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Cheshire (pron.: /ˈtʃɛʃər/ or /ˈtʃɛʃɪər/; also known as the County Palatine of Chester, and archaically, as the County of Chester; abbreviated Ches.) is a ceremonial county in England, sitting between the West Midlands and the North West. The western edge of the county forms England's border with Wales. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although the largest town since county boundary changes in 1974 is Warrington (moved from Lancashire for administrative purposes in 1974). Other major towns include Widnes (also moved from Lancashire in 1974), Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow. Historically the county contained the Wirral, Stockport, Altrincham and other towns. The county is bordered by Merseyside and Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east, Staffordshire and Shropshire to the south, and Flintshire and Wrexham in Wales to the west. The county is a part of the Welsh Marches.
Cheshire's area is 2,343 square kilometres (905 sq mi) and its population is around 700,000. Apart from the large towns along the River Mersey and the historic city of Chester, it is mostly rural, with a number of small towns and villages that support an agricultural industry. It is historically famous as a former principality and for the production of Cheshire cheese, salt, bulk chemicals, and woven silk.
History See Historic Cheshire Project
Cheshire's name was originally derived from an early name for Chester, and was first recorded as Legeceasterscir in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, meaning the shire of the city of legions. Although the name first appears in 980, it is thought that the county was created by Edward the Elder around 920. In the Domesday Book, Chester was recorded as having the name Cestrescir (Chestershire), derived from the name for Chester at the time. A series of changes that occurred as English itself changed, together with some simplifications and elision, resulted in the name Cheshire, as it occurs today.
Because of the historically close links with the land bordering Cheshire to the west, which became Wales, there is a history of interaction between Cheshire and Wales. The Domesday Book records Cheshire as having two complete Hundreds (Atiscross and Exestan) that later became entirely part of Wales. Additionally, another large portion of the Duddestan Hundred later became known as Maelor Saesneg when it was transferred to Wales. For this and other reasons, the Welsh name for Cheshire (Swydd Gaerlleon) is sometimes used within Wales and by Welsh speakers.
After the Norman conquest of 1066 by William I, dissent and resistance continued for many years after the invasion. In Cheshire in 1069 local resistance was finally overcome, and draconian measures were taken to impress the native Saxons with the futility of future resistance. Earl Edwin of Mercia along with other major landowners were made examples of, their properties confiscated and redistributed amongst Norman barons. King William created one of his barons, Hugh d'Avranches (nicknamed Hugh Lupus, or 'wolf') as Earl of Chester, ruling virtually autonomously in William's name and with his full authority, and Cheshire was thereby declared a County Palatine.
Cheshire in the Domesday Book (1086) was recorded as a larger county than it is today. It included two hundreds, Atiscross and Exestan, that later became part of Wales. At the time of the Domesday Book, it also included as part of Duddestan Hundred the area of land later known as Maelor Saesneg (which used to be a detached part of Flintshire) in Wales. The area between the Mersey and Ribble (referred to in the Domesday Book as "Inter Ripam et Mersam") formed part of the returns for Cheshire. Although this has been interpreted to mean that at that time south Lancashire was part of Cheshire, more exhaustive research indicates that the boundary between Cheshire and what was to become Lancashire remained the River Mersey. With minor variations in spelling across sources, the complete list of hundreds of Cheshire at this time are: Atiscross, Bochelau, Chester, Dudestan, Exestan, Hamestan, Middlewich, Riseton, Roelau, Tunendune, Warmundestrou and Wilaveston.
Palatine feudal baronies
Feudal baronies or baronies by tenure were granted by the Earl as forms of feudal land tenure within the palatinate in a similar way to which the king granted English feudal baronies within England proper. An example is the barony of Halton. One of Hugh d'Avranche's barons has been identified as Robert Nicholls, Baron of Halton and Montebourg.
Lands devolved to Lancashire
In 1182 the land north of the Mersey became administered as part of the new county of Lancashire, thus resolving any uncertainty about the county in which the land "Inter Ripam et Mersam" was. Over the years, the ten hundreds consolidated and changed names to leave just seven—Broxton, Bucklow, Eddisbury, Macclesfield, Nantwich, Northwich and Wirral.
Acquires Welsh-March lands
In 1397 the county had lands in the march of Wales added to its territory, and was promoted to the rank of principality. This was because of the support the men of the county had given to King Richard II, in particular by his standing armed force of about 500 men called the "Cheshire Guard". As a result the King's title was changed to "King of England and France, Lord of Ireland, and Prince of Chester". No other English county has been honoured in this way, although it lost the distinction on Richard's fall in 1399.
Lands devolved to Greater Manchester
Through the Local Government Act 1972, which came into effect on 1 April 1974, some areas in the north-west became part of the metropolitan counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside. Stockport (previously a county borough), Altrincham, Hyde, Dukinfield and Stalybridge in the north-east became part of Greater Manchester. Much of the Wirral Peninsula in the north-west, including the county boroughs of Birkenhead and Wallasey, joined Merseyside. At the same time the Tintwistle Rural District was transferred to Derbyshire. The area of Lancashire south of the Merseyside/Greater Manchester area, including Widnes and the county borough of Warrington, was added to the new non-metropolitan county of Cheshire.
Unitary Authorities created
Halton and Warrington became unitary authorities independent of Cheshire County Council on 1 April 1998, but remain part of Cheshire for ceremonial purposes and also for fire and policing.
Regional Assemblies proposed
A referendum for a further local government reform connected with an elected regional assembly was planned for 2004, but was abandoned – see Northern England referendum, 2004.
Abolition of Cheshire County Council
As part of the local government restructuring in April 2009, Cheshire County Council and the Cheshire districts were abolished and replaced by two new unitary authorities, Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester. The existing unitary authorities of Halton and Warrington were not affected by the change.
Buildings and structures
Black-and-white timbered buildings on Nantwich High StreetPrehistoric burial grounds have been discovered at The Bridestones, near Congleton (Neolithic) and Robin Hood's Tump, near Alpraham (Bronze Age). The remains of Iron Age hill forts are found on sandstone ridges at several locations in Cheshire. Examples include Maiden Castle on Bickerton Hill, Helsby Hillfort and Woodhouse Hillfort at Frodsham. The Roman fortress and walls of Chester, perhaps the earliest building works in Cheshire remaining above ground, are constructed from purple-grey sandstone.
The distinctive local red sandstone has been used for many monumental and ecclesiastical buildings throughout the county: for example, the medieval Beeston Castle, Chester Cathedral and numerous parish churches. Occasional residential and industrial buildings, such as Helsby Station, Helsby (1849), are also in this sandstone.
Many surviving buildings from the 15th to 17th centuries are timbered, particularly in the southern part of the county. Notable examples include the moated manor house Little Moreton Hall, dating from around 1450, and many commercial and residential buildings in Chester, Nantwich and surrounding villages.
Early brick buildings include Peover Hall near Macclesfield (1585), Tattenhall Hall (pre-1622), and the Pied Bull Hotel in Chester (17th century). From the 18th century, orange, red or brown brick became the predominant building material used in Cheshire, although earlier buildings are often faced or dressed with stone. Examples from the Victorian period onwards often employ distinctive brick detailing, such as brick patterning and ornate chimney stacks and gables. Notable examples include Arley Hall near Northwich, Willington Hall near Chester (both by Nantwich architect George Latham) and Overleigh Lodge, Chester. From the Victorian era, brick buildings often incorporate timberwork in a mock Tudor style, and this hybrid style has been used in some modern residential developments in the county. Industrial buildings, such as the Macclesfield silk mills (for example, Waters Green New Mill), are also usually in brick.
Cheshire covers a boulder clay plain separating the hills of North Wales and the Peak District of Derbyshire (the area is also known as the Cheshire Gap). This was formed following the retreat of ice age glaciers which left the area dotted with kettle holes, locally referred to as meres. The bedrock of this region is almost entirely Triassic sandstone, outcrops of which have long been quarried, notably at Runcorn, providing the distinctive red stone for Liverpool Cathedral and Chester Cathedral.
The eastern half of the county is Upper Triassic Mercia Mudstone laid down with large salt deposits which were mined for hundreds of years around Northwich. Separating this area from Lower Triassic Sherwood Sandstone to the west is a prominent sandstone ridge known as the Mid Cheshire Ridge. A 55-kilometre (34 mi) footpath, the Sandstone Trail, follows this ridge from Frodsham to Whitchurch passing Delamere Forest, Beeston Castle and earlier Iron Age forts.
The highest point in Cheshire is Shining Tor on the Derbyshire/Cheshire border between Macclesfield and Buxton, at 559 metres (1,834 ft) above sea level. Prior to county boundary alterations in 1974, the county top was Black Hill (582 m (1,909 ft)) near Crowden in the far east of the historic county on the border with the West Riding of Yorkshire. Black Hill is now the highest point in West Yorkshire.
Based on the Census of 2001, the overall population of Cheshire is 673,781, of which 51.3% of the population were male and 48.7% were female. Of those aged between 0–14 years, 51.5% were male and 48.4% were female; and of those aged over 75 years, 62.9% were female and 37.1% were male.
The population density of Cheshire is 32 people per km², lower than the North West average of 42 people/km² and the England and Wales average of 38 people/km². Ellesmere Port and Neston has a greater urban density than the rest of the county with 92 people/km².
The population for 2021 is forecast to be 708,000.
Politics and administration
The ceremonial county borders Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire in England along with Flintshire and Wrexham in Wales, arranged by compass directions as shown in the table. below. Cheshire also forms part of the North West England region.
Economy and industry
Cheshire has a diverse economy with significant sectors including agriculture, automotive, bio-technology, chemical, financial services, food and drink, ICT, and tourism. The county is famous for the production of Cheshire cheese, salt and silk.
Cattle farming in the countyA mainly rural county, Cheshire has a high concentration of villages. Agriculture is generally based on the dairy trade, and cattle are the predominant livestock. Land use given to agriculture has fluctuated somewhat, and in 2005 totalled 1558 km² over 4,609 holdings. Based on holdings by EC farm type in 2005, 8.51 km² was allocated to dairy farming, with another 11.78 km² allocated to cattle and sheep.
The chemical industry in Cheshire was founded in Roman times, with the mining of salt in Middlewich and Northwich. Salt is still mined in the area by British Salt. The salt mining has led to a continued chemical industry around Northwich, with Brunner Mond based in the town. Other chemical companies, including Ineos (formerly ICI), have plants at Runcorn. The Shell Stanlow Refinery is at Ellesmere Port. The oil refinery has operated since 1924 and has a capacity of 12 million tonnes per year.
Crewe was once the centre of the British railway industry, and remains a major railway junction. The Crewe railway works, built in 1840, employed 20,000 people at its peak, although the workforce is now less than 1,000. Crewe is also the home of Bentley cars. Also within Cheshire are manufacturing plants for Jaguar and Vauxhall Motors in Ellesmere Port. The county also has an aircraft industry, with the BAE Systems facility at Woodford Aerodrome, part of BAE System's Military Air Solutions division. The facility designed and constructed Avro Lancaster and Avro Vulcan bombers and the Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod. On the Cheshire border with Flintshire is the Broughton aircraft factory, more recently associated with Airbus.
Tourism in Cheshire from within the UK and overseas continues to perform strongly. Over 8 million nights of accommodation (both UK and overseas) and over 2.8 million visits to Cheshire were recorded during 2003.
At the start of 2003, there were 22,020 VAT-registered enterprises in Cheshire, an increase of 7% since 1998, many in the business services (31.9%) and wholesale/retail (21.7%) sectors. Between 2002 and 2003 the number of businesses grew in four sectors: public administration and other services (6.0%), hotels and restaurants (5.1%), construction (1.7%), and business services (1.0%). The county saw the largest proportional reduction between 2001 and 2002 in employment in the energy and Water sector and there was also a significant reduction in the manufacturing sector. The largest growth during this period was in the other services and distribution, hotels and retail sectors.
Cheshire is considered to be an affluent county Due to Cheshire's proximity to the cities of Manchester and Liverpool, counter urbanisation is common. Cheshire West has a fairly large proportion of residents who work in Liverpool, while Cheshire East falls within Manchester's sphere of influence.
Culture, media and sport
Cheshire has one league football team, Crewe Alexandra who play in League One, and two Conference National teams, Stockport County and Macclesfield Town. Chester City were also a League Two team until they were relegated to the Conference National in April 2009 and later dissolved. A new club, Chester F.C., was formed in 2010 and currently plays in the Conference North.
Cheshire also is represented in the highest level basketball league in the UK, the BBL, by the Cheshire Jets, formerly Chester Jets.
Warrington Wolves are the premier Rugby League team in Cheshire and play in the Super League. Widnes Vikings are currently in Super League from the 2012 season. There are also numerous junior clubs in the county, including Chester Gladiators.
Cheshire County Cricket Club is one of the clubs that make up the Minor counties of English and Welsh cricket.
The county has also been home to many notable sportsmen and athletes, including footballers Dean Ashton, Djibril Cissé, Peter Crouch, Seth Johnson, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney. Other local athletes have included cricketer Ian Botham, marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, Great Britain Olympic oarsman Matthew Langridge, Shirley Strong, and mountaineer George Mallory, who died in 1924 on Mount Everest.
Each May, Europe's largest motorcycle event, the Thundersprint, is held in Northwich.
Cheshire has also produced a military hero in Norman Cyril Jones, a World War I flying ace who won the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The county has produced several notable popular musicians, including Gary Barlow (Take That, born and raised in Frodsham), Harry Styles (singer with One Direction, born and raised in Holmes Chapel), John Mayall (John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers), Ian Astbury (The Cult), Tim Burgess (Charlatans) and Ian Curtis (Joy Division). Concert pianist Stephen Hough, singer Thea Gilmore and her producer husband Nigel Stonier also reside in Cheshire.
The county has also been home to several writers, including Hall Caine (1853–1931), popular romantic novelist and playwright; Alan Garner; Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, whose novel Cranford features her home town of Knutsford; and most famously Lewis Carroll, born and raised in Daresbury, hence the Cheshire cat. Artists from the county include ceramic artist Emma Bossons and sculptor and photographer Andy Goldsworthy. Actors from Cheshire include Daniel Craig, the 6th James Bond; Dame Wendy Hiller; and Lewis McGibbon, best known for his role in Millions.
Local radio stations in the county include Dee 106.3, Heart and Gold for Chester and West Cheshire, Silk FM for the east of the county, Signal 1 for the south, Wire FM for Warrington, Wish FM, which covers Widnes, and community station Cheshire FM, which covers central Cheshire. The BBC covers the west with BBC Radio Merseyside, the north and east with BBC Radio Manchester and the south with BBC Radio Stoke. There were plans to launch BBC Radio Cheshire, but those were shelved in 2007 after a lower than expected BBC licence fee settlement.
Modern county emblem
As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the cuckooflower as the county flower.
The county is home to some of the most affluent areas of Northern England, including Alderley Edge, Wilmslow, Prestbury, Tarporley and Knutsford, named in 2006 as the most expensive place to buy a house in the north of England. The former Cheshire town of Altrincham was in second place. The area is sometimes referred to as The Golden Triangle on account of the area in and around the above mentioned towns and villages.
The cities and towns in Cheshire are:
Ceremonial county District Centre of administration Other Towns or Cities Cheshire Cheshire East (unitary) Sandbach Alsager, Bollington, Crewe, Congleton, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Middlewich, Nantwich, Wilmslow Cheshire West and Chester (unitary) Chester Ellesmere Port, Frodsham, Malpas, Neston, Northwich, Winsford Halton (unitary) Widnes Runcorn Warrington (unitary) Warrington Lymm
Some settlements which were historically part of the county now fall under the counties of Derbyshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.
The Cheshire canal system includes several canals originally used to transport the county's industrial products (mostly chemicals). Nowadays they are mainly used for tourist traffic. The Cheshire Ring is formed from the Rochdale, Ashton, Peak Forest, Macclesfield, Trent and Mersey and Bridgewater canals.
The Manchester Ship Canal is a wide, 36-mile (58 km) stretch of water opened in 1894. It consists of the rivers Irwell and Mersey made navigable to Manchester for seagoing ships leaving the Mersey estuary. The canal passes through the north of the county via Runcorn and Warrington.