Some Warrington facts

Here are some of our favourite facts about Warrington, all picked up from lectures presented to Warrington History Society or from articles published in our newsletters. Why not join us at one of our upcoming lectures to hear dozens more interesting facts in person?



Often nicknamed ‘Warrington’s Dreamer’, Arthur Bennett, Mayor of Warrington in 1925, wanted to establish a seaport and airport in Warrington. He even managed to establish a Borough Council Aerodrome Committee to explore his ideas. As outlandish as his ideas may sound, long after his death the former Burtonwood Airbase was considered as a regional airport until subsidence caused by coal mining from the nearby Bold colliery put paid to the idea. And as for a seaport – why not? Even today ships still pass through Warrington via the Manchester Ship Canal! (Source: WHS Lecture #359 “Three Mayors of Warrington” – Andy Green, 18/4/16).


trinity_clockIn 1863, Hamlet Savage, the ringer of town’s bell, was paid 3 shillings (15p) per week for the privilege and was given explicit details of the times he needed to ring it: In the mornings 5.55-6.00am Monday to Saturday and 7.55-8.00am on Sundays. He also needed to ring it every evening between 8.00-8.05pm with additional rings required between 10.45-11.00pm on Saturdays and 9.45-10.00pm on Sundays. The town bell still rings today – it is housed in the tower of Trinity Church at Market Gate – although these days is set to chime automatically. (Source: WHS Lecture #156 “Clockmaking: A Warrington Trade”- Kit Heald, 21/12/87).


glassWarrington was a major centre for glassmaking between 1780 and 1820 with pressed glass being a key speciality. Notable figures included Peter Seaman, Josiah Perrin, Thomas Glazebrook, Thomas Robinson, Edward Boulton and the Cartwright family who operated out of the Bank Quay, Cockhedge and Orford Lane areas. The centre of the pressed glass industry later moved to Manchester, most likely because the children of the above wanted to find their own share of the market and Manchester’s population was booming. Records show that most of the Manchester firms employed craftsmen who had perfected their skills in Warrington. (Source: WHS Lecture #358 “The Victorian Decorative Glass Industry and Warrington’s Part In Its Development”- David Williars, 21/3/16).


william_sOne of the earliest ‘performances’ of Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII may have occurred in Warrington! On Sunday 6th May 1632, nine men persuaded a Warrington ale house keeper called Gregory Harrison to let them use his loft after purchasing a ‘cann of alle’ (a can at the time was a kind of churn comprising several pints). As the play was being performed during the hours of divine service, the men were arrested by the town’s constables and churchwardens. They subsequently admitted performing a play called ‘Henery the Eaight’ and were duly prosecuted. (Source: WHS Lecture #321 “Crime in Warrington in the 1630s”- Alan Crosby,15/11/10). Some historians have questioned if the play performed in the ale house was Shakespeare’s Henry VIII since in 1632 it was only available in Shakespeare’s First and Second Folios, both of which were weighty and expensive tomes from which to attempt a performance. However, the possibility that it was the great Bard’s play has yet to be disproven.


A tantalising entry in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle of A.D. 923 records that Edward the Elder “went with his levies to Thelwall” and had a fortress “built, settled and garrisoned”, a fact that has led to Thelwall’s claim to be a bona fide city. However no trace of Thelwall’s fort has ever been found. A solution may lie in some 19th century maps. The obvious point for a fortification would be a crossing point on the River Mersey but the location of Warrington’s ancient ford is known as being close to Blackbear Bridge in Latchford – a full 3 miles from Thelwall. However, some Victorian maps clearly show this area as being a “detached part” of the Parish of Thelwall. Although excavation work would be needed to prove this assertion, perhaps Thelwall can rightly claim to be a city after all? (Source: WHS Newsletter #1 “On The Map”- G A Carter, Autumn 1977).


perambulatingIn 1848 Warrington became the first town in the United Kingdom to open a rate-supported public library. It was born from a long-established private library that had been operating from the Horsemarket Street premises of the printer William Eyres since 1760. Known as the Warrington Circulating Library, it was mainly used by tutors from the nearby Warrington Academy. Another unrelated library service, known as the Warrington Perambulating Library, is recognised as one of the first mobile libraries in the country. Established by the town’s Mechanics’ Institute in 1858, it comprised a travelling one-horse cart. The Institute promised the cart would visit “every door in Warrington” and as a result the number of books borrowed from its shelves rose from an astonishing 3,000 to 12,000 a year. (Source: WHS Millennium Scrapbook “The Birth of the Circulating Library”- Sylvia Wright, 2000).


Albert Puffet, England's tallest policeman in Warrington in 1932In 1932 the town of 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). Did you know The Museum of Policing in Cheshire is  based in Warrington Police station? As it is located in a working police station visits are by appointment only. It is well worth a visit!


Orford Tannery's stable block on the move 190675 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).


William Beamont, Warrington's first mayorWarrington 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.


Cromwell's Cottage, WarringtonDating 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).


Boultings Building, WarringtonFor 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.  To find out more click here.