Audley - The Changing Face of Church Street


Researched by Clive Millington



© 2016 Audley & District Family History Society




This 1960s view shows Church Street at its junction with Nantwich Road. The shop on the left is no. 1 Church Street which sold antiques at the time. On the right is the former market hall with its main entrance in Nantwich Road.



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The view in 2007 with nos. 1 and 3 on the corner of Church Bank at left



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Fact file: No.1 Church Street

This was formerly the boot and shoemaker’s shop of John & Eliza Hilditch, who lived in the adjoining no. 3. John died in 1898 and the business was continued by Eliza, who by 1910 must have been a very wealthy woman, owning every property from no. 1 to no. 15 Church Street. Eliza died in 1927 and the premises passed to John & Eliza’s son-in-law Percy Warburton who had a tobacconist and sweet shop here in which he also sold sheet music. It continued as a sweet shop later and many Audley children over the years would have stopped off here to spend their pennies on their way home from Ravens Lane School. Mrs Nesta Johnson had the sweet shop in the years around 1960. It was then a gun shop and an antique shop at some time in the 1960s when the above photo was taken. Around 1980 it was an antique shop run by Mrs Irene Holland (see also no. 80 Church Street). By 1982 it was a gift shop called Something Special. The last shop here was the gunsmith’s of James Fawcett called Audley Small Arms. It is now a private house.






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Audley Small Arms at no. 1 in 1987



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The market hall, seen here in 2007, opened in 1907 and replaced an earlier market hall and house on the same site. It is not known how long it was in use as a market hall but in 1917 Ernest Pierpoint is recorded here as a clothier and draper. Although retaining its name, it was used as a village hall for dances, and performances by travelling theatre groups as well as local groups. After standing empty for several years, it took on a new lease of life in 1948 when it was taken over by a Macclesfield firm to become the Castle Works factory of Audley Knitwear, providing work for local people (see article in Audley Historian no.19). This also lasted for only a few years and the building was again left empty. But in 1954 the hall was restored and re-opened officially on 31 December 1954 as Audley Village Hall. From 1955 until 1968 it was home to the Hall Players theatre group who now perform as the Audley Players in Audley Theatre in Hall Street (see website There was a basement in the building which was used as a youth club in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Access to the basement was via a now bricked-up entrance on the corner of the building (see photo above, right). The hall later became the Boughey Arms Hall for use as a function room by the next door Boughey Arms public house in Nantwich Road. After standing unused for several years the hall was converted in 2010 into an indoor climbing centre by Peak Pursuits who are based in what was originally Castle Hill farmhouse.



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The first building on the left is the school house (no. 14 Church Street) of what was at the time Audley Infants’ School. All of the buildings on the left hand side are recorded as having been built in 1855. They replaced a row of old houses and gardens which are shown on the 1837 Tithe Map of Audley (see maps). The large group of three storey Gothic-design shops and houses (nos. 8-12) along with the out-of-view smaller section (nos. 4-6) were designed by the architect William White. The building in the centre is Castle Hill farm in Nantwich Road. On the right are another group of shops (nos. 15-19). No. 17 was Audley’s first post office of the Penny Post era. These buildings back on to the area known as Church Bank. It was in this area that Audley village first developed, between Castle Hill and the parish church.



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The buildings on the right hand side in the old photo were demolished which enabled the road to be widened in the 1960s. This opened up the view of Church Bank and also the private houses (nos. 5-13) in Church Street. This 1988 view shows the Trustees Savings Bank at no. 12.



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Fact file: The William White Buildings


They appeared in the 11 August 1855 edition of The Builder (a weekly journal of the construction industry, founded in 1842 by the architect Joseph Hansom, who designed the Hansom cab).




“... The row forms the side of a very narrow street (16 feet wide) and, to make the most of the space, the ground-floor is made to recede beneath an arcade, thus forming a covered way 3 feet 2 inches wide for the protection of foot-passengers, somewhat after the fashion of the rows at Chester. Between the third and fourth houses is an arched entrance to the stable-yard. The whole is built of red brick, with a few bands of black headers, the arches being relieved by the introduction of a few black and buff bricks … The roofs are covered with red tiles …”




In 1890 the buildings were offered for sale by auction:




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This 1987 view shows the smaller section of the William White Buildings with nos. 4 and 6 to right. The archway leads to the former coach house and stables at the rear. No. 8 (Sadlers) is at left of view.



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Fact file: No. 4 Church Street

In 1875 nos. 4 and 6 Church Street were conveyed by Randle Wilbraham to John Pauli, vicar of Audley. The properties were sold by John Pauli to Miss Frances Ann Dawson, spinster, for the sum of £350 in 1905 and in turn by Miss Dawson to Thomas Brown in 1919 for the sum of £230. In 1890 no. 4 was the barber’s shop of Enoch Sherwin. He died in 1898 and his wife Sarah, who was a hairdresser, continued the business. In 1905 John Davies was here and by 1908 it was the greengrocery shop of Robert Davies, continuing until 1924. In the 1911 census Robert is recorded as a coal dealer and his wife Sarah as a sweet shop keeper. It was the confectionery shop of Thomas Smith in 1928. By 1932 the Brown family had incorporated it into no. 6. However, by 1963 it was again separate and in use by Emlyn Owen, opticians (see also nos. 13, 17 and 85 Church Street). Today it is once again part of no. 6.




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Fact file: No. 6 Church Street

In 1890 it was the greengrocer’s of James Taylor then Elijah Bossons in 1900. Arthur Sherwin in 1905 and William Horsley in 1907 are recorded here as hairdressers. By 1908 it was the fishmonger’s of Herbert Sidney Howard. Thomas Brown was here in 1916 as a cab proprietor, using the coach house and stables at the rear (see article in Audley Historian no. 5 and also page 105 of Audley Historian no. 7 in which Thomas Brown is described but not mentioned by name). In 1919 Thomas Brown, described then as a smallholder, purchased the property (see no. 4 above). He is further described as a fishmonger in 1928, a fruiterer in 1936 and later as a groom and gardener. Thomas Brown died in 1956 and the property became a private residence.



Thomas Brown with his wife Dorothy outside no. 6 with a window display of cauliflowers



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Fact file: No. 8 Church Street

In 1890 it is recorded as being in the occupation of F. Dean. From 1891 this was the home of William Millington, a butcher, until his death in 1912 (see also no.15). His home would have been on the upper floors because in 1905 Dean & Co. were at no. 8 as furniture dealers (see also no. 17). By 1915 it was the sweet shop of Edmund Swann and his wife Hannah and continued to 1947. Edmund was a coal miner and the shop was run by Hannah (see also no. 12). Arthur Riley, a butcher, then moved into no. 8 from no. 15. During the 1960s it was Reg Pepper’s greengrocery, fishmongers and florists shop which changed in the 1970s to Sadler’s, and again, but only briefly, to Lily’s in 2003. It is now Archway Hair Design.






Sadler's in 1999 and Lily's in 2004



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Fact file: No. 10 Church Street

In 1890 Thomas Espley was here as a grocer, baker and confectioner. By 1910 it was the grocer’s shop of Cyril Alfred Norman, continuing as Norman’s until 1951, but with George Sumnall as proprietor from 1947 until 1951. The business was taken over by A. Hudson in 1951, continued under Mrs Berks in 1956, and Norman & Hilda R. Davies in 1960. It was then Rushton furnishers; Lisa Martine Bridal Centre around 1977; and a clothes shop, first as Marcus Fashions in the 1980s, then Turn-Style around 1990. It is now a private residence. Cyril Norman’s shop has been described as a high class grocer’s with carefully arranged displays. He ground his own coffee and there was always the smell of coffee in the shop. There were Hessian bags full of produce, with scoops in each of the bags.









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Marcus Fashions at no. 10 in 1987 with TSB at no. 12



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Fact file: No.12 Church Street

In 1890 this was the home of Miss Mary Brill, who was recorded later as secretary to the vicar of Audley. On the ground floor it was the confectioner's shop of John Hughes in 1900 and Edmund and Hannah Swann in 1905, before they moved to no. 8. By 1928 it was the butcher’s shop of Arthur Millington. He died in 1940 and his son William continued the business here until 1950 (see also no. 66). It then became the Trustees Savings Bank, which opened in August 1950 and continued until closure around 1990. The manager was Robert Wells. It is now a private residence.




The above photo shows the sweet shop of Edmund and Hannah Swann when they were at no. 12. Their children, Dolly (Dorothy, born 1902), Hilda (born 1904) and Lena Swann (born 1909) are standing with Molly Kendrick who was Hannah Swann’s sister.



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Fact file: No. 13 Church Street

This was a private house until around 1990 when it became another property to be used by Emlyn Owen the opticians (see also nos. 4,17 and 85 Church Street). It is now a private house again.



No. 13, at right, viewed in 1987 when in use by Emlyn Owen



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Fact file: No. 15 Church Street

This was a lock-up butcher’s shop of William Millington (died 1912), Fred Scrivens from 1932 to 1940 and Arthur Riley in the 1940s. Finally it was the fishmonger’s of Reg Pepper. The building was demolished around 1960.


Fact file: No. 17 Church Street

This was Audley Post Office from 1840 until 1908. It was run by the Dean family along with their grocery business. John Dean was the postmaster from 1840 until his death in 1846. His widow Elizabeth became postmistress, followed by their son Thomas, who is recorded as postmaster from 1860 until 1904. In 1905 the business became Dean & Co. Mary Dean was the postmistress until 1908 when her father Thomas died and the post office closed (see no. 33 Church Street). The three daughters of Thomas (Mary, Elizabeth Ann and Florence) inherited the business. Following the death of Elizabeth Ann in 1913 the grocery business is recorded as being managed by Joseph Shemilt 1914-1917, Percy Fryer 1918-1936 and Mary Kirkham in 1940. From 1935 the building was also used by Emlyn Owen, opticians (see advert and also nos. 4, 13 and 85 Church Street). The Dean sisters both died in the 1940s. In 1950 the property became the electrical and cycle shop of W.H. Bowers & Sons (see also Halmer End – The Changing Face of High Street), continuing until the end of 1960 when the business relocated to 14 Nantwich Road. Nos. 15 & 17 Church Street were demolished soon after to allow for road widening.



The photo was taken outside Dean’s Post Office and grocer’s shop at no. 17. Can anyone identify any of the people? (See article on The Postal Service in Audley Parish in Audley Historian no.19)







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Fact file: No. 19 Church Street

This large three storey building is shown on the 1837 Tithe Map. It is recorded as a house and garden in the occupation of John Dean. The post office was built alongside it soon after. It appears to have been a house on the upper floors and a storeroom for the grocery business on the ground floor. It was later Fryer’s café whilst Percy Fryer was managing the Dean’s store, but was run by Mrs Fryer who also offered lodgings. It is known to have been used by travellers coming into the village. The building was demolished in the 1940s.


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Recent years have seen a decline in shops and services in this part of the village, resulting in conversions to housing for several of the shops. However, this has resulted in shop windows being replaced and the buildings being restored to a much closer appearance to their original designs.




The William White Buildings during restoration work in 2007



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A 2007 view in the opposite direction shows St James’ Church and Church Bank Cottage. The cottage was another building hidden from view until the café and old shops were demolished. The wall from left, up to the higher churchyard wall, marks the position of the old buildings. A flight of steps leads from Church Street up to Church Bank Cottage. This was School Passage which led originally past the cottage to Audley Grammar School which once stood in a corner of the churchyard.



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This view, taken from outside Audley Church, shows the Infants’ School at the left on the corner of Wilbraham’s Walk. The wall on the immediate left fronts the vicarage, and the entrance to St James’ Church and churchyard is on the immediate right. Wilbraham’s Walk, for many years an unadopted road (and as a result un-surfaced), was named after Charles Philip Wilbraham, vicar of Audley from 1844 until 1874 (see article in Audley Historian no. 5).



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The major addition to this 2007 view is the war memorial at left. It was erected in a corner of the vicarage garden and unveiled in a ceremony on 4 April 1923, following an appeal for funding and an appeal for information about the local men who died in the Great War of 1914-1918. Following World War II, 1939-1945, the names of the local men who died in that war were added to the memorial (see Never to Return, first edition published in 2000, and the new edition published in 2007).



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Fact file: No. 14 Church Street

This was the school house of Audley Boys' National School until 1901 when it became Audley Infants School. Following the closure of Audley Infants School in 1938, part of the school house became the parish office for Audley Church and the remainder the church caretaker's home.





A 2007 view of the 1855 school buildings


The school block was built in 1855 as Audley Boys’ National School and remained as such until 1901. In that year, following a re-organisation of the local schools, Audley Girls’ National School in the centre of Church Street, became a mixed school, taking in pupils from the Boys’ School. At the same time the Boys’ School became Audley Infants’ School. The school closed in 1938, following another re-organisation of local schools, and the building became St James’ Church Parish Hall. In 1940, following conversion work, the hall became the new home of the St James Players theatre group, the forerunners of the Hall Players (see article in Audley Historian no. 11). The front view of the school buildings is virtually unchanged, but alterations and additions have much altered the side and rear, especially the building of a new hall at the rear which opened in December 1978. The buildings today are used regularly by local groups including our family history society.



© 2016 Audley & District Family History Society


Fact file: Boys’ School


The following are listed in records as headmasters of the National Boys’ School:


1861-1872     Samuel Goodland Gwynne

1876               George Till

1880               Frederick William Martin

1881-1884     Henry Hewitt

1887-1901     Alfred Norman (see article in Audley Historian no. 1)


The school, built in 1855 for 130 pupils, had an average attendance in 1884 of 120. By 1892 this figure had risen to 143.


Following re-organisation in 1901, the school became Audley Infants’ School and its first headmistress was Miss Annie McEllin, who had transferred from the old infants’ school. She continued as headmistress until her retirement in 1937.


The school was now able to hold 170 pupils, but by 1904 the average attendance was only 144, reducing to 140 by 1912.


See also Audley Community News issue nos. 12-14 for article on the school re-organisations of 1938.


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The Church Hall seen in January 1978 as work was about to commence on a new lower hall. This view shows the Wilbraham’s Walk side of the hall. The lower section (nearest camera) was demolished to make way for the new hall.



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The rear of the Church Hall seen in April 1978, following demolition of the rear section. The buildings in the background are at the rear of the William White Buildings. The building far left is the Boughey Arms public house in Nantwich Road. The square building in the centre with the conical roof is the former coach house and stables at the rear of nos. 4 and 6 Church Street (see earlier entry), also built in 1855.


The May/June 1978 issue of Audley Parish Magazine reported:


The outcome of the application is not known.


A further report in the July/August 1978 Audley Parish Magazine stated:



The final report on the completed hall was in the January/February 1979 issue of Audley Parish Magazine: