How Northwich town centre was built with the beauty of a medieval style in mind

UNTIL concrete and boring town planning arrived in the latter end of the last century, Witton Street was one of the most picturesque in Cheshire.This was not simply due to antiquity but realistic planning, for instance, looking back in time for inspiration.

The subsidence caused by salt extraction had done much damage and caused the loss of many ancient buildings. There was a ‘picturesque movement’, and they saw to it that rather than replacing the damaged buildings with a functional box-like construction as later chosen by designers in the mid-1900s they would take advantage of the beauty of Gothic Renaissance and Jacobean styles.

A fantasy impression of what a medieval market town would look like and attempted to put the fantasy into building design.Consideration had to be given to the possible continuation of further subsidence, a problem that the earlier designers did not have to consider.

So to build beautiful buildings using more modern equipment, they incorporated iron girders at foundation level so should subsidence re-occur they could jack up the building to correct it. Good examples of this are in The Bullring where the old Angel Hotel was replaced by the black and white buildings that are there now.

Care was given to building like for like buildings on occasions. For instance, the left side of The Bullring has a path between the buildings going down to the river. This path has been there since Elizabethan times.

Later subsidence in the High Street were not treated so carefully, and now eyesores are there. The old Red Lion however on the corner of High Street and Crown Street was partly re-built using the black and white theme.

The two large buildings that highlight this excellent form of replacement building are the old post office, now Wetherspoons that was built in 1915 and opened after the First World War.

Then there is the library that was opened in 1909 replacing one around just 20 years old that had been opened with great fanfare but soon rendered unfit through subsidence.

So the bottom line is that had the architects of the middle to late 1900s paid as much attention to building attractive buildings and not just those adhering to Modernism, all of Witton Street would still be an excellent example of a very attractive street. The black and whites that are there, it must be said, are still very attractive. Pity about the others illustrated here.

Special Thanks to Northwich Guardian for their Article-

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