Warrington is Not a New Town: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1831)

Various events over the last few years have led to me becoming more knowledgeable than I really want to be about planning law and the role of local government. (If I had my time again I’d have done Law, not English, and then maybe I’d be getting paid for all this.) And it was whilst checking the facts for yet another dubious assertion in yet another planning application that I discovered that one of our recent MPs had stated to a Parliamentary committee that Warrington was a New Town. It is at this point that you realise things have come to a pretty pass. How can a town that was already a flourishing settlement in Anglo-Saxon times consistently be referenced only in terms of the last 45 years?

As my Antipodean readership will know, this is something that really annoys me. I care deeply about my town: I am proud of its heritage and achievements, am greatly saddened by what it has become and believe passionately in what it could be.  And to have this constant misinterpretation of the facts about Warrington’s beginnings; this wholesale dismissal of its once great past, and the people who created that past, is galling. Warrington is not Milton Keynes.

There are numerous expansion strategies being floated at the moment, by town planners and developers alike, outlining their vision of Warrington’s future. An increasing number of protests by local groups, such as the fight to save community green space at Peel Hall, seem to indicate that other people are finding the current situation equally galling in a different way.

Their determination Continue reading


Warrington Revisited

I wrote this in May 2017; I was feeling very strongly after a shopping trip into Warrington and it all came out. I believe things have moved on since then, though.

I believe there is a Chinese curse along the lines of ‘May you live in interesting times’ and, as a result of my life becoming more ‘interesting’ than the lurid imaginings of an Eastenders script-writer, I’ve only gone into Warrington a handful of times this last year. The impression I brought away with me, each time, was of a town that is slowly, but inexorably, being dismantled.

From the advent of the New Town in the 1970s, and onwards, road widening schemes have taken out Warrington’s old buildings – many along the entire length of whole streets – replacing them, in the main, with corrugated steel clad, warehouse style ‘shops’ and their surface carparks. Immensely large roundabouts have, in turn, wiped out whole series of other streets, fragmenting what was once quite a decent sized town centre and now Church Street, the original core of the town going back to Anglo-Saxon times, which was cut off from the rest of the town centre by the vast roundabout that replaced Trafalgar Place and its surrounding streets, is being turned into little more than a residential suburb.

The wide expanse of Church Street sounded Continue reading

Warrington’s Early Railways: Freeling’s Grand Junction Railway Companion (1838)

The search vagaries of Google have thrown up another happy discovery: I was sidetracked from the post I was writing into trying to find out what had happened to Warrington’s medieval fairs – and was presented with an extract from this early nineteenth century railway guide: Freeling’s Grand Junction Railway Companion to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham and Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham Guide.

This proved to be absolutely fascinating – and sidetracked me still further – containing as it does ‘a narrative of the Parliamentary history of the project ; and account of every thing worthy the attention of the traveller upon the line ; including a complete description of every part of the rail-road ; of the noblemen or gentlemen’s seats which may be seen from it ; and of the towns and villages of importance in the neighbourhood ; of the churches, their patrons, and endowments ; the markets, fairs, races and angling stations, to which the railway gives access.

The copy online is a second edition, published by Whittaker and Co London in 1838. The Preface to the First Edition is included, which rather engagingly states Continue reading

Lancashire Day

There is, I understand, a blogging phenomenon known as ‘newsjacking’, in which you get a post out on the coat-tails of some topical event, thereby (hopefully) sending your views sky high. It is this sort of thing that convinces me I have no journalistic skills: in search of a subject for the New Year I’ve found several half-written posts that might have fitted into that category – if I’d only got round to finishing them at the time. This one is dusted off from November.

Lancashire Day is celebrated on 27th November: founded by the Friends of Real Lancashire (FORL) it was chosen as the date in 1295 when the ancient and honourable county of Lancaster sent its first representatives to the ‘model’ Parliament of King Edward I. It’s the day when we celebrate our county’s history and achievements as well as all those things that makes it both distinctive and individual. All over the historic county, towns and villages will be holding events that mark them out as firmly rooted in Lancashire – whatever local government officials may say.

The reason for this, and the foundation of FORL, is the result of local government re-organisations in the Seventies, which pretty much made a mess of the UK’s 92 historic countiesContinue reading




I have just finished James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life, perhaps the best book I’ve read this year and a beautiful account of the traditional life and perspective of a Lake District fell farmer.  At the centre of the story is a very deep seated attachment to the mountain area where James’ forebears have farmed for six centuries and this has inspired me to write my next blog about the issue of “place.”

As a shepherd James uses a lovely word “hefted” to describe the genetic attachment which a flock of fell sheep have to the particular part of the mountainside where they have grazed for generations of summers.  Place too has an enormous role to play in the human psyche, although increasingly less so since the start of the Industrial Revolution  when the forces of capitalism began to uproot us from the patterns of settlement and work which had…

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What’s Going On in Bridge Street? – Warrington Borough Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order

It’s taken me quite a long time to unravel the 148 pages of Warrington Borough Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order for development on Bridge Street, but what it appears to boil down to is the following:

The Council is calling on its powers under Section 226 (1) (a) and Section 226 (3) (a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) and Section 13 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

Section 226 (1) (a) gives rights to a local authority, on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State, to compulsorily purchase any land in their area if the LA thinks that by doing so it will make easier the carrying out of ‘development, redevelopment or improvement on or in relation to the land’.

Section 226 (3) (a) gives rights to a local authority, on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State, to compulsorily purchase any land adjoining the land purchased under Section 226 (1) which is required for carrying out works which will make development or use of the land purchased under Section 226 (1) easier.

Section 13 enables the LA, on being authorised by a Minister of the Crown, to acquire ‘new rights’ that they themselves specify, over the land compulsorily purchased.

(My italics.)

So. The CPO describes 11 rights that the Council wishes to acquire for the following purposes:

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What’s Going On in Warrington??

It’s inevitable I suppose, seeing the way my life’s going at the moment – or should that be ‘not going’ – that no sooner do I feel I’ve wrestled the latest obstacle in the way of working towards a PhD into manageable proportions, than another one crops up in its place.

I wrote the previous post last week and left it on my computer until I could find a space to add in some links. (This also helps with the typos. Being trained to spot them doesn’t stop you making them; it just annoys you even more.) While I was looking for something aposite for the Bridge Street Quarter development Google threw up an article at the local paper, the Warrington Guardian.

It seems to be implying that, as part of the development, the Council is making draconian use of its powers to compulsory purchase most of Bridge Street. Now, to my mind, you don’t compulsory purchase a building unless you’re planning to do something the owners are probably going to object to – like knocking most of it down?? – so this is immediately ringing alarm bells.

More Google searches found the Compulsory Purchase Order offered for consultation on the Council’s website and a‘final’ CPO buried somewhere in its depths, but the Order Maps referred to, outlining the buildings, that would make things clearer, aren’t attached to either. It needs going through in detail but, at nearly 150 pages, I haven’t yet had time. First impressions, though, are that they’re making a clean sweep on the relevant side of Bridge Street.

Continue reading