Win­ter In Nantwich

The People's Friend Special - - NATURE -

WHEN my par­ents wanted to spice up their shop­ping, they would spend a day in Nantwich, just 40 min­utes from their home. They’d visit ei­ther on mar­ket day or when the lo­cal auc­tion house had a view­ing.

De­spite be­ing so close, it is some­where we only ever seem to pass by, which is why, with a crisp win­ter’s day fore­cast, we parked on Welsh Row.

A num­ber of lo­cal towns have a “wich” suf­fix, de­not­ing a salt-mak­ing her­itage, which in Nantwich’s case goes back to Ro­man times. The Latin in­vaders dis­cov­ered brine springs which were used to make salt for the gar­risons in Ch­ester and the Mid­lands.

Welsh Row points west to­wards the bor­der, and it can be no co­in­ci­dence that the Welsh word for stream, “nant”, added to “wich”, makes up the town’s name.

Not that the Welsh were al­ways wel­come vis­i­tors. Henry III de­stroyed the town in 1245 to pre­vent the Welsh gain­ing ac­cess to salt.

An­other catas­tro­phe played a pos­i­tive role in cre­at­ing one of Cheshire’s most at­trac­tive his­toric towns. In 1583 a fire started close to the river­side mill, which con­sumed most of the town’s build­ings.

Town Square con­tains a num­ber of beau­ti­ful old build­ings erected af­ter the fire. The Crown Ho­tel is un­usual in that the up­per floor is a long gallery, where the floor rises and falls with no con­ces­sion to the hor­i­zon­tal.

Across the square, the in­scrip­tion out­side Queen’s Aid House re­mem­bers Queen Eliz­a­beth’s con­tri­bu­tion to re­build­ing the fire-dam­aged town.

The cen­tre is a charm­ing mix of black and white tim­ber-framed build­ings, some lean­ing pre­car­i­ously, fol­low­ing an an­cient street pat­tern ra­di­at­ing out from the church.

We walked into town past the pretty Cheshire Cat pub. Orig­i­nally three cot­tages, th­ese were con­verted into wid­ows’ almshouses over 300 years ago and served that pur­pose un­til the 1930s.

A lit­tle out of town, to­wards the canal basin, Sir Roger Wil­bra­ham’s almshouses are also in fine fet­tle, hav­ing been res­cued from dere­lic­tion in the 1970s.

We found them dusted with snow as our day turned more win­try, and when we reached Town Square we sought shel­ter in the church as a brief bl­iz­zard en­veloped the town.

Ellen, one of the duty war­dens, spot­ted us. I men­tioned re­mem­ber­ing some­thing about the poor hav­ing a place near the church wall, but Ellen cor­rected me.

“Do you know the say­ing ‘the weak­est go to the wall’? When the church was built, the con­gre­ga­tion gath­ered on the floor, but around the edge of the wall there was a ledge where the weak could rest dur­ing the ser­vice.”

She led us to a glass panel, where the seat was vis­i­ble below the cur­rent floor level.

“This ran all round the walls. We had to ex­ca­vate near the door­way to in­stall a lift for dis­abled vis­i­tors,” church­war­den Ray Wil­son added.

Ray’s wife Mar­garet is re­spon­si­ble for wor­ship­pers’ com­fort as her ta­pes­try group cre­ated the main door’s Ju­bilee cur­tain and, over the years, stitched a won­der­ful ar­ray of has­socks to ease kneel­ing for prayer.

“Ev­ery one is dif­fer­ent,” Ellen said, find­ing one show­ing a Rolls-Royce, man­u­fac­tured in Crewe.

“My favourite fea­ture is this beau­ti­ful ‘Cre­ation’ win­dow,” Ellen ad­mit­ted, point­ing up to Betty

Neil McAl­lis­ter en­joys a warm wel­come in this beau­ti­ful Cheshire town.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.