Congleton

Street Map

Congleton is a town and civil parish in the unitary authority of Cheshire East and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England, on the banks of the River Dane, to the west of the Macclesfield Canal and 21 miles south of Manchester. It has a population of 25,750.

The town is close to the Jodrell Bank Observatory, which is a proposed World Heritage Site.

The first settlements in the Congleton area were Neolithic. Stone Age and Bronze Age artefacts have been found in the town. Congleton was once thought to have been a Roman settlement, although there is no archaeological or documentary evidence to support this. Congleton became the local market town after Vikings destroyed nearby Davenport.

Godwin, Earl of Wessex held the town during the Saxon period. The town is mentioned in the Domesday Book, where it is listed as Cogeltone: Bigot de Loges. William the Conqueror granted the whole of Cheshire to his nephew the Earl of Chester. In the 13th Century, Congleton belonged to the de Lacy family. Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln granted the town its first charter in 1272, enabling it to hold fairs and markets, elect a mayor and ale taster, have a merchant guild and behead known criminals.

In 1451, the River Dane flooded, destroying a number of buildings, the town’s mill and wooden bridge. The river was diverted away from the town, and the town centre was rebuilt on higher ground.

During the Civil War, former Congleton mayor and lawyer, John Bradshaw, became president of the court which sent Charles I to be beheaded in 1649. His signature as Attorney General was the first on the king’s death warrant. There is a plaque commemorating him on Bradshaw House in Lawton Street. Almost opposite the town hall, the White Lion public house bears a blue plaque, placed by the Congleton Civic Society, which reads: “The White Lion, built 16-17th century. Said to have housed the attorney’s office where John Bradshaw, regicide, served his articles.”

Congleton became notorious in the 1620s when bear-baiting, as well as cockfighting, were popular sports. The town was unable to attract large crowds to its bear-baiting contests and lacked the money to pay for a new, more aggressive bear. The town used money it had saved to buy a new bible and it replenished the fund with the income from the increased number of spectators. It became legend that Congleton sold its Bible to pay for a new bear. The chorus of 20th century folk song “Congleton Bear”, by folk artist John Tams, runs:

Congleton Rare, Congleton Rare
They sold the Bible to buy a bear.

This legend earned Congleton the nickname ‘Beartown’.

King Edward I granted permission to build a mill. Congleton became an important centre of textile production, especially lace and leather gloves and lace. Congleton had an early Silk throwing mill, the Old Mill built by John Clayton and Nathaniel Pattison in 1753.

The neighbouring village of Buglawton was incorporated into Congleton borough in 1936. From 1974 to 2009, Congleton borough covered much of south-east Cheshire. Following the abolition of Cheshire County Council on 1 April 2009, Congleton is now administered by the unitary authority of Cheshire East. The town has an elected Town Council  which was established in 1980.

Congleton’s main landmark, a high outcrop of rocks known as The Cloud, overlooks the Cheshire Plain. The Cloud Project in Congleton is a daily photographic record of The Cloud over a period of one year and also of Cloudside, Dane in Shaw, The Macclesfield Canal and surrounding areas. The Cloud is also the setting for the climax of the supernatural novel A Haunted Man by Stuart Neild, where the novel’s hero, ghosthunter Boag-Munroe, is involved in a fight to the death.

The town of Congleton is broken up by the Congleton townspeople into seven main areas. These are Buglawton, otherwise known as “Bug Town”; the Bromley Farm estate, otherwise known as “Tin Town” due to the number of tin RSJs built there; Mossley, which is sometimes classed as the wealthier part of town; Hightown, which is located before Mosley between town and the train station; West Heath, which is a relatively new estate built in the late 1970s to the early 1980s; Lower Heath to the north of the town; and finally the town centre.

The principal industries in Congleton include the manufacture of airbags and golf-balls. There are light engineering factories near the town, and sand extraction occurs on the Cheshire Plain, although much of the town is now a dormitory for Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent.

Congleton Market operates every Tuesday and Saturday from the Bridestones Centre. There are 11 indoor stalls and 84 outdoor stalls.

The National Trust Tudor house Little Moreton Hall, lies to the south of the town.

Congleton Museum is on Market Square in the centre of town. It was established in 2002 and is dedicated to Congleton’s industrial history, and contains an ancient log boat and gold and silver coin hoards. Congleton Tourist Information Centre is on the town’s High Street.

The independently-run 300 seat Daneside Theatre is on Park Road in the town. The 400-seat Clonter Opera Theatre is based in the village of Swettenham Heath, 5 miles north of Congleton.

Congleton Park is located along the banks of the River Dane just north east of the town centre. Town Wood on the northern edge of the park is a Grade A Site of Biological Interest and contains many nationally important plants. Congleton paddling pool was built in the 1930s and is open in the summer months. Astbury Mere Country Park lies just to the south west of the town centre, on the site of a former sand quarry. The lake is used for fishing and sailing and despite its name, is actually in the West Heath area of Congleton, with the boundary between Congleton and Newbold Astbury parishes lying further to the south.

Congleton is seven miles east of the M6 motorway, connected by the A534. It is on the A34 trunk road between Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester, and the A54 to Buxton and the Peak District. The A536 links the town with Macclesfield, with the A527 linking the town to Biddulph and providing an alternative route to Stoke-on-Trent.

Congleton railway station opened on 9 October 1848. It lies on the Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent branch of the West Coast Main Line.

The Macclesfield Canal passes through the town. It was completed in 1831. It runs 26 miles (42 km) from Marple Junction at Marple, where it joins the Upper Peak Forest Canal, southwards (through Bollington and Macclesfield), before arriving at Bosley. The canal is renowned for its elegant roving bridges, locally known as Snake Bridges.

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