Welcome

Welcome to the Stretton History website, which is a community project aiming to bring together and share photos and stories about the village of Stretton near Warrington.

Stretton has a fascinating past, and as residents of the village, we’re keen to piece together snapshots of Stretton’s colourful past over the years.

If you would like to get involved or can contribute information, please contact us. There’s so much to learn, it would be great hearing from you. You might:

  • have lived in or know the village or surrounding area
  • know about the church, school or businesses in the parish
  • know or have information on any of the families who have historically lived in Stretton
  • know about the farms
  • have photos, stories, documents or papers relating to Stretton’s past
  • just have an interest in finding out more!
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Census Day

Today is the date by which we need to complete the 2021 census. It’s something on the list of things to do, along with possibly the weekly shop and maybe the first cut of the year for the lawns. However the census is only ever undertaken once every ten years so that makes it bit more special. It’s a snapshot in time – of life in Britain on 21 March 2021. Just as it was on 6 June 1841; 30 March 1851; 7 March 1861 and so on. As everyone knows, the personal information is kept secure for a hundred years and then released. This means that we’ll get to see what our parents/grandparents/great grandparents wrote in 1921 in January 2022.

This census is the first on-line. Previously an enumerator walked about the village taking down the details of each household and then collating into handwritten forms.

To bring this more to life here are the census returns from the place that we call The Partridge, although many others will know it as the Hollow Tree and before that, Walls Pit House. The Whitley family lived at Walls Pit House in the 19th century; Charles Whitley was a contemporary of Charles Darwin at Cambridge. More about the house and family here.

The 1841 census below only asked for the name of the residents, their age to the nearest five years, occupation and whether or not they were born in the same county:

Walls Pit House – 1841 Census

Here we can see George, Peter, Ann and Mary Whitley along with Elizabeth Eaton and James Brotherton. Other than the latter whose occupation is down as MS (male servant) there is no information about the relationship between the other occupants.

By 1851 we can see more information such as relationship and place of birth:

Walls Pit House – 1851 census

It is quite difficult to read – even when enhanced, so if you’re interested in tracing your family tree, it’s always worth going back to a copy of the original census return. In 1851 we can just about make out that it was a family of unmarried siblings, with George Whitley the head being a non-practising surgeon. His brother Peter Whitley had presumably also retired from law, and both were living a life of relative luxury compared to the other residents of Stretton, along with their three sisters.

Ten years later in 1861 the data collected was more or less the same. So on the face of it, it’s all quite factual, but as we follow the family over the years, we can see that sisters Ann and Mary were living at Walls Pit alone and presume that their siblings had died. What we can see is that they were well looked after with now five servants:

Walls Pit House – 1861 Census

So far so good, but we’ll skip forward twenty years to 1881 to show that obtaining data from census returns for individual houses isn’t always easy. For larger properties or with an enumerator who had an eye for detail, it’s quite straightforward, but the 1881 Census for Stretton looked like this:

Walls Pit House – 1881

Not only is the writing particularly tricky to read, but the names of the houses aren’t listed either. This means that it’s very hard to work out who lived where, especially when cottages were all rented and families moved around the village or local area in search of work. Fortunately in 1901 the enumerator that year was more diligent and all the names of the properties are included and the entries clear to read:

Walls Pit House – 1901 census

In 1901, the Whitley family were still living at Walls Pit House, and the level of detail required to be entered hasn’t really changed that much in 60 years. By 1911 each house had their own form to complete. Other than the details of the marriage and number of children, the details were pretty much the same:

Walls Pitt House – 1911 census

This is as far as we can go at the moment with the raw data, we’ll have to wait to see what the 1921 census forms reveal in about nine months’ time.

However this is just the start. We’ve already seen that we can track the Whitley family who lived and owned Walls Pit House for over 70 years. By transcribing the entries, and then collating into spreadsheets then we start to get a picture of all of the village, and that’s when it starts to give a real picture of life over the past century in Stretton. If you want to see the transcribed census returns for Stretton, please have a look here or get in touch.

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Memories of Stretton 1917

In the middle of the First World War, a young boy of 12 moved from Manchester to work at Hillside Farm and this is his story. What makes it special is that it has been told in an article in Cheshire Life and thanks to his grandson, there is also a wonderful audio recording made in 1972 of his time here just over a century ago. It’s always fascinating to read accounts of what everyday life was like, but Charles Samson speaks with such clarity it brings it all to life.

Before we go any further, we should just note that Hillside Farm is technically over the border in Appleton – along from Owen’s Corner. Over the past few months in lockdown the footpath past the farm has become even more popular for our daily exercise, so many from Stretton will be very familiar with the farm and fields around.

Hillside Farm 1874 Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland under the Creative Commons Attribution licence

As with nearly all of Appleton, Hillside Farm was owned by the Lyons Estate from Appleton Hall. Tenant farmer, Ralph Tickle and his wife Ellen ran one of the most successful beef farms in the county. His great grandfather, John Tickle, had moved from Bold. Lancashire to Lower Whitley in 1805 and his descendants married into prominent farming families such as Whitlow, Neild and Horton. By 1894 Ralph Tickle had married Ellen Horton from Little Leigh, and moved to Hillside Farm where they raised their young family.

In his reminiscences, Charles Sampson (1903-1996) recalls his time at the farm as one of seven young boys living with the family in the farmhouse. Hillside Farm was very large and progressive, with cattle brought over from Argentina into Liverpool and then to Warrington on the train. He writes of driving over 200 head of cattle from the station up London Road from Stockton Heath and the farm work he was required to do with the calves. He speaks with obvious pride at being allowed to be in charge of driving the heavy shire horses and flat lorry down to Stockton Heath at the young age of 13 to collect the brewers grain from Greenall’s.

Charles Sampson talks fondly about the abundance of food compared to his life back home in Manchester, the meat hanging up in the pantry, the cheeses along the side and the jars of bottled fruit. He paints a vivid picture of the village on a Sunday which includes the family’s attendance at St.Matthew’s for the evening service, where each farmer, his wife, children, farm and house staff sat in their row in church. After the service, he recalls sitting in the drawing farm with the family singing hymns and writing letters home, before everyone retiring to bed at 10pm sharp.

It is clear from listening to the recording that leaving the farm was a source of regret to Charles Sampson, and he retained a love of cattle to the end of his life. He left to work with his father who had been asked to move up from London to Burnage, Manchester to set up a division of J Lyons, and when Lyons bought Black and Greens, Charles became employed in the tea package industry. It is with grateful thanks to his grandson for sharing the recording.

Just a year or so after Charles left the farm, and following the death of Ralph Tickle’s father, in December 1919 the Tickle family moved to Bishop’s Tachbrook in Warwickshire where they continued their success in cattle farming. Ellen died in 1943, but Ralph lived the age of 94, passing away in Warwickshire in 1962.

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Whats new?

If this is your first visit to the history of Stretton website, welcome. For those of you who have visited before, here is a quick tour round a few recent updates.

For a start, you’ll notice a lot more maps, and this is thanks to the National Library of Scotland which allows the sharing of the maps for non-commercial uses.

Then there are the newspaper articles which have been added to the website on new separate page. These have been transcribed as more newspapers are scanned and come available on-line. They’ve been linked on the relevant page but if you want to see all of them, do head here. Likewise nearly 30 wills have been transcribed and added. These are invaluable if you are researching your family history.

And best of all are the photos and comments that have been shared – thanks to everyone who has taken the time to sort through their boxes and photos and send across.  We’ve got new school photos, the first image of Fir Tree Cottage and new photos of the Cat and Lion.

Hatton Lane is one of the most popular for comments and thanks to the contributions the page has been really enhanced.

So even if the front post doesn’t change each week, there’s always work going on to add more details to the website. Please do get in touch – and thank you to everyone who has.

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Ever wondered what was growing in your garden 150 years ago?

Maybe you’ve recently arrived in Stretton or have bought a new build and pondered who might have owned the land before you did? Well, read on…

This is a wonderful website created by Cheshire Archives and Local Studies in 2008 and recently updated reveals a lot about the history of Stretton. It’s is called ‘Cheshire Tithe Maps Online‘: https://maps.cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps/

It’s very simple to use. Just enter your postcode and from the results you can then zoom in and out, as well as pan around to view other areas of interest. The window splits into two halves – the 1846 tithe map on the left and an OS map (or aerial view) on the right. You can drag the central button to the left or right to widen the view on either side.

tithe map cropped

You can also change the maps that are displayed in either window using the options under the search field. The image below shows an aerial image on the left from around 1973 with Acton Avenue clearly showing on the west of London Road.

aerial photo - cropped

Whilst this is fun to play around with the two screens, the tithe part of the tithe map is also really interesting as it reveals a large amount of detail:

tithe details cropped

To find out more about who owned the land where you’re living, click on the tithe map. The field highlighted above is either side of the Roman Road, behind St. Matthew’s school. In 1846 it was owned by Thomas Lyon (of Appleton Hall fame) and farmed by Mary Bolland who lived at Roadside Farm on London Road.

landownership - crop

This map shows that more or less all the land from Stretton Road and Hatton Lane north towards Owen’s Corner was owned by Thomas Lyon. He started to hoover up land to surround his Hall (now where Bridgewater School stands) from Walton all the way up to Stretton.  If you want to see how so much land ended up in the ownership of so few, a quick look at the tithe map of Appleton/Appleton Thorn shows that roughly 80% was owned by either Thomas Lyon or the Warburtons from the Arley Hall Estate. However, Thomas Lyon and never really got much further south than the crossroads as the landowner map of the whole parish shows a more complex picture with a larger number of landowners shown on the map legend below:

landownership - all - cropped

So going back to the original question, what was growing in your garden in 1846? This final screenshot from the website might help:

landuse - cropped

North of Stretton Road, half of the land was cropped, the other was pasture. Ironically the areas that we now retain as our green spaces, including the cricket pitch and playing fields were cultivated in 1846 for potatoes and oats.  Whilst most of the farmland managed by Mary Bolland was put down to grass, if you live in Foxhills Close a hundred and fifty years ago your garden was a field of potatoes and turnips.

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Welcome to Stretton

Facebook groupA big hello if you have found this place via the new Stretton Facebook Group. If you’ve stumbled across this page by chance and are interested in the finding out more about Stretton today – then do head over here.

Hopefully you will find out a bit more about the history your village – and if you’ve lived here for years, and want to share you history with those who have just moved in, we’re more than happy to post  photos and memories. All we ask is that no living people – unless you’ve got their permission. All contributions will be acknowledged. In return, we politely request that people don’t lift the photos and share them elsewhere – at least without asking or crediting the site. This is a community website, and credit goes to the people of Stretton who have helped to make this a great asset for the village.

If you’re reading this because your ancestors lived here, then do feel free to get in touch. Lots of information is available, so even if you can’t see anything – do ask and we’ll see how we can help.

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The Oratory of St. Saviour, Stretton

Living round the corner and making the most of our “lockdown walks” over the past few months, I’ve always assumed that the sandstone blocks that line Well Lane came from the church that used to be situated near Tanyard Farm.  It’s hard to imagine they would have come from anywhere else but enquiries are underway to see if the pintle (part of a door hinge) could throw any more light on things.

What do we know about the church? From Leycester’s history of Cheshire it was stated that in 1666 the “ancient chapel of Stretton” was “ruinous and in decay”.  From the reign of Henry II, the village was owned by the Starkey family, who lived in Lower Stretton and it is through that the church was built in the 13th or 14th century for Starkey family worship. This would have been convenient as it was situated between Stretton Hall and Lower Hall where different branches of the Starkey family lived.

The chapel was referred to in the will of Richard Starkey in 1527 as the Oratory of St Saviour, to which he bequeathed money for a “new steeple for a greater bell to be rung for the services.”  Thanks to the work of Dr. Scott Swanson, we now know that further bequests were made that mentioned the church:

1527: Richard Stakey left money for

‘torches to the church of Budworth and to the chapel of Stretton’

‘to maintain divine service at the chapel and oratory of St Saviour of Stretton: a chalice; a book of the life of St Thomas of Canterbury’

repair and making of a new steeple at the said chapel of Stretton: 40s

1547: Thomas Starkey left bequests as follows:

my chamlet gown and velvet jacket to make two vestments for the chapel of Stretton

three of the funeral torches to Budworth church and three to Stretton chapel

chapel of Stretton: two kine (cows)

It seems that I’m not the only one to be interested. Shortly after I started the website, an ex-local resident got in touch to say

I was always told that there was a chapel of ease somewhere in the near vicinity of this farm house, but no one was quite sure of its exact whereabouts. However around 1967 (I was aged about 16) I was laying stone flags to cover the area between the front of the farm house and Well Lane (they are still there) and I had to dig out a depth of about a foot to be able to lay a particularly thick flag. Doing this, I uncovered what we all thought were the two sandstone base stones into which large doors would have been pivoted. The pivot holes still had evidence of the metal (lead?) in the holes that would have gripped the pivots on the bottom of the doors. These sandstone threshold stones were just outside the front of the existing farm house, to the left of the central front door, if I remember correctly. They are still there, buried under the flags. We decided that they were probably the doorway for the chapel of ease.

So work is continuing afresh to discover how we can find out more, and then to share the findings. But on a sunny evening after work, walking down the lane to get some fresh air, it still blows my mind to think that 500 years ago that people were attending church services in a chapel, and all that is left are a pile of sandstone blocks.  If only we could turn back the clocks.

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The back story to the History of Stretton

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Just over a year ago, Stretton joined with over hundreds of others all across the globe as a “One Place Study”  – here’s a quick reminder what a One Place Study is all about. Each quarter the society publishes a journal which is always a great read.

After a bit of persuading, I wrote a short article about Stretton for the March edition,  and how I’d been undertaking a “one place study” for about ten years without even realising it.  In a small village, it’s impossible to really get to understand the local history of a place without knowing the people who lived here. For me it was a very logical step –  once I’d got started. The short article explains how I felt compelled to dip my toe into the water and tell the story, so that others can share in our history of  Stretton.

This year, because we’re all staying at home, the society has made it available to everyone. And you might recognise some of the photos in the journal.  It’s available here and if you would like to get in touch at all about it or anything else that you’ve discovered during lockdown, then it would be lovely to hear from you.

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The Old Smithy

The Old Smithy adj

What a great surprise to receive this photo from the current occupiers of The Old Smithy in Common Lane who were having some work done in their bathroom.  The plumber found this note behind the shower tiles, so with a bit of editing this is what is says:

This house was built by David Whittaker between May 1981 and May 1982. It stands on the site of the Old Smithy the land including the smithy demolished in February 1982 , was purchased from the Savage Brothers whose father was the blacksmith. The forge was last used in 1960.

To see what the smithy used to look like, head over to this page.

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Stretton Sister Township

This week an e-mail entitled “Stretton Sister-Township Newton” came in from Stephen, the churchwarden at St. Matthews. He wondered if Newton, Pennsylvania, USA had ever appeared previously in the research, as he’d come across a document in the church safe.

It was a Proclamation declaring the Parish of Stretton, Warrington as a sister town of Newton Township:

Newton DA USA Sister-township (1)

The Proclamation was dated 12 November 1981 and by excellent timing, next month, it will be 40 years since Stretton was declared a sister town with Newton.

Why Newton and why Stretton? The answer goes back more than 40 years – to 340 years in fact, when Stretton boy Daniel Williamson left Stretton for America and arrived in Pennsylvania in 1683.

Daniel Williamson was born in 1665 to a Quaker family from Stretton. This was the height of the Quaker movement in Cheshire when a yeoman from Frandley Farm, Seven Oaks, named William Gandy became interested in Quaker ideas and invited George Fox to Frandley in 1657. It is thought Fox preached to over 2,000 people from under the shade of an oak tree.

Despite their large numbers, the Friends or “Quakers” frequently suffered persecution from the establishment:  in 1663, Ellen Williamson and three others were imprisoned by “Writs of Ex-communication Capiendo” for non-payment of tithes. Twenty years later, the year Daniel left England, a Thomas Williamson was among those who were put in prison for attending a Quaker meeting at Newton by Daresbury.

What do we know about Daniel Williamson’s personal life family? From the detailed Quaker records, his birth is recorded as 8th September 1665 to Margaret and Robert Williamson.  He had a brother Peter who died in 1678 and was buried alongside his parents at the Friends Burial Ground at Higher Whitley. His father, Robert, was a wheelwright died in 1689 at Stretton.

In 1683, Daniel Williamson said goodbye to his family and set out on his travels  – believed to be the Concord. He settled in Newtown in Delaware which was founded by William Penn in 1681 for the new settlers as a refuge for Quakers who were facing persecution. Between 1681 and 1682 around 2,000 settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, and Daniel Williamson wasn’t the only one from this area to move West – he followed in the footsteps of the Eaton family from Great Budworth and Antrobus, and this emigration continued as other Friends followed from Stretton over the next fifty years. According to unsubstantiated burial records, Daniel Williamson married Mary and had at least a son, John. Daniel died in 1727 and was buried in the grounds of Newtown Square Friends Meeting House.

Roll forward 300 years, Newton has a population of just over 2,000 about twice that of Stretton. In 1981 the township of Newton undertook research into the origins of their settlement as part of their tricentennial celebrations. As a result they created the declaration and invited John Darbyshire, former Chairman of Stretton Parish Council his wife, Gladys, to visit the Newton as part of their celebrations which culminated in a ‘Grand Tricentennial Parade’ on May 9, 1981. By coincidence, John Darbyshire came from a long family from Quakers whose family had moved to Summit Farm, Stretton in 1808.  John and Gladys farmed at Lane End Farm, then at Moss Hall Farm before moving to Tanyard Farm.

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Earliest School Photo

Some wonderful photos have come over this week  – all connected with Stockley Farm and Cottage. A big thanks to Lyne whose grandfather Joseph Sidebotham grew up at the farm and attended Stretton School.

We think that this photo was taken around 1918, give a take a year or two. Joseph is is on the back row third one in, and the school master was probably Joseph Ellison who would have been in his late 50s when this photograph was taken. He retired shortly afterwards and Ernest Boulton took over. The next earliest school photograph was from 1920 and more are displayed here.

There is a new gallery of photos from Stockley here, so please do get in touch if you are able to identify any pupils above or any family members in the gallery.

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