Macclesfield

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Macclesfield is a market town within the unitary authority of Cheshire East, the county palatine of Chester, also known as the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. The population of the Macclesfield urban sub-area at the time of the 2001 census was 50,688. A person from Macclesfield is sometimes referred to as a “Maxonian”, (this reference has been popularised by the local newspapers and did not exist before the 1990s). Macclesfield, like many other areas in Cheshire, is considered to be a relatively affluent town.

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

Situated in the ancient Domesday Hundred of Hamestan, the Domesday Book lists Macclesfield as “Maclesfeld”, whilst in 1183 it was referred to as “Makeslesfeld”. It was once thought thought that Macclesfield got its name from “Michael’s field” – referring to St. Michael, as in St. Michael’s church, but that cannot be the case since the original dedication of the church was to ‘All Saints’. The English Place-Name Society gives it name as being derived from the Old English for Maccels’ open country.

It is also said that the name was originally derived from a Saxon landlord named Macca, hence Macca’s felds.

Macclesfield was granted a borough charter by Earl Ranulf III of Chester, in the early thirteenth century, and a second charter was granted by the future King Edward I, in 1261. The parish church of All Saints was built in 1278, an extension of a chapel built in approximately 1220.

The borough had a weekly market, and two annual fairs: the Barnaby fair, was on St Barnabas day (11 June), the other on the feast of All Saints (1 November).

Macclesfield was the administrative centre of the later Hundred of Macclesfield, which occupied most of east Cheshire. The Earl of Chester’s manor of Macclesfield was very large, and its boundary went as far as Disley. The manor house was situated on the edge of the deer park, on the west of the town.

In addition, the Earls of Chester had established the forest of Macclesfield, which was much larger than its present-day namesake. It was used for hunting deer, as well as pasturing sheep and cattle. By the end of the 13th century, large areas of the forest had been ploughed up because of the pressure of population growth. In 1356, two trees from the forest were gifted to archer William Jauderell to repair his home.

The so-called ‘Macclesfield Castle’ was a fortified town house built by the dukes of Buckingham in the later Middle Ages.

In the uprising of 1745, Charles Stuart and his army marched through Macclesfield as they attempted to reach London. The Mayor was forced, reluctantly, to officially welcome the prince, and this welcome is commemorated in one of the town’s famous silk tapestries. Macclesfield was the world’s biggest producer of finished silk; now, the four Macclesfield Silk Museums display a huge range of information and products from that period. There were 71 silk mills operating here in 1832. At one time the silk manufacture was home-based but as machinery was introduced large sheds were built to accommodate it and the workers were expected to move into them. Paradise Mill is a working mill museum which demonstrates the art of silk weaving to the public.

Macclesfield is also well known as the original home of Hovis breadmakers, originally produced in the now apartment block conversion of the Publicity Works mill (commonly referred to as “the Hovis Mill”) on the canal close to Buxton Road and set up by a Macclesfield businessman and a baker from Stoke-on-Trent, the name is said to derive from the Latin “homo-vitalis” (strength for man) as a way of providing a cheap and nutritious food for the poor mill workers and was a very dry and dense wholemeal loaf completely different from the modern version.

Between 1826 and 1831 the Macclesfield Canal was constructed, linking Macclesfield to Marple to the north and Kidsgrove to the south. The canal was built by the renowned engineer James Brindley, but was completed as much of the coal and other potential cargo was increasingly being shipped by rail transport.

Waters Green was once home to a nationally known horse market which features in the legend of the Wizard of Alderley Edge.

Waters Green and an area opposite Arighi Bianchi, now hidden under the Silk Road held a sheep and cattle market up until the 1980s.

Macclesfield railway station opened at Beech Lane by the LNWR on 19 June 1849, replaced a month later by Hibel Road Station.

Macclesfield is said to be the only Mill Town left unbombed in the Second World War.

Macclesfield is located in the east of Cheshire, on the River Bollin, a tributary of the River Mersey. It is close to the county borders of Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east and Staffordshire to the south. It is near the towns of Stockport to the north, Buxton to the east, and Congleton to the south. It is 30 miles (45 km) to the east of Chester, the county town of Cheshire. To the west of the town lies the Cheshire Plain and to the east lie the hills of the Peak District. The town is most famous for its once thriving silk industry, commemorated in the local Silk Museum. Although “Silk Town” seems to be the preferred nickname these days, Macclesfield’s traditional local nickname is “Treacle Town” — supposedly from an incident where a merchant spilt a load of treacle on Hibel Road, and the poor rushed out to scoop it off the cobbles. Another, less picturesque, reason has it that the mill-owners used to provide barrels of treacle to the unemployed weavers.

Macclesfield has been accused of having few cultural amenities; in 2004, research was published in The Times naming Macclesfield and its borough the most uncultured town in Britain, based on its lack of theatres, cinemas and other cultural facilities. There was a huge boost to Macclesfield’s cultural scene in 2010 with the creation of the Barnaby Festival, a celebration of art, culture and heritage, reinventing the centuries old tradition of marking St Barnabas day. A rich and varied visual arts programme included ‘Save Us’ a contemporary art exhibition in Christ Church, curated by Karen Gaskill. It featured ten artists with a connection to Macclesfield, and some with an international reputation. The Silk Opera Company was created to perform ‘The Monkey Run’ at Barnaby, written and conducted by Nicholas Smith and starring Eleanor Sutton and Jayne Carpenter. The performances met with local critical acclaim and the Company is now growing and performing around the region. Macclesfield is also home to a Silk Museum and a number of art galleries, including at York Chambers, Duke’s Court.

The last remaining commercial cinema in Macclesfield closed in 1997. Discussions have taken place regarding the possibility of building a multiplex cinema, but similar attempts to build a cinema have thus far been unsuccessful. In 2005 a small scale cinema was set up in the Heritage Centre, and Cinemac has since become well established; also based in the Heritage Centre is the Silk Screen arts cinema, which gives fortnightly screenings of art house films. However, during the recent outlining of plans for the new Macclesfield town centre, a large cinema has been given the go-ahead after many years of pressure from the residents.

Barracks Square was the home of the Cheshire Militia from 1859. It is now a Grade 2 listed residential area.

In December 2006, Sport England published a survey which revealed that residents of Macclesfield were the 3rd most active in England in sports and other fitness activities. 29.3% of the population participate at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes.[30]

In 2008, the borough was named as the fifth happiest of 273 districts in Britain by researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, who used information on self-reported personal well-being from the British Household Panel Survey.

Macclesfield is on the Stafford to Manchester section of the West Coast Main Line.Macclesfield railway station has frequent services to Manchester Piccadilly (25 minutes away), Stoke and London Euston (1 hour 47 minutes) by Virgin Trains, and to Birmingham New Street and beyond provided by CrossCountry. Northern Rail’s stopping service between Manchester and Stoke calls at Macclesfield.

Macclesfield is served by good road links from the north, south and west, but has fewer roads going east due to the proximity of the Peak District. From the south, access from Congleton and the Potteries is from the A536, and via the A523 from Leek. From the north, the main access to the town is the A523 from Manchester, Hazel Grove and Poynton. The main west–east road is the A537 Knutsford to Buxton Road.

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