THE PROVINCIAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
cxiv.—THE WELSH MARCH - SHROPSHIRE. - (Conclusion). CHESHIRE.-GEOGRAPHY.
A MONG the leading landed gentry of Shropshire during the 1-1. early Plantagenet period, we may mention the families of Fitz-Alan, L'Estrange, De Vere, Pantulfe, Be Hesden, or Hedinge, De Hadlega, Be Wililegh, De Lea, Fitz-Piers, De Ambersleg, De Erdington, De Aldetheley or Aldithle, Kinton, Bovet, De Bromley, Be Haye, Be Acton, Corbet, Grendon, Acover, Bagod, and Be Hopton. In the days of "the Edwards" we may mention De Mortimer, Be Knovile, Sprengehuse, De Ramesley, De Tickley, De Schirle, De Harleigh, Be Beysin, De Dene, De Crofts, De Mere, De Cheyney, De Trum wine, De Swinerton, Be Bishburne, Be Hinckley, De Ruggeley, Be Pestle', De Aston, and De Careswel. The Fitz- Alans, Earls of Arundel, had great power in this county during the reign of Edward III., Richard, Earl of Arundel, being Sheriff for thirty-one years in succession. In the time of Richard II. and the two succeeding Henries, the families of De Cornevel, Drayton, Hord, Shery, De Stepeltun, Be Sanford or Sandford, Mowetho, Huggeford, De Weinsbury, Be Eyton, Worthie, Dares, Banaster, Newport, De Wittou, Brounshul, Boreley, Tiptot, Laken, Hankes- ten, and Bryn came to the front. Among the leading gentry of the reign of Henry VI., we find the additional names of Talbot, Malory, Archer, Charleton, Harnage, Cresset, Skryven, Poynour, Kynaston, Hadington, Wetenhull, Otley, Leighton, Plowden, Mardford, Cotes, Horton, Welascote, Husse, Wenlok, Mersheton, Codour, Gerii, and Bourden. The two succeeding reigns give us the names of Blount and Mitton. In the Tudor period we find coming to the front Newton, Young, Salter, Vernon, Nedeham, Manwayring, Leveson, Farmour, Onslow, Eaton, Greteward, Powel, Pigot, Lawley, Fox, Barker, and Owen. The Stuart period supplies the additional names of Briggs, Purslow, Norton, Gervis, Cotton, Harris, Whitmore, Edwards, Jones, Prince, Wal- cot, Ireland, Thinne, Pierrepoint, Nicholas, Waldo, &c. At the present time, the families of Hill (Lord Hill), Leveson-Gower (Duke of Sutherland), Orsmby-Gore, Clive, or Herbert (Earl of Powis), and Bridgeman (Earl of Bradford) have the predominat- ing influence.
Among its eminent natives Shropshire points to Robert Burnel, son of Robert, a brother of Hugh Lord Bumel, of Acton-Burnel Castle, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and Treasurer and Chancellor of England in the reign of Edward I.; Sir Thomas Bromley (born at Bromley), Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth ; Sir Clement Edmondes (born at Thrawardine), noted for learning and military science in the reign of Elizabeth, and Secretary of State to James I.; Edmund Plowden, the celebrated lawyer-author (born at PlOwden), in the reign of Elizabeth ; Edward Lyttleton, Baron of Mounslow (where he was born), Lord Keeper to Charles I.; John Talbot, the great Earl of Shrewsbury (born at Black Mere) ; Richard Baxter, the celebrated Puritan divine (born at Row- ton, near High-Errol); and Dr. Thomas Beddoes, a noted physi- cian and chemist. The once celebrated Admiral John Benbow (once well known on signposts), nephew of Colonel John Benbow, who suffered death after the taking of Shrewsbury, for his previous desertion of the Parliament's forces, was a native of Shrewsbury ; Thomas Churchyard, the poet of the reign of Elizabeth, was also born in the same place, as were the Rev. Job Orton, a celebrated Dissenting minister of the early part of the eighteenth century, and the Rev. Hugh Farmer (in the middle and latter part of the same century), the once well known author of essays on "The Temptation," "Miracles," and " Demoniacs." Cleobury-Mortimer is said to have been the birthplace of Robert Langland (John Malveme), the author of the satirical poem of "Piers Plowman," in the fourteenth century. The Leasowes, Hales Owen, was the birthplace of William Shenstone, who enjoyed so great a repute as a poet in the eighteenth century. William Wycherley, the dramatist of the latter half of the seventeenth century, was born near Wem. We may conclude this account of the natives of Shropshire by men- tioning that Thomas Parr, "Old Parr," who is said to have lived from the reign of Edward IV. to that of Charles I. (dying in 1635), was a native of Winnington, a small village of Shropshire on the Welsh borders. This centenarian, whose real age is somewhat doubtful, does not, however, appear to have added to the credit of his native county in anything but longevity,—to have been, in fact, a rather disreputable old man.
We conclude our account of what we have designated the Welsh March with the County Palatine of Chester, which, although it did not belong to what were specially called "the Marches," was quite as much a Border or March county, under a March jurisdic- tion of its own, and with relations to Wales scarcely differing from those of the counties which were under the authority of the Lords Marchers, and afterwards of the President and Court of the Marches.
The area of Cheshire is 707,078 statute acres. Its greatest length, from north-east to south-west, in a straight line, is about fifty-eight miles, and the greatest width, from north to south, about thirty-two miles ; the circuit being nearly two hundred miles. The shape of the county is very irregular, and has been compared by some writers to the wing of an eagle stretched forth at length. Its chief mass consists of an oblong extending in a gentle incline from north-east to south-west, the southern bound- ary being the more irregular, and projecting into Flintshire and Shropshire in its western portion, beyond the latitude of the eastern extremity. But to this oblong block of territory are added two blunted horns or projecting ears at the north- west and north-east extremities. That on the north-west is a very regular oblong peninsula, included between the estuaries of the Mersey and the Dee ; that on the north-east, a long, narrow, and more irregular tract, "containing part of Featherbed Moss and Holme Moss, which belong to the central highlands of England," is included between the rivers Thame and Etherom, "which by their junction form the Mersey." The northern boundary of the county is chiefly formed by Lancashire, and partly by Yorkshire and the Irish Sea, the Mersey separating it from Lancashire. On the east of the county are Derbyshire and Staffordshire; on the south, Shropshire and Flintshire ; on the west, Flintshire and Denbighshire and the Irish Sea. "On the north-western extremity, a line of sea coast extends for about eight miles from east north-east to west south-west, besides about twenty miles on the estuary of the Mersey, and about fourteen on the great estuary of the Dee." This latter estuary forms a natural boundary to Wales at its northern extremity ; while the estuary of the Mersey, on the other side of the great horn or tongue of land, marks equally distinctly the boundary between the midland and northern counties of England.
The whole county of Chester received the name of Vale Royal of England,---the name of an abbey, founded by Edward I., on the Weaver, which river in its course from south to north-west bisects the county. Cheshire in its surface is in general a nearly uniform level, with a few inequalities. "Several elevated tracts stretch in a generally northern direction ; one is between the Goyt and the Bollin"—both contributary streams of the Mersey, "and a second between the Bollin and the Weaver," which latter river falls into the estuary of the Mersey. "A tract of high land also extends from north to south across Delamere Forest," on the west of the valley of the Weaver, "terminating to the north, near Frodsham, in a high promontory which overlooks the Mersey, and to the south in the rock (366 feet above the sea) on which stands Beeston Castle," a well-known object on the railway between Crewe and Chester. The isolated hill called Alderley Edge rises abruptly out of a level country a few miles north-west from Macclesfield, in the eastern extremity of the county. Cheshire, from its general flatness, "is not remarkable for picturesque beauty. In former times there were numerous forests. One is mentioned in the Doomsday Survey of Alticross, as being ten miles in length and three miles in breadth. At present there are only a few large woods," some, however, "containing many noble old oaks ;" and owing to thelarge number of hedge-row trees the county has "a very woody appearance." Around Delamere Forest are several large plantations, chiefly of Scotch firs and larches. The Delamere Forest of modern times is a "large sterile tract of whitish sand, partially covered with heath and peat moss. It occupied 10,000 acres, of which a considerable portion has been enclosed and brought into cultivation." Geologically Cheshire belongs generally to the red-sandstone formation. "It has mines of coal, copper, lead, and cobalt; but its most valuable mineral con- sists in an inexhaustible supply of rock-salt, vast quantities of which are annually dug up," and partly exported. "A great quantity of salt is also procured from the brine-springs contiguous to Northwich, Middlewich, &c. The soil consists for the most part of a red, rich sandy or clayey loam, much improved by marling, and generally very fertile. The climate is mild and humid, and the county being low and well sheltered, and divided by hedges and hedge-row trees, is remarkable for its verdure and the luxuriance of its pastures." Hence it is one of the most extensive grazing districts of England, and has long been cele- brated for its dairy produce,—cheese being one of its chief exports. Arable husbandry is comparatively at a discount ; but potatoes are grown in large quantities. According to modern gazetteers, "Estates are for the most part large ; this is one of the counties in which the least change has taken place for a lengthened period in the ownership of land. The farms are mostly small, A great number under 10 acres, but excluding these, the average is probably about 70 acres." Altogether there is a large supply from the county of valuable timber. We need scarcely mention the extensive manufactures of cotton and silk, which have given to this county a character singularly in contrast with the rural, we might almost say, feudal characteristics of the districts removed from the immediate influence of the manu- facturing towns. The old and new social world here exist side by side, without blending to any sensible extent, each being strong enough to hold its own, but powerless against its neighbour. It is bordered, as we have seen, by the Mersey, which receives and absorbs most of its watersheds and streams. The whole course of this river from Stockport to the outlet of the estuary is about 55 miles. A large marsh, at its confluence with the Weaver, is liable to occasional inundations. The Weaver rises in the north of Shropshire, near the village of Stych, and flows through the heart of the county by Nantwich to Northwich, where it is joined on its right bank by the Dane, and thence winds onwards till it empties itself into the Mersey, a little to the north of Frodsham, its whole course being about 40 miles. The Dee, which rises in Merioneth- shire, becomes the boundary of Cheshire nearly from Worthem- bury to Adford ; it then intersects the northern part of the hundred of Broxton to Chester, which it half encircles, and thence it flows in a straight artificial cut into the estuary of the Dee. The river is navigable for barges from Bangor bridge ; and at Chester bridge it is 100 yards wide, and vessels of considerable tonnage can pass so far. Its whole course is about 55 miles. Cheshire also abounds in broad sheets of water called Meres, which contain fish, and it has excellent canal and railway communication. The population of the county in 1841 was 395,660; in 1851, 455,725; and in 1861, 470,174.