IS often said that Nantwich is the town where they pay you to live. And, I
suppose that could be said to be true - if you live in
the right street, and, sometimes, on the correct side of the street - if you amend
the comment to say that we're paid because we live here.
This is because of something called Beam Heath - an area of common land where
local people had the right to graze cows over the centuries. [It was even
mentioned in the Domesday Book - William the Conqueror's inventory of who owned
what - and so who owed tax on what - in 1068.]
The enclosure of land in the early 19th century changed all that, but an act of
Parliament, the Beam Heath Act of 1823, saw to it that Nantwich people didn't
lose out. A body of people called the Beam Heath Trust oversaw the use of
the land and their successors are still going strong. Among their current tasks
is the allocation of money accrued from the land (rents paid by farmers and
investments) to the owners of the land - the people of Nantwich. This was in
lieu of their right to graze animals on the heath.
The dividend is paid annually to
Nantwich people who qualify - but not all townspeople qualify. Only those who live in the "Ancient Parish of Nantwich" so that people living in the outer areas of the ever-expanding town do
not get a share of the money. Even then, people living within the old boundary
may not be eligible. You have to have been born in Nantwich
or, if not, to have lived in the town for more than seven years. People who
previously qualified, but who moved away from Nantwich - to work elsewhere for
instance - and then returned, have to live in town again for two years before they can qualify to
become a recipient once more.
Writing in a past edition of "Talk of the Town" (the newsletter of
Nantwich Town Council), the then Clerk of the Trust, Sarah Fox, a
solicitor, also added "service of seven years' apprenticeship".
But I confess I hadn't
A cheque for £4 - with the J. Haydn Jones sketch
that qualification and I am not sure what it means.
I have heard that the boundary of
the Ancient Parish in some parts of town runs down the middle of a
street so that people living on one side get the money while their neighbours over the road do
not. So it's no use rushing to buy a house in the centre of Nantwich with the
idea of living a life of luxury.
We are not talking about
Lottery-size windfalls here. It is currently £35 (tax paid) and, of course,
people who do not pay tax can claim the taxman's "cut" back. It wasn't always
even that much as you will see from the elaborate cheque at the top of the page
in which the background is Nantwich buildings drawn by the late J. Haydn Jones -
a Nantwich artist famous for his pen and ink drawings of the town.
As you will see, the annual payment
then (I have forgotten the date, but it was late 1990s) was £4.
The pot of cash was increased when Beam Heath land was sold to J.Sainsbury to
build a supermarket, as well as with the sale of land for an adjacent bypass and
the Barony Employment Park. As I understand it, however, the Trust could not
dispose of the land completely and
equivalent areas had to be substituted. According to Mrs Fox, the
land runs along both sides of Middlewich Road - one of seven roads coming into Nantwich - from the edge of the
town to the Rising Sun, a pub at Wistaston, a village on the outskirts of Crewe.
"The trustees now manage
approximately 600 acres
of agricultural land which is let to farming
tenants," said Mrs Cox. From 1729 to 1824, there was a racecourse on Beam Heath (see the
page about betting), but the enclosure of land with hedges and fences ended all
You don't have to do anything to receive the money - except be at home when the
Beam Heath Trust representative calls.
He will try twice before giving up,
although I understand that you can still get the dividend if you go to a special
meeting of the trustees. The trustees - a band of local worthies elected by the
recipients - meet to hear claims from people who feel they
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