One of the most important Roman military bases in the country, Chester was the headquarters of the famous 20th Legion, known as Valeria Victrix. Its Latin name, Deva, meaning ‘holy place’, honoured the goddess of the River Dee which, until it gradually silted up, was the source of Chester’s wealth and importance throughout the medieval period, when the city conducted a flourishing trade with Ireland, Scotland and parts of Europe. Architecturally, Chester owes much to the Victorians, who greatly admired the black and white ‘magpie’ buildings which make the centre of Chester almost dazzling to look at, and so they built more of them, often in a more elaborate and exuberant style than the ‘ originals, and restored others. They also restored the Rows, a unique feature of the city. The Rows are raised, covered galleries, with shops at first-floor level and another tier of shops underneath at street level.
Lyme Park, former ancestral home of the Leghs, an influential family of Cheshire landowners, lies in 1300 acres of deer park high on the edge of the Derbyshire moors. The quadrangular Elizabethan mansion with its 18th-century Palladian front, is one of the finest in England. Many of the rooms have elaborate decorations and carvings in the Jacobean style. The Peak Forest Canal passes near Disley.Gawsworth
Mary Fitton, one of the Fitton family who owned Gawsworth Hall for four centuries, may have been the ‘Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The fine black-and-white Tudor manor house has a beamed interior and outside can be seen a rare tilting ground. The carriage museum is also worth visiting. The mainly 15th century village church contains a notable range of monuments to the Fittons, including Mary. Many local people, past vicars of the church among them, claim that her ghost haunts the church. Surrounded by woodland, pools, and parkland, the village itself is a delight. In addition to the Fitton manor house, there are two old vicarages and another Elizabethan hall, used as a Cheshire Home. Maggoty Johnson’s Wood is named after England’s last professional jester who lived in the village in the 18th century and is buried in the wood.
The Mark 1A radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, where the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories are situated, measures 250ft and is one of the largest steerable radio telescopes in the world. Display material, working models, a planetarium and an arboretum can be seen.
The name derives from the reputed fording of a local stream by King Canute. Knutsford is the ‘Cranford’ of Mrs Gaskell’s novel. Mrs Gaskell, born Elizabeth Stevenson, was brought up by an aunt at Heathwaite House. In 1832 Elizabeth married Reverend William Gaskell in the parish church. She herself attended the Brook St Unitarian Chapel where she is now buried. Knutsford, an attractive and traditional town, contains many reminders of Mrs Gaskell. These include the memorial tower in King Street and the King’s Coffee House built in 1907. The Coffee House was frequented by John Galsworthy and other writers and painters of the day. The interior maintains its original decoration combining Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century. Tatton Hall is to the north of the town. South of Knutsford, the church of Peover contains an American flag commemorating General George Patton and the American 3rd Army, who were based at Peover Hall during the war.
According to the Domesday Book, Macclesfield used to belong to the Saxon Edwin, Earl of Chester. Edward I and his queen, Eleanor, founded the hilltop church of St Michael and All Angels, which can either be entered from the Market Place or from the valley below by a steep climb up 108 cobbled steps. Macclesfield was, until about the middle of this century, a silkmanufacturing town, as several fine 18th-century mills by the River Bollin testify, but many of them have either been demolished or converted to other trades. The town’s museum, including a silk museum, and art gallery stands in West Park, and nearby is an enormous boulder, said to have been brought down by glacial action during the Ice Age.
The name Malpas is derived from the Norman, meaning ‘bad walk’. The badness was created by marauding Welshmen who, despite the building of a castle by the Normans, constantly harassed travellers along the road that marked the border between England and Wales. A mixture of timbered and Georgian houses makes Malpas wholly delightful. The red sandstone church stands at the top of a flight of steps, beneath which is the village cross.
Northwich’s motto is Sal est Vita, ‘salt is life’. And for this Cheshire town which sits on top of a huge rock-salt bed it is. Salt-mining has been a major industry since Roman times, now much of it is bought by the chemical industry. Not far away is the Anderton boat-lift. This remarkable piece of engineering was assembled in 1875 to raise (and lower) barges and pleasure craft of up to 100 tons 50ft from the River Weaver to the Trent and Mersey Canal above Anderton. Arley Hall is an impressive Victorian house, set in lovely gardens 5 miles north, and Vale Royal Abbey is a 16th-century house built on the site of a Cistercian abbey.
The industrial town of Warrington, situated on the Manchester Ship Canal, has been designated a New Town and is developing rapidly. lts traditional industry is clockmaking, but ironworks and soap factories are the modern employers of labour. Bank Hall, originally the home of the Patten family but serving as the Town Hall since 1872, was designed in 1750 by James Gibbs, who was probably the architect of Holy Trinity Church. A few old houses remain, and the Barley Mow is a fine half-timbered inn. In 1848 Warrington became the first town to have a public library supported by the rates; it has two museums – the Municipal Museum and Art Gallery in Bold Street and the Regimental Museum of the South Lancashire Regiment. Near the bridge stands a statue of Cromwell, who entered the town in 1648 after his victory at Preston. South west of Warrington is Runcom New Town and the remains of Norton Priory with its thh~century carved undercroft.