I am supposed to be working on an outline for the area of my book dealing with Warrington in the Fifties, but I am getting more and more drawn into trying to find out what has been happening with that section of the nation’s built heritage in Warrington’s care. It is taking a while to get to the bottom of this and the results of my investigations are deeply depressing.
Warrington has 87 statutory listed items in the town centre and an additional 14 in Church Street; the colossal road works of the 90s having turned the town’s original site into a sort of extra-parochial adjunct to the town itself. Listing identifies buildings that are of significant national, and sometimes even international, importance that must be preserved for the knowledge and enjoyment of future generations. Of those designated Grade II, a mere 5.5% are listed Grade II* and a tiny 2.5 % are listed Grade I.
Warrington’s town centre alone has six Grade II* and three Grade I listed items.
The majority of these are within one of the town centre’s seven statutory Conservation Areas: Bewsey Street, Bridge Street, Buttermarket Street, Palmyra Square, Town Hall and Winwick Street. It must be remembered that a listing may refer to a group of buildings or an entire terrace, so the number of individual buildings will be considerably higher.
Bewsey Street, Warrington’s most fashionable address in the eighteenth century, has nine listed items, all Grade II: four blocks of residential terraces: numbers 39-49, 51-61, 63-67 and 72-74; the St Albans RC Church; its Presbytery; number 14, Bewsey Chambers; number 93, and 1 Froghall Lane.
A while ago I needed to check a date on a building on Bridge Street so, rather than look through all my notes, I did a quick Google search. One of the documents it threw up was a Conservation Area Appraisal for Bridge Street, prepared by the council’s planning policy department in 2006. This made very interesting reading, despite none of the photographs and maps having downloaded with the text, but a re-direct from the council led me to a, rather obscure, page where the downloads had functioning images.
Thus began a trail that seems to be leading me into discoveries that are making me more and more concerned.
It started simply enough. I noticed that Figure 1 on the Bridge Conservation Area Appraisal, a map showing the extent of all the Conservation Areas in the town centre, included one for Winwick Street, the ancient route to and from the North, but there was no appraisal on the council’s website. Further examination of the page to which I had been directed showed management proposals for only two thirds of the Areas.
Warrington’s North west Quarter (part two)
Town Hill and Trafalgar Place
The first part of the area to the north-east, between Horsemarket Street and back once more to Buttermarket Street, shows two distinct characters on the 1851 Town Plan, divided by the westward curve of Scotland Road. This bisects Buttermarket Street just opposite the Academy enclave, then runs northwards to join Horsemarket Street at the point before it becomes Winwick Street.
The east side of Horsemarket Street, up to Scotland Road, faces the Market Place and is lined with rectangular shapes indicating buildings on burgage plots. Three inns, the White Bull Inn, the Griffin Inn and The Little Horse Shoe Inn, are grouped around Town Hill, just past Lime Street, which marks, as the name suggests, the highest point in the town.
Called Pig Hill for a while on later maps, this ancient route runs westward to Scotland Road, becomes Cockhedge Lane on the other side, runs in an L shape still westwards to Fennel Street (now part of the modern-day Circulatory Road around the town centre, becomes School Brow on the other side and then finally, just past the Grammar School, drops down to where Church Place becomes the Manchester Road. Even up to 1907 it was still a ‘narrow, crooked lane’ but road widening schemes in the 90s have obliterated the earlier character of School Brow and a modern housing development stands on the site of the Grammar School.