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
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