Why Nantwich attracts visitors from across the world
- Credit: Archant
Rebekka O’Grady speaks to people celebrating a wealth of things to see and do in Nantwich.
Did you know a Chinese television station once came to Nantwich to film at the town’s museum? The crew were interested in looking at the salt industry and recorded footage for a programme – footage which has never been seen since.
‘I have no idea what it’s like. We did ask to see it when it came out but never heard from them again,’ laughed Graham Dodd, a volunteer at the Nantwich Museum on Pillory Street. ‘This year the town was featured on Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys on BBC Two. They too were also interested in salt industry, in particular the Brine Baths Hotel, and went for a swim in the outdoor brine pool. They interviewed Bill Pearson, our web master on the square.’
The museum is a fountain of knowledge not only on Nantwich’s historic salt industry, but the town through the ages, covering everything from the town’s Roman roots to the recently re-opened cheese room – which details the history of Cheshire cheesemaking.
‘There’s a real mix of people who come in here,’ said museum manager, Kate Dobson. ‘A lot of local residents don’t even know that the museum exists. On days like Holly Holy Day there’s a lot of interest from people wanting to know more about where they live, and a lot of tourists pass through.’
Opened in 1980, the museum was joined by the Millennium Gallery in 2000, which showcases a range of temporary exhibitions. It has been so popular that the gallery slots are booked up until 2020, and there is a waiting list thereafter.
‘It’s certainly in demand, which at first was slightly alarming! We traditionally work so that each exhibition has a ten-week run. Some which are due to go on display soon have had a lead time of four years,’ said Graham. The gallery prefers to showcase local artists, or those that are historically related to Nantwich. ‘There’s no other gallery space in town so I think people really enjoy it.’
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One of the next exhibitions the team are working on is about Welsh Row. Referred to by history and architecture scholar Nikolaus Pevsner in 1971 as the best street in Nantwich, Welsh Row has a varied and complex history which will be discussed in the display launching in July.
‘There should be a real local interest as it’s such a wide subject,’ said Graham, who is part of a research group that meets monthly for a debate. They develop existing research and background material, often discovering new facts or those that contradict what they once understood.
‘A question we have is why is it called Welsh Row? Originally in the 15th century it was called Frog Row as it was a marshy area due to a stream called Frog Channel passing nearby. Later, Welsh people would bring items into the town in return for salt, and some moved onto the road – thus it becoming Welsh Row. There was animosity for some time between the townsfolk and the Welsh interlopers, with some stories claiming that youths would bicker between one another until one would be vanquished from Nantwich.’
The Welsh were obviously later accepted into the town and received the same legal rights, but it’s an interesting and lesser known part of Nantwich’s history that’s sure to appeal to those who live on the streets today.
Modern streets and history will also be combined at this year’s Weaver Wander event, which sees classic and sports cars parade through Nantwich town centre for charity. Organised by the Rotary Club of Crewe and Nantwich Weaver, the event is now in its ninth year and will take place May 26th.
‘It all started when the late Fred Bawers and I were talking at a Rotary meeting about how we could raise funds,’ said organiser Ian Thompson. A classic car enthusiast himself with an MG, he suggested doing a run for charity.
‘The first year there were 50 cars and since then it has just grown and developed its own reputation. This year we are expecting 200 cars to take part.’
The Weaver Wander starts with a register at Reaseheath College before departing on three separate routes into the Peak District, comprising two routes of around 60 miles each and a shorter route of approximately 40 miles. The cars will then finish at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield.
‘The shorter route is designed for the older cars – we have one built in 1915 that takes part. The cars parade through Nantwich town centre where spectators can expect to see everything from Ferraris to MGs, Triumphs to Jaguars. Some are very valuable, costing up to £300,000.’
Charities that will benefit from the run this year are Lifebox Foundation, RFU Injured Players Foundation, the Crewe Mayoral charities (including CLIMB and homelessness), and the Nantwich Mayoral charities (including Nantwich Museum and Macmillan Cancer Support).
‘It’s a fairly well-oiled machine now and I do enjoy organising it. It’s just about publicising it and ensuring that it’s a popular event for people to enjoy year after year.’