The bicentenary of Cheadle Green
2010 marked the bicentenary of Cheadle Green, the only official village green in Stockport.
Below is a history of the Green, along with a selection of revealing historical photographs
Overview of village greens
Village greens have been part and parcel of village life for centuries and are jealously guarded by the many places which have them -or the remains of them. Part of their attraction is that each is unique. There is no regulation shape or size. Some are still being created, many more have medieval origins, while a few can be traced to Norman or Anglo-Saxon times. They usually fall into one of several categories. In the Border counties, such as Durham or Cumbria, a large square or rectangular green is often tightly enclosed by buildings, whose original purpose was to protect both people and animals from raiders. In the West of England, and on the Welsh borders, a round, often raised green can be found, which may or may not be of Celtic origin.
The history of Cheadle Green
The most common shape of green is what exists in Cheadle -triangular, at a junction of roads -a place where travellers and traders could meet.
Before village halls came into existence, the green was the hub of social life. It was a place for relaxation. It may have been owned by the Lord of the Manor, but it was probably the only thing that poor cottagers had any rights to. They could graze and water their few animals there (a cottager often had one cow and a few geese) or drive them into the pound at night, secured from wild animals and thieves, but best of all, they could partake in the social events that took place on the green. It was rather like an outdoor theatre. All sorts of events took place there, such as markets and May-Fairs. They also attracted travelling showmen, bear-baiting, cockfighting and prize fighting.
All this activity meant that a small green like Cheadle's, often became more of a mud-bath than a green. It was possible that Cheadle Green was once more extensive that its present boundary suggests, but as greens were usually classed as part of the Manorial wasteland, there are no early records available. In Cheadle, there would have been some reduction in size when the Ockleston Memorial was moved and Manchester Road widened.
1810 Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament passed in 1810 allowed the Manorial Lords of Cheadle to enclose any remaining commons or wasteland in the district. Most importantly, to the inhabitants of Cheadle, the document also included the following paragraph.
"And be in further enacted, that the Plot of Land, Parcel of the said Commons and Waste Lands, situate in the front of the Dwelling House of Robert Harrison Esq, in the village of Cheadle aforesaid and adjoining the Turnpike Road leading through Cheadle, and the King's Highway, leading through Cheadle to Stockport, shall at all Times, for ever hereafter remain and unenclosed for the Public Accommodation and Convenience of the inhabitants of the said Village of Cheadle."
The House of Robert Harrison was Cheadle Hall, which was demolished in 1958. A line of stones now denotes the back of the green where once the high walls of the Hall stood. From this time, the inhabitants became even more fiercely protective of their green, and many disputes arose during the following years. On such occasions, the Act of 1810 was very often quoted and misquoted.
By the 1840s, the constant visits of caravans and menageries, and the consequent mess they made of the land, became too much for Mr William Evans, who lived in the house on the green, now known as Newlands. With subscriptions from local people, he erected stumps around the green to limit access, and things preceded calmly for some years.
In 1875, trouble blew up again after the visit of a menagerie with its attendant mess, when a local builder was seen to be putting more stumps up -this time they were alongside the path which ran across the green. The order for them appeared to have come from the Superintendent of the Convalescent Hospital, at that time, housed in Cheadle Hall.
The Battle of Cheadle Green
Incensed by the move, local people, led by a certain Peter Higgins, who was landlord of the Queens Arms, voiced strong objections. A meeting was proclaimed by the bell man and, according to the Stockport Advertiser, a crowd of several hundred people turned up. A cart was dragged to the green to be used as a platform, and the "Battle of Cheadle Green", as it became known, commenced in earnest. It was to continue, on and off, for the next 20 years. The object of the "battle" was to establish who had control over the green. On this occasion, after much heated argument, the villagers seemed to have won, and late in the evening, Peter Higgins was carried shoulder high from the George and Dragon to the White Hart and back to the green -followed by a cheering crowd. The stumps disappeared overnight -as they were to do so on many further occasions.
The "battle" was rekindled when Sir James Watts died and "young" James Watts became Lord of the Manor, a title his father had only recently obtained. As Lord of the Manor, he attempted to exert control over the green. His motives were perhaps well intentioned, in that he wished to ret-turf the land and turn it into an asset to the village, rather than an eyesore. His intentions were not wholly appreciated though and the battle transferred to the pages of the local papers where letters from his opponents regularly entertained readers. Basically, James Watts claimed ownership of the land, but conceded that the villagers had a right to use it. Footpaths and access to the Institute were also bones of contention.
Matters continued in this way until the turn of the century, when the Highways Board decided to ban all games such as cricket, tippet and piggy, from being played on the green -as they were becoming a danger to vehicular traffic. A recreation ground eventually provided a solution to the problem, and Cheadle Green gradually settled down into a pleasant little oasis with seats and flower beds.
In 1932, James Watts conveyed the ownership of the green to Cheadle and Gatley Urban District Council, later to be conveyed to Stockport M.B.C.
At the times of the Commons Registration Act of 1965, more than 1380 village greens were registered -one of which was Cheadle. This Society, with Michael Rains at the helm, participated in the registration, and we continue to guard our inheritance today.