OLD NANTWICH PICTURES (23)                                                         Pictures index

Cottage may be on the site of a 13th century priory or hospital


AT the canal aqueduct end of Welsh Row there are two buildings which are sometimes confused. Nearer to the

canal are the Tollemache Almshouses, set back from the road. Next to them, with a garden up to the footpath is Malthouse Cottage, originally four cottages and a stable standing in front of an old malt house. Here, local historian ANDREW LAMBERTON, writes about the buildings.


THE black-and-white cottages stand on what is believed to be a priory and/or a hospital for lepers - or a Lazar House.   

    It is quite possible that the original property dated back to the 13th century. The evidence for this comes from an earlier history of Nantwich written by the Rev Joseph Partridge in 1774. In his book he states that the building belonged to the

Achilles (Archie) Davenport at the door of his cottage in Welsh Row, one of three

Abbey of Combermere and was called the Hospital of St. Lawrence. It was situated "over against the almshouses founded and endowed by the very worthy and ancient family of Wilbraham.

    "There is an ancient tradition which holds that the priory was built upon the site, upon a part of which now stands the malt house occupied by Mr James Bayley, very near the said almshouses ... "  

   The malthouse referred to stood immediately behind the present cottage (see the map below).

   James Hall, writing 100 years later in his History of Nantwich makes ref'erence to Partridge's information and gives further detail concerning the hospital, the earliest mention of which was in 1354/5. Then it referred to


one chaplain and the provision of "three beds for the reception of poor sick people where they shall remain until they shall have recovered health."

   As we shall see, the number three may have some significance.

  The dissolution of the hospital occurred in 1548 and the last incumbent was Richard Wright who died in 1585.

   In the Wilbraham family papers, a lease in 1597 refers to a "messuage / tenement / hospital in the Wiche called the hospital, one cottage there wherein Roberte Boyer now dwells and another cottage there now in the tenure of Marryan Cretchley . . ." 

     In the same collection, there is an agreement dated


1653 in which there is a significant reference: "John Thrush being lawfully possessed of a rnessuage called the hospital now divided into 3 dwellings in / near the Welsh Row in Wich Malbanke . . ." 

     If the floor plan of the site is examined, it is quite possible that the existing cottage was originally'divided into three properties and that the smaller end cottage, that is No 110, was added at a later date. It was brick built as can be seen from early photographs in contrast with the rest of the property and its back wall is also not in line. (See the diagram below left)

   Apart from some of the original timber framework there is, unfortunately, little remaining of the earlier property.

   If one considers that the row of cottages stood outside the town - and we know this because Townsend House




























An earlier view of the cottages, with a young Archie Davenport standing in what looks like a narrower Welsh Row than it is nowadays. And is it a "dirt road" rather than the Tarmac-surfaced thoroughfare it is nowadays?

   Walking along behind Archie is an unidentified your boy carrying two objects, one on his left shoulder.

   The turret with a weather vane, just visible in the far distance, is the house of the then headmaster at Nantwich and Acton Grammar School (now Malbank School).      


stood some hundred yards nearer to the town - then the argument stands that they could, indeed, be the site of the hospital.

   Rows of cottages were not built outside the town. There was no need to build a row of houses as there were no space constrictions normally experienced within the town confines. Properties were invariably individual buildings apart from, of course, almshouses, which come into a similar category as hospitals.


THE most interesting family in the cottages was that of Achilles ("Archie") Davenport who was a tenant of No 116 for a long time.

   His two daughters were both born here in about 1920. One, Mrs Dorothy Mottram, lived there for at least 50 years. The other, Mrs Owen, moved away when she married in 1946.

   Mrs Owen remembers that the front door opened into the living room and then there was a door through into the smaller parlour. Similarly, upstairs, her parents had the larger bedroom above the living room while the two girls shared the smaller end bedroom.

   There was a stable attached to this end of the house and Mrs Owen remembers people cycling into the town from the country and leaving their bicycles at the cottage while they went into town on foot.

   The inside of the house now bears little resemblance to what was previously there, although the chimney stack at that end of the house is in the same place as the original.

   There are, however, several extremely good examples of carpenters' marks on the timber joints lending authenticity to what is quite likely to have been one of  the oldest buildings in Nantwich.


THIS 1851 Ordnance Survey map (left) shows the original 17th Century Tollemache almshouses (indicated), centre far left of the image. They were standing right up to edge of Welsh Row (or Welch Row), with gardens behind them in this map.

   When the Tollemache family replaced the almshouses with new ones in 1870 these were built at what was then the bottom end of the gardens. The original almshouses were then demolished, leaving the gardens in front of the almshouses.

   On the plot to the right of centre of the map is the Malt House - the grey area in three sections at an angle towards the top of the area. At the front of the plot, separated from Welsh Row by gardens, are the five former cottages which are now a single dwelling called Malthouse Cottage. The house at the town end, and the stable at the other end of the cottages are no longer there. 



Archie a man with a sense of humour


ACHILLES (Archie) Davenport was clearly a man with a sense of humour, and perhaps a sprinkling of mischief.

   Why else would he paint the date AD 1502 above the door of the family's cottage?

   Except that it wasn't the date the cottage was built. AD are his initials and 1502 was his works number at Crewe locomotive works. 

   Andrew Lamberton discovered he had fallen for the trick some years after seeing the photograph for the first time.

THE buildings as they are today.

   Left, two of the six Wilbraham almshouses - the rest are hidden by the tree.

   Right, Malthouse Cottage (also known as 112-116 Welsh Row) was once Wilbraham almshouses.

  Today's single cottage was created by amalgamating the almshouses / cottages into one. There is still a thatched roof, but the quaintly irregular walls of the original have been replaced by a straighter "magpie" facade. The renovations are believed to have been carried out for Nantwich GP, Dr J.R.T.Turner in the 1970s.                                                                                                     Modern pictures: "A Dabber's Nantwich" website


A new idea for condemned buildings

CONDEMNED as unfit for human habitation in the mid-1960s, the four cottages could have been saved by an exciting idea for their future.

   Not the single cottage that they became, but "Nantwich's first folk museum." That was the description of the idea as reported in the Nantwich Chronicle around 1966.

   The report said that of the houses, "which were built in 1502", one had been empty for 10 years after a closing order. It added that the middle two were "voluntarily closed nearly four years ago".

   The fourth was still occupied, the newspaper reported. That house was the subject of a discussion at a meeting of Nantwich Urban District Council housing committee.

   Listing 17 defects, the then Housing Officer, Mr E. W. Bushell, said the building could not be made fit for human habitation "at reasonable expense".

   But one councillor, Reg Whalley, appealed for the building to be preserved - although he didn't know what for. He added that "it would seem a shame" if it had to be demolished.

   Another councillor, (later Alderman) Tom Holman, suggested a museum as a future use. He thought the town council might be able to acquire the cottages "since they were scheduled for preservation".

   At a later one-day school organised by Nantwich Workers' Educational Association, the Clerk of the Council, Mr D. Tudor Evans, was asked if Nantwich could have a museum for relics of its history.

   The Clerk was reported as saying: "We have a natural museum in Nantwich itself."   

   A Chronicle reporter called on one resident



and found that, although the cottages appeared to have small rooms, some American tourists who had been able to see inside the property were "pleasantly surprised at the height of the rooms." 

   The resident told the reporter: "As for points like having no hand rail on the stairs, I have never had one so I never miss it!" 


A DOCUMENT unearthed by Andrew Lamberton, based on the Town Rate Books, lists the occupants of 110 to 116 Welsh Row.

   Starting in 1792, it goes on to list two bootmakers and a carter living there in 1896.

   In 1913, there was a pointsman and a bricklayer.

   Achilles Davenport is listed as the occupant of No 116 in 1953.

   But from 1969 to 1974 the cottages were listed as empty.

   In 1977, after the cottages were merged into one, there was one occupant listed.


NANTWICH still doesn't have a folk museum as such, but it does have a museum described as  "the home of the town's history".


l The picture on the left - as published in the Nantwich Chronicle - was drawn in 1962 by a well-known Nantwich artist, J. Hadyn Jones (1923 - 1977). He was famed for his pen and ink, black and white drawings, although he also produced some coloured drawings later in his life. Prints from Harvest Interiors, Pepper Street, Nantwich.


Old pictures index