5 museums you must visit in Cheshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 January 2015 | UPDATED: 12:35 30 April 2016
We check out five musuems in the Cheshire area that are well worth a visit
The Grosvenor Museum, Chester
The Grosvenor Museum houses fascinating collections exploring the history of Chester, its art and silver heritage and its natural history.
Settled since pre-Roman times, Chester has a gripping history long recgonised and brought under one roof in 1885, when Hugh Lups Grosvenor, the 1st Duke of Westminster, donated a portion of the site on Grosvenor Street to house the collections of the Chester Archaeological Society and the Chester Society of Natural Science, Literature and Art, together with schools of Science and Art.
While the history of kings can be learned at school, this museum delivers insight into our social history, particularly in the Museum’s Period House, 20 Castle Street, found the at the rear of the museum. The house was built around 1680 and its staircase with ‘barley sugar’ banisters dates from this time. It has been part of the Grosvenor Museum since 1955 and is now displayed as a sequence of nine period rooms dated from 1680 to 1925.
We are all aware that Chester has its own silver Hallmark, but how much of this lovely city’s silverware have you actually seen. Make the trip to the top of the Grosvenor Museum and there you will witness one of the UK’s most important silver collections: four hundred years of Chester hallmarked silver, together with Chester race trophies, Cheshire church plate and secular silver and silver from the Marquess of Ormonde’s collection.
The Museum has a marvellous series of varied exhibitions planned for 2015, from a display of Victorian watercolour art by Louise Rayner (1832-1924) to a photographic journey through the Pubs, Inns & Taverns of Chester – enough to take you back time and again.
Grosvenor Museum, 27 Grosvenor Street, Chester, www.cheshirewestmuseums.org
Cuckoo Land, Knutsford
This startling collection of cuckoo clocks is quite awe-inspiring in its magnitude. Already recognised as a ‘national treasure’ and working hand-in-hand with some of the world’s greatest museums and clock collectors, including our own British Museum, the collection has been gathered, restored and maintained by the brothers Piekarski.
Maz and Roman acquired their first cuckoo clock aged around 15 and, already inspired by a neighbour who worked as a clock-maker, decided to undertake apprenticeships in clock-making. Their collection grew steadily, their passion burned brighter and eventually, 20 years ago, they set up Cuckoo Land in a nineteenth century school building in Tabley, near Knutsford.
It’s almost impossible to express the pleasure resulting from a visit to Cuckoo Land. Be sure to book yourself a tour with Roman, the Museum’s curator and historian. His enthusiasm for what is his life’s work is infectious and you’ll learn so much more than you ever thought you’d want to know about cuckoo clocks – but every next morsel of information he supplies will bring a smile or a gasp until you are almost as thrilled as he is with the collection.
There is a small section of Art Nouveau styled cuckoo clocks – the copper faced one is such a departure from the traditional wooden carved clock you’ll be quite astounded. and they have also just discovered a new clock they have named the Golden Cuckoo. Clearly a special clock from the moment they saw it – the silver clock face alone gave that away – even Maz and Roman were surprised by the volume of gold and gold leaf revealed by their skilful restoration.
Cuckooland, The Old School, Chester Road, Tabley WA16 0HL www.cuckoolanduk.net
Little Moreton Hall, Congleton
Possibly one of the most beautiful buildings in Cheshire, Little Moreton Hall shouldn’t even be standing, according to the architectural engineers when they first saw the tumbledown Tudor building in 1990. Fortunately for us, this glorious building – surrounded by a moat – has defied logic for over 500 years and is now the perfect introduction to the way our ancestors once lived.
First built for wealthy local landowners the Moretons in 1504, the house was designed to have impact – to shout of their wealth and influence. Having made their fortune buying land following the great plagues of the fourteenth century and again during the dissolution of the monastariss, they unfortunately lost much of their wealth during the Civil Wars, having chosen the Royalist side. The house however remained in family keeping until 1938, when it was gifted to the National Trust.
Little Moreton Hall offers an opportunity to learn about our forebears in a close-up and personal way through seeing, feeling and experiencing elements of Tudor life as they knew it.
Tucked away behind the Hall you’ll find the Knit Garden, filled with herbs used in all aspects of Tudor life from medicines to cookery to fragrance. The garden is a source of produce for the Hall’s tea rooms and production of authentic Tudor dishes.
Little Moreton Hall, Congleton, Cheshire, CW12 4SD www.nationaltrust.org.uk/little-moreton-hall
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight
The Lady Lever Art Gallery houses what is recognised as one of finest collections of fine and decorative art in the UK. Their collection of Wedgwood jasperware is the best in the world and its collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings is internationally renowned. These three things alone are reason enough to take you to Lady Lever, but there is lots more to see, from furniture and tapestries to classical antiquities and sculpture.
The gallery was founded by William Hesketh Lever and is dedicated to the memory of his wife Elizabeth. The first Lord Leverhulme was a remarkable man. Not only did he establish the Lever Bros soap company, but – applying his Christian principles – he also built Port Sunlight to house his workers in excellent living conditions. He also bought Thornton Hall and subsequently the entire village of Thornton Hough, which he also developed into a model village. He started collecting art in 1893 and today today the gallery still exhibits the best of his personal art collection.
While the permanent collections are a dazzling display of the best of man’s creative talents, you can also enjoy temporary exhibitions gathered from around the world.
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight Village, Wirral, CH62 5EQ www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ladylever
The Lion Salt Works, Northwich
The Lion Salt Works in Marston, Northwich reopened in April 2015. The site presents a fascinating journey through the life of the country’s last open-pan salt making site. There will be a chance to follow the process from pumping brine water and the extraction of salt in the giant salt pans and trace the history of the site.
Salt-making in Cheshire dates back over 2000 years when the salt towns of Cheshire were first established by the Romans. Originally salt was extracted from the ground by a series of natural brine pits. By the late-19th century brine shafts and traditional open pan salt works dominated the area around Northwich. In 1894, Henry Ingram Thompson constructed a new salt works that became known as the ‘Lion Salt Works’. The new company quickly built a series of pan and stove houses. The salt works ran on the site for almost 100 years. The outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970) saw the loss of a major market in West Africa and the eventual closure of the works in June 1986.
The original buildings have now been restored, allowing visitors to follow the history of the site and discover how salt was produced. Visit the huge pan and stove houses, see the pumping engine, and smithy. The site also includes a children’s play area, butterfly garden, café, shop, classroom and conference facility. The restoration of the Lion Salt Works has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Lion Salt Works, Ollershaw Lane, Marston, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 6ES www.lionsaltworks.org