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The History of Weaverham

The name of the village is Saxon in origin. 'Wivreham', 'Weverham', 'Weaverham' and 'Waverham', have all been used to name the hamlet on the banks of the River Weaver.

The settlement may be older as some evidence is available for the existence of a Roman road branching off Watling Street to cross the river possibly at, or near, Saltersford. Support for an earlier settlement may come from the discovery of an Iron Age axe at Acton.

The crossing over the Weaver is the likely cause of a hamlet in the area, although the growth of the Saxon manor owes much to ownership of the Earl of Mercia and its proximity to Delamere Forest.

The evidence for Weaverham before the eleventh century comes from the Domesday Book 1086. Although compiled for William I (1066-87), it records the situation in the reign of the Saxon king, Edward the Confessor (1042-66), for comparison with England after the Norman Conquest. It is a reasonable assumption that the Weaverham of the middle of the 11th century was similar to previous Saxon centuries.

This Saxon settlement was one of the most important in Cheshire. Only Chester, Nantwich and Eastham on the Wirral are recorded as being worth more. In size, according to estimates based on Domesday evidence, (a 'hide' being assumed to he c. 120 acres, a 'virgate' c. 30 acres, a ploughland or carucate c. 160 acres) it covered some 6,821 acres or 10.7 square miles. This would have included present-day Weaverham, Milton, Gorstage and Sandiway. Also associated with it were Acton, Onston and Wallerscote. Cuddington, which by the 19th century was part of Weaverham, appeared as a separate entry in Domesday. There were links with the Forest of Delamere through Crowton. The reference to 'hays' (deer enclosures) and land given to the forest may help to explain its prosperity with 'The Frenchman in the hall' indicating hunting accommodation for the visiting Earl provided by a resident steward.
The local importance was also destroyed by its association with Edwin, Earl of Mercia. He was involved in a rebellion in 1067. Weaverham, along with other of the Earl's possessions, almost certainly suffered in the destruction wreaked by William and his armies in the infamous 'Harrying of the North' as they marched on Chester in 1068.

The new Earl, Hugh of Avranches, found Weaverham 'waste' but, by 1086, was well on the way to restoring some of its fortunes. The population was between 100 and 200, which out of a national population of one and a half million indicates a substantial size.

The Middle Ages saw a steady, though not spectacular growth. In 1272 the last baronial owner, Roger de Clifford gave the manor to his wife Lauretania. On her death, it passed to the Crown as part of the Earldom of Chester. In 1277 Edward I founded Vale Royal Abbey, traditionally in return for being saved from shipwreck during a Channel crossing. Part of the land given to the monks in that foundation was the manor of Weaverham.

For the next 300 years, the Cistercian monks of Vale Royal ruthlessly ruled Weaverham, probably from Hefferston Grange. They maintained a prison and a courthouse. By tradition, the site of the former is in the vicinity of the footpath that leads from High Street to Fieldway and the coal merchant's yard, while the latter became the Grammar School. The Ledger-book of the Abbey contains some interesting references which cast light on some aspects of village life at this time.

In 1350 a Quo Warranto Inquiry established the Abbot's right" ... to have in the manor of Weaverham a free court every fortnight, prison and gallows, and to have toll of all his men and tenants buying salt etc., and to have serjeants of the peace for thieves and malefactors etc...."
In 1337 "Richard del Halle took to farm the mill of Onston..." for "...40 quarters of corn..." four times a year, "... 2 good mill-stones and 1 mark of silver..." and the upkeep of the mill. The mill was still in use into at least the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Also in 1337, John le Fysser rented the weirs of Warford (Wallerscote) and Sortfield (Saltersford)..." for "48 strikes of eels and 12 large eels yearly." One of these may have been the "half a fishery" mentioned in Domesday. He was also expected to sell the rest of his catch to the Abbey.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Vale Royal, including Weaverham, was sold to Sir Thomas Holcroft on 1st August 1542. The Abbey passed to the Cholmondeley family but the manor went to Thomas Marbury of Marbury Hall. In 1708 it was sold to Richard Earl Rivers under a decree in chancery, (probably because of a gambling dept). The son-in-law of Rivers, James Barry, Earl of Barrymore, bought it then and it passed into the Smith-Barry family of Marbury. The family were substantial benefactors to the village. Manorial rights ended at the death of the last of the family in 1930.

The Weaverham of 1801 was a sleepy rural Cheshire village where only 1040 people followed largely agricultural employment. 120 years later the village had not significantly changed with barely 2111 inhabitants. The change to Weaverham came in the 1930s, with the need for housing for I.C.I. workers. Houses in Owley Wood, Forster Avenue and Northwich Road date from this time. This followed by the post-war building boom backed by I.C.I. and Northwich Rural District Council led to a steady increase into the 1970s. Since then it has settled down to a population of about 7,500. (1931 3179; 1951 : 5264; 1961 7764; 1971: 7936; 1981 : 7471)

Although some of old Weaverham still survives much has been lost. For many years from the turn of the century until well after the Great War, Weaverham altered hardly at all. New housing developments began the change in the character of the old village. Unfortunately road widening and other factors lost seven of the old black and white (Magpie) cottages so typical of old Cheshire.

The saddest loss is that of the old village craftsmen. The Smithy with its Farrier and the Shoemaker's workshop have gone from Station Road. Also the Wheelwright's and Carter's from West Road. Saddlers, tinsmiths, printers and clogmakers have all gone from the village.

Old street lighting with paraffin oil lamps and the village lamplighter have vanished too along with several farms, the Vicarage and the old Ring O'Bells.