We visit the old villages of Grappenhall and Thelwall…
A brief but intriguing history ………
It’s difficult to imagine what our Cheshire Villages must have looked like 2000 years ago but there is archaeological evidence of many small villages around the area dating way back, even before Roman Times. Certainly there was a settlement on the southern banks of the Mersey called Gropenhole in existence in 1086 as it is referred to in the Domesday Book. Indeed in Olde English this means ‘flat land beside a river’. It seems likely that this was indeed the origin of Grappenhall as it is today.
On the other hand Thelwall dates back to the Anglo-Saxon times as related by the legend that appears on the gable end of the 17th Century Inn, the Pickering Arms.
Thelwall ….. The smallest city in England
Thelwall was described as a “city” due to the building of a military fort on the orders of Edward the Elder as a defence for his army against the attacking Danes.
The inscription carved into relief on the timber frame OF of the gable end of the Pickering Arms reads:
“IN THE YEAR 923 KING EDWARD THE ELDER FOUNDED A CYTY HERE AND CALLED IT THELWALL”
The name “Thelwall” was like Grappenhall, thought to have a watery association possibly relating to a deep pool with a wooden bridge.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Grappenhall like this:
GRAPPENHALL, a township and a parish in the district of Warrington and county of Chester. The township lies on the Bridgewater canal, near the North-western railway and the river Mersey, 2¾ miles SE by S of Warrington; and has a post office under Warrington. Acres, 1, 540. Real property, £5, 566. Pop., 701. Houses, 139. The parish includes also the township of Latchford, and contains 2, 550 acres. Real property, £14, 438. Pop., 3, 586. Houses, 712. The property is subdivided. Garland Hall and Thelwall Heys are chief residences. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Chester. Value, £542.* Patron: the Rev. T. Greenall. The church was built in 1539. The two vicarages of Latchford are separate benefices. There two dissenting chapels, a national school, and charities £18
Property prices have certainly risen since then!
It wasn’t until 1936 that the two parishes of Grappenhall and Thelwall were merged although the villages they still retain their own strong identity as semi-rural residential suburbs of Warrington.
The peaceful, historic and rural village is situated alongside the Bridgewater Canal. The old village has a real charm with cobblestones running along Church Lane, village stocks, and a beautiful ancient Norman Church.
Originally, thatched cottages lined either of Church Lane leading up to the church at the head of the village. Amongst the cottages was a butcher’s shop, Post Office and general stores. The blacksmith’s smithy, present in all villages up to the beginning of the 20th Century, stood at the opposite end of the village.
However, these early buildings were replaced by a mixture of architecturally fascinating buildings, dating from the 17th to the 19th Century which are now private residential homes.
The red Cheshire sandstone Norman church of St Wilfrid’s, with its square tower, offers a significant focal point for the village. It was built initially in the 12th Century.
It’s square tower is well known for boasting the carved relief of a “Cheshire Cat”, THE Cheshire Cat referred to by Lewis Carrol in Alice of Wonderland? Who really knows!
Although it isn’t easy to spot, this sculpture certainly features on many tours of the area.
The well known Stanney Lunt Bridge, over the Bridgewater Canal, effectively separates the historic village from the 1930+ residential developments to the North.
The areas known as Latchford, Latchford Without and Grappenhall itself, are reported to have been held in Saxon times by two men called Edward and Dot who were tasked by William the Conqueror to be in charge of establishing order after the ravaging of the area by fire and sword in the early 11th Century. They were ordered to cultivate the 2400 acres this area represented. Now that’s a LOT of land. The Doomsday book records them as having 2 serfs, 1 villein and 3 bordars to do the job with the few families that probably lived in the area ……. maybe 50 people at most! (Source www.boydellfamilyhistory.com)
Thelwall lies to the East of Grappenhall bounded to the North by the Manchester Ship Canal. The old village is another important Conservation Area with the Pickering Arms at its centre.
The Pickering Arms:
This Grade two listed building, steeped in history, is ideally located close to the Trans-Pennine way and the Penny Ferry. Open all day every day, this popular traditional pub is well worth a visit.
There is a spacious car park and a welcoming log fire on colder days with outdoor seating in the summer months. Home cooked food is served from Monday to Friday Noon to 2pm and 5.30pm to 8.30pm. with all day service on Saturdays and Sundays. The Sunday roast is a real “must” to sample.
A major midweek feature is the Tuesday quiz with three prizes up for grabs, play your cards right and a jackpot. On a Friday night there is also live music featuring local bands.
Opposite the pub, if you take a short stroll down Ferry Lane, as you might expect, you would reach the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal with the old river ferry crossing with the ferryman’s hut providing special social and historical interest.
The Old Village:
The old village opposite the Inn is full of character with a row of 19th Century traditional brick cottages, their red brick blending well with the red sandstone of other buildings in the area.
A wide variety of architectural styles can be found in dwellings extended into the open countryside around Thelwall, notably Thelwall Old Hall, and Weaste Lane Farm with it’s part timbered frontage dating back to the 19th Century.
As with Lymm and Stockton Heath, the
Chaigeley School with distinctive architectural style dating back to 1747, was originally Greenfield House, the home of the Stanton family. This family were major benefactors of 18th Century Thelwall. Today this building is a specialist residential school and the spacious grounds, whilst not open to the public, lend a spacial atmosphere to the village centre. The War Memorial at the junction of Bell Lane and Lymm Road was erected in 1923 and honours a thousand years of settlement in Thelwall as well as the fallen of two World Wars. Opposite this is Bell Lane Cottage, locally known as Rachel’s Cottage.
Are there really ghosts here?
Thelwall is renowned for many stories of ghosts centered around the old buildings remaining in the area. The local pub, The Little Manor seems to be implicated in most of the sightings. However there have been stories of witches at the old White House with the well on the outskirts of Thelwall.
Much of modern village life in Thelwall centres around the Victorian All Saints Church, which was built on the site of a much earlier church, and the Parish Hall on land adjoining the grounds of Chaigeley School. The Church of England is represented by All Saints Church.
Thelwall has two public open spaces within the Conservation Area, each of which has its own distinctive character. One is the small village green on Thelwall New Road. The second is Elizabeth Park, which is of vital importance to the village with its sweeping parkland views, mature trees, walks and sports pitches.
Special mention must be given to the locally well known Morris Dancing Team, the Thelwall Morris Men who make many appearances around the area.
During the summer, the residents of Thelwall host their Rose Queen event which has been running for over 50 years and features one of the biggest float parades in the area. The local community clubs, schools, scouts and residents congregate together every year to put on a show of themed floats in the parade and set up attractions and stalls on Thelwall Parish Field.
The Trans – Pennine Trail
The Trans-Pennine Trail connects to a network of footpaths providing many well frequented beautiful rural walks through the area. It can be accessed down Ferry lane to carry you along the banks of the canal towards Lymm