The history of Frodsham
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22,000 years ago Frodsham Main street looked a little different. Indeed, most of Cheshire's triassic sandstone was covered in Ice. Although called a plain, it was still hilly with Broxton and the escarpments of Beeston, Alderly edge, Runcorn and Frodsham heights showed at one time that Frodsham faced the sea.
The Brook stone
Many visitors to Frodsham won't notice this rock at the end of Main Street (at the junction of Marsh lane) and even residents will wonder what it is supposed to be. The "Brook Stone" is a glacial erratic. A glacial erratic is glacially-deposited rock differing from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests - carried by glacial ice. Once such example can still be seen today at the junction of Marsh Lane and Main Street. It has not quite reached the level of prominence as the Holy stone of Clonrichert (a 'Father Ted' reference) but nevertheless its the oldest rock in Frodsham.
Frodsham is twinned with Kelsterbach, a town of about 15,000 in Germany, about five minutes drive from Frankfurt Airport. Main industries include car manufacture (General motors), chemical industry and a kerosene terminal. A street named "Frodshamstrasse" exists in Kelsterbach. Photo: By Dontworry - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
The history of Frodsham and Helsby goes back some two thousand years, when late Sone Age man established a flint-knapping factory, making flint -tipped implements and weapons on what is now a field near Harrol Edge Resevoir. Iron Age people followed and established hill forts on Helsby Hill, Woodhouse Hill and at Bradley.
Around about 900 AD a band of Vikings, from Ireland, led by a Norseman by the name of Ingemund, crossed the Irish Sea and settled in the Wirral Peninsula.
The Norsemen built their village on a narrow shelf of land between the hill and the undrained marshes. The Eastern outpost of their settlement was Helsby. An old fort on the Frodsham hilltop was a further outpost of ther Norse community.
By the ninth century, the country had been split between the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia and Wessex.
Wessex successfully challenged the Viking invaders. England as a whole was united under the Wessex king Edred, after the Wessex army's defeat of Eric Bloodaxe in 954, From then until the Norman Conquest, England was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom.
The Frodsham Hilltop (Norse outpost) was wasted by William's Normans in 1070. Now fields near the Great Western Hotel.
Welcome to Frodsham
the name has been spelled Frotesham, Frodesham, Fradsham, Frandsham, Frodisham, Ffradsam, Ffradsham and Frodsham.
Norman surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are largely due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. Since medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules. Hence all the different spellings of Frodsham.
The Domesday Book
The Doomseday survey in 1066 valuates Frodsham Manor at £8 dropping to £4 by 1086, having part been laid to waste by William I.
By comparison, Helsby was only valued at twelve shillings in 1066. By the time of the conquest, Frodsham had reached a size and importance comparable with Weaverham, valued at £10 and Middlewich valued at £8.
Frodsham Castle was built by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester around 1070. Parts of these Norman foundations were still standing in the 18th Century.
The structure was probably made of timber. Frodsham castle was to be built with Chester, Beeston and Shotwick as part of a defensive system, but it was superseded once Beeston was completed. (picture is only representative. Stoeksay Castle.)
Frodsham Castle own gaol
During the C13th and C14th Frodsham Castle was used as a gaol, but the term castle is perhaps inappropriate for a building which had become by the C14th, a fortified manor house.
In spite of repairs carried out on the great hall in the early C14th, employing three carpenters, a mason and a plumber, the building collapsed by the middle of the century. The hall was rebuilt, with particular attention to roofing and lead guttering, while the tower "needed repair both in timber and roofing."
The Golden Lion plot (1387)
Many of today's buildings stand on these original Burgage (tenure for yearly rents) plots. The Golden Lion Plot can trace its plot back to 1361, for example.
1237 Frodsham owned by the Crown
The town passed with the earldom to the Crown after the death of the last of the Norman earls in 1237. Frodsham became an important trade and market town, helped by a small port.
Market and Industry continued to grow until the 14th Century when the Black Death halted the town's expansion. It wasn't until 1661 that the market was re-established under new rights granted by Charles II and it is those rights that see a regular market held every Thursday, to this very day.
The Manor Court
From the 17th Century onwards, there are more records of how the inhabitents of Frodsham lived: their standard of living; social status; trade or profession; their relationship with the Church or the Lord of the Manor and what kind of people they were.
For example, the pleas made at Manor Court: A John Smith was presented at the Court Leet and Court Baron of the Manor in 1680, for not cocking his hay properly and was fined 1s. Six months later he was again presented and fined 5s for not maintaining his buildings. which were, of course, leased from the estate.
In spite of its borough status, agriculture remained an essential occupation as in most medieval towns, each burgage tenure holding rights to land in the surrounding fields.
In the C17th and C18th yeoman and husbandman seem to be the most common occupations both in Frodsham and the lordship villages.A part from various building trades, mariner, cordwainer, webster, ironmonger, cheesefactor, tailor, woollen draper, chairmaker and cabinet maker are listed.
Situated near the Weaver, Frodsham developed as a port serving the mid Cheshire hinterland until the Weaver Navigation, effective from 1721, allowed ships to pass further upstream.
The medieval manor levied revenue from the profits of this trade and from markets and fairs held in the town. In 1360 "a boat carrying men beyond the sea" docked at Frodsham suggesting a ship of some size had arrived. A small dockyard developed on the west bank of the Weaver, reaching its peak during the Napoleonic Wars.
For many centuries salt exports had been a staple feature of the shipping trade, due to the necessity to tranship at Frodsham Quay from the canal flat boats to more seaworthy craft.
Furness iron ore travelled up the river Weaver to the forges at Vale Royal and Acton. With the decline of the various forges. this trade died and was replaced eventually by imports of bulky materials such as coal, lime, bricks and slates. All of this bulk traffic gave Frodsham Quay a new lease of economic activity and the Quay, like Preston Brook, became a thriving canal port.
The motorcar has to be the area of greatest change over the last century. The street patterns have largely remained unchanged except for some alterations to the roads to accomodate additional parking.
The current trees that line Main Street were planted in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and of course, you can still see the Jubilee clock on the Main Street crossing near, next to Church Street.
Some twenty years after Liverpool and Manchester had been connected by rail, Frodsham was to be linked to the system by the branch line from Chester to Runcorn.
In 1850-51 hundreds of labourers and craftsmen poured into the village to construct the track. This involved considerable engineering operations, including the bridging of the Weaver and the Weaver Navigation, and the construction of the great embankment and viaduct spanning the whole width of the Weaver Valley. Labourers came from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and many parts of England.
After work, the workers streamed into Frodsham village in hundreds, scaring the local inhabitants nightly as they filled the streets looking for suitable entertainment. The beer houses opened wide their doors.
A considerable number of people came into Frodsham from all parts of the kingdom.
The consumption of beer greatly soared that its effects could be seen years later in the large number of beerhouses, quite out of proportion to the size of the village. Among these were: Bridge Inn, Red Lion, Bear's Paw, Cheshire Cheese, Weaver Tavern, Ring O'Bells, Commercial Hotel, Bear's Paw, Albert Inn, Belle Monte, Volunteer Inn, Golden Lion, George, Railway Inn, Whale Bone and the Bull's head.
Apart from a cotton factory in Ship Street, Frodsham, has never developed into an industrial town. It is now expanding as a dormitory area serving surrounding industrial development, while retaining the characteristics of a small market town.
The town is principally a linear development along Main Street and High Street, with narrow burgage plots at right angles to the street. These are particularly well preserved on the north side of Main Street.
Medieval development also extended along Church Street, the earliest recorded street name in Frodsham (1272), where details of burgage plots survive from about this date. The description of plots lying between
the road and further burgages perhaps implies a second line of properties behind the street frontage. C13th and C14th burgages are also recorded.
Many of the buildings in the town are built directly on to natural rock or have foundations cut into the rock. As a result there may be very little archaeological deposit or impression in overlying sediments.
This is particularly apparent towards the rise of the High Street known as the Rock. A C17th timber framed cottage is built on a stone plinth set on the sandstone. Similarly, buildings demolished on the site of the shopping precinct had rock-cut cellars. This would seem to be typical building practice from the C17th onwards, and perhaps earlier, using timber-framing and later brick, for the main structure.
The Bear's Paw
Some stone buildings such as the Bear's Paw are known. There is little detail of town buildings prior to the C17th. A description of a late C14th burgage 'with rooms built above the same' implies a building of at least two storeys. Repairs were made to the House of the Burgesses in 1315, perhaps denoting a building of some significance.
St Laurence's Church
Fragments of Anglo-Saxon figure sculpture in the church and possibly a pre-conquest cross base suggest that the pre-Norman church stood on the existing site. Domesday records the church at Alretone, as part of the manor. Parts of the areading and former clerestory windows are late Norman cl185. Most of the building dates from C14th and C15th, but it was partly rebuilt and restored in the 1880's.
It is difficult to locate windmill sites, which could be moved. A windmill in Frodsham was built in 1347, but the location lost.
Ogilby's map depicts a windmill to the east end of the town, south of the main road and beyond the housing, perhaps on the edge of the hill by Fluin Lane. None of the field names suggest the site, although contemporary records refer to Windmill Hill. Greenwood's map of 1819 marks a windmill at the site of the saltworks by the Weaver, but none of the contemporary cartographers indicate this.
Following the discovery of rock salt (at Marbury, near Northwich in 1670) a refinery was set up on the west bank of the Weaver in operation by 1694.
Further salt works were built c1773 replacing warehouses on the old cheese wharf and on open land behind them, presumably in the same area as the earlier refinery. Contemporary maps indicate saltworks to the north and east of Saltworks Farm. No structures remain, but the ground surface to the north-east of the farm is broken and uneven.
(Photo credit: Philip Schofield)
The Frodsham Bee
In the 19th century William Cotton was a Vicar of Frodsham. He was an expert on Bee keeping and wrote what was to become the bee-keepers manual called "Buzz-a-Bee". The Parish council took the emblem of the bee for the town in his honour. Read more.