Names and Places by Pat Seddon


Names never cease to fascinate me, be they surnames or place names.  Often a source of historical evidence, surnames can be descriptive of a person, such as Redhead or Cruickshanks, an occupation like Baker or Smith, or a dwelling place.  Equally, a place name may describe land, the person who lived on it, or an event-e.g. Gallows Hill, Battle Abbey.

A large proportion of Cheadle place names were derived from early occupiers of the land.  Schools Hill, for instance, has nothing to do with the number of schools once in the locality but in fact takes its name from the fourteenth century family of del Scholes.  Similarly, Downs Bridge was named after a member of the Downs family, long resident in Cheadle.  In modern times we are still capable of giving and accepting nick names for familiar places – instanced by Boundary Bridge on Stockport Road, now more often referred to as Roscoe's roundabout after the DIY store which stood close by for many years.

Cheadle's manorial stewards kept their records in order by listing tenants and rentals against individually named properties.  In 1695 Joseph Lees paid five shillings annual rent for Daniell's Croft, Isabell Sydebothome paid five shillings for Priests, John Gibbon paid one shilling for his cottage and Robert Ackson paid a mere four pence for his.  From these examples we can deduce that Joseph Lees and Isabell Sydebothome lived in houses named after previous tenants, whereas John Gibbon would have lived in Gibbon's cottage and Robert Ackson in Ackson's.

Unfortunately there is a very little evidence to show where these ancient cottages once stood in Cheadle.  The 'Manor House' opposite the Institute at Cheadle Green is the only one to have survived into the twenty first century, albeit considerably restored and altered over the years.  The thatched roof has been replaced by tiles, and windows have been altered, but the wattle and daub structure and general shape of the building give some indication of the character of Cheadle Village two or three centuries ago.

From the list of tenanted properties in 1695, at least two can be accurately located.  In 1756 Axon's cottage was licenced as an alehouse 'known by the sign of the White Hart'.  About twenty years later it was replaced by the building so familiar to us all today.  Early in the nineteenth century John Barlow, Cheadle's self appointed poet-laureate, was moved to write ' where stood the thatched house known so well, now stands the fine White Hart hotel'.  The second property was Gibbon's cottage which in 1778 was bought by an inn owner who demolished it and built the George and Dragon in its stead.  We can now start to build up a picture of a more rural village, when fields and gardens fronted the present High Street and thatched cottages were scattered randomly around the green.  A tumbledown cottage with a small garden stood in a corner of what is now the churchyard until around 1870 when the site was incorporated into the burial ground.  Bullocks garage on Stockport Road was the site of yet another cottage.  When John Barlow put pen to paper once more it was to mourn the loss of his 'Grandfather's old cot with diamonds paved before the door'.  The diamond paving disappeared long ago when the Police Station replaced the old man's cottage. 

There would have been many more cottages in what were then outlying areas such as Cheadle Heath (an area of open heathland) Schools Hill and Cheadle Grove (Abney), often forming a group with a larger farmhouse. 

One of these groups was the rather oddly named Orrishmere Farm.  A few years ago I was contacted by someone from Orrishmere School where they were designing a new motif for a school emblem.  They wondered if I could help with the origins off the name.  A quick look at the Tithe map for 1844 showed the name Orange Mere.  Was this a mistake by the cartographer I wondered, like the one who changed Old Wood Lane into Old Wool Lane, or was it perhaps a local mis-pronunciation.  A survey of 1792 called it Orange Mairs – this was getting worse!  I was not able to offer the school a satisfactory explanation, but some time later, while in the Record Office at Chester, I came across some old deeds which in 1717 referred to Orrish Meares house.  When the estate changed hands in 1866 it had become Orrish Meres farm and three cottages.  I pondered for some time about the owner of such a strange name, until one day the perfectly simple explanation just leaped at me. 

Orris/Orrish is of course the old word for Iris, particularly the root, and Mere is self explanatory, being the Cheshire (or Cumbrian) word for pond.  So it was a place name after all! The Iris Pond.

When Cheadle was chiefly agricultural it would have been scattered with marlponds and meres.  Iris thrive naturally in such areas.  There are still remnants of many of these old ponds and their accompanying clumps of Irises to be seen ablaze with colour in early June.  They are well worth searching out, especially in the fields beyond Bruntwood Lane, a mere cockstride from  Orrishmere.