Normans At Middlewich And Venables

Middlewich Town Council’s active involvement in the local heritage began with the discovery of our Roman Fort at Harbutt’s Field in 1993. Out of this single event emerged the Middlewich Heritage Project, which has done so much to put the town ‘on the map’. Work on the Romans continues but, from the outset, we always assumed that we would include key aspects of our Post-Roman heritage. This has taken us to the Norman Period: the subject of this book. The original plan was for Patrick Lequette and Tim Strickland jointly to produce a lavishly illustrated book -in French and English- about Middlewich and Venables: along similar lines to our book on the Romans, which we published in 2001. In the event, however, we were not able to secure the necessary grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund on this occasion, and have had to ‘lower our sights’ to a shorter, less lavish, and simpler book, and one that could only be in an English edition. Nonetheless, despite a simplification in the design and layout you not will notice any reduction in the quality of content. The book can be viewed by clicking on the links below or bought from Middlewich Library. It can also be ordered from us via the bookshop in this website



Pages 1 to 8

Cover, Frontespiece, Forward, Preface and Contents

Including letters from the Mayors of Middlewich and Venables.

 
Pages 9 to 18

Introduction

Middlewich is a small town in Mid-Cheshire, in the North West of England, some 20 miles east of Chester, and approximately mid-way between the great cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Like many such places, it has a Big History that is well over two thousand years long. And, as this Introduction relates, it is a place that has experienced and participated in events and developments of international significance. This is the story of how and why this small town, blessed with an actively interested community and Council, has taken a series of important initiatives with key chapters of its heritage.

 
Pages 19 to 25

The Historical Basis of a Friendship

In this Chapter the traditions about the life and times of Gilbert de Venables are outlined. They explain how and why the escapades of this particular Norman created a link between Venables, his home in Normandy, and his principal landholdings in Cheshire, which he held after the Norman Conquest of England. The following story is based on local tradition and folklore at the village of Venables, beside the River Seine, in Upper Normandy. It is supported by remains of the period which survive in the area, by traces of the Normans at Middlewich, and by information recorded in Domesday Book in 1086.

 
Pages 26 to 34

Venables In Upper Normandy

Now that the historical basis of the Friendship between Middlewich and Venables is understood, it is necessary to return to Normandy. In this Chapter, Patrick Lequette, President of the Venables Cultural and Sports Association [A.C.S.V.], Assistant Mayor of Venables, leading light in the establishment of the Gilbert de Venables Cultural Centre and keen village historian, introduces Venables and its surrounding hamlets. He outlines the long and interesting history of the area, prior to and during the days of Gilbert de Venables. He concludes with descriptions of the adjacent hamlets and the key features of 11th and 12th century Venables. Patrick has been deeply involved in stimulating a series of initiatives, principally implemented by volunteers within the Cultural and Sports Association of Venables (A.C.S.V.), as a result of which, together with the interest shown by the Municipal Council for these projects, the village of Venables is now known throughout the world.

 
Pages 35 to 41

Venables In Upper Normandy Continued

 
Pages 42 to 48

Middlewich Before The Normans

We return now to Cheshire where, as at Venables, a good understanding of what the Normans actually encountered at Middlewich in the late 11th century depends on an appreciation of what had gone before. It is not necessary, however, for earlier events to be described in great detail. This chapter starts therefore with a general review of what had happened in Cheshire after the end of the Roman Period, outlines events associated with the ‘Coming of the English’, goes on to describe how the town of Middlewich began to emerge, shows how Pre-Norman society worked, and concludes with a description of English landowners based on interpretation of the Domesday Survey. This chapter is designed to set the scene for the arrival of Gilbert de Venables in Cheshire in the winter of 1069-70.

 
Pages 49 to 56

Middlewich Before The Normans continued

 
Pages 57 to 65

The Normans Come To Middlewich

This chapter charts the arrival of the Normans in Cheshire in the winter of 1069-70 and what happened in the first few years that followed. We are concerned here with the Middlewich area, with the first Norman warriors who were given tenure of lands in the area, and in particular with the arrival of Gilbert de Venables and his associates.

 

 
Pages 66 to 69

The Normans Come To Middlewich continued

 
Pages 70 to 72

Impact Of The Normans At Middlewich

In this Chapter, contributed by Dr Thacker, a leading Domesday historian and Editor of the Victoria County History of England, the impart of the Norman Conquest on the Middlewich area is assessed. It is clear that Late Anglo-Saxon Middlewich had been a place of some importance, which may already have formed a kind of proto-urban government: with a wichmote [town court] dealing with all business relating to the salt industry. As at Chester, there may well have been royal and comital reeves, whose duty it had been to take care of the interests of both king and earl. How, then, did the Norman Conquest affect Middlewich?
 
Pages 73 to 80

Middlewich In Later Norman Times

This Chapter concerns the physical remains of Norman Middlewich: the layout of the town-centre, the Parish Church of Saint Michael, and the Manor of Kinderton. Although it is clear that all these features may well have had earlier origins, there are reasons for associating what we see today with the later Norman period – the 12th and early 13th centuries. This, of course, is a period well AFTER the Norman Conquest, and AFTER the life and times of Gilbert de Venables and his associates. The Chapter begins with a summary, by Dr Alan Thacker, of general developments at Middlewich in this period.

 
Pages 81 to 87

The Venables Family At Middlewich

In this Chapter the evidence for the decision of the Venables Family to make Kinderton Manor their principal residence in the mid 13th century is reviewed by Alan Thacker and Mike Walton. There then follows an illustrated description and discussion about the famed Venables Screens, preserved at Saint Michael’s Church. The Chapter concludes with a note on the development of the English Language, in an attempt to illustrate how the pre-Conquest English spoke, how the 11th century Normans spoke, and how the two languages fused into a single whole over the following centuries.

 
Pages 88 to 93

The Achievements Of The Project

In this Chapter the considerable achievements of the communities at Middlewich and Venables concerning the Normans are illustrated. The reader will already appreciate, by now, what the main elements and rationales have been and are; and the objective is then to review the achievements in outline, to illustrate and commemorate them in a visual way.

 
Pages 94 to 100

The Achievements Of The Project continued

 


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