Great British Railway Journeys to Nantwich

On Wednesday 17th January 2018, at 18:30 on BBC TWO, Michael Portillo visits Nantwich – as part of the Great British Railways Journeys television series.

The current series (Series 9) is set in the Edwardian period. When the production team contacted Bill Pearson, a volunteer at Nantwich Museum, he managed to persuade them to include a minor detour to Nantwich – although technically it wouldn’t be on the programmes planned route from Nottingham to Liverpool. The production team became very interested in the history of the Brine Baths Hotel.

Before becoming a hotel, the building was Shrewbridge Hall, where the famous Nantwich cricketer A. N. Hornby (also known as Monkey Hornby) learned to play cricket. Monkey Hornby was one of only two people to captain the country at both rugby and cricket. He is remembered as the England cricket captain whose side lost the Test match – which gave rise to the Ashes, at home against the Australians in 1882.

The TV production team wanted to do a story about how Nantwich sought to emulate Droitwich and  become a spa town, but failed. However Bill told them that far from being a disaster the hotel was a major centre for society events, and hosted major events like the Cheshire Agricultural Show, hunt balls, and meetings of newly formed motoring clubs.

The Brine Baths Hotel specialised in treating patients in its “well-appointed suite of brine and medicinal baths”. The hotel claimed “the strongest saline baths in the world” and were said to help gout, sciatica and rheumatism amongst other ailments. The brine was so strong that patients had to be strapped in the brine to avoid them floating! During treatments chemicals were added and the brine would fizz.

Visitors for the brine treatments included football clubs, such as Stoke City. The hotel had a resident nurse – called Nurse Coffin! In Nantwich Museum’s archives, Bill found reports of a gentleman who arrived at the hotel in a wheelchair but was able to walk out of the hotel after treatment.

The hotel closed in 1947 and became a convalescent home for miners a year later. It closed after four years and was put up for sale. When no buyer could be found, it was demolished in 1959.

Bill gave Michael Portillo a guided tour through Nantwich, including a visit to the Old Biot. Michael also visited Nantwich Swimming Pool & Fitness Centre, where he swam in Nantwich brine in the outdoor pool as well as interviewing bathers and staff at the pool.

Nantwich Museum has booklets on Nantwich Railways and The Story of Nantwich Brine.  More information about the Brine Baths Hotel can be found on our website which provides information on some of the historic buildings (past and present) in Nantwich .

Siege & Battle of Nantwich Exhibition Now Open

Events leading to the Battle of Nantwich in January 1644 are the subject of a new exhibition in the Your Space Gallery at Nantwich Museum entitled: The Siege & Battle of Nantwich. Running from Tuesday 9 January until Saturday 24 February the exhibition explores how the siege of the town by Royalist soldiers developed in 1643 leading to the battle which took place on 25 January 1644. Visitors will be able to view various armaments and elements of uniforms which featured in the event.

Festive Cheer at the Museum

Visitors and volunteers recently enjoyed a concert of Christmas music led by the Wistaston Singers. The drop-in, sing-a-long concert has become a regular Christmas fixture at the museum and, despite the inclement weather the Millennium Gallery was full of visitors eager to join in the festive spirit. Refreshments were served after the concert providing everyone with the opportunity to meet.

The Wistaston Singers are a community choir with a wide ranging repertoire including music from the theatre, chorale and pop. They give several concerts a year in support of charities.

Cheese Room opens after revamp

Thanks to a generous grant from Nantwich estate agents Baker Wynne & Wilson, the Cheese Room at Nantwich Museum has been redecorated and redesigned. A team of volunteers, led by Museum Manager Kate Dobson, cleaned and repainted the room and researched and designed new display boards plus labels for a wide range of artefacts. Kate praised their work commenting “the project was only made possible as a result of the hard work and dedication of a group of volunteers”.

Mr and Mrs Mouse and their family help to guide visitors through the information panels, which describe the history of local cheesemaking. A timeline identifies when at one time the Navy only used Cheshire cheese, the first dairy school was established and the first annual cheese show in Nantwich took place which went on to become the most important cheese show in the country.

The secrets of making Cheshire cheese are revealed through the displays and a film illustrating the supply of milk from Higher Farm, Byley to local cheese maker Joseph Heler Ltd.

A wide range of artefacts brings the display to life and includes a milk cooler, churns, cheese vat, curd mill and cheese press. Of particular note, and in pride of place, is the magnificent silver Dutton Cup presented in 1895 to farmer John Dutton by the Cheshire Dairy Farmers Association at Nantwich Dairy Show.

Throughout the exhibition the Mouse family members pose questions about cheesemaking and the exhibits, whilst visitors can also test their knowledge of cow breeds!

Railway Sign Returns Home

Nantwich Market Drayton Railway Junction Board at Nantwich Museum
The Nantwich Market Drayton Junction sign from the signal box which used to control that railway junction has returned to Nantwich after almost 50 years and is now displayed at the museum. Donated to the museum by Jeremy Nicholls, whose family have cared for the sign for the last 48 years it features cast iron letters on a wooden background and has been restored to its original LNWR colours.

It was early in 1969, when the 15 years old Jeremy woke one Sunday
morning to see a demolition gang dismantling the signal box. It had become
redundant when the line to Market Drayton and Wellington closed in May
1967. As a standard LNWR cabin, it was constructed of wood on a brick base
and the demolition of the superstructure did not take long.  Jeremy asked the foreman if he could have one of the name boards and was told “yes, if he
could carry it off". A friend helped him carry the board the few hundred yards to his home.
Nantwich Market Drayton Junction signal box during demolition. Spring 1969
Jeremy had the board restored four years ago and says "I'm delighted that it’s now back in Nantwich, where it belongs and that, thanks to the museum, others will be able to see the sign and perhaps learn something of Nantwich’s railway past”.

A Research Booklet Nantwich Railways written by Jeremy Nicholls is
available from the museum shop. Its describes how the Nantwich Market
Drayton Junction signal box was located about 100 metres west of the bridge
over the River Weaver where the Wellington line parted from the Shrewsbury line. It was the most complex of the signal boxes at Nantwich having contact with those at Wrenbury, Shrewbridge Road Crossing and Hack Green.

For further information contact: Nantwich Museum on  enquiries@nantwichmuseum.org.uk or telephone 01270 627104.

Nantwich Civic Society at 50 exhibition


The Nantwich Civic Society at 50 exhibition was formally opened on 21 November 2017 by Cllr. Rachel Bailey, Leader of Cheshire East Council supported by the Mayor of Cheshire East, Cllr Arthur Moran and Mayor of Nantwich Town Council, Cllr. Penny Butterill and their respective consorts.
Nick Dyer, Chair of the museum’s Board of Management welcomed visitors representing numerous local groups and introduced Jeff Stubbs, Chair of Nantwich Civic Society. Jeff extolled the virtues of the town and the valuable contribution made by so many, especially the original members of the Society in the 1960s and 70s for making Conservation of the town a vital, new movement – thus making it such a special place. He noted how, during the last 50 years the town has lost buildings of historic and architectural importance but many have been retained. One aim of the exhibition is to stimulate thoughts about modern architecture and how future buildings in the town might be designed.
The exhibition runs until Saturday 20 January 2018.

Cheese Room Re-opens

The Museum’s Cheese Room has recently undergone a revamp with thanks to funding from the Baker, Wynne and Wilson Community Pledge.

Visitors can find out about buttermaking and cheesemaking within the locality, learn about the cheesemaking process and also the significance of cheesemaking within the town today.

Artefacts include a cheese vat, a variety of butter churns and the Dutton Cup; a prize won by the eminent cheesemaking Dutton family which is a new addition to the room.

Special Membership Offer

Become a Friend of Nantwich Museum and pay no renewal until April 2019. An ideal Christmas Present.

Help to support the work of the Museum by joining the Friends of Nantwich Museum. Membership includes E-mail newsletters, discounts on talks and events, an annual dinner, invitations to exclusive Member events  and an opportunity to vote at the AGM (including the election of trustees who manage the Museum). New members will not be required to renew their subscription until April 2019. Individual membership costs £20 and families £30. Application forms and further details are available from the Museum.