The 1851 Town Plan – Warrington’s North-east Quarter (part three)

Non-Conformism, Townsend, John Blackburne and Orford Hall

North of Crown Street, larger, squarer shapes, along Winwick Street to Newton Street, suggest eighteenth-century buildings. Newton Street, quite broad and seemingly modern, runs up only a little way, its main purpose at present being to provide access to St Paul’s Infant School and the Education Society’s School opposite, though there is the impression that more development is planned.

On the other side of Newton Street, small houses creep towards a wall surrounding the the grounds of a large house, behind which lies fields all the way to Lythgoes Lane. There is a Pin Manufactory in the north corner of the grounds and there is something about the awkward layout of the garden that suggests that this is not the factory owner living next door to the shop but the encroachment of the new order.

St John’s Chapel (Calvinist) built in 1807, gives its name to the next road along, Warrington has long had a history of Non-Conformism. Traditionally strongly Catholic, (after the Reformation, priests were given shelter in Woolston and Rixton just outside the town) shortly after the Restoration in 1660, ‘congregations of Quakers and Presbyterians formed’ and by 1777 a visitor sneered that ‘the town abounds in dissenters’. Warrington was a garrison town during the Civil Wars, captured by the Parliamentary forces at an early stage, due to the strategic importance of Warrington Bridge, and it is more than likely that this extended Puritan presence prepared the way: within two years of George Fox’s 1652 ministry in Lancashire, groups of Quakers were being mentioned in Warrington records.

A hundred years later, John Wesley preached in Warrington several times, between 1757 and 1768, and by 1782 the Methodists in the town had sufficient money and numbers to build a handsome chapel in Upper Bank Street. By 1825, of the approximately 2,500 children listed as attending the Catholic, Anglican and Non-Conformist Sunday Schools, the various Non-Conformists accounted for around 1,500 of them.

What looks like recent development, runs along Winwick Street to Haydock Street, regular shapes built in pairs with half-extensions at the rear, of the type we are familar with today. Opposite, on the other side of the road is Guest’s Tannery, though hidden behind buildings and a brick wall, the smell is likely to be pervasive. These houses are unlikely to appeal to the gentry of the Sankey Street district but are perhaps intended for the supervisors and managers in the surrounding factories. The north side of Haydock Street shows similar paired terraces with a little square at the front of each indicating a small garden or forecourt. Behind them is Townsend: small squares but very few archways, suggesting later buildings.

There is an inn on the north corner of Turner’s Fold, today the entrance to a large retail warehouse and car park. and more small squares, up to a Steel Wire Manufactory on Pinners Brow. The word ‘pinner’ in conjuction with some thoroughfare occurs throughout the map in all sections of the town: in 1769, textiles and ‘a small pin manufacture’ were the chief industries; in 1807, pins were again listed as an important industry; and in 1825 it was reported that the ‘pin trade exists to a considerable extent’.

On both sides of Pinner’s Brow there are neat rows of workers’ cottages and, on the north side of Silver Street, connecting Pinners Brow with Winwick Road, a second Steel Wire Works. (Given that the Town Plan was produced in 1851 and that, prior to the development of the Bessemer Process in the late 1850s, steel was too expensive to use in mass production, I am not quite sure what to make of this. ‘Silver’, I believe, refers to a type of early high-quality steel, of the sort that Peter Stubs used for his some of his tools.)

The Red Lion Inn stands on the corner of Silver Street, at the Winwick Road end, today a cul-de-sac to one of the huge car showrooms that have taken over this end of town. There are no archways marked on the Town Plan, past Silver Street, indicating the old extent of Townsend and more modern housing. On Oliver Street behind it there is a neat row of squares, possibly workers’ houses and the Orford Lane Glass Works.

Behind the glassworks is the Blue Coat School with attached chapel, built on Gallow’s Acre in 1674, though this is a later building from 1780. Over the years, 73 benefactors from 1677 onwards created an endowment that, in 1825, had an income of £200 a year from real estate and investments, enough to clothe and educate 14 boys and 10 girls; and to teach, but not clothe, a further 120 boys and 30 girls. (An interesting discrepancy.)

North of the Blue Coat School, purpose built terracing with countryside behind it, straggles along the Winwick Road to the village of Longford at the municipal boundary. Longford Street runs to the right, out of the village towards the hamlet of Conies Corner, a bend in the road where Orford Lane and Marsh House Lane meet. A little to the east of Conies Corner is Orford Avenue, today a residential street, but in 1851 still an avenue of lime trees leading to the seventeenth-century Orford Hall.

John Blackburnefamous horticulturalist and naturalist, and lord of the manor, lived at the Hall in the eighteenth century; his private botanical gardens in the grounds were nationally famous, his daughter, Anna Blackburne, corresponded with Linnaeus and had a genus of plants ‘Blackburnia’ named after her by the naturalist Reinhold Forster, who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage. The school he founded in Orford is still going but, today, the Hall is demolished, the gardens gone, the grounds a public park and the ‘fair name of Orford’ now synonymous with urban deprivation.

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