Warrington Industries – Textiles, Files and Glass – and Parr’s Bank
Around Cockhedge Lane, behind the buildings on the lower end of Buttermarket Street, is Warrington’s main industrial area on what looks like a green field site. Even in 1825 Warrington was already considered ‘one of the earliest manufacturing towns in Lancashire’ and, the Town Plan depicts its first ‘industrial estate’, today completely covered by the Cockhedge Shopping Centre and New Town House.
On the corner of Scotland Road, behind the Britannia Inn, the Scotland Road Foundry, surrounded by workers’ housing, fills all the space between Cockhedge Lane and Orford Street, now completely taken up by the grey concrete mass of New Town House.
North of Cockhedge Lane, a file manufactory and vast glass works are joined by the Cockhedge Cotton Factory to the north-east, which is surrounded by purpose-built houses for the ‘hands’, and has a reservoir shown close by to the north. An infirmary, north of the reservoir on the east corner of Crown Street and Orford Street, suggests a previously isolated spot for infectious diseases, or an early example of employee welfare. Or possibly extremely detrimental working conditions for the ‘hands’.
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.
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.
Warrington’s South east Quarter
In the area to the South-west, between Bridge Street and Sankey Street, the medieval town extends west across Bridge Street as far as modern-day Barbauld Street, before giving way to orchards and gardens and then open countryside. A distillery, tucked away in a courtyard near the Eagle and Child Inn, is the original site of the renowned Warrington gin, the basis of the famous Greenall‘s brewing empire.
The bottom corner towards Bridge Foot, the site of the Austin (Augustinian) Friary, founded around 1280 and a later casualty of Henry VIII’s Reformation, is now punctuated with small-scale industrial works: Jolley’s File Manufactory, Friar’s Green Cotton Manufactory, Friar’s Green Old Tannery and Friar’s Green Saw Mills. To the left of these are signs of eighteenth-century development, including the lovely houses of Stanley Street, designed by the famous Warrington painter and engraver, Hamlet Winstanley. A rented building on Friar’s Green is the earlier home of the Warrington Library, started by the Presbyterian minister Dr John Seddon, later founder of the Warrington Academy, in 1760. It was amalgamated with the Natural History Society’s Museum in 1848, the same year it was taken over by the newly-fledged Warrington Corporation to become the first municipal library in Britain. Continue reading
Warrington’s South-east Quarter
From Roman times to the thirteenth century, the North/South crossing point of the river was on the south bank at Latchford. The flood plain of Howley Meadows, unsuitable for building, ran up as far as modern-day Parr Street, and the Anglo-Saxon parish church and Norman castle, and subsequent medieval town of Warrington, were built on the higher ground just above it, pretty much in a straight line from the ford. When the bridge across the Mersey replaced the ancient ford crossing, around the middle of the century, the town, which had previously been little more than a single street, extended westwards along to meet it, and then ballooned out to form a new, late-medieval town, centred on the area between the East/West Buttermarket Street and the North/South Newgate, later Bridge Street.
The 1851 Town Plan shows the town still pretty much in its medieval form, but on the very cusp of change. Four streets run along the compass points, dividing the town into quarters and meeting at the broad opening of Market Gate. From the parish church, now at the far east of the town, to Buttermarket Street, a single row of buildings lines the south side of Church Street on burgage plots, which run back to gardens and orchards, and then open countryside. A school for Clergy Daughters has taken the place of the castle and a National School, built in 1833, sits next to the seventeenth-century Marquis of Granby Inn. On the higher ground to the North, additional small streets thread the gardens and orchards behind the buildings along the road, and the Grammar School, founded 1526, is still going strong over three hundred years later.