BMD Local History Society

Chorlton by Backford Township

Chorlton by Backford - Township Landmarks
Chorlton Hall

Chorlton Hall remains the focus of life in the township; however, it has not been the only one over the years. Three dairy farms have existed separately. Chorlton Lodge, Mount and Grove. 

The water supply was at low pressure sometimes, so was supplemented by well water drawn by hand pumping - and even the hot water had still to be carried upstairs in buckets. In the kitchen hung our telephone, a fine old instrument which you had to hand wind to call the exchange. As well as the five servants mentioned, who included a cook, housemaid and nursery maid, we had a gardener and chauffeur, who lived in the two cottages by the front gate; and there were four other gardeners, too.

The company Wild and Sons bought Lodge Farm in 1946. One of the sons, Oulton Wade, created a pig unit at Chorlton in 1955, in support of a traditional Cheshire System - cows eat grass, their milk is converted to cheese, the whey is fed to the pigs, pigs manure the land to grow grass and so on.

In 1967 came foot-and-mouth disease which caused 100 cattle and 1000 pigs to be slaughtered at Lodge Farm. (The only other farm to be affected in the parish was Grove Farm, next door.) For some time they went out of business, though compensation was paid. In the late 1970s, Wades were asked to make Cheshire Farmhouse Blue Cheese to counter increasing demand in the country. Up to then Lodge had produced only milk, and Wild's dairy in Mollington was committed to plain cheese. The two types cannot be made on the same site, so blue cheese came to Chorlton. Unfortunately the market for blue then became oversupplied and after only three years, blue cheese production was halted. Lodge farm was sold by the Wades in 1993, the house in 1998.

A fourth farm in Chorlton specialised in slaughtering. That work stopped temporarily during the 1939-45 war, when private slaughter houses were closed in favour of centralised control by government, and ceased finally in 1975.

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Backford Township

Backford Township - Landmarks
St Oswalds Church

Prominent buildings include St. Oswald’s church, probably established in the 12th century although the oldest part, the Chancel, dates from the 13th century. The tower is from the 16th century and the Nave was rebuilt and fully restored in the late 19th century. The church is situated at one of the highest points in Backford, about 100 ft above sea level. In the nave there are two very old Church Chests, one dated 1636 and the other 1702. Also in the nave, and kept in a glass case, is an ancient chained bible. It is the second oldest bible in Wirral and bears the date 1617 and was printed by Robert Barker of London. The first “patrons of the living” at the church were priors from Birkenhead Priory and this practice continued until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The aforementioned tower contains a peal of six bells, four from 1714 and two from 1887 though all six were refurbished and rehung in 1945. To hear the bell ringers practising on a Tuesday evening is a wonderful experience.

There is a beautiful Millenium window in the church initiated by the bell ringers the cost of which was raised within seven weeks by way of a bequest from the family of the late Bill Littler and other fund raising.

Since 1541 the church has been part of the Chester diocese and the Bishop of Chester has been the Patron of the living of Backford. There are extensive registers held by the church going back to 1562. These provide great mines of information for anyone interested in carrying out research into family trees etc.

Backford Hall

The township of Backford is the centre of the parish and appropriately contains our Church and Village Hall as well as Backford Hall, home for so many years of the Gleggs, a leading family in the area. That family, indeed at one time owned much of the township.

The present Backford Hall was built in the early 1860’s . The original hall was built in the 16th century and replaced in the 18th century. Following the previously mentioned development it now consists of 10 apartments. Early residents of the hall were the Birkenhead family and when Thomas Birkenhead died in 1704 without issue it was passed to his nieces who had married into the Glegg family. A tithe map of 1842 shows that Birkenhead Glegg owned most of the Parish of Backford through which passed the important Chester to Birkenhead turnpike. Edward Holt Glegg had the 18th century hall rebuilt in the 1860’s at a cost of £10,700.

In 1928 following the death of the last of the Gleggs the hall passed to Lettice Townshend. She never lived in the hall and it was leased to various tenants until 1941. These tenants included a boys school, Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs of the famous biscuits family, a Salvatorian Order, and for a short while it was a country club. A shipping company had bought the hall in 1941 and in 1946 it was sold to Cheshire County Council for use as office accommodation. In 2012 the hall and grounds were sold for development as mentioned earlier. 

One interesting footnote regarding the hall is that over the years there have been many stories of ghostly activities in its walls and anybody interested should read Cheshire Tales of Mystery and Murder published in 2002.

A strange story from Backford Hall tells of a young servant girl, who met a violent death there many years ago, and whose ghost remains to haunt the mansion. The ghost was sensed at the time of the Salvatorians, and was the subject of an attempted, but apparently unsuccessful exorcism in 1936.

Backford School

Backford school was opened in 1844. In 1944 it became known as Backford C.of E. Aided Primary School and in 1996 it closed, all the pupils being transferred to the new St Oswald's School in Mollington.

Hospice of the Good Shepherd

The Hospice of the Good Shepherd occupies the former vicarage of St. Oswald’s and was bought in 1985. Following the building of the in-patient unit it was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1989. The Living Well Centre was then added and opened in 2017 by the Duchess of Westminster.

First class care and support is provided for people with life limiting illnesses and there are 12 beds for inpatients. Relatives of patients are provided with a wonderful support system to help them through the difficult times and also through the bereavement process. Its work covers Chester, West Cheshire, part of South Wirral and the Deeside area of Wales.

Backford is ideally situated with good access to the M53 and M56 motorways, Cheshire Oaks, North Wales and of course Chester itself.

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Lea-by-Backford Township

Lea-by-Backford - Township Landmarks
The Smithy

Apart from the working farms and some cottages, the most important if modest building was the smithy, which catered for the local demand for shoeing riding and transport horses, and carrying out repairs to agricultural machinery such as ploughs and harrows. The smithy was founded in 1733 and kept going until 1956-7. The 1914/18 War brought additional activity with two forges, smiths and strikers turning out thousands of horseshoes for the army.

Lea Hall

Lea Hall was built during the 17th century and formed part of the Fielden estate. By the late 19th century it came into the ownership of the Carter family who had owned "Carters Farm" (now Hill Farm) on Coalpit Lane, Mollington. Then in the early 20th century it was sold to a James Hughes from Liverpool. 

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Mollington Township

Mollington Township - Landmarks
Mollington Hall

Mollington Hall was the centre of an extensive estate for the Feilden family and had continued as such for Gibbons Frost, a Chester flour miller. With no male heir to the Frosts, the estate was broken up by 1930, and in 1938 the Hall was demolished by an Ellesmere Port builder, Cullin. His plans for house building on the site ran into financial difficulties and were only implemented much later. Interesting features of the estate which have survived include the north and south lodges, and two artificially created lakes. There is also a remarkable brick lined icehouse, ovoid in shape, of which two thirds is below ground, with the top covered by soil and shrubs. Double doors at ground level allowed blocks of ice, cut from the lake in hard weather, to be packed with snow and used at the Hall for wine cooling etc.

During the war the icehouse was used by the home guard to store ammunition. Surviving the loss of the Hall were its surrounding farms and a nucleus of original properties like the C of E School opened in 1896, and the Post Office. In the days when Mollington Hall was the centre of a busy estate, it would no doubt have seen great social activity. As far as the village was concerned that would have meant annual displays and fetes in the park for adults, and parties for children. The Hall might, therefore, have been sadly missed, except that others were ready to step in: of whom the best remembered is Mrs Nicholson of The Willows. Local residents remember her magnificent gardens and grounds with ripe peaches growing on the wall and tropical plants in the greenhouses. In fact, the 1920s marked the end of the period when leadership in the parish was being provided by the landlords and owners of the great houses.

Crabwall Hall

Crabwall Manor appears to have existed in one form or another since about 1066. It was owned by a succession of mayors of Chester until the 1530's when the Gamull family acquired it only selling it on in 1864. In the early 1900's the hall was occupied by the Davies family. During both World Wars, the hall was used as a hospital for female personnel.

It was constructed as a house in the 18th century. It had the facade added and was remodelled in the early 19th century. The windows were added in the early 1900's. It was made a Grade II listed building on 1st June 1967. It is now a hotel called Crabwall Manor Hotel and has an integrated gym with a swimming pool.

Mollington Banastre

This was originally built as a manor house in about 1853. The hotel takes its name from the local village name and that of Robert de Banastre, who acquired the estate in the 12th century. The old manor house on the site was replaced by the present building in 1853. Converted first of all into a country club, it became a hotel in 1964.It was purchased by Brook Hotels in 2006.

Little Mollington Hall

Little Mollington Hall (now known as Mollington Grange, is a Grade II listed building. It was originally constructed sometime in the 16th/17th centuries, but was largely rebuilt in the 17th/early 18th century with later 18th and 19th century alterations. It was originally a farmhouse.

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