Welcome to the History of Antrobus website, which aims to bring together and share photos and stories about the village of Antrobus,  Cheshire.

If you have any photographs, memories or stories to contribute, or would like more information, please contact me at Clare.olver@gmail.com

Census Day

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Today is the date by which we need to complete the 2021 census. It’s something on our list of things to do, along with possibly the weekly shop and maybe the first cut of the year for the lawns. However the census is only ever undertaken once every ten years so that makes it bit more special. It’s a snapshot in time – of life in Britain on 21 March 2021. Just as it was on 6 June 1841; 30 March 1851; 7 March 1861 and so on. As everyone knows, the personal information is kept secure for a hundred years and then released. This means that we’ll get to see what our parents/grandparents/great grandparents wrote in 1921 in January 2022.

This census is the first on-line. Previously an enumerator walked about the village taking down the details of each household and then collating into handwritten forms.

To bring this more to life here are the census returns from the place that today we call The Pole, although in 1841 it was called the New Pole – and if you want to know why, this page can explain more.

The 1841 census only asked for the name of the residents, their age to the nearest five years, occupation and whether or not they were born in the same county:

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1841 Census – New Pole

Here we can just about see George and Catherine Eaton, along with five servants; one male whose occupation is down as MS (male servant) and four female servants. There is no information about the relationship between the other occupants, just the occupation. For George Eaton, he was listed as ‘Independent’, meaning in practice his income was mainly from property rentals.

By 1851 we can see more information such as relationship and place of birth:

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1851 Census – New Pole Mansion

The writing is quite faint so this is a transcript (you’ll need to scroll over to see all the info):

No. House NameGiven NameSurnameRelationshipConditionGenderAgeGenderOccupationBirth Place
29New Pole MansionGeorgeEatonHeadunmarriedM44MaleLanded proprietorAntrobus, Cheshire
29New Pole MansionCatherineEatonSisterunmarriedF39Female Antrobus, Cheshire
29New Pole MansionMariaGeddesVisitorunmarriedF35Female Leith, Scotland
29New Pole MansionRichdCoppockServantunmarriedM20MaleButlerMacclesfield, Cheshire
29New Pole MansionHannahEmburyServantunmarriedF40FemaleCookThellaston, Shropshire
29New Pole MansionMaryBentleyServantunmarriedF26FemaleHouse maidMarton, Cheshire
29New Pole MansionKateGillServantunmarriedF19FemaleKitchen maidNantwich, Cheshire
29New Pole MansionEllenMillingtonServantunmarriedF14FemalesevantAntrobus, Cheshire
29New Pole MansionMarthaTaylorServantunmarriedF52Femalechar womanCoppenhall, Cheshire
Transcript of 1851 Census – The Pole

Ten years in 1861 later the data collected was more or less the same, so we’ll skip forward twenty years to 1871, and see that George and his sister Catherine are still at the Pole with their house servants, and the data collected hasn’t changed much either.

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1871 Census – The Pole

Things stayed the same for data collection for the next 30 years, however that wasn’t the case with the Eaton family. George Eaton died in 1877, his brother followed but he passed away in 1891 and the house was sold. In the 1901 census it was recorded as being unoccupied:

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1901 Census – The Pole unoccupied

By 1911 each house now had their own form to complete. Other than the details of the marriage and number of children, the details are pretty much the same:    

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1911 Census – The Pole

The comparison with the rest of the village in 1911 is quite a shock – wealthy stockbroker, Charles Leonard Agnew employed a governess, waitress, kitchen maid, cook, two housemaids and a children’s maid.

This is as far as we can go at the moment with the raw data, we’ll have to wait to see what the 1921 census forms reveal in about nine months’ time. By transcribing the entries, and then collating into spreadsheets then we start to get a picture of all of the village, and that’s when it starts to give a real picture of life over the past century in Antrobus.

If you want to see all the census returns for the village, please look at the Records page.

Any one know what this is…and its connection with Antrobus?

It’s called a Flying Shuttle and transformed the weaving industry worldwide; it was invented by John Kay.

John Kay (1704 – 1780)

John Kay was born in Bury in Lancashire in 1704, the son of a woollen manufacturer. He became manager of one of his father’s mills and soon developed skills as a machinist and engineer, modifying machines as necessary. In 1733 he patented the ‘New engine for opening and dressing wool’, this machine included the now famous ‘flying shuttle’.

It had an enormous impact on the woollen industry. The owners loved it because it sped up the process and they could reduce the number of people they employed. However, John Kay was the subject of many personal attacks as he struggled for financial survival. Things got worse as manufacturers refused to pay him royalties on his invention and so he took his looms to France.

John Kay hardly ever returned to England after 1756 and died in France in 1779, still fighting for the money he was owed by manufacturers and governments alike.

However the town of Bury remembered him and a satue to his name was erected in 1908

Kay Memorial, Bury

His eldest son, Robert Kay (1728 – 1802) joined his father and two brothers in France in 1752, By this time Robert was already married, and in 1758 his daughter Dorothy Kay was born.

This is where the connection to Antrobus comes in…for on 12 January 1797, Dorothy married John Barlow of Rostherne. It’s not clear why or how the couple had met – a sadler from Cheshire and the daughter of an inventor from Bury. However the couple moved from Mere to Pump House in Antrobus in 1812 with their son, Robert.

Dorothy died in 1834, and Robert six months before his father in July 1847. Given that John had no direct descendants it was his will that opened the door to this interesting and surprising connection.

Antrobus History Group 2021

Over the last few years the History group have put together some fascinating exhibitions:

History of Antrobus in Ten Objects in 2017

In memory of John Wilkinson, Dambuster May 2018

The Remembrance Exhibition November 2018

A Country Parish September 2019

The work began in the millennium year when a wonderful book on Antrobus was produced.

We are keen as a group to continue researching, so our latest topic is looking at the commercial life in the village, inspired by the way that having the village shop has become especially important this year.

So we’re investigating any shops that were here in the past, who brought services into the village – such as who delivered the milk or the coal? We’re looking at what was produced here and where were the markets that the goods such as potatoes were taken to.

So if anyone has any ideas or information, we would be very grateful .

Being Antrobus, we’ve already been given a wealth of stories! We’ve heard that during the winter of 1945 heavy snowfall meant that the milk couldn’t be collected as normal, so farmers in the village got together, somehow acquired the necessary rennet and made cheese so that the milk wouldn’t be wasted.

We’ve heard about the grocery shop at Frandley, the sweet shop in Hollins Lane and one at Mount Pleasant near the Methodist Chapel. We’re looking into the history of the Post Office seen above in an old photograph currently in the Antrobus Arms and which only closed in 2018.

There’s obviously a great deal to discover and we’d like to delve back as far as we can. If you have any ideas, or stories to share or would like to join in with the research, please do get in touch or leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!

Where are you reading this?

A quick look at the stats reports on the website shows the reach of Antrobus. Over the past six months or so, there have been over 2,200 views of this website to countries across the world. The top four are as follows UK; USA, Canada and Australia, with the UK far ahead of the others. However excluding the UK, things are a little more interesting:

We know that there is an interest in the Eatons from Great Budworth and Antrobus who emigrated to America in the 1700s, but what about the others?

Albert Percival of Grandsires moved to Ontario, Canada in 1925

Tom Painter of Reed house View (Hunter’s Moon) moved to Ottawa 

Henry Norcott of Daisy Bank Cottages emigrated to Canada in 1899

Henry Sanderson of Field Farm, Seven Oaks emigrated to California in 1891

Ivy Wright (Millington) moved from Wheatsheaf Lane to Australia in the late 1970s

So if you are reading this from overseas, please do leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you and your connection to Antrobus.

Solving a mystery

Crowley Lodge 1847

I can’t really recall how I came across this on Ebay – in fact, I’m not sure I was even on Ebay at the time when a small framed poem and drawing of Crowley Lodge caught my eye. The frame was pretty worn and it wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the description by the seller made me want to learn more.

The verse was a sad reminiscence of happier times when the author’s grandmother lived at Crowley Lodge:

Was on one summers morning bight, I took my way with heart so light To view old Crowley Lodge once more, and visit scenes of days of yore
But as I approached the lofty pile, of bygone days I thought the while
When greeted with affections cheer, by Grandmama so kind and dear.
When uncles, aunts all gathered round, the glad welcome did truly sound
Affection shone in every eye, to make me happy each did vie.
But ah how changed was now the scene, none there but strangers now I ween,
Inhabitating that home of peace, of happiness and perfect bliss.
No more shall I with childish glee, skip o’er your meads and sunny lea
Now resting in some cozey nook, to hear the caw of distant rooks,
No more shall I with pleasure glide down the steep dingles mossy side
Or climb the oak with wicked zest or rob some poor songsters nest
No more shall I in the shady lane, perch on that rural bridge again
To watch the sparking waters ride o’er crags and stones in sullen pride
What would I give to be again, as young and blythe as I was then
Laughing at the cares of busy life, far far away from worldly strife
Farewell old Crowley Lodge, farewell.
My heart looks back with heaving swell on those who once made thee their home

The other clues were the initials GHS and date of 1847.

From previous research we knew that in 1838 the Crowley Lodge was put up for for auction. Crowley Lodge was described as a mansion house being ‘commodious, and possesses every convenience for the residence of a respectable family.’ 

We also knew that Edward Steflox’s widow Sarah, and their son William, managed the farm from then on, however William also died at the age of 37 in July 1846 without leaving a will. And in 1852 Crowley Lodge was sold to the Arley Estate.

However no Stelfox with the initials GHS was included in the extensive family tree of the Antrobus, Whitley and Stretton (North Cheshire Tree on Ancestry). Following a search on a database of births, marriages and deaths, a marriage certificate of a George Henry Stelfox looked like I’d found my man. He was born in 1829 and living in Audenshaw at the time of his marriage in 1854. More interestingly his father, James Stelfox, was described as a gentleman, and the son of Edward and Sarah Stelfox.

George Henry would have been 18 when he wrote those lines, and living with his parents in Audenshaw. He became a land surveyor and following his marriage had moved to Levenshume where he gave his occupation as architect and surveyor. George and his wife Sarah Anne had three sons and two daughters. Today, only relatives of middle son William Stelfox survive – he and his wife only had one child, the superbly named Marmaduke Stelfox. He was a flour miller and lived on the Wirral. It is hope that the descendants of Marmaduke might be interested in knowing what their great, great grandfather wrote over 150 years ago.

A post script, for a budding architect, the drawing of Crowley Lodge is very detailed and accurate – with one exception. The drawing shows it as having three stories but today is has just two.

And a further post script, I’ve no knowledge of the seller or want to buy the print. The fun has been solving the mystery and letting George Henry’s descents know of the opportunity to find out more about their ancestor.

Evacuees at Arley School

Library photo: London evacuees with gas masks (in cardboard parcels) and luggage all set for evacuation from the capital. Credit: Royal Voluntary Society/PA

If you are reading this in a few months or day’s time I should say that yesterday was VE Day. And as usual Antrobus went to town. Despite the cancellation of the activities in the Village Hall due to Covid 19 and the social distancing measures were are currently under, it didn’t prevent appropriate commemorations taking place throughout the village.

So it was by chance that I had come across the school register for Arley School just a few days ago and thought it would be a good time to share some initial findings. The ones that caught my eye were between 1939 and 1945, and concerned the entries for a number of evacuees.

It is difficult to find information on evacuees. Data isn’t held centrally and it all happened very quickly. The government had planned to evacuate about 3,500,000 people although only 1,500,000 actually made use of the official scheme. Almost all had been evacuated to the reception areas by the evening of 3 September, just a few hours after the official declaration of war. The ‘Government Evacuation Scheme’ designated places as evacuation areas, from which young children and vulnerable people were to be removed to safer locations. In most cases this meant removals from the most densely-populated areas, not the whole district  which is interesting considering that Runcorn Rural District (in which Antrobus was then located) was one of those areas at risk.

Arley School was just over the border in the then Bucklow Rural District, although many of the children from Whitley Reed and Crowley attended (more to follow in future posts).  The first wave of evacuees arrived at Arley School in September 1939 aged between 5 and 12. These included the Jones siblings from North Shields who stayed six months at Garland Hall, Crowley with John and Anita Whitlow. There were three others from Runcorn, Salford and Widnes who all stayed less than four months. One lasted just four days.

We know that within a few weeks of the outbreak of war – the “Phoney War” period – many mothers and children had left the countryside and returned to their extended families after the widely anticipated bombing campaign had failed to materialise, and this appears to be true here. By early 1940, it was estimated that around 80% had returned home. But that summer, another wave of evacuations took place after Hitler invaded France and the launch of the Blitz.

The following year brother and sister arrived from Southmead Bristol they stayed two weeks and then returned in January 41 where they stayed a month. Also arriving were a family of three brothers and sisters from Euxton Lancashire

In March 1941 six evacuees from Salford entered the school. Three were all billeted in Aston by Budworth with Mrs Newport, two with Mrs Hall and one with Mrs Howarth. Those living with Mrs Hall stayed the longest: May Taunton for over two years and her eldest sister for 17 months who had to leave school once she had reached 14. It’s not clear from these records whether she stayed in Aston by Budworth or returned home to Salford.

The saddest arrivals of all took place in the late summer of 1942.

Lost all
Extract from Arley School Register 1943

The Arscott siblings arrived from Bootle and were billeted at Aesop’s Cottage, Arley. The notes in the register said

“bombed twice at Coventry and Bootle.”

Then the very young Noakes brothers lodged with Mrs Eynes at Land’s End Farm, Aston by Budworth. The eldest brother, had attended Victoria Road School in Northwich, but the youngest was just 5 at the time. The notes in the register simply said:

Left London 13 Nov 1940. Lost all.

No evacuees enrolled in 1943; the last group all arrived in September 1944 from London. However their stay wasn’t prolonged. Some left after 2 or 3 days, others two weeks – just one stayed nine months.

All in all, across the four years, the coming and goings of evacuees would have had a big impact in a rural country school: out of the 61 entries between 11 September 1939 and November 1944, 32 were evacuees, 26 were locals and for the three remaining it is not clear whether the entire family had moved as a result of the war or for work.

And against a backdrop of the coronavirus and the tea parties and bunting, until this week, an undiscovered and sobering reminder of the sudden upheaval to lives of the war in Cheshire.


Have you ever wondered who lived in your house? Part 2

Researching Wheatsheaf Lane
Chris’ table first thing Saturday morning

Antrobus has some amazing old farmhouses steeped with history, and we’re very lucky to have access to the documentation. But what if your house is less than 80 years old? Is it still possible to find any records and find out who owned and lived in your house? The answer is definitely YES, as Chris from Wheatsheaf Lane has proved. And here is the story:

Early on Saturday morning Chris messaged to say he had seen a recent post about this website on the village group chat and, like his father, was interested in local history. Anyway, it got him thinking and he decided to wade through the deeds to their house to see if he could can add anything to this website.

First question he asked was what we knew about the land, lane and the original occupants. This was a great start – so we headed straight to the Tithe Map of 1846:

tithe map - Wheatsheaf Lane
Cheshire Tithe Maps

This shows that the land was owned by Peter Jackson of Cogshall Hall and farmed  from Frandley Farm by tenant farmer, Peter Massey. At the time, the six acre field was called Big Meadow. This was interesting, but not particularly helpful for Chris given it was nearly a hundred years too early.

However we knew from the design of the buildings that they were built in the 1930s, so Chris turned to the deeds of his house. He settled down with a cup of tea and started reading – this provided the skeleton of the narrative; dates and names, albeit couched in legal text.

Wheatsheaf Lane

It turns out that the land was sold by the Bolshaw siblings (Richard and Maria) in 1919, and later to a Mr. Ryder of Sutton Weaver for £99 in 1939. Who was he? Who sold it to the Bolshaws and why were the houses built at different times to two different design? Chris turned detective to match the words of the deeds with the owners of the land.

So what about the residents of Wheatsheaf Lane? Chris was interested to know who had lived in the houses.

We next turned to the 1939 Register which showed who was living in Wheatsheaf Lane on 29 September 1939.  As you can see from the image below many of the names are blanked out – for privacy purposes, anyone who is still alive is not included:1939 -cropped

This started to add some colour – and raised as many questions as it answered. For example, why was a captain on a tug living in Antrobus? Thankfully we were able to delve into research that has been compiled over many years into the family histories of the residents of the village. This is held on the Ancestry website so please do get in touch if you want to find out more about your family.

As you can see from the exert below, tug captain on the Manchester Ship Canal, Arthur Steel, did have connections with Antrobus through his sister Nora.

Wheatsheaf Lane family

From then on, it was a case of using the more recent electoral registers, as well as the baptism, marriage and burial records to pull together the stories about one of the cottages along Wheatsheaf Lane.  With lots of messages between us and using the information gleaned from the deeds, Chris has pulled together a lovely summary of his research.

Always mindful of privacy, the story really stops for us here in 1971 unless we know that the residents have passed away. In which case, please do share your memories for everyone can enjoy.

So, this is the story of how over the space of a few hours on a Saturday in May, it is possible to harness your inner Poirot and find out the backstory to who lived in your house.

Have you ever wondered who lived in your house?

1909 Holt's estate

Whether you are interested in knowing more about your own house or are simply interested in knowing more about your ancestors who lived in Antrobus, the newly updated Records page on the website is just the place to dive into. On the way you might want to stop off and look at the Places Index to see if the history of your house has been researched. Or you may want to go via the Family History page  – new transcribed wills and links to external websites have been added.

As always, there is far more available than on the website, so please email clare.olver@gmail.com with feedback, requests and your discoveries. All of these are invaluable, and always try to incorporate your suggestions.

Absent Voters Records – 1919

Absent voters

Roll back 18 months to our Remembrance Exhibition in November 2018 we had spent months, not only researching the back stories of those from Antrobus who gave their lives, but also the other members of the parish who were part of the great war effort.

Unlike neighbouring Whitley, there was no official “Roll of Honour” for the First World War. Unaware of these records, the only way to discover who had enlisted was to trace forward from the last census carried out in 1911 to find those men who would have been eligible, and then to search for individual military records. For a start, this was incredibly time consuming.

Missing Servicemen
So, it was with great interest to learn that hours of volunteer time had come to fruition in the transcribing, indexing and uploading of the handwritten Spring 1919 Absent Voters. As the name suggests, this is an invaluable list of those away serving in the First World War. What it doesn’t suggest, is that the register also includes the names of women who were also serving.

What has been useful?
Whilst both fascinating and poignant to read, one of the most useful aspects has been that we now have a much better idea of the number of men who fought in the war. Our initial numbers for Antrobus have more than doubled from 16 to over 40. This is a huge increase, and really brings home the proportion of the male population who were called up to fight.

Other than discovering who was called up, the most useful aspect has been to link the men and their address with a military service number. On the face of it, it is not particularly exciting, but this has opened the door to use other historical military information knowing that it relates to the correct soldier. And in turn, means we can start to tell their stories.

For example we now know that at least five families in the parish had more than one son serving in the war, and one ‘Thankful Family’, the Painters from Reed House View in Hollins Lane had five out of their six sons enlist. And remarkably all returned safely.

The record pictured above for Service Number 34780 relates to Joseph Rowlinson of Laurel Farm. We had no idea he had fought in the War. The 1911 census shows him as an 18 year old farmer’s son working the land. It makes sense that he would have either volunteered or been called up, but with over 500 possible records to search through for “our” Joseph Rowlinson on Ancestry, there was no way of knowing if these referred to him or another Joseph Rowlinson whose father was also called Joseph, and who fought in the Cheshire Regiment. The probability was that this was the same person, but the information in Servicemen’s Index  showed that they were two very different people. The good news is that Joseph Rowlinson from Antrobus, did survive the war having fought as a private in 1/12th North Lancashire Regiment (Pioneers), and returned to the village where he lived for the remainder of his life until he passed away in 1987 aged 94.

What for Antrobus? The Scores on the Doors
From the database it has been possible to say with certainty that at least 41 men, who had connections with Antrobus, fought in the First World War. This doesn’t include the eight men who died – in which case, the total is nearly 50. Nor does it include the women. The Absent Voters Register lists two women, however from the Red Cross Archives for Antrobus, it is clear that most of the women in the parish were involved in some way – either as nurses, or volunteers, or supporting from their homes.

As a result our Roll of Honour for Antrobus has been updated and more information on those who fought and came back is here.

What next?
The impact of the war on a sparsely populated rural Cheshire parish now seems very real. With a bit more work, it should be possible to work out and map exactly how many families were affected – not just their immediate households, but their relations – many of whom lived within the tightly knit community of Antrobus. And too on the impact of those left behind trying to bring in the harvest without today’s mechanism.

But that’s for another day.

A big thank you to all the volunteers who must have spent many hours transcribing, and to Cheshire Archives. If you want to find out more – please see here.

A Country Parish – Village History Group Exhibition 2019

Antrobus History Exhibition 2019

Plans are well advanced on our natural history study of Antrobus today and how it
has changed since Arnold Boyd documented his book “A Country Parish” in 1950.

All our displays will be in St. Mark’s Church, Antrobus, CW9 6JW from Friday 20th September to Monday 23rd September and the church will be open from 10-4pm each day.

The programme of events will be:

Friday 20th September

11am: Official opening by Reverend Alec Brown

Everyone is very welcome to this first opportunity to look round and there will be coffee and refreshments served.

2pm: “Medicines from the Antrobus hedgerow”. Talk by Helen Phillips Dip.Phyt., MSc., MNIMH, MCPP.

Talk will be followed by tea and cake. If visitors for the talk need to go to collect children from school at 3pm they are very welcome to bring children back for refreshments too.

Saturday 21st September

Exhibition open all day 10-4pm so come and have a look around after dropping off your entries at this year’s Village Show in the Village Hall.

2pm Talk on AW Boyd and his life by Dr. Clemency Fisher 

Sunday 22nd September

Exhibition open 10-4pm

10.30am – 11.30 : Special country service with Reverend Christina Westwell

All very welcome. Village tea room is open afterwards for refreshments.

2pm in Antrobus Methodist School Room: Talk by Dan Fox on  “The pleasures of keeping bees in Antrobus!”

Followed by tea and cake and  the opportunity to look round the chapel all decorated for the Harvest Festival service at 6.30 pm.

Monday 23rd September

Exhibition open from 10-4pm