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Congleton
CongletonTownHall.jpg
Congleton Town Hall, completed 1866
Congleton is located in Cheshire
Congleton
Congleton
Population 26,482 (2011)
OS grid reference SJ854628
Civil parish
  • Congleton
Unitary authority
  • Cheshire East
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town CONGLETON
Postcode district CW12
Dialling code 01260
Police Cheshire
Fire Cheshire
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament
  • Congleton
List of places
UK
England
Cheshire
53°09′43″N 2°13′01″W / 53.162°N 2.217°W / 53.162; -2.217

Congleton is a town and civil parish in the unitary authority of Cheshire East in Cheshire, England. The town is by the River Dane, 21 miles (34 km) south of Manchester and 13 miles (21 km) north of Stoke on Trent. At the 2011 Census, it had a population of 26,482.

Toponymy

Of unknown origin, the first recorded reference to the town's name was in 1282, when it was spelt Congelton. The element Congle could relate to the old Norse kang meaning a bend followed by the element the Old English tun meaning settlement.

History

The first settlements in the Congleton area were Neolithic. Stone Age and Bronze Age artefacts have been found in the town. Congleton was once thought to have been a Roman settlement, although there is no archaeological or documentary evidence to support this. Congleton became a market town after Vikings destroyed nearby Davenport.

Godwin, Earl of Wessex held the town in the Saxon period. The town is mentioned in the Domesday Book, where it is listed as Cogeltone: Bigot de Loges. William the Conqueror granted the whole of Cheshire to his nephew the Earl of Chester. In the 13th century, Congleton belonged to the de Lacy family. Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln granted the town its first charter in 1272, enabling it to hold fairs and markets, elect a mayor and ale taster, have a merchant guild and behead known criminals.

In 1451, the River Dane flooded, destroying a number of buildings, the town's mill and wooden bridge. The river was diverted and the town rebuilt on higher ground.

Congleton became notorious in the 1620s when bear-baiting, as well as cockfighting, were popular sports. The town was unable to attract large crowds to its bear-baiting contests and lacked the money to pay for a new, more aggressive bear. The town used money it had saved to buy a bible and it replenished the fund with the income from the increased number of spectators. It became legend that Congleton sold its bible to pay for a new bear. The chorus of 20th-century folk song "Congleton Bear", by folk artist John Tams, runs:

Congleton Rare, Congleton Rare
Sold the Bible to buy a bear.

The legend earned Congleton the nickname 'Beartown'.

During the Civil War, former mayor and lawyer, John Bradshaw, became president of the court which sent Charles I to his execution in 1649. His signature as Attorney General was the first on the king's death warrant. A plaque on Bradshaw House in Lawton Street commemorates him. Almost opposite the town hall, the White Lion public house bears a blue plaque, placed by the Congleton Civic Society, which reads: "The White Lion, built 16–17th century. Said to have housed the attorney's office where John Bradshaw, regicide, served his articles."

Old Mill (1753-1830) in 1902
The Old Mill and the town corn mill photographed in 1902, the mill became unstable and Roldane Mill was built on the site in 1923. The mill was demolished in 2003, and sheltered housing is being built here.

King Edward I granted permission to build a mill. Congleton became an important centre of textile production, especially leather gloves and lace. Congleton had an early silk throwing mill, the Old Mill built by John Clayton and Nathaniel Pattison in 1753. More mills followed, and cotton was also spun. The town's prosperity depended on tariffs imposed on imported silk. When tariffs were removed in the 1860s, the empty mills were converted to fustian cutting. A limited silk ribbon weaving industry survived into the 20th century, and woven labels were still produced in the 1990s. Many mills survive as industrial or residential units.

The town hall was designed, in the Gothic style, by Edward William Godwin. It was completed in 1866.

Geography

Congleton Brookside Mill 2569
Brookside Mill, a textile mill that is being converted to residential units, on a brook leading to the River Dane in the centre of Congleton. Behind are trees on the steep northern bank.

The town of Congleton is broken up by the Congleton townspeople into seven main areas. These are Buglawton, otherwise known as "Bug Town"; the Bromley Farm estate, otherwise known as "Tin Town" due to the number of tin RSJs built there; Mossley, which is sometimes classed as the wealthier part of town; Hightown, which is located before Mossley between town and the railway station; West Heath, which is a relatively new estate built in the early 1960s to the early 1980s; Lower Heath to the north of the town; and finally the town centre. In terms of physical geography, Congleton is located in a river valley (the River Dane). To the south of the town lies an expanse of green space known locally as Priesty Fields that forms a green corridor right into the heart of the town – a rare feature in English towns.

Sport

Rugby Union

Congleton is home to the third oldest rugby union club in the country, dating back to 1860. Currently fielding a mini and junior section and three adult sides, the club held the world record for the longest continuous game of rugby ever played, at 24 hours, 30 minutes and 6 seconds. The club has also pioneered the development of 'walking rugby' for more senior players and has re-established a ladies' team, having previously had two of its women players represent England.

Football

There is also a local football team, Congleton Town F.C., known as the Bears, who play in the North West Counties League. Their ground is at Booth Street.

Cricket

There are also two cricket clubs, Congleton CC and Mossley CC. There are two golf clubs in the town— the historic Congleton Golf Club, which is an undulating nine-hole course with views over the Cloud End, and the 18-hole parkland course at Astbury. There is also a running club, Congleton Harriers, which meets weekly at Congleton Leisure Centre. The club organises the Congleton Half Marathon and in 2012 re-introduced the Congleton Quarter Marathon.

Transport

Congleton Station - geograph.org.uk - 1824470
Congleton railway station in 1986.

Congleton is 7 miles (11 km) east of the M6 motorway, connected by the A534. It is on the A34 trunk road between Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester, and the A54 to Buxton and the Peak District. The A536 links the town with Macclesfield, with the A527 linking the town to Biddulph and providing an alternative route to Stoke-on-Trent.

Congleton railway station was opened by the North Staffordshire Railway on 9 October 1848. The line is part of the Stafford-Manchester Line of the West Coast Main Line. The Biddulph Valley line used to terminate in the town. The railway, which terminated at Brusnwick Wharf in the suburb of Buglawton, carried freight traffic between Congleton and Stoke-on-Trent. The Biddulph valley line was closed in 1962. The line to Brunswick Wharf along with Brunswick Wharf itself closed on 1 April 1968.

The Macclesfield Canal, completed in 1831, passes through the town. It runs 26 miles (42 km) from Marple Junction at Marple, where it joins the Upper Peak Forest Canal, southwards (through Bollington and Macclesfield), before arriving at Bosley. Having descended the 12 Bosley Locks over the course of about a mile (1.6 km), the canal continues through Congleton to a junction with the Hall Green Branch of the Trent & Mersey Canal at Hall Green. The canal is renowned for its elegant roving bridges. Congleton is one of few places in Britain where a road, canal and railway all cross each other at the same place. The nearest airport to the town is Manchester Airport, 20 miles (32 km) away.

Religion

St Peter's Church, Congleton
St Peter's Church, Congleton, from the southeast

The four Anglican churches in Congleton are St John's, St Stephen's, St Peter's and Holy Trinity. They form a partnership in the Congleton Team Parish. Congleton Town Council lists eleven other places of worship in the town:

Historically Congleton has seen a wide range of Christian church denominations.

The Friends' Meeting House closed in 1741.

The Wesleyan Methodist Trinity Chapel, in Wagg Street, was founded in 1766 and was rebuilt in 1808 and again in 1967; the Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1821 on Lawton Street, and rebuilt in 1890 on Kinsey Street; the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion Methodist chapel was founded in 1822; the Congleton Edge Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in 1833 and rebuilt in 1889; the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Brook Street was built in 1834; the New Connexion Methodist Chapel in Queen Street was built in 1836 and closed in 1969; the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Biddulph Road was built in 1840; the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Rood Lane was founded in 1861 and rebuilt in 1886.

The Unitarian Chapel in Cross Street was founded in 1687 near the Dane Bridge and in 1733 moved to Cross Street, with the present building constructed in 1883 and closed in 1978. The United Reformed Church (Independent/ Congregationalist) was built in 1790 on Mill Street, and then rebuilt in 1876 on Antrobus Street.

Gallery

Economy

The principal industries in Congleton include the manufacture of airbags and golf balls. There are light engineering factories near the town, and sand extraction occurs on the Cheshire Plain.

One of the most prominent industries during the nineteenth century onwards was Berisfords Ribbons, established in 1858. It was founded by Charles Berisford and his brothers Francis and William. The brothers leased part of Victoria Mill, on Foundry Bank, owning the entire factory by 1872. By 1898, the company had offices in London, Manchester, Leeds and Bristol.

Congleton Market operates every Tuesday and Saturday from the Bridestones Centre.

Until about 2000, "Super Crystalate" balls, made of crystalate, were manufactured by "The Composition Billiard Ball Company" in Congleton. The company was then sold by its owner to Saluc S.A., the Belgian manufacturer of Aramith Balls. The name Super Crystalate was retained, but the manufacturing process was integrated into the standard process used for Aramith balls.

Education

Primary schools

  • Astbury St Mary's C of E School
  • Black Firs Primary School
  • Buglawton Primary School
  • Daven Primary School
  • Havannah Primary School
  • Marlfields Primary School
  • Mossley C of E Primary School
  • Smallwood C of E Primary School
  • St Mary's RC Primary School
  • The Quinta Primary School

High and secondary schools

  • Buglawton Hall (closed 2018)
  • Congleton High School
  • Eaton Bank Academy

Notable people

JohnBradshaw
John Bradshaw
Elizabeth Wolstenholme 001
Elizabeth Wolstenholme
George Eardley VC
George Harold Eardley VC
Jackie Oates 2010
Jackie Oates 2010
Ann Packer (1964)
Ann Packer 1964

Public service and commerce

  • John Bradshaw (1602–1659), judge, sat as President of the High Court of Justice for the trial of King Charles I, Mayor of Congleton 1637–1638
  • John Whitehurst FRS (1713–1788), clockmaker and scientist, member of the Lunar Society
  • Sir John Parnell, 2nd Baronet (1744–1801), Anglo-Irish Member of Parliament, his family originally migrated to Ireland from Congleton
  • Robert Hodgson (1773–1844), priest, Dean of Carlisle
  • Gibbs Crawfurd Antrobus (1793–1861), diplomat and politician, long-established family in Congleton
  • Hewett Watson (1804–1881), phrenologist, botanist and evolutionary theorist
  • William Newton (1822–1876), trade unionist, journalist and Chartist
  • Elizabeth Wolstenholme (1833–1918), suffragist, essayist and poet
  • Rear-Admiral Gerald Cartmell Harrison (1883–1943), Royal Navy officer and cricketer
  • Theodora Turner OBE ARRC (1907–1999), born in Congleton, nurse and hospital matron.
  • Frank Kearton, Baron Kearton OBE FRS FRSA (1911–1992), life peer, scientist and industrialist
  • George Harold Eardley VC MM (1912–1991), received the Victoria Cross in 1944
  • Ann Winterton (born 1941), politician, MP for Congleton 1983–2010
  • John Blundell (1952–2014), Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs
  • Dawn Gibbins MBE (1961-2022) entrepreneur, started flooring company Flowcrete with her late father

Arts

  • Stanley Unwin (1911–2002), also "Professor" Stanley Unwin, comedian, actor and comic
  • Alan Garner OBE (born 1934), novelist best known for his children's fantasy novels
  • Louise Plowright (1956–2016), actress
  • Mark Edwardson (born 1967), TV presenter, BBC North West lives in Congleton
  • Emma Bossons (born 1976 in Congleton), ceramic artist and designer for Moorcroft Pottery
  • Jackie Oates (born 1983 in Congleton), folk singer and fiddle player

Sports

  • Tommy Clare (1865–1929), international footballer (right-back) and football manager
  • George Clawley (1875–1920), professional goalkeeper who played for Stoke City F.C., Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, born at Scholar Green, near Congleton
  • William Yates (1880–1967), racewalker, competed at the 1912 Summer Olympics
  • Hugh Moffat (1885–1952), footballer, played for Burnley F.C. and Oldham Athletic F.C.
  • Bill Fielding (1915–2006), goalkeeper for Cardiff City, Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United
  • Ann Packer (born 1942) and Robbie Brightwell (1939–2022), husband-and-wife Olympic Gold Medal athletes
  • Ian Brightwell (born 1968), former Manchester City footballer with 464 club caps; grew up in Congleton
  • Laura Newton (born 1977), cricketer
  • Tim Brown (born 1981), New Zealand international footballer, born in Congleton

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