High Legh - Macclesfield District - Cheshire

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High Legh, Macclesfield District, Cheshire

Notes

1 Much historic information is from the OS 1:2500 maps published in 1910. All 800 the 1:2500 maps of that period for Cheshire are available on a CDRom (Digital Archives Association) at very reasonable cost. The '1881 map' is the 6/mile map that can be seen on LinkExternal link

2 For the boundary of High Legh see the OS 1:25000 map or LinkExternal link

3. 'IOE link' is to the ImagesofEngland site of listed buildings. 'Frith Link' is to the Francis Frith collection. I have based my descriptions of listed buildings on those in the ImagesofEngland site: imagesofengland.org.uk

History

There is some evidence of prehistoric settlement: an axe at Swineyard Farm, SJ 664 837, and a ring ditch and round barrow at SJ705846 (Higham, 2004). The Romans passed by on King Street at Stretton and on what is now the A556, but another road has been found at SJ670849 and SJ677845 (Higham, 2004).

An ancient settlement has been found at Legh Oaks Farm, SJ690832 (See linkExternal link) Two enclosures, one rectangular and one oval, were identified by aerial photography in 1981 and were investigated. They appear to be of late prehistoric and Romano-British date.

The Dark Ages were particularly opaque here, but the township was probably defined by the Saxons and there were two manors in 1086 (Domesday Survey), when it was called Lege. Like most of Cheshire, the vill was held by Earl Hugh from the King, and it was sublet to Gilbert de Venables. The population then was only about 30 so only a small part of the vill was cultivated. The manors later passed to two different families, both of which took the name 'Legh'.

In the 12C and 13C there was a rapid expansion of the farmed area as previously uncultivated land was sold or leased and many farms established. The largest of these, Swineyard Hall and Northwood Hall, were on land given to the younger sons of one of the Legh families. These were built inside a moat, a fashionable status-symbol at that time. These estates were added to over the years and in effect became manors; the one based on Swineyard Hall was apparently called Swinehead, and included twelve farms and a watermill by 1319. The land included drained mossland (eg Sink Moss SJ6783). Crops including oats and possibly wheat would have been grown for subsistence, but most of the land became pasture for dairy farming (Higham, 2004).

High Legh was in Rostherne Parish, in Bucklow Hundred. The two main halls were East Hall and West Hall, surprisingly close together in what is now the suburban development of High Legh. The Cornwall Leghs lived at East Hall and the Egerton Leighs at West Hall. St Mary's Chapel was built c.1581 as a chapel of ease for East Hall. High Legh became a separate parish for a while from 1817, by which time St John's Church had been built in the grounds of West Hall. The parish was refounded in 1973 with St John's as the parish church. High Legh was in Altrincham Poor law Union from1836-95, and then in Bucklow PLU and Rural District. It became a civil parish in 1866 and still is, but in Macclesfield Borough since 1974. The population was 787 in 1801, 1024 in 1851, 794 in 1901 and 1184 in 1951.

Geography

High Legh is on a low but extensive hill. Much of the parish boundary is along streams. The underlying rock is Keuper Marl, a Triassic mudstone, but this is covered by glacial deposits, clay with patches of sand and gravel. The clay-land was probably wooded in prehistoric times, except in the hollows where peat accumulated, becoming mossland. The sandy areas were heaths.

As usual in Cheshire, settlement is dispersed throughout the township apart from the recent housing estates in High Legh village. It is in the Countryside Commission's Shropshire, Cheshire and North Staffordshire Plain area, and described as a unified rural landscape, with strong field patterns, dominated by dairying but with more mixed and arable farming to the north, eg in High Legh. Mosses, meres and small field ponds are scattered throughout. Subsidence flashes occur to the east of the Cheshire plain. Boundaries are predominantly hedgerows, generally well managed, with abundant hedgerow trees which are mostly oak. Metal railing fences occur locally on estates. Woodlands are few, but the plentiful hedgerow trees give the appearance of a well-wooded landscape. Large farmsteads are regularly spaced throughout. Buildings are predominantly red brick with warm sandstone churches.

The present High Legh village is where two through roads cross: the A50 and what appears from its direct but locally wiggly route to be an ancient road from Northwich in the south to the bridge over the River Bollin near Warburton. From the A50 to Warburton this road is the B5159 (West Lane). The M6 runs close to the southern boundary, and the M56 close to the northern boundary. Their intersection is a 'spaghetti' junction at the western tip of the parish, and the adjacent junction with the A50 gives High Legh a good connection with the motorway network.

Bibliography


N J Higham, A Frontier Landscape, Windgather Press 2004

List of Routes


High Legh is explored in this article by following routes as follows:
  1. The A50 Warrington Road (west to east);
  1. Swineyard Lane;
  1. Crowley Lane;
  1. West Lane and the village;
  1. Peacock Lane;
  1. Halliwells Brow;
  1. Rowleybank Lane;
  1. Whitley Lane;
  1. Northwood Lane

#1 The A50 Warrington Road


The road from Warrington to Knutsford (11½ miles)

The parish is entered at the stream crossing at SJ670849.

When travelling the road, watch out for Legh Cottage, which cannot be identified from the maps. It is a late 17C timber-framed house, restored in the late 19C. It has brick infill panels and a slate roof. Over the doorway is the date 1884 over doorway and a cypher. In front of the door is a lean-to open porch with a contiguous square bay window, also with lean-to roof, to the right. The central ridge chimney-stack is of 1884. The right-hand gable end has 19C brick nogging and a.queen-post truss gable. Left hand gable end has been extended to join the building to a former out-house, and has a dovecote to the left. IoE linkExternal link

SJ674847 the first of two buildings on the north side was a smithy, or on the site of one, and looking south over a field from the A50 the derelict buildings of Manor Farm can be seen.

SJ6784 : Farm (disused) by Dave Smethurst

SJ675846 The cross-roads at Primrose Hill. To the south Wither's Lane goes past the ruins of Manor Farm, then past Holly Farm to Brook House Farm, at SJ669845, which has a bridge over a slip road onto land, presumably still farmed, in the middle of the motorway junction. The lane here has been cut by the M56.

The lane to the north goes to Broadheys Farm, and continues as a footpath to Scholars Bridge over Bradley Beck, a puzzling name as it does not seem to be a route to a school. First a view of pasture from the footpath, at SJ 675 853, then the footpath in The Bongs, at SJ676855.

SJ6785 : Pasture land by Dave Smethurst SJ6785 : Woodland Path by Dave Smethurst

SJ677845 There is a footpath from the west side of the M56 bridge northwards to Great Oak Farm.

First, the view from the footpath over stubble NE towards Big Wood, then the pond at SJ680849, with Big Wood in the distance. Then the path goes through a strip of woodland north of the A50 and extending to the parish boundary along Bradley Brook and Mag Brook, where the wood is called The Bongs. The part next to the main road is Big Wood, which is cut through by the M56. Beyond the wood, the farm at Granthams can be seen across the fields. This is named Silent Valley Cottages on the 1:10000 map.

SJ6784 : Cropped Field by Dave Smethurst SJ6884 : Big Wood by Dave Smethurst SJ6885 : Farmland by Dave Smethurst

SJ677845 View of the M56 from the A50 bridge.

SJ6784 : M56 Westbound by Dave Smethurst

SJ681844 Here, at the SW corner of Big Wood, there was a kennel and pheasantry in 1910. The house is still called The Pheasantries.

SJ687842 Sworton Heath. Here Swineyard Lane (See #2) forks to the SW, and Mag Lane goes to the north. The heath was on the south side of the A50, and yet there are little ponds in that area which would seem unexpected on sandy soil.

The Bears Paw Inn on the north side was the Bearspaw Farm. The barn can be seen on the left, and behind it is the farmhouse. The Kirkmansgreen turnpike was opposite, still shown on the 1881 map.

SJ6884 : Place to pause by David Long

Then there was an 'Old Pound' on the SW side of the junction with a footpath to the south, past Cooper's Square, a late 17C L-shaped timber-framed house with red stretcher bond brick panels and a slate roof. It has a 20C extension to the left.

SJ690841 Crabtree Lane goes off to the north.

SJ6984 : A50 junction by David Long

It passes Crabtree Farm and Lilac Farm to Mowpenbrow Farm. Old Farm is dated 1694 on the lintel. It has a timber frame with brick infill and a slate roof. There are extensive 19C additions to the right and left.

SJ699836 Two junctions for West Lane, enclosing a triangle within which is the old school (see #3). Then the junction with Halliwell's Brow (see #4) on the south side.

SJ699837 The Front Lodge of East Hall was built in 1833-4 and is in the Italianate style of the time, of randomly laid ashlar with slate roof. It has narrow windows with semi-circular heads to each light, and deeply overhanging eaves. For photo and more details see
IoE linkExternal link.

SJ700835 High Legh Garden Centre has rather nice arched arcading and windows, and a cupola on the roof.

Then as suburban development appears on the north side (Candelan Way), there is a water tower on the south side SJ703834.

SJ7083 : Water Tower at High Legh by Ian Warburton

The footpath from Ditchfield Lane that passes the east side of the water tower enclosure should continue, on the north side of the road, to Wrenshot Lane. Part of the golf course near to the eastern corner of the housing estate was once a cricket ground.

SJ711822 A milepost, Warrington 7½, Knutsford 4.

The road leaves the parish at Hulseheath Lane, with a group of houses on the north side, one of which was a post office.
  1. Swineyard Lane (Swinyard Lane on the 1881 map)

Bungalow being modernised. (Photograph by David Long)

SJ6883 : Plenty of potential by David Long

SJ678838 - Swineyard Hall (Swinyard on the 1881 map) originated in the Middle Ages, possibly the early14C, when the lord of one of the two manors gave a younger son land in the waste of the manor, which presumably had been used as pig-pasture. He built a hall with a moat, a fashionable status-symbol at that time. The sub-manor was apparently called Swinehead, and it was added to until it became a large estate. It included a watermill by 1319. This might have been at Mill Farm, at SJ 677 826.

Swineyard Hall farmhouse is a late 16C building with 19C additions. The old part is timber-framed, with a highly decorated gable-end. The rear façade has a six-light stone mullioned and transomed window to ground floor with a similar five-light window above. The moat still exists.

SJ6783 : Where there's muck... by David Long

For other photographs and more details see:
IoE linkExternal link
Frith link 1External link
Frith link 2External link

To the south, Moss Brow lane leads to Moss Lane, which runs around Sink Moss. This was probably improved for farming in the late middle ages, but has retained the name 'Moss'. There is also a Moss Hall Farm, Moss Oaks Farm and Moss Cottage. Around here in 1910 there were many ponds in the fields due to the poor drainage, yet there were several farms.

SJ677828 Farm on Moss Lane

SJ6782 : There's got to be a reason by David Long

SJ670838 view along Swineyard Lane in Winter.

SJ6783 : On Swineyard Lane by David Long

SJ659859 Crownest Farm has narrowly avoided being obliterated by the motorway junction. Wither's Lane runs past it northwards to a junction of lanes with a pond (on the 1910 map). Wither's Lane carries on, only to be cut off by the M56, and Fanner's Lane branches east to Rowlinson's Green and Heath Lane.

In SJ6683 the road crosses the M6, and there should be a good view of the 'spaghetti'. In SJ6583 the road has been diverted as it crosses the M56, and the old road is still there as a cul-de-sac.

#3 Crowley Lane


This goes southwards from SJ663836, has two abrupt turns as it crosses the end of the disused airfield, of the wartime Fleet Air Arm, HMS Blackcap. Apparently one length of the road is very wide, having been part of one of the runways; it is known as the Taxiway.

SJ6683 : Whiteout at Blackcap by David Long

#4 The village and West Lane

West Lane has two junctions with the A50, enclosing a triangle within which the old school is now a Community Centre where home-made teas are served on Sundays.

SJ6983 : High Legh village hall by gary caldwell

There is also a photograph of it in the Francis Frith collection: Frith linkExternal link

Millfield on the west side was the Parsonage on the 1881 map.

There wasn't much of a village in 1910; most of the houses were within the grounds of the two halls, West Hall and East (Highlegh) Hall. There were two large houses up a driveway opposite the present-day Pheasant Walk junction (SJ699839), next to which the lodge for West Hall might still exist. There was also a group of cottages and a smithy near to the Wrenshot Lane and Mowpen Brow junctions with West Lane (SJ702845). The modern village is largely suburban housing estates that have been built in the parkland of the two halls, both of which have been demolished. The stable block of East Hall still existed amongst the houses in 1971. This was of four brick ranges around a courtyard, with a cupola on the back range. The Front Lodge of East Hall is on the A50 (see #1).

Embedded in these housing estates are two churches. St Mary's Chapel is in Pheasant Walk, at SJ700839. This was built of Ashlar stone with a tiled roof c.1581; the south aisle was added in 1836 and the chancel in 1884. The windows are in the Perpendicular style of the time. There is a square bell turret at the gable apex and a 19C chimney on the left hand side. Inside, there are the original timber piers, and the ceiling has 19C pargetting of Tudor roses, fleurs de lys and stars. The pulpit is constructed of vigorously carved 17C panels with animal heads and figures of saints. There is stained glass depicting the Madonna riding on a crescent moon. For photo and more details see IoE linkExternal link Another photo is on linkExternal link . Also one in the Francil Frith collection:
Frith linkExternal link

In May 2001 a large henge was erected in the grounds of St Mary's Chapel to commemorate the millennium. The Henge is carved with many symbols, a Saxon cross, a running hare, an oak leaf, honeysuckle and wild oats, etc, as a reminder of our origins.
St John's Church, now the parish church, is on The Avenue, at SJ700841. The church was built in 1893 in a 'Picturesque' style using ashlar stone, red Flemish bond brick and timber framing with rendered infill. It has a tower and a tiled roof. The stone lower walls to the whole body of the church are those of the former church, founded in 1815, which was destroyed by fire in 1891. For photo and more details see Ioe linkExternal link .

The stocks are on West Lane opposite the church, and there was a smithy at the junction of West lane with Wrenshot Lane.

Much of the parkland east of Highlegh Hall, and also former fields between Wrenshot Lane and Peacock Lane are now High Legh Park Golf Course with 27 holes. (OS Explorer shows two club-houses - are there two Clubs?)

SJ700844 Wrenshot Lane is to the east. The modern primary school, built in 1967 and updated in 1994 (including the front façade) is at SJ702844. The school emblem is not a wren but a pheasant. The school replaced one at the junction of West Lane with the A50.

SJ700845 Mowpen Brow is to the west. It leads to Mowpenbrow Farm and connects with Crabtree Lane.

SJ702847 West Hall Farmhouse was built in the early 19C of red Flemish bond brick with a slate roof. It has a two-storeyed double pile plan with attic and cellar. The central basket-arched door has a wooden surround and fanlight, and three-light cambered-head windows to either side. For photograph and more details see
IoE linkExternal link

SJ703849 At the cross-roads, the lane to the west is Beechtree Lane, which has been cut by the M56 just past Beech Tree Farm. Peacock Lane (see #2) is to the east. This photograph is of West Lane at the junction with Peacock Lane

SJ7084 : Road junction by Dave Smethurst

SJ702852 The road crosses over the M56, and then there is the diverted line of Beechtree Lane to the west. This lane runs parallel to the motorway for a while before crossing the boundary with Lymm at Deansgreen.

SJ7085 : M56 between Broomedge and High Legh by gary caldwell

Back to West Lane, there is a row of ribbon-development houses that leads us to the boundary, a little stream followed by Kay Lane. Where the lane turns left to meet Beechtree Lane at Deansgreen, a track goes off to the right, crossing the brook into Lymm at SJ702855.

SJ6985 : The track over Kaylane Brook by David Long

A footpath from West Lane, opposite Kay Lane, leads to Froghall Lane, another lane severed by the M56.

#5 Peacock Lane


This was originally Peacock's Lane; it starts at West Lane, SJ703849.

Lime Tree Farmhouse is a timber framed building up Limetree Lane off Peacock Lane. It is 17C with 19C additions. The timber frame is on a stone plinth and has brick infill. There is a 19C central gabled porch and an early 19C extension to the left. IoE linkExternal link
Further along Peacock Lane, Broad Oak Farm has a late 17C farmhouse with early 19C additions. It is built of red English garden wall bond brick with stone dressings and a slate roof. The 17C part has 3 storeys with string courses of moulded brick between ground and first floor and first and second floors; also stone copings and kneelers to the gable. For photo and more details see
IoE linkExternal link

SJ708845 Further along the road there are views to the south over a golf course.

SJ7084 : Golf Course by Dave Smethurst

SJ712846 Moss Lane leads to the southern part of Froghall Lane. Limetree Cottage is 17C, modernised in the 20C. It is timber-framed with a brick infill and a thatched roof.

SJ717843 Junction of Peacock Lane with Back Lane leading to Mosshouse Farm on the parish boundary.

SJ7184 : Road Junction by Dave Smethurst

#6 Halliwells Brow


This road leaves the A50 at SJ699837.

SJ699835 Crossroads - Ditchfield Lane to the east, Alcock's Lane (1881 map) to the west, now going only to The Roode (a house now called High Legh House). The 1881 map shows occasional lines of trees parallel to the hedgeline that itself is parallel to the A50, suggesting that this was an older route that was superseded by the Warrington Road. High Legh House has a group of out-buildings nearer to the road, and there was a well in the field next to the road.

SJ697833 Dairy Farm - The farmhouse is late 16C or early 17C, timber framed with rendered infill and English garden wall bond brick, and a stone slate roof. It has an H-plan. For photograph and more details see IoE linkExternal link .

One of the cottages along the road is Apple Tree Cottage, which was built in the mid 17C with a timber frame with brick infill and tile hanging and a tile roof. It is a two-up, two-down house with a baffle-entry plan. The central 19C doorway has a canopy-porch. The outshot to the rear is also 19C. For photo and more details see IoE linkExternal link .

#7 Rowleybank Lane


This road continues from Halliwells Brow at SJ696828

SJ702824 Rowley Bank Farm. Photograph looking south-westwards from Hoo Green Lane.

SJ7082 : Rowley Bank Farm by Roger May

#8 Whitley Lane


This road leaves Rowleybank Lane at SJ699824

SJ697817 Northwood Hall Farm; just beyond, Northwood Lane (#9) goes to the west.
Whitley Lane then crosses over the M6 and out of the parish.
  1. Northwood Lane

SJ695819 The High Legh Centre, the Independent Methodist Church's Retreat and Prayer Centre, at Northwoodlane Farm. The 1:10000 map shows a 'place of worship' at SJ693819.

SJ6981 : Place of calm near the M6 by David Long

SJ693824 Track to Yew Tree Hall Farm (not marked on the Explorer map, but it is on the 1:10000 map).

SJ6982 : Track to Yew Tree Farm by David Long

SJ689825 Hobbs Hill Lane goes off to the west, and Arley View Farm is at SJ685823

SJ6882 : Traffic jam buster by David Long

The lane then continues to join Moss Lane (see #2)
KML
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