been defeated by the amount of courgette or marrow that emerged from the oven, this can be finely chopped into the sauce before freezing.

I rubbed lemon into the other half of the globe to stop the surface browning, and wrapped it in foil.  It is now in the cold draw in my fridge, awaiting another bout of courgette creativity.

Thank you Harry!

Ferrucio Lamborghini

Sources:

Aldford Village Store
(No website, but they do have a Facebook page):
https://www.facebook.com/aldfordvillagestore

Chatwin’s
https://www.chatwins.co.uk/

Cheshire Live
New village store at Aldford will sell day to day groceries and much more
https://www.cheshire-live.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/new-village-store-aldford-sell-14786194

 

The 1854 turnpike from Chester to Worthenbury via Churton, with a branch to Farndon – Part 2: The Turnpike

View west from the turnpike.

This is part 2 of the story about the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike, a rural toll road that ran peacefully through Huntington, Aldford, Churton (with a branch to Farndon), Crewe-by-Farndon, and Shocklach before terminating at lovely Worthenbury.   Part 1, posted the day before yesterday, looked at the background to turnpikes (toll roads) in the 17th to 19th Centuries, and their roles in everyday life as a setting for the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike.  Part 2 looks at the turnpike itself.  As I said in Part 1, the reason for splitting the post into two is that it turned out to be a fairly mammoth topic.  If you prefer to read it as a PDF or print it, you download the PDF by clicking here.

Most former turnpikes are still busy.  For example, when you wait patiently at Milton Green to turn on to the A41 that runs from Chester to Whitchurch, the thundering HGVs that happily ignore the “please drive carefully through our village” signs make it is difficult to imagine it populated with quietly plodding horses and carts.  It is a different story once you have driven from Crewe-By-Farndon via Shocklach to Worthenbury, because an entirely different leap of the imagination is required.  This time, it’s a case of wondering why such a quiet and rural stretch of road could ever have been sufficiently busy to require turnpiking.  Churton, Shocklach and Worthenbury are all well-defined villages, but other places marked on the map, such as Crewe-by-Farndon, Castletown and Caldecott Green are little more than a single big house and/or farm with a couple of associated buildings.

Scenery flanking the road that was turnpiked in 1854.

 

The route of the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike

In many areas, the presence of a Roman road dictated the line of Medieval and later roads, but the Roman road that once ran from Chester through Aldford fell out of use.  As you head south from Aldford, a small lane to the left, Lower Lane, indicates where the path of the Roman road splits from the B5130 and thereafter becomes a series of farm tracks and footpaths, its route sitting in between today’s A41 (Chester to Whitchurch) and A483 (Chester to Wrexham).  This Roman road, known today as Watling Street West (or more prosaically 6A), passed through Ecclestone, Heronbridge and Aldford then veered to the east of Churton, bypassing both Churton and Farndon  (I have written about the Roman road in an earlier post, here).  

The bending course of the road that was turnpiked in 1854. My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Later, however, the establishment of Farndon as an important crossing to Holt and the rest of north and mid Wales meant that the path of the Roman road southeast of Aldford, was abandoned during the Middle Ages, and the line of the road shifted instead west towards the Dee, passing through what is now Churton before reaching Farndon.  This route was established at least during the reign of Edward I, (reigned 1272-1307), who followed it on one of his peripatetic Royal Itineraries, heading south from Chester through Ecclestone and Malpas.  Rachel Swallow says that a toll gate was documented at Shocklach at around 1291, all traces now vanished. 

The Chester to Worthenbury turnpike followed a path from Chester through Huntington, Aldford and Churton before heading down what is now Sibbersfield Lane and across the modern bypass before vanishing down the quiet, wending country B-road to Worthenbury.  As with every turnpike, an Act of Parliament was required before Trustees could be appointed, and this was the Chester, Farndon and Worthenbury Turnpike Road Act 1854, “An Act for making a Turnpike Road from Chester, by Farndon, to Worthenbury, with a Branch therefrom to the Village of Farndon,” which passed into law on 3rd July of that year.  The exact wording of the first part of the Act is shown below the bibliography, Sources, right at the end of this post.  It was the last road in Cheshire to be turnpiked.  Here is the description of the route from the 1854 Act:

A Turnpike Road to commence in Boughton in the Parishes of Saint Oswald and Saint John the Baptist, or One of them, within the Parliamentary Borough of Chester, by a Junction with the Road leading from the City of Chester to Whitchurch opposite and near to a Public House called the “Jolly Gardener,” and to terminate in the Township and Parish of Worthenbury in the County of Flint by Two Junctions with the Whitchurch and Marchwiel Turnpike Road, one thereof at or near to a certain Farm House called “Broughton Lodge,” and the other thereof at or near the Finger Post at the Junction of the present Highway from Shocklach with the Whitchurch and Marchwiel Turnpike Road : A- Branch Turnpike Road to commence from and out of the said intended Turnpike Road in the Township of Churton, by Farndon and Parish of Farndon, at or near the Point where the existing Highways leading from Churton to Farndon and from Churton by Crewe and Shocklach to Worthenbury respectively diverge, and to terminate in the Village, Township, and Parish of Farndon by a Junction with the Turnpike Road leading from Wrexham to Barnhill near to the Raven Inn, all in the County of Chester.

A court case that followed the demise of the turnpike is useful for describing the state of the road before it was turnpiked

“Before and until the passing of the Chester, Farndon and Worthenbury Turnpike Road act of 1854, it consisted of an ordinary fenced road, varying in width from about 20-30ft, of which nine feet wide only was paved with stones along the centre;  the sides not being metalled were of grass or earth.  The stone of which the pavement was formed was got in the township from the lands alleged in the indictment . . . . The road, which was an ordinary carriage highway was at that time repaired by John Brock Wood, the owner of the said lands.”

The stones of the old pavement were used in the construction and macadam was brought from Penmaenmawr to lay along its surface.  The width was not expanded beyond the original fences that flanked it.

The Chester to Worthenbury turnpike trust

The sheer number of trustees appointed in the 1854 Act staggered me, as I had been imagining something in the region of ten or twenty responsible dignitaries.  There were 66 (give or take – I may have lost one or two in the process of counting).  After including “All Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the Time being acting for the County of Chester, for the County of the City of Chester, and for the County of Flint respectively” the Act goes on to name individual trustees, and here they all are:

Sir Richard Puleston of Emral Hall. Source: Puleston Ancestry.

The Honourable Hugh Lupus Grosvenor commonly called Earl Grosvenor, the Honourable Richard de Aquila Grosvenor commonly called Lord Richard de Aquila Grosvenor, the Honourable Henry Cholmondeley commonly called Lord Henry Cholmondeley, Sir Robert Henry Cunlife Baronet, Robert Ellis Cunliffe, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn Baronet, Sir Philip de Malpas Grey Egerton Baronet, Philip Le Bel- ward Egerton, Samuel Aldersey, Thomas Aldersey, the Rector of Aldford for the Time being, Roger Barnston, Harry Barnston, Thomas Boyden Clerk, Richard Barker, Francis Henry Barker, Thomas Chorlton Glutton, Charles Colley, Hugh Colley, Henry Crane, Tanat Wynne Denton, Thomas Dixon, Thomas Dixon the younger, James Dixon, the Minister of Farndon for the Time being, William Wynne Ffoulkes, Edward Francis French, Alexander Price French, Philip Stapleton Humberston, Thomas Cowper Hincks, Thomas Cowper Hincks the younger, Thomas Hignett, John Hignett, Robert Broadhurst Hill, the Minister of Holt for the Time being, Robert Howard, Francis James Hughes, Townsend Ince, Thomas Jones, John Hurleston Leche, Sir William Lloyd, Richard Massie, John Finchett Maddock, Thomas Finchett Maddock, Townshend Mainwaring, Henry Water Meredith, Robert Buckley Orton, Sir Richard Puleston Baronet, Francis Richard Puleston, Theophilus Puleston, Charles Potts, Henry Potts, Charles William Potts, William Parker, John Parker, Richard Powdrell, William Rowe, Samuel Rowe, John Rogers, Thomas Vernon Royle; Joseph Sparkes, John Townshend, Charles Townshend, John Williams, Edward Tilston, John Brock Wood, William Henry Wood, the Rector of Worthenbuiy

Pratt’s 1912 study offered the following comment on the sheer number of trustees that could be in charge of a turnpike:

One result of the excessive localisation of the turnpike system was that trusts of absurdly large proportions were created to look after absurdly small stretches of road. “The fundamental principle,” says a writer in the “Edinburgh Review” for October, 1819, “is always to vest the whole management in the hands of the country gentlemen; and, as they act gratuitously, it has been the policy of the law to appoint in each act a prodigious number of commissioners—frequently from one hundred to two hundred, for the care of ten or fifteen miles of road; and thus a business of art and science is committed to a promiscuous mob of peers, squires, farmers and shopkeepers, who are chosen, not for their fitness to discharge the duties of commissioners, but from the sole qualification of residence within a short distance from the road to be made or repaired. . . .

The whole time of the meetings of turnpike trusts was “occupied in tumultuous and unprofitable discussions, and in resolving on things at one meeting which run a good chance of being reversed at the next; that the well informed and civilized commissioners become very soon disgusted with the disorderly uproar, or the want of sense, temper or honesty of some of their companions; and that the management finally falls into the hands of a few busy, bustling, interested persons of low condition, who attend the meetings with no idea of performing a public duty, but for the purpose of turning their powers, by some device or other, to the profit of themselves or of their friends or relations.

Scenery flanking the road that was turnpiked in 1854. My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Local landowners could invest their own funds to improve a road, but generally loans were taken out to meet the initial set-up costs, with the interest theoretically being paid back from the income derived from tolls, or at least that left over after paying salaried staff and carrying out frequent repairs.  Even where the accounts tallied, which they often did not, huge debts were accrued.  The Select Committee on Turnpike Trusts in 1839 reported that eighty four trusts had paid no interest in years, and that the total estimated debt of English and Welsh turnpike trusts together exceeded £9,000,000, a staggering sum in those days. It seems remarkable, under these conditions, that a new turnpike Act was passed in favour of the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike so late in the turnpike era.

The reasoning behind the creation of the turnpike

One of the many farms that lines the turnpike’s route. My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The Chester to Worthenbury road wended its bendy way at its own leisure through agricultural land, connecting a number of villages, including Churton, Crewe-by-Farndon and Shocklach.  A drive down that section of the road south of Sibbersfield Lane confirms it as a winding, rural road with a few farm buildings along its routes, the few villages very small and quiet.  A branch ran from Churton into Farndon.   Worthenbury, a rural village that has changed very little since the 19th Century, was not an obvious destination for traders, merchants, carriers or passenger vehicles, traditionally the main users of turnpikes.   The destructive impact of the transportation of heavy loads of cheese was given as a primary reason for the creation of a turnpike between Chester and Whitchurch.  The production of Cheshire cheese was certainly of great importance to the county, as Defoe explains in 1725:

This county, however remote from London, is one of those which contributes most to its support, as well as to several other parts of England, and that is by its excellent cheese, which they make here in such quantities, and so exceeding good, that as I am told from very good authority, the city of London only take off 14000 ton every year; besides 8000 ton which they say goes every year down the Rivers Severn and Trent, the former to Bristol, and the latter to York; including all the towns on both these large rivers: And besides the quantity ship’d both here, and at Leverpool [Liverpool], to go to Ireland, and Scotland. So that the quantity of cheese made in this country, must be prodigious great. Indeed, the whole county is employ’d in it, and part of its neighbourhood too.

However, this situation was over a century before the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike was mooted and there’s no indication either in contemporary newspapers or in the Act itself whether the carriage of Cheshire cheese or any other particular problem was a reason why the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike was deemed worth the cost and effort.  The Act merely says that the turnpike “would be of great public value,” which is somewhat unhelpful.  Crosby suggests “the rather remote possibility of abstracting traffic from the Chester-Wrexham and Chester-Wrexham roads,” but the encyclopaedic New Historical Atlas of Cheshire (2002) is silent on the subject, as is Latham’s Farndon

Scan of map showing turnpike roads in Cheshire, from the New Atlas of Cheshire (Phillips and Phillips 2002, p.77).  The Chester to Worthenbury turnpike is shown in green at the far left, crossing the Broxton to Wrexham Turnpike (in yellow).

Perhaps the object of the exercise was to improve the quality of the road network in this part of West Cheshire. This area was rather isolated.  The canal network bypassed the Dee, south of Chester, with the 1772 Chester Canal (now part of the Shropshire Union) heading southeast from Chester via Beeston to Nantwich to Birmingham, linking into other parts of the canal and turnpike networks as it went, and the Dee itself was only navigable by very light traffic. By the end of the 18th Century there were already serviceable turnpikes between Chester and Whitchurch and Chester and Wrexham, which accounted for most of the market-bound and commercial traffic.   

The turnpike  linked up with Whitchurch after passing through Worthenbury, but it was a very rambling route, and the Chester to Whitchurch turnpike would have been a much better option unless you were starting from somewhere like Churton, Farndon or Holt.  The New Atlas shows an intersection with the Wrexham to Broxton turnpike (now the A534), which was opened in the period 1760-1789, linking the Chester to Wrexham and Chester to Whitchurch roads.  There was a turnpike between Bangor On Dee and Malpas, which opened in 1767.  Although the road between Worthenbury and Bangor on Dee (the B5069) does not appear to have been turnpiked, it was a short stretch and would have been easy enough to maintain in good condition if there was sufficient motivation.

Emral Hall, Worthenbury.  The lower photo shows the ballroom, now preserved (thank goodness) in the Town Hall at Portmeirion.  Source: Wrexham Online.

A number of large estates and prosperous farms were located along the route of the turnpike.  The largest of these were Crewe Hill in Crewe-by-Farndon, Boughton Hall near Threapwood and the magnificent Emral Hall just to the south of Worthenbury.  Crewe Hill was the principal home of the Barnston family, and the base of their wide-ranging and profitable estate that included land in and around Farndon and extending north to the middle of Churton.  The lovely half-timbered Broughton Hall was sadly demolished in 1961, but at the time was the home of the Howards.  Emral Hall also tragically demolished in the 1930s, was the home and estate of the Pulestons throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries.  Others along the route, from north to south, are Aldford Hall, Churton Hall, Sibbersfield Hall, Crewe Hall, Shocklach Hall,  Kingslee and Caldecott Hall.  Trustees included community members from all areas through which the turnpike passed, so members of the family present on the trustees list does not prove that they were driving forces behind the turnpike, but it is still interesting to see (where these family names can be traced) which estates provided family members as trustees.  

  • Broughton Hall, demolished 1961. Source: Threapwood History Group.

    • Aldford Hall:  The Earl of Westminster and Lord Richard de Aquila Grosvenor
    • Churton Hall:  Roger Barnston and Harry Barnston
    • Sibbersfield Hall:  William Rowe and Samuel Rowe
    • Crewe Hill:  Roger Barnston and Harry Barnston
    • Caldecott Hall:  Philip Stapleton Humberston
    • Broughton Hall:  Robert Howard
    • Emral Hall: Sir Richard Puleston (baronet), Francis Richard Puleston, and Theophilus Puleston

     

Sibbersfield Hall, just outside Churton. Ordnance Survey 1888-1913.  Source: National Library of Scotland

Other trustees on the above list with a vested interest in being able to get around were the Rectors of Aldford and Worthenbury and the Ministers of Farndon and Holt.  Trustees Samuel Aldersey and Thomas Aldersey of Aldersey Hall, would also have benefitted from the tunrpike road, to which the road on which Aldersey Hall was located was linked.  And so it goes on.

There are apparently some omissions and question marks too.  Although a large building is shown on the site of Churton Lodge, no details are available on the Tithe map.  Shocklach Hall was only built in the 1850s, so was perhaps itself under construction at the time, or built partly because the turnpike was there.  In the 1840s tithe maps the land on which it as located was owned by Emral Hall.  Crewe Hall (as opposed to Crewe Hill) was owned and occupied by the Bennion family when the 1838 tithe map was published, but they do not appear as trustees.  

Crewe Hill from the garden. Source: Landed Families of Britain and Ireland website

Some of the very few buildings along the turnpike route at Crewe-by-Farndon and Shocklach.  From left: Crewe Hall, one of the buildings in the village of Shocklach, the Bull in Shocklach and Kingslee.  My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Toll cottages along the route

The tollgate was usually accompanied by a toll cottage.  The Grade-2 listed, two-storey brick-built Cross Cottage in Churton is built across the junction between Chester Road and Pump Lane and, by virtue of the fact that it was built to serve the turnpike, must have been built at around 1854.  It is strategically located just to the north of where the road splits into two, one road going into Farndon and the other proceeding via Stannage Lane, to Crewe-by-Farndon and on to Worthenbury.  Both roads were part of the turnpike, with the Farndon section a branch of the main turnpike to Worthenbury.  The attractive recessed arch, which is at both front and rear, was once centred in the middle of the building, and was provided with a slender band of sandstone between the upper and lower floors.  An extension of uncertain date, possibly the 1930s, breaks down this symmetry, although it was done sympathetically using almost identical bricks to the originals but does not repeat the sandstone band.

The rear view of Cross Cottage. Source: mylisting365.

The roof is currently hipped (converging in from four sides onto a central ridge), but before the addition of the extension, the roof was probably pyramidal, converging from four sides onto a single point.  The original roof was probably also made of slate, as today.  There are two chimneys today, but there will only have been the one in the 19th Century, with a central flue.  Although it was Grade II listed in 1984, there are no details on the Historic England website about the interior, and whether any of the 19th Century interior survives in tact.

The listing details are as follows:

  • NGR 4180856444
  • List number 1228714
  • First listed 28th December 1984

Toll collectors could improve their wellbeing by keeping livestock and growing fruit and vegetables in the confines of their properties, and some toll cottages were provided with a small amount of land that could be used for either the keeping of livestock or the development of small horticultural plots.   Cross Cottage was provided with a large garden that could have been used for either.

The bridge at Worthenbury. My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

I went looking for any other toll cottages that might have been built along the road.  On some turnpikes additional toll gates were added as a way of trusts earning more revenue, but there was nothing that looked remotely like a toll cottage.  There should have been one at Worthenbury, the end of the turnpike.  In cases where a river crossing was present, toll gates were often set up against a bridge, making it more difficult to evade, but although there is a beautiful old bridge in Worthenbury, the western side of it is open fields, and the eastern side is now the site of a modern home, part of a housing estate.  The bridge replaces one that was damaged by floods in 1872, and was built in 1872-3.  This was the period when the Chester-Worthenbury turnpike was amalgamated with the Chester-Whitchurch.  Still, tolls would have required ongoing collection, and if there was a toll gate here, there’s no sign of it now.

The toll collectors

There is a toll-house at Churton so it of course follows that there must have been at least one toll collector, possibly accompanied by his family.  Regrettably, I have not yet worked out who he/they might have been, because the commercial directories available online don’t mention a Churton toll collector during this period (the1857 Post Office Directory of Cheshire and the 1864 Morris & Co.’s Directory of Cheshire).  Whilst the Delta variant of Covid is still at large, it’s probably not a good idea to start hitting the record offices, but perhaps someone who has checked into the available resources can illuminate me.  Speculating, this absence from the directories may be because although early turnpikes were manned by manor employees and then by specially hired toll collectors, the appointment of later collectors was given into the hands of specialist contractors, who would bid for the lease at auction.  It may be that under such conditions, the toll collectors were deemed to be transient members of the community.

Toll collectors had an ambivalent position in local society.  Because toll charges were lengthy and complex, incorporating a large number of variables, a toll collector needed to be both literate and numerate, and hopefully (but not always) trustworthy. As people of responsibility, often living in custom-built homes with their families, toll collectors might be people of high status within a community.  Although in many ways, toll collectors were about as popular as tax collectors are today, they provided a vital role.  A toll house could bring prestige to an otherwise fairly nondescript community, even attracting the building of inns where passengers could purchase refreshments and where carriage horses could be rested or changed, meaning that gentry and clergy could be regular visitors, raising the status of an entire village.  

The 1898 mile post at Shocklach. My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The toll charges for Chester-Worthenbury are probably described in the 1854 Act, but this too is not available without tramping the real-world archive trail, and I will update this post when I have the chance to check this out, as a copy is apparently available locally.  Each turnpike Act set out the maximum toll chargeable for each animal and category and size of vehicle, and all the multiple variables of each.

As I said in Part 1, the mile posts that dot the western verges of the former turnpike post-date the end of the Cheshire turnpikes.  Disturnpiked in the 1870s, there must have been mile posts because they were a legal requirement, but when Chester County Council was created on 1st January 1889 and was given the job of maintaining highways, it presumably replaced the original milestones with its own iron ones, all dating to 1898.  I have found some of these, marked on the Ordnance Survey map, but not others.  The one shown in Part 1 is in Churton and the one shown above is in Shocklach.

The final days of the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike

The lovely Georgian St Deiniol’s Church in Worthenbury. My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The Chester-Worthenbury turnpike was never much of a success and was amalgamated with the Whitchurch Trust in 1871.  The joint body expired in 1877.  Presumably, and not very surprisingly, the Worthenbury turnpike failed to justify its costs, and the Whitchurch turnpike was probably put out of business by the London and North Western Railway.  The railway’s important route to London via Crewe had opened by 1840, and the branch that ran from Chester to Whitchurch opened between 1870 and 1879.

An indictment concerning repairs to the road following the lapse of the Act

Rural landscape to the east of the once-turnpiked stretch of road that passes through Churton. My photograph CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The most interesting part of the turnpike’s history, or at least the most interesting bit to survive, refers to what happened when the Act for the Chester to Worthenbury section had been disturnpiked, and a question arose over responsibility for its ongoing care arose.  In 1890 an indictment was raised in Crown Court for failure to repair a highway.  The issue was by no means straightforward.  The law stated that responsibility for repair of a road that had formerly come under a turnpike trust would revert to common law liability on the lapse of the trust, but only if “the highway remains similar in character to what it was up to the time of the passing of the Turnpike Act.”  For those roads that were significantly altered, “as to destroy what was the old highway, the common law liability is put to an end by operation of the law.”  In addition, there were ambiguities about the responsibilities for occupiers versus mere owners, where roads were concerned.

The indictment covered several stretches of road that had become “miry, deep, broken and in great decay,” due to “such want of due reparation and amendment.”   This included the stretch from Huntington to Farndon.  The same allegation was made against stretch from Chester to Saighton.  The text from the court case is damning.

“The liege subjects of the Queen could not and still could not go, return, pass, repass, ride or labour on foot with their horses, coaches, carts and other carriages in, through, and along the said public highway aforesaid as they ought and were wont and accustomed to do, without great danger and common nuisance of all the liege subjects of our said Lady the Queen, her crown and dignity, and that the defendant, by reason of his tenure of certain lands and tenements situate in the said township of Huntington, ought to repair and mend the same.”

It goes on:

“As to the road mentioned in the first count [Saighton was the second] it was proved that before and until the passing of the Chester, Farndon and Worthenbury Turnpike Road Act of 1854, it consisted of an ordinary fenced road.”

The individual who had taken responsibility for repairing the road before it was converted to a turnpike was John Brock Wood, who is recorded in the list of trustees for the turnpike.  The record of the indictment states that there was no evidence that he had contributed to its maintenance during the continuance of the Act, but on its expiry in 1876 he resumed repair work, continuing to do so until his death in 1888.  The person who inherited John Brock Wood’s responsibilities “the devisee in trust of the said lands” continued to repair the road in the belief that he was legally liable.  He provided proof that he had expended £155, £224 and £206 in 1887, 1888 and 1889 respectively.

View from the former turnpike over the fields to Worthenbury

The prosecution (Tatham and Proctor for Carrington and Baker, Chester) claimed that as John Brock Wood had accepted responsibility before the establishment of the Trust, it was now the devisee in trust’s responsibility following the expiry of the Act.  However, the law stated that if significant alternation had taken place during the conversion of a road to a turnpike, the original owner was no longer responsible for maintenance.  In fact, Chester County Council had been approached with a view to taking on responsibility for the road, but they had refused to do so under Section 97 of the Local Government Act 1888.   The estimated costs were in excess of £400 and may have been as much as 1000.

The defense (the company Cunliffe and Dawn for Churton, Chester) claimed that the alternations to the road when it was converted to  a turnpike were so extensive as to destroy any liability that either he, or for that matter John Brock Wood, should have had.  In response, the prosecution argued that by repairing the road, the defendant had acknowledged the liability and could be indicted for non-repair.

The judge overseeing the proceedings, Lord Coleridge C.J. ruled in favour of the defendant.  In his view, citing Rolle’s Abridgement from the reign of Charles I, the occupier and not the owner is the person responsible for repairs, and the defendant was the owner but not the occupier.   In addition, he found that the road had been significantly altered, and therefore liability for the repairs should not fall on the original owner or occupier.  The indictment was quashed.  The judge was concerned that under these circumstances, the “graver question” was if any person was actually liable to repair the road.  He does not, however, come to any conclusion about how to resolve the problem.

In the end, Chester County Council must have adopted the road, but this may have been at a much later date.  Section 97, “Saving as to liability for main roads,” which they used to avoid the responsibility, falls within Sections 92-98 “Savings.”  It reads “Nothing in this Act with respect to main roads shall alter the liability of any person or body of persons, corporate or unincoprorate, not being a highway authority, to maintain and repair any road or part of a road.”

As always, please let me know if you have any questions
or have some more information to contribute

 

 

Sources for parts 1 and 2:

Books and papers:

An Act for making a Turnpike Road from Chester, by Farndon, to Worthenbury, with a Branch therefrom to the Village of Farndon, 1854

Benford, M. 2002. Milestones.  Shire Publications

Crane, N. 2016.  The Making of the British Landscape.  From Ice Age to the Present.  Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Crosby, A.G. 2012.  New Roads for Old. Cheshire Turnpikes in the Landscape 1700-1850.  In (eds.) Varey, S.M. and White, G.J. Landscape History Discoveries in the North West.  University of Chester Press, p.190-223.

Cunningham Glen, R. 1895. Indictment presented before Lord Coleridge, C.J.  Reg. vs. Barker.  Reports of Cases in Criminal Law argued and determined in the courts of England and Ireland, vol.XVII, 1890-1895. Reported by R. Cunnigham Glen Esq., Barrister at Law. Horace Cox

Defoe, D. 1724–1726 (Rogers, P. ed.). A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain Penguin (particularly, Volume II, 1725, and its appendix).

Harvie, C. and Matthew, H.C.G.  1984, 2000.  Nineteenth Century Britain. Oxford University Press

Hindle, P. 1998 (3rd edition).  Medieval Roads and Tracks.  Shire Publications Ltd

Keys, D. 2016. Discovery of huge Bronze Age wheel sheds light on transport in prehistoric Britain.  The Independent, Friday 19th February 2016
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/prehistoric-britain-discovery-bronze-age-wheel-archaeology-a6882671.html

Langford, P. 1984, 2000. Eighteenth Century Britain.  Oxford University Press

Latham, F.A. 1981.  Farndon. The History of a Cheshire Village.  Local History Group.

Local Government Act 1888 (51 and 52 Vict. c.41). Section 97, Saving as to liability for main roads.

OS Landranger map 117 2016.  Chester and Wrexham.  Ordnance Survey

Phillips, A.D.M. and Phillips, C.B. 2002.  A New Historical Atlas of Cheshire. Cheshire County Council and Cheshire Community Council Publications Trust.

Pratt, E.A. 1912.  A History of Inland Transport and Communication in England. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co Ltd.
Project Gutenburg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52087/52087-h/52087-h.htm

Pryor, F. 2010.  The Making of the British Landscape.  How We Have Transformed the Land from Prehistory to Today.  Allen Lane

Swallow, R. 2013-14. Two For One:  the Archaeological Survey of Shocklach, Castle, Cheshire. Cheshire History Journal, No.53, 2013-4
https://www.academia.edu/4577267/Two_for_One_The_Archaeological_Survey_of_Shocklach_Castle_Cheshire_in_Cheshire_History_Journal_No_53_2013_4_Cheshire_Local_History_Association_2013_

Wright, G. N. 1992. Turnpike Roads. Shire Publications Ltd.

Websites

A Collection of Directories for Cheshire
Cheshire County Council
http://cheshiredirectories.manuscripteye.com/index.htm

British Listed Buildings
Cross Cottage, Churton
https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101228714-cross-cottage-churton

Broughton Hall, Threapwood
Threapwood History Group
http://www.threapwoodhistory.org/broughtonhall.html

Cheshire Tithe Maps Online
Cheshire Archives and Local Studies
https://maps.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps/

Emral Hall, Worthenbury
Wrexham Online
https://www.wrexham-history.com/emral-hall-worthenbury/ 

Historic England
Cross Cottage, Churton
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1228714

Dig Diary 19: Discovering Britain’s Oldest, Complete Wheel
February 29, 2016
Must Farm Dig Diaries
http://www.mustfarm.com/progress/site-diary-19-discovering-britains-oldest-complete-wheel/

National Archives
Chester and Whitchurch Turnpikes Trust
https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/11e8a8d6-43c5-4704-a93b-58fe6d0444a6

National Library of Scotland Mapfinder
OS 6-inch map, 1888-1913
https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15&lat=53.09734&lon=-2.86868&layers=6&b=1

Peterborough Archaeology
Must Farm Bronze Age Settlement
https://peterborougharchaeology.org/peterborough-archaeological-sites/must-farm/

Turnpike Roads in England and Wales
Turnpikes.org.uk
http://www.turnpikes.org.uk/Tollhouse%20design.htm

The 1854 Act (excerpt)

Most of the Act is in big undifferentiated chunks, so the paragraphs in the following excerpt are mine, simply to aid with digestion.  The URL of the source of this excerpt is at the end, but if you want to see the entire Act, paid subscription is required.

[3rd July 1854]
Chester, Farndon and Worthenbury Turnpike Road Act 1854
(17 & 18 Vict.) c. lxxxvi
An Act for making a Turnpike Road from Chester, by Farndon, to Worthenbury, with a Branch therefrom to the Village of Farndon.

ANNO DECIMO SEPTIMO & DECIMO OCTAVO VICTORIA REGINA. ********.*****************.********************* Cap. lxxxvi. An Act for making a Turnpike Road from Chester, by Farndon, to Worthenbury, with a Branch therefrom to the Village of Farndon. [3d July 1854.]

WHEREAS the Formation and Maintenance of a Turnpike Road from Chester, by Farndon in the County of Chester, to Worthenbury in the County of Flint, with a Branch therefrom to the Village of Farndon in the said County of Chester, would be of great public Advantage: And whereas certain of the Highways in the Line of the said intended Road and Branch, or Portions thereof, might advantageously be made available for the Purposes of such Road and Branch ; but the same cannot be effected without the Aid and Authority of Parliament : May it therefore please Your Majesty that it may be enacted ; and be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same.

That in citing this Act for any Purpose whatsoever it shall be Short Title. sufficient to use the Expression ” The Chester, Farndon, and Worthenbury Turnpike Road Act, 1854.” H. That in this Act the following Words and Expressions shall Interpreta have the several Meanings hereby assigned to them, unless there be tion of [Local.] 15 D something Terms. 1302 Appointment of Trustees. Power to appoint additional Trustees. 17 & 18 VICTORUE, Cap.lxxxvi. 171e Chester, Farndon, and Worthenbury Turnpike Road Act,1854. Something in the Subject or Context repugnant to such Construction ; (that is to say,) The Expression ” the Trustees,” or ” the said Trustees,” shall respectively mean the Trustees for the Time being acting in the Execution of this Act : The Word Lands ” shall include Messuages, Tenements, and Hereditaments of any Tenure : The Expression ” Toll Gate ” or ” Toll Gates” shall respectively include Turnpikes, Bars, and Chains. III.

That all Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the Time being acting for the County of Chester, for the County of the City of Chester, and for the County of Flint respectively, together with the Honourable Hugh Lupus Grosvenor commonly called Earl Grosvenor, the Honourable Richard de Aquila Grosvenor commonly called Lord Richard de Aquila Grosvenor, the Honourable Henry Cholmondeley commonly called Lord Henry Cholmondeley, Sir Robert Henry Cunlife Baronet, Robert Ellis Cunliffe, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn Baronet, Sir Philip de Malpas Grey Egerton Baronet, Philip Le Bel- ward Egerton, Samuel Aldersey, Thomas Aldersey, the Rector of Aldford for the Time being, Roger Barnston, Harry Barnston, Thomas Boyden Clerk, Richard Barker, Francis Henry Barker, Thomas Chorlton Glutton, Charles Colley, Hugh Colley, Henry Crane, Tanat Wynne Denton, Thomas Dixon, Thomas Dixon the younger, James Dixon, the Minister of Farndon for the Time being, William Wynne Ffoulkes, Edward Francis French, Alexander Price French, Philip Stapleton Humberston, Thomas Cowper Hincks, Thomas Cowper Hincks the younger, Thomas Hignett, John Hignett, Robert Broadhurst Hill, the Minister of Holt for the Time being, Robert Howard, Francis James Hughes, Townsend Ince, Thomas Jones, John Hurleston Leche, Sir William Lloyd, Richard Massie, John Finchett Maddock, Thomas Finchett Maddock, Townshend Mainwaring, Henry Water Meredith, Robert Buckley Orton, Sir Richard Puleston Baronet, Francis Richard Puleston, Tlieophilus Puleston, Charles Potts, Henry Potts, Charles William Potts, William Parker, John Parker, Richard Powdrell, William Rowe, Samuel Rowe, John Rogers, Thomas Vernon Royle; Joseph Sparkes, John Townshend, Charles Townshend, John Williams, Edward Tilston, John Brock Wood, William Henry Wood, the Rector of Worthenbuiy for the Time being, and their Successors, being duly qualified to act as Trustees of Turnpike Roads in England, shall be Trustees for putting this Act into execution.

That it shall be lawful for the said Trustees, at any Meeting under this Act, to elect any Number of Persons, duly qualified to act as Trustees of Turnpike Roads in England, not exceeding Three in the whole, to be Trustees for, the Purposes of this Act, in addition to the 17 & 18 VICTORIAE, Cap.lxxxvi. 1303 The Chester, Farndon, and Worthenbury Turnpike Road Act, 1854. the Trustees hereby nominated, and such Trustees so elected shall have the same Powers and Authorities for executing this Act as if they had been hereby appointed. V. That the said Trustees shall meet together on the Twenty-first Meetings of Day after the passing of this Act, or as soon after as conveniently Trustees. may be, at the Exchange in the City of Chester aforesaid, or at some other convenient Place in Chester, and shall then and from Time to Time afterwards adjourn to and meet at such Times, and at such Places on or near to the said Roads, as they shall think proper. VI.

That the said Trustees may appoint Committees out of their Power to take the Care and Management of any particular Part point Committees. of the Roads, or to execute any of the other Purposes of this Act, according to such Instructions and Regulations as shall be laid down by the said Trustees at any General or Special Meeting ; and the said Committees and their Officers may proceed and act according to such Appointment, but subject always to the Authority and Control of the said Trustees. VII. That this Act shall be put into execution for the Purpose of Roads to making and maintaining, according to the Provisions of this Act, the which Act is applicable. Turnpike Road and Branch herein-after mentioned ; (that is to say,) A Turnpike Road to commence in Boughton in the Parishes of Saint Oswald and Saint John the Baptist, or One of them, within the Parliamentary Borough of Chester, by a Junction with the Road leading from the City of Chester to Whitchurch opposite and near to a Public House called the “Jolly Gardener,” and to terminate in the Township and Parish of Worthenbury in the County of Flint by Two Junctions with the Whitchurch and Marchwiel Turnpike Road, one thereof at or near to a certain Farm House called “Broughton Lodge,” and the other thereof at or near the Finger Post at the Junction of the present Highway from Shocklach with the Whitchurch and Marchwiel Turnpike Road : A- Branch Turnpike Road to commence from and out of the said intended Turnpike Road in the Township of Churton, by Farndon and Parish of Farndon, at or near the Point where the existing Highways leading from Churton to Farndon and from Churton by Crewe and Shocklach to Worthenbury respectively diverge, and to terminate in the Village, Township, and Parish of Farndon by a Junction with the Turnpike Road leading from Wrexham to Barnhill near to the Raven Inn, all in the County of Chester. VIII. And whereas Plans and Sections describing the Lines and Power to Levels of the said intended Roads, and the Lands through which the make Roads &c. according to deposited Plan, &c. Power to deviate from Plan to a certain Extent. 17 & 18 VICTORIAE, Cap.lxxxvi.

The Chester, Farndon, and Worthenbury Turnpike Road Act, 1854. Same are to be carried, together with Books of Reference containing the Names of the Owners or reputed Owners, Lessees or reputed Lessees, and Occupiers of such Lands, have been deposited with the Clerk of the Peace for the County of Chester, with the Clerk of the Peace for the County of the City of Chester, and with the Clerk of the Peace for the County of Flint respectively : Be it therefore enacted, That it shall be lawful for the Trustees to make and maintain the intended Turnpike Roads.

https://vlex.co.uk/vid/chester-farndon-and-worthenbury-808261441

The 1854 turnpike from Chester to Worthenbury via Churton, with a branch to Farndon – Part 1, Background

Every now and again one of my posts turns into something that needs to be split into  two or more parts.  This is one of them.  I found the subject so gripping that the post acquired a momentum all of its own and has grown into something of a monster, more diplodocus than tyrannosaurus, but still a bit of a beast.  I have therefore divided it into two.

Former toll cottage, Cross Cottage, on the corner of Pump Lane and Chester Road (my photograph, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

This first part looks  at turnpikes (toll roads) in general, as a background to the Chester to Worthenbury turnpike.  If you wish to save or print this as a PDF, please click here.

The second part looks at the turnpike itself, which ran from Chester through Huntington, Aldford, Churton, Crewe By Farndon and south through the villages along that road to Worthenbury, with a branch that ran from Churton to Farndon.

Anyone pausing to look at Cross Cottage on the corner of Chester Road and Pump Lane in Churton might wonder why it was located with its façade facing diagonally across the corner of these two roads.  This diagonal aspect is typical of many toll-houses, some of which were hexagonal in other parts of the country, in order to provide the toll collector with the best view of the approaching traffic.  The rest of the building does not immediately suggest its role as a toll-house to anyone more familiar with the single-storey Welsh ones, which are generally tiny, charming and fairly easy to spot.  Cross Cottage is brick-built, has two storeys, and is a substantial albeit rather bijou structure (more about it below).  It was built on the turnpike (or toll road) that was established by an 1854 Act of Parliament to run between Chester and Worthenbury, via Aldford, Churton and Shocklach, with a branch to Farndon.

Turnpikes and tolls from the 17th to 19th Centuries

Although the wheel had been known from around 1000 BC during the later Bronze Age, for much of British prehistory and early history the easiest means of transporting goods was by water, either coastal or riverine.  Travel over land was much more challenging until at least the 16th Century, even though the Romans, with their superior planning and engineering, may appear to give lie to that statement.  Prior to Roman roads and once again following the withdrawal of Rome in the 5th Century, the condition of tracks and roads was fairly grim.

From Tudor and Stuart times the responsibility for roads had fallen on the parish or township.  The Highways Act of 1555 set this down in law.  Members of the parish were obliged to contribute labour and equipment for repairs, in batches of consecutive days.  For parishes in rural areas with no major byways this was not necessarily a problem, but parishes that hosted major routes were victim to very unfair financial burdens and the condition of roads from one parish to another became very inconsistent. During the 16th  and 17th Centuries matters deteriorated as oxen- and horse-drawn waggons and carts replaced packhorses, and carriages capable of travelling longer distances became more common.  In the first half of the 16th century the long wheelbase waggon had been introduced, which allowed much heavier cargoes to be carried.  The Highways Act of 1662 included measures to try to reduce the damage to major highways by prohibiting the use of more than 7 horse teams to pull vehicles, and by banning the use of wagons with wheel widths that were in excess of 4 inches.

The London to Birmingham Stage Coach by John Cordrey, 1801. Source: Birmingham in the 18th Century

Carriages and coaches were a particular phenomenon of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, when improvements in design, particularly improving ride by use of spring-loaded, shock-absorbing suspension and much better reliability via improved wheel design meant that both public and private transportation was much more common, faster, and could be pulled by more horses, all of which inflicted damage on roads.  Post, mail coaches and stage coaches began to offer a network of passenger travel across Britain.  Pratt gives the following statistics:

Over 3000 coaches were then on the road, and half of these began or ended their journeys in London. Some 150,000 horses were employed in running them, and there were about 30,000 coachmen, guards, horse-keepers and hostlers, while many hundreds of taverns, in town or country, prospered on the patronage the coaches brought them. From one London tavern alone there went every day over eighty coaches to destinations in the north. From another there went fifty-three coaches and fifty-one waggons, chiefly to the west of England. Altogether coaches or waggons were going from over one hundred taverns in the City or in the Borough.

The development of the turnpike network from 1741 to 1770. Source: Langford 2000, p.34-5

The state of roads in England and Wales became so poor that some were almost impassable in the winter.  Connections between villages and market towns were threatened, some becoming virtually cut off in bad weather.  Collection of rents became difficult and long distance trade was always in jeopardy in some regions.  This situation was aggravated during the 18th Century as the population expanded, and the demand for goods and produce increased.  As the Industrial Revolution gained momentum and coal, building materials, textiles and more food began to be needed all over the country as well as for export markets, cargoes were moved both locally to town markets, and then on to river and canal wharves and coastal ports and for transport over long distances and people travelled far more widely on business.

To take control of important routes, and place the cost of maintenance on the users rather than the parish through which they passed, turnpike trusts were set up to manage the rebuilding of existing bits of the road network and to construct new linking sections of road.  An initial experiment was set up in Lincolnshire in 1663, and in 1706 an Act of Parliament established a turnpike along a stretch of the A5, that became a model for future turnpikes.  The first of these turnpikes, or toll roads, were rolled out during the 18th and early 19th centuries, peaking in the early 1800s.  The Acts of Parliament that were required to establish a turnpike endured for a fixed period, initially of 21 years.  When this period expired, the Act could be renewed or permitted to lapse (“disturnpiked”).  In 1741 new legislation gave trustees the right to install weigh-bridges, and any load over 3 tons carried a surcharge.

The Rebecca Riots. Illustrated London News 1843

Tolls were payable by users of the turnpikes to foot the bill for them in the long term, with toll rates based on usage of the road.  This meant that the cost of maintaining the road fell on those who used it, much like modern road tax, rather than on the often landless and impoverished members of the parish.  A single person on horseback would pay much less than someone taking animals or a cart of goods for sale at market.  Again, it’s a bit like modern road tax where a four-wheel-drive or a van is charged at a higher rate than a small runabout.  Some people were exempt from tolls, including those attending church on a Sunday, clergymen, voters attending elections, mail coaches and funerals.  Local gentry were not exempt, and nor was farm traffic.  Although often very unpopular, penalties for damaging turnpikes began as whippings and up to three months imprisonment but were escalated, as protests increased, to include the possibility of deportation.  This did not prevent a number of protests and even riots being organized, mostly by farmers.  The best known of these are the Welsh Rebecca Riots of 1839-1843, when farmers dressed up as women to avoid identification, but there had been many earlier examples too. Most everyday personal protests took the form of attempting to cheat the toll or evade it entirely, rather than inflicting any physical damage.  Toll cheating was a favourite pastime.

Others, however, were much more enthusiastic.  Daniel Defoe, writing in 1725, was a fan.  Travelling around Britain and writing his “A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain” he described one section along Watling Street in ecstatic terms:  “The bottom is not only repaired, but the narrow places are widened, hills levelled, bottoms raised and the ascents and descents made easy.”

Each new turnpike trust was authorized by an individual Act of Parliament, which initially lasted for 21 years, after which they could be renewed until the decision was made after the first half of the 19th Century to allow all turnpikes Acts to expire.   The turnpike trusts were composed of local landowners and dignitaries, including clergy and the new class of professional men that included ambitious local merchants and manufacturers.  Although the trustees were not paid, it was absolutely in their interests to improve the economic infrastructure of their particular areas.

The trustees in turn appointed salaried officers, such as solicitors and bankers, to do the actual work of building and maintaining the road and managing the collection of tolls.  Turnpikes helped to establish reliable timetables and improved the dependability of the mail.  Ribbon developments grew up along them, particularly as they headed out of a town, or passed through a major intersection, and new coaching inns were established to meet the needs of passengers, horses and carriage crew.   In 1745 it had taken a fortnight to reach Edinburgh from London, but by 1796 this had been reduced to two and a half days, and by 1830 just 36 hours.  By the end of 1750 there were 166 turnpike trusts covering 3400 miles / 5500km.  By the 1870s turnpikes covered 19,000 road miles (30,000km).

Most turnpikes simply repaired existing roads and others reinvented existing roads in terms of their construction, sometimes rerouting them.  Only occasionally were entirely new roads were built.  The Chester to Worthenbury stretch was somewhere between the first two of these, improving the road surface and drainage whilst maintaining the original width and route of the old road.

The main activities required for the establishment of a turnpike were hard-surfacing and draining as well as signposting.  The surfacing was required to prevent animals and cart and carriage wheels from carving up the roads, and drainage, as the Romans had discovered, was required to maintain the surface and prevent it reverting to deeply indented mud.  Edwin Pratt’s 1912 study of inland transport (an invaluable source of information for this post), was most unflattering about the quality of the turnpikes before Thomas Telford and particularly John Loudon MacAdam began to standardize a better, reliable way of surfacing roads:

Although a vast amount of road-making or road-repairing was going on, at the very considerable expense of the road users, and to the advantage of a small army of attorneys, officials and labourers, it was not road-making of a scientific kind, but merely amateur work, done at excessive cost, either with unintelligent zeal or in slovenly style, and yielding results which mostly failed to give the country the type of road it required for the ever-increasing traffic to which expanding trade, greater travel, and heavier and more numerous waggons and coaches were leading. Before the adoption of scientific road-making, the usual way of forming a new road was, first to lay along it a collection of large stones, and then to heap up thereon small stones and road dirt in such a way that the road assumed the shape of the upper half of an orange, the convexity often being so pronounced that vehicles kept along the summit of the eminence because it was dangerous for them, especially in rainy weather, to go along the slope on either side.

John McAdam. Engraving by Charles Turner. Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum

This was probably not true of all turnpikes, but was clearly valid in a daunting number of cases.  In the early 19th Century McAdam’s first insight was that road surfaces needed to be impermeable so that water did not pass through to the soil beneath and begin to run away, collapse and otherwise undermine the road above.  His second insight was that stones laid as road surfaces should be  broken and angular, not rounded, so that when subjected to the weight of traffic they would consolidate, compact and bear weight.  He ran successful experiments to test his ideas.  This was the first strategic and standardized approach to road building in Britain since the Romans left.

Signage, much like the M6 Toll today, advertized the presence of a turnpike, and promoted its use, but also showed routes to villages along roads with which it intersected.  A gate was set up and a toll cottage or at the very least a hut was usually built.

Milestones

1898 milepost, just to the north of Churton (my photo, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Milestones or mileposts were set from the first half of the 17th Century onwards, starting in southeast England, mainly for the benefit of mail coaches and other passenger vehicles.  Turnpikes were encouraged to install them from the 1740s and in 1766 became obligatory when it was found that as well as being useful for coachmen and passengers, it enabled accurate measuring of distances for the pricing of different routes.  It also helped to improve improved the reliability of timetables, something to which the turnpikes themselves, had enabled, particularly relevant in bad weather.

There are some very fine milestones dotted along the road along the line of the old Chester to Worthenbury turnpike, but all are dated to 1898, two decades after the expiration date of the 1854 Act.  They were erected by Chester County Council after it had accepted responsibility for the road.  A forthcoming post will talk about the milestones.  Sadly, if there were original milestones belonging to the 1854-1876 Chestser to Worthenbury turnpike, which in theory there should have been, none remain.  They may have been removed when the 1898 ones were put in place.  Looking around online for earlier mileposts in Cheshire, they were all made of stone, some of sandstone, engraved with the mileage details, and some are badly eroded.  Perhaps some fallen and lost ones will eventually turn up.

The end of the turnpikes

Arguments that turnpikes were an impediment to free trade were also beginning to be heard, and national infrastructure was gradually coming under more active government control.  The Local Government Act of 1888 put responsibility of roads into the hands of local councils, at which point many of the turnpikes became redundant, although sections 92-98 of the 1888 Act provided for some exclusions.

Railways of England and Wales 1825-1914. Source: Harvie and Matthew 2000

According to Crosby, by the mid 19th Century the network of turnpikes in Cheshire covered around 590 miles.  As the the railways began to cover more parts of the country, far more efficient at transporting both people and cargoes, including livestock, turnpikes were no longer as important.  In the 1840s, as railways took off, income from tolls fell dramatically.  From this time forward, and particularly from the 1860s, as turnpikes came up for renewal most were allowed to lapse, and the government decided to referred to as “disturnpiked.” In 1895 the last of the turnpikes closed down.

Some villages that had been bypassed by a major turnpike, suddenly became economically prosperous when railways were run through them.  For example, Aberdovey, a small but important port for the coastal trade in mid-West Wales (known to many of today’s West Cheshire residents for its golf course), was bypassed when an east-west turnpike was built following the Merioneth Turnpike Act of 1775, but when the railway arrived in the middle of the 19th Century it became an increasingly important port for the transportation of Irish livestock, and became a popular destination for tourists.  Rail fares began to undercut stagecoaches and were faster, and the stagecoaches rapidly went out of business as the reach of the railway network grew.  Most of the last turnpike survivors had become feeders to the railways.

However, one of the major reasons for turnpikes being disturnpiked was that they were always something of a headache.  Construction methods were not standardized until very late (and then only if the trust chose to go down that particular path), and care was highly variable.  Pratt puts this down in part to the way in which labour was sourced:

Managed or directed by trustees and surveyors . . .  the actual work on the turnpike roads was mainly carried out by statute labour, pauper labour or labour paid for out of the tolls, out of the receipts from the composition for statute duty, or, as a last resource, at the direct cost of the ratepayers, who were thus made responsible for the turnpike as well as for the parish roads.  Statute labour was a positive burlesque of English local government. Archdeacon Plymley says in his “General View of the Agriculture of Shropshire” (1803): “There is no trick, evasion or idleness that shall be deemed too mean to avoid working on the road: sometimes the worst horses are sent; at others a broken cart, or a boy, or an old man past labour, to fill: they are sometimes sent an hour or two too late in the morning, or they leave off much sooner than the proper time, unless the surveyor watch the whole day.

The milestone outside Glebe Farm, part way between Churton and Aldford

The piecemeal organization of the turnpikes meant that they served local interests but only sometimes contributed to long-distance travel and communication.  Even on a region by region basis, there were big gaps in good quality road infrastructure because a county as a whole was not of much interest to local trusts.  This significant failing in centralized strategy for inland communications was something that the government knew it needed to address, particularly as manufacturing became increasingly industrialized, demand grew and merchants wanted better access to a much wider geographical choice of markets.  In a period of expanding opportunities and spending power, turnpikes had helped to improve conditions for the economy and for passengers, but they had simply never been able to meet the needs imposed on them by the late 19th Century.

For two centuries turnpikes had been essential to the support of local links and longer distant trade and travel.  The toll houses established were usually added at each end of a turnpike and  sometimes in between, and some of those remain dotted around this and neighbouring counties.  Some of the mileposts and signposts also continue to be dotted around the modern rural landscape.  When Cheshire County Council was formed on 1st January 1889, it inherited an excellent network of roads linking all its key towns and villages, most of which had been turnpikes and soon began to position its own mileposts on major highways, many of them former turnpikes.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions
or if you have additional information to contribute

Sources for Parts 1 and 2:

Books and papers:

An Act for making a Turnpike Road from Chester, by Farndon, to Worthenbury, with a Branch therefrom to the Village of Farndon, 1854

Benford, M. 2002. Milestones.  Shire Publications

Crane, N. 2016.  The Making of the British Landscape.  From Ice Age to the Present.  Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Crosby, A.G. 2012.  New Roads for Old. Cheshire Turnpikes in the Landscape 1700-1850.  In (eds.) Varey, S.M. and White, G.J. Landscape History Discoveries in the North West.  University of Chester Press, p.190-223.

Cunningham Glen, R. 1895. Indictment presented before Lord Coleridge, C.J.  Reg. vs. Barker.  Reports of Cases in Criminal Law argued and determined in the courts of England and Ireland, vol.XVII, 1890-1895. Reported by R. Cunnigham Glen Esq., Barrister at Law. Horace Cox

Defoe, D. 1724–1726 (Rogers, P. ed.). A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain Penguin (particularly, Volume II, 1725, and its appendix).

Harvie, C. and Matthew, H.C.G.  1984, 2000.  Nineteenth Century Britain. Oxford University Press

Hindle, P. 1998 (3rd edition).  Medieval Roads and Tracks.  Shire Publications Ltd

Keys, D. 2016. Discovery of huge Bronze Age wheel sheds light on transport in prehistoric Britain.  The Independent, Friday 19th February 2016
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/prehistoric-britain-discovery-bronze-age-wheel-archaeology-a6882671.html

Langford, P. 1984, 2000. Eighteenth Century Britain.  Oxford University Press

Latham, F.A. 1981.  Farndon. The History of a Cheshire Village.  Local History Group.

Local Government Act 1888 (51 and 52 Vict. c.41). Section 97, Saving as to liability for main roads.

OS Landranger map 117 2016.  Chester and Wrexham.  Ordnance Survey

Phillips, A.D.M. and Phillips, C.B. 2002.  A New Historical Atlas of Cheshire. Cheshire County Council and Cheshire Community Council Publications Trust.

Pratt, E.A. 1912.  A History of Inland Transport and Communication in England. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co Ltd.
Project Gutenburg: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/52087/52087-h/52087-h.htm

Pryor, F. 2010.  The Making of the British Landscape.  How We Have Transformed the Land from Prehistory to Today.  Allen Lane

Wright, G. N. 1992. Turnpike Roads. Shire Publications Ltd.

Websites

A Collection of Directories for Cheshire
Cheshire County Council
http://cheshiredirectories.manuscripteye.com/index.htm

British Listed Buildings
Cross Cottage, Churton
https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101228714-cross-cottage-churton

Broughton Hall, Threapwood
Threapwood History Group
http://www.threapwoodhistory.org/broughtonhall.html

Cheshire Tithe Maps Online
Cheshire Archives and Local Studies
https://maps.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps/

Emral Hall, Worthenbury
Wrexham Online
https://www.wrexham-history.com/emral-hall-worthenbury/ 

Historic England
Cross Cottage, Churton
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1228714

Dig Diary 19: Discovering Britain’s Oldest, Complete Wheel
February 29, 2016
Must Farm Dig Diaries
http://www.mustfarm.com/progress/site-diary-19-discovering-britains-oldest-complete-wheel/

National Archives
Chester and Whitchurch Turnpikes Trust
https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/11e8a8d6-43c5-4704-a93b-58fe6d0444a6

National Library of Scotland Mapfinder
OS 6-inch map, 1888-1913
https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=15&lat=53.09734&lon=-2.86868&layers=6&b=1

Peterborough Archaeology
Must Farm Bronze Age Settlement
https://peterborougharchaeology.org/peterborough-archaeological-sites/must-farm/

Turnpike Roads in England and Wales
Turnpikes.org.uk
http://www.turnpikes.org.uk/Tollhouse%20design.htm

 

 

Churton residents in 19th and early 20th Century directories

Commercial Directories, much like the telephone directories that most over-50s remember, list the names of people and their roles, organized by village or town name.  There are limitations to how useful the information contained in the directories actually are.  They do not, for example, provide the actual postal addresses such as house or road names.  Nor do they contain a complete listing of residents, just those who were deemed to be most relevant to community, commerce and local government.  In villages, these included, for example, gentry, clergy, businesses (including shops, joiners, wheelwrights, carriers and farms) and Post Offices.

To actually make use of such information, directory information needs to be tied into data supplied by other resources such as the national census, registers of births and deaths,  property deeds, local newspapers (both articles and adverts) and any surviving relevant accounting records.  But it seems worth including it here as a resource for anyone who, like me, is just starting out with research into the area, as well as for those trying to trace ancestors.

This is a copy-and-paste job, but  I did visit St Chad’s Church in Farndon and St John the Baptist Church in Aldford to see if I could match up any names in the directories with gravestones, and was able to find a few,  some of which are shown here.

I’ve had to cram in rather a lot of images, so I’ve kept them smallish, but you can click on any to expand them and read the text.

The directories used are  exclusively the ones listed on the Cheshire Directories website, and are as follows:

  • 1789 Cowdroy’s Directory of Cheshire
  • 1822-3 Pigot’s Directory of Cheshire
  • 1857 Post Office Directory of Cheshire
  • 1864 Morris & Co.’s Directory of Cheshire
  • 1871 Worrall’s Directory of Warrington
  • 1878 Post Office Directory of Cheshire
  • 1883 Slater’s Directory of Cheshire and Liverpool
  • 1902 Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire
  • 1906 Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire
  • 1910 Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire

The relevant details from each of the directories are listed below, in chronological order from earliest (1789) to latest (1910).

Cowdroy’s Directory of Cheshire 1789

N/A.  Churton (Churton by Aldford / Churton by Farndon) is not included.  Nor are Aldford or Farndon.

It is, however, an utterly fascinating read it its own right, which as usual contains a history of Cheshire (for f read s):  “THE magnitude and importance of this county will not be difputed, when the reader is told that its circumference is more than ‘200’ miles: To give an idea of its form, Speed has not unaptly compared it to the right wing of an eagle, ftretched forth from the furtheft point of Wirral hundred, and touching, with her firft feather, upon the confines of Yorkfhjre. – In the unhappy days of civil contention when England felt all the: horrors; of internefine feuds and domestic warfare (in the garb of religion) ftlalked over the face of the kingdom, this county was not without its share of the general calamity.”

Pigot’s Directory of Cheshire 1822-3

N/A.  Churton (Churton by Aldford / Churton by Farndon) is not included.  Nor are Aldford or Farndon.

Post Office Directory of Cheshire 1857

p.8
Aldford is a parish, comprising the townships of ALDFORD and CHURTON, and CHURTON HEATH, or BRUERA, BUERTON, and EDGERLEY.
CHURTON-BY-ALDFORD is a township, 2 miles southwest, with 251 inhabitants and an area of 572 acres

p.116-117
CHURTON-BY-FARNDON is a township and small village, partly in the parish of Famdon and partly in that of Aldford, distant 7 miles south-by-east from Chester and 1½ north Farndon; it consists principally of one long straggling street.  The remains of an ancient cross mark the boundary of the two parishes. The population, in 1851, was 148; the acreage, about 430. Major Barnston is lord of the manor; and he, and the Marquis of Westminster, and C. Galley, Esq. of Churton, are the chief landowners.

Private residents

  • Calley John, esq. Churton lodge
  • Parker Mr. William

Commercial

  • Baker James, farmer
  • Baker Moses, beer retailer
  • Barlow Geo, shoemaker & shopkeeper
  • Brown Mary (Mrs.), farmer
  • Clubbe George, wheelwright
  • Harrison Charles, shopkeeper
  • Huxley Joseph, farmer
  • Lawrence Peter, farmer
  • Letsom William, Red Lion
  • Nevell James, shoemaker
  • Parker John, farmer
  • Thomas William, blacksmith

Letters through Chester

Morris & Co.’s Directory of Cheshire 1864

p.45.
CHURTON-by-ALDFORD, is a township in Aldford parish, Great Boughton union containing, by the census of 1861, 217, inhabitants, and 572 acres; in the hundred of Broxton, South Cheshire, 7 miles south from Chester, adjoining Cllurton-by-Farndon, of which manor it forms a part. The Primitive Methodists have a chapel here. The Marquis of Westminster is lord of the manor.

Clergy and Gentry

  • Finley Hugh, Esq., The Lodge
  • Grace Mrs. Ann
  • Shankling Mr. Thomas

Trades and Professions.

  • Baker James, farmer,
  • Baker Moses, beer retailer
  • Ball Thomas, farmer
  • Brown George, farmer
  • Clubbe William, joiner
  • Logan Mr., Inland Revenue officer
  • Nevitt James, shopkeeper
  • Parker William, jun., farmer, The Grange
  • Thomas William, blacksmith
  • Warburton Samuel, baker and shopkeeper

The grave of Churton resident James Nevitt’s wife Mary, who died at the age of 39 in 1846, in the cemetery of St John the Baptist Church, Aldford

p.53.
CHURTON-by. FARNDON is a township in the parishes of Farndon and Aldford, the boundaries of which are marked by the remains of an ancient cross; 1½ miles north from Farndon, and 7 miles south-east from Chester, in Great Boughton union; containing, by the census of 1861, 128 inhabitants, and 432 acres. Major Barnston is lord of the manor.

Gentry

  • Parker John, Esq. Churton Hall
  • Parker, Mr William, Grange

Trade and Professions

  • Baker James, farmer
  • Baker Moses, beer retailer
  • Ball Thomas, farmer
  • Brown George, farmer
  • Clubbe George, wheelwright
  • Lawrence Peter, farmer
  • Nevitt James, shoemaker
  • Parker John, farmer
  • Thomas William, blacksmith
  • Williams Richard, Red Lion Inn

Letters through Chester.

Post Office Directory of Cheshire 1878

p.3. “The following is a list of Poor Law Unions . . .” Tarvin Union, (including):

  • Aldford
  • Churton-by-Aldford
  • Churton-by- Farndon
  • Farndon

p.3. “The following is a list of the hundreds, with the places contained In each:—
Hundred of Broxton (Higher division).— Aldersey, Aldford, Barton, Bickerton, Broxton, Bulkeley, Burwardsley, Caldecott, Garden, Cholmondeley, Chowley, Churton-by-Aldford, Churton-by-Farndon, Clutton, Coddington, Crewe, Egerton, Farndon, Grafton, Handley. Harthill, Horton-by-Malpas, Kingsmarsh, Stretton, and Tilston.”

p.14. Churton-By-Aldford is a township, 2 miles southwest. The Duke of Westminster is lord of the manor and principal landowner. The area is 672 acres; rateable value £935 ; the population in 1871 was 274. POST OFFICE.—Mrs. Hannah Clubb, receiver. Letters through Chester arrive at 7.30 a.m.; dispatched at 5.25 p.m. Farndon is the nearest money order office
Infant School, Miss Annie Jones, mistress

  • Maylor John, Churton lodge
  • Parker Henry, The Grange
  • Parker Thomas
  • Ball Thomas, farmer
  • Brown George, farmer
  • Hughes William ,shopkeeper
  • Parker John, farmer, beer retailer
  • Warburton Samuel, shopkeeper

p.186
FARNDON is a parish, comprising the townships of Barton, Churton-by-Farndon, Clutton, Crewe, King’s Marsh, and Farndon . . .

Churton is a township and small village, in the parishes of Farndon and Aldford, part called Churtonby-Farndon and part called Churton-by-Aldford, 7 miles south-by-east from Chester, a mile and a half north from Farndon and 5 west from Broxton railway station on the east bank of the Dee; it consists principally of one long straggling street. The remains of an ancient cross mark the boundary of the two parishes; the Primitive Methodists have a chapel here. Harry Barnston, esq. is lord of tbe manor for Churton-by-Farndon, and the Duke of Westminster of that of Churton-by-Aldford; the Duke of Westminster, Harry Barnston, esq. and John Maylor, esq. of Churton, are the chief landowners. The area is 432 acres; rateable value for Churton-by-Aldford £1,296 ; rateable value for Churton-by-Farndon £935; the population in 1871 was 123.

Letters through Chester. The nearest money order office is at Farndon INSURANCE AGENT.—Liverpool and London and Globe, Joseph Ball.

p.187

  • Maylor John, Churton lodge
  • Parker Thomas, sea. Churton house

Commercial

  • Ball Thomas, farmer
  • Brown George, farmer
  • Clubbe George, jun. Red Lion
  • Clubbe George, sen. wheelwright
  • Dutton John, joiner
  • Hawkes William, shopkeeper
  • Nevett James, shoe maker
  • Parker Henry, farmer, Grange
  • Parker John, farmer and beer retailer
  • Parker Thomas, farmer, Churton hall
  • Thomas William, blacksmith
  • Warburton Samuel, shopkeeper
  • Williamson Richard, farmer
  • Woolley Thomas, farmer

Slater’s Directory of Cheshire and Liverpool 1883

Churton by Aldford

Post Office, CHURTON-BY-ALDFORD, William Clube, Post Master.-Letters arrive from all parts (via Chester) at eleven morning, and are despatched at six evening.

Alphabetical Directory

  • Brown George, farmer, Churton by Aldford
  • Parker Henry, farmer, Churton, by Aldford
  • Thomas Lawrence, White Horse, Churton, by Aldford
  • Warburton Samuel, shopkeeper, Churton, by Aldford
  • Williamson Richard, farmer, Churton, by Aldford

Farmers

  • Ball Thomas
  • Brown George
  • Maylor John
  • Parker Henry
  • Parker Thomas
  • Williams Richd.

Lawrance Thomas of Churton, who died 15th December 1881, aged 23.  It is impossible to know, at this time, whether this was the Lawrance Thomas who is listed as being based at the White Horse, or a father or son.  H23 seems young to have been the pub landlord.

Shopkeepers

  • Clube, Wm.

Taverns and Public Houses

  • White Horse, Lawrance Thomas

Dissenting Chapels

  • Methodist (primitive)


Churton by Farndon

Nobility, Gentry and Clergy

  • Maylor William, Esq. Churton lodge, Churton

Grocers and dealers in sundries

  • Warburton Samuel, Churton

Farmers

  • Ball Thomas
  • Brown George
  • Clubbe Thomas
  • Clubbe Williams
  • Parker Henry
  • Parker Thos. Junr.
  • Thomas Abraham
  • Williamson Richd.

p.216:  “Farndon comprises the townships of Barton, Churton by Farndon, Clutton and Crew and Farndon township.

 

Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire 1902

CHURTON-BY-ALDFORD is a township, on the road from Chester to Malpas, 5 miles south from Waverton station and 5 north-west from Broxton station, both on the Shrewsbury and Crewe section of the London and North Western railway. The Duke of Westminster is lord of the manor and principal landowner.  The area is 558 acres; rateable value, £928 ; the population in 1901 was 223.
Public Elementary School (infants), built in 1864 by Richard, and Marquess of Westminster, for 48 children ; average attendance, 20; Miss Mary Meredith, mistress; the school is in part supported by the Duke of Westminster
Post Office.—Joseph Smith, sub-postmaster. Letters through Chester arrive in summer at 7 a.m.; winter, 7.30 a.m. and dispatched at 6.10 p.m.  Postal orders are issued here, but not paid.  Farndon is the nearest money order and telegraph office, 2 miles distant.

  • Maylor, Mrs., Churton Lodge
  • Parker Thomas
  • Alwood John Farmer
  • Barlow Charles Shopkeeper
  • Parker James Beer Retailer
  • Smith Joseph Shopkeeper, Post Office
  • Warburton, Miss, Shopkeeper

George Clubbe died in 1841 and was buried in the cemetery of St Chad’s in Farndon. In the 1910 directory he is listed as a shopkeeper.  Edward Clubbe, presumably a close relative, is listed as a farmer.  The Clubbes appear in directory after directory for Churton, the earliest (from 1857) being William Clubbe, wheelwright.

CHURTON is a township and small village, on the east bank of the river Dee, in the parishes of Farndon and Aldford, of which part is called Churton-by-Farndon and the rest Churton-by-Aldford; it is 5 miles west from Broxton railway station, on the Shrewsbury and Chester section of the London and North Western railway, 7 south-by-east from Chester and a mile and a half north from Farndon. The village consists principally of one Iong straggling street. There is a Primitive Methodist chapel here, erected in 1833. Harry Barnston esq. M.P. who is lord of the manor of Churton-by-Farndon, the Duke of Westminster G.C.V.O. and Mrs. Maylor, of Churton, are the chief landowners.

The gravestone of Joseph Bartlem Edwards, who died in 1915 at age 54, and his wife Mary Elizabeth who died in 1958, age 84. The directory lists Joseph as simply Joseph B. St John the Baptist, Aldford

The area of Churton-by-Farndon is 445 acres; rateable value, £928; the population in 1901 was 126. Churton-by-Aldford township is given with Aldford.

  • Jackson Thomas Sibbersfield Hall

Commercial

  • Bellis bros farmers and fruit growers, Churton Hall and Farndon
  • Clubbe Edward, farmer
  • Clubbe George, Shopkeeper
  • Dutton Joshua, Joiner
  • Edwards Joseph B. farmer
  • Williamson Richard farmer
  • Williamson Samuel Holland farmer

Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire 1906

A sad gravestone. The children of beer retailer James and Martha Parker died in succession, Amy aged 16 in 1913, Elizabeth aged 32 in 1919 and Norman in 1922 aged 26. James and Martha themselves died in 1922 and 1928.

CHURTON-BY-ALDFORD is a township, on the road from Chester to Malpas, 5 miles south from Waverton station and 5 north-west from Broxton station, both on the Shrewsbury and Crewe section of the London and North Western railway. The Duke of Westminster is lord of the manor and principal landowner. The area is 574 acres; rateable value, ;£928 ; the population in 1901 was 223.

Public Elementary School (infants), built in 1864 by Richard, and Marquess of Westminster, for 48 children ; average attendance, 20; Miss Elizabeth Draper, mistress; the school is in part supported by the Duke of Westminster

Post Office.—Joseph Smith, sub-postmaster. Letters through Chester arrive in summer at 7 a.m.; winter, 7.30 a.m. and dispatched at 6.10 p.m. Farndon, 2 miles distant, is the nearest money order and telegraph office

  • McKindlay Andrew
  • Maylor Mrs. Churton lodge
  • Parker William,
  • Alwood John, farmer
  • Lawrence Thomas, shopkeeper
  • Lewis Edwin, farmer
  • Parker James, beer retailer
  • Powell Samuel, shopkeeper
  • Smith Joseph, shopkeeper. Post office

Gravestone (at St Chad’s Farndon) of Richard and Elizabeth Williamson. Richard, a farmer, is listed in the 1906 Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire.

CHURTON is a township and small village, on the east bank of the river Dee, in the parishes of Farndon and Aldford, of which part is caUed Churton-by-Farndon and the rest Churton-by-Aldford; it is 5 miles west from Broxton railway station, on the Shrewsbury and Chester section of the London and North Western railway, 7 south-by east from Chester and a mile and a half north from Farndon. The village consists principally of one long straggling street. There is a Primitive Methodist chapel here, erected in 1833. Harry Barnston esq. is lord of the manor of Churton-by-Farndon, and the Duke of Westminster, Harry Barnston esq. and Mrs. Maylor, of Churton, are the chief landowners. The area of Churton-by- Farndon is 445 acres; rateable value, £928; the population in 1901 was 126. Churton-by-Aldford township is given with Aldford.

  • Grossmann Alex, Sibbersfield Hall

Commercial

  • Bellis Bros, farmers & fruit growers, Churton Hall and at Farndon
  • Clubbe Edward, farmer
  • Clubbe George, shopkeeper
  • Dutton Joshua, joiner
  • Edwards Joseph B. farmer
  • Williamson Richard, farmer
  • Williamson Samuel Holland, Red Lion P.H

Kelly’s Directory of Cheshire 1910

CHURTON-BY-ALDFORD is a township, on the road from Chester to Malpas, 5 miles south from Waverton station and 5 north-west from Broxton station, both on the Shrewsbury and Crewe section of the London and North Western railway. The Duke of Westminster is lord of the manor and principal landowner. The area is 574 acres; rateable value, £928 ; the population in 1901 was 223.
Public Elementary School (infants), built in 1864 by Richard, and Marquess of Westminster, for 48 children ; average attendance, 26; Miss Elizabeth Draper, mistress; the school is in part supported by the Duke of Westminster
Post Office.—Joseph Smith, sub-postmaster. Letters through arrive at 7.15 a.m. ; sunday, callers only & dispatched at 7.40 p.m.; Sunday, 7.40 p.m. Farndon, 1¼  miles distant, is the nearest money order and telegraph office

  • Carr Austin Cooper, Kingsmead
  • McKindlay Andrew, Churton house
  • Maylor Mrs. Churton lodge
  • Allwood John, farmer
  • Lewis Annie (Mrs.), farmer
  • Parker James, beer retailer
  • Powell Margaret (Mrs.), shopkeeper
  • Smith Joseph, shopkeeper. Post office
  • Thomas Lawrence, shopkeeper
  • Thomas William, blacksmith

CHURTON is a township and small village, on the east bank of the river Dee, in the parishes of Farndon and Aldford, of which part is called Churton-by-Farndon and the rest Churton-by-Aldford; it is 5 miles west from Broxton railway station, on the Shrewsbury and Chester section of the London and North Western railway, 7 south-by-east from Chester and a mile and a half north from Farndon. The village consists principally of one Iong straggling street. There is a Primitive Methodist chapel here, erected in 1833. Harry Barnston esq. M.P. who is lord of the manor of Churton-by-Farndon, the Duke of Westminster G.C.V.O. and Mrs. Maylor, of Churton, are the chief landowners. The area of Churton-by-Farndon is 445 acres; rateable value, £928; the population in 1901 was 126. Churton-by-Aldford township is given with Aldford.

  • Bellis Brothers Limited, farmers and fruit growers, Churton hall; and at Farndon
  • Clubbe Edward, farmer
  • Clubbe George, shopkeeper
  • Dutton Joshua, joiner
  • Edwards Joseph B. farmer
  • Williamson Richard, farmer
  • Williamson Samuel Holland, Red Lion P.H.

Source:

Cheshire Directories. Working in Partnership. Cheshire East / Cheshire West and Chester
http://cheshiredirectories.manuscripteye.com/index.htm

Aldford and Churton-by-Aldford: The Talbot Hound and the Wheatsheaf

Wandering around Churton when I first arrived in the area, I was surprised to see the Talbot Hound on a number plaques.  In the village of Aldford to the north the Talbot hound is a very familiar character, shown on signage all over the village of Aldford, as it has been a symbol of the Grosvenor estates, of which the Eaton Hall estate is the family seat, since the late 16th Century.

In Churton, several examples of Talbot Hounds are to be found on the Churton-by-Aldford side of the village.  Churton-by-Aldford was affiliated to Aldford and the Eaton Hall estate.  At the same time, both the hound and a wheatsheaf can be seen incorporated into the the old school house wall, carved out of red sandstone in high relief.  The school house,  at the top end of Stannage Lane, was built in 1864 and paid for by the Eaton Hall estate,.

The boundary between Churton by Aldford to the north and Churton by Farndon to the south..  Click to enlarge the image.

So why was an Aldford emblem dotted around Churton?  Up until 2015 Churton was split into two townships, with Churton-by-Aldford to the north of Hob Lane and Pump Lane, and Churton-by-Farndon to the south of that line.  I will be posting about how this division arose shortly, looking at what it meant in everyday terms and how it is visible on maps and on the ground, but the short version is that Churton-by-Aldford was once a part of the Eaton Hall estate (some parts still are) and Churton-by-Farndon was not.  The Talbot hounds are one of the easily identifiable differentiators between the two halves of the village.

Talbot hounds are now extinct.  The hounds  were white, and characterized by large paws and a tail curled over the lower back.   They were used as hunting dogs, but is unclear exactly what prey they were employed to retrieve.  There is a lot of speculation about whether or not they were introduced by the Normans, where the name originated and whether they may have contributed some genetic material to modern hunting breeds, but most of this appears to lack any supporting data.  What seems to be without dispute is that the Talbot hound first appears on the Grosvenor family’s coat of arms in 1597.

The school was donated to the village by Robert Grosvenor, first Marquess of Westminster, 1767-1845 as a gift from the Eaton Hall estate.

The legend/text around the Talbot hound is centred within an oval frame that is sculpted into a garter with a buckle at its base, the Order of the Garter, which always reads HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE,.  This is Old French.  Broken down, the text can be translated as follows:

  • Honi – Old French conjugation of modern honnir, to shame, or to be contemptuous of
  • Soit – subjunctive of être, “be”
  • Qui – relative pronoun, “who”
  • Y – adverbial pronoun, “it”

the sense of which can be roughly translated as “shame on whoever thinks bad/evil here/there”  The Order of the Garter dates to Edward III (1327-77).   The Order was created when Edward III founded the college of St George at Windsor, reputedly modelled on the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table.  The new Order was associated with a small group of 25 knights headed by the king, each of whom was provided with a stall in the chapel, entitled the Order of the Garter.  It is unclear what the garter actually was, but one theory is that it was a device used to connect pieces of armour, and it was worn by all the knights concerned. The order is headed by the current sovereign (Sovereign of the Garter) who, since 1946, personally selects Knights of the Garter to honour those who have contributed to the nation or who have performed a particular personal service for the Sovereign.

The Talbot hound and the emblem of the Order of the Garter are topped with an earl’s coronet, showing four strawberry leaves and four silver balls or pearls above the rim, clear representatives of which are shown on the carving shown above.

The  Grosvenor family coat of arms already included a wheat-sheaf or Garf prior to the addition of the Talbot hound, probably from the 14th Century.  The Grosvenor family shares the wheatsheaf  symbol with the City/Palatine of Chester, where it refers to the Earls of Chester and to Cheshire.  It does not, as far as I know, appear on any other Churton buildings.

Sources:

Websites

Churton Parish Newsletter, September 2019
http://www.churtonparishcouncil.co.uk/Newsletter%20Sept%2019%202-3%20(1).pdf

College of St George, Windsor
https://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/about-st-georges/history/the-order-of-the-garter/

Grosvenor Estate
History Timeline – 1385-1390, 1597
https://www.grosvenorestate.com/about-us/heritage/history-timeline.aspx

Internet Archive
The institution, laws & ceremonies of the most noble Order of the Garter : work furnished with variety of matter, relating to honor and noblesse by Ashmole, Elias, 1617-1692
https://archive.org/details/gri_33125012878183/page/n9/mode/2up

Lawless French
https://www.lawlessfrench.com/expressions/honi-soit-qui-mal-y-pense/

London Remembers
Statue: Robert Grosvenor statue
https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/robert-grosvenor-statue

Royal.uk
Order of the Garter
https://www.royal.uk/order-garter

 

Cheshire Proverbs 2: “Holt Lions, Farndon Bears, Churton Greyhounds and Alford Hares”

“Holt lions, Farndon bears
Churton greyhounds and Aldford hares”
(J.C. Bridge  no.190, page 73)

Joseph Bridge devotes over a page to the content of this very local proverb, but he focuses exclusively on the Holt lions and by the end of it neither he or I are any the wiser about what the bears, greyhounds and hares refer to, or what the overall meaning might be.

Title page of Ray’s “A Collection of Enlish Proverbs.” Source: Royal Society.

Holt was originally in Cheshire, an English borough in Wales, so although it was the only of the villages to the west of the Dee, it was not entirely the odd one out in this list of local place-names. 

Previous writers suggested that the Holt Lions might refer to Roman tile and pottery works to the north of Holt.  John Ray’s A Collection of English Proverbs (1670), quoted in Bridge (p.x) provides a plausible if completely unverifiable example:  “I conjecture that the Roman name had been Castra Legionis, and the Welsh Castell Lleon, or the Castle of the Legion;  Because it was garrisoned by a detachment of the Legion at Chester.  The English borderers might easily mistake Lleon for the plural of Llew, which signifies a lion, and so call it the Castle of Lions.”  Bridge provides a convincing list of references that associate the two during the Middle Ages. The Reverend R.H. Morris’s The Diocesan  of History 1895 reinforces this message, saying that as late as the Elizabethan period the alternative name, Castrum Leonum or Castle of Lions was in general use and that its seal incorporated a Lion Rampant, suggesting that there was a heraldic link between Holt and lions.

None of this, however, accounts for the greyhounds, bears and hares, although Latham speculates that these too might have been associated with family coats of arms, now lost.  I originally wondered if the Churton greyhounds might refer to the hounds shown on Aldford road and house signs, but only a few of those are in Churton and are, anyway, much later in date.  Latham adds “It can be said in support of this suggestion however that the base of the font in Holt church, which dates from 1490, includes what appear to be carvings of all these
creatures.  This was examined by Mr. E. E. Dorling in 1908, and his findings were published in Vol. 24 of the Transactions of the Historical Soc. of Lanes. & Cheshire. He mentions a hart’s (not a hares) head with reference to the house of Stanley, and considers that the collared hound sitting in a panel on the font is ‘none other but the greyhound badge of King Henry VII’.”

Any ideas?  If you have more information, please get in touch.

For more about this Cheshire Proverbs series, see Cheshire Proverbs 1.

 

Sources:

Bridge, J.C. 1917. Proverbs, sayings and rhymes connected with the city and county palatine of Chester. Phillipson and Golder.

Latham, F.A.  1981. Farndon. The History of a Cheshire Village. Local History Group

 

Walking from Eaton Hall Bridge north towards Chester

Another walk along the Dee, this time to the north of Aldford, on another glorious sunny spring day.

The walk from Churton heading north along the east bank of the river Dee to the Eaton Hall bridge at Aldford was described here a few weeks ago, and was followed a few days later with a look at the story behind Eaton Hall Bridge itself.  This walk picks up the footpath from Aldford and heads north.  The footpath crosses the bridge from the east to the west bank, and turns right sharply to follow the river to the north.  For those of you following local footpaths on the Cheshire West and Chester Public Map Viewer, see the map below as copied from the site.

Crossing the bridge from Aldford, follow signs right to walk northwards along the Dee along the side of the Eaton Hall estate. I turned back at the sluice, after about half an hour.  Source of map:  Public Map Viewer, with my annotations

If you are driving to Aldford, it seems to be okay to park outside the Aldford church.  There were certainly a number of dog walkers parked there, and there is no signage or road markings to indicate that this would be unwelcome.

It was only a short outing because a serious amount of garden weeding awaited, and when I reached the Eaton Hall sluice gate, which empties a small canal into the river, I turned around and came back (about half an hour each way), but it was enough to establish that this section of the riverbank has a rather different character from the east bank between Churton and Aldford.  Instead of the fields that follow the Churton to Aldford section of the Dee to the east, the presence of Eaton Hall estate, fenced off all along that stretch of the path, creates a more contained and intimate feel to the footpath.

If you are starting from Aldford, go to the church and head through the white gate next to it, along the footpath that dissects the field, and over the bridge.

View from the bridge looking upriver, to the south.

As soon as you cross the bridge, you will see a sign indicating that the roadway ahead is private, and that you need to turn right.  Almost immediately, there is a second sign warning of flooding.  This is clearly no joke.  Even though it was bone try on this occasion, there are long sections that preserve deep sections that were clearly deep mud, endlessly trampled by boots.  As the sign says, there is clearly a risk of being cut off in wet weather, as much of the footpath sits in a narrow section between the river on the one side and a big fence along the Eaton Estate on the other.

Ramsons (wild garlic) just beginning to flower.

 

Eaton Hall Bridge (Iron Bridge) at Aldford, built by William Hazledine to a Thomas Telford design

An idyllic section of the river Dee passes through the Eaton Hall estate, itself part of the Grosvenor estate, with Eaton Hall one side of the river and Aldford on the other.  Connecting the two parts of the estate across the river is the Grade-1 listed Eaton Hall Bridge (otherwise known as Iron Bridge), built in cast iron by William Hazledine (1763–1840) to a design by Thomas Telford (1757–1834).  Like Aldford village itself, also part of the Eaton Hall estate, the bridge and its immediate surroundings are manicured, coiffured, and meticulously polished.  Funny to think of the gracefully decorative bridge as a direct outcome of the innovative Industrial Revolution, one of the dirtiest, noisiest and most polluting episodes in history.  

The first Marquis of Westminster, Robert Grosvenor.  Source:  Wikipedia

A public footpath crosses the bridge from the south and continues to follow the river north on the western bank towards Chester (a few days ago, I described a walk to the bridge along the footpath from Churton, heading north along the eastern bank of the Dee). The bridge is still used for road traffic today, but because it is on a private estate, the daily load has always been very limited, and the bridge had remained in good condition since it was completed in 1824.  Repairs were required in 1980, when some of the iron struts (load-bearing beams) were replaced with steel.

The Eaton Hall Bridge was commissioned by the Marquis of Westminster, Robert Grosvenor who reinvented Eton Hall in an imitation and extravagant Gothic style (by William Porden) and simultaneously restored the gardens and driveways.  It seems surprising that he chose a traditional aesthetic for his house but a modern iron bridge to connect the two parts of the estate, and that may account for the ecclesiastical-style ornamental flourishes that embellish the bridge’s design, also derived from Gothic architecture.

Model of Craigelachie Bridge at the National Museum of Scotland, Source: Grace’s Guide

The Eaton Hall bridge was modelled not on Thomas Telford’s more ambitious suspension bridge projects over the Menai Straits and Conwy river, but on his earlier Bonar (completed 1812) and Craigellachie (completed 1815)  bridges.  It was a formula that worked, and was used again after Eaton Hall Bridge had been completed, with Telford’s Mythe and Holt Fleet bridges.

Like its predecessors, Eaton Hall Bridge was made of cast iron that was produced in William Hazledine’s iron foundry at Plas Kynaston at Cefn Mawr before being sent by canal to Chester and down the Dee to Eaton Hall.  Hazledine and Telford had met when Hazledine had a small foundry in Shrewsbury.  Telford arrived in Shrewsbury to become county surveyor for Shropshire, responsible for all public building works, and the two men, both Freemasons, became friends and professional collaborators.  Hazledine trained as a millwright, but  his family owned a small foundry  and Hazeldine went on to grow his iron casting business with the large Coleham Foundry at Shrewsbury.  He established the Plas Kynaston foundry to service the construction of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct (1794-1805), thereafter taking advantage of the canal network to carry his cast iron in segments to be transhipped by river or sea to where it was needed.  The civil engineer and surveyor for the Eaton Hall Bridge job was William Crosley (b.1802-d.1838), a well-respected canal and railway engineer who is not recorded as a contributor in previous Telford-related projects. The construction of Eaton Hall Bridge was supervised by Hazledine’s right hand man, William Stuttle, who implemented most, if not all, of Hazledine’s works on behalf of Telford.

The bridge consists of a single 150ft (46m) arched span, the same as that of the Bonar and Craigellachie bridges, formed of four ribs (30 x 2 ft / 9.15m x 62cm) that were cast in seven sections.  The ribs are connected with wrought iron bolts and braced by transverse plates.  It has open spandrels (the roughly triangular sections between arch and bridge top) featuring lattice bracing.  Over the top of the arch, the bridge is fitted with cast iron deck plates, which support the metalled roadway.  These are bolted together and lie over the full width of the bridge, 17ft (5.2m) wide.

The stone abutments at either end are made of plain, pale yellow ashlar sandstone, and curve outwards to meet the river bank. At the entrance to the bridge at either end, and on both sides, are short octagonal posts.   These posts are consistent with other Telford bridges, most of which have some sort of carved stonework detail flanking each end of the bridge, usually considerably more elaborate.

The Bonar, Craigellachie and the later but very similar Mythe and Holt Fleet bridges were elegant but rather plain.  At Eaton Hall bridge a lively ornamental element was added.   The spandrels, spandrel struts and outer arch ribs were provided with decorative cast iron motifs that give it a slightly frivolous edge, consisting of trefoils, quatrefoils and mouchettes.  Cast iron fretwork  (a repeating design of interlaced linear elements) is also bolted to the outer bracings, something that was done at other bridges but generally with a much simpler motif.   I don’t know what the original colour arrangement was supposed to be, but today it looks excellent in light blue and white.  The build date is cast into a the crown of the arch on the south side.  

None of Telford’s earlier or later bridges have this delicate ornamentation.  The only exception of which I am aware is Waterloo Bridge at Betws y Coed (1815), which has themed ornamental components in its large corner panels, as well as a bold statement spanning the full arch, commemorating the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

The gently arching road crossing the bridge is flanked with lovely white cast iron railings with short “dogbar” intervals between  decorative features and decorative details beneath the rail adding real elegance to the overall impact.  At the apex of the bridge are a pair of cast iron double gates made to the same design, that today are usually kept open.  The railings terminate in the octagonal sandstone pillars.

Gates at the crown of the bridge.

It seems clear that although it was built to a Telford design, Telford himself was so busy with other projects that he was not involved with the contract.  William Hazledine presumably took responsibility for the job, using the designs for Bonar and Craigellachie bridges, for which Hazledine had cast the iron and implemented the build.  Hazledine himself was probably also rather busy on Telford projects at this time, and the work itself seems to have been carried out by the civil engineer William Crosley, who performed the essential survey work, with William Stuttle, Hazledine’s trusted Clerk of Works and Stuttle’s son William Westaby Stuttle helping to implement the build. Being  experienced in the building of this type of bridge, Hazledine and the Stuttles would have needed minimal input from Telford.  

Telford’s workload was certainly immense at this time.  Just a few of these projects include ongoing on the Mythe Bridge over the Severn at Tewkesbury (started 1823 and completed 1826), the reinvented 3000 yard / 2743m Harecastle canal tunnel (started 1822 and completed 1827) and the Holyhead road (started 1810 and completed 1829) that included Holyhead harbour and two fabulous suspension bridges crossing the Conwy and Menai Straits.  He was also involved in a number or road and railway surveys.  Hazledine’s foundry provided the cast iron and the construction expertise for these as well.  This probably accounts for the presence of William Crosley, who was not usually employed by Hazledine and seems to have been brought in specially for this job.

By this point in both Telford’s and Hazledine’s careers, Eaton Hall Bridge was a very small  private project, but its decorative flourishes means that it stands out from other Telford and Hazledine bridges for its fragile beauty.  That it was the subject of much pride by those most closely involved with its construction is indicated by the incorporation of the names of its key builders  into the bridge’s design, preserved in raised cast iron lettering in the far corners of the delicate ironwork:  “William Hazledine Contractor” (in the northwest corner), “William Stuttle, Founder” (in the southwest corner), “William Crosley Surveyor” (at the northeastern corner) and “William Stuttle Junior Founder” (southeastern corner).  Unfortunately, apart from one corner that is clearly visible from the footpath (William Stuttle Junior), the other three are partially concealed by tree branches, so I was unable to get clear photographs.  The absence of Telford’s name in these credits also suggests that Telford was not directly involved in the construction of the bridge.

Next to the bridge and to its south, on the west bank of the river is Iron Bridge Lodge, a typically polished Grosvenor Estate building.  It was commissioned by the first Duke of Westminster, designed by the Chester firm of architects Douglas and Fordham and completed in 1895.  The plastic-topped black shed next to it doesn’t contribute anything positive to the aesthetic, but I assume that it is only temporary, and the Lodge is an otherwise very attractive addition to the bridge and its surrounding scenery.  There is a full description of it on the Historic England website.

View from the bridge to the north


Sources: 

Books and articles

Ching, F.D.K. 1995. A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

Glover, J.  2017.  Man Of Iron.  Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain. Bloomsbury

Rolt, L.T.C. 1958, 2007.  Thomas Telford. The History Press.

Pattison, A.  n.d. William Hazledine (1763-1840): A Pioneering Shropshire Ironmaster.  West Midlands History https://historywm.com/articles/william-hazeldine-1763-1840  (Pattison’s full 278-page M.Phil, on which the article is based, is available here: https://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/3358/1/Pattison12MPhil.pdf )

Website resources

Grace’s Guide
Eaton Hall Bridge https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Eaton_Hall_Bridge
William Hazledine https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/William_Crosley_(1802-1838)

Historic England
Eaton Hall Bridge
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1129943 
Iron Bridge Lodge
https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1138387

Engineering Timelines
Eaton Hall Iron Bridge
http://www.engineering-timelines.com/scripts/engineeringItem.asp?id=785