Spark Hall Close, which is now little used past the entrance to the Park Royal Hotel, was originally known as Northwich Road until the mid 1970s when the motorway split the village in two. It was the main road to the lower part of the village leading due south from the church along the line of the Roman road which ran from Warrington to Middlewich, known as King Street.
Many of the older residents recall a hut on the corner of Stretton Road which was the base of the Home Guard during the Second World War. This was convenient as on top of the church tower was an observation point. This was continually manned as it had an excellent view being one of the highest points around.
The earliest records of the Cheshire Land Tax returns show that in 1785 the farm was owned and occupied by John Eaton, and then twenty years later by his son Thomas Eaton. In 1820 the ownership transferred to Nathaniel Milner and William Wilkinson was the tenant farmer until around 1833.
In 1834 recently married John Whitlow from Lower Whitley moved in with his wife and young family. The tithes map of 1846 shows Old Farm still owned by Nathaniel Milner, as part of Moss Hall estate, and occupied by John Whitlow. In Bagshaw’s Directory of 1850 the Old Farm was said to be “a brick fabric, of considerable antiquity” and continued to be farmed by John Whitlow; as it was in 1861 where census returns show him farming 44 acres and employing two labourers. John Whitlow died on 30 July 1867 aged 63 and is buried in the churchyard alongside his wife who lived to the aged of 94. On 31 October 1867 all of the late John Whitlow’s farm stock and implements were put up for auction including ‘choice and well-bred dairy cows.’
In 1868 Old Farm was managed by Abraham Taylor until 1880 when he moved to Hatton and handed over the reins to his son Joseph. The 1881 census records Joseph Taylor, married with a young son, farming 40 acres and employing two labourers. He too followed his father to Hatton, and by 1891 Walter Smith, the unmarried son of Joseph Smith of Stretton Hall, was living there.
This is built on the site of the Old Farm. Walter Smith lived at New Farm for some time before moving to Latchford. In March 1903 he put up all his live and dead stock for auction. In 1911 George Blackshaw had moved from Lane End Farm, Northwich Road and was farming with wife, daughter Bessie and son Frank.
The Moss Hall Estate over around 1,100 acres was sold in 1918 by the Milner family. For more information on their history and landholdings in the area, including Moore see here. The tenant, George Blackshaw, bought the 44 acre farm for £3,800.
By 1939 he had passed the farm over to his son Frank, who was living at New Farm with his wife Margaret and family.
Spark Hall Farm (Stretton Fox)
Spark Hall was built between around 1847 and was named after the field in which it was built. The tithe maps of 1846 show the farmland owned by Peter Leather with his family house in Northwich Road. There was no building on the land at that time. Peter Leather (the elder) was first recorded as living at Spark Hall in 1861; he still also owned Ashfield in Northwich Road. Ten years later the family had suffered and Peter Leather lived at Spark Hall with his young recently motherless daughter, Mary, aged 8. Just eight afterwards in 1879 Peter died, and the house was let out.
By 1882 Philip Darbyshire who had been farming the land was leaving the profession and put all his farm stock, horses, implements, dairy utensils and a proportion of ‘superior and well-made household furniture.’
In 1892 it was farmed by John Renshaw and his new wife Sarah Ann (née Ditchfield), but was unoccupied in 1901. The Renshaw family moved to The Limes in Higher Whitley, before emigrating to Alberta, Canada in 1912.
Whilst it isn’t clear from the invitation above who was living there in 1902, Spark Hall was the setting for a village event to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. The day took place as follows:
- 12:30 Children assemble in schools and receive medals
- 1:00 Service in church
- 2:30 Sports and games for boys and girls
- 3:45 Children’s tea
- 5:00 Adults’ tea
- 6:00 Sports and games for men and women
In March 1903 the household appointments and effects were put up for sale. By 1911 Spark Hall was occupied by Lucy Leather, the widow of Peter Leather (son of above), and her family. William Robertson was there in 1914. In 1939 Kelly’s Directory records that George Blackshaw (who was recently widowed) and his unmarried daughter Bessie were living at Spark Hall. Bessie Blackshaw remained at Spark Hall until her death in 1981. In 1995 approval was given to convert the farmhouse into a public house – The Stretton Fox. The land is now farmed from Walnut Tree Farm.