Thelwall. A township certainly, a city probably not, but we can dream. An ancient settlement at a crossing point of the River Mersey. At the boundary between Saxon Mercia and Norse Northumbria - an important place whenever the two kingdoms fell out!
Thelwall. Long on history but never large (until now). For most of its life a self-sufficient, farming community just like thousands of others. So why is it special? Well, how many villages have a nickname? 'Debtors' Retreat', not an enviable tag. Why does it still have a single-oar ferry? And two canals. It is threaded with footpaths. There is a remote handkerchief of land called 'Gallows Croft', the bones of William Geaton hung there. Long memories around here;
Thelwall History Group was formed in April 2019 - offering talks, walks and an archive on Thelwall and wider aspects of history and heritage. THG are very keen to collect information, photographs and memorabilia through bring and share sessions and oral/written personal histories of life and work in Thelwall. While the earlier history of Thelwall is recorded, its post-war expansion is not. One of the aims of the group is to capture and archive the more recent living history of Thelwall before it is lost.
Members can borrow books from the THG library and purchase publications on Thelwall’s social, family and landscape history and heritage.
A local resident has set up a Thelwall Memories Facebook Page sharing more recent histories
‘Investigating Thelwall’ is a heritage education pack offering support for teachers and uniformed groups.
The original Thelwall School Log (1872 – 1918) has been digitised, with permission of Mrs S Robinson, Head of Thelwall Community Junior School. This records key events in the life of the school and the local community. Linking names in the school log to memorials in the adjoining burial ground, a group of volunteers explored the children’s family histories and these are now available to use in the classroom.
Pre-history You can access the Cheshire Historic Environment Record (HER) which lists over 10,000 sites in Cheshire West & Chester, Cheshire East, Halton and Warrington at – www.cheshirearchaeology.org.uk
In 2003 Cheshire Archaeology published ‘Cheshire Historic Towns – Thelwall – Archaeological Assessment’ which is available online.
Anglo-Saxon – 1890s The usual quote about Thelwall being a ‘burh’, ‘burg’ or ‘city’, founded by Edward the Elder is from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
When James Nicholson, a Warrington solicitor, became Lord of the Manor of Thelwall (1845-1889) he compiled the ‘Chronicles of Thelwall in the Co. of Chester, with Notices of the Successive Lords of that Manor, their Family Descent etc..etc.’ This can be downloaded from the web. James Nicholson could write this since he had access to all the surviving manorial records – indentures, mortgages, legal briefs, maps and plans of the manorial estate as well as personal papers. These would have been kept in the Muniment Room of the Manor.
Some of these originals can be viewed on request at Cheshire Records Office, Chester. Collection reference: DDW 3765 – but be warned, this is a trolley-load of documents from 1585 – 1920. Other documents that relate to the downfall of John Pickering are to be found in the John Rylands Library – collection reference: EGT/4 and EGT/5
Using these and other records, local resident and historian, Mike Taylor, throws light on the story of Thelwall in the following publications: ‘No Mean City’ ‘Debtor’s Retreat’ ‘The Pocket Books of Thomas Percival’ ‘The Log of the Admiral John Parry Jones-Parry – from Cadet to Lieutenant 1845-1858’ Copies are available from Thelwall History Group or to purchase online click here >
Cheshire Records Office also holds records of the Chester Diocese and Births, Marriages and Deaths can now be accessed online at most major libraries in Cheshire.
Warrington Archives and Local Studies, Warrington Library, Museum Street offers plenty of local resources including Thelwall Township records, newspapers and periodicals (on microfilm) and local history publications.
Cheshire Records Office holds the Tithe Map and Schedule for Thelwall. One of the earliest maps of Thelwall is from 1743 drawn by John Bird and records the lands held by John Pickering. It also has an illustration of the old Thelwall Hall.
For an insight into Thelwall’s houses, farms and families 1910-1930, Reginald Leah’s recollections and very fragile maps are available at Warrington Archives and Local Studies Search Room.
The Google Earth App shows earlier aerial views of Thelwall (1938)
Thelwall was essentially an agricultural community until the interwar years when the manorial estate was sold off and given over to housing. The ‘village’ gradually extended further west towards Latchford and Grappenhall. The earlier Victorian expansion was to the south to Halfacre Lane and Weaste Lane as businessmen and professionals moved out of Warrington to Thelwall - the Rylands (Massey Hall, The Grange, Highfields), the Longs (Thelwall Heys) and the Naylors (Cuerdon Hall). This expansion was made possible with the coming of the railway to Thelwall in 1856. Many records relating to these families can be found in Warrington Archives and Local Studies.
Records relating to the Stantons of Bank House, the Gunpowder Factory and Greenfields (now Chaigeley School) are held at Preston Records Office and Matlock Records Office.
If we try to name the owners of estates in Thelwall, we have to start at the Norman invasion of England and begin with the first Earl of Chester, Hugh, a nephew of King William. These early earls of Chester had absolute power, a phrase often used to describe Cheshire was a place 'where the king's writ did not run'; there was no higher earthly authority. From the earls, Thelwall passed to the Constables of Cheshire and from them to the Duttons, a family whose reputation was as good estate managers. They were absentee landlords; local management would have been in the hands of stewards. In time, other families such as the Masseys and, later still, the Drinkwaters took over parts of Thelwall and it is only here, perhaps during 1450 to 1500 that the owners begin to live in our township in what were referred to as 'Capital Houses'. One of these was a grand house owned by the Drinkwaters on the site where the Grange Nursing Home now stands.
The first time we can be confident of a Manor House or Hall existing in Thelwall is a mention in a document of 1580. A Manor House was the home of the Lord of the Manor but this did not define a Lord of the Manor. He held this title or ‘job description’ only if he had the right and obligation to hold Manorial Courts in order to control the local population; he was the law.
The earliest sketch of Thelwall Hall is on an estate map dated 1743
The building of dovecotes in this country really took off once the Normans became established in England (took off??-sorry about that). There is a 12th Century dovecote at Rochester castle, for instance. Dovecotes seem to have been associated with the manorial system. Only Lords of the Manor could erect and service dovecotes; they provided meat and eggs throughout the winter for the manor.
It is highly likely that Thelwall had been an estate held by some powerful Saxon local leader before the Norman Invasion but no records are known nor did they appear to use the term 'Lords of the Manor'. After the Conquest, we can trace the names of Thelwall's owners.
All records relating to the church at Thelwall are held at Chester Records Office. For a history of the manorial chapel and the various phases of building the church you see today, visit allsaints.org.uk. More information is given in ‘No Mean City’ by Michael Taylor. The church has a number of guides to its layout, history and stained glass.
Apart from the Lord of the Manor and a wealthy freeholder, the only people in Thelwall who needed to write a Will were farmers and labourers. When one died, an order of probate needed to be granted so that the wishes of the deceased could be executed. This meant that an inventory of their possessions had to be made. The house and buildings were not valued. The valuers often began with a walk through the house followed by the outbuildings and finally looking at any other assets
A local businessman Mr Dilon agreed to purchase a piece of land between Stockport Road and the then railway line (now the Trans Pennine Trail) and in 1948 a large hut was erected on this land as the Branch's Club House. A year later a second hut was erected along side the first. This is the same land that continues to house the Club today.
The first record of a Scout Troop in Thelwall was in 1926 the leader being the local postman Sam Williams. It is not know how long this Troop was in existence as its records were destroyed during the second World War.
Thelwall Rose Queen first began in 1961 as All Saints Rose Queen Festival. The Rose Queen being chosen from the Sunday School.
Thelwall railway station was open for passenger use for only 100 years. It first opened to passengers in 1856 and closed due to dwindling numbers in 1956...
This article summarises memories received about the journeys taken by train in the 1940s and 1950s. Written by The Thelwall History Group.