As 2016 draws to a close, here are a handful of facts Warrington History Society members have been enlightened with over the past 12 months. Thanks as always to our speakers and website contributors and a Happy New Year to one and all.
In 1932 Warrington had the distinction of employing the tallest policeman in England. PC Albert Puffett stood at an astonishing 6ft 9.5 inches tall and was often seen walking the beat and directing traffic in the town centre. Although PC Puffett was the tallest PC in 1932 there were some taller PCs in later years with Warrington one of the last forces to reduce its height requirements from 6ft. (Source: WHS Lecture #360 “Policing in Warrington” – Paul Carter, 19/9/16).
75 years before the ill-fated “moving” of the old Academy Building from Bridge Foot to Bridge Street in 1981, a more successful building re-location exercise took place in Warrington. The building in question was a stable block belonging to Orford Tannery. In 1906, with the tannery strapped for cash, local builder Harry Fairclough came up with a way of saving the company some money – he moved the entire structure across a road using temporary beams, horses and manpower. Whereas the Academy (a famous 18th century learning institute for dissenters which led to Warrington briefly being known as “The Athens of the North”) had to be rebuilt once the dust had settled on its 19 metre journey, the transportation of Orford Tannery’s stable block is reported to have gone much more smoothly. (Source: WHS Website article: “Orford Tannery” – Peter Warburton, Dec 16).
Warrington has much to thank its first mayor William Beamont for. Not only did he successfully lobby for the town to become a self-governing municipal borough (1847), he played a pivotal role in ensuring the town centre had a suitable sewerage system, even paying for some of the work out of his own pocket. During his lifetime (1797-1889) Warrington’s population grew from 10,000 to 50,000, a five-fold increase that brought problems such as overcrowding, ill-health and insufficient schooling but William Beamont had a hand in addressing them all. His commitment to ensuring the town centre’s sewerage system was completed in the mid-1800s undoubtedly saved lives as most of the population then lived in the town centre and infant mortality rates quickly fell. (Source: WHS Lecture #359 “Three Mayors of Warrington: Beamont, Bennett and Hayes” – Andy Green, 18/4/16). For further information on William Beamont click here.
Dating back to the mid-1600s, the Grade II* listed “Tudor Cottage” in Church Street is one of Warrington’s most iconic buildings. Although Oliver Cromwell did not stop there during the civil war (he is believed to have stayed a few doors down where the old General Wolfe pub was located) over the years the cottage has served as an iron mongers, bicycle shop, chip shop, offices for Rylands and much more. Many images of the cottage exist but few, if any, show the deep open sewer that used to run along its outside from medieval times until the late 1800s. The sewer was so deep and wide that hefty stone “flats” were needed to gain access to the cottage and others along Church Street. When the River Mersey was high, the channel often spilled over bringing mud, water and chaos to one of the town’s busiest thoroughfares. (Source: “Buttermarket to Cockhedge”, a new book by WHS member Harry Wells, Nov 2016. Copies available from the information office in Warrington Market).
For the first 100 years of its life the Grade II listed Boultings Building on Winwick Street was a Presbyterian church known as St John’s. In the mid-1800s open air services were known to take place outside the church on St John’s day (24 June) when the church’s minister is said to have preached with “great fervour, earnestness and fluency”. Before the church could be sold in 1909, the remains of the church’s founder and first minister, The Rev. Alexander Hay, and the family of another minister who had been laid to rest in the church’s crypt had to be moved to a new grave at Warrington Cemetery. (Source: WHS Website article: “St John’s Chapel, Winwick Street” – Margaret Fellows, Oct 16).
Warrington History Society was formed in 1964 to encourage an interest in all aspects of Warrington’s history and archaeology. Our next lecture, “A Walk Around Warrington” by Margaret Fellows will take place on Monday 16th January at Friars Green Independent Methodist Chapel, Cairo Street, at 7.30pm. Members and non-members are welcome to attend. To find out more click here.