Friday, 26 June 2020

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebrations in Macclesfield

Earlier this year at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies we examined some images of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebrations in Macclesfield, in 1887. These images are now available on the Cheshire Image Bank and can be viewed here. Amy, one of our work placement students, enthusiastically researched the images and put together this blog post to tell us more...

Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee was celebrated on June 20th and 21st, 1887. For the Queen herself, the celebrations included a royal banquet and, escorted by the Indian Cavalry, a celebratory procession in London, before returning to Buckingham Palace for a final appearance on the balcony, receiving huge cheers from the crowds below.

In Macclesfield, Sunday School children gathered on Park Green and sang the National Anthem in celebration. Photographs from the day show crowds of people assembled in a procession, arriving at Park Green. The photographs show mill buildings such as Frost Mill, which was destroyed in a fire in 2011, and the Methodist Free Church, also known as Chapel Mill, which became the head office of Gradus Ltd.

Banners were held by those taking part in the procession, including one which can be seen depicting Queen Victoria. Crowds also gathered in windows and on rooftops to watch; clearly health and safety laws were less stringent in those days!

Mill Street, Chestergate and Market Place were decorated with flags and bunting. Local businesses such as P & Wood Printers can be seen on Mill Street. The public house known as the Wheatsheaf can be seen in Market Place, as well as Macclesfield Town Hall. Instead of cars, horse-drawn carts can be seen in these photographs. Queen Victoria herself rode in her gilded state landau drawn by six cream-coloured horses during her jubilee celebrations, as part of the procession through London.

The people of Macclesfield showed strong loyalty and adoration to their Queen. An example of this can be seen in a silk counterpane presented to Queen Victoria by the women of Macclesfield as a gift to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. The counterpane reads "Victoria by the Grace of God Queen" surrounding the letters VIR. This is surrounded by four Cheshire crests and a border of leaves and butterflies. A note at the bottom of the counterpane reads "Presented to Her Majesty Queen Victoria in her Jubilee Year MDCCCLXXXVII by the women of Macclesfield in the County of Chester". This counterpane was presented to Queen Victoria at Osbourne House, on the Isle of Wight, on August 19th, 1887. The counterpane was made of silk to represent Macclesfield, which at the time had the largest silk industry in the United Kingdom. An illuminated address accompanying the counterpane reads:
Victoria, by the Grace of God, Queen. To the Queen's most excellent Majesty, may it please your Majesty. The Women of Macclesfield desire to approach your Majesty with feelings of most Dutiful and Loyal Affection, and to offer you their Sincere Congratulations that a kind Providence has preserved your Majesty for so many years to reign over a prosperous people. The happy event of your Majesty's jubilee - the occasion of a World's Rejoicing - affords them the opportunity of presenting for your most gracious acceptance, the accompanying embroidered silk counterpane, which is entirely of Macclesfield Manufacture, and which represents the Industry of Macclesfield, The Largest Silk Manufacturing District in the United Kingdom. That God may continue to guide and bless your Majesty for many years to come, is the Sincere and Earnest prayer of your Majesty's faithful and devoted subjects. Signed on behalf of the Women of Macclesfield. 

On June 22nd, 1887, Macclesfield residents gathered in West Park to plant an oak sapling to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Men, women and children can be seen gathered on, in front of, and even under a platform in the park to be part of a photograph of the event. West Park was originally known as Macclesfield Public Park, and was opened in 1854 to give working people access to the countryside after the closure of the commons in 1804. Within three weeks of Councillor John May's proposal that a public park be opened in Macclesfield, £300 had been collected in small amounts from 17,000 working people in the town, which became known as "The Pennies of the Poor". This was one of the most successful fundraisers in the town at that time, showing the strong public desire to have access to a space for leisure and to be around nature.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Chester's Iconic Leadworks

With the Record Office currently closed to the public, the staff have been finding ways of bring our collections to you. 

One of these ways is Flickr. This website allows us to create albums of photographs and images of  documents for you to view and enjoy. One of our recent additions is an album relating to the old Chester leadworks. You can see the album here.

Chester Leadworks from City Road. ZCR 245/7191/1. 

The site of the Chester leadworks in Boughton is currently being redeveloped, but the Shot Tower, a familiar sight on Chester's skyline, is still at the centre of the site. 

Shot towers were first designed in 1782 for the production of lead pellets. Molten lead was poured through a copper sieve at the top of the tower, and then fell through the tower before being cooled in a basin of water at the bottom. 

The Chester Shot Tower is believed to be the oldest of three still in existence in the UK, and was classed as a Grade II listed building by Historic England in 1981.

Plan of the Chester Leadworks, 1908. ZCR 245/7191/17.


The original leadworks site was developed by Samuel Walker in 1799 and was named Walkers, Parker & Co. One of the first uses of the Shot Tower was to make lead shots for muskets in the Napoleonic Wars.

Over the years the site grew and expanded its operations. Many products were produced on the site, from lead sheets, pipes and paint to Radium handling benches for local hospitals.

Sales leaflet c.1930s. ZCR 245/7191/1.

During World War II the Leadworks supplied the War Office with chemical lead piping and fittings, and it also received orders from the Royal Ordnance factory at Hooton, Wirral.

Correspondence with the War Office, 1939. ZCR 245/13.

The leadworks were renamed Associated Lead Manufacturers in the 1950s and then later became known as Calder Lead. 

Production at the Boughton site slowly reduced over the latter part of the 20th century, and finally closed in 2001 with Calder Lead moving across Chester.

Plan of Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd., 1950. ZCR 245/7191/18.

We have a number of documents within our collection which chart the development and expansion of the site over the years. 

Collection ZCR 245 (Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd, Chester) not only gives us an insight into the running and structure of the company but also details of the manufacturing process. The leadworks was a significant employer in the city, and the collection contains staff records from the 1850s onwards. 

Visit our catalogue to discover more about the Associated Lead Manufacturers Ltd. collection. We also hold a number of books and pamphlets documenting the history of the company in our local studies section. 

Thursday, 18 June 2020

"A rose by any other name…" can be a Peppercorn Rent!

Over a series of blog posts we will be sharing with you what we have been doing whilst working from home, and giving you an insight into some of the interesting collections and items we have come across whilst the Record Office has been closed.

Look up ‘
peppercorn rent’ online and you will see it defined as a very low or nominal amount of money to be paid as rent, often used when renting to a family member or friend. This type of charge is not related to the value of the piece of land or building being rented, but is enough of an exchange for the purposes of a legal contract and maintains a formal landlord/tenant relationship.


One of the projects we have been working on over the past few weeks is improving and updating our online listings and while updating descriptions for of some of our earliest deeds I came across this in the DDX collection, where a rose was the charge for services:


Having asked colleagues if it was unusual for a flower to be used as payment (answer: No), I had a look for some other examples in our collections. It was not uncommon for a nominal rent payment to be requested in the form of a peppercorn, a red rose or a pair of white gloves. Here in DDS 17/13 from 1497, the initial rent is payable by a red rose at Midsummer (21st June) and a peppercorn at Martinmas (11th November):


In this document from the late C12th early C13th payment of two white gloves or one penny is requested:



And in this deed from 1291, the land owner has asked for a pair of white gloves, a rose and a barbed arrow:



If you want to see how common these forms of peppercorn rent were, particularly in Medieval times, you can find more examples by searching our online catalogue. Go to Advanced Search and type peppercorn, red rose, white gloves or barbed arrow into the Any Text box.



If you would like to read some other amusing examples of peppercorn rents and the feudal system of land ownership, take a look at this JSTOR Daily article. Maybe that’s why sprouts became a popular Christmas vegetable..?

Monday, 8 June 2020

From Acres to Virgates - a History of Land Measurement!

Over a series of blog posts we will be sharing with you what we have been doing whilst working from home, and giving you an insight into some of the interesting collections and items we have come across whilst the Record Office has been closed.

Size matters - old measurements

During the past few weeks staff have been busy working on a range of projects, finding different ways for people to discover and enjoy our collections online. One particular project has been to improve and update our online catalogue listings, and while inputting descriptions on our D accessions (click here for more on these!) I came across a few unfamiliar terms for land measurement.

When looking at leases and deeds, the archaic terms used to describe units of land can be confusing. Back in the day (way back!) I remember the cover of my school exercise book printed with tables of measurement and weight, so I am familiar with the terms rod (16½ feet), chain (4 rods), furlong (10 chains) and acre (1 furlong x 1 chain, 4840 sq yd). But what are selion, bovate, virgate and carucate?

Selion is a medieval term for an open strip of land the same size as an acre (1 furlong x 1 chain). It was usually owned by a peasant, or rented to them and was used to grow crops. 

A bovate or oxgang was the amount of land workable by one ox in a ploughing season, most usually 15 acres, though this could vary depending on terrain. The holder of an oxgang could be obliged to supply one ox to be used in the plough-team.

Above you can also see mentioned messuage, a dwelling house with outbuildings and land; toft, a homestead; croft, a farm or farmland and garth, a yard or garden.

A virgate was the amount of land that could be worked by 2 oxen (2 oxgangs).

A carucate was the amount of land workable by a team of 8 oxen, so a carucate was equal to 4 virgates or 8 bovates.

It is also worth noting that although an acre was supposed to be the amount of land that could be ploughed by one person with one ox in one day, here in Cheshire our farmers are bigger, stronger and more industrious, getting twice as much work done in one day than the average mortal! 

A statute acre is 4,840 sq yd, but a Cheshire acre is more than double that at 10,240 sq yd. This larger acre is also seen in Staffordshire and South Lancashire and is sometimes referred to as a Forest acre. We have on occasion had searchers looking at land agreements and getting confused when their calculations don’t seem to correspond with what they are seeing on maps. Once they discover that we do things bigger and better in Cheshire then their calculations start to make sense.

Happy measuring!

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

A Conservator's Blog

Being a bit of a technophobe not having a PC or broadband was never really a problem; mobile phone reception was problematic and occasionally warranted running up the lane to the second oak tree on the right and waving my phone wildly about. But when lockdown was announced I did wonder if I’d made the right decision in being so unconnected with the outside world. How was I going to get any work done? All the other Record Office staff were able to work from home online.  Luckily I had a few days to think about it as I was on leave that week.

Being a conservator I decided that I’d conserve (if my manager agreed to it and luckily she did!), but what? I was limited to what materials and equipment I could take home, so it needed to be fairly simple. Also, what could I work on? Taking unique and valuable documents out of the safety of the Record Office would not be right. Second edition Ordnance Survey maps (25 inch) were the answer.  They are not unique and have no real financial value but they are often consulted in the searchroom and a very useful resource. The first and third editions have already been conserved as these were the most often looked at, but there were still a considerable number of second edition maps that were dirty, tatty, torn and creased with odd areas missing and in need of conservation. This I could do at home, although the encapsulation of the maps (custom made protective sleeves made of clear, inert polyester film) would have to wait till lockdown ended.

Close-up of a 2nd edition Ordnance Survey map.

Setting up a makeshift conservation studio was the next challenge. I’d decided upon the back sitting room which had plenty of light and space.  I’d moved house the previous summer and this room was still very much a work in progress. Bifolding doors had been put in, but there was still plenty of bare plaster and I’d been using the room as storage for boxes and furniture.  The remaining days of my leave were spent decorating, cleaning and tidying. The dining room table was utilised as my work table (for cleaning) and an old desk was used to do the repairs on.  I repainted on old cupboard which was to be used for storing materials and equipment. The O.S. maps are large objects (measuring approximately 1.05m x 0.72m) and I needed space to store the maps when I wasn’t working on them.  A redundant door (I’d just had a doorway bricked up) was employed as a makeshift table which was propped up by three dining room chairs – conservators are nothing if not resourceful!

My home conservation studio was soon up and running and working pretty well.

Faddiley annex of Cheshire Record Office.

As a conservator one of my duties at the Record Office was once a week to monitor and record the environmental conditions in each of the seven strongrooms, this still needed to be done. As I have a car I drive to the office once a week to check on the strongrooms, catch up on emails and check on the post. While I’m there I pick up a batch of O.S. maps to take home and bring back the ones I’ve conserved. I also cook up fresh paste once a fortnight as it soon starts going mouldy and needs to be kept in the fridge.

I love looking at maps, even O.S. maps from 1898. While I’m cleaning the maps my mind starts wandering and I wonder how the areas have changed over the past 120 years. I really wish I had the internet to look at our tithe map website, which not only shows all the tithe maps we hold, but all three editions of the 25 inch O.S. maps, aerial photographs and a current map. It’s a fantastic resource, you are able to zoom in and out of the maps and compare two different maps of the same areas. It also gives you such details as field names, owners/occupiers and land use. On thinking, it’s probably a good thing I don’t have the internet as I’d spend way too much time looking at the website each time I worked on a new map.  

Some of the names of buildings and places spark my interest, such as ‘Black Jane’s farm’ near Daresbury, who was Black Jane? And who ever lived at ‘Hades Nook’ (near Whitley)? I love the descriptive names such as ‘Thatched House Farm’, does the farm still exist and is it still thatched?  And the slightly surreal ‘Waterless Bridge’ (near Tabley) which goes over ‘Waterless Brook’, does it have any water in it? The tithe map website might just have the answer. 

Cleaning maps is a relatively simple technique and involves using a pure vinyl eraser which you rub over the surface of the map. Care, skill and experience is required in order not to leave any dirty streaks or create or worsen tears. Any pencil annotations have to be carefully cleaned around, a slip of the eraser and the pencil marks would soon be lost. Removal of surface dirt is necessary as dirt is not only visually distracting, but can be harmful to the map; it can be abrasive, acidic; act as food for insects and for mould to grow on.

Once cleaned the maps are repaired. Tears are repaired with a strong acid free lens on the back or, in professional speak, verso and a finer, transparent Japanese Kozo tissue (made from the fibres of the mulberry tree) on the front or recto. The tissue is cut out with a mattress needle and pasted down with a pure wheat starch paste; the tissue is smoothed down with a Teflon bone folder and pieces of paper maker’s felts and boards are place over the repair with a weight placed on top until the repair is dry.  Missing areas are filled in with a heavy weight, long fibred Japanese paper called Bunkoshi which has a similar colour, weight and texture as the original map paper. The repair paper is shaped to the missing area with a rotring pen filled with water. Once dry the repairs are trimmed to the size of the map.

Tools of the trade.

What am I enjoying working at home? Watching the garden birds, I can see the bird feeder from my work room and love watching the male pheasant strutting through the garden. My greenhouse – for a break I’ll take my mug of tea out there to see what has germinated and which bulbs are coming through; the plants are getting very well looked after at the moment. Getting to know my lovely neighbour, sometimes my morning break consists of talking to her over the garden fence mug in hand (and at a safe social distance).

Fezzy the tame pheasant on top of the hedge.

What am I missing? The staff, especially fellow conservator Angela, who, after over 10 years of working together is a good friend as well as colleague; not having the internet makes you feel more isolated from everyone. Cake, the staff tearoom is always well endowed with cake and biscuits kindly supplied by staff and searchers.

Excitement – it was silage week last week, the quiet lane was turned into a scene from wacky races with many tractors and trailers going up and down, and the fields change by the minute. Unfortunately it’s muck spreading week this week.

Thanks – to Radio 4 for keeping me entertained and sane.

Working from home has been an enjoyable challenge and brings back memories of doing work experience here 27 years ago, when cleaning O.S. maps was my first task. So far I have cleaned and repaired 54 O.S. maps.  I have cleaned an area of 82.04 metres squared, which is the equivalent of a fifteenth of an Olympic sized swimming pool.  I am less than halfway through the maps still to be repaired, so I should be able to be kept busy if lockdown continues.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Every Picture Tells A Story

Over a series of blog posts we will be sharing with you what we have been doing whilst working from home, and giving you an insight into some of the interesting collections and items we have come across whilst the Record Office has been closed.

When Cheshire Record Office is open, our Local Studies department works with volunteers to sort, catalogue and improve storage of the Local Studies Visual Collection, and make it available to the public at our search room and online. Since we have been closed, a team of Archives Assistants and a Conservator have continued this work by using an online data editing system at home to add photographs and information to the Cheshire Image Bank.

The Image Bank is a collection of over 30,000 digital images created from original material - photographs, postcards, print slides and negatives – and can be viewed and searched online at It also offers over twenty Popular Collections to browse, including the First and Second World Wars, Royal Visitors, Fashion and The Salt Industry. Image Bank content covers anywhere that lies or once lay within the Cheshire county boundary.

This lockdown project has involved writing a brief description of each of the photos assigned to us on the data editor; doing online research to provide further information about each image; adding key words to ensure they will appear in an online search; and providing standardised details of the location, title and date of the images. We have also added extra information to a small number of photos that already appeared on the Image Bank. The Local Studies staff have been adding more key word options to make it easier for people to search the site, and also had the task of moderating our work to ensure accuracy and consistency.

So far, 500 extra images have been added to the Image Bank as a result of this work. A wide range of themes has been covered: industrial, with hundreds of images from George L. Scott & Co and Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Works, both based in Ellesmere Port; and military, such as a Cheshire Royal Engineers photo album from the 1890s. There is an early album of buildings, people and landscapes by amateur photographer George Davies, who lived in Alderley and took numerous photographs of the surrounding area, and some photographs are of the Duke of Westminster’s Eaton estate; there is a large collection of images from the village of Disley; and some from Macclesfield cover the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s 1887 Golden Jubilee. There are others showing places of interest across Cheshire.

Some of the photographs that have captured our attention include a busy street scene at Chester Cross (c13284) where the buildings are still recognisable but the horse-drawn trams are long gone.

Another is a murder stone from the 1820s (c13248). These were historic markers erected at the site of famous murders to commemorate the victim or warn of the consequences of committing such acts. And this photograph of Disley Golf Club (c08283) was already on the Image Bank but has had further information added - it was taken at the official opening of the club in 1889 and there were 47 pro golfers present when it was taken. 

On the industrial side, c13186 shows a group of steelworkers moving a stack of flat iron sheeting with an overhead crane system at an ironworks in the 1920s, and c13164 is of a woman using machinery at an engineering company in the 1950s. Additional information provided on the Image Bank tells us she was using a ‘stator notching machine’, and that George L. Scott Ltd. was an electrical steel stampers company with offices and warehouses in Ellesmere Port. The business later became a general engineering company.

Work on the next two images is almost complete, and they are due to be put online shortly. The first shows the Cheshire Yeomanry in the 1890s, assembling for annual exercises at the Roodee Racecourse in Chester (c13348), and the second is a street parade from around 1895 showing massed uniformed ranks of the Second Cheshire Royal Engineers, who were also known as the Crewe Railway Volunteers (c13213).

In the very early days of photography, equipment was cumbersome and photographers were usually limited to studio settings, but with the invention of film in the 1880s it became easier and we started to see the rise of amateur photographers like George Davies of Alderley. We have many of his photographs taken from the 1870s to 1890s, including buildings like churches, mills, country houses and pubs; landscapes around the eastern border of Cheshire; and agricultural scenes from ploughing to harvest work. A small selection is shown below.


This project has posed a few challenges along the way. As well as an unexpected technical issue early on, it has sometimes been difficult to identify the images - so some will have to remain hidden from view until we can do some more research with the originals at the Record Office. There are both opportunities and challenges with the Visual Collection more widely: the collection is constantly being added to with new donations, and there is a large number of uncatalogued photographs in storage yet to be looked at. Potentially, there are thousands more images that could be added to the Image Bank in the future, but it is also a time-consuming and costly undertaking.

Nonetheless, this lockdown work has enabled us to add more images to our Popular Collections section on the Cheshire Image Bank, particularly those on the First World War, Fashion, Eaton Hall and Little Moreton Hall. Some of the newly digitised images will be showcased in the All New Images section, as well as on social media.

The next steps of the project will be to identify entries already on the Image Bank that may require further information (then researching and adding it) and we also have data from more volunteers’ spreadsheets to match to the relevant images online. There is plenty to keep us busy!

Friday, 15 May 2020

The Enduring Morris Dance

This blog post was written by our volunteer Megan, who recently catalogued and repackaged our Lesley Edwards collection.

The collection is made up of research papers, photographs and articles relating to Morris dancing in Cheshire, and covers several Cheshire towns and parishes in great detail. You can see the full catalogue for these records here.

Read on to find out more about this intriguing folk dance that has been an English tradition for more than six hundred years!

Cheshire Image Bank (c01114): Godley Hill Royal Morris Men,
prior to the start of the Knutsford May Day procession in 1906.

The Morris dance is distinguished by a specific set of characteristics, including rhythmic stepping, folk music, regionally specific costumes, bell pads and the use of sticks and swords. These elements have cemented the Morris dance as a unique, vibrant spectacle and an entertaining recreation.

Cheshire Image Bank (c08403): Fidlers Fancy Morris Group,
Wilmslow Carnival 1970s.

What is truly significant about the tradition of Morris dance, especially with regard to local history, is the settings in which it was found and what it can reveal about the communities that shaped it. 

For example, Morris dancing is often considered to have four distinct geographical variations, identified as Cotswold, Border, Sword Dancing (Yorkshire) and North West; each form shaped by culturally significant regional differences. 

As the centuries moved on and Morris dancing moved from the court out into the parishes to become a staple aspect of community celebration, the Morris adopted a regional identity, and in the North West this was influenced by the mill population.

The North West Morris dance, found in Cheshire and Lancashire, was popular at May and rose festivals, wakes week fairs and notably the rush bearing ceremonies of the 17th century. During this time rushes were brought to local churches and strewn on the floor in an effort to make kneeling more comfortable.  These ceremonies became processional, with the rush bearing carts flanked by Morris dancers. 

Cheshire Image Bank (c11524): Postcard showing
the Morris dancers at the Helsby Rose Queen fete in 1911.

The locality not only determined the ceremonies in which the Morris dancing was performed but also the music, form of the dance and the dress (which was often dependent on what was available). The North West Morris, for example, is described as being performed in a military drill like style. 

Societal shifts are evident in the rise and fall of the Morris dance. Its decline took place throughout the years of the industrial revolution, with the migration of communities away from the rural villages and agricultural lifestyles that had been the lifeblood of the dance.

Cheshire Image Bank (p4772): Chester Morris Women,
Bridge Street 1989.

Throughout the 20th century the Morris dance has undergone various resurgences, demonstrating the durability of the traditional folk dance and underpinning the enduring collective memory that allows it to thrive. 

Much of the research that has supported these revivals has come from the first hand accounts and memories of past Morris Dancers. The Lesley Edwards collection at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies provides a wealth of information on the Cheshire Morris dance, from steps, to costume and music. It is through the collation of research like this that the finer details of the regional forms of Morris dance are remembered and sustained.                                                                                                                                                    
Finally a quote from Alderley and Wilmslow Advertiser gives a glimpse into the simple purpose of the enduring Morris dance by emphasising the joy it bought to Mayday summer celebrations:

‘‘Their peculiar mode of dancing is certainly very pretty. Their dresses are handsome in the extreme.’