History of Cheshire: The Pivotal 17th Century

By the time the 17th century arrived, Cheshire’s Norman descendants had become a well-established landowning class. Dominating trade, legal and community affairs, the history of Cheshire in this period was to be theirs. However, the outbreak of the English Civil War tore the country apart along Royalist and Parliamentarian axes. Cheshire too was not spared. While most of Cheshire was under Parliamentarian control, some of the county’s biggest families were firm Royalists. For the Royalists, the Battle of Nantwich in 1644 was crucial, after defeat there Chester was left as the only Royalist stronghold. In September 1645, the Battle of Rowton Moor just outside Chester signalled the death knell for the Royalist cause. Detachments arriving to break the siege on the city were decisively defeated.

In the time between execution of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the Puritan religious code called for the destruction of Saxon and medieval stone crosses. From markets to places of pilgrimage, the stone crosses were destroyed, with some converted into sundials. Today, some of their original base structures remain. This period also saw an architectural expansion of Cheshire.

 

Many of Cheshire’s now famous historical houses were built in this time. Wood was the cheap and convenient construction material of choice. Even today, many of these iconic timber-framed post-medieval building proudly display Cheshire’s history. One of the finest examples of this style of construction is the timber-framed church at Siddington. A little later, Tatton Hall was built to replace Tatton Old Hall, which has since been substantially altered.

Cheshire’s economy also witnessed considerable changes in this period. After the medieval period, arable land was converted into pasture, uncultivated land was also similarly converted. Dairy farming took on an increasingly important role, as it supported leather and cheese production industries. Finally, cheese making operations expanded considerably, as the iconic Cheshire Cheese came to be much sought-after in London.