Local HistoryWed, 22nd May 2013
POTTED HISTORY OF HIGH LEGH
The parish of High Legh was first recorded in the Domesday Book when two Saxons, Ulviet and Dobb, were the principal people. A church was also recorded but it’s location has never been found. It might well be under the foundations of the 1581 Chapel of St Mary’s which was the family chapel of the Cornwall Legh family.
There are three religious buildings in High Legh and all of them are still used for services. The Parish Church is St John’s, formerly the family church belonging to the Egerton Leigh family – related to the Cornwall Leghs but estranged through a dispute over lands and a marriage settlement.
The other religious building in High Legh is the Methodist’s Chapel on Northwood Lane which was bought from the High Legh Estate when a huge sale took place in 1919. It was formerly a gamekeeper’s cottage and was bought for £195.00. Recent extensions and improvements have made it into a rural retreat and services still continue.
The other family mentioned in the High Legh archives are the Egertons of Tatton Park. All three families had interlocking lands and farms and throughout the 18th and 19th century they swopped lands to consolidate their holdings. In 1912 the Egerton Leighs finally sold their lands to the Cornwell Leghs and again in the 1930’s and again on the death of the last Lord Egerton, Maurice, in 1958 all the land and farms were sold off. The Cornwall Leghs retain much of the parish and still own approximately 100 properties including farms, houses and cottages.
High Legh has evidence of Roman occupation – with two Roman roads and a British-Romano site on the “ridgeway” road, now the A50, running through the parish. A moated site was also discovered some years ago and revealed Samian ware from Cirencester, a Roman cloak clasp, and an exquisite flint knife. Saxon evidence has also been found in a ploughed-out barrow off Peacock Lane belonging to a high ranking Saxon and aerial photographs show a series of round houses and dwellings in Renshards Place.
There are also two Saxon trackways, one leading from the Bear’s Paw area down through fields and joining up with Ditchfield Lane near the Garden Centre. The other Saxon trackway is Dobb’s Lane, so called after one of the Saxons mentioned in the Domesday Book and acting as the boundary between High Legh and Mere. This trackway is still used today as a footpath, though the former can be seen but is no longer in use.
The Cornwall Legh’s Tudor Hall was replaced by a Georgian house, but the Chapel was retained and is the oldest building in the village. This delightful little chapel in on Pheasant Walk and is open to the public on certain days of the year.
The charming timber framed West Hall, belonging to the Egerton Leighs was situated near to St John’s Church and their home farm, West Hall Farm.
Great changes occurred in High Legh in 1791 when young George John Legh employed Humphrey Repton to “improve” his estate. What Repton suggested was truly radical including the removal of the village, the Red Lion Inn and coaching stables and the realigning of the old turnpike road, the A50 Knutsford Road and West Lane. Plans had been drawn up to recreate the village by John Nash, but it appears little was undertaken. The Cornwall Legh estate was mainly on the East side of the parish and what is now the High Legh Park golf centre was the Saxon deer park, a rare example in Cheshire.
Having two principal families living in the village created much confusion in the Victorian period with two magnets, two chapels, two bells, two choirs, two wheelwrights and two post offices. Small shops on West Lane included the tailor, boot and shoe maker and general store and then later there had been a village shop, on Ditchfield Lane, but that too has disappeared. What had been the Cornwall Legh’s private nursery, became the High Legh Garden Centre and when it was extended and improved around 1979. It was opened by Red Rum, the only horse to win the Grand National three times.
The Egerton Leigh estate was principally on the west side of the parish, hence West Hall. The Hall was undoubtedly old, being timber framed and not dissimilar to Little Moreton Hall in original appearance. At some point the timber framing had been rendered over and the Hall was not as attractive. This Leigh family had other estates and didn’t often stay here so the Hall was let out to wealthy businessmen and was finally sold, along with all their other lands, to the Cornwall Leghs.
Another great change occurred after World War II when the Cornwall Legh family decided to sell the two halls and associated service buildings, stables, gardens, home farm, saw mill, etc, etc. Two developers purchased the land and both the Halls were demolished in the late 1960’s-early 70’s and went into the foundations of the Thelwall Viaduct of the M6. Part of the history of the family and estate is retained in the street names, Ulviet Gate, Arley End, Pheasant Walk, Candalan Way, Robert Moffat, Egerton and Glieve.
There is a moated house, Swinyard Hall Farm, which is Grade II listed and was the principle property sold in the 1919 sale. Much of the timber frieze work relates to the designs on the old West Hall. This building could well date from the 17th century.
Today the parish of High Legh has a lively community with many activities and groups. The old School, now the High Legh Village Hall, forms the heart of village gatherings with the very popular Sunday Teas taking place between Easter and October, with each group taking turns to hold the Teas. Tai Chi, WI, Pilates, Play group, the village show, theatre, barn dances and quizzes are just some of the other activities.
With easy access to the two main arteries, the M6 and M56, and only 12 miles from Manchester International Airport, High Legh is now a popular commuter village. Having lost its village in 1791, High Legh is still flourishing with an excellent Primary School and good local amenities in nearby Lymm, Knutsford and Altrincham.
For more information on High Legh History contact Judy Popley, details from the Clerk