A comparison of Audley, Barthomley and Betley:

their differences and similarities as revealed in three local studies.

Robert and Janet Speake


For three villages on the Staffordshire/Cheshire border, no more than six miles apart, history has created a fascinating set of comparisons and contrasts. Barthomley, Betley and Audley share very similar physical backgrounds. They are located in the gently rolling foothills of the Pennines and all have good, fertile soils which have been well suited to supporting a prosperous agricultural economy. Yet, today the three villages have intriguing differences, Barthomley is a small picturesque, quintessentially English half-timbered, village, Betley is similar but larger, and Audley, the most extensive of the villages presents two integrated sides, one founded on agriculture, the other on industry. Administratively the settlements are distinct. Barthomley in Cheshire is in the North West region and, as part of the Diocese of Chester, lies within the See of York. In contrast, both Betley and Audley are in Staffordshire (the West Midlands) and, due to their position within the Diocese of Lichfield, are in the See of Canterbury. Their location, straddling what is effectively a 'north-south' divide, has been partly instrumental in contributing to the villages differing historical evolution and contemporary perceptions of place.

Over the last twenty-five years during which the histories of the three villages have been published: Audley: an out of the way quiet place (1972)1, Betley: a village of contrasts (1980)2 and Barthomley: the story of an estate village (1995)3, the interactions and differences between them have become better understood. Some of these observations provide the basis for this study.

Early history: a broad commonality

The three villages have similar place-name origins. All contain the suffix 'ley' (derived from the Anglo-Saxon word leagh meaning an open space in a wood or glade) and all have as their suffix a female name, Aldgyd (Audley), Blorthtwynn (Barthomley) and Bette (Betley). Interestingly, the township of Balterley, in Betley parish, also demonstrates the same form, having ley prefixed by Baldpryp (also a woman's name). Such evidence suggests that the settlements are at least Saxon in origin.

Each of the communities has a church at its centre and has a strong medieval connection. The Domesday Survey's report of a priest being present in Barthomley indicates that there was a church there in 1086. A church may have been present earlier and the round mound on which the church now stands provides some support for this contention. There is evidence to suggest that this was the site of a stone-age burial mound, onto which a Christian church was built later. Further support for this theory is perhaps provided by the mound's name, Barrow Hill. No such place name clues are given in Audley, although here the church is also sited on a mound. On the western side of this mound, at Castlehill, was the site of a Norman stockaded castle. The cutting through which the current road between Audley and Bignall End passes was constructed later during the turnpike era. The present church was founded by members of the Audley family in the years after the Norman conquest and before 1223. It was staffed by the monks from Hilton Abbey (Abbey Hulton). Betley church was also founded by a local family, the de Delves, who gave land in 1125 and created a chapel of ease in 1408 for the burning of 'torches' on the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary 4.

Within all three villages the lords of the manor were powerful, well-known local land-owners. At Barthomley, Siward, a free man, held the manor in Saxon times. Later two local families, the De Praers and the Fouleshursts, became involved with the lordship in a more formal fashion. The influence of the De Praers lasted in Barthomley for nearly three hundred years. On William Malbank's death the baronial lands were divided among his three daughters, one of whom received Barthomley. Her daughter married the Earl of Warwick and received one-third of her mother's lands which is known as the Countess of Warwick's Fee 5.

In 1319 Richard de Praers married Johanna, a co-heiress of Thomas de Crewe: an action which led to the union of the manors of Crewe and Barthomley. Thomas de Praers, Richard's son lived at Barthomley in 1335. It was his daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir Robert Fouleshurst and the estates passed out of the line of the de Praers. Sir Robert Fouleshurst was reputed to be a companion of Lord Audley in the French Wars (c. 1356). He started the line of gentlemen who were squires of Barthomley until 1575/76. In the sixteenth century another Robert Fouleshurst married Bridget Smith, daughter of Sir Thomas Smith of Hough and began the dispersion of his family's lands. The legal complications involved brought in Sir Christopher Hatton who became manorial lord of the Countess of Warwick's Fee. After problems of succession the lands at Crewe, Barthomley and Haslington were acquired by Ranulphe Crewe. The purchase of the lands in 1608 by Ranulphe Crewe marked the beginning of the Crewe lordship which was to last until 1936 when the Crewe estates were sold to the Duchy of Lancaster 6.

In Audley the establishment of the manorial landownership system had similar beginnings to those in Barthomley. During the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) Adam Audley (Aldithlegh) became lord of the manor. The Audley family at this time held a significant position within Staffordshire, perhaps being next to the Earls of Stafford in order of importance. In 1223 Henry de Audley founded the Cistercian abbey at Hilton (Abbey Hulton) and held several governorships of castles in Staffordshire and Shropshire including Redcastle (Hawkstone) and Heighley Castle (near Betley). This relationship with Betley was further enhanced when, in 1227, he granted the right of a weekly market at Betley. In this line of succession the Audleys are famous and stories about their national involvement in the French Hundred Years War are told, and sometimes disproved. The Audleys remained lords of the manor, lived at Heighley Castle and subsequently, through family connections enhanced the line of Audley and its branches. Two such branches are at Audley End in Essex and at Audley's Tower, Castle Ward, in County Down.

Betley was a medieval borough and developed a market, a feature not found in Audley or Barthomley. This market area developed by the sale of burgages (narrow plots of land). The borough status of Betley ultimately declined because of its proximity to the market at Newcastle-under-Lyme 7. Nevertheless, Betley still contains a market area, evidenced by the considerable breadth of Main Street, its principal thoroughfare.

The Wars of the Roses marked the beginning of the downfall of the Audleys at Heighley. The Battle of Blore Heath and the subsequent defeat of James Audley saw the loss of many local men. This was a tragedy from which the Audleys never recovered; they never regained the position and esteem that they had once held. Heighley Castle was heavily mortgaged. In 1597 Lord Touchet Audley sold all his manorial rights to Gilbert Gerard of Gerard's Bromley, however, they were absentee landlords and had little interest in the parish or village of Audley. Thomas Fleetwood was the next lord of the manor before the Maynell family took over in 1742: however, they too lost touch with the village 8.

The Civil War (1642-1660) - the pattern of allegiance

The main political allegiances of the villages were revealed during the Civil War (1642-1649). Though the city of Chester was mainly Royalist, the county area was predominantly Parliamentarian. After the siege in 1643 Nantwich became a parliamentary stronghold and this is reflected in the parliamentarian support present in surrounding villages and in Barthomley, Betley and Audley. During the Massacre at Barthomley on the 23rd December 1643 some twelve people were murdered by the royalist forces after they had been smoked-out of the church tower 9. At Betley in 1642 Ralph Hulme, a non-conformist minister was considered to be

'a noted puritan divine, who was regarded by his parishioners as a painstaking preacher' 10

Ralph Hulme held his post for a period of twenty-three years. In Audley, William Kelsall was sequestered (turned out of his living) at Audley Church, on account of his royalist views. The entry in the Audley parish registers reads as follows

'William Kelsall and his Curate John Kelsall were sequestered and ejected for adheriage to the Kinge Charles I p.m. (post-mortem) and King Charles II returning to his throne, John Kelsall returned to his vicarage August 9 1660 and continued the register' 11 .

During the period of his sequestration the function of incumbent was carried on by John Smith and William Overton both of whom were known as 'registers'. Their task was to ensure that entries in the registers were continued but this was not to be done since recorded marriages declined to almost nil during this period. Parishioners felt that if a marriage was not carried out in the traditional manner was not, or may not become valid; hence, during this period, a steep decline in the number of weddings at Audley church occurred . The 'register' was later replaced by John Kelsall the son of William. He assumed responsibilities as vicar on the restoration of Charles II in 1660.

The restoration generated many changes but the parishes retained their particular characteristics. Betley was known for a puritan outburst in 1668. Audley was described as being loyal and orthodox with little change in religious affiliations occurring until the coming of the Wesleyans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In contrast, Barthomley experienced a period in which the incumbent, Zachery Cawdrey (the rector between 1660 and 1684) probably 'the most distinguished man to be Rector' 12 held opinions on the most telling issues of the day. He had been rector in 1649 but was sequestered and remained out of office until he was restored in 1660. He had strong ecumenical views and led the church in Barthomley in difficult times. He was buried in the chancel of Barthomley church on Christmas Eve 1684.

During the eighteenth century the lords of the manor (the Crewes) established themselves firmly as patrons of the living at Barthomley. In Audley and Betley it was very different. Betley ceased to be a chapel of ease of Audley. It installed a perpetual curate in its own right and the patron of the living was Egerton of Betley Hall later followed by the Tollets of Betley Hall 13 who remained as patrons until 1861 when it passed to the Wicksteeds. From these the patronage passed to the Buttle brothers and since 1958 it has been in the gift of the Bishop of Lichfield 14. At Audley the patronage since the reformation has been passed to various local families, but with the early departure of the lord of the manor the church was supervised by the Tollets of Betley Hall. The attitude of the incumbent and the choices made by the patrons often determine whether the church should be described as high or low. Certainly the church at Audley followed the leanings of its congregation and had a distinct industrial and low church calling. At Betley and Barthomley the calling was more agricultural, with perhaps a greater deference to the wishes of individuals or individuals with local family connections.

Changing patterns of land-ownership

The Crewe family spent their time as lords of the manor maintaining farms and property. In Audley and Betley, because of different land ownership structures, farmers were acquiring their own properties. The break-up of the Boughey Estate just after the end of the First World War led to the sale of lands in Audley and a resultant redistribution of land. Formerly tenant farmers purchased their farms and became owner-occupiers when the Boughey Estates were sold.

At Betley there was a similar break-up of the estates of Betley Hall, the Tollets and later still the MacDonalds. Betley Hall has since been demolished and modern houses now occupy much of the site. The East Lawns on which there were parties and on which the school often played their cricket matches are now built over; the area being part of council housing development 15.

The built form of Audley and Betley therefore reflect the changes which occurred within the landownership structure of the villages, particularly as they reduced the influence of the lord of the manor. In Barthomley the position was completely different. Here the lords of the manor and patrons of the church living were the Crewes. Crewe Hall was their ancestral home and Barthomley church was used as a family church for several centuries. The Crewes took over the lordship of the manor in 1608 and continued in their possession of the all the lands in Barthomley (except a small parcel of land around the church which belonged to the ecclesiastical authorities) until the estate was sold to the Duchy of Lancaster on 16th March 1936 16. The sale included Crewe Hall, and the land in Barthomley (except about one hundred cottages in the village which remained in the Crewe family).

Today many farmers in Barthomley are tenant farmers of the Duchy and Crewe Hall is owned by that authority. The Queen is head of the Duchy and frequently visits the estate, as she did in 1995.

Hence, although in the medieval period the three villages had many facets of land tenure in common, the development of industry, the changing fortunes of the lords of the manor and the subsequent changes in land ownership have caused the villages to evolve in different and disparate ways. To some people within the three villages there is a deep awareness of the presence of a lord of the manor and a large estate as is the case at Barthomley. For others in Audley such issues are non-existent and in Betley the situation rests between the two polarities.


The mills in Audley are well-known and have been mill sites into recent generations, though the site of Audley Mill has medieval origins and is situated close to the town fields, town house and the early site of the village. During the Middle Ages what is now known as Audley Mill is recorded as having been rented for one rose annually. At Barthomley in 1580 the Demeynes Mill was listed as being the gift of the lord of the manor 17. There is every indication that it was worked in 1290 18. The site of this mill is clearly discernible to this day but the outbuildings have been demolished (although they were intact until about 1939) and there is little to be seen except the earthworks.

In Betley there were two mills present in the thirteenth century. Both were situated at Buddiley, a site which can be clearly recognised today, but the site of the one at Gulnerdene is unknown. At Buddiley the old mill pool has been enlarged and today covers a much greater area than it did in the Middle Ages. The mill pond has been landscaped to form an artificial lake adjacent to Betley Hall. Since the eighteenth century there has been a mill in the outhouse at Betley Hall Farm. The other sites connected with milling were a private mill at Wrinehill Hall and one available to the people of the area at Wrinehill Corn Mill 19. Another mill, dating from about 1700 and possibly before, at Bosey Wood, served the community on the Betley, Madeley parish boundary. It is situated on Checkley Brook and has not been used since 1939 when the metals were commandeered, and removed as part of the war effort. Being near Heighley Castle it shows signs of some antiquity with some of the walls being of wattle and daub. It was in the ownership of the Tollets of Betley Hall and rented, or leased, by them to millers who served this largely agricultural community.

The impacts of industrialisation

Until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries all three of the villages contained examples of small-scale industry. In 1470 bloomeries and bloomsmiths were functioning at Heighley. On the Audley/Barthomley boundary at Foxley and Eardley End, sites were developed for the making of iron by using charcoal and iron ore. It is perhaps not without significance that the term collier was first applied to charcoal burners. Thomas Cotton was one of the principal developers of the iron industry in the area. He lived at Doddlespool Hall, Betley and later moved to Eardley End in 1730.

Perhaps the greatest economic differences between the three villages evolved during the large scale industrial development of the Audley coalfield. Outcrops of coal on the surface and coals seams near to the surface on the higher ground in the Audley area encouraged extraction and early references to ground-collieries are to be found in parish documents. At Diglake the Parker family acquired considerable coalworks. The Boughey's estate was worth above £100 per annum and consisted of 'advantageous stone mines and coal mines'. Nailmaking was also undertaken in the parish, especially at Boon Hill.

In 1803 six collieries were working Audley parish

Colliery Owner

Woodshutts Sir J.E.Heathcote

Bignall Hill Wedgwood of Bignall Hill

Podmore Hall Sir Nigel Bowyer Gresley

Hollins R.E. Heathcote

Boyles Hall W. Burgess

Sladderhill Sir Nigel Bowyer Gresley


By 1882 the following mines were open

Colliery Owner

Woodshutts Capt. J.E.Heathcote

Hollins Wood Kynnersley and Company

Bignall Hill Exors of the late J. Wedgwood

Podmore Hall Cooper and Craig

Diglake Audley Coal and Iron Co.

Jamage Messrs W. Rigby and Co. Representatives of J.Wedgwood

The period after this development represents the zenith of coalmining in Audley. Companies such as Midland Coke, Coal and Iron Company which owned the Burley, Minnie and Podmore Pits were expanding. Extensive housing development associated with this industrial growth took place within the parish, especially at Miles Green and Halmerend.

It is not without some significance that William Craig MP of Milton House, Alsager ensured some degree of recognition for his family when the Minnie Pit was named after his daughter. His son, Sir Ernest was also associated with Barthomley Bowling Club.

One of the other local mine-owners, Joel Settle also lived in Alsager at 'The Hall'. He was described as

'one of the old school of Victorian employers, a strict disciplinarian, hard working himself and working others hard. Work commenced at eight sharp and woe betide any one who was late!' 20

Settle set up washeries at Birchenwood in 1901 and at Jamage in 1902. In 1911 together with Speakman he established the Settle-Speakman Company and in 1927 made a profit of £91,019 on the shares of Bignall Hill Colliery Company Ltd.

Between 1900 and 1913 the mining industry of the Audley area developed rapidly and reached its peak just before the outbreak of war in 1914. The 1914-1918 war caused an 'artificial' increase in demand and the area reached record production in the amount of coal but these were never to be achieved again. By the 1920s the coal industry entered a period of decline and eventual collapse.

The Sentinel of 26th May 1931 carried the following list of closures affecting Audley. These were, Bunkers Hill, Harecastle and Woodshuts (all closed); Midland Coke Coal and Iron Company (closed quite recently); Talke o'the Hill (closed quite recently). The only industrial undertaking of importance in the whole district is Jamage Colliery of the Bignall Hill Company 21.

In Audley, the Settle-Speakman Company continued to make profits until 1933-34 and were functioning at Jamage Colliery, Bignall Hill. When the National Coal Board was created in 1947 all Audley's coalmines were reduced to privately owned licensed mines or footrails (small mines). Although the workings of the coal-owners were in Audley parish their residences were frequently in Alsager. There was no mining in Barthomley or Betley parishes although there was a steady flow of labour from Barthomley, and other rural areas of Cheshire to the Audley coalfield.

Throughout this period of industrial development Betley remained as ever 'a village of contrasts'

In Betley's two large houses were families who owed their substantial prosperity to different forms of activity. The Tollets at Betley Hall derived much of their great wealth from land-owning and agriculture. At the other end of the village the Fletcher-Twemlows at Betley Court had built up their assets from coal and iron-stone mining. The Fletcher-Twemlows were connected through family ties to the Bougheys who had originally been of Betley and Audley but who had moved to Aqualate Hall (near Newport, Shropshire) in 1807. Members of the Fletcher-Twemlow family developed an interest in the professions, mainly the law. Fletcher-Twemlow was the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions for Staffordshire, in the middle of the nineteenth century and was also on the board of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

The census returns of the periods 1851-1951 22 reveal that Betley had both agricultural and industrial workers. Many Betley families had breadwinners who were employed at the coalmines at Leycett (owned by Lord Crewe of Crewe Hall). They walked to work by a system of footpaths in the parishes.

In both Audley and Betley, village economies and demographic patterns were affected by the expansion of mining and associated industries in the Audley coalfield area. In Barthomley, however, the impacts were less pronounced, although many families moved to Audley and took up employment in the developing industries, Barthomley remained essentially agricultural and somewhat behind the development taking place on the coalfield.

Demographic change

The contrasting eighteenth century population figures for the parishes of Audley and Betley reflect the impacts of the early industrialisation of Audley. Between 1711 and 1780 Audley increased in size by 980 people whereas in Betley the population expanded by just 247. The figures gathered from parish registers for the period are as follows

Audley Parish 23 Betley Parish 24

1711 948 1701 414

1733 1,142 1721 549

1760 1,537 1741 603

1780 1,928 1791 661

With the rapid development of industry during the nineteenth century the populations of all three villages demonstrated important contrasts. In Audley, where the effects of the coalmining were beginning to be felt the population rose rapidly from 2,246 in 1801 to 13,918 in 190125.

In Betley during the same period a slight increase of 167 was recorded (from 670 to 837).

In 1811 Barthomley’s population was 46526, a figure from which there was a decrease decennially as people moved away to the industrial areas in the locality. During the twentieth century Barthomley’s population as declined steadily from 292 to 248 in 1971. These figures relate to Barthomley township only and not to Alsager which by this time was separate from Barthomley township. In Alsager the population increased dramatically with the coming of the railway and the creation of a dormitory town for Stoke-on-Trent.

After 1911 Audley’s population began to decline and following 1921 the fall became pronounced. During the 1930s Audley district experienced a natural decrease of 1,111 (7.4%) and loss through outmigration of 2,531 or 16.9%27. This coincided with the closure of the coalmines and represents the highest proportion of people moving out of any district in Staffordshire during this period. Audley lost its Urban District Status in the 1930s and since then its role has become more similar to that of Betley and Barthomley i.e. increasingly desirable commuter villages.

Roads, canals and railways

Similarly, either by accident or design, the main routes passing through the area differ greatly. The main route through Betley was there in 1698 when Celia Feinnes wrote of travelling one wheel in Cheshire and one in Staffordshire 28 , presumably at Wrinehill where the parish of Wybunbury extended to the main road by Den Lane and the 'Blue Bell Inn'. The meeting place of the trust was the

'the House of John Jackson, known by the sign of the Black Horse in Betley' 29

The trustees of the roads were local gentry, including the Wedgwoods who like the other trustees had rents and profits of land tenements or hereditaments of the clear yearly value of £50 or possessed an estate of £1,000 or were heir to estates of yearly value of £100. On the Betley road the gates were at Wrinehill (two). At Betley the board containing charges at the Wrinehill upper gate is to be preserved at the Blue Bell public house.

Audley too had its own thoroughfare which like the Betley road was turnpiked in 1766. At Audley the gates were at Bignall Hill, in Audley village and at Shraley Brook where the B5500 now crosses the M6 motorway (the toll house here was demolished in an accident involving a lorry in 1986).

Again Barthomley was different. There were no turnpike roads in the village itself. The Audley turnpike (1766) passed through Balterley and the Nantwich to Wheelock Wharf (1816) had a turnpike gate near the present-day church at Crewe Green. The Talke-Lawton-Cranage Turnpike (1730) had a toll gate in, or near, the township of Alsager at Linley. The side-roads were little more than poor tracks.

Examination of the early maps of Barthomley shows that all the thoroughfares led to the centre of the village and the church site. They may have even gone to the early site of the barrow or burial place and are of considerable antiquity. It is a pattern that is still apparent today. Audley and Betley received the benefit of a turnpike road, Barthomley did not. There is still no A class road into the centre of the village though in the modern era the M6 and the A500 (Potteries to Crewe road) pass within a mile of the village.

Though proposals were made for canals in the villages only the Trent and Mersey Canal was completed. It passes near (Lawton) but not through Barthomley and Audley. This caused Daniel Stringer to record in conversation with the rector of Barthomley, the Reverend E. Hinchcliffe

'I have been with many others to stare and wonder at the making of a new-cut (i.e. canal), and what a great and useful undertaking we thought it, never to be beaten by another; but I have lived to see the making and opening of a railway, which beats all that has ever been done yet. I expect it will make a great change wherever it goes' 30

Hence although canals through the villages may have been discussed none were built.

Railways however, had a more major impact on the villages. Betley had a station on the main line. In the early days of the Grand Junction Railway, the main line from Crewe to Stafford, passed through the parish and the people of Betley petitioned for a railway station. This was denied them on the grounds that the engines were not powerful enough to re-start on the incline between Madeley and Crewe. As engines improved this obstacle was overcome and Betley Road Station was opened. There were stopping trains to Crewe and Stafford and a good local service was maintained until its closure in 1945. The remnants of the platform may still be seen near the signal box where the road from Wrinehill to Wybunbury goes over the main line. Also nearby was the dumping ground for Stephenson's old single blocks of stone made at Preston Brook near Runcorn, and used as sleepers on the stretch of line between Crewe and Stafford. These became obsolete when new transverse sleepers were used 31.

Similarly, Barthomley has a railway line of considerable antiquity running along its northern edge. This is the Crewe to Stoke line which was opened on 9th October 1848. There are several branches of this line, the one at Lawton being to Sandbach and Wheelock. The most important branch was the Audley branch, opened on 24th July 1870, which linked many of the major collieries on the Audley coalfield to the main line. It provided a route via Kidsgrove and along the existing 1848 line into the Potteries. The Audley branch also had connections to Madeley, Market Drayton and Shrewsbury. In order to make this line successful small workings such as Sneyd's Talke branch were leased from the colliery company. This line ran from Chatterley to Talke o' the Hill coal and iron works. Other lines were proposed. John Heathcote opposed, and caused the abandonment of proposals for a line from Apedale to Audley village because it came too close to his home at Apedale Hall near Alsagers Bank. A scheme for the construction of a line from Audley to Alsager with branches to Talke, Bignall Hill and Hayes Wood also collapsed. Nevertheless the Audley Branch was opened and became vitally important for taking coal away from the coalfield. This was the most active and complex of the railway systems in any of the three villages and it is difficult to imagine the scene in Audley one hundred years ago without the sound of coaltrains and passenger trains. The branch was a main mode of transport for workers, schoolchildren and shoppers at Newcastle, Stoke and Market Drayton.

The two main lines through Betley and Barthomley are still open but the branch line to Sandbach and the whole of the Audley Branch are now closed. Today, Audley has no railway station, Betley has a main line passing through it but no station as does Barthomley (although Radway Green station was closed to passengers on 7th November 1966). Alsager still has a railway station on the Crewe to Stoke line.

Chapels and Non-Conformity

Accompanying industrial development and the newly won economic freedom of the farmers was the arrival and growth of Methodism. The message of John Wesley was received in a most welcome fashion by the newly liberated farmers and to an even greater extent by the industrial workers, particularly the miners on the Audley coalfield. Each of the small townships of Audley parish had its chapel, some had two or even three. The two main branches were Wesleyanism and Primitive Methodism. They too had their social divisions with the industrial labourers and miners belonging to 'the Prims' and the better-off shopkeepers and artisans belonging to the Wesleyans. This was a marked feature of life on the coalfield and even the act of re-union in 1932 did not wholly cause the two elements to come together. Methodism in an organised form first came to Audley at the beginning of the nineteenth century when Daniel Riley and his wife came to Hullock's Pool Farm and then threw open their house for the holding of preaching meetings. Classes were also started in the area of Old Road, Hougher Wall, Wereton, Bignall End and Wood Lane. Even at the end of the century chapels were being opened at Mill End (1877), Miles Green (1880) and Wereton (1894) and Boon Hill (1898).

Thus most of the more populated townships in Audley, Alsagers Bank, Halmerend, Audley village and Bignall End had one or more chapels. Smaller chapels were also scattered among more rural townships. It is not without significance that the funeral cortege of Hugh Bourne passed through Audley after travelling through Talke o'the Hill

'where they were met by more Sunday school scholars and friends and so on to Audley and finally they reached Englesea Brook' 32

Hugh Bourne is buried in Englesea Brook, a hamlet situated in Weston Parish, close to the Barthomley boundary.

The day school situated on Old Road, Audley was a Wesleyan Day School and was run by the Wesleyans until 1909 when it became a council school and took the name Ravens Lane.

The impact of nonconformity was very pronounced in Audley parish. At Betley the story is quite different. The chapel in Betley was opened in 1907 and was sixth in a group of new country chapels and was contracted in a mock gothic style. However, the site was 'not altogether an ideal one'. The scheme had met with several difficulties, one of which was to find a suitable location, the other concerned the land which in the cases of the five earlier chapels had been borne by the local landowner who had donated the land. A quotation from Mr Wilson of Liverpool said that Methodism in Cheshire was not dead, in fact

'when he drove up and saw the carriages and the tents he thought it was an agricultural show that was being held' 33

Before this the Wesleyans met in the Wesleyan chapel built in 1808 and situated by the parish church, which was later to become the parish hall. Several other societies met in houses in the village and at Wrinehill and Bosey Wood. Wrinehill was to become a centre for Primitive Methodism where camp meetings were held from 1819 and a new chapel was built in 1824. This chapel was ultimately demolished in 1969. In many ways the independent frugality of the Methodists contrasted very sharply with the patronage of the big houses in Betley (the 'Court' and 'Hall') and their associations with the established church.

Although Barthomley township itself did not have an early non-conformist chapel there were forms of rural dissent in nearby Alsager, Sandbach, and Wheelock Heath. In 1707 the home of William Morris of Barthomley was registered as a dissenters' meeting place in Barthomley parish but by 1778 the Bishop of Chester was informed that there were

'three families of Presbyterians and one family of Quakers' 34

In 1812 the house meeting at Englesea Brook opened and this featured in the first Primitive Methodist Preachers Plan. In 1813 William Fox's house at Barthomley was registered for use by protestant dissenters.

The 1851 Official Census of church attendance records a Primitive Methodist Chapel at Barthomley which was used exclusively for religious purposes. It held eighty people but its whereabouts are not known. William Woodsworth, the assistant leader lived close to the rectory. Hugh Bourne figured prominently in the history of the area but there are no further references to the presence of a Methodist chapel in Barthomley. The story of Hugh Bourne is of historic importance but his chapel at Englesea Brook was outside the parish of Barthomley. Although references to Methodism have featured in Alsager and Haslington (once part of the ancient parish of Barthomley) there are few for Barthomley. Interestingly, at approximately the same time that the break-up of the ancient parish of Barthomley was occurring and Alsager and Haslington established parishes of their own, moves for religious independence were present but in Barthomley itself the lords of the manor maintained an establishment influence more emphatically than in Audley or Betley.


During the pre-industrial era it was the foundation of two seventeenth century schools at Audley (1611) and Barthomley (1675) which dominated attitudes towards public education.

The school in Barthomley, established by the Reverend Richard Steele, set out to

'promote the education and teaching of children in the grounds of religion and learning' 35

In 1838 the old school building in the churchyard was pulled down and a new school house was erected on glebe land in Audley Road, a short distance from the rectory. However, shortly after celebrations to mark the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, the school became redundant and was relegated to the status of a barn. In 1845 a new school was constructed near Smith's Green. It was run by the National Society (for the education of children according to the tenets of the established church) and incorporated Richard Steele's endowment of 1675. When it was opened the school had 45 pupils on the register. By the turn of the century numbers had risen to 100 and by 1910 had reached 124. After this time decline set in, 86 pupils were recorded in 1923, 48 in 1929 and by 1937 only 37 children attended the school. In response to this in 1955 the older children travelled to Alsager Secondary Modern School) thus reducing numbers to 25. The school closed in July 1958 thereby ending 300 years of continuous village education in Barthomley.

The grammar school at Audley had a similar beginning to the free school at Barthomley. It too was founded by a clergyman and in its early days was located in Audley churchyard. The school was established by the Reverend Edward Vernon and William Jackson by an agreement dated 23rd January 1611 which stated that Edward Vernon had given the sum of £120 'towards the maintenance of a free grammar school in the parish of Audley, and towards the maintenance of a sufficiently learned and godly school master' William Johnson made a bequest of £100 to the parishioners of Audley

towards the maintenance of a schoolmaster to teach the youth and inhabitants of Audley for ever' 36

Lands in Tean were purchased and the rents and profits were to be employed for 'the sole and only maintenance of ' the free school at Audley. The school functioned throughout the seventeenth century and bequests were left by prominent people in the area. By 1824 the school owned lands at Tean, Knutton, Ravenshall and Eardley End and possessed one legacy from Lady Bellot. The Charity Commissioners declared the school a public elementary school under the Act of 1870 and any chance that the school had of being designated a grammar school had been lost. The school closed in 1900 with the names of just four boys being registered as pupils. Although a free school was opened in Talke the major impact on Audley's educational provision was made by the National and Wesleyan schools which were set up in the nineteenth century. These were Audley Girls’ National School (1886), Audley Church of England Boys’ School (1854), Halmerend School, Wood Lane School, (schools were also opened at Talke and Butt Lane). There were no board schools in Audley parish.

In Betley the school was held in the minister's house and frequently the incumbent acted as schoolmaster. Several bequests were left in order to provide education. In 1723 Marmaduke Jolly left £10 to the

'school of Betley the interest to be applied to the teaching of poor children of Betley; 10s per annum to be paid to schoolmaster' 37

Later the school moved to the small building on the Main Road which is now designated by the lintel stone as a savings bank. In 1833 the village was served by two Day and Sunday national schools (a boys’ school and a girls’ school). The present village school was built in 1854 and served the community as a through, all-age. school. It originally took pupils to the age of 14. Other schools came and went. The boys' boarding school at Tower View later merged with Cotton College (now closed) to become one of the principal institutions for Catholic Education in Staffordshire.

There was a girls' residential independent school at Grove House. In 1851 another school was run at Wilton House, Wrinehill. There was also a small 'dame' school and a short-lived Primitive Methodist School at Wrinehill with one boy and seven girls on the roll in 1833. By 1871 the village boasted an 'adventure' school which was later recognised as an elementary public school under the 1870 Act. Betley Ladies College was located in Croft House. It was essentially a residential school or as it was described in 1870 'a ladies seminary'. The college closed in 1914.

Poor Law in the villages was operated by the Poor Law Unions. In Barthomley the leaning was towards Nantwich whilst at Alsager the orientation was towards Congleton and the use of Arclid Workhouse. Audley and Betley used the workhouse at Keele Road in Newcastle. Since then Audley and Betley have been in Staffordshire rural district and latterly, since 1974 in Newcastle under Lyme Borough.

From this analysis of the respective histories it is apparent that in the early days of the three villages there was great similarity between them. The influences of the lords of the manor were of great significance. When these began to change in the 1800s the development patterns of Audley, Barthomley and Betley began to diverge. Three clearly distinctive communities evolved. Where the traditional estate structure was broken-down, as in Audley, and to a lesser extent in Betley, land redistribution increased the number of farmer owner-occupiers and progressive economic and social change followed. In Barthomley, where the estate structure altered very little, development in the form that occurred in Betley and Audley did not materialise.

Further divergence between the three villages took place upon the development of large scale iron and coalmining perhaps suggesting that change occurred not because of conditions above ground but because of what lay beneath. Audley, on the coalfield, grew rapidly. Railways and roads were built to facilitate movement, and because of the availability of work, its population expanded. Industrialisation affected Betley too, but to a lesser extent. In Barthomley the consequences of these economic changes which were occurring no more than three miles away had little obvious physical impact on the village, although demographically it was adversely affected by out-migration of families to work in the coal mines.

With deindustrialisation and the rapid technological change of the late twentieth century the three villages have entered a new phase in their evolution. The effects of their past divergent development is clearly evident but as the imprint of the nineteenth century diminishes their social and functional links remain strong.

Audley, Barthomley and Betley: Village Comparisons


Audley Betley Barthomley

Place name

Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon

Medieval land ownership

Audley & Boughey families Audley & Boughey families Crewe family

18th and 19th century land ownership

Open village* Semi-open village (Fletcher-Twemlow and Tollet estates) Closed village** (Crewe/later Duchy of Lancaster estate)

19th century economy

Agricultural/ extensively industrial Agricultural/ some industrial influences Agricultural

19th century population

Rapid growth of population Population almost static Population decline


Turnpike road Turnpike road No through roads
Railway branch line Railway main line Railway main line

Religious affiliations

Lichfield Diocese Lichfield Diocese Chester Diocese
Low church and non-conformity High church High church

* Open villages were those in which land was distributed amongst many owners.

** Closed villages were those controlled socially and economically by one or very few landowners



1. R. Speake (ed). Audley: an out of the way, quiet place. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1972

2. R. Speake (ed). Betley: a village of contrasts. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1980

3. R. Speake (ed). Barthomley: The story of an estate village. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1995

4. R. Speake (ed). Betley: a village of contrasts. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1980 page 65

5. R. Speake (ed). Barthomley: The story of an estate village. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1995 page 51

6. Ibid., 1995 page 56

7. R. Speake (ed). Betley: a village of contrasts. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1980 page 36

8. R. Speake (ed). Audley: an out of the way, quiet place. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1972 page 14

9. R. Speake (ed). Barthomley: The story of an estate village. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1995 page 133

10. R. Speake (ed). Betley: a village of contrasts. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1980 page 66

11. Audley Parish Register, 1660

12. R. Speake (ed). Barthomley: The story of an estate village. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1995 page 83

13. R. Speake (ed). Betley: a village of contrasts. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1980 page 76

14. Ibid., page 76

15. School Log Book, Betley. 1865

16. Duchy of Lancaster Office, Crewe Estates

17. PRO SC11/998. 1580

18. Ormerod. History of Cheshire. 1882 page 299

19. G. Riley (1991) The Water Mills of the Borough of Newcastle

20. R. Speake (ed). Audley: an out of the way, quiet place. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1972 page 122

21. Ibid., page 136

22. Barthomley and Alsager Census Returns (1851-1951)

23. R. Speake (ed). Audley: an out of the way, quiet place. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1972 page 75

24. R. Speake (ed). Betley: a village of contrasts. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1980 page 201

25. R. Speake (ed). Audley: an out of the way, quiet place. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1972 page 76

26. R. Speake (ed). Barthomley: The story of an estate village. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1995 page 240

27. R. Speake (ed). Audley: an out of the way, quiet place. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1972 page 80

28. C. Feinnes. Journeys of C. Feinnes. ed. by C. Morris. The Crescent Press. 1947 page 177

29. Turnpike Act 1766. Newcastle-under-Lyme, Nantwich. Preamble.

30. Rev E. Hinchcliffe. Barthomley. 1856 pages 116-117

31. R. Speake (ed). The Old Road to Endon. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1974 page 106

32. Staffordshire Advertiser. 22 October 1852

33. Staffordshire Advertiser. 10 September 1902

34. Articles of Enquiry, Barthomley. CRO Chester. 1778

35. H. Hodgson, Cheshire 1660-1780. History of Cheshire Series. Cheshire Community Council, 1978

36. R. Speake (ed). Audley: an out of the way, quiet place. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1972 page 101

37. R. Speake (ed). Betley: a village of contrasts. Dept Adult Education, Keele University. 1980 page 177

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