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Neston

The historic market town of Neston nestles in the Cheshire countryside and its tranquil appearance, with its many interesting buildings, belies its long and strategic history.

With its evidence of Viking settlements in pre-Norman times and its significant record in the Domesday Book of 1085 there is much of interest in the town, indeed the sandstone church situated in the centre of the town dates back in part to the 14th Century and contains many treasures.

Arguably the most prosperous period of Neston’s development was in the mid 1500′s when it established itself as a port with important coaching links to London and became the principle departure point for Spain, France and Ireland. Many notable figures sailed from Neston long before the port of Liverpool was developed. Later developments in the mid 19th Century saw coal mining and the railways come and go although a rail link still exists between Birkenhead and Wrexham.

The second rail link, which originally crossed over the existing line, making Neston an important junction, was closed in the mid 1950′s and converted into the Wirral Country Park, the first of its kind in the country, linking the towns of the west coast of the Wirral peninsular and providing access and pleasure for walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike.

Still boasting its Royal Charter dating back to 1728 supporting its market town status, weekly Friday markets, monthly Farmers’ markets, continental markets and Christmas markets keeps its historic market town image intact.

You can find out more about the history of Neston by listening to our Neston Audio Trails.

Little Neston

Today Little Neston nestles in the shadow of its namesake, yet it has always been a distinct settlement. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book when it was recorded that Robert the Cook held the land. In 1066 it was worth 13s 4d and in 1086 16s.

There are a number of 18th century houses with date stones near the Green. White House has the date 1732 with the initials of George and Jane Bedson and 26 The Green has the date 1731 which possibly commemorates a rebuilding of the house by Hugh and Anne Bennett.

This house was the former Durham Ox public house, which closed in 1928. The Royal Oak was an ancient single storey thatched building which burnt down in 1901 when it was replaced by the present building. The Methodist Church was built in 1872 and St Winefride’s Roman Catholic Church was opened in 1843 and it was designed by Augustus Pugin.

Coal mining started in 1757 in the area around the Harp on the Ness side. John Stanley the colliery owner built Denhall Quay in the 1760s and the coal was shipped to North Wales ports and to Ireland. The colliery had two underground canals to bring the coal from the coal face to the bottom of the pit shaft. The coal field was in decline by the mid 19th
Century as the accessible coal had been worked out. A new shaft was sunk in 1874. This mine had a railway link to the line on what is now the Wirral Way. The colliery closed in 1927 and some of the waste tips are visible on the right at the bottom of Marshlands Road.

You can find out more about the history of coal mining at Little Neston by listening to our Neston Colliery Audio Trail.

Ness

Emma (birth registered as Emy) Lyon, who was to become Emma Hamilton, mistress of Nelson, was born in Ness, before moving to Hawarden, after the death of her father, a blacksmith, who worked at Ness Colliery. There are no records of where Emma actually lived in her brief time in Ness in 1765, but it was not Swan Cottage. Maybe someone will solve the mystery one day

Ness Botanic Gardens were started by A K Bulley who moved there in 1898 after making his money as a cotton broker in Liverpool. He planted shelter belts of trees and laid out the gardens. He started a commercial nursery, which became Bees Limited. He used the gardens to promote his products. A K Bulley was also a very important sponsor of plant collectors, which led to plants from overseas being established in Britain. After his death his daughter gave the gardens to Liverpool University in 1948.

Mealor’s of Ness were well known horse drawn plough makers in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Joseph Mealor held two patents on ploughs, which were granted in the 1890s. Their ploughs were sold all over the country and had a good reputation. They also made metal railings and park benches and latterly the servicing and repair of lawnmowers. The company moved from Ness to Queensferry in 2010.

Parkgate

Parkgate boasts a rich mixture of quaint and grand buildings, many of them listed and some dating back to the 17th Century.

They reflect the interesting history of this area, most recently as a fishing village, struggling to survive the encroaching salt marsh, but more notably a century of use as a port for Chester, a sea bathing resort, terminal for packet ships to Dublin and ferry point for crossing to Flint.

The origins of the name Parkgate lie in the deer park, which was enclosed about 1250. 350 years later this estuary anchorage and the few houses that had sprung up in the park were first referred to as Parkgate.

Wilfred Grenfell, the well known missionary doctor who set up hospitals in the wilds of the Labrador coast of Canada was born at Mostyn House, the large black and white building, which until July 2010, was a school run by the Grenfell family.

Emma, Lady Hamilton, mistress of Admiral Nelson, was born in nearby Ness and returned to stay at Dover Cottage to take the sea-bathing cure for a skin complaint.

For more information, there are inexpensive booklets “This is Parkgate” and “The Parkgate Heritage Trail”, for sale in Nicholls Ice Cream shop and Mozkitos.

Willaston

Once a purely agricultural community, Willaston is now largely a commuter village for the surrounding towns. However, it has its own churches, primary school, branch library, health facilities, pubs, garages, and a selection of shops and a weekly country market.

The Johnston Recreation Ground is home to football teams and a tennis club, and the adjacent meadow and woodland (cared for by the Friends of Willaston Meadow) are popular with walkers; there are also waymarked village walks. Entertainment is provided by a drama group and a choir, and a concert society organizes trips to concerts and theatres. There are two Women’s Institutes and a thriving horticultural society.

Organisations for children include a mother and toddler group, and there are Cubs and Scouts, Brownies and Guides, as well as Rainbows and Beavers for the younger ones. Willaston Residents’ and Countryside Society is a village forum that comments on planning matters and co-ordinates occasional communal events.

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