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  • Writer's pictureOur Green Warrington

Heritage: Latchford History Group

Updated: May 24, 2021


Above: Knutsford Road, looking towards the Cheshire Cheese Inn, 1920s


 

The Importance of History and Heritage


Learning about local history and heritage can help to inspire a sense of community and belonging. From the period architecture we pass every day to the changing landscape of our neighbourhoods, understanding how our villages and towns have evolved can encourage greater emotional and economic investment in them - and can also assist us in imagining how we would like them to look in the future.


While we can gather knowledge on such things via the internet, sole reliance on Google searches for information can lead to a two dimensional, thin portrait of a place - statistical, geographic and demographic data that tell us the "what" and "where" - but not necessarily the "why" or "who".


On the other hand, those who are willing to share local information and personal stories at a community level provide us with a layer of knowledge unique to the fabric of that location - they can teach us about the historical and cultural significance of our surrounding environment and in doing so, perhaps will encourage us to preserve it. Conservation and sustainability have never been so important, and the more we understand about a place, the more likely we will be to look after it.


One local collective working to preserve and share the past is The Latchford History Group. Formed in 1996, their aim is to research and promote the history of Latchford - from its architecture and geography to its community and the story of their lives and livelihoods over the centuries. They make their findings available through exhibitions, publications and via their website, having accumulated a significant archive of photographs, film, audio recordings and documents.


Barbara Worrall, the group's Chairman says, "The Latchford History Group embraces the past with enthusiasm. We are inevitably surrounded by change and progress, and an interest in local history gives us an understanding of what the area used to be like and how and why it has developed into the place we live in today."


Here, Barbara and fellow historian, Mike Kenwright tell us a little about Latchford, with some fascinating images from the past.



 

Above: Latchford Locks


 

A Brief History of Latchford


Latchford lies south of the River Mersey in the County Borough of Warrington. The ancient ford whereby the crossing of the Mersey was made possible - before the first bridge was built - was the origin of the name 'Latchford', deriving from ‘a ford over a laecc or stream’. From this ford, which allowed people to cross the river, the township of Latchford developed. Originally the land was part of the parish of Grappenhall.


Feuding families led to the building of a bridge over the Mersey. The Boydells of Latchford were charging tolls to ford the river. The Botelers of Warrington built the first bridge in 1285 down stream of the ford and were granted the right to charge tolls. This brought the Botelers in direct conflict with Boydells, who owned the land on the Latchford side of the bridge. This conflict of interests lasted many years.


By 1485 the Earl of Derby had built a new bridge over the River Mersey. He left money in his will to maintain the bridge and to free it from tolls. This was a blow to the Boydells and to Latchford. It affected greatly the weekly market and annual fair that had been granted to the Boydells. However, now people could attend the Warrington markets and fairs free from any tolls.


Little change took place in Latchford over the next two centuries. It was mainly agricultural land, still in the parish of Grappenhall. As the Industrial Revolution approached major changes came to the area. The course of the river was altered, cutting off the loop where the ford was sited. In 1770 the Bridgewater Canal was built on the southern boundary. By 1801 Latchford was divided by the building of the Old Quay Canal. It should also be noted that by 1801 the population had reached 752 and by 1831 it had increased to 2166.


Two separate settlements were emerging: one was near to the Warrington Bridge where cotton mills, pin mills and other factories were sited. In 1777 St James Church was built close to the bridge as a Chapel of Ease from St Wilfrid's Church, Grappenhall. It was here the first 'Sunday School' was founded in 1779.


The other settlement not far from the original ford became known as the village of 'Latchford' and it subsequently grew to meet the demands of the increased population. Tanneries had opened in Latchford and were owed by eminent Latchford families.


By 1847 Warrington Borough boundary had been extended to include Latchford. Further changes in the area were the coming of the railway - and Latchford Station, which opened in 1860. There was also the opening of Christ Church in 1861 as another Chapel of Ease from St Wilfrid's Church, Grappenhall.



Above: This was the original Latchford Railway Station. Due to the building of the Manchester Ship Canal, the railway line had to be raised to a higher level. A new station was built on what became the site of the Cantilever Garden Centre and is now set to be residential accommodation. This image shows the old Latchford Station is about 1890. it closed for business on 9 July 1893, the same day that the new station opened.



When the Manchester Ship Canal was opened in 1894 it divided Latchford once again. The land south of the canal became known as 'Latchford Without'. This gave the area several bridges across the canal. New approach roads were built to allow the crossing of these bridges. One was a high level cantilever bridge to allow the boats to sail underneath and three of the bridges have to be swung open on the approach of any passing canal traffic. Locks were built to allow the boats to proceed through higher land towards Manchester. Latchford Locks has proved a lasting landmark. Another lasting landmark in Latchford is Victoria Park, bought by Warrington Borough Council in 1897. It had previously been The Old Warps Estate, which dates back to the reign of Charles II.


Above: Forest Street, Latchford



During the twentieth century further changes saw Latchford develop into the place we know today. Housing estates were built on Loushers Lane, Westy and Chester Road, which led to new schools and shopping areas to meet the demand of the ever increasing population.


Although now firmly established as part of Warrington Borough Council, Latchford still keeps its identity, both geographically and by the people who live or were born and raised within its boundaries.


Above: Knutsford Road, Latchford


Barbara Worrall

 

Frederick Street, Latchford


As a member of Latchford History Group I am always keen to help people asking about Latchford and its past. The latest query I saw was - why is Frederick Street, Latchford so called?


The Latchford History Group Street book tells us it was named after Frederick John Carlisle. Although he never lived in the street, he had a row of substantial terraced houses built on land which he probably purchased from the owners of the plague house.


In pursuing Frederick Carlisle further I have come to the conclusion that he was a local entrepreneur who worked hard and made a substantial amount of money for himself and his family.


He was born in Penrith in 1839; by 1871 he was living in Market Street Warrington with his wife Sarah Ann and five sons. He had a Beer shop and a Butchers shop. Over the ensuing years his properties on Market Street amounted to the Cattle Market Pub, a Butchers Shop and a yard where the cattle were slaughtered. He also had meat stalls in the new adjacent indoor market. By 1891 Sarah Ann had died and he was now married to Mary Jane. He now had two daughters and nine sons, the eldest four all working as butchers.


In her article, ‘Memories of the Old Market’ Anne Podmore describes the scene;


"The Meat Hall where the butchers stood besides haunches of beef, hatchet at the ready to make chops and joints to sell and display on their counters. Looking back from the top of the steps through the fish market men woman and children of Warrington did their shopping. Through to Market Street where stood the Cattle Market Inn, the venue of farmers who came to town to barter for the best prices for their grain and produce. Across the street from the Cattle Market entry could be gained into the huge ‘rag’ market where anything could be bought very cheaply. All at the heart of the town of Warrington."

Above: Market Street c. 1950s


The Cattle Market Pub and Slaughter Yard came up for Auction in 1900, the sale taking place at the Blue Bell Inn. It was bought by Greenall Whitley who renovated it throughout and the next licensee was F. Bonnell, followed by Mary J. Bonnell.


A Headline from the Liverpool Echo in 1950 reads;



"WATER IN THE GIN"


For selling gin adulterated with 7 per cent. of excess water, Mary Jane Bonnell aged 72, licensee of the Cattle Market Inn Warrington was fined £5 at Warrington Magistrates Court today. The barman, James Thomas Fleming, of 5 Birchall Street Warrington was fined £5 for aiding and abetting.




The pub finally closed in 1974.


Frederick Carlisle died in 1901. By 1911 his widow Mary Jane with three of her children was living by her own means. They resided at Kenilworth, a large house on Victoria Road, Grappenhall.


In his will, Frederick Carlisle left the houses in Frederick Street to his son Frederick, born in 1880, but unfortunately he was killed in France during the First World War. In the 1935 Directory two of his family were still living in Frederick Street.


The street was gradually developed with more housing. At the end towards the Canal was a small holding ran by Joe and Lucy Nurse. They sold eggs and vegetables. Joe would ride his bicycle with a large basket on the front full of produce to Latchford Village and barter its contents for other groceries.


There were further allotments plus temporary accommodation for the navies who were building the Manchester Ship Canal.


In 1953 four police houses were built and further pasture land around the street was made into playing fields for Richard Fairclough School.



Barbara Worrall

 

The Plague House



The black and white timber and plaster house which was in Wash Lane and known as the Plague House was built in 1650 by Richard Warburton. Wash Lane was then the old road to London and alongside the road ran a wide brook which rose at every high tide of the river, and had to be crossed by stepping stones. In June of 1647, the House of Commons issued an order saying that Warrington (and Chester) was grievously visited by the plague, and that public collections to assist the poor in these areas were to be taken the next day in all churches and chapels in London and Westminster. A further outbreak of the plague occurred in 1654. It is believed that the family living in the house built by Richard Warburton were one of those who suffered from this later outbreak of the plague, as the top of a stone which formed part of the round coping of the court-yard, had been hollowed out. Its cavity was four and half inches square and two inches deep. Stones of this nature were used during the plague to pay for provisions, as the money was left in the hollow in a mixture of vinegar and water to disinfect it. Further evidence of the plague being present here, lies in the field at the back of the house, where human remains have been found, not buried in coffins, but under sandstone slabs, suggesting a very hurried interment. All of these clues suggest where the origin of the name ‘Plague House’ lies. The house was always a private dwelling house, being lived in by a succession of families, sometimes in later years by as many as four families at one time. Sadly, due to its poor state of repair, it was demolished around 1962.


Latchford History Group

 


Raddon Court



Raddon Court was a large house on Knutsford Road opposite the Hollies. It was built by a tannery owner named Sylvanus Reynolds, a native of Devon, who had moved to Warrington in 1846 to work with his uncle, William Reynolds at Latchford Tannery. In 1862 at the age of 32, Sylvanus married the 18 year old Jane Banks of Hill Top. They resided at Blackburne House. By 1868 he had first become a partner in Latchford Tannery, and then the sole owner. He was at this time becoming a prominent and highly respected member of the Warrington Community. Amongst other things, he was a local Magistrate, Chairman of Arthur Waring & Co., Chairman of the Castle Rubber Co., and Chairman of the Lion Hotel Co. He was by now the father of a large family so he built a large house in the grounds of Blackburne House and called in Raddon Court. This was the name of his family home near Crediton in Devon. He gave the same name to his tannery.


To the row of cottages which he built for his workmen on the other side of the tannery, he gave the name Raddon Place. Unfortunately, Sylvanus was to live for only four years in his new house as he died in 1887 at the age of 57. His death was caused by a shooting accident at Peasfurlong Moss when, whilst crossing over a wire fence, the trigger of the gun caught in the wire causing one barrel of the gun to discharge, shooting him in the knee. The injuries to his knee were so severe that his leg had to be amputated later that same day. Despite the very best of medical assistance, Sylvanus died early the next morning. His death was mourned by the whole town, but in particular by his wife Jane and their twelve surviving children. Jane also lived to be 57, and died at Raddon Court in 1901. In 1911 Raddon Court was bought by Greenall Whitley. In 1914 it was cleaned and furnished and loaned to the Red Cross for use as the first military hospital in Cheshire. The hospital was closed n 1919 and the home of the Reynolds family was demolished in 1940. The site has since had several uses, firstly by the Territorial Army, as a brewery for Truman’s beer and by Roy Trevor Storage and Removals.



Latchford History Group


 

Latchford Locks


Above: Culverts under construction, Latchford Locks



The locks at Latchford are the first locks that ships have to negotiate after entering the Manchester Ship Canal at Eastham, 21 miles away. Between Latchford and Salford Quays there are three other sets of locks - at Irlam, Barton and Mode Wheel, giving a total of five locks over the canal's 36 mile length. At Latchford the water level is raised by 16feet 6inches and the lift of the three higher locks varies between 13 and 16 feet, while at Eastham the amount of lift is variable depending on the state of the tides.

In January 1890 the River Mersey broke through its retaining banks and flooded the cutting. including the partially constructed locks at Latchford. This was immediately followed by a period of hard frost lasting six weeks, during which time it was not possible for any work to be done. The lock walls are not totally solid - they have culverts built into them complete with sluice gates to allow the lock chambers to be filled and emptied as required. The gates are controlled by levers which protrude from the tops of the walls.



Above: Latchford Locks frozen, 1890

Alongside each set of locks are sluice gates and these, along with Woolston Weir and other sluices further down the canal are used to maintain water levels over the length of the waterway.



Above: Culvert and sluice gate, Latchford Locks

The construction of the canal was completed by December 1893 - and the Directors of the canal company hired a Mersey ferryboat to take them the full distance of the canal from Eastham to Manchester.


January 1st 1894 saw a convoy of vessels carrying dignitaries - including Warrington councillors - on a cruise from Latchford Locks to the docks at Salford, followed by cargo vessels. The first ship to unload a cargo on that day was the S.S. Pioneer of the Co-operative Wholesale Society(CWS).

On May 21st 1894 the MSC was officially opened when a ribbon was cut by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria aboard the Admiralty Yacht "Enchantress".

The Paddle Steamer "Ivanhoe" was photographed in the large lock at Latchford soon after the canal was opened. The pair of houses under construction were built to house the Lock Master and his assistant.

Above: The Ivanhoe, Latchford Locks



All images courtesy of Latchford History Group

 

More information about Latchford History Group


The group meet every Wednesday 10-00am to 12-00 noon at St Hilda’s, Club Room, Slater Street, Latchford, Warrington


They hold an informal meeting each week where they discuss ongoing projects and embrace any future ideas. Occasionally they invite speakers to focus on relative subjects.


They organise outside visits on a regular basis to places of significant interest to members and work on publications relating to the history of the area.


This year sees the 25th anniversary of the group and it is hoped that there will be an opportunity to celebrate this milestone later in the near future.


To learn more about Latchford History Group, to sign up for their newsletters - containing interesting personal histories and stories of the streets and architecture of Latchford - or to make enquiries about joining the group


Contact Barbara Worrall Chairman Tel. 01925 266282





If you have interesting histories or accounts of your own area of Warrington - do get in touch!




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