or Cheshire’s ‘commodations Guvna !
You’ll recall in my first entry on Cheshire, I mentioned Chester as the chief city and its historical importance to the county even reaching into Wales. It is a major tourist attraction in its present form particularly where the original part of the city is concerned. The main streets are lined with the black and white timber buildings which are referred to as Chester Rows and along these streets, two tiers of stores with continuous upper galleries are unique to the old city. Many of these structures were originally built in the 13th and 14th centuries although much was rebuilt in the 19th century preserving the medieval character of Cheshire with faithful restoration. One particular outstanding 16th century Tudor façade is Bishop Lloyd’s house on Watergate Street being the most richly carved timber structure.
Chuck Walker @ Main St. Square
At Eastgate and Bridge you’ll see the town walls and the cathedral, the latter also being restored by several well-known architects such as Thomas Harrison, Hussey, Sir George Gilbert Scott and Sir Arthur Blomfield. Scott made the most profound restoration because the cathedral had serious decay problems and, as he discovered, no foundations in the eastern portion. He restored it to mid-13th century style with some Victorian features and added Gothic flamboyance it hadn’t before carried but to great effect. Some of his features were inventions, such as the five-sided apse at the end of the south choir aisle. He wanted to erect an enormous steeple for the square central tower but the funds were not made available. The four turrets he erected on the 12th century tower, however, lend a unique touch.
The cathedral is encased on two sides by the medieval city walls, parts of which retain portions of the Roman walls. If you walk toward Eastgate from there, a wrought-iron clock which was erected by 1897 shows off the signature feature of Chester. You’ll hear a town crier call the hours and even announce local news ! A short distance towards Newgate leads to the old Roman Amphitheater remains at Little John Street.
Chester Castle depicted in 1753
Convenient to Chester, Green Bough Hotel on 60 Hoole Road or Crabwall Manor at Mollington and Rowton Hall Hotel which is three miles away at Rowton on Whitchurch Road are all worth their gold in convenience and amenities. Crabwall and Rowton offer beautiful pools plus gymnasiums and spa facilities and excellent restaurants but differ in history and architecture.
Set in eight acres of award-winning gardens Rowton Hall was built in 1779 as a private residence with Adamic and fully modern interiors. There are private rooms available throughout and are completely modernized down to the last detail with special conveniences. Four conference rooms are available, some with banqueting capabilities and the spaciousness and quiet- legendary.
Green Bough’s three-storied lobby
Crabwall Manor on Parkgate Road is a 4-star hotel set in eleven acres of elder woodlands with beautiful landscaping on the grounds, less than two miles away from Chester. Its beginnings go back to Saxon times but the current structure is a recreation of a medieval castle with Tudor features built in 1660. The interior is completely modernized retaining features such as inglenook fireplaces.
All the amenities are present with no less than 48 elegantly appointed rooms, individually decorated in English country style of a bygone era. Their spa contains every modern facility featuring a beautiful 17 metre indoor pool. It has an award-winning restaurant, Conservatory, which affords each guest high levels of accommodation and an extensive wine list. All the public lounge and reception areas are spacious and inviting areas. Mollington Grange, an 18 hole championship golf course is only 100 yards away on the green ! There is plenty of free parking and the prices are wonderfully low for the level of service and comfort !
The magnificent Crewe Hall features many different eras of architecture but with such continuity that the average visitor may not notice the amazing diversity between the High Victorian portion and the Jacobean west face which features Barry’s Tower and the extension. The Jacobean stone carvings which prevail on the southern façade make this possible and with a stunning effect that I think is unsurpassed anywhere in England. Once you see it you’ll never forget its unique face and splendor. The long time seat of the Earls of Crewe, from 1170, became part of the estate of the Queen from 1936 up until ten years ago as part of the estate of the Duchy of Lancaster.
This contemporary to Dorfold Hall was taken over by a hotel development company at the turn of this past century and completely restored inside and out and still offers a hospitality that is nothing less than royal treatment by the QHotels Group. To stay at Crewe Hall or hold an event there is truly a lifetime experience because of the history, wealth and pedigree associated with this living museum. Its current use is brilliant.
Originally the di Criwa family, Sir Randolph Crewe was Lord Chief Justice at the court of James I and built the Jacobean portion of Crewe Hall during the years 1615 through 1636. The original architect has not been ascertained but historians believe its design was based on drawings by Inigo Jones because of its conservative design like that of Longleat which was built fifty years before. For Cheshire the architecture would have been considered progressive and received attention from 17th century Historian, Thomas Fuller who wrote:
“Sir Randal first brought the model of excellent building into these remoter parts, yea, brought London into Cheshire, in the loftiness, sightliness and pleasantness of their structures.”
At that period in time it was shown to be assessed by the government as one of the largest houses in Cheshire with 42 chimneys! In 1866 a fire engulfed the mansion and it was rebuilt with a symmetrical brick entrance front with a renaissance frontispiece and gabled wings,- the additional porch and gabled work was that of E.M Barry. Most of the exterior survived, however, and a good part of the diapered brickwork is original. Barry also added an east wing and tower to the side in Jacobean style with a converted courtyard being made into a covered cortile , a cloister below, balcony above, and a hammerbeam roof at gallery level. With the J.G. Crace interior mixing Victorian and Jacobean and a plethora of stained glass by Clayton and Bell, the effect is nearly overwhelming but the exterior features would call for this flamboyant melange of styles. Any visitors and guests will encounter a marvelous recreated newel-carved staircase to the east of the central hall with landings showing off stained-glass alcoves and the library, drawing room and Long Gallery which house carved alabaster panels and chimneys, some of the latter with family and English literary busts and paintings throughout. Ceilings are absolutely flamboyant with coffering (recessed panels) and strapwork. The Carved Room and Chapel are equally prodigious and beautiful. The 18th century landscaping has the distinction of being handled by Capability Brown, William Emes and Humphrey Repton and Nesfield in the 19th century, developed for well over a hundred years and a grand feature of the house with pleasure gardens, parterres, statues and walks.
The Crewe family consisted of parliamentarians from the beginning and they were a very social group entertaining major figures of their days through the centuries such as William Spencer, Edmund Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Thomas Lawrence among many others. The first Baron of the estate was John Crewe in the late 18th century. The long line of dazzling Crewe socialites ended with Hungerford Crewe who never married, ending the barony in 1894. His nephew, Robert Milnes inherited the estate and the Crewe title was revived as an earldom in 1895, later a Marquess. This friend to George V and the King and Queen Mary played host to them in 1913 at Crewe but afterwards the estate was left empty by 1922 when his heirs refused to live there. His grandson, Quentin Crewe felt he was poorly advised in his handling of the estate. By 1998 when it was acquired by QHotels the interior had been stripped to the bare walls.
Nevertheless, today it is a marvel of a luxury hotel with 8 acres of parkland with an event center, extensive in-house conference facilities, a completely equipped health and fitness spa, four AA star restaurant and brasserie with 117 bedrooms, 25 of which are located in the old Hall itself along with new garden view rooms. Wedding ceremonies are carried out here along with other events and the Duchy of Lancaster retains ownership of most of the estate which has woodlands, a dairy farm and even commercial property used as a farm.
Five miles northeast of Nantwich at Crewe.
Somerset Lodge is a special accommodation for visitors to Cholmondeley Castle. It’s a fully equipped small lodge for up to four persons with a furnished fenced garden, kitchen, dining areas, full bathroom at entrance level and fireplace with modern furnishings throughout. With one full bedroom and a small twin bedroom , it’s pricey but loaded with charm and the best part is that you will remain on Cholmondeley’s wonderful idyllic and huge estate.
Nunsmere Hall on Tarporley Road at Oakmere which is convenient to Northwich is an elegant sprawling country manor seated on a peninsula which looms out onto a lake as a natural moat with spectacular views and five star amenities! Thirty bedrooms and six suites are available with luxurious decor and amenities. This elegant country manor has high standards of service to their guests especially for conferences with three business suites available which are sound-proofed and offer private dining. The Crystal Restaurant serves dishes using only fresh seasonal produce and fine wines are available.
Leisure at Nunsmere offers relaxation on the large parterres, gardens and grounds along with extensive woodlands on all three sides surrounding the manor and many types of gaming availability including a Racing circuit and Polo Club next door. Expect moderate to expensive prices along with the exclusivity of the area.
Oakmere Hall may just be Cheshire’s only chateau-esque mansion and has been turned into an apartment building but lost none of its mid-19th century charm. This imposing beauty was built at Sandiway which is near the confluence of the A49 and A556, just southwest of Winnington Hall and convenient to all the big castles in and around Chester. It was built for John and Thomas Johnson, who were business owners at Runcorn, by John Douglas, a prolific and prodigious Cheshire architect who built abbeys and castles among many other marvelous edifices throughout Cheshire and many neighboring counties and some in Scotland and Wales. He hailed from Sandiway so this was a fitting tribute to his hometown with his proclivity for revival Gothic which was very popular at the time. Oakmere is the largest house he ever designed.
Built in 1867, with freestone from Lancashire and slate from Westmorland for the roofs, it is a two-storey, nine-bay fronted courtyard Gothic mansion with a porte-cochère refinished as a gatehouse. It features octagonal pilasters which reach above the parapets as turrets, mansard and conical roofs and an east front three-storey tower with battlements and a wrought iron balustrade. The original interior had an entrance hall, grand staircase leading to another, two drawing rooms and a dining room from which you could view the gardens. In addition there were servants’ quarters and a billiard room, however many alterations within were made during the 20th century. Unless you are prepared to move in you may have to admire Oakmere from the outside but it would definitely be worth a chance to see the only chateau in Cheshire.
Right in the heart of Nantwich Crown Hotel at 24-26 High Street is a delight because it is a wonderfully preserved Cheshire black and white framed Tudor public house which dates from 1583. It was built at this late date because it was rebuilt when the original Crown Hotel, among many others, burned down that same year. Some people believe it may have been the original site of Nantwich Castle. Excavations carried out behind the current structure in 1978 revealed terracing, which could be from a platform or motte, as well as a pre-medieval moat which may have surrounded the outer bailey of the castle. Roman pottery, Samian ware, roof tiles and many medieval items were also found during these excavations. A singular distinction to this existing structure is that The Duke of Monmouth dined at the Crown in 1682. Town plays were put on here until a theatre was built in the 19th century.
Currently, the interior is in good condition with the ground floor 18th century enclosed bar and a wall panel showing the original wattle and daub construction. A scrollwork beam forms the archway in the back portion which is an 18th century assembly room. The second story is a partitioned single gallery sectioned off during the same period. Today there are eighteen bedrooms available along with a pub and it is a Best Western with two stars with an Italian restaurant and carvery. It is also licensed for civil weddings.
The beautiful Rookery Hall, in the south is near Worleston, just outside Nantwich and has the distinction of being the Hand-Picked Hotel where David Beckham and Victoria Adams (Posh Spice) were engaged and held their engagement party a year later in 1998. It has been serving as such a venue since 1975 and was further converted in 1990 by adding a west wing and turning the stable block into a full spa. Seated in 38 acres of Parkland which overlook the River Weaver, its gardens are ancient and are registered as being of Special Historic interest. A particularly idyllic spot at the southeast corner of the Hall features a wall sundial.
Originally built in a plain Georgian style in 1816 for William Henry von Shroeder, it was later restyled by 1867 in neo-Elizabethan by adding wings and bays with French and classical flourishes to the exteriors. Bays and mullioned windows along with balustraded balconies and parapets make this a visual delight and the interiors match the elegance in a more modern style concerning the accommodations. Rookery has seventy bedrooms available along with a four-star restaurant, health club and spa. The reception rooms feature original Jacobean wood paneling throughout with paneled ceilings and carved fireplaces. The dining room, paneled in walnut, is vaulted with quatrefoils, coronets and shields along with the von Schroeder coat of arms. Recent renovations took place in 2007 upon the takeover by the Hand-Picked Hotels chain.
Historic Cranage Hall goes back as far as 1086 although the current structure has little to do with its beginnings. This hotel claims twenty acres of beautifully landscaped grounds and the current building was built in the 19th century on a design by Lewis Wyatt commissioned by Lawrence Armistead. The previous structure was built in the 17th century incorporating portions of an earlier manor house owned by the Armistead family until 1920. It dominates the town which is mostly an agricultural area close to Congleton although there once was a village of Cranage. At first Cranage became a hospital and then a conference center.
Today it is an ivy-clad Grade II listed hotel and conference center and features every sort of accommodation anyone would possibly need whether they want to work out, take in spa services, fine dining or just get rest and relaxation. It has an incredible one hundred and fifty modern rooms available with wireless internet access, twenty-eight huge conference rooms to choose from, one seating up to 300, and is convenient to most of the east Cheshire mansions including Lyme Hall.
Leave the M6 at junction 18 and take the A54 towards Holmes Chapel. Follow the road for just over a mile until you reach a roundabout in Holmes Chapel Village. Turn left onto the A50 towards Knutsford and follow this road until you enter Cranage and see the signs for Cranage Hall. These direct you to turn left into Byley Lane. Cranage Hall is on your left-hand side.
The old world charm of a medieval hotel at Prestbury near Macclesfield, The Bridge Hotel, may be the best choice for the area. Dating from 1626, it is a high grade hotel with a beautiful galleried dining room which offers traditional English cuisine with an extensive selection of wines. There are three conference rooms and many of the modern furnished bedrooms feature original oak paneling and beams overlooking the River Bollin in a very quiet area of Cheshire convenient to Tatton Park and Capesthorne Hall. It is seated in the heart of Prestbury village right next to the cathedral.
Thanks to Steve Howe of www.chesterwalls.info (The Black and White Picture Place in Hoole, Chester) for the photo of Chester Cathedral and its 14th century choir stall carving. Please check out all the new photos in the new Cheshire album. I also want to thank Chuck and Linda Walker for their photos of Chester on this entry and if you like, you must take a look at the marvelous photos they took on their trip throughout Britain:
Only 13 shopping days left for Christmas ! Better get a move on !
Happy adventures through Castlecyberland !
The Castle Lady
…Oh, and Happy Chanukah !