1066 Info 6 for Norman Origins
A visit to High Legh in Cheshire

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Records of a visit to the ancestral lands, 12 December 2005

The settlement of High Legh appears to be an anonymous group of houses off the A50. It is announced by the usual road side sign but has only the extensive High Leigh Garden Centre to register its presence. Modern buildings, masked by trees, hint at the position of the settlement, but there are no obvious signs pointing to ‘The village’ Across the road, from the garden centre, is a gate house and the sweeping stone entrance to a modern house. There is a village hall, nursery and a church but no shop, and it appears no pub.

The sandstone boundary wall skirts the road to the west. It leads to a second gate house, a ornamental gates and drive to The Chaplain’s House. A ‘modern’ black and white mock Tudor house is set in delightful ground.

Beyond this is the mixed design bungalows and houses of a modern burglar alarmed, two garaged post 1970 estate. Trees, long established before the development, not only shade gardens but mark the passage of an old drive way. Two well established Douglas Firs tower above.
OS map of High Legh - 37Kb gif
Above: Ordnance Survey map of High Legh

It appears, from local knowledge, that this development was built on the site of the old West Hall, home of the Leigh family, and East Hall, home of the Legh family estates: the same Halls that appear in the various books of pedigrees associated with the branches of the original Legh/Leigh families. The Elizabethan Hall, it is said, was destroyed by fire and demolished in 1781. Henry Cornwall-Legh had an attractive Georgian Cheshire brick hall, designed by John Hope of Liverpool, built to replace it. In 1791 George Legh had many of the village buildings removed in order to extend High Legh Park during the landscaping by Humphry Repton.

Right: The Georgian East Hall circa 1960
East Hall circa 1960 - 20Kb jpg

There were several marriages which bonded the great Cheshire estates. A relatively minor branch of the powerful Egerton family, which owned vast tracts of land in Cheshire, Lancashire and Staffordshire, lived at Tatton Park and owned a quarter of High Legh parish. Their family married into the Leighs of West Hall and from the late 17th century family became known as the Egerton- Leighs. The Leghs of East Hall also extended their family name in the 1700s with the marriage of George Legh to Anna-Maria Cornwall of Burford, Shropshire.

The turn of the last century brought devastating changes to the parish: first with the Egerton- Legh family selling off all their properties and lands to the Cornwall-Leghs, and then in 1932 Maurice, Lord Egerton sold the remaining land. The great sale of 1919 by Colonel Hubert Cornwall- Legh saw 48 properties sold off in the south and south-westerly portion of the parish.

1066info5, sheet 2
During the Second World War the Ministry of Defence compulsory purchased both buildings as an army training camp for units which included the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and 79 and 56 HAA Regiments and the parish became part of an extensive military camp and an aerodrome for fighter squadrons. The estate gardens and park were full of Nissan huts and assault courses, NAFFI and canteens. But the Army didn’t look after its properties and they both showed signs of wear and tear. Mr Charles Cornwall-Legh, later Lord Codnor moved across the A50 to what is now High Legh House. The Woodlands Crescent estate was built to house married officers, and later prisoner personnel from nearby Risley.

Right: Woodland Crescent 2005
Woodland Crescent 2005 - 42Kb jpg

Estate cottages - 28Kb jpg Both the Tudor West Hall and the Georgian East Hall were demolished in the 1960s after a recent history of neglect. There now only remains a set of marble stairs hidden in the undergrowth of the village playground, which is also shaded by extensive tree growth. There also remains, between two modern houses, a section of high red-bricked ‘kitchen wall’, now covered with a Wisteria whose truck suggests an age of 300 years. Beyond this, and in a later development of detached houses, are some of the low, red-bricked estate cottages.

Left: Estate cottages in 2005

At the centre of the first stage modern development stands a small single storey externally well maintained, but deconsecrated St. Mary’s Catholic Chapel, dating from 1581, where the Legh family worshipped. This is thought to be the oldest building in the village, but a building has stood on the spot since Domesday. The clear storey has two dormer windows; a carved monolith stands in the churches grounds, which are surrounded by a black painted iron rail. A path connected St Mary’s to the Chaplain’s House, a John Nash building, which served as the home for the Legh’s chaplain and later as Misses Legh’s school for young ladies. Freemen of the village worshiped at St. John’s, the Anglican Church which, with vicar and lay-reader, now serves the village. St Mary's Church in 2005 - 37kb jpg
Above: St Mary's Church in 2005
1066info5, sheet 3
Right: High Legh school, which is now the Village Hall and Nursery School.

 

High Legh school - 25Kbjpg
Right: St. Mary's Catholic Church
Below: St John's Anglican  Church Undated - from the 2000 pamphlet.
Bottom right: The name plaque for the Chaplain's House
High Legh montage - 130kB gif
Right: High Legh House - the home of Lord Codnor of the Cornwall- Legh family

Below: Commemorative road signs
High Legh House - 29Kb jpg
Road sign - 27Kb jpg

High Legh’s long acquaintance with the past, and with Gilbert, its once Norman lord, is recognised and commemorated by Venables Road and Kinderton Drive.

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The history of the settlement, its connection with the Domesday Book and the reason for the Gilbert of Venables acquisition of the estate is probably linked to the discovery of Bronze Age burials, in the Saxon deer park, during the 1995 construction of the golf course. Aerial photographs, discovered in the 1950s, revealed an unrecorded site of Hales Field, where excavations have discovered Roman links. An undated cobbled yard and long house have been discovered.

Right: Detailed map of High Legh Detailed map of High Legh - 33Kb gif

Additional source: A Souvenir of High Legh 2000 Cheshire Archives Ref: pamphlet 212955


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This page was created by Richard Crompton
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Updated 07 May 2013