Lin­dow Peat’s last rest­ing place

Its present rep­u­ta­tion is as the place of the des res - the most northerly point of Cheshire’s Golden Tri­an­gle. But Wilm­slow has a sur­pris­ingly in­dus­trial past Cheshire Life: De­cem­ber 2018

Cheshire Life - - Nostalgia - Howard Brad­bury

It has some­times been said that ‘Wilm­slow has no his­tory’. That was the un­promis­ing in­tro­duc­tion to The Wilm­slow of Yes­ter­day, pub­lished in 1970 by the town’s his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety. By that, it meant that Wilm­slow had not been fought over in the Wars of the Roses, it had seen no more than a mi­nor skir­mish in the English Civil War, there were no beds claimed to have been slept in by El­iz­a­beth I and no prime min­is­ters were born here (though a young Wil­liam Ewart Glad­stone was tu­tored in Wilm­slow in 1828 by the Rev JM Turner be­tween leav­ing Eton and go­ing to Ox­ford Univer­sity).

In 1970, though, Lin­dow Man nes­tled undis­cov­ered in the peat bog at Lin­dow Moss to which he had been con­signed 2,000 years pre­vi­ously. Here was a pow­er­ful claim that Wilm­slow did in­deed have his­tory. The un­earthing of this well-pre­served body in 1984 was one of Bri­tain’s most im­por­tant Iron Age dis­cov­er­ies, and also a fas­ci­nat­ing un­solved crime - a vic­tim of mur­der or per­haps even ri­tual killing.

For many of the cen­turies fol­low­ing Lin­dow Man’s demise, Wilm­slow was an agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity, which had a corn mill as long ago as 1245. Glove-mak­ing was a lo­cal spe­cialty in the 17th cen­tury.

In 1735, two Mac­cles­field but­ton man­u­fac­tur­ers came to Wilm­slow and gave work to lo­cal women and chil­dren, some as young as six. By the early part of the 19th cen­tury, 80 per cent of Wilm­slow’s pop­u­la­tion were in­volved in hand­loom weav­ing of cot­ton and silk, and mills were built on the Bollin to har­ness wa­ter power.

This in­dus­try dwin­dled as in­dus­try moved to steam power, but the ar­rival of the rail­way in 1842 heralded Wilm­slow’s fu­ture as a pleas­ant dor­mi­tory for busi­ness folk anx­ious to es­cape the grime of Man­ches­ter at the end of the work­ing day. Here was an­other source of em­ploy­ment which swelled the town’s pop­u­la­tion. In 1861, a study of the ori­gins of Wilm­slow folk showed a high pro­por­tion were from Scot­land, Wales and Ire­land, and were em­ployed in do­mes­tic ser­vice. Those big houses didn’t run them­selves.

Snakes alive

This is a rather lovely post­card de­pic­tion of Lin­dow Com­mon from the 1910s. But this nat­u­ral beauty has a darker side to it. Over the cen­turies, peo­ple and cat­tle of­ten drowned in the bogs. Hot sum­mers saw peat fires which, in 1852 and 1865, raged for weeks. And at one time vipers were so preva­lent on the com­mon that a snake catcher came an­nu­ally to round them up.

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