ON YOUR DOORSTEP
by Howard Boast
Great Budworth is a delightful village of quaint cottages, attractive
houses and winding lanes. It stands on a low hill, commanding splendid
views of the tranquil Budworth Mere and Weaver Valley. Until 1948
the village was part of the Arley Hall estate which explains how
it has retained its time worn buildings and intimate character.
During the 19th century Rowland Egerton-Warburton, one of the estate
owners, restored many of the cottages and constructed new ones in
a style which blended in with the existing dwellings. Since then,
Great Budworth has changed very little and has remained one of Cheshire's
most charming villages.
Approaching Great Budworth from the main Warrington to Northwich
road, the visitor comes upon the Running Pump at the foot of the
hill. Water from this source still trickles into its stone trough.
This was the source of drinking water for the whole community until
1934 when a piped supply was first connected. Here village gossips
would gather and sweethearts would swear undying love which, according
to legend, would “last so long as runs that water from the
Climbing up towards the centre of the village, the visitor is struck
by the varied styles of architecture and well kept gardens of the
cottages and houses along this narrow street. On the left hand side
is a decorative half timbered black and white cottage on a sandstone
base. There is also a terrace of houses with twisted chimneys and
tiny leaded windows. On the right hand side is the post office which
occupies just one room of a cottage. This is somewhat dwarfed by
its chimney stack which spans the building from top to bottom. Old
style cast iron street lamps are dotted about the village and the
red telephone box has so far survived the ravages of BT's modernisation
Wandering along the pebbled pathways, the sightseer can admire some
colourful gardens. Roses clamber round doorways and walls are cloaked
in wisteria. In spring and summer, flowers tumble out of window
boxes, stone troughs and hanging baskets. At the brow of the hill
the visitor reaches the centre of the village. This is dominated
by the structure of the red sandstone church. Nearby is the George
and Dragon public house and the lychgate where the stocks can still
be seen. Here many a miscreant had to pay the price for his wrong
The church sits on a knoll with dwellings clustered around it. There
was a church on this site as early as Domesday Book (1087) but the
present structure dates from the 14th century. Unusually, its tall
tower is lined with battlements and pinnacles, giving it a rather
castle like appearance.
Inside the church the splendid archways, beautiful stain glass windows
and high vaulted ceiling reflect the skill and devotion of the craftsmen
who created them. The ornate wooden image of the Virgin Mary was
cut down by order of Elizabeth I, hewn to pieces and burnt in the
vicar's oven. However, there are many unusual carvings that still
exist inside the church. Mischievous faces peer from unexpected
corners with staring eyes and tongues poking out. In days gone by,
village life focused on the parish church. There was the ancient
rush bearing ceremony and also Budworth Wakes where locals ate 'furmetry',
a special porridge made from the new wheat and laced with treacle
and cinnamon. However, the event of the year was the 'Soul Cakers
Play.' This folk play brought the whole community alive in carnival
spirit. It featured St. George, the Black Knight and a Hobby Horse
and is still performed in the village every November.
To the left of the church is the narrow lane that gets its name
from the 17th century Smithy and adjoining cottage that can still
be seen. Some of the cottage walls in this street lean at odd angles.
This type of asymmetrical building is often associated with genuine
half timbered houses, such as those seen in the Shambles in York.
Running alongside the church is the cobbled School Lane where the
Jacobean school house with its tiny windows and wooden gables has
survived. This building was both the home and the work place for
the school master. Bordering the churchyard is a narrow footpath.
Here a practical joker once tried to frighten his friend. He lay
down in a newly dug grave, knowing that his acquaintance had to
pass that way late at night. As his friend approached he began to
moan, “Eh! It is cowd down 'ere.” The passer by looked
into the grave and, realising the prank, decided to turn the tables
on the mischievous trickster. “I don't wonder th' art cowd,”
he said, “they'n none covered thee up” and proceeded
to shovel soil over him!
Just over a mile to the south west of Great Budworth is Marbury
Country Park. Once the site of Marbury Hall, it is set in 200 acres
of splendid parkland, lined with sweeping avenues of lime trees
and planted with woods and gardens around the enchanting Budworth
Mere. The Smith Barry family once owned the Hall. They used to boat
across the Mere to reach the church and village of Great Budworth.
From the hide, on the lake’s southern shore, can be seen many
different varieties of bird life. Great crested grebes nest among
the reeds at the water's edge. Mallards swim in and out of the water
lilies and coots feed by tipping their bodies upright in the water.
On the far shore, yachts gracefully tack to and fro, whilst cattle
graze peacefully in the fields above the water line. It is a very
Walking along the tree lined pathway lower down the mere, the visitor
can see the ice house. This building was sunk deep into the cool
ground at the water's edge. During the winter months it was packed
with blocks of ice and insulating layers of straw. In this way food
could be preserved during the hottest of summers.
Great Budworth is a fascinating place for the tourist. He or she
can potter along the narrow streets, investigate the towering church
and admire the intriguing cottages. Later, a drink can be sampled
in the warm atmosphere of the local hostelry or a picnic enjoyed
at Marbury whilst gazing across the peaceful Budworth Mere. The
area also provides some excellent views across the undulating Cheshire
countryside. If you are looking for a refreshing and rewarding day
out, you should visit Great Budworth.
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