Cheshire is a ceremonial county in the North West of England. Chester is the county town, and formerly gave its name to the county. The largest town is Warrington, and other major towns include Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Macclesfield, Northwich, Runcorn, Sandbach, Widnes, Wilmslow and Winsford. The county is administered as four unitary authorities.
Cheshire occupies a boulder clay plain (pictured) which separates the hills of North Wales from the Peak District of Derbyshire. The county covers an area of 2,343 km2 (905 sq mi), with a high point of 559 m (1,834 ft) elevation. The estimated population is 1,028,600, 19th highest in England, with a population density of 439 people per km2.
The county was created in around 920, but the area has a long history of human occupation dating back to before the last Ice Age. Deva was a major Roman fort, and Cheshire played an important part in the Civil War. Predominantly rural, the county is historically famous for the production of Cheshire cheese, salt and silk. During the 19th century, towns in the north of the county were pioneers of the chemical industry, while Crewe became a major railway junction and engineering facility.
St Mary's Church, Astbury, is a grade-I-listed Anglican parish church in the village of Newbold Astbury. The existing church is Norman in origin, perhaps replacing a Saxon building on the site. The exterior dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, and all styles of English Gothic architecture are visible: Early English, Decorated, and Perpendicular. During the civil war, Sir William Brereton's Roundheads stabled their horses in the church. The interior was restored by George Gilbert Scott in the 19th century.
Described as "one of the most exciting Cheshire churches," it has an unusual trapezoidal shape, with an exceptionally wide nave, broader than that of Chester Cathedral. The tower is separate from the body of the church, joined to it by a passage with a porch, and is built in millstone grit, a rare material in Cheshire churches. The interior contains a Norman round-headed archway, and has the largest collection of medieval fittings and furniture of any Cheshire church. A late-13th-century canopied tomb, two medieval memorials and more than fifty 17th-century gravestones survive in the churchyard.
The dense and crumbly Cheshire cheese is one of the oldest named British cheeses, being first documented in around 1580. It has a mild, salty taste.
Credit: Jon Sullivan (18 May 2006)
The 21 listed buildings in Widnes include five at Grade II* and 16 at Grade II. Widnes's oldest listed building is St Luke's Church, Farnworth, which dates from the 12th century. Other early structures include two 18th-century houses and a bridewell dating from 1827.
In 1833, the Sankey Canal reached the area; the lock at the canal's terminus is another early listed structure. The St Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway established a terminus adjacent to the canal, the world's first railway dock was constructed there and, in 1847, a chemical factory was established nearby. More chemical factories were built during the second half of the 19th century, and the town grew, absorbing the previously separated hamlets of Appleton, Cronton, Farnworth and Upton.
The listed structures dating from after 1847 – three churches, paired cemetery chapels, the town hall, two railway stations, two bridges crossing the River Mersey, and the former power house of the demolished Widnes–Runcorn Transporter Bridge – largely reflect the growing population of the town and its increasing transport links. Structures relating to the chemical industry include Tower Building (pictured), formerly an office, and a sewer vent. The most recent listed structure is the Silver Jubilee Bridge, constructed in 1961.
There is a whiff of Stalinism in the air. Councillors who oppose the plan are threatened with de-selection. The accountants who have costed it believe that it is not financially viable: a single unitary authority would serve the county better. The chief executive of the County Council describes it as "perverse and deeply flawed". The children are especially at risk, since a single education authority which is a model of its kind would be replaced by two of unknowable quality. The people of Cheshire are up in arms yet feel powerless to resist.
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