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Episode 25: Cheshire

Where is Cheshire?

In our twenty-fifth episode we mentioned lots of interesting places and things in Cheshire, so here are some pictures and links to information if you're curious to find out more!

Cheshire Cheese

Cheshire cheese is one of the oldest recorded named cheeses in British history: it is first mentioned, along with a Shropshire cheese, by Thomas Muffet in Health's Improvement (c. 1580). Cheshire cheese is dense and semi-hard, and is defined by its moist, crumbly texture and mild, salty taste. Industrial versions tend to be drier and less crumbly, more like a mild Cheddar cheese, as this makes them easier to process than cheese with the traditional texture.

The Cheshire family of cheeses is a distinct group that includes other crumbly cheeses from the North of England such as Wensleydale and Crumbly Lancashire. Cheshire cheese comes in three varieties: red, white and blue. The original plain white version accounts for most of the production.

The Cheshire Cat at St Wilfred's Church, Grappenhall

The church continues to be the sole, local Parish Church for the people of Grappenhall, as it has been for nearly 900 years. Perhaps it’s greatest cultural and religious significance is this record of continual service to local people. In 1086 Grappenhall was waste, but the Normans were enthusiastic church builders, and early in the next century, local masons were commissioned to create a small stone church which today forms the foundation of the present, mostly 16th century, building.

Visible on the tower is a relief sculpture of a “Cheshire Cat” which may have inspired the young Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), whose father was vicar of the nearby Daresbury church.

Lindow Man

Lindow Man’s official name is Lindow II, since other human remains have also been found in Lindow Moss bog: a human skull, known as Lindow I and a fragmented headless body, Lindow III. Remains of the thigh of an adult man are known as Lindow IV, although since these were discovered only 15m away from Lindow Man they could be the remains of his missing leg.Lindow Man is a well-preserved human body found in a peat-bog at Lindow Moss, near Manchester, in 1984. He died a violent death, sustaining many injuries before he was placed face down in a pool in the bog.

Chester Roman Amphitheatre

Chester Roman Amphitheatre was built in the late first century AD, when many such buildings were being constructed throughout the Roman Empire. It lay just outside the south-east corner of the Roman legionary fortress, and was probably used both for entertainments and for practising troop manoeuvres and weapon training. Only about two-fifths of the oval amphitheatre is visible; the rest lies unexcavated behind the brick wall. In the excavated part, two entrances have been exposed – the larger lies on the long axis to the north, while the smaller lies on the short axis to the east. Lining the arena is the original stone wall, although, owing to later removal, some sections are missing and there is modern concrete backing.

Excavations in the 1960s suggested that the building was originally constructed entirely of wood, but further archaeological investigation in 2001 cast doubt on this theory. The stone structure seen today had an outer wall 9 feet (2.7 metres) thick, marked out by concrete slabs set in the grass. Inside it ran a corridor linking the entrances that led to stairways taking the spectators up into the seating area.

Maiden Castle, Bickerton Hill

Maiden Castle is an Iron Age fort which lies at the highest point of Bickerton Hill, 212m above sea level. Now a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance, the castle was built at Bickerton between 500 and 600 BC and was probably still occupied when the Romans arrived in Britain.

The whole site would have been a bustling settlement with stone and timber buildings, trackways and livestock enclosures. Today you can still see the two semi-circular ramparts that were used to defend the settlement.

Chester Castle

Chester Castle was founded by William the Conqueror in 1070 and became the administrative centre of the earldom of Chester. The first earth and timber ‘motte-and-bailey’ castle probably only occupied the area of the inner bailey. In the 12th century it was rebuilt in stone and the outer bailey added.

In 1237 the last earl died and the castle, with the earldom, was taken over by the king. In 1265, during the Barons’ War, it was held for ten weeks by supporters of Simon de Montfort against the men of Prince Edward, son of Henry III.

During the reigns of Henry III and Edward I the castle served as the military headquarters for the conquest of Wales and much building was carried out, especially in the outer bailey. In the later medieval period the monarch rarely stayed at the castle, but it continued to serve as the centre for county administration.

During the Civil War (1642–6) it was the headquarters of the Royalist governor, John, Lord Byron. Subsequently a permanent garrison was stationed there, and between 1788 and 1813 the outer bailey was completely rebuilt in the neoclassical style. The buildings still serve as the county hall, courts and regimental museum, but the military finally withdrew in 1999.

Beeston Castle

Beeston Castle is one of the most dramatic ruins in the English landscape. Built by Ranulf, 6th Earl of Chester, in the 1220s, the castle incorporates the banks and ditches of an Iron Age hillfort. Henry III seized the castle in 1237 and it remained in royal ownership until the 16th century. In the Civil War it withstood a long siege in 1644–5, before being surrendered by the Royalists and partially demolished.

Cholmondeley Castle

The Cholmondeley family have lived on these lands since Norman times, with the castle built in the early 19th century by the 1st Marquess. Nestled within historic parkland our 70acres of beautiful gardens offer magnificent displays through the seasons and are filled with colour and botanical delights.

Discover the romantic Temple and Folly Water Gardens, Glade, Arboretum, double herbaceous bordered Lavinia Walk, ornamental woodland upon Tower Hill and the new Cholmondeley Rose Garden with over 800 new plantings creating two very different connected Rose Rooms between old and new. The Castle and gardens also provide a stunning backdrop to a host of great events held throughout the year, offering something for everyone.

Peckforton Castle

It was in 1840 that John Tollemache bought the land that would become the home of Peckforton Castle. 36,000 acres of sprawling green Cheshire countryside. The plot included the villages of Peckforton and Beeston, plus the rolling hills destined to house this grand project. Tollemache dreamt of a palatial fortified home in the style of a medieval castle and so work commenced in 1842 and the castle’s story began. With the sheer magnitude of such an imposing build, it was not completed until 1851.

Dunham Massey

Nestled between the vibrant city of Manchester and the beginnings of rural Cheshire, Dunham Massey includes a 300-acre deer park, a historic house and buildings, and all-season gardens.

Outdoors, accessible paths pass roaming fallow deer and ancient trees in the parkland, while the Winter and Rose Gardens reveal the sights and scents of the seasons. Across the moat, the Georgian house offers a backdrop to the formal gardens making a picturesque spot for picnickers.

Indoors, ornate rooms and servant’s quarters hold a collection that spans the history of the house, while the water-powered mill and other historic buildings add further context that beckons you into the past.

Lyme Park and the Sarum Missal

Nestling on the edge of the Peak District, Lyme was once home to the Legh family and, in its heyday a great sporting estate. The 1,400 acre estate with its medieval herd of red deer offers fantastic walks and stunning views. For a more tranquil walk explore the elegant Rose Garden, Ravine Garden or the luxurious herbaceous borders next to the reflecting lake where a certain Mr Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC production of 'Pride and Prejudice'.

The Sarum Missal at Lyme is the only surviving, largely intact, book of its kind. Printed by William Caxton in Paris 1487, the book is unique in having belonged to one family for over five centuries and represents the changing religious views of the country during that period. The book was in the Legh family’s possession from at least 1503 until the National Trust purchased it in 2008. The Missal has been on display ever since.

Gawsworth Hall and Mary Fitton

Wrapped in romance, intrigue and great charm, the Cheshire domain of Gawsworth has been held by only five families since Norman times. Today it is the home of Elizabeth Richards, and her sons Rupert and Jonathan.

On a tour of this ancient Tudor manor house you will see fine paintings, furniture, sculpture and stained glass. The grounds are no less impressive, with a rookery, tilting ground and Elizabethan pleasure garden.

It has been said that to see Cheshire, you must see Gawsworth, and there can be no doubt of the important role that this beautiful black and white Hall, built in 1480, has played in Britain’s history over the last five centuries.

White Nancy

White Nancy is a structure at the top of Kerridge Hill, overlooking Bollington, Cheshire, England. Since 1966 it has been recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building. Its profile forms the logo for the town of Bollington.

White Nancy was built in 1817 by John Gaskell junior of North End Farm to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo. John Gaskell was a member of the Gaskell family who lived nearby at Ingersley Hall. It originally had an entrance to a single room which was furnished with stone benches and a central round stone table, but the entrance is now blocked. It has been described as a summer house or a folly. Locals supposedly told 1940s Army signallers working on Kerridge Hill that the landmark was named after the lead horse that had transported all materials for the building of White Nancy.

Alderley Edge

Alderley Edge is the oldest known metal-mining site in England. There has been mining activity at Alderley Edge for over 4,000 years, from early in the Bronze Age right through to the early 20th century.

Various prehistoric tools such as stone hammers and mauls have been found and in the 1870s an oak shovel was discovered. It was carbon dated to around 1,750 BC.

Caves and landmarks such as the Devil's Grave and Mad Allen's hole (pictured below) feature along Alderley Edge.

The Devil's Grave

Mad Allen's Hole

Old Man of Helsby

The village of Helsby sits at the foot of a wooded sandstone hill 463 feet (141 m) above sea level. Helsby Hill has steep cliffs on the northern and western sides and is a prominent landmark rising above the Cheshire Plain and overlooking the Mersey estuary. Much of the hill is owned and managed by the National Trust. It is the site of Helsby hill fort, an ancient British hillfort, and more recently acquired a concrete pillar trig point on its summit.

The top of the hill also has a former Royal Observer Corps post, which was abandoned in 1992.Visitors who see Helsby Hill from the M56 or on the train can sometimes see a man's face within the cliff face from east, west and sometimes from the north. This is referred to as the "Old Man of Helsby".

Robin Hood's Picking Rods

Ancient Cross in Derbyshire, on the border with Greater Manchester. Robin Hoods Picking Rods 2 miles S of Charlesworth, at SK.006909. Two stone columns stand together in a large socketed stone base. The columns were probably once part of a Mercian cross. It is thought that originally there was only one column here, however, that was broken in two and then set as they look today.

They are said, according to historians, to date from the 9th century - making them Anglo Saxon in date. The stones are also referred to as Robin Hood's Stumps, and even the Druid Stones. According to the Legend, Robin Hood used the column or columns 'to bend his bow on' and so the name as stuck. He may have had associations with Ludworth, to the NW of this site.

The tallest column has a tiny cross within a circle carved onto it, whilst the smaller one has what could be cup-marks, or circles, and small holes. It is uncertain what these represent, but this could mean the stones are much earlier in date. The footpath upto this site is often muddy and difficult.

Bible Chest, St Oswald's Church, Lower Peover

In the chapel is a 'bog oak' chest, thought to be older than the church itself. This chest was used for centuries to keep important parish documents safe, as well as acting as a store for vestments and church plate. It probably dates to the 13th century and was made from a single oak log, 6 feet long and 2 feet wide.

A fascinating folk tale is associated with the chest; it is said that in the medieval period a young woman needed to be able to lift the chest lid with one arm if she wanted to marry a local farmer. This probably has some basis in fact, for the farmers' wives in this area needed to be able to handle the large and heavy rounds of Cheshire cheese made locally.

Antrobus Soul Cakers

An old tradition is being kept alive by a group of local enthusiasts, based at The Antrobus Arms pub near Northwich. It’s the ancient art of ‘souling’ which is an old-time precursor to the modern ‘trick or treating’.

Souling marks the three days around All Saints Day (1st November). In Antrobus village, however, Major Arnold Boyd (a naturalist and historian) recorded the words used in the traditional mummers plays and the tradition was preserved. These words, called a ‘nominy’, had been passed down through the generations.

Thanks to Major Boyd, the plays continue to be performed to this day, with the Antrobus Soul Cakers visiting local public houses to raise money for good causes.

Rostherne Mere

Rostherne is the largest of the Cheshire meres and also the deepest, with the original basin having been deepened by salt subsidence. Rostherne Mere is primarily of importance for its wintering wildfowl populations, particularly pochard. Mallard, teal, pintail and shoveler are also regular visitors and in cold weather ruddy duck, gadwall and goosander often visit the site.

The surrounding reed beds support a large breeding population of reed warblers and bittern is a regular visitor during the winter months. Birds of the surrounding woods include all three native woodpecker species together with tawny owl, sparrowhawk and kestrel. Scrub areas are home to reed bunting, willow warblers and whitethroat.

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