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
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.
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.