Culcheth Local History infill in association with infill taylor business park
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A Little Local History

The earliest indications of human habitation in the area come from Bronze Age pottery found near Southworth Hall in Croft, which gives a date of over 4,000 years ago. In 1980, a ancient barrow was excavated by Liverpool University Archaeological unit. Pottery from the barrow dates it to around 2140BC. 400 years later, a earthen mound was raised which may have featured some form of wooden structure as well as containing 3 burials. The site was used for at least a further 300 years, with a second mound and at least nine burials being dated to 1440BC. The site, now quarried away by the workings of Gaskell's sand quarry, also contained over 800 further burials, dating from pre-Saxon times.

Until after the Norman Conquest, this area was densely wooded, and lay on the edge of an extensive peat bog, remnants of which still survive in the local 'Mosses', as they are now known, such as Chat Moss and Risley Moss. There is no mention of the village in the Domesday Book, although the neighbouring mother-parish of Winwick is recorded. There is some evidence that Winwick may have been an important Celtic site, known as Caer Gwentquic, and it was certainly an important point on the Roman road north, now the A49. It's historical association with King Oswald, who was killed in "Macerfeld" (Makerfield??) on August 5th 641AD, mark it as an important place in what is known as the Dark Ages.

There is a suggestion that Culcheth may have been the site of an ecclesiastical meeting between King Aethelbald of Mercia and the local bishops in the 8th Century. The venue of this meeting is given as Chalchyth, although alternative spellings of Cealchythe and Cloueshoh are also recorded, and at least one translation renders this as "Chelsea". The Anglo-Saxon chronicles record that in 785AD there was a "contentious" synod held at Cealchythe at which Egferth, son of King Offa, was consecrated as king - was a king really crowned in this village?

Other synods and meeting, one involving papal dignitaries from Rome, are recorded as taking place between 785AD and 816 AD and there is reason to suspect that some form of Abbey or Monastery must have been site in or near Culcheth during those times, although no trace of it now remains.

It is believed that the name 'Culcheth' originated from an Anglo-Saxon corruption of an older Celtic name for 'at the edge of a wood', which is assumed to refer to the forest that was here in those times. Other neighbouring villages, such as Glazebury, Kenyon and Croft, also have names derived from Celtic origins.

Culcheth Milepost
Milepost at the village boundary
The first definite mention of the village is found in a survey dated 1212 AD that records that Gilbert de Culcheth built the first Culcheth Hall in or around the year 1200. His grandson, the 3rd Lord of the Manor, died in 1246 with no male heir, and so the lands were divided between his 4 daughters, the Holcrofts, the Risleys, the de Culcheths and the Peasfurlongs. One of these daughters, Margery, was wedded to Hugh de Hindley, and they retained possession of the Hall itself, with her husband taking the family name of 'de Culcheth'. Culcheth Hall survived until the late 1950's
Culcheth Mill is mentioned in a deed of 1270, and was probably sited on the site of the recently demolished Daisy Bank Mill in the Village centre. Other mills were operating within the area at that time, probably using the River Glaze, a tributary of the Mersey, which flows to the east of the village, as a source of power.
For the next 600 years there were numerous inter-marriages between the original 4 families, along with bouts of murder and double dealing, split faiths during the reformation, split loyalties during the Civil War, the marriage of Maria Holcroft to the infamous Captain Thomas Blood, and the eventual demise of the 'Culcheth' family with the death of Thomas Culcheth in 1747, without male heir. Culcheth 1610 Map
A map extract from 1610 showing the original parishes of 'Kilcheth', Holcroft and Newchurch along with Southworth Hall and 'Ryfley'
Eventually, the estate was sold to a Peter Withington in 1824, and his family retained the lands until the beginning of the 20th Century when the last Squire Withington emigrated to South Africa. The Withington Family are immortalised locally by the naming of Withington Avenue, which was the track leading to the original Hall, and were responsible for the planting of the impressive avenue of trees along present-day Culcheth Hall Drive, and the many groves of woodland within the village.

On October 17th 2001, Charles Withington, the great-grandon of Squire Withington, resident of South Africa, wrote to this site, "What a delight to find that Culcheth is so dynamic in spreading the news. Well done !! Grandfather will be smiling in his grave. Day after day, over a hundred years on, the grandfather clock that the people of Culcheth gave my great grandfather strikes and chimes with absolute regularity. We think of you."

Culcheth Parish Church
The Parish Church
The base plan of the village has changed little from that shown on an enclosure map dated 1751, with the main roads of today following exactly the route of the roads from almost 250 years ago. The Village Green, previously used as common land for hundreds of years, was eventually given to the children of the village, in perpetuity, in exchange for permission to build 3 shops fronting the main road. The name "Newchurch" which is found throughout the village, refers to the building of the village's first church in or about 1560, as a separate, new church, from the mother-church of St. Oswalds in Winwick, some 5 km away. The original New Church burned to the ground in 1903 and had to be rebuilt from scratch, as a new, New Church. It is said to be the largest parish in England, covering some 10 square miles.
Census figures from 1801 show the local population to be a little over 1,800, which increased to over 2,500 with the opening in 1830 of the world's first passenger rail service, the Liverpool-Manchester railway, and the world's first railway junction, at neighbouring Kenyon. The population stabilised at around 2,200 for the remainder of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The village was connected to the main rail system by the building of the Wigan-Glazebrook line in 1878, and two stations were built within the village, Culcheth, now the site of the Ranger Service on the Linear Park, and Newchurch Halt, approximately 1Km east, near New Hall Farm .
A workhouse and elementary school had been situated in the village centre, across from the Green since at least 1660. In 1899, the Salford Board of Governors purchased land in the village and, in 1903, built the Culcheth Cottage Homes, as a model village for deprived children, ie, an orphanage. It was converted to a hospital for the mentally handicapped after the second World War, which in turn was closed in the 1970's. Newchurch Hospital
Part of the now-refurbished Newchurch Hospital complex
Today, the Cottage Homes have been extensively refurbished and sold to private individuals as exclusive, and much envied homes, and the remaining hospital buildings have been similarly converted for private usage.

The local High School was built at the junction of Withington Avenue and Warrington Road in 1932, and is a flourishing school to this day, with an excellent academic record. The establishment of the Atomic Energy Authority in the neighbouring village of Risley in 1946 was the stimulus for a period of relatively rapid growth as new homes were built for the staff, and the rural backwater became the bustling village of today. The building of Risley Remand Centre (now Prison), and the development of the Science Park in Birchwood provided further impetus to growth, and the building of more residential estates. Population rose dramatically in the post-war years, from a little over 4,100 in the 1951 census, to 9,001 in 1971. Current population is around 11,500. It was claimed that, in the 1970's, as a consequence of the neighbouring Science Park, Culcheth had more graduates per head of population than anywhere else in the country.

Library
The Village Library
Prior to the local government re-organisation of 1974 which saw the village being placed in the county of Cheshire, Culcheth had been at the southern end of the county of Lancashire, along with Warrington, the nearest sizeable town, and the seat of the original Barons over 800 years ago. The village now has its own Parish Council, although most powers are retained by Warrington Borough Council.

References

Thanks are due to the staff of Culcheth Library and to the books "Historic Culcheth" by Rosemary Keery, and "Celtic Warrington and Other Mysteries" by Mark Olly for invaluable insight into the often murky history of the village.

Other resources:

Mort Family - a genealogical conundrum and history of the Morts including their links with the Lythgoe family

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