Nantwich

An A-Z Journey Around Britain

32 Nantwich

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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

13 Crewe

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In the past, Crewe won awards for having the best fish and chips in the United Kingdom.

Considering the central location of Crewe, that has to be regarded as an achievement. The location of the twelve-platform railway station in the middle of the country was more predictable. If men have forgotten loyal wives so they can have hanky panky in Chester, some men have abandoned women for Crewe. The town is a paradise for train spotters. The good transport links would have attracted Rolls Royce, the company that helped define identities for the rich and famous. Elvis Presley posed as a proud owner outside Graceland and next to his black Rolls Royce.

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The simple myth is that Rolls Royce left Crewe to become part of BMW and a factory that employed 10,000 people disappeared. That happened but now Bentley make cars for famous footballers, and the Crewe factory employs 3,500 workers.

The railway station provides a direct link to Liverpool, London and Manchester but despite the twelve operational platforms the number of railway workers has declined from over 20,000 to less than a thousand.   Considering the decline of local industry, the mystery is how Dario Grady became the longest serving manager in English football. At Crewe Alexandra, Grady has nurtured an impressive collection of footballers. Rob Jones and Danny Murphy moved to Liverpool Football Club. After he finished paying professional football Neil Lennon sought to improve ecclesiastical harmony in Glasgow.

The people of Crewe have a reputation for being dour. Their sense of humour may appeal to Zen Buddhists but is beyond many. The central location must encourage insularity.  Although the town has an obvious working class presence, the surrounding Cheshire countryside means the local MP is Conservative. When not in the House of Commons, Edward Timpson runs marathons, plays football and smiles a lot. A conceptual thinker, though, he is not. The post austerity remodelling of demand sustaining capitalism will have to emerge from somewhere other than Crewe. Warrior Timpson has opposed his own party over the Bingo Tax and he has fought for the continued existence of the sorting office in Weston Road. Phew.

The fertile countryside around Crewe is interrupted by pleasant towns. Northwich is failed Chester but fine. Nantwich, only seven miles away, is picturesque and a perfect heritage location. The pubs in Crewe town centre are just the place for a final pint before suicide but the Cheese Hall has good real ale and cheap food.  The Lyceum Theatre also provides traditional fare. This season includes a variety show of wartime comedy. It will interest those who remember the great Scouse comic Tommy Handley. The Town Hall may be ignored by train spotters but it has merit. Somehow it mixes European influences but insists on no nonsense Northern practicality.

The crime figures for Crewe are above average but not at city level, and the figures are dominated by anti-social behaviour. The Asda car park had 23 incidents in January alone and the rumour is that George A Romero will visit.

Next week, an old Viking meets the relatives, Crosby.

Howard Jackson has had three books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His next book is a compilation of horror stories and is called Nightmares Ahead. It will be available in Spring 2015.

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