A Brief History of Weaverham
The name of the village is Saxon in origin. Wivreham, Weverham, Weeverham, Wevresham, Waverham and Weaverham are some of the alternatives but they all mean the same – the village on the winding river – ie 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 also come from the discovery of an iron age axe at Acton.
The crossing over the Weaver is the likely reason that a hamlet was established in the area, although the growth of the Saxon manor owes much to its ownership by the Edwin, 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 is a reasonable assumption that the Weaverham of the middle of the 11th century was similar to that in 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 Domesday mention is made of a resident priest as well as the Church and a mill to serve the hall (thought to be at Hefferston Grange). In size, according to estimates based on Domesday evidence, (a ‘hide’ being assumed to be 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. Before 1066 the manor was owned by Edwin, Earl of Mercia and brother in law of King Harold. However after the Norman Conquest, in 1068 he joined in a rising again William I and Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, was sent to lay the country “waste”.
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 he 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 the Cistercian 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 and in 1299 its value was given as £25 3s 10d.
For the next 300 years, the Abbot of Vale Royal had absolute power over the people of Weaverham. There was a court and a prison. By tradition, the site of the prison is in the vicinity of Chapel Street off the High Street, while the court became the Grammar School [founded in 1638] in Forest Street.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Vale Royal including Weaverham, was sold to Sir Thomas Holcroft on 1 August 1542 with a value given of £464 10s 0d. The Abbey passed to the Cholmondeley family but the manor went to Thomas Marbury of Marbury Hall.
During the Civil War the parliamentarian Sir Thomas Aston exercised all manner of outrages and intolerable taxes. In March 1642 he “plundered Weaverham and the countrie about, they carried old men out of their homes, bound them together, tyde them to a cart, drave them through mire and water above the knees, so brought them to that Dungeon where they lie without fire or light, and now through extremities are so diseased that they are readie to yield up the Ghost.”[i]
In their turn the Cavaliers were described as having “defaced the Schoolhouse, broken down windows and doors and destroyed the seats” while in the church the damage was “the windows broken, pewes pulled down and other seats much wronged.”
After the war the churchwardens petitioned the quarter sessions at Knutsford for payment for damage inflicted on the school house and church and they were authorised to “make a lay” for repairing the buildings.[ii] When the Monarchy was restored Weaverham celebrated by buying a new set of King’s Arms which were placed in the church in 1661.
In 1708 the manor was sold to Richard Earl Rivers under a decree in chancery, (probably because of a gambling debt). The son-in-law of Rivers, James Barry, Earl of Barrymore, subsequently bought it and the manor 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.
By 1801 Weaverham was a sleepy rural Cheshire village of 1040 people who largely followed agricultural employment. By 1901 the population was 1882 and the village had not significantly changed. The biggest development in Weaverham occurred in the 1930s with the need for housing for ICI workers. Houses in Owley Wood, Forster Avenue and Northwich Road date from this time. This was followed by the post-war building boom backed by ICI and Northwich Rural District Council and led to a steady increase in the housing stock into the 1970s. Weaverham now has a population of 6087 as shown in the 2011 census. (1931 – 3179: 1951 – 5264 : 1971 – 7936: 1981– 7471: 2001 – 6293).
Weaverham is a thriving community with 2 parades of shops, 3 primary schools and a high school, pubs, restaurants, a doctor, dentist, churches, a library, community centre and a small swimming pool. It has good access to trains, motorways and Manchester airport and is a fine place to live and work while being surrounded by lovely countryside.
[i] “Tracts relating to the Civil War” printed for the Chetham Society in 1909.
[ii] Record Soc of Lancs and Cheshire, Vol 94