CONGLETON

Grid Ref: SJ 860 630
19 April 2005, 16 Sept 2014 & 25 Feb 2015

 

Congleton, Cheshire spacer Interior
The Town Hall   The roof as seen from the balcony
Ceiling   Church
Hammer beam roof   St. Peter's from the south west
Church   Window
St. Peter's from the south east   The East Window
Doorway   White Lion
Neoclassical church entrance   The White Lion
Blue Plaque   Hat
Blue Plaque   Judge Bradshaw's reinforced hat
High Street   Wooden Frame Building
Mild September day in 2014   Wooden frame building in High Street.
Bear   Market Cross
Denizen of Beartown   Remains of Market Cross
St. Stephen's   Park Bandstand
St. Stephen's   Park Bandstand

 

Congleton obtained its royal charter in 1272. Its prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries was based on cotton and silk manufacture. The city fathers funded a magnificent town hall in High Street. It is surrounded by other buildings, preventing a full view. It was designed by E. W. Godwin who had won a competition for the design of Northampton town hall in 1861. Congleton's town hall was built between 1864 and 1866. The tower is 110 feet high. The main hall has what appears to be a medieval hammer beam roof but it incorporates wrought and cast iron components.

St. Peter's church was rebuilt between 1740 and 1742. The body of the church is in brick and has seven bays. The stone tower, in "Gothick" style was completed in 1786. By contrast the main door is in classical style with two pairs of Roman Doric columns. The east window is in Venetian style. I could not gain access to the church when I called as a funeral was in progress, but according to Arthur Mee, there is a monument inside to Sir Thomas Reade who persuaded the Bey of Algiers to abolish slavery in 1849. Sir Thomas was on the island of St. Helena when Napoleon was a prisoner there.

St. Stephen's in Brook Street was built between 1858 and 1860 at a cost of £3,000; the architects was Joseph Clarke of London. Pevsner describes it has having a polygonal apse at the east end and bellcote on the gable of the nave.

Congleton is known locally as Beartown on account of a historical incident. In the 1620s the cruel sport of bear-baiting was popular but Congleton was in need of a new bear and had no funds to pay for one. Instead they used the money the town had saved to buy a new bible and gradually replaced the money from the increased number of people attending the bear-baiting. A few years ago the town commissioned a number of bear statues which stood around the town and the one in the picture is at the gates of St. Peter's. It looks rather jolly compared to the miserable figure of bears used for bear-baiting, ravaged as they are by fierce dogs.

The remains of the Market Cross can be seen in the park. The inscription reads "This Market Cross formerly stood opposite the Old Town Hall and was removed AD 1772. Restored and erected on Coronation Day of King Edward VII, June 26th 1901. Alderman George Pedley, Mayor". The bandstand in the park bears the inscription "Erected (illegible but probably by Public) Subscription in Commemoration of the visit to Congleton of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary, April 23rd 1913, Dr. W. I. Fearn Mayor, Counr E. Hulme Chairman of Park Commee)

Almost opposite the town hall is the White Lion. A blue plaque on the wall placed by the Congleton Civic Society states, "The White Lion, built 16-17th century. Said to have housed the attorney's office where John Bradshaw, regicide, served his articles." Bradshaw was the president of the court which condemned Charles I.  Judge Bradshaw's iron reinforced hat it on display at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Photography is allowed in the museum but not with flash. My picture was taken hand-held - hence its poor quality. However, the iron bands around the crown of the hat are clearly visible. There is a sharper picture on the site of MyArtPrints.   An account of Bradshaw's career can be found on the Congleton Musuem site and there is a Wikipedia article. Judge Bradshaw deserves to be better known and celebrated; the French are proud of their revolution and Judge Bradshaw was a leading figure in ours.

Sources

Arthur Mee's Cheshire, published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1938; fourth impression 1950.
The Buildings of England, Cheshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard, Yale University Press, 2003, ISBN 0 300 09588 0

 

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Cheshire Antiquities
© Craig Thornber, Cheshire, England, UK.  Main Site Address: http://www.thornber.net/

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