Cheshire
County Palatine of Chester
Ceremonial county
Flag of Cheshire.svg
Flag
Motto: Jure Et Dignitate Gladii
("By the Right and Dignity of the Sword")
Cheshire UK locator map 2010.svg
Coordinates: 53°10′N 2°35′W / 53.167°N 2.583°W / 53.167; -2.583Coordinates: 53°10′N 2°35′W / 53.167°N 2.583°W / 53.167; -2.583
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionNorth West
EstablishedAncient
Ceremonial county
Lord LieutenantThomas David Briggs
High SheriffNicholas Hopkinson (2020–21)[1]
Area2,343 km2 (905 sq mi)
 • Ranked25th of 48
Population (mid-2019 est.)1,059,271
 • Ranked19th of 48
Density452/km2 (1,170/sq mi)
Ethnicity97.3% White
1.7% Asian
0.6% Black
0.4% White Other
Cheshire unitary number.png
Districts of Cheshire
All unitary
Districts
  1. Cheshire West and Chester
  2. Cheshire East
  3. Warrington
  4. Halton
Members of ParliamentList of MPs
PoliceCheshire Constabulary
Time zoneGreenwich Mean Time (UTC)
 • Summer (DST)British Summer Time (UTC+1)

Cheshire (/ˈɛʃər, -ɪər/ CHESH-ər, -⁠eer;[2] archaically the County Palatine of Chester)[3] is a county in North West England, bordering Merseyside and Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east, Staffordshire and Shropshire to the south, and Flintshire and Wrexham County Borough in Wales to the west. Cheshire's county town is the City of Chester (118,200); the largest town is Warrington (209,700).[4] Other major towns include Crewe (71,722), Runcorn (61,789), Widnes (61,464), Ellesmere Port (55,715), Macclesfield (52,044), Winsford (32,610) and Northwich (19,924).[5][6][7]

The county covers 905 square miles (2,344 km2) and has a population of around 1 million. It is mostly rural, with a number of small towns and villages supporting the agricultural and other industries which produce Cheshire cheese, salt, chemicals and silk.[8]

History

Toponymy

Cheshire's name was originally derived from an early name for Chester, and was first recorded as Legeceasterscir in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,[9] meaning "the shire of the city of legions".[10] Although the name first appears in 980, it is thought that the county was created by Edward the Elder around 920.[10] In the Domesday Book, Chester was recorded as having the name Cestrescir (Chestershire), derived from the name for Chester at the time.[9] 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 modern Wales, there is a history of interaction between Cheshire and North Wales. The Domesday Book records Cheshire as having two complete Hundreds (Atiscross and Exestan) that later became the principal part of Flintshire. Additionally, another large portion of the Duddestan Hundred later became known as Maelor Saesneg when it was transferred to North Wales.[11] For this and other reasons, the Welsh language name for Cheshire (Swydd Gaerlleon) is sometimes used.[12]

Administrative history

The strategic location of the Earldom of Chester; the only county palatine on the Welsh Marches.[13]

  Pura Wallia (independent Wales)
  Lands gained by Llywelyn the Great in 1234
  Marchia Wallie (lands controlled by Norman Marcher barons)

After the Norman conquest of 1066 by William I, dissent and resistance continued for many years after the invasion. In 1069 local resistance in Cheshire was finally put down using draconian measures as part of the Harrying of the North. The ferocity of the campaign against the English populace was enough to end all future resistance. Examples were made of major landowners such as Earl Edwin of Mercia, their properties confiscated and redistributed amongst Norman barons. William I made Cheshire a county palatine and gave Gerbod the Fleming the new title of Earl of Chester. When Gerbod returned to Normandy in about 1070, the king used his absence to declare the earldom forfeit and gave the title to Hugh d'Avranches (nicknamed Hugh Lupus, or "wolf"). Because of Cheshire's strategic location on the Welsh Marches, the Earl had complete autonomous powers to rule on behalf of the king in the county palatine. The earldom was sufficiently independent from the kingdom of England that the 13th-century Magna Carta did not apply to the shire of Chester, so the earl wrote up his own Chester Charter at the petition of his barons.[14]

Palatine hundreds

Hundreds of Cheshire in Domesday Book. Areas highlighted in pink became part of Flintshire in Wales.

Cheshire in the Domesday Book (1086) is recorded as a much larger county than it is today. It included two hundreds, Atiscross and Exestan, that later became part of North Wales. At the time of the Domesday Book, it also included as part of Duddestan Hundred the area of land later known as English Maelor (which used to be a detached part of Flintshire) in Wales.[15] 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.[16][17] Although this has been interpreted to mean that at that time south Lancashire was part of Cheshire,[17][18] more exhaustive research indicates that the boundary between Cheshire and what was to become Lancashire remained the River Mersey.[19][20][21] 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.[22]

Palatine feudal baronies

There were 8 feudal baronies in Chester, the barons of Kinderton, Halton, Malbank, Mold, Shipbrook, Dunham-Massey, and the honour of Chester itself. 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.[23] One of Hugh d'Avranche's barons has been identified as Robert Nicholls, Baron of Halton and Montebourg.[24]

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.[25] Over the years, the ten hundreds consolidated and changed names to leave just seven—Broxton, Bucklow, Eddisbury, Macclesfield, Nantwich, Northwich and Wirral.[26]

Acquires Welsh-March lands

Map of Cheshire in 1577.

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.[27]

Lands devolved to Greater Manchester and Merseyside metropolitan counties

Through the Local Government Act 1972, which came into effect on 1 April 1974, some areas in the north became part of the metropolitan counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside.[28] 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 as the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral. At the same time the Tintwistle Rural District was transferred to Derbyshire. The area of south Lancashire not included within either the Merseyside or Greater Manchester counties, including Widnes and the county borough of Warrington, was added to the new non-metropolitan county of Cheshire.[29]

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.[30]

Regional assemblies proposed

A referendum for a further local government reform connected with an elected regional assembly was planned for 2004, but was abandoned.

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

Prehistoric burial grounds have been discovered at The Bridestones near Congleton (Neolithic) and Robin Hood's Tump near Alpraham (Bronze Age).[31] 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 railway station (1849),[32] 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[33] 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.

Geography

Physical

Cheshire covers a boulder clay plain separating the hills of North Wales and the Peak District (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 Winsford. 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,[34] the Sandstone Trail, follows this ridge from Frodsham to Whitchurch passing Delamere Forest, Beeston Castle and earlier Iron Age forts.[35]

The highest point (county top) of the historic county of Cheshire is Black Hill (582 m (1,909 ft)) near Crowden in the Cheshire Panhandle, a long eastern projection of the county along the northern side of Longdendale, and on the border with the West Riding of Yorkshire (Black Hill is now the highest point in the ceremonial county of West Yorkshire).

Within the current ceremonial county and the unitary authority of Cheshire East the highest point is Shining Tor on the Derbyshire/Cheshire border between Macclesfield and Buxton, at 559 metres (1,834 ft) above sea level. After Shining Tor, the next highest point in Cheshire is Shutlingsloe, at 506 metres (1,660 ft) above sea level. Shutlingshoe lies just to the south of Macclesfield Forest and is sometimes humorously referred to as the "Matterhorn of Cheshire" thanks to its distinctive steep profile.

Human

Green belt

Cheshire contains portions of two green belt areas surrounding the large conurbations of Merseyside and Greater Manchester (North Cheshire Green Belt, part of the North West Green Belt) and Stoke-on-Trent (South Cheshire Green Belt, part of the Stoke-on-Trent Green Belt), these were first drawn up from the 1950s. Contained primarily within Cheshire East[36] and Chester West & Chester[37], with small portions along the borders of the Halton[38] and Warrington[39] districts, towns and cities such as Chester, Macclesfield, Alsager, Congleton, Northwich, Ellesmere Port, Knutsford, Warrington, Poynton, Disley, Neston, Wilmslow, Runcorn, and Widnes are either surrounded wholly, partially enveloped by, or on the fringes of the belts. The North Cheshire Green Belt is contiguous with the Peak District Park boundary inside Cheshire.

Demography

Population

Based on the Census of 2001, the overall population of Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester 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.[40] This increased to 699,735 at the 2011 Census.[41][42] The population for 2021 is forecast to be 708,000.[43]

In 2001, the population density of Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester was 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 had a greater urban density than the rest of the county with 92 people/km2.[40]

Population change

Population totals for Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester
Year Population Year Population Year Population
1801 124,570 1881 303,315 1961 533,642
1811 141,672 1891 324,494 1971 605,918
1821 167,730 1901 343,557 1981 632,630
1831 191,965 1911 364,179 1991 656,050
1841 206,063 1921 379,157 2001 673,777
1851 224,739 1931 395,717 2011 699,735
1861 250,931 1941 431,335
1871 277,123 1951 471,438
Pre-1974 statistics were gathered from local government areas that now comprise Cheshire
Source:

In 2001, ethnic white groups accounted for 98% (662,794) of the population, and 10,994 (2%) in ethnic groups other than white.

Of the 2% in non-white ethnic groups: