Watercolours of Barnton, Northwich

PUBLISHED: 19:52 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:50 20 February 2013



NOT many communities can claim to have had the shape of their village changed over recent years but this is just what has happened to Barnton, near Northwich

NOT many communities can claim to have had the shape of their village changed over recent years but this is just what has happened to Barnton, near Northwich. The old village grew up beside not only the Trent and Mersey Canal but the River Weaver as well. That was towards the end of the 19th century. And it was a busy place with many shops.

Today the amenities of the village including schools, library, village hall, medical centres and some of the shops have sort of moved half a mile 'up the hill' for the convenience of residents. This, plus a council estate built in 1950 has totally changed the shape of the village.

Nevertheless, Barnton is very much a thriving community and residents do not have far to go to shop or enjoy themselves.

One of the busiest places around is the new Barnton Memorial Hall which was opened in 2005. Councillor John Turnbull says the original primary school was built in 1895 thanks to the generosity of the famous chemist and industrialist Sir John Brunner. He then set up a trust that gave his school to the village for use as a school or a village hall.

'The school went in 1959,' says John, 'and a new school was built then closed six years ago. In 2003 I finished work and became involved with the local parish council. They wanted me to look at the local village hall.

It was a 110-year-old building and eventually it was agreed to sell the school and build a new village hall on land owned by the parish council. All this has moved the centre and the activities of the village to an area half a mile away from where it was before and it is proving to be a very popular venue.

We have all sorts of things there from various classes to children's parties. One of the best attended is for juggling! Then there is baby yoga, making greetings cards, martial arts, Irish dance, machine knitting and even sign language.' Fiona Sayle is chairman of the village hall and the trustees who run it.

One shop that has remained in its original position in the village for 113 years is the butcher's run by Edwin Hormbrey. 'This has been a family business since 1894,' says Edwin.

'My great grandfather George Edwin Hormbrey, who came from Herefordshire, commissioned a builder and he paid this builder a rent for business premises and accommodation. Cutting up was done in the cellar and slaughtering at the back.' Edwin has been in the shop for 25 years.

'Things have changed a lot in butchering. We don't buy whole carcases any more. We just buy the best bits. It's what people want. We make our own sausages and burgers and do our own cooked meats.'

Barnton Pharmacy has been combined with the Post Office for the past nine years but there has been a pharmacy in the village for many years. Glynis Turnbull has been there for 12 years. She is the senior technician and can turn her hand to anything in the shop from prescriptions to serving on the counter.

'My husband John comes from Barnton and is a parish, town and Vale Royal borough councillor,' she says. 'We sell all the usual medical goods as well as gifts, make-up, cards, stationery, a veterinary range and some homeopathic merchandise. We also have some enhanced services such as smoking cessation and offer health promotion. We also have a consultation room where people can discuss minor ailments.'

New owners Alastair and Julie Carmichael took over the shop earlier this year. Both are pharmacists and work there. Griffiths's house in Barnton. It's the colourful display of hanging baskets and bedding plants that catches people's eyes.

'I was born and bred in Barnton,' says Margaret, 'and I've lived in this house for 24 years. 'My husband Alan and son Matthew are both keen gardeners and we've been doing this sort of thing for quite a while. Sometimes we buy plants but this year we started everything off from seed.'

There are dozens of busy lizzies, petunias, begonias and asters. 'It takes us two full days to do the borders and a couple of window boxes. Then we do all the hanging baskets ourselves. We get a lot of pleasure out of it and the villagers like it too.'

As the only newsagents who deliver in and around Barnton, Dave and Jane Booth find they are very busy. We've lived in the village for 18 years,' says Jane, 'but bought the shop over seven years ago. We had often thought about working for ourselves and we eventually took the plunge and sold our house to buy this shop.

It is a very good shop and we have lovely customers.' Apart from selling the usual sweets, stationery, magazines and papers they have also become an off-licence. They employ 14 paper boys to cover the rounds.

Max Keelty has lived in the village all his life. He is now chairman and overseas mission director of Christian Community Ministries and runs two charity shops which he sees as a community service. 'We started taking relief aid into Eastern Europe in 1992,' says Max.

'That's why one of our shops sells nothing but furniture. Some people are very generous. We have a children's home in Romania which we built and now run and we are doing similar work in Thailand.'

Mark Patton has been manager at The Beech Tree pub for over two years. Deputy manager Simon Wilson says they not only offer two main courses for the price of one but customers can also watch football and other sports on the big screen. The pub has a football team as well as pool and darts for men and women. They also have a bowling green which has been used for county matches in the past.

They do a lot of charity work for St Luke's Hospice and smokers are already getting used to the idea of a pint and a cigarette in a little hut specially built for them in the garden.

Barnton briefs

When demolition started on the old Brunner School in Barnton in 2005 builders salvaged a lot of the materials including the parquet oak floor and cobbles from the yard. This means that bits of Barnton can now be found all over the country.

The British Legion Club, was established in 1921 but was purpose-built on its present site in 1962. It has 500 members now but in its heyday had more than 1,700. Secretary Jeff Burgess said: 'Of course it is an ex-servicemen's club and there are not as many of us as there used to be. We welcome new members of all ages and we are getting quite a few.' There's plenty going on at the club with entertainment of all kinds and social activities.

Barnton Variety Workshop was founded in 1980 by Pat and Mike Wiper and some friends. But the name was soon change to Barnton Variety Theatre Workshop because people were asking for woodworking lessons! Anne Peers, who is their secretary, says they now have 26 members and this is augmented when they put on their annual pantomime at Northwich Memorial Hall. 'In between we do a series of entertainment with songs from the musicals and old time music hall,' says Anne. 'We travel round mid-Cheshire. We also make all our own costumes. I help with that along with Estelle Tortoishell and we always video our shows.'

Barnton is known as Jam Town. This nickname started in the days when a council estate was built after the war for people who came from an overspill in Liverpool. It used to be said that people from Barnton couldn't afford proper food and that they lived on jam butties!

A new Co-operative store opened in Barnton a year ago and is run by manager Alan Turnbull and a staff of 20, mainly from Barnton. Ann, who is duty manager, moved up from the old and smaller shop and has worked for the company for 14 years.

A lady who has become an expert on grant applications is Angela Robinson. In the past few years she has helped to raise nearly a third of a million pounds for play areas in Barnton. 'We set up a small committee of parish councillors and residents in 2001,' says Angela. 'Phase one with a skate park, new fencing, pathways and a wildlife area was completed in 2005 with grants from many places. Phase 2 was a toddler and junior play area and two five-a-side football pitches, which was completed earlier this year. I'm now quite good at grant applications.'

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