How Cheshire's homes used to look
PUBLISHED: 00:15 27 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:58 20 February 2013
From modest cottages to footballers' mansions, Cheshire Life has portrayed – and sold – the homes of the county for 75 years. Andrew Hobbs delves into the archives
Cheshire Life is rightly famed for its property pages, but those glossy ads for Alderley Edge mansions came relatively late in the magazines history. In fact, the first issue in May 1934 contained only one house advert, for a Charming Residence in Middlewich, modern and up-to-date, beautifully situated in lovely grounds, built 1907, price 2,000 worth treble.
Other homes were available for less. Neston and Parkgate Housing Society had built 16 homecrofts cottages on half-an-acre smallholdings for 400 each. The houses were let to tenants willing to grow fruit and vegetables, and keep small livestock. The societys chairman wrote that the boon to an unemployed and underemployed man is inestimable.
Matters of taste have always been aired in the pages of the magazine, from calls for control of ugly buildings by means of official powers in the 1930s, to worries today over footballers mansions laying waste to Alderley Edge and Prestbury.
In 1934 Professor P Abercrombie asked: Why should our sense of beauty be outraged by the erection of unworthy buildings? He praised the work of new consultative panels of architects, who offered advice to builders at the planning stage. Commenting on the kind of suburban semi popular all over Cheshire, the experts criticised its sham half-timbered gable, its half-brick, half-stucco walls and its unpleasant roof. Instead, they suggested something half as attractive. Judging by the number of mock-Tudor semis gracing Cheshires suburbs, the builder must have thanked the panel for their time and carried on regardless.
This cavalier attitude to good taste has a proud history. A 1952 article described how the countys stately homes, manor houses and country mansions mix their periods and materials as lightly as the casual author mixes metaphors. They will not hesitate to wear a Georgian coat over Tudor trousers.
The architects panels of the Thirties had given up by the time Wayne Rooney built his 2.6m Waynesor Castle in Prestbury, with its neo-Georgian pillars, sports stadium and pink-interior swimming pool in the west wing.
Some of the countys finest homes have been bought and sold through the pages of Cheshire Life, such as the Georgian Trafford House at Wimbolds Trafford, sold by direction of Sir Nicholas Cayzer, Bart. in 1952, and Whatcroft Hall near Davenham, which sold for more than 200,000 in 1975.
Although Cheshire has its fair share of eclectic arts and craft houses, curvaceous art deco buildings and architect-designed modernist homes, these rarely appeared in Cheshire Life articles and adverts. Much more popular were the Georgian, mock-Georgian and neo-Georgian, or the Tudor, mock-Tudor and neo-Tudor. Nostalgia always had a great future in Cheshire.
The major exception has been the transformation of the humble flat into the sophisticated apartment, usually a conversion of a warehouse, mill or factory. This trend began at the Albert and Waterloo docks in Liverpool, and quickly spread to Manchester, Macclesfield and Malpas.
It is hard to imagine a world without fitted kitchens, but that was how people lived in Cheshire before the Sixties. Apart from the occasional ad for an Aga or for Arighi Bianchi, what people sat on or cooked in seems to have been their own business. Then came the ads for beautiful bathrooms and dream kitchens, looking very bare by todays standards. In 1964, Shaws of Manchester announced a special display of the latest furnishing ideas from Scandinavia G Plan had arrived. Another ad from the same firm trumpeted: Its new! It saves money! It looks good! Its BUILT-IN bedroom furniture.
By the Seventies the kitchens were becoming luxurious, although the advertising slogans had yet to catch up: What every woman wants: A kitchen that makes her proud to do the chores. Nero would have been at home in some of the opulent bathrooms advertised. We pass over the red corner baths of the Eighties without comment.
Of course the biggest change has been the house prices (see panel). Theyll make you rub your hands or wipe your eyes, depending on whether you bought at the right time or not. And the property boom was mirrored in the number of pages devoted to estate agents ads in Cheshire Life, from virtually none in the Thirties to around 60 at the peak of the market. You read it here first.
Up, up and away prices then and now
1,700 in 1935: Hale, 4 bedrooms, detached (from 600,000 nowadays)
3,495 in 2005: Hot tub
3,750 in 1952: Wilmslow, 3 bedrooms (average price nowadays 300,000)
8,750 in 1952: Greylands, Mereside Rd, Mere, 4 bedrooms (now 1.8m)
12,900 in 1964: Prestbury, 3 bedrooms, bungalow (from 500,000 nowadays)
39,500 in 1976: Heswall, 5 bedrooms and housekeepers flat (replaced by 8 apartments in 2001, selling at 500,000 each nowadays)
200,000 in 1976: Whatcroft Hall, Grade II* listed 18th-century house (3m in 2007)
365,000 in 1993: Farndon, Grade II listed Georgian villa, 5 bedrooms (1.25m in 2005)
375,000 in 1985: Normans Hall, Prestbury, 6 bedrooms, 6 acres of grounds (today: 3.5m)