Newest Review: ... In Medieval times, Warrington provided an important bridging point across the river Mersey. It also played an important part during the C... more
A town proud of its historic heritage
Member Name: NomadSue
Date: 21/02/10, updated on 21/02/10 (554 review reads)
Advantages: Easy access to the 4 corners of the Uk through the motorway network.
Disadvantages: Unemployment, disadvantaged areas, loss of character in the town centre.
Warrington, Cheshire (formerly Lancashire)
Warrington lies on the Liverpool - Manchester Railway line. It is linked to the North, South, East & West of the UK by the M6, M56 and M62 motorways, facilitating improved trading and transport opportunities for the town. It is within easy reach of both Manchester Airport and Liverpool Airport. It is within 30 miles of the sea, about 70 miles from the beautiful Lake District, approximately 30 miles from the Peak District, and about 15 miles from the historic city of Chester.
At first glance, Warrington looks like any other northern industrial town. There is the usual array of pubs, churches, shopping centres, schools, and other town facilities. Perhaps in some ways it is a sad, old town, wrestling with more than its fair share of unemployment and deprivation. There are the affluent, privileged areas, predominantly in the south of the town. Beautiful housing near lovely countryside. And there are the less privileged areas, mostly centred in the northern side of Warrington. Private housing standing cheek by jowl with corporate housing.
Over the last 35-40 years, the town has changed beyond all recognition. Old industries have died, resulting in high levels of unemployment. The atmospheric old market, which consisted of hundreds of tiny stalls, has been replaced by a relatively sterile modern market. The beautiful, though possibly unhygienic old Fish Market, with its characteristic marble slabs, has been removed. Only the roof and four supporting pillars remain in the square. Old shops have been replaced by the ubiquitous chain shops. Now there is a modern shopping centre that almost rivals Trafford Centre. A shoppers' paradise, maybe. An individualistic town centre, maybe not.
Many people consider that the town centre has become a 'no go' area at night-time because of many reported incidents of drink-related violence. I admit to feeling a certain amount of trepidation when venturing in for concerts at Parr hall or to attend special events at Porters Bar, an old pub in the town centre that hosts an acoustic night each week. However, if sensible precautions are taken, one should be safe enough.
Let us consider the history of this old town.
Warrington has been a town of great historical significance since ancient times. There was a Roman settlement at Wilderspool. In Medieval times, Warrington provided an important bridging point across the river Mersey. It also played an important part during the Civil War. The armies of Cromwell and the Earl of Denby stayed locally.
So, dig deep and you will find a wealth of fascinating features and historical gems. Here are some of my favourites:
1. The legend of the pig
The charming village of Winwick, which lies on the A49, the main route out of Warrington towards Wigan and the north, has a beautiful old church built up high from the road. In Spring it is surrounded by a stunning display of golden daffodils. Historical records show that a church existed here at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. The oldest part of the present church dates from the early C14, though inside is a cross piece from the head of an Anglo-Saxon cross. According to local legend, the original plan had been to build the chuch on the other side of the road. However, each night a pig moved the building materials to the present location of the church. In the end, the builders gave up and erected the church where it still stands some 600 years later. Look carefully at the west side of the tower and you can see a carving of the pig!
2. The Penny Ferry
The Penny Ferry is a small rowing boat, propelled by a single large oar at the back of the boat. It has been operating since the Manchester Ship Canal was constructed between 1887 and 1894, to connect the city of Manchester via the Mersey Estuary to the Irish Sea. When the canal was dug, it cut through a local footpath and an Act of Parliament decreed that the locals had to be allowed continued access to the other side of the water. So the unique Penny Ferry was created. The fare was traditionally one penny, even as recently as the 1970s, but now the fare has risen to 11p each way! Go to the Thelwall side of the canal and summon the ferryman by ringing the large bell. In the 1970s, the canal was still a busy thoroughfare for ocean-going ships, so the ride across could be quite exciting! There is only a bit of wasteland on the other side, so it will not be long before you summon the ferryman back again, striking the large bell situated on that bank.
3. The Town Hall Gates
These majestic gates stand proudly in front to the Town Hall. They were originally made for display at the International Exhibition in London in 1862. Apparently they were offered as a gift to Queen Victoria, who declined the offer. Initially kept in Ironbridge, Shropshire, they were eventually presented to the town of Warrington by Mr Frederick Monks in 1893. Unfortunately, the rest of the railings were torn down to supply metal for weapons and munitions in World War II, and were never replaced. In 1977, £33,000 was raised to restore them to their original beautiful black and gild state.
4. Cromwell House
Near Bridgefoot, there is a statue of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell is believed to have stayed in the beautiful old, timbered building next to the Sainsbury's supermarket, the building now being used as an Indian Restaurant. Across the road stands the public house 'The Marquis of Granby', which bears a plaque claiming that the Earl of Denby had had his quarters nearby. Look closely at the walls of the Parish Church just dwon the road, and you may observe dents in the church walls, perhaps caused by the canons from the time of the Civil War.
5. 'Bauming of the thorne'
Each June the village of Appleton hosts a special event, the bauming of the thorne. This ceremony dates back to the 19th century, when it was part of the village's Walking Day. On the Saturday nearest to Midsummer's Day, local schoolchildren dance around the tree.
"Bawming" means "decorating" - during the ceremony the thorn tree is decorated with ribbons and garlands. According to legend, the hawthorn at Appleton Thorn grew from a cutting of the Holy Thorn at Glastonbury, which was itself said to have sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who arranged for Jesus's burial after the Crucifixion." Wikipedia (http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki /Appleton_Thorn)
6. The Parr Hall
The Parr Hall is the last surviving professional concert hall / theatre venue in Warrington. Big names performing here in the past have included the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, The Who and the Arctic Monkeys. Comedians such as Kenn Dodd, Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr have also performed here. The hall is still used to house an exciting range of concerts and is the home of the Warrington Male Voice choir.
Of particular importance is the magnificent Cavaille-Coll organ, listed by English Heritage. It is "classed as a significant work by the French organ builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll. was first installed in the Parr Hall during 1923 to 1926."
7. Risley Moss
Risley Moss is my favourite part of Warrington. There are 200 acres of raised peat bogs, wild and beautiful. This fragile mossland became of vital importance during the Industrial Revolution when huge amounts of peat were stripped to meet the needs of horse and cattle bedding in the developing cities. Further changes occurred during the Second World War. "A vast munitions factory took shape on the edge of the bog, hidden from enemy bombers by mists off the Moss. Here, labouring day and night, 30,000 (mainly women) workers produced a staggering one million mines and 500,000 high explosive shells. Though the German air force targeted the supposedly secret site, only one enemy bomb fell anywhere close." http://www.warrington .gov.uk/Leisureandculture /Localhistoryand heritage/parks/Risley.aspx
Now Risley Moss is acknowledged as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a designated Local Nature Reserve. The Visitors' Centre provides a wealth of interesting information about the local fauna and flora. There are bird hides to allow twitchers to observe the variety of birds visiting this reserve.
I love to stroll round this nature reserve and marvel at the beauties of the passing seasons.
8. Movement of the Warrington Academy
On 21st May 1981, an astonishing feat of engineering was achieved, when the Warrington Academy, a 600 tonne building constructed circa 1745 at the lower end of Bridge Street, was moved 19m as part of a road widening scheme. Engineers used 'a novel combination of high-pressure grease and 'Floatpads', manufactured by Glover Engineering of Manchester.
So, Warrington - a town of beauty? No. A town of interest? Certainly. A town with a proud, creative past. A town with high hopes of a successful future.
Visit the town website at: http://www.welcometowarrington.com/ and learn more about this fascinating old town.
Learn about the soap works, the old wireworks, the old breweries, the half-timbered Barley Mow pub, the Territorial Army base, the Warrington Wolves, the town's brilliant rugby team, Walton Hall and gardens, the Golden Square shopping centre, opened by HM the Queen in 1980... Meet the people, tune in to the range of local accents.
Don't pass this town without a thought. It has a lot to commend it.
Summary: A proud, Northern town
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