The Cheese Room


The Cheese Room is a permanent exhibition featuring the cheese-making industry of South Cheshire.

There are artefacts from local cheese-making, accompanied by photographs of the work, together with photographs of local personalities.

In the first extension, after the main galleries, you will find The Cheese Room – a permanent exhibition featuring the cheese-making industry of South Cheshire. There are artefacts from local cheese-making, accompanied by photographs of the work, together with photographs of local personalities.

Above the Cheese Room is the useful Joseph Heler Room, which can be used for meetings. Joseph Heler was a well-known local cheese producer and distributor.  He is pictured below using a cheese iron or cheese borer to take a sample of one of his cheeses.

You can visit Joseph Heler’s website online at


Welsh Row Roman and Medieval Roads

Thanks to replacement work on gas pipes in Welsh Row, Roman and Medieval roads came to light in August 2007. Earthworks Archaeology were keeping a watching brief on the work being carried out by contractors May Gurney in the hope that such finds might emerge.

Part of the Medieval timber causeway in a trench
Part of the Medieval timber causeway in a trench

These pictures, supplied to Nantwich Museum by Earthworks Archaeology, feature the Roman trackway and the Medieval timber causeway. A piece of Roman pottery and some discarded fragments of salt barrels from the town’s Medieval salt works can also be seen.

The roman trackway was lying at a depth of around 2.5 metres under Welsh Row and at a different alignment – around 45 degrees offset – to the present road.

Samples of the finds are being subjected to tree-ring dating. Early results show the Medieval causeway dates from the second half of the 13th century.    

Mike Leah (now Cheshire East Council’s Development Control Archaeologist) said unearthing the Roman and Medieval finds in Welsh Row had not been responsible for the delay in completing the road works. He was quoted in The Nantwich Chronicle of September 12.

Our thanks to Earthworks Archaeology for the pictures and details


The timbers in the Roman trackway can be seen (right) at the bottom of one of the trenches. Earthworks Archaeology spokesman, Will Walker, said the track seemed to be close to the natural ground and may not have been raised on a causeway. There were indications that the track superseded, or was contemporary with, a pebbled surface.

Impressions of pebbles can be seen in the timber, as in the example above. The groove in the section of trackway is the unfortunate result of it being hit by a digger’s scoop.

James Hall


A painting of Nantwich historian James Hall greets visitors as they enter the museum. It hangs in the main gallery.

The portrait was painted by James Hall’s son, Walter J. Hall, in 1943 – that was 29 years after his father’s death – and given to the town. It was originally hung in Nantwich Free Library (the building that is now the home of Nantwich Museum) but when the county library service moved to its present building, next to the Civic Hall, the portrait went with them.

Trying to trace the portrait, Nantwich historian John Lake mentioned the painting to a member of the library staff – who recalled that it was under a flight of stairs in the building.

There it was rediscovered, with a broken frame and in a dirty condition.

Thanks to Mr Lake, it has now been restored with grants from Cheshire County Council and the North West Museums Service and returned to Nantwich Museum where it has been given a permanent home.


The portrait includes pictures of Lincoln Cathedral and Nantwich Parish Church.

The author of “Hall’s History of Nantwich” was born in Lincoln on February 20, 1846, but moved to Nantwich at the age of 20. In 1875 he became the first headmaster of Willaston School, which is two miles from Nantwich. He retired to Chester where he died on October 6, 1914.

A plaque (right) in the porch of St Mary’s Parish Church, commemorating the centenary of James Hall’s birth, was instigated by local historian, Percy Corry, when he was Church Librarian. He arranged the collection which found the money to erect the plaque.

Perdita romps home a winner

"Mr Walsh’s Perdita, with jockey up, on Nantwich Racecourse"
“Mr Walsh’s Perdita, with jockey up, on Nantwich Racecourse”

The Museum is celebrating a special acquisition after successfully bidding for an oil painting depicting a horse on Nantwich Racecourse, dating from 1781.

The painting – Mr Walsh’s Perdita, with jockey up, on Nantwich Racecourse – is by artist Benjamin Killingbeck who specialised in painting horses and dogs. It came up for auction at Christie’s in London and we had to act quickly to secure sufficient funding to enable us to bid.

Grants were successfully applied for from the Museums, Libraries and Archives / Victorian and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund which supplied £3,750 and The Art Fund, the UK’s leading art charity, which contributed £1,797. Nantwich Town Council provided £500.

With funding in place, the Museum was able to bid and was successful in purchasing the painting for well below estimate at £7,500.

Museum Curator Anne Wheeler said:  “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Nantwich and we had to pull out all the stops to try to bring this superb painting back home. It is the only known painting of Nantwich races and as such we felt it imperative that it should come back to the town and be displayed in the Museum where the people of Nantwich and visitors to the town can all enjoy it and learn about a little-known aspect of the town’s heritage.

“Acquiring the painting was like a race in itself –  we had all kinds of hurdles we had to clear before we could set our sights on winning. After sorting out the finances, etc, we had to keep our fingers crossed for things to go in our favour at the auction. During the bidding my heart was thumping and when the hammer went down confirming our bid, I felt as if I’d run and won a race myself (and I wasn’t even doing the bidding)!”

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund, said: “With its bold, yet pared down, style and muted tones, this painting captures the mood of a typical English day at the races, and is a wonderful scoop for Nantwich. The Art Fund is pleased to have helped bring the work to its rightful home, where it will shed light on the town’s hidden past and showcase the style and sporting subject matter of 18th century artist Benjamin Killingbeck.”

Janet Davies, from the V&A / MLA Purchase Grant Fund, said “We were delighted to help the Museum in its bid for this work, which is perfect for the collection: an attractive painting but also an informative record of Nantwich history.”

The Nantwich Races were held for a few days every June / July from 1729 to 1824 and were an important part of the town’s social calendar. The racecourse was on Beam Heath land in Alvaston and was particularly popular with county gentlemen who travelled to Nantwich and stayed overnight in the town.

The racecourse was ploughed up in 1824 and sadly no evidence of it remains. Many people have no idea that there was ever a racecourse in Nantwich.

To celebrate the acquisition of the painting, the Museum held a fundraising cheese and wine evening in 2009 when the new painting was officially unveiled by the then Town Mayor of Nantwich, Councillor Edith Williams.

Before unveiling the painting, the Mayor of Nantwich, Cllr Edith Williams, spoke about the work  of art. She said: “I think this is a great piece in the jigsaw of Nantwich. So many people have said ‘What racecourse? We didn’t have one.’ I did speak to a gentleman who did some metal detecting some time ago and I asked ‘Did you find anything on the area?

“ ‘No, no horseshoes. Nothing. I did find some clay pipes’, he said.

“So whether the people at the races clenched their teeth and broke the pipes when they were watching the races, I don’t know. Or maybe they threw them in the air when their horse won or stamped on them when they lost.

“But it must have been a great social occasion. It was here for 100 years in Nantwich. I presume there were a lot of house parties. All the town would have been full. All the businesses would do well. A bit like our own festivals, now. Nothing has really changed in the last 200-odd years. They’re still coming in to Nantwich to enjoy our hospitality.

“It’s a wonderful coup for the museum to get this painting. It’s a marvellous museum and deserves all our support. I am so pleased to be part of this evening. I am really looking forward to seeing the picture properly. I have only ever seen copies.”


Robert Stones, thanked Cllr Williams, and then spoke about the painting before outlining his view of what a day at Nantwich Racecourse might have been like.

He said: “For those of you unaware of the fact, the picture was actually offered for sale in 1979 and I have been walking into this museum for the last I don’t know how many years and looking at the facsimile of this picture hanging on the wall and thinking: ‘Why, why, why didn’t we buy it?’ It’s such a phenomenal piece of Nantwich history, and we didn’t get it.

“As an auctioneer, I can tell you that these things just vanish off into the ether and if it goes into a collection it might not come out into the light again for another 100 years. Or more. So I was excited when Patrick Chesters discovered it was coming up for sale. He told Anne (Wheeler, Curator) and Anne told me and all of a sudden we’re just ‘This picture’s coming up for sale again.’ Absolutely incredible.

“That’s just part of it because it’s all very well saying ‘It’s coming up for sale again.’ You have got to go and buy it; you’ve got to find the funding. This picture was estimated at eight to twelve thousand pounds. A lot of money. It was so special – really, really special. When we mentioned it to Keith Cafferty (a Nantwich Town Councillor), he raced around and rattled on the doors of Nantwich Town Councillors and said: ‘Come on. We have got to do something about this. We have got to get this painting.’ You really did do the business for us, Keith, and I thank you for that. It was really great.

“And we have got to thank Anne – the star. She was the one who rolled up her sleeves and found where to get the funding from. Not easy, I can tell you. We approached V&A. I am delighted to say that Janet Davies (V&A / MLA Purchase Grant Fund) is here. She shouldered a large proportion of the cost of buying this picture. We also went to the Art Fund and they equally came up with a large sum of money in order to make sure we could secure this picture. I am delighted to see Bob Gowland and his colleague, Hanny Woods, from the Art Fund, here.

“Anne and I went to Christies in London and asked to see the painting. I think it was one of the better pictures in the auction. It’s a great addition to the collection here. There were frantic phone calls to the various parties at the V&A and the Art Fund to tell them we had seen it, we liked it, we wanted it. They rushed round, with a very limited period of time, and said we could have the money to go ahead and buy it.

“We were able to bid up to £12,000.

“I got Stephen Sparrow, our picture specialist at Peter Wilson, to bid for us. He’s ‘Mr Ice Man’. He got on the phone and bought the picture for £6,000 on the hammer – which was £2,000 less than the bottom estimate – plus the buyer’s fee.

“This picture is very special to me. It was painted in 1781 by an artist who was a sporting artist of the era.  Was the jockey a local boy? Was he a relative of the owner? Indeed, who was the owner? Did Mr Walsh live in Nantwich? This painting was painted on the basis of seven minutes, or thereabouts, in 1781.”

Robert did suggest that the artist might not have seen Nantwich, given the background to the painting.

He went on: “The racecourse on Beam Heath was supposed to be circular. It wouldn’t have had white railings round it but marker posts or flags in the hedgerows. Apparently there was a wooden pavilion. We don’t know where it was. Apparently this racecourse was somewhere on the site of Alvaston Hall Hotel.

“Patrick Grange, who farmed that land, tells me there is no trace of the racecourse having been there,” he said.

Robert advised people to go to look at the painting closely and they would see that tied round the jockey’s knee was a yellow ribbon (right). “Why is it there?” he asked. “It could have been put there by a lover! Or it may have been the owner’s wife who put a ribbon round his knee as a good luck gesture. Who knows?

“The artist would have been paid quite a lot of money to do the painting, and we now have those seven minutes of history in the Museum. We are massively grateful to all those who helped us to achieve that,” said Robert.

The Town Mayor then went to the gallery where the painting was hanging – an area too small for the assembled company together to watch the ceremony – to unveil it. But she was accompanied by a small group of people, including the Mayor of Cheshire East (Cllr  Margaret Simon), representatives of the bodies who helped with funding the purchase, and officials of Nantwich Museum.

The guests were, of course, able to see the painting afterwards

The funders . . . the Mayor of Nantwich is pictured with, left to right, Cllr Keith Cafferty (Nantwich Town Council), Hanny Woods (The Art Fund), Bob Gowland (The Art Fund), and Janet Davies (V&A / MLA Purchase Grant Fund).
The funders . . . the Mayor of Nantwich is pictured with, left to right, Cllr Keith Cafferty (Nantwich Town Council), Hanny Woods (The Art Fund), Bob Gowland (The Art Fund), and Janet Davies (V&A / MLA Purchase Grant Fund).

Hurleston Brooch

A medieval

hurlseton brooch
The Hurlseton brooch

brooch discovered in 2009 during a metal detecting rally at Hurleston, near Nantwich, is on show at the Museum.

Known as the Hurleston Brooch, the solid gold artefact, which is about 30mm across, is highly decorative, ornate and a fine example of its type. It must have belonged to a wealthy individual and would have served to symbolise that person’s wealth and high status.

The brooch has been acquired by the Museum (see below) where it makes an attractive addition to existing displays. It helps to illustrate the role that jewellery has played through the ages with particular reference to this locality. Previously, no brooches in the Museum’s collection predated the 19th century. There is a plain buckle of similar date on permanent display in the Museum.

Having been declared Treasure Trove, the brooch was offered to Nantwich as the nearest accredited museum to the find site.

The Fire of Nantwich

Queens Aid
The Queen’s Aid House


On December 10, 1583, a Nantwich brewer living in the Waterlode, accidentally started a blaze which burned for 20 days, destroying 150 houses, inns and other buildings.

The fire made around 900 people – half the population – homeless, but fortunately, only two people perished.

Transporting of salt, a principal product of Nantwich, was stopped for a while and the use of the town as a military staging point was halted.

The support of the town by trade and industry was a matter which concerned Queen Elizabeth I and her Privy Council. As a result, she ordered a nationwide collection for funds to rebuild Nantwich, to which she contributed £1,000. This deed is marked in a plaque on a building in Nantwich Square, now called “Queen’s Aid House” (pictured).

A modern translation would read: “God grant our Royal Queen in England long to reign, for she has put her helping hand to build this town again”.

John Maisterson led four local men in administering the funds and poor relief, and overseeing the buying of trees in Buerton, near Crewe, and Wirral. It took about three years to rebuild the town in the established medieval street pattern.

Following the Queen’s generosity, May 1 in both 1584 and 1585 was known as “Queen’s Day”. After that the name fell into disuse.

This item is based on an article by the late Eric Garton, a 20th Century Nantwich historian, in a souvenir brochure for the 400th anniversary commemorations of the Great Fire and Rebuilding of Nantwich, which records the events that took place in 1983-4.Fire

A painting depicting the Great Fire of Nantwich by local artist Herbert Jones can also be viewed at the Museum.

Further emphasising the severity of the threat of fire in a town like Nantwich, the Museum also displays a 17th century fire engine and one of the old fire insurance marks, which today is recognised as the Museum’s logo.

Roman Artifacts Now on Display

Roman Head

A selection of Roman artifacts from the 2002 Kingsley Fields excavation conducted by Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit and funded by Bellway Homes Limited have gone on display at Nantwich Museum. The excavation is regarded as one of the most important to have been carried out in Nantwich and revealed a Roman industrial site engaged in salt making along with a variety of artifacts. The Roman settlement in the town was established in the 2nd century AD and existed for about 150 years.

Salt making tools, pottery for serving food and decoration, other tools such as an adze hammer used for working wood, a variety of household goods and even a 2000 year old loo seat can be seen. Craftsmen and farmers were active in the area and a reaping hook is displayed which would have been used to harvest locally grown cereals and vegetables.

The project was managed by the Cheshire West and Chester Museums Service. The new display is an important step in exploring Nantwich in Roman times and includes an interpretive panel and interactivity where visitors are invited to match modern objects with items from the Roman and other collections.

Further info:



Clock making in Nantwich

by Andrew Lamberton

ALTHOUGH Nantwich is noted for its salt, leather and clothing trades, it is not generally appreciated that the town was an important centre for clock making.

The museum has catalogued as many Nantwich-made clocks as possible. Photographs have been taken of each clock and a description has been included.  The catalogue consists of a number of easy-to-use folders, with clocks listed under makers in chronological order.

The longcase clocks start with Thomas Talbot who was producing high quality eight-day movements around 1700, progressing through the well-known Gabriel Smith soon after, to John Naylor with his famous astronomical clock. Gabriel Smith started clock making at Barthomley, near Nantwich.

Other makers of note include James Green, Thomas Birchall and John Stanyer – who appears to have been the most prolific of all, judging by the number of clocks located (22).

All these makers produced brass dial clocks with fine engraving. Around 1773, painted dials started to appear and eventually replace the brass dial and there are several examples of brass and painted dial clocks by the same maker.

Later makers of some note include Joseph Walker, William Massey, William Palin and James Topham (one of whose clocks is pictured).

It is very pleasing to record that the industry is still alive in and around Nantwich. About 1975, John Craven made five clocks including one regulator, and more recently Peter Matravers produced three, and Geoff Gray 14. At present there are three local makers and their clocks are recorded and catalogued in the modern section.

Altogether more than 140 clocks have been located and catalogued.

Nantwich clocks were covered in some detail in a catalogue for a previous exhibition at the museum, “Nantwich Clockmakers” by A.A.Treherne, published in 1985. More than 100 names were listed together with biographies where appropriate. Unfortunately, copies of the booklet are no longer on sale.

The Nantwich Clockmakers and their clocks

  HERE, in chronological order, are the number of clocks known to exist.

Thomas Talbot 6, Gabriel Smith 8, John Naylor 3, Samuel Young 5, Cartwright 1, James Green 13, John Green 1, Thomas Moyle 1, Thomas Birchall 11, Abraham Butler 1, John Kitchen 1, John Lloyd 1, John Stanyer  22, Kitchen and Lloyd 5, Joseph Walker 8, Enoch Hawksey 3, John Salmon 4, Joseph Symcock 2, Thomas Clowes 2, Thomas Cross 3, William Massey 8, George Walker 1, James Topham 6, William Palin 5, Joseph Tomkinson 3, John Palin 3, A.Palin, 1, J.Wilkinson 1.

   Modern makers: John Craven 5, P.Matravers 3, Ron Maddocks 2, Jack Boffey 2, Ron Porteous 2, Geoff Gray 5.

 The Millennium Clock

ALTHOUGH not one of the museum exhibits, the Millennium Clock will be of interest to clock enthusiasts. It stands in the Cocoa Yard next to the museum.

It was made to celebrate the Millennium in Nantwich by clockmaker Paul Beckett of Caernarfon, and is now on show in a glass case in front of a 19th century burner – all that remains of a coach manufactory.

Local schoolchildren took part in design workshops in the run-up to the production of the clock.

Its up-to-the-minute design includes three dials – one each for the hours, minutes and seconds. Artwork on the case helps in telling the time.

Other engraved symbols on the case mark various aspects of the town – a design to be found on Tudor buildings in Nantwich, the phoenix rising from the flames of the Fire of Nantwich (1583), the Civil War, a cocoa plant representing the Cocoa Yard, dairy farming, the general music of the area, salt deposits, cheese making, clothing and shoes.

Paul Beckett’s website said: “The Nantwich Millennium clock is a mechanical clock which is electronically rewound. It is housed in a plannar glass case. It is constructed from stainless steel, titanium, lead crystal and ceramic. It is a free-standing clock which is intended to invite the viewer to explore how time is created mechanically.”