Sandbach

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Sandbach, (pronounced sand-batch), is a market town and civil parish in the unitary authority of Cheshire East and the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. The civil parish contains four settlements; Sandbach itself, Elworth, Ettiley Heath and Wheelock.

Sandbach is perhaps best known as the original home of Foden and ERF lorries, though neither company now exists in the town, 12-times National Brass Band Championship winners, Foden’s Band, the ancient Saxon Sandbach Crosses, and Sandbach services on the M6 motorway.

Known as Sanbec in 1086, Sondbache (also Sondebache) in 1260, and Sandbitch in the 17–18th centuries, Sandbach derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon sand bæce, which can mean “sand stream” or “sand valley”.

Traces of settlement are found in Sandbach from Saxon times, when the town was called Sanbec. Little is known about the town during this period, except that it was subjected to frequent Welsh and Danish raids. The town’s inhabitants were converted to Christianity in the 7th century by four priests: Cedda, Adda, Betti and Diuma. The town has an entry in the Domesday Book from 1086, at which time it was sufficiently large to need a priest and a church. The entry states:

Sanbec: Bigot de Loges. 1 hide and 1½ virgates pay tax. Land for 2 ploughs. 1 Frenchman has ½ plough, 3 slaves. 2 villagers have ½ plough. Church. Woodland. Value TRE 4s; now 8s.

By the 13th century, during the reign of King John much of the land around the township of Sandbach was owned by Richard de Sandbach who was the High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1230. Richard de Sandbach specifically owned a manor, he claimed an interest in the living of Sandbach. This claim against Earl Randle de Blundeville was unsuccessful. His son, Jon, however was slightly more successful as he won an ‘interest’ temporarily against the Abbot of Dieulacres only for it to be lost when it went to the King’s Bench.

The manor in Sandbach passed through numerous families, including the Leghs and Radclyffes. It was eventually bought by Sir Randulph (or Randle) Crewe, who became the Lord of the Manor.

Sandbach has been a market town since 1579 when it was granted a Royal Charter by Elizabeth I due to the petitioning of Sir John Radclyffe of Ordsall who, as the largest landowner in Sandbach and the owner of the Sandbach Old Hall, encouraged the farmers of the area to hold a market in the town on Thursdays. The charter also allowed for right to establish a Court-leet and a Court of Pied-powder. The original charter is still preserved, and can be found in Chester; a reproduction can be found in the Sandbach Town Council chamber, which is at the Literary Institution. The charter also granted the town the right to hold two annual fairs, which lasted for two days, and were held around Easter and early September. Today the Thursday market is still held outdoors on Scotch Common, and in and around the Town Hall.

During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a Scottish army swept down into England before being forced to retreat at the Battle of Worcester. On 3 September 1651 Sandbach summer fair was being held, and a Scottish army of around 1,000 exhausted cavalry men passed through the town; this army had been under the command of David Leslie. The town was not an easy retreat route however, as the people of Sandbach and the market stallholders attacked the Scottish army. A newspaper of the time said:

The dispute was very hot for two or three houres, and there were some townsmen hurt and two or three slaine, the Townesman slew about nine or ten and tooke 100 prisoners.

This was the only notable event of the Civil War to have happened in Sandbach. As the fair and the fight took place on the common of the town, after this event the common gained the name Scotch Common.

During the 17th century, the town used to be famous for its ale:

The ale brewed at this town was formerly in great repute in London, where, about the middle of the last century, it sold for twelve-pence a bottle, but it seems to be entirely supplanted by the Dorchester beer, and the Yorkshire and Welch ales, insomuch that we do not know of any Sandbach ale being now sold in the metropolis.

And about 1621 William Webb writes that “Our ale here at Sandbach being no less famous than that [at Derby] of a true nappe”.

In 1836 Sandbach silk mills employed 554 people, including 98 boys and girls under 12 years old. In 1801 the population was 1844, by 1851 this had reached 4659. Sandbach became a civil parish in 1866. The records from 1901 show a population of 5568. The Sandbach Corn Mill was a three-story brick building built in the late 19th century, on what is now Mill Hill Lane.

In 1936 parts of the area of Bradwall, all of Elton and Wheelock were added, significantly increasing the parishes size. The Hamlets transferred from Bradwall were Boothlane Head, Brickhouses, Ettiley Heath, Forge Fields, Hindheath, Elworth and Marsh Green. By 1951 the population had reached 9253. In 1933 the ERF lorry company was founded.

Sandbach hosts the administrative headquarters for Cheshire East Council. From 1875 until 1894 Sandbach was governed by Sandbach Urban Sanitary District. Between 1894 and 1974 the town was governed by Sandbach Urban District Council. In 1974 it was merged with other urban and rural councils to form Congleton Borough Council. Congleton Borough Council was dissolved on 31 March 2009, with the new authority Cheshire East taking over its responsibilities and those of Cheshire County Council on 1 April 2009.

Sandbach has a Town Council and youth council. The town council has jurisdiction over the parish of Sandbach, not just the town. All meetings are held in the Literary Institution in Sandbach. Sandbach is a Fairtrade Town

A partnership of groups forms the Sandbach Partnership, which is part of the South East Cheshire Enterprise (SECE).

The town is in the Congleton constituency; for the European Parliament it is in the North West Constituency. Before its current constituency Sandbach has been part of five other constituencys South Cheshire from 1832 to 1867, Mid Cheshire from 1868 to 1885, Crewe from 1885 to 1948, Knutsford from 1949 to 1954 and Crewe from 1955 to 1974.

The town is served by the M6 motorway, junction 17 and Sandbach Station on the Crewe to Manchester mainline.

Sandbach has an important historical feature on the cobbled market square, two Saxon Crosses that were reportedly built in the 7th, 8th or 9th century. The crosses are Scheduled Ancient Monuments. A plaque near the crosses reads:

Saxon crosses completed in the 9th century to commemorate the advent of Christianity in this Kingdom of Mercia about AD 653 in the reign of the Saxon king Penda. They were restored in 1816 by Sir John Egerton after destruction by iconoclasts.

Sandbach is also home to many listed buildings, the buildings include Sandbach School, St Mary’s Church, Sandbach and the Old Hall Hotel, Sandbach. Many of the local public houses, which were formerly stage coach stops, are listed, for example the Lower Chequer. Many of the buildings of the town were designed by the renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott; he designed Sandbach Literary Institution, Sandbach School, St John’s, Sandbach Heath and the Almshouses. He also restored St Mary’s Church.

Natural England, has designated Sandbach Flashes, a group of 14 separate areas, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), described as:

“a site of physiographical and biological importance. It consists of a series of pools formed as a result of subsidence due to the solution of underlying salt deposits [..] that show considerable variation in their plant and animal communities”.

At least 225 species of bird have been recorded on the Flashes.

Sandbach is probably best known as the original home of both Foden and ERF lorries, both companies founded by members of the Foden family. Neither company now exists in Sandbach, having been taken over and production moved elsewhere. As of 2007 there is no trace of Fodens within Sandbach, with the former mansion home of the Foden family at Westfields being demolished to make way for a new council building. However, Foden’s Brass Band, originally created for employees, is still based in Sandbach.

Sandbach has been a market town since 1579 when it was granted a Royal Charter by Elizabeth I. Today the Thursday market is still held outdoors on Scotch Common, and in and around the Town Hall. There is also a Farmers’ Market which takes place on the second Saturday of each calendar month. There are a number of shops and bars concentrated in the town centre.

Sandbach is now in large part a dormitory town for the adjacent conurbations of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the Potteries. A large number of people work at Cheshire East Council, which has its headquarters at Westfields. There is light industry, manufcturing and warehouses at Millbuck Industrial Area.

The town is served by Sandbach railway station, on the Crewe to Manchester Line, with services operated by Northern Rail to and from as far north as Deansgate although there is a branch line north of the station leading to Northwich which is mainly used by freight traffic and express passenger trains heading to Chester while the North Wales Coast Line is unavailable between the city and Crewe, although some organisations have been campaigning for a local passenger service between the two stations. The station itself is located to the west of the town in Elworth.

Pressure of road traffic going from Greater Manchester to Crewe has forced the building of a bypass for Sandbach, Wheelock, Wheelock Heath, Winterley, and Haslington for the A534. This is largely due to the M6 motorway which has a junction (J17) at Sandbach, which is close to the RoadChef service station.

Sandbach has an annual transport festival which usually takes place during April. It originally started in 1992 as ‘Transport through the Ages parade’, and was such a success that it became an annual event; since its inception it has been run alongside the National Town Criers’ competition. The Festival is run by an organising committee made up of local councils and volunteers.

Foden’s Brass Band is still based in the town, despite the truck manufacturer from which it derives its name no longer having a presence. In 2008 Foden’s became British Open Brass Band Champions.

Sandbach Voices is a local choir that was founded in 1947 and is a registered charity. The choir’s mission is to bring choral music into the community, and it regularly stages concerts, often in Sandbach Town Hall or at St Mary’s Church.

Sandbach Concert Series features classical, jazz and brass music, from professional and young local musicians, art exhibition and charity raffle. The Concert Series was started in 2010 by local musicians, the harpist Lauren Scott and saxophonist and award-winning composer Andy Scott.

At the end of November every year the Christmas lights are turned on by the chairman of the town council.

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