The History of Barnton
The development of Barnton over the years has been dramatically influenced by its waterways. Back in the 18th century Barnton was a farming community consisting of around 200 people. The success of the Mid Cheshire salt industry, closely associated with the passing of the Weaver Navigation Act in 1721, stimulated economic growth in the local area leading to the expansion of Barnton. Further dramatic growth was evident after the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1775 which initiated development of the canal basin at the mouth of Barnton Tunnel. Over 150 years Barnton’s landscape was shaped by economic growth leading to construction of housing and businesses and by mid 19th century was the most densely populated non market town in Cheshire. Another industrial highlight during the late 19th century was the establishment of a chemical Industry at Winnington by Brunner and Mond.
If you take a walk around the village today there is still some of the old Barnton still visible such as the quaint row of back to back houses on Bell’s Brow at the top of Barnton Hill built in 1810 to accommodate labourers. The Parish church built mid 1800’s and the Vicarage stand proudly on Church Road overlooking the Brunner Mond chemical works and are two of the more architecturally desirable buildings which remain in the village. Further along at Church Road junction stands the old Police Station which was built in 1902 for the sergeant who lived on Bells Brow. It contained an office, an interview room and three cells.
There are two main recreation parks to help accomodate the growing number of children in the village. Nursery Road Recreation Park used to be called the ‘Old Rec’ and has been developed by Barnton Parish Council in recent years on land formerly bought and leased by Brunner Mond and Company. Runcorn Road Recreation Park was developed on land left over from the Cockshutts Field housing development built along Runcorn Road. The land was generously given to the Parish Council by Mr and Mrs H. Hazelhurst to commemorate the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Barnton became known as “Jam Town” long before the council estate was built. It was known as that in the late 1800’s due to so many people owning and not renting their homes. “People in Barnton eat Jam butties so that they can own not only their own houses, but buy their neighbours too!”
Below are some extracts and pictures kindly provided by Mr G.H. Buchan, author of ‘BARNTON – A Portrait of Times Past’ and ‘BARNTON – Through Changing Scenes of Life’ which we hope will provide you with a flavour of the old Barnton.
The Canal Basin
Prior to the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal in1775 the common land in the valley below Smithy Brows was waste and agriculturally useless.The canal engineers flooded the valley, forming a basin at the entrance to Barnton Tunnel. During the next 100 years the land around the canal basin was developed into a thriving industrial community.
The land between Tunnel Road and the canal was called ‘The Piece’ and was used by local housewives as a drying ground for washing. For one hundred years the scene was dominated by the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.
Much of the development at the canal side took place after the sale of common land in 1859. The Navigation Inn was built in 1860 by Ambrose Cottrell. The grocery shop next door was owned by one of Cottrell’s descendents.
Known in the 19th Century as Red Hill. The Victorian houses and shops in the centre of the picture were erected on common land sold by the township in 1859. At the near end of the row there once stood a public house trading under the name of the Farmers Arms or, as known by the locals, the ‘Corner Cupboard’.
In 1865 William Hickson, a flatman on the River Weaver, purchased property on the high road below Bell’s Brow. Here he erected the Travellers Rest Inn. The building was designed by the Northwich architect S.I.Long.
The Ketch Well
Situated near to the main road opposite Princes Park, this was one of Barnton’s most popular sources of water before the mains supply. The facility was removed prior to the construction of Grange Road.
Lydyett or Lidiartis derived from two Old English words ’hlid geat’ meaning ‘swing gate’ and referring to the gate in the lane to prevent cattle from straying from pasture onto the arable land.
From earliest times the inhabitants of Barnton obtained their drinking water from wells and streams within the township. At the end of the 19th Century a domestic distribution system was installed. Water flowed by gravity from a covered reservoir in Little leigh to Gunnersclough where it was pumped to a water storage head tank which stood at the corner of Lydyett Lane and Townfield Lane.
In days before use of motorcars, the footpath provided a well used short cut between Nursery Road and Winnington Bridge, and was popular particularly with the employees of Brunner Mond and Co.The bridge, of steel construction, carries the ‘Shoots’ across the Trent and Mersey Canal.
As the name implies this lane was the main access to the Higher and Lower Townfields, the ancient open fields where many of Barnton’s farmers cultivated strips of land.