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MICKLE TRAFFORD & DISTRICT – LOCAL HISTORY
Mickle Trafford Local History Book – The book includes reminiscences back to the 1920s by Walter Johnson, dairyman and lifelong resident. There are also sections on church and chapel, education, railways, farming, houses and pubs as well as general prehistory and history – Out Now – Softback £10.00. Contact – Mickle Trafford School Bursar or Mickle Trafford Village Shop
What is the significance of Trafford? Bisecting the District is the River Gowy. In the old days it had to be crossed by fording whereas today there is a bridge. Imagine the scene some 2000 years ago. To the South the forest hides the view; to the North the view opens as the land slopes towards the Mersey estuary and the sandstone promontories of Picton. The low ground is also tidal and liable to flooding.
Subsequently the Romans came and established their fortified camp (castra) at Chester which they called Deva. Deva was chosen as it had the facility for a good port and although tidal was relatively free from storms. Deva was also a good central point for communications from where the Romans set about extending their influence northwards.
Mickle Trafford is also adjacent to the railway junction of the Cheshire Lines Committee and the LMS/LNER railways. The LNER ran from Manchester to Chester & the LMS from Chester to Liverpool. These lines are now part of Railtrack. Unfortunately the station was closed some 40 years ago before the village population had increased to its present 2000.
Chester Archaeologists place the Street leaving the Eastgate and then going immediately northeast along Flookers Brook (Hoole), through Newton Hollows and onto Mannings Lane. This was also the route of the initial Chester to Warrington coach road. The route was turnpiked in 1786. In the early 1980s an excavation was carried out in Roadside Field (owned by David Rowlands) proving the presence of the Roman road. Beyond here, the road turned to ford the River Gowy alongside the present bridge.
A question arises as to why did ‘The Street’ bend towards the modern bridge?
Roman roads do not bend unless there is an obstruction or obstacle ahead.
A Geological Survey Map shows the make-up of the ground in the meadows of the River Gowy. If the Roman road had gone straight ahead prior to its present turn, it would have needed to cross a low and wide floodable peat area fed by three streams. By turning the road, its alignment goes over ground that is slightly higher and of red boulder clay giving a more substantial material to construct the road on.
Even today, although there has been material spread to fill the peat area at some time, the growth of reeds still indicates where the wet area had been. This floodable area starts just prior to the junction of the Morley Brook with the River Gowy and spreads southwards beyond the railway.
As previously mentioned, a Roman road only turns if there is an obstacle ahead, and on this occasion there was such an obstacle. Therefore the Romans turned the road for a short distance.
There was an area lower downstream from the present bridge which was floodable. The floods spread across the fields to the rear of the Builders Merchants on the A56 and towards Picton.
The Wilderspool Roman Road.
If ‘The Street’ had run from the present Gowy Bridge it would pass over the fields to the north side of the A56 and Turnpike taking a straight line to the Roman Ford which was immediately prior to the Dunham Hill Filling Station. There is no evidence of this being the case.
In late 1986 evidence of the Roman road was found in a field known as Pavement Hey along the north side of the Morley Railway Bridge (1850). This was excavated by myself and later by Frodsham Historical Society. The Roman road ran from Morley Bridge under the straight section of the A56 as far as a ford prior to Dunham Hill Filling Station.
To find the crossing on the River Gowy a line was drawn back along this straight section of the A56 from Dunham Hill to the north side of the railway bridge and continued straight on until it crossed the River Gowy. This proves that there was a second ford on the Gowy. The extension of the estimated line on the opposite side of the river goes to meet with the road by the Shrewsbury Arms.
Therefore the Roman road that goes to the present road bridge is certainly not the Wilderspool road.
Where the Wilderspool road crossed the river there are several large sandstone slabs on edge as if forming a kerb away from the riverbank. There is also a dip in the original embankment to the river, which leads down towards the river. Another hint of a clue to the old road could be seen in the crop of hay in the field where the dip starts. This route was probably that of the Salters road.
This upper ford (Wilderspool Road) would eventually have flooded due to the constant use the lack of maintenance. Maintenance, which should have been provided by the Estate Owners or the local villagers in those days was probably never done.
The Shrewsbury Arms being the older Inn and owned once by the Earl of Shrewsbury would have been built here by the junction of two roads, like many of the older pubs in England which were mainly built by road junctions. The Shrewsbury Arms in this case also provided facilities for travellers of the old coach road, and for the many foot travellers having to wait until the waters subsided from the floods.
When the Turnpike arrived in 1786 and due to costs of maintenance it would have been far cheaper and easier to construct one new road and a bridge over the Gowy on slightly higher ground, where it is today. The Nags Head was only constructed after the time of the Turnpike.
Recently several Roman coins were found by Metal Detectorists on the east bank of the Gowy close to the old ford.
Roman remains have certainly been found in the grounds of Ince Hall, therefore there would be a road or several roads leaving the area of the village. One road was found by two members of the Frodsham Historical Society that ran from Ince to Helsby where it crossed the Wilderspool Roman road. They traced it as far as Alvanley then lost all trace in ploughed fields.
Bridge Trafford to Ince
If an estimated line is drawn along the Roman road from the Mickle Trafford Trout Farm to the ford by the present bridge, its alignment would take it along two straight sections of Ince Lane. There is no visual evidence of the road across the fields that were once owned by Bridge Trafford Hall and Trafford Hall. The present Ince lane to the A56 is typical of the ones being constructed at the time of the turnpike. It is very likely that at the time of the arrival of the turnpike the two Trafford Estates paid for a completely new road that is there today which avoided running through the grounds close to the halls. None of these transactions would be kept in their records for fear of reprisals in later years.
A Roman road always carried the status of a public right of way. If the road was closed down or ploughed out, it was never the less still a public right of way. This is why the Estates never kept records of any of the old roads that crossed their lands.
One of these days someone might find the Roman road to Ince, as there must be sections of it still in existence.
The Street written by John Dutton (28/8/08)
St Peter’s Church
St Peter’s Church is one of the oldest and most historic churches in the diocese of Chester with a recorded history going back to the original church built during the 7th century.
In the 7th Century, a sailor adrift on a raft, vowed that if he came safely to shore he would build a church at the place where he landed. His raft finally touched land at the Isle of Chester and there he built his church, dedicating it to St Peter, the fisherman who walked on the water.
In the second half of the 9th Century, St Plegmund built a hermitage on this Island before being called away to teach King Alfred and being made Archbishop of Canterbury in 890. Soon afterwards the Isle of Chester became known as Plegmondestowe or Plemstall, that is Plegmund’s Place.
The church of Plemstall was originally a rectory in the gift of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul in Shrewsbury, later becoming the property of the College of St John in Chester being served only by a Curate. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the ministers have been licensed as perpetual curates.
The present church dates from the 15th Century and is in the late Perpendicular style. The lower part of the chancel screen was made soon after 1422 in memory of William de Trafford. There are fragments of medieval glass from the years 1000 to 1400.
Key dates in the history of the church are:
* 1558 The Register began
* 1663 Two bells installed
* 1665 One further bell is installed
* 1697 The date of the churchwarden’s pew
* 1722 Three decker pulpit installed
* 1749 Churchwarden’s accounts started
* 1802-3 Roof and aisles repaired
* 1819 Whole body of the church restored
* 1826 The wooden bellcote was replaced by a tower
* 1957 Roof restored following ravages by death-watch beetle
* 1966 Electric lighting installed
* 1968 Electric heating installed
No history of St Peters would be complete without the mention of the Rev JH Toogood who was rector from 1907 to 1946, interrupted only for his military service in Malta during the First World War. He devoted himself to producing the many woodcarvings in the church. These carvings include:
* Top of the Chancel Screen – eighteen figures
* Above the Chancel Screen a figure of Our Lord on the cross with figures of the Virgin Mary and St John on either side
There are many more and are well worth a visit. The Reverend Toogood did many things for the church and these remain as a remarkable memorial to his skill and devotion. He is buried in the churchyard.
Saint Plegmund’s Well
A hermit called Plegmund lived in a cell on the Isle of Chester where St Peter’s Church was built in the 9th century when Cheshire was part of the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. The King,Alfred the Great, who reigned from 871 to 901, summoned him.
Plegmund undertook a great amount of reform and was given a number of high offices by King Alfred ultimately becoming Primate of All England in 890. It is recorded that ‘Plegmund, an Eremite in the Isle of Chester, now called Plegmundsham tutor to King Alfred was by him preferred to be Archbishop of Canterbury’. A learned man he spent much of his time writing producing some of the best Saxon literature. He visited Rome and later crowned Alfred’s son, Edward the Elder. Plegmund died in 914.
In his native county Plegmund was remembered by the construction of the Church of Plemstall. However it was not until the reign of Henry VIII that a substantial building using Cheshire red sandstone was erected giving us the church we have today. Originally there was a wooden belfry which was replaced by the stone tower in 1826.
St Plegmund’s Well is said to have been used by Druids before Plegmund used it to baptise converts who came to his cell. In 1908 the Archdeacon of Chester dedicated the Well to perpetuate the association of St Plegmund with the Holy Well.
More recently there has developed the practice of Well Dressing where strips of cloth are tied to adjacent thorn bushes.
The Gibbet Field
Opposite Plemstall Lane is a field known as Gibbet Field
In 1796, the horse rider, only 15 years of age, with His Majesty’s Mail from Warrington to the City of Chester was assaulted. And the mail stolen. Whilst deciding on how to carry out the attack the perpetrator, Thomas Brown and his associate called James Price, stayed with a friend at the Nag’s Head in Bridge Trafford.
Eventually they were arrested near Birmingham and the two highwaymen were executed on Saturday 30 April 1796 both being about 26 years of age. In accordance with the custom their bodies were hung in chains where they stayed for 30 years! When the pole was taken down in the 1820s a Robin’s nest was discovered in the head of James Price.
Mickle Trafford Mill
Trafford Mill lies in the valley of the River Gowy which, until the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 into which the river flows, was tidal. It is probable that in the Middle Ages the Mill operated as a semi-tidal mill during spring tides.
The Mill was acquired by the Cheshire River Board in 1954 in order to develop a system of river improvements begun by Italian prisoners of war and is now owned by the North West Water Authority.
During the Middle Ages there were a number of small ‘manors which included the parish of Plemstall. The name Trafford is more properly associated with the Trafford family at Bridge Trafford who played a significant part in the history of the area and are commemorated in Plemstall Church. The Trafford line died out in 1654 when Thomas Trafford was killed at the Battle of Naseby. Mickle Trafford, Magna Trafford or Great Trafford after the Conquest belonged to the Fitzallan family. For the whole of the 14th Century, the Earl of Chester whose estate it formed part leased it to various people until taken over by the William Troutbeck in 1416. The Troutbeck line ran out in 1510 and the inheritance passed to the Talbots who became the Earls of Shrewsbury and continued to hold an interest until 1917.
The earliest reference to the Mill is in 1302/03 in the Cheshire chamberlain’s Accounts, which refers to the Earl leasing the Mill to Richard the Engineer who was Military Engineer to Edward I in the Wesh Wars. In 1303/04 the profits of the Manor and the Mill were granted to the valet of the Prince of Wales. In 1464 there is mention of the Mill in the records of the Troutbeck family.
In the Land Tax Returns 1784-1832 show that the Earl of Shrewsbury leased out his estate in small parcels until 1823 when he took overall control. The Mill today is probably the result of improvements completed in about 1830. In 1851 Rupert Fernyhough was the Miller and his younger son, Frederick becmae the Miller in 1871. He died in 1893 and is buried alongside his father at Plemstall Church. In 1893 James Owen, a corn chandler, of Chester became tenant of the Mill and the last Miller, Mr Tourle started work at the age of 20 where he worked for the rest of his life. In 1897 became tenants and Charles Wright of Picton took the tenancy of Trafford Mill Farm then 35 acres. The Miller occupied the house now known as Mill Cottage.
In 1917 the Mill was auctioned by the absentee landlord, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and purchased by the tenant.