Weaverham History Society

“The Dig”: Sutton Hoo and a Local Connection

Netflix is not usually on the Weaverham History Society’s sources for local history matters. However, the recent film “The Dig”, from an original book of the same name by John Preston, tells a semi-fictional story of the Sutton Hoo Excavation.

Newlyweds Frank and Edith Pretty purchased a property in southeast England in 1926. After her husband’s death in 1934, she started to investigate the property, which included strange mounds scattered across it. In 1937, Edith decided to have the site excavated, contacting a nearby museum. Archaeologist Basil Brown began excavation the following year and in 1939 made the history-book-altering discovery. The plot of the film develops from there and rest assured no spoilers will be further revealed.

What is of interest is the fact that Edith Pretty has strong connections to the Mid Cheshire area.

Vale Royal circa. 17th Century

From 1907 to 1925, Edith’s family took a lease on Vale Royal Abbey; indeed, her father, Robert Dempster paid for the Abbey’s restoration. Edith grew up here, engaging in public and charitable works and an example still exists today; the Dempster Cup was donated in 1926 to the local council in Winsford to present to a local allotment holder annually. A recent correspondence suggests the cup is still being awarded and is the oldest community award in the area.

As a further connection, in medieval times Weaverham was in the ownership of Vale Royal up until the Reformation. In 1926 Edith married Frank Pretty. The picture below may have become another family heirloom or a footnote in local history but for the fact that on her marriage Edith relinquished the lease of Vale Royal Abbey and purchased the Sutton Hoo estate in Suffolk.

Edith Pretty Wedding Party

The rest of course is History!

Warrior Helmet

And some fiction?

“The Dig”

Meanwhile, just to remind you, our next Zoom meeting is on

Tuesday 13 April 2021 at 7.30 pm – details are below,

and we look forward to seeing you all then.  However, we also hope that you will be able to join us in person when our meetings resume later in 2021.

Jacquie Williams, Chair and the Committee

Please see our revised schedule on our Programme page:


Weaverham History Society promotes the study of and interest in history and archaeology with particular reference to Weaverham and the surrounding area.

The Society meets at Weaverham Primary Academy, Northwich Road, Weaverham, Northwich, Cheshire, CW8 3BD.

Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month and we invite a guest speaker to talk to us on a topic of historical or archaeological interest, though sometimes the subjects range further afield.  You can see what’s planned on our Programme page.

Membership is £15.00 per year with renewals in September. Payments can be made by BACS sort code 09-01-29 a/c 26685458. Meetings are free to members of the Weaverham History Society, children and students. Visitors are requested to pay £3 at each meeting.

We also organise highly enjoyable visits to local places of interest in spring and summer usually by coach from the village and we seem to have started a tradition of having a yearly canal boat trip as well. The Society normally invests in the services of Blue Badge guides on our visits.  We also have a very enjoyable Christmas event every year, the talk commonly having a seasonal flavour.

We have articles on a range of topics, mainly about Weaverham, but also covering the surrounding areas. Although not a dedicated family history group, we do have some information on local families, and are always interested to hear from you.
We are continually developing our Archives and we have an array of items (objects, maps, and photos).  We are always grateful to receive any contributions.  

As we expand our new website you will be able to see some of what we have by visiting our Weaverham Archives page.

The Weaverham History Society also has a Facebook page.

We launched this website in January 2016, but while we move things across you can still find the old website at http://history.weaverham.org.uk/index2015.htm

Zoom meeting on 13 April 2021

After another extremely successful March meeting we can look forward to our next Zoom meeting on Tuesday 13 April at 7.30 pm. In April we will have Tony Bostock, a well known local historian, talking about Vale Royal.

Tony is the author of a number of books and many articles on various aspects of Cheshire history, contributing regularly to the annual journal, Cheshire History. Much of his work is published on his web-site: www.tonybostock.com. He is a regular speaker to local history and family history societies and other organisations throughout the county.  As well as being a member of a number of academic societies in the region, he has been an active member and Chair of the Executive Committee of the Cheshire Local History Association since its formation in 1998. He also chaired the Northwich Heritage Society and has been the Chair of the Winsford Local History Society. Having retired from a professional life in public service, Tony applies himself to the research and study of local history, heraldry and genealogy.

An 1829 engraving of Vale Royal
from “Neale’s Views of Seats”

Vale Royal Abbey is a former medieval abbey and later country house at Whitegate. The original building was founded c1265 by the Lord Edward, later King Edward I, for Cistercian monks. Edward intended the structure to be on a grand scale. Had it been completed it would have been the largest Cistercian monastery in Europe – but his ambitions were frustrated by recurring financial difficulties and the Welsh wars added to which what was eventually what was built fell down in a storm!  When work resumed in the late fourteenth century, the building was considerably smaller than originally planned. Throughout its history the abbey was mismanaged and poor relations with the local population sparked riots. These included the murder of an abbot, rape and robbery. There was internal disorder too. The abbey was described in the early sixteenth century as a ‘damnable and sinister regime’, hence the title of the book. Vale Royal was closed in 1538 by Henry VIII during his Dissolution of the Monasteries. Overall a ‘failed enterprise’ – a failure in the monastic ideal and in never becoming the grandiose building intended.

I should like to thank all those who have contributed to our meeting costs. This has really made a difference. So thank you very much. If anyone would still like to contribute, payments can be made directly using our BACS sort code 09-01-29, account 26685458.

So do join us in April. If you would like to attend the April meeting please contact the Society on


As before I will initially send out an acknowledgement and then nearer the time send a Zoom link together with the meeting ID and password so that you can join the meeting.

I will also send out a reminder in advance of the meeting.

I look forward to seeing you in April.


The Battle of Britain 10th July – 31st October 1940

 80th Aniversary 2020

Never was so much owed by so many to so few

Following the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and the fall of France, Germany planned to gain air supremacy in preparation for the invasion of Great Britain.  The Luftwaffe began with an air and sea blockade targeting coastal shipping, convoys and shipping centres but on 1st August 1940 they were directed to achieve air supremacy by incapacitating RAF Fighter Command.  Within days this led to them not only targeting airfields but also aircraft factories and infrastructure.

The Battle of Britain was the first military campaign fought entirely by air forces and the bravery of RAF pilots of Fighter Command flying Hurricanes and Spitfires supported by ground crew led to the defeat of the Luftwaffe forcing Hitler to abandon his invasion plans.  The Battle of Britain was fought over Southern England and was later to be followed by the Blitz (starting with a bombing campaign over London and later targeting other major cities in the country such as Liverpool).

The Battle of Britain saved the nation from invasion and we have to thank the many pilots of the RAF as well as those from other countries who fought so bravely and, in many cases, sacrificed their lives.

Read more here.

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