Is Bramhall Cheshire's culinary capital?
PUBLISHED: 10:20 06 June 2011 | UPDATED: 16:10 15 September 2017
Could Bramhall be Cheshire's culinary capital? Patrick O'Neill thinks so as he goes on a walking tour of the village Photography by John Cocks
After a quarter of a century monitoring the relative prosperity of our Cheshire towns and villages I have come up with three sure-fire ways of testing the fine line dividing the prosperous from the pretentious.
First count the number of estate agents on the high street. Check in their windows for the price of your average four-bed detached. It will give you an inkling of what it costs to reside where the desirable residents live.
Then check the number and four-by-fours in the car parks: that will give you a good idea of what Charles Dickens described as those with ‘portable property’.
But the real guide to wealth, health and happiness is to check the number of restaurants, brasseries, trattorias, ristorantes and other eateries both great and small which are open for business in the town/village centre. And you will finally understand which of our communities gets most of our daily ‘bread’.
The answer I came up with was Bramhall, where a culinary tour within walking distance of the village centre revealed an amazing baker’s dozen of 13 pubs, cafes, pizza places, fine dineries and international cuisine from halfway round the world - ranging from Hass avocados to Tarporley apples.
And the cultural wealth of Bramhall doesn’t stop with the taste buds. The village supports four banks, several top schools, a couple of golf clubs, a first class library, post office, churches, a theatre club and family history society.
And if you want the unusual, Bramhall even boasts an award-winning funeral parlour. This is the place where they can hatch, match and dispatch you in style. And this is the village where even the local school of motoring teaches you to drive in cars which are embossed with Gothic lettering.
There’s food for the mind as well as the body in the hamlet that struggles to spell its own name. It’s Bramhall for the village, but Bramall for the Hall. They spelled it Bramale in the Domesday Book. But whichever way you spell it, Bramhall means excellence.
Take Simply Books the multi-award winning bookshop and cafe on Moss Lane. Three times winner of the independent bookshop of the year title, they have now won Local Trader of the Year, as voted for by readers of the local evening newspaper as the best in the region. Owners Andrew Cant and Sue Steeland organise, book clubs, themed events, book signings, book readings and coffee mornings.
And there’s more than that. Just down the road in Toys and Tales, Karen Ridley organises creative writing sessions teaching you how to ‘write the most creative and imaginative story you can’. (‘Something you’re good at, O’Neill,’ an old news editor remarked and it wasn’t meant as a complement.)
Photographer John Cocks and I went walkabout past Cheshire Fish and Country Fayre and Bramhall Art, to Wilson’s Events, a new business which supplies everything from tickets to Bon Jovi gigs to football shirts signed by Carlos Tevez and Paul Scholes (£150 each, the shirts that is, not the tickets). It’s run by Sarah McCann who has played cricket for Poynton and Bramhall and is coach to the Cheshire Cricket League.
Away from the high street, the timber framed Bramall Hall is described as one of Stockport’s hidden gems by councillor John Smith. The Tudor mansion spans six centuries and set in 70 acres of parkland.
The hall was once home Hamon de Masci, the first baron of Dunham Massey, who was given the land by William the Conqueror and now thousands of visitors visit every year to explore the hall and the glorious parkland.
Caroline Egan, the visitor services manager at the hall, which is run by Stockport Council, said: ‘It’s an absolute joy to work in a place like this. I’ve learned a lot about the heritage and the history of the hall and it’s fascinating.
‘We also have a dedicated friends group of about 170 people who fundraise for the hall and help out with special events. We hold all sorts of things from craft fairs and food fairs that can bring 600 to 1,500 people through the doors.
‘We also have volunteers who help out and it is the dedication of people like this, as well as the staff, that keep us going. Bramhall is a lovely place and Bramall Hall is a special place for the community to have.’
Bramhall did not have its own parish church until work started on St Michael and All Angels in 1909. Until then, estate workers had the option to worship in the private chapel at Bramall Hall.
In the Domesday Book the manor of Bramall is called Bramale, a name which comes from the Old English words 'brom' meaning broom, and 'halh' meaning secret place, generally near water.
The first marriage recorded at Bramall Hall took place in 1599 - the groom was 15 and the bride only 11 years old.
The hall is holding an Easter Fayre on April 24th, Family Fun Day and Duck Race on May 8th; and a Victorian Living History Day on May 30th For more information go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three main families have owned the estate: the Masseys, the de Bromales and the Davenports. The Davenports had the authority to execute thieves. A statue used to stand at the entrance gates to Bramall Hall with the hangman’s noose around its neck.
Television and radio presenter Terry Christian lives in the village, as do a handful of soap stars and Yvette Livesey was raised there. Carry On actor Peter Butterworth was also born in Bramhall, as was classical actress Wendy Hiller, who starred in a number of movie hits including the Elephant Man.
Bramhall Park is popular with walkers who enjoy the view year round. It is also the location of the Bramhall park run, a free to enter 5k fun run held every Saturday morning. For more information see www.parkrun.org.uk/bramhall.
In 2008, researchers at Sheffield University named Bramhall as the friendliest place in the country.
Where is it? Bramhall is located in Stockport, near to Cheadle Hulme, Poynton and Hazel Grove. Type in SK7 1AL into you Satnav to get you there or travel by train, the village has a railway station on the Manchester to Stafford line.
What to do? Shop until you drop, enjoy a bite to eat in one of the many cafes and restaurants and then walk it all off with a leisurely stroll around Bramhall Park.
Where to park? There is plenty of inexpensive parking in Bramhall. Try Meadway East or Meadway West, two of the larger car parks, located as you enter the village from the motorway.
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