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A lowland county in north‐western England, resembles a hammock slung between the south‐west Pennines (east) and Flint–Denbighshire uplands (west). The Romans had established a legionary fortress at Deva (Chester), as a base for advances into Wales, but place‐names reflect subsequent traces of early Celtic influence and Scandinavian invasions. Initially part of Mercia and ‘shired’ in the 10th cent., the county boundaries conformed to roughly their present extent by the 12th cent. Palatinate from 1237 when the earldom passed to the crown, Cheshire was not rich in castles despite its border position; large country houses, characteristically half‐timbered, were its greater glory.

Long known for its salt and cheese, Cheshire remained only moderately important agriculturally until specialization encouraged expansion of its dairying. Under the influence of the expanding cotton industry, Stockport and other towns in north‐east Cheshire grew rapidly; Birkenhead then developed around Cammell Laird's shipyard. As population quadrupled during the 19th cent., canals took coal and salt all over England; railway networks radiated from Crewe and Chester and a tunnel under the river Mersey linked Birkenhead with Liverpool (1886). The emergence of the chemical industries, concentrated on Northwich (salt), Runcorn, and Port Sunlight (soap), lessened the dependence on textiles. Much of northern Cheshire has become a dormitory area for nearby Lancashire urban centres.

Subjects: British History.

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