The History of Sadlers Wells Wood

The Wood predates the Domesday Book which refers to “a wood one league (three miles) long and one acre (220 yards) broad”. This description fits well with a long thin wood on the banks of a watercourse of which a few sections are still visible in parts of the village. This early history of the Wood was dealt with in detail in an article in the Newsletter of April 2010. The present Sadlers Wells Wood is the westerly end of this, and the watercourse which runs through the wood is one of the two streams that make up the infant River Gowy.

Opposite is an extract from Burdett’s map of 1777 showing Bunbury Heath. The present main A49 did not exist then and its approximate position is shown by the red line.

Ancient map

We purchased the wood from the Peckforton Estate in 2006 as is reported in detail in the Newsletter of September 2006. Inspection of the old tithe maps held by Chester Archives which were produced between 1835 and 1851 show that the owner at that time was John Downes and that the wood was part of Brownhills Farm. According to the tithe records, John Downes and the Downes family (including the Estate of his late father also John Downes) owned several other farms in Woodworth Green and Haughton. A look at the Census records between 1841 and 1881 showed that John Downes the younger was originally an attorney but was later described as the owner of land and houses, living in Welsh Row, Nantwich at Number 50. The censuses refer to several servants/housekeepers but do not mention any wife, so he may never have married. There is a record of a baptism of a John Downes at Nantwich in 1807 and a death in 1890.

The Peckforton Estate presumably acquired Brownhills farm and the wood from him or from his estate on his death.

The Tithe Maps and ownership records provide a fascinating insight into what the area looked like in the early part of the 19th Century; there were, for instance, then very few properties built along the main road. A look at Haughton shows that Haughton Moss was a large open area between where is now The Old Mission Room and Moss Farm. If you are interested, the maps and records can be viewed online at www/cheshireeast.gov.uk/tithemaps.  The website also allows comparison between the tithe map and the current ordnance survey map and the ordnance survey maps of 1875 and 1910.

The events which led to the formation of Sadlers Wells Community Woodland and the eventual purchase of the Wood are dealt with in two articles by our former Chairman, the late Ernest Croley, in the Newsletters of September 2009 and October 2010.

The original trustees were Ernest Croley, Eric Lord, Bob Price, Tony Gentil and Alison Phillips representing Bunbury Aldersey Primary School. The original Clerk was Mary Evans who lived at Homewood on the Whitchurch Road; she retired in 2004 and Mike Bourne took over, later becoming one of the Trustees. The office of Clerk has subsequently been combined with that of a trustee, and Dave Clapperton holds the office at present.

Mike Bourne