People, ah…their comings and goings over centuries. Estates, boundaries, rulerships… During Middlewich’s long existence it seems ‘all change here’. And circumstances are still shifting! But who were these groups of people? How has it changed? Let’s take a dash through some datelines.
Usually the local story begins with Roman soldiers. They weren’t the first residents though. Had you already been living here in the Iron Age, home would be a simple roundhouse, probably by the river Croco. As the province of Britannia, this area and its Cornovii tribe, became part of the vast Roman Empire. After their departure next arrivals from the Continent were Angles and Saxons. Some intrepid souls founded little farming settlements (‘tuns’) – in effect beginning the community of Middlewich. The region also gained a new name – Mercia. Norwegian Vikings were not too far away either. A colony of these adventurers from Ireland was allowed to live on the Wirral.
The late 11th century influx of Normans from France brought big shifts in territorial arrangements. Yet herein nestles a wonderful historical gem. The Great Survey of 1086 recorded names of actual Anglo-Saxon locals. Therefore we know that one Godwine had held Kinderton and Croxton manors. Newton was managed by Gruffydd. Almaer had Sproston and Wulfgeat had Brereton. Three freemen – Godric, Godwine and Arnketil - shared Byley Osmaer held Bostock. Sutton was run jointly by Alstan and Beollan. Tetton was held by Godgyth. Leofwine held Wimboldsley whilst Wharton was shared between Arngrim and Alsige.
After 1066 the replacement list of landholders contains very different sounding names. Kinderton and Brereton (with its useful mill) became one of the many manors of the new baron Gilbert de Venables. Newton and Croxton both went to Joscelin. William Malbanc took Sproston and Hugh Delamere gained Byley. Sutton and Wimboldsley were held together by Bigod de Loges. Wharton and Bostock were now under Richard de Vernon.
Shires were formed: Middlewich found itself in that of ‘the city of the legions’ - Cheshire. (So… those Romans never really left the building – or its ruins - after all?!) The award of a medieval market charter meant even more reason for passing trade and, on a refreshing humanitarian note, 20th century wars saw Belgian refugees officially welcomed here. What a mix. But that’s not all. Administratively, Middlewich was once in Congleton borough, whilst latest changes split Cheshire into eastern and western halves.
Middlewich is one of the county’s oldest towns. As such it’s a microcosm of the European heritage that made it – ancient and fascinating continuity. Now, in the 21st century, we’re all living links.
© Julie Elizabeth Smalley 2019