The Bollin Valley - Past and Present

Stories from the banks of the River Bollin

Local writer, Keith Warrender is the author of several books about Cheshire and Manchester and has just produced his most recent, ‘Bollin Valley - Past and Present’. This volume is a vivid and wide-ranging description of the local history, people and places to be found along the route of the River Bollin. The river’s source is in Macclesfield Forest from where it flows through Cheshire, briefly entering Greater Manchester, then on to join the Manchester Ship Canal near Lymm.  The Bollin reaches our area as it passes through Hale Barns near Ross Mill and then along the perimeter of Hale Golf Club. It flows parallel to Bankhall Lane in Hale for a while and then turns past Ashley Mill and onto Dunham Massey and beyond.

Keith was originally a graphic designer and his creativity is apparent in the beautiful photographs that are a feature of all his books. As well as his own photographs, Keith also sources fascinating archive material, including the wonderful view above of a tram passing the station clock in Altrincham. The trams began running from Altrincham in 1907 and this photo seems to date from around 1920. The photo looks to have been taken from a building on the corner of Stamford Road and the old Station Road.

One of the interesting local episodes highlighted by Keith may be remembered by some readers. The construction of Manchester’s second runway in the late 1990s was an issue which attracted national and even international press interest. This massive project involved the building of bridges across the A538 Wilmslow Road and the River Bollin and the destruction of the surrounding ancient woodlands and grasslands. Predictably, the plan was very unpopular with many residents and environmental campaigners.  Protest camps resisting the development were set up in the area in 1997, with the most stalwart protestor, ‘Swampy’ becoming something of a local hero. Eventually the runway was completed but consideration for the local environment involved the relocation of 34 000 toads, newts and frogs all of which had to be caught by hand!

Protesters against the second runway at Manchester Airport. Photo courtesy of Len Grant.

The book contains some rather bizarre ‘claims to fame’ from our neighbourhood. Did you know, for example, that many of the finest St Bernard dogs alive today are descended from pedigree lines originating at a 19th century kennels in Bowdon?

Can you help me to find my ancestral home - in Bowdon?

Keith gives a fascinating account of Dunham Massey’s very active role during World War Two. A POW camp housing 6000 Germans was in operation in Dunham New Park, now Dunham Forest Golf Club, at the same time as spies were being trained at Dunham House on Charcoal Road. During World War One the Hall itself was one of many auxiliary hospitals established to treat injured troops from the front.

‘Bollin Valley -  Past and Present’ illustrates the links between the affluent residents of this area and Manchester where many worked. For example, the Stamford Lodge estate, now the location of the Waters Corporation offices on the way to Wilmslow, was the home of Francis Godlee. Francis was passionate about science and technology and was a generous benefactor to educational institutions in the city.  In 1903 he presented the Manchester Municipal Technical school with an observatory which can be seen on the roof of what is now the University of Manchester’s Sackville Building. The Manchester Astronomical Society, which was established in the same year,  still meets there every Thursday.

The Godlee Observatory at the University of Manchester: Photo by Keith Warrender

Keith’s love of history has encouraged him to research his own family history and he has discovered a Moses Warrender, a farm worker living in Shropshire in the 1700s.  The Warrender family later made their way to Macclesfield, drawn there by jobs in the silk industry. However, one ancestor did run a temperance bar in the town - then a public house! Keith is available as a speaker on local history and can often be found sharing his interesting tales with groups in Cheshire and Trafford.  On the 18th May he will be coming to give a talk at Hale Library. The talk starts at 2pm. Tickets are free from the library but places are limited. Future talks will include the following;

'Whispers from the Willows’ – The Story of my House' at Timperley Civic Society, Lark Hill Centre, Thorley Lane, Timperley at 7.30pm on Tuesday 4 April 

'Bollin Valley – Dunham to Lymm' at Lymm History Society, Village Hall, Pepper St at 8.00pm on Monday 10 April

 ‘Bollin Valley Past and Present’ retails at £16.95. Keith’s books can be found in Waterstones, on Amazon and at the National Trust shop at Dunham Massey Hall. They can also be ordered directly from Willow Publishing, 36 Moss Lane, Timperley, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA15 6SZ.

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