The origins of Nantwich pub names
PUBLISHED: 23:15 24 September 2012 | UPDATED: 12:36 19 January 2016
The disastrous Great Fire of Nantwich in 1583 gave way to a new town with pubs that are still a thriving part of town life today Words BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
The Great Fire of Nantwich is an event that will never be forgotten. Local residents will be familiar with the tale of December 10th, 1583. A blaze raged through the streets for several days taking lives, making hundreds homeless, destroying buildings and completely decimating the town.
The fire was caused by a brewer who had accidentally set fire to his kitchen. Unable to control it, it soon spread to other buildings. Chaos reigned as people formed a human chain passing buckets of water from the River Weaver to the heart of the fire.
They also had to dodge bears running through the streets as it’s thought that one landlord, who provided the unsavoury entertainment of bear baiting, decided to let them loose. But the townsfolks’ efforts were in vain as most buildings suffered. Just a few, including the parish church and Churches Mansions, still remain.
Due to the importance of the town’s salt industry and its place as a stop-off for traders Queen Elizabeth ordered a nationwide collection of funds and contributed £1,000 as well as wood from Delamere Forest to rebuild the town.
Many of those buildings, including some hostelries, constructed following this catastrophe can still be seen today.
One of the most oldest is The Crown Hotel in High Street. Philip Martin, Nantwich’s longest serving licensee, took on The Crown 30 years ago when the business was struggling. But with the help of his wife Susan and his 25-year-old daughter Abbigail Kendrick-Martin, the former chef has returned it to a thriving venue.
The Crown was rebuilt for £600 in 1583, just after the fire. But there had been an inn, The Crown and Sceptre, which is referred to in the Domesday Book. There have been new additions to the building over its more than 400-year history including the Casa Brasserie now run by the Martin family.
But there is a treasure trove of original features. The front of the listed building, including the bar area, is original as are the leaded windows, the original wattle and daub construction and its many timbers, some of which came from ships. There is also a Minstrel’s Ballroom, dating back to the Georgian era, which has been restored since Philip took over.
The Crown Hotel has also attracted high profile names from Field Marshall Combermere who hosted a dinner there to mark his successes on the Indian sub-continent to the news of the victory of the Battle of Waterloo that was given to elated crowds at The Crown . Cricketing star Ian Botham and actress Jean Alexander have been guests and it was also once owned by George Piggott, great grandfather to professional jockey, Lester.
Philip, who also organises the Nantwich Jazz Festival, said: ‘The Crown is an iconic building in Nantwich and people love it as much as we do.
‘It is such an important part of Nantwich’s history and we have a huge responsibility to maintain and keep it as the special place it has become. We’re very proud to look after it.’
Just down the road in Welsh Row is The Black Lion, the oldest pub to have always been an inn. It is run by Darren and Liz Snell, previously proprietors at The Dysart Arms in Bunbury before they took on the Nantwich pub four years ago. This traditional pub was built in 1664, 20 years after the Battle of Nantwich and inside you can still see the original fires, stone floors, wattle and daub and beams.
You are guaranteed good beers, good food and a warm welcome, particularly from the ghosts. Although Darren has never seen any paranormal activity, the building is rumoured to be haunted.
He said: ‘Not long after we took over a medium came into the pub and he said he was picking up a lot of activity and a definite presence. But the good thing was that he said it was a very friendly presence. So even our ghosts are friendly.
It is a remarkable building to work in, there is so much history.’
Just across the road is an interesting pub, restaurant and hotel which has a surprising interior. From the outside all you can see is the original 1776 building of The Cheshire Cat. But when you take a step inside, the original features including beams and fireplaces, are surrounded by a striking modern interior complete with Cheshire Cat artwork by Nantwich artist Tori Chantler.
The redevelopment was done by brothers Paul, Mark and John Schofield in 2002 after the building had lain empty a few years. But it has had many guises. As well as once being a nightclub, it has been a restaurant but most interestingly this lovely building was once Widow’s Almshouses.
They were founded by Roger Wilbraham in memory of his deceased wife and occupied by six widows. They remained almshouses until the 1930s.
General manger, Sara Marriott, said: ‘This is such a spectacular building filled with so much history. A lot of people come in and tell me stories and share their memories with me from over the years which is great.
‘We do have our fair share of ghosts too. I’ve seen things as have many other people. But it is only to be expected in a place as old as this.’