Warrington’s Railway, Bewsey Street and Early Industry
Just beyond the Market Place, north of Peter Street, there is a sudden shift. In 1465, the long gardens of the houses on the north side of the Market Place backed onto a ‘great heath’ with a windmill, that over two hundred years later was still there. By 1851 though, this large, open, unencumbered space had proved perfect for industrial development, and the Town Plan shows its lower end as home to the large ‘Market Street File and Tool Manufactory’ and the Corn Hill Wire Works. The different types of housing around Queen Street, at the very top of King Street, are presumably for the various grades of workers in the factories.
A big open space behind the houses of Queen Street is marked on later maps as ‘Fairground’. The lords of Warrington were given the right to hold an annual summer fair in 1255 and a second autumn fair in 1277. Originally held in the wide space of Church Street, the summer fair, at least, was still going strong until the mid-nineteenth century, when it was banned from Church Street for continually ending in a drunken riot, presumably being transferred here as a less controversial space. It was still in existence in 1907, but I’m not sure if it still is today or whether it survives in a different incarnation.
North of the factories, what looks like a terrace of four very large houses with walled gardens behind, one marked Heath House, faces the lower end of Bewsey Street where it connects with the bottom of Horsemarket Street. This was the medieval road by which the lords of the manor came into town, after they had moved their residence from the castle at Church Street to Bewsey Hall, their own private Versailles a mile north-west of the town in the Forest of Burtonwood, sometime before 1280.
The north side of Bewsey Street was built up in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century and includes a Roman Catholic school, Baptist chapel and St Albans Roman Catholic Church amongst the terraces of large houses. This was long considered the best address in town and the Town Plan shows the south side of the street just being developed, to take advantage of this. At the top of Bewsey Street, further respectably sized terraces line the north side of Froghall Lane, developed as a residential area around St Paul’s Church, built a little way along Bewsey Road in 1830. Bewsey Street leads directly north-west crossing Froghall Lane and Tanner’s Lane to become the long Bewsey Road, which leads in an arrow straight line (an avenue of mature, decent-sized trees would look absolutely stunning here; another missed opportunity) all the way to Bewsey Hall on the other side of the Sankey Brook.
At the point between the lower end of Bewsey Street and Scotland Road on the right, marked rather cunningly on the Town Plan, Horsemarket Street becomes Winwick Street, as it heads out of town northwards towards the village of that name. From the bottom end of Bewsey Street, Foundry Street curves in a long bow to meet it higher up. The Old Foundry is still marked on the Town Plan, amid a jumble of small buildings and archways behind Winwick Street, though it is not clear whether the Bewsey Street Foundry nearby is a replacement or addition. A single line of small squares indicating older buildings, with remnants of orchard behind, runs up Winwick Street interspersed with two or three inns, among them the enticingly named The Old Cheshire Cheese. The King’s Head is the only survivor, though today in what looks like a later building.
The area between the west side of Foundry Street and Dallam Lane, north to Tanner’s Lane, is given over completely to industry. This was the original site of Warrington’s first railway with the station at Bewsey Street/Dallam Lane. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company opened Britain’s first inter-city line in September 1830 and Warrington businessmen were on their heels, swift to cash in. The Act for the Warrington and Newton Railway was passed in May 1829 and the connection to the L& MR line, four and a half miles away at Newton Junction, (modern-day Earlestown)surveyed and engineered by George Stephenson, was opened in July 1831, just ten months later.
With the move to Bank Quay around 1835, the old railway terminus is now shown as sidings, which culminate in Haydock Coal Yard and Edge Green Coal Yard. This impulse to industry has changed Garden Lane to Tanner’s Lane: as well as Foundry Street Tannery and the very large Guest’s Tannery, hidden behind a wall from the houses along the top end of Winwick Street, there are several smaller tanneries within a stone’s throw. The Three Pigeons (PH) on the corner of Dallam Lane and Tanner’s Lane is still there today; the Engine House, on which it is popularly believed to be sited, is shown as further along to the east. A small terrace of substantial houses on the north side of Tanners Lane faces a longer, possibly more recent, terrace of smaller houses.
At the top of Winwick Street, just north of Tanner’s Lane, is Towns End, a sort of hamlet that seems to have grown up around a large, open space where three roads meet: Winwick Road to the north, Tanner’s Lane to the west and Pinner’s Brow, leading to Orford Lane, to the east. Grouped around this open space, today a vast roundabout, are two pin manufactories and three inns; the Admiral Lord Rodney, dating by its name from at least the eighteenth century, is still there today on the same site, facing back down towards the town. Slightly further along Winwick Road, the Red Lion Inn, substantially sized with outbuildings behind and possibly an old coaching inn, is also still there today. A timber yard on the opposite side of the road has countryside behind it towards the west.
A single line of sporadic housing lines Winwick Road as it runs through what was once the upper end of the heath towards the village of Longford, where side roads run west and east to Bewsey and Orford Halls. Halfway between the Market Place and Longford, the Town Plan shows a moment of social transition. What looks like a neat gentleman’s residence, Hope House, stands in a large walled garden between Winwick Road and Dallam Lane. But, by its side, looming over the walls, is the mammoth Hope Mills (Cotton) with attached gasometer and, behind, a row of worker’s houses in new Hope Street and a Methodist chapel next to a public house. The clue is in the further driveway that runs off the carriage sweep, behind the house, and connects with the factory. This is the house of the mill-owner, not yet too proud to live next door to his premises. Within forty years, similar factory owners will have left their workers to face the severely polluted town alone and, aided by the extended railway network, decamped to the surrounding Cheshire villages. Behind the large Dallam Lane Pottery, opposite to the north-west, lie fields and open countryside but the useful railway line running between the two factories will soon pull in more industry to fill them.