Nantwich is a market town in the county of Cheshire, England. The origins of the town are believed to date to Roman times when salt from Nantwich was used by the Roman garrisons at Chester. A short walk centred around the town square can tell you much about this old Cheshire settlement, for the history of Nantwich is on display for all to see with the black and white half-timbered buildings prominent throughout the centre of the town.
The oldest listed building however is St Mary's Church, a typical red sandstone Cheshire church, which dates from the 14th century and is listed at grade I. Two other listed buildings are known to pre-date the great fire of 1583: Sweetbriar Hall and the grade-I-listed Churche's Mansion are both timber-framed, "black and white" Elizabethan mansion houses.
The name of the town is believed to be derived from its association with salt. Wich or wych was used to denote brine springs or wells. Another source believes “Nant” is derived from “Nemeton”, the pre-Roman Celtic word for a sacred grove. A 12th century reference to the town as “Nametwihc”, makes this a reasonable assumption. Whatever the truth, salt has been used in the production of Cheshire cheese and in the tanning industry, both products of the dairy industry based in the Cheshire Plain.
In the Domesday Book, Nantwich is recorded as having eight salt houses. It had a castle, of which nothing remains, and was the capital of a barony of the earls of Chester. It was first recorded as an urban area during the 11th century – the Normans burned the town to the ground leaving only one building standing.
During the medieval period, Nantwich was the most important salt town and probably the second most important settlement in the county after Chester. By the 14th century, the town held a weekly cattle market important for its tanning.
The salt industry peaked in the mid-16th century, with around 400 salt houses in 1530, and had almost died out by the end of the 18th century; the last salt house closed in the mid-19th century.
Great Fire of Nantwich: On the 10th December 1583 a great fire started that lasted 20 days and destroyed most of the town to the east of the River Weaver. Money was raised for the rebuilding of the town from a nationwide collection, including £1000.00 from Queen Elizabeth I. A plaque on the wall of the Queen's Aid House, located opposite Castle Street, displays the appreciation to Queen Elizabeth I for her help in raising funds to rebuild the town. Many of the houses to be seen today date from this rebuilding.
Battle of Nantwich: During the English Civil War Nantwich first (1642) declared for King Charles, but most of the citizens supported the Parliamentarians and in 1643 Sir William Brereton the commander of the Cheshire Parliamentarians repulsed the Royalists and garrisoned Nantwich as his headquarters. Consequently, Royalist forces besieged it several times and the final, six-week long, siege was lifted following the victory of the Parliamentary forces in the Battle of Nantwich on 25 January 1644.
The Sealed Knot, an English civil war re-enactment society, has re-enacted the battle as Holly Holy Day on its anniversary every year since 1973. The name comes from the sprigs of holly worn by the townsfolk in their caps or clothing in the years after the battle, in its commemoration.
In the 18th century Nantwich had a higher proportion of clockmakers in the population than any other provincial town in the country. The wealthy inhabitants bought there clocks locally which encouraged the local clock making industry.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
There are many walks criss-crossing the Cheshire landscape and Nantwich is no exception with walks along the banks of the River Weaver, the Shropshire Union Canal tow paths and last but not least the Crewe and Nantwich Circular Trail.
Alternatively you might prefer a short walk around the local places of interest. Nantwich is quite a compact little town and a walk around the town centre is well worth the effort. Park the car near the Civic Buildings, behind the Bus Station. Head south down Market Street to the Market Hall. Bear right outside the 14th century Church of St Mary's. The church is renowned as the “Cathedral of South Cheshire” and recognised as one of England's finest medieval churches. On leaving the church head to the town square and the war memorial (west). Bear right down the High Street and admire the fine half-timbered buildings including the Crown Hotel and the Crown Mews. There are several pubs on the Oat Market for refreshments including the Union and the Talbot.
Return via the High Street to the town square, depending on the day of the week there could be the popular outdoor market in progress. Heading south down High Street you will see several more half timbered buildings including the Nantwich Book Shop and Coffee Lounge also known as 46 High Street. It is a timber-framed, black-and-white Elizabethan merchant's house at the corner of High Street and Castle Street. The present building dates from shortly after the fire of 1583, and is believed to have been built for Thomas Churche, a linen merchant from one of the major families of the town. It remained in the Churche family until the late 19th century.
Opposite number 46 High Street is the Queen's Aid House, that holds a plaque that displays the appreciation to Queen Elizabeth I for her help in raising funds to rebuild the town after the Great Fire if Nantwich.
Continue on down Pillory Street as far as the Inglenook Tea Shoppe, a nice place to stop for a nice cup of tea. Note the Pillory or Town Stocks on the corner. Behind you is the Nantwich Museum, full of interesting displays on the town history, including the Great Fire of Nantwich, and the Battle of Nantwich in the Civil War. Take the lane alongside the Museum through the Cocoa Yard to Hospital Street. Bear left along Hospital Street to the corner of Church Lane. There is a pleasant view down Church Lane of St Mary's Church tower and the black and white half-timbered house on the corner.
Follow the Lane to return to the Car Park via the Church grounds, Monk's Lane and Market Street.
Shropshire Union Canal: The Shropshire Union Canal runs through the town and makes a junction with the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston to the north.
Nantwich Market: It is believed that a market existed in Nantwich as early as the eleventh century. The present market hall was built in 1867 with market trading taking place from both the hall and an outdoor market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Nantwich Farmers Market : Last Saturday of each month (held second to last Saturday in December) 9am - 2pm
For further details on Nantwich Market or Nantwich Farmers' Market contact the Market Manager on 07973 742066.
Talbot Public House: The Talbot is a fine pub in the Oat Market, Nantwich. How do I know Well I have to admit I have not had a pint in the Talbot but it serves Marstons beer which is usually a sure sign of good beer.
Nantwich Players Theatre: The Nantwich Players are a well-established friendly group with their own theatre, Nantwich Players Theatre, in Nantwich, Cheshire.
Crown Hotel: For more than 400 years The Crown Hotel has reigned over Nantwich High Street – the black and white facade, majestically bowed with age, topped by its impressive sweep of leaded windows which lit the second floor gallery dominates the street.
Saint Mary's Church: The parish Church of St Mary is located in the heart of Nantwich. Although there has been a church on the site since at least 1050 the present building dates from 1380 and was built in the decorated style. It is acknowledged one of the finest medieval town churches in England and is known by many as the Cathedral of South Cheshire with the fine octagonal tower being a feature for miles around.
There are many items of interest including strange stone carvings and carved misericords including a Devil pulling a woman's mouth open for lying, a dragon attacking a winged figure emerging from conch shell and a woman beating a man with a ladle.