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1868 - The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland

"NANTWICH, (or Namptwich), a parish and market town in the hundred of Nantwich, county Chester, 20½ miles S.E. of Chester, 161 N.W. of London. It is a railway station on the Crewe and Shrewsbury line. It is situated on a level plain on the old road leading from London to Chester, and principally on the right bank of the river Weaver, which is here crossed by a substantial stone bridge of one arch. At the lower end of the town is an aqueduct for the Grand Junction canal, which passes over the road by an iron bridge, and unites in the neighbourhood with the Chester, the Ellesmere, the Liverpool and Birmingham Junction canals, and the Middlewich branch canal. The parish is of large extent, comprising, besides the town of Nantwich, the chapelries of Alvaston and Leighton, and the hamlets of Willaston and Woolstanwood. The land is chiefly rich pasture, appropriated for dairy farming, and the cheese made is highly esteemed. The town of Nantwich is mentioned in the Domesday Survey by the simple designation Wick, witch in Saxon signifying salt-works, for which the town was anciently famous, and subsequently took the prefix nant from its situation in the rich valley of the Weaver, It was at one time called Wich-Malbane, from William de Malbane, to whom it was granted by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, who had built a castle here shortly after the Conquest. It was then enclosed by the river on one side, and on the other by a ditch. Its early history is closely connected with the border wars of the Welsh. In 1113 the town was laid in ruins by the Welsh; but in 1146, having again devastated the surrounding country, they were met at Nantwich by the king's forces, and entirely routed. In 1282 Edward I. advanced to Nantwich against the Welsh, and granted the citizens certain privileges. In the reign of Henry III. the brine pits were filled up, in order to distress the Welsh, who carried on a considerable traffic in salt; but on the restoration of peace the wells were again sunk, and the manufacture of salt continued to be the source of wealth and employment to the inhabitants for several centuries, there being no fewer than 300 salt-works in operation in Leland's time, some of which belonged to the crown and some to families of distinction. Shortly after this period the industry began to decline, and in the reign of Charles I. the pits scarcely averaged half the former number-the decline being chiefly owing to the discovery of superior springs lower down the Weaver, where the advantage of water carriage was more readily accessible. The town was twice almost consumed by fire, in 1438 and 1583, and the plague appeared in June, 1604, when nearly 500 persons were swept away in less than one year. During the period of the civil war of Charles I. it was taken in 1642 by the royalists, but soon after garrisoned for the parliament, and besieged in January, 1644, without success by Lord Byron, who was here routed by Sir T. Fairfax. The town at present consists of three principal streets, which unite near the church, and some other smaller streets connecting these. The streets are indifferently paved, and many of the houses, which are commonly built of timber and plaster, with large bay windows and projecting upper stories, are as old as the 16th century, and were probably built of the timber from the forest of Delamere, presented by Queen Elizabeth towards the more speedy completion of the town after the great fire of 1583. The principal public buildings are the market-house, built in the last century on the site of the old market cross-it is a small covered erection supported on pillars; the police office, on Snowhill, built in 1848, with a large room where petty sessions are held, and a residence for the superintendent attached; the savings-bank, in Welsh-row, a brick edifice erected in 1846 at a cost of £1,000; the mechanics' institute, in High-street, established in 1846; the Manchester and Liverpool district bank, situated in Mill-street, and two other branch banks; also the union poor-house, a spacious brick building situated on Beam Heath, about a mile from the town. The number of inhabited houses in 1851 was 1,120, with a population of 5,426, which had increased during the decennial period of 1861 to 1,310, with a population of 6,225. The government of the town is under the management of a local board of health, which has recently effected great improvement in the drainage and water supply. The chief manufactures are shoes and boots for houses in London and Manchester, leather, and gloves, also a cotton factory in Mill-street. There are some malting establishments, and cheese is extensively made in the neighbouring farmhouses. In the vicinity of the town are many residences surrounded by parks and gardens: amongst these are Cholmondeley Castle, a seat of the Cholmondeley family, who take the title of baron from this place; Crewe Hall (burnt down 1866), of Lord Crewe; Doddington Hall, Doddington Park, Peckforton Castle, Combermere Abbey, Dorfold Hall and Park, Shrewbridge Hall, and Nantwich Rookery. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Chester, value £300. The church, dedicated to SS. Mary and Nicholas, is a cruciform structure with an octagonal tower 110 feet high, rising from the intersection of the nave and transepts, and containing a peal of six bells. The interior of the church has a groined roof, large E. window, consisting of a repetition of small windows of flowing tracery, and crowned externally with a crocketed canopy. The chancel is separated from the nave by a stone screen, and has canopied stalls said to have been brought from Vale Royal Abbey; also sedilia and canopied niches on either side of the E. window. Just without the chancel, at the northern angle of the screen, is a carved stone pulpit, for some years disused, also a carved font and several monuments and brasses. The restoration of the church, which has been going on for several years, is now (1865) nearly completed. There are places of worship for the Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Independents, Baptists, Wesleyan Association, and Unitarians and Society of Friends, to which last a burial-ground is attached. The new grammar school, situated in Welsh-row, is one of the chief ornaments of the town; it is of brick, and only just completed. There are also National, British, and infant schools, and a large Wesleyan school in Hospital-street. The charities are numerous and liberally endowed, including several bequests for education, also Wilbraham's, Wright's, and Delves' almshouses, and Sprout's charity for apprenticing boys, altogether producing above £800 per annum. Nantwich poor-law union comprises 86 parishes and townships It is also the seat of superintendent registry and new County Court districts. General Harrison, who fought on the side of the parliament in the civil war of the 17th century, Gerarde the herbalist, who died in 1607, and Whitney the poet, were natives. Minshall Milton's widow died here in 1726. Saturday is market day for corn and provisions throughout the year, and a cattle market is held on the same day between the months of March and June. Fairs are held on 26th March, second Tuesday in June, 4th September, and 4th December.

"ALVASTON, a township in the parish of Nantwich, hundred of Nantwich, in the county palatine of Chester, 2 miles to the N.E. of Nantwich. Races are held here once a year."

"BEAM-HEATH, a hamlet in the parish of Nantwich, and hundred, and union of Nantwich, in the county of Chester, 17 miles to the S.E. of Chester. It is situated near the river Weaver, and the London and North-Western railway."

"LEIGHTON, (or Leighton Chapel), a township in the parish and hundred of Nantwich, county Chester, 2½ miles from Middlewich, and 5 from Nantwich. It is a small village, situated near the river Weaver and the Grand Junction canal. The old seats of the Brooke and Erdswick families are now converted into farmhouses. There is a place of worship for Primitive Methodists.

"WILLASTON, a township in the parish and hundred of Nantwich, county Chester, 1 mile N.E. of Nantwich, and 20 S.E. of Chester."

"WOOLSTANWOOD, a township in the parish and hundred of Nantwich, county Chester, 3 mile N.E. of Nantwich."