Civil War

An A-Z Journey Around Britain

32 Nantwich

 nntwch5

Some of the seventeen and a half thousand people who live there must have experienced failure and disappointment. If they have, the bruises are not visible in their town centre of Nantwich in East Cheshire. Nantwich is not easy to travel to by road. The nearby stretch of the M6 is called the Cheshire Crawl by locals. Nantwich is, though, the prettiest town in the North of England. Chester has more historic buildings but it is a city. Per square foot, Nantwich is the champion for elegant architecture and charming space.

The salt industry of Nantwich was established to serve Roman garrisons at Chester and Stoke. The Domesday Book listed eight salt houses. The industry disappeared or expired in the mid-19th Century. Not burdened by commerce, and attractive to commuters, Nantwich has been able to honour tradition and remain calm. It stands as a monument to Elizabethan achievement. St Mary’s Church is listed as a grade one building and deserves to be.

The town was destroyed by fire in 1583. Elizabeth 1 added £1000 to the nationwide collection that was organised to rebuild Nantwich and house the 900 homeless. The goodwill of Elizabeth was forgotten in the Civil War. The people of the town declared for Parliament. The Royalists objected, and in 1644 there was the six week long Battle of Nantwich. Since 1973 the Battle has been commemorated by the Sealed Knott, a local registered charity that stages Civil War history for the local schools.

Less traditional is the Studio nightclub. The Student Project, which happens every Tuesday, is supposed to be the biggest music event for students in Cheshire. Despite the urban mix of hip hop, chill out and house, calm prevails in Nantwich. Crime figures average at about a 100 a month but over half of these relate to anti-social behaviour. Drug offences peak at two a month. The local press reported as a headline the dumping of ten kittens in a box in a garden. The kittens were cute, though.

The Nantwich Players Theatre has 82 seats and its repertory consists of five plays and a youth theatre production. Four of the five plays are the predictable commercial bankers but Playhouse Creatures, which can be seen next February, does not sweeten feminist protest. Nantwich Museum has interesting exhibitions, which are free and look at the lives of ordinary folk in the past. The town pubs are okay rather than life enhancing but Café de Paris is a coffee shop that impresses aficionados of the beverage.

Nantwich has a football team that plays in the Evo Stick League. Fans do not expect inspirational football but the away trips to Buxton, Kidsgrove and Beesley will be pleasant as was the trip to Wembley in 2006 when Nantwich won the FA Vase trophy. Nantwich also has a Rugby League team, not what would be expected in leafy affluent Cheshire.

Front-Market-Hall

The Market Hall is bright and inspires optimism in a way that most markets today do not. Every year as part of the Nantwich Agricultural Show, the Annual International Cheese Awards are held in the town. Later, frustrated car drivers can nibble on a piece of prize winning cheese while stuck on the M6.

 Next week, Geordies and grim footie, Newcastle

Howard Jackson has had four books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His latest book and compilation of horror stories is called Nightmares Ahead. Published by Red Rattle Books and praised by critics, it is available here.

If you want to read more about his travels click here.

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An A-Z Journey Around Britain

28 Liverpool

 UK2

Liverpool is the most successful football city in the UK. Everton and Liverpool football clubs have won 27 League titles, 12 FA Cups, 5 European Cups (Liverpool alone), 1 European Cup Winners Cup, 3 UEFA Cups and 24 Charity Shields. Liverpool is where the Beatles decided to become musicians. They became and remain as famous as Elvis.

Allen Ginsburg compared the City to San Francisco and said Liverpool was the centre of the Universe. But he thought wherever he stood was the centre of everything.

John Pilger said, ‘As a keeper of the sweat, blood and tears of ordinary people, Liverpool has few equals.’* No Conservatives were elected to the present Liverpool City Council.   Bill Drummond managed Echo and the Bunnymen. In 1990 he took a million pounds of the money that he had earned from pop music and burned it on the Scottish island of Jura. Living in Liverpool did him no harm, then.

Carl Jung described Liverpool as the pool of life. He had a dream and saw a sooty city, a tree and a pool. King John also thought the place had potential. He is supposed to have designed the seven street lay out that forms the basis of the city and is somehow shaped in the letter H. Liverpool became a borough in 1207 and a city in 1880. Although the city was slow to grow, the port was important enough to inspire an 18 day Civil War battle. No figures are available to say how many were head butted. A head butt in Liverpool is known as the Kirkby Kiss.

Economic glory and failure followed. The rich left and blame the locals they exploited. My first job was working for a stockbroker on the Liverpool Stock Exchange. The experience shaped my left wing politics.

If the 19th Century glory of Liverpool carries shame, the hardship its ordinary people endured inspires pride. Thanks to the Atlantic slave trade the wealth of Liverpool exceeded at times that of London. Somebody had to pay for the fabulous seafront and the magnificent St Georges Hall.

St-Georges-Hall-Liverpool

Pomp And Circumstance by Elgar was premiered in Liverpool in 1901. The memory sends shivers around Eton. The first UK railway tunnels were constructed under Liverpool, and around then Liverpool acquired the first integrated underground sewer system. The Lumiere Brothers filmed Liverpool, and the film included the first tracking shot in cinema. Daniel Defoe described Liverpool as ‘one of the wonders of Britain’. The first Afro-Caribbean and Chinese communities of the UK settled in Liverpool. The Empire Theatre has the largest two tier auditorium in Britain. Liverpool had the first UK airport. But, while this happened, dockers began every day in pens and wondered whether they might work that day.

The recent economic revival is as lopsided as ever but GVA, that is the goods and services produced in the City, rose by 71% between 1995 and 2006. Per capita in Liverpool is £17,484 and above the North West average. Today there is much to see, and tourism has contributed to the economic growth. Many famous people come from Liverpool. Their names can be found on the Internet. The relatives I have that are from the City are like Dorothea in Middlemarch. They ‘rest in unvisited tombs’.

*Quote taken from The People, The Rise And Fall Of The Working Class 1910 -2010, Selina Todd. The book is recommended.

 Next week, more ‘refined’ than Blackpool, Lytham St Annes

Howard Jackson has had four books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His latest book and compilation of horror stories is called Nightmares Ahead. Published by Red Rattle Books and praised by critics, it is available here.

If you want to read more about his travels click here.