The History of Lock 57 Cottage and Belvedere House, Hassall Green

Belvedere House made a particularly interesting research project, which I hope the new owner will enjoy. Spoiler alert, it isn't a warehouse!

The History of Lock 57 Cottage and Belvedere House, Hassall Green
A postcard showing Belvedere House soon after 1998

At the time of writing, Belvedere House is on the market, so it made a particularly interesting research project. Spoiler alert, it isn't a warehouse! I began with very limited existing knowledge, and the research is by no means complete. To date no archives have been visited, and I have only checked online newspaper archives up to 1900. If you can add to this history, or help to firm up any of the vague dates, please feel free to comment below. If you are interested in the property, please contact the agent, Butters John Bee.

1777 to 1837

When exactly Lock 57 Cottage was built, remains a mystery. The Trent and Mersey Canal was completed in 1777. At that time, much, probably most of the land in Hassall Green was owned by George Wilbraham. George Wilbraham was the Whig MP (1779-1852) of Delamere Lodge, Cheshire, who was succeeded in 1852 by his eldest son, George Fortescue Wilbraham (1815-1885). Detailed research into the history of Hassall Green would benefit from checking the extensive collection of title deeds, estate papers, legal papers, family and personal papers in the Baker Wilbraham Collection, which covers the period 1219-1909. One potential resource in this collection would be Bundle "L". Pkt. "A". Misc. Trent/Mersey Canal. c.1765 - c.1816.

I have not visited Lock 57 Cottage in person and I am not skilled in architectural forensics, but from photographs I can see some clues to the building's former use. I quickly determined that from the beginning, the house was most likely divided into a residential part on the left, and a commercial part on the right. This layout remained until 1985, and is confirmed by Peter Silvester's 1985 plan below. Peter Silvester also has a photo of the property in Victorian times which clearly shows the property as retail premises. The old residential front door was later blocked in and changed to a window, and the original commercial door became the main door to the cottage. See Peter Silvester's 1988 plan below.

So, was Lock 57 Cottage built as a house and shop, or could it have been built for some other purpose, perhaps by the Canal Company? It is very unlikely that it was a lock keeper's cottage, as it doesn't sit at the right angle to the canal, but it may have been built for other canal purposes, for a canal clerk, for example. Local knowledge would confirm whether it was built in a similar style to any other properties along the Trent and Mersey Canal.

1837 – the Poll Book – we meet Edgbert Robinson

The first documentary evidence I have found which refers to a shop at Lock 57 Cottage is the 1837 Poll Book. This lists the inhabitants in the immediate area. Here we meet Edgbert Robinson.

  • Edgbert Robinson, freehold house, garden, and shop – Hassall Green.

It is interesting to see that the shop is listed separately from the house - a firm indicstion of the two front doors. Note that the property is listed as freehold, but later evidence from the tithe schedule of 1841 and the sale of the property in 1863 state that the Grocer's Shop was leasehold.

Where did Edgbert get the funds to build or buy the property?

The Poll Book also lists Thomas Swindells, father of Edgbert's wife Mary Robinson, who has a freehold house and land in Hassall Green. It is apparent that the family is one of reasonable means.

Several of Edgbert's relations lived nearby:

  • Joseph Robinson, occupier of a house and land – Hassall Cross
  • John Robinson, occupier of a house and land – Bank Farm
  • George Robinson, occupier of a house and land – Fields

A sale of property in September in 1837 tells us that Joseph Robinson and George Podmore were the tenants of some fields at Kettle's Farm, Hassall Cross, Hassall Green. Four of these fields were up for auction again in 1840: The Little Gate, The Great Gate Field, The Further Sand Flat, and The Near Sand Flat. They were still in the occupation of a Mr Robinson, presumably Joseph.

1841 – the Tithe Map

The Tithe Maps were drawn up between 1836 and 1851, and I believe that Betchton was surveyed in 1841. It provides the earliest map examined. Note that the parallel locks already exist – they were built about 1830.

Tithe Map of Hassall Green via Cheshire Archives

Plot 662, which extends to 0 Acres, 1 Rood, 25 Perches (about 1,966 square yards, 1644 square metres), now comprises Lock 57 Cottage, Bwthyn Clyd, and Belvedere House. The tithe schedule lists a single house and garden here. The owner is listed as George Wilbraham, and the occupier Edgbert Robinson – another confirmation that the house is a leasehold at this time.

Immediately to the north of Plot 662 (west of the pond) is a small unlisted Plot, now the entrance to Bwthyn Clyd.

Opposite the pond is Plot 683, a House and Garden owned again by George Wilbraham, and occupied by Thomas Swindells (father of Mary Robinson). It is 0 Acres, 3 Roods 3, 17 Perches.

To the north east of Lock 57 Cottage beyond the pond is Plot 608, the Red Lion Public House. Again, the owner is George Wilbraham. The occupier is William Smallwood. This plot is 0 Acres, 1 Rood, 33 Perches. The former Red Lion Grade 2 listing claimed that it was built in the 17th Century. It was later renamed the Romping Donkey. It eventually closed and has been replaced by housing.

The Romping Donkey © Copyright Roger Kidd

Immediately to the east of the Grocer's Shop is Pump Field, owned by George Wilbraham and occupied by Thomas Swindells. Beyond this to the east are Plot 653, Breach, owned by George Wilbraham and occupied by Edward Robinson, and beyond that is Plot 651, Cottons Croft, owned by George Wilbraham and occupied by John Robinson.

Across the canal to the west of the lock is the Salt Works (plot 679) occupied by John Stringer. Across the canal to the east of the lock (opposite Belvedere House today), are a group of fields surrounded by lanes, all owned by George Wilbraham and occupied by John Robinson. They are Reservoir Field, Plot 663, which comprises 4 Acres, 2 Roods, 38 Perches, followed by Upper Croft, Big Breach, Stangate Field, Green Lane Field, Brooms Croft, and Sun Croft.

1841 – the census – Edgbert Robinson the grocer

The heads of household in Hassall Green were:

  • Robert Moseley, farmer, age about 60.
  • Rebecca Links, age 30.
  • Thomas Robinson, agricultural labourer, age about 35.
  • James Buckley, agricultural labourer, age about 55.
  • William Condcliff, agricultural labourer, age about 30.
  • Thomas Buckley, schoolmaster, age about 40.
  • Thomas Clarke, agricultural labourer, age about 50.
  • William Links, publican, age about 70.
  • John Hickson, agricultural labourer, age about 45.
  • Edward Robinson, farmer etc, age about 20, with his wife Hannah and baby son Reuben, and three servants (these could be domestic or farm servants, not specified).
  • William Cotton, agricultural labourer, age about 50.
  • Ann Knight, age about 65.
  • William Lowndes, agricultural labourer, age about 35.
  • James Latham, publican, age about 40.
  • Edgbert Robinson, grocer, age about 40, with his wife Mary, their daughter Ann age 6, their son William age three, and one female servant, 25 year old Mary Podmore.
  • Samuel Jinks, labourer, age about 35.
  • Thomas Bayley, agricultural labourer, age about 50.
  • Samuel Eardley, surveyor, age about 50.
  • Thomas Knight, boatman, age about 65 – probably passing through.

1844 – Edgbert the farmer

Despite calling himself a grocer in 1841, in April 1844 when his daughter Mary was born, Edgbert Robinson described himself as a farmer.

1845 – plans for a new railway

Plans to build a new railway from Kidsgrove Church to Preston Brook – the future Salt Line – were published in November 1845.

1851 – the census

In 1851 Edgbert was still living at the cottage now called Lock 57 Cottage, with his wife Mary and their three children, Ann now age 16, their son William now age 13, and Mary, age six. The census states that Edgbert was 49 years old and a Master Grocer.

Listed before the Robinsons was Thomas Cotton, the publican at the Red Lion. Listed after the Robinsons was John Williams, assistant Overseer and Surveyor for the township of Bechton. Curiously, John Williams is 24 and his wife Ann is 49. Was this an error? John and Ann were living with Ann's brother, Joseph Hall[ams], a 52 year old gardener. They had a domestic servant, Elizabeth Oxbury.

John Williams' house was followed by three uninhabited houses, which I imagine were the three small cottages behind the salt works, owned by George Wilbraham, where Mistletoe Cottages and Garth Cottage are today.

1855 – Fire in Hassall Green

On 2nd June 1855, the Cheshire Observer published the news that there had been a serious fire in Hassall Green the previous Sunday.

Sandbach. We regret to state that a fire broke out among some cottages at Hassall Green, near this town, about 12 o'clock at noon, on Sunday last, occupied by John Hollingshead, Thomas Simpson, and William Bayley. As soon as the alarm was given, a messenger was despatched to Mr William Faram, the active superintendent of police, and who also commands the fire brigade, although the distance is upwards of three miles, two engines, accompanied by a compliment of men, arrived in a very short space of time. In the interval which elapsed between the breaking out of the flames and the arrival of the engines, the most vigorous exertions had been used by all parties residing in the neighbourhood, to rescue the property of the poor cottagers, much of it was saved in consequence, but it had received considerable damage, besides which, the gardens were completely trodden over, and it is feared the crops will be wholly destroyed. When the engines arrived, the fire was speedily extinguished, but the buildings are a complete wreck. We understand they belong to George Wilbraham, Esk, of Delamere House, and are not insured.

1858 – a new Chapel

On Saturday 29 May 1858, the Staffordshire Advertiser advised:

New Wesleyan Chapel – On Wednesday, the 26th instant, the foundation stone of a new Wesleyan chapel at Hassall Green, near Sandbach, was laid by John Podmore Esq of Betchton...

1860 – the deaths of William and Edgbert Robinson

Edgbert's son William died age 22 in January 1860. Six months later, on Saturday 21 July 1860, the Cheshire Observer reported the suicide of Edgbert Robinson:

SUICIDE – On the 11th inst an inquest was held before H Churton Esq, at the house of Mr Jinks, Bitchton (sic), near Sandbach, on the body of Edgbert Robinson, aged 60, a shopkeeper. It seems that deceased had been in a low desponding way ever since the death of his son, which occurred 6 months ago. On the morning of the 9th inst he rose as usual about six o'clock; about eight he went to feed the pigs, and was absent for a long time. His wife went to search for him about half past ten, and found him in the stable, his throat cut, and a razor lying by his side. He was quite dead. A brother of his committed suicide at Bitchton, about 16 months ago. Verdict "Temporary insanity."

1861 – the census

In 1861 Mary Robinson was still living at Hassall Green. In the census she is described as a grocer, so she was keeping Edgbert's business going. Her daughters Ann and Mary were with her. Although the girls were old enough to be helping her with the business, no occupations are given in the census.

There were no other grocers nearby, but John Bailey age 38 was listed as a greengrocer later in the census.

1863 – the sale of the Robinson's home

From 31 October 1863 onwards, the Congleton Mercury ran a series of advertisements for the auction of the Robinsons' home and business.

Hassall Green in Betchton, Cheshire. To be sold by auction by Messrs Lindop, at the house of Mr Richard Jinks, Red Lion Inn, Hassall Green, on Wednesday the 18th day of November 1863, at 6 o'clock in the evening, either together or in lots, as may be agreed on, and subject to conditions. All that messuage or dwelling house with the shop and other buildings, and yard, garden, or parcel of land, thereto belonging, situate and being at Hassall Green, in Betchton aforesaid, containing together by admeasurement 1453 square yards, and 2 feet, or thereabouts, now occupied by Mrs Mary Robinson, and bounded on the westerly side thereof by the public highway from Hassall Green, across the Trent and Mersey canal, to Hassall, an on the southerly side by a road adjoining the said canal. The above property is held on lease for the remainder of two lives, now aged respectively 28 and 31 years, under the annual rent of 3s 2d. It is in a good situation and well adapted for business. For further particulars apply to Mr Latham, solicitor, Sandbach.

On 14 November 1863 it was announced that the sale would not take place. Unfortunately, no reason was given.

HASSALL GREEN. NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Sale of the MESSUAGE, SHOP, and PREMISES at Hassell Green, advertised for the 18th November instant, WILL NOT TAKE PLACE. JOHN LATHAM, Solicitor, Sandbach.

1870 – wasting water at the locks

Crewe Guardian - Saturday 13 August 1870

Thomas Beckett, boatman, was charged with wasting the canal water on the 17th ult. Richard Glass, the canal inspector, said he saw defendant draw up the centre cloughs of Hassall Green Lock, the bottom gates of the outside lock being open, thereby wasting two locks full of water. They were now buying water. Fined 50s and costs.

1871 – the census – James Wych and Thomas Birch

Many boatmasters are listed in the 1871 census, suggesting that the lock and nearby moorings were quite busy at this time. The Robinsons no longer appear in the census, but there are three possible grocers at the shop by Lock 57. There are strong arguments in favour of two of them.

1) James Wych, a grocer, with his wife Emma nee Robinson, is my preferred choice. Emma was a local girl and they had married the previous year. They had no children that I am aware of, and by 1881 they were no longer in Hassall Green. This family sounds quite hopeful because of the Robinson connection (I have not yet confirmed the link), and because they are by the canal. They were preceded in the census by a beer house keeper (probably the Bridge Foot Inn rather than the Red Lion), and followed in the census by James Aspinall, a 36 year old boat builder and painter, born in Wigan, Lancashire.

2) 14 households before James and Emma Wych was Thomas Birch. He was listed as a grocer living at 'the Grocer's Shop' in Hassall Green. Thomas was 46 years old. He married Margaret Eardley, a Betchton girl, in 1865. Margaret had an illegitimate daughter with the magnificent name Henrietta Jemima Elizabeth Anna Eardley, who was born in 1860 and was now age 11 and going by the last name Birch. Thomas and Margaret had a son together, William, now age 4. They also had a general servant Edward [last name illegible], age 29.

3) Two houses before Thomas Birch at the grocer's shop was John Bailey, a greengrocer.

1873/1882 – 6" OS Map

This map was surveyed: 1873 to 1874, Published: 1882. Note the T shaped footprint of Lock 57 Cottage. This is the same shape as the 1841 tithe map. There is also an L-shaped outbuilding on the site of Belvedere House. Note the first appearance of the new inn opposite the grocer's shop – the Bridge Foot Inn.

1877 – boy drowned

The Cheshire Observer on 21 July 1877.

Fatal Accident. — Mr. Henry Churton, county coroner, held an inquest at Hassall Green, on Monday, on the body of a boy aged six years, whose parents reside at Betchton. It appears that the deceased with another brother left the house to fish in the canal, on Saturday morning, and after staying with his brother about half an hour, he left, stating that he was going home. He walked on the field side of the canal for about 200 yards, when by some means be fell into the water, and there being no assistance, he was drowned. Shortly afterwards, his brother missing him, ran home and gave the alarm. The canal was at once dragged, but the body was not found until about eleven o'clock at night. The jury returned a verdict of "Found drowned."

1879 – man found drowned

Stretford and Urmston Examiner 05 July 1879:

MAN FOUND DROWNED AT HASSALL GREEN. —On Wednesday afternoon the body of a man, unknown, was found in the canal at Hassall Green. It was brought to the surface by coming in contact with a boat. The body was removed from the water and awaits an inquest at the Red Lion Inn, Hassall.

The following week the newspaper reported on the inquest:

HASSALL GREEN Inquest. An inquest was held at the house of Mrs Ann Jinks, the Red Lion public house Hassall Green, Betchton, on Friday last, before Mr W H Churton, deputy coroner, and a respectable jury, the foreman of which was Mr Ralph Cooke, touching the death of a man unknown, who was found drowned in the Trent and Mersey Canal, at Betchton, at 4.30 in the morning of Thursday, the 3rd inst. The jury having viewed the body, the first witness called was George Bossons, a boatman, who stated that he was passing down the canal on the Thursday morning in question with his boat, when it turned up the body of the deceased in the water. He gave information to Thomas Barnett, a lock-tenter, who lived close to the place when the body was found, and they (witness and Barnett) took the body out of the canal, and conveyed It to the Red Lion public house. The deceased appeared to be about 40 years of age, and had the appearance of a tramp. The body was but poorly clad, and the only articles found in the pockets of the deceased's clothing were a small steel tobacco box, a clay pipe, and a small piece of tobacco paper, with the word 'Coventry' printed upon it. —Hannah Blackhurst, married woman, residing on the canal side, identified the body of the deceased as that of a man who passed down the canal at 9.30am on the previous day. He was like a tramp, and also appeared very much dejected and low-spirited. This being the whole of the evidence, the jury unanimously returned an open verdict of "Found drowned."

1880 – the new coal wharf

In May 1880 a new coal wharf opened at Hassall Green. The owner advertised in the paper:

COALS! COALS!! COALS!!! HASSALL GREEN COAL WHARF. Edwin Brereton begs most respectfully to inform the inhabitants of Hassall Green, Hassall, Betchton, Smallwood, and surrounding neighbourhood, that the North Staffordshire Railway Company, having put down a Weighing Machine at the Hassall Green Railway Siding, he has OPENED A COAL WHARF, where he will constantly have on hand a good supply of COALS and SLACK of different qualities. The lowest possible prices will be charged, and orders will be punctually attended to, given either at the wharf, or to Charles Sproston, Agent, Ettiley Heath, near Sandbach.

The wharf is not shown on any OS map.

1880 – fire at the Red Lion

In July 1880 the Red Lion Inn, landlady Ann Jinks, was struck by lightning and the roof set on fire.

1881 – a boatman drowned

In March 1881 the newspaper reported:

SANDBACH - Inquest — On Thursday Mr. H. Churton, the county coroner, held an inquest at the Red Lion Inn, Hassall Green, on the body of James Brooks, a boat- man, aged 1 (misprint). From the evidence it appeared the deceased went to arrange the Longcroft look, about 2.30 a.m. on the 9th inst., and when his companion arrived at the lock the deceased was not to be seen. The other boatman got a boathook and found the body. A verdict of "Accidentally drowned" was returned.

1881 – the census – William Chesters

In the 1881 census, there were again three men who may have been at the shop by Lock 57. Given the location, the length of time William Chesters remained in his job, and the scale of his later operations, it seemed most likely that he was the owner of the shop.

1) William Chesters, 33 year old, was a grocer, and lived in the house next to the Bridge Foot Inn with his wife Harriet and their children, Herbert, Jessie, Lewis, John and Sarah, and 7 day old baby Mary. I believe the Bridge Foot Inn was the new Inn across the road from the shop by Lock 57.

2) Thomas Birch and his family were still in Hassall Green. Thomas was still a grocer.

3) John Bailey was still living about three houses away and working as a greengrocer.

Further research might narrow down the year that William Chesters arrived.

Two separate families are listed, each with the address Lock House:

  • James Billington, a canal mason
  • Thomas Buckley, a lock keeper

1884 – the death of Thomas Birch

On 20th May 1884, at Hassall Green, Sandbach, Thomas Birch died. His obituary stated that he was the son of Thomas Birch, late surveyor of Lilleshall estates, aged 60. There was no mention of his address or grocery business.

1891 – the census – William Chesters

In 1891 William Chesters and his family were still at Hassall Green, and I still favour them as the most likely residents at the shop by Lock 57. William was listed as a grocer and baker. No occupation is listed for his wife Harriet. William's son Herbert was a clerk, followed by the initials CC – this could mean Canal Company. No occupation was listed for his 16 year old daughter Jessie. His son Louis was a baker and grocer's assistant. No occupation was listed for his 13 year old son John. The four younger children, Sarah, Lizzie, Sylvia, and Hannah were listed as scholars. The youngest, George was 11 months old. The girls were musical, and members of the Band of Hope. They, especially Lizzie, gave recitations, songs, and piano performances at several events in 1893-1895.

By 1891 Margaret Birch had been widowed. She was 61 years old and was noted as a provisions dealer on the 1891 census. Her son William was now a solicitor's clerk.

John Bailey was still a house away and was noted as a butter and cheese dealer.

1891 – a boatman drowned

In February 1891 the following appeared in the paper:

A Boatman Drowned. — Yesterday (Friday) Mr H Churton, county coroner, held an inquest at Hassall Green concerning the death of Samuel Key, 18 years of age, who was immersed in the canal. The evidence shewed that the deceased was attending to his ordinary duties as a boatman, when from some cause or other he got into the water. He was taken out by his father, but he never recovered consciousness, and died before assistance could be procured. A verdict in accordance with the evidence given was returned.

1894 – surveys for a passenger station

In April 1894 surveys were carried out by the North Staffordshire Railway Company to build a passenger station in Hassall Green for passenger transport to the Potteries. About 250 families supported the proposal. In 1897 it was concluded that the line was only suitable for goods, as it was at that time, and the scheme was dropped.

1897 – a tea provided by the Chesters

In 1897 Mr and Mrs Chesters provided a 'repast' for a social gathering for the Hassall Green Evening Continuation School.

1897/1898 – 25" OS Map

This map was surveyed in 1897 and published in 1898. We can therefore conclude that the grocer's shop was built between 1873 and 1897. The map clearly shows the that the Stores was attached to the rear of the cottage at that time. Note the T shaped footprint of the cottage at Lock 57. This is the same shape as the 1841 tithe map.

Note the small buildings by the bank of the northern lock, one of which still exists. I suspect it is the oldest part of the property. It was probably an early lock keeper's hut for tools etc, and had a fireplace with a chimney for warmth and shelter. This now adjoins the right (lockside) half of Belvedere House. Peter Silvester confirms that it was in use as a lengthsman's bothy until at least 1988.

1897/1899 – 6" OS Map

This map contributes nothing new. In this map the footprint of the Cottage at Lock 57 had changed, although its relationship to the grocery store had not. It seems clear that the square shape was but a simplification used for the 6 inch map.

1901 - Kelly's directory

In this directory William and Thomas Chesters were listed as wholesale grocers at Mill Street, Nantwich.

1901 – the census – William Chesters

In 1901 William Chesters was 53 years old and was working from home as a self-employed grocer and baker. His wife Harriet nee Dale was the same age. They had six children: Jessie, age 26, was an assistant in the shop. Louis age 24 was a baker and bread maker. John W age 22 was a baker. Lizzie aged 20 was an infant mistress in the elementary school. Sylvia aged 18 and Hannah Louisa aged 17, were both assistants in the shop.

By 1901 Margaret Birch and her daughter Henrietta had moved to Park Lane, Sandbach.

1908/1909 – 25" OS Map

As before the footprint of the Cottage at Lock 57 has reverted to a T shape.

1908/1911 – 6" OS Map

Again this map contributes nothing new. Note that the footprint of the Cottage at Lock 57 has reverted once again to a square, but we can't read anything into this about the true shape of the building.

1909 – death of Harriet Chesters

William's wife Harriet died in on 2nd December 1909. Probate described her as the wife of William Chesters, grocer and baker.

1911 – the census – William Chesters

True to form thus far, the census does not list the exact address for William and his family. However, the listing appears after the Bridge Foot Inn, adding weight to my ongoing assumption that I have the right family. James Aspinall, now retired, is listed after the Chesters. The residents were:

  • William Chesters, now aged 64, widower, grocer and baker.
  • Louis Chesters, sis son, now 34, single, and a baker in the business.
  • Lizzie, his daughter, now 30, married, and assisting in the business
  • Lizzie's husband Harry Butler, 32, assisting in the business.
  • Albert Clarke from Alsager, 15, assisting in the business.

The only other evidence from this census is that the enumerator states that there were 7 rooms in their home.

1920 – the death of William Chesters

William died at Hassall Green on 1st August 1920. He was described in probate as a baker and provisions dealer.

1921 – the census

I have not yet checked the original document but the Butler family are definitely indexed as follows:

  • Harry Stant Butler, grocer
  • Lizzie Butler (William Chesters' daughter)
  • James Arthur Butler
  • Bettine Chesters Butler

1930 – sale of the Wilbraham Estate

In October 1930 the Wilbraham estate was sold. If the property was leasehold before, this could be the time when it became freehold. I know beyond reasonable doubt that it was freehold by 1950.

LATE MAJOR WILBRAHAM’S PROPERTY – The Betchton (Sandbach) estate and the Clive (Shropshire) estate which belonged to the late Major Wilbraham of Delamere House Sandiway, one the largest landowners in Cheshire, are to come under the hammer. The tenants who have been notified are being given an opportunity to purchase prior to the sale. The Betchton estate comprises over 1000 acres and includes the village of Hassall Green. It is understood that the disposal of the estates is due to the heavy death duties.

1937 – the post office opened

In February 1937 the newspapers reported:

SUB POST OFFICE AT HASSALL GREEN —A new Sub Post Office at which Postal Order business will be transacted is shortly to be opened at Hassall Green.

This was followed in April by the news:

HASSALL GREEN POST OFFICE—A new Post Office was opened at Hassall Green Sandbach on Monday. Public business may be transacted during the hours of 9 am to 7 pm (week days) and 1 pm (Tuesday).

1939 – the register – Harry and Lizzie Butler

It was fantastic to find that in 1939 the property was listed as the Post Office, (again listed immediately after the Bridge Foot Inn). This finally confirmed to me that I had been focusing on the right family. William Chesters' daughter and her husband were still there after all these years, having arrived sometime between 1871 and 1881. It seems all the more likely that William Chesters was responsible for the building of the original stores building beside the cottage.

The residents listed in the register were:

  • Harry S Butler, Lizzie's husband, retail grocer and sub-postman, born 1878.
  • Christine D Butler, (later Creed), school teacher, born 1916.
  • Bettine C Butler, (later Pass), hair dresser's assistant, born 1916 (yes, they were twins!)
  • Philip H Butler, post office sorting clerk, born 1921.
  • Lizzie Butler, William Chesters' daughter, unpaid domestic duties, born 1881.

Harry and Lizzie's daughter Christine Butler later became headmistress of the village school. She left in 1956 to get married.

1943 – CRT Drawings of Bridge

The Waterways Archive holds the following:

"[Drawings of] Overbridge No 146 carrying unclassified road between Roughwood & Hassall Green [at] Hassall Green [on the] Trent & Mersey Canal in County of Chester". Plan, elevation, section, and loading and equilibrium diagram. Class 'Z' bridge under Road & Rail Traffic Act 1933. Date 15 April 1943. Reference code BW156/3/4/6/55.

1938/1947 – 6" OS Map

This 6" OS Map was surveyed in 1938, published in 1947. As usual the footprint of Lock 57 Cottage has reverted to a square in this 6 inch scale map. No further revelations.

1950 – sale of Post Office

In November 1950 the Post Office was advertised for sale:

FREEHOLD BUSINESS PREMISES and LAND at HASSALL GREEN. Lot 1 — with Vacant Possession – A Valuable Detached BUSINESS PREMISES – HASSALL GREEN POST OFFICE, with garden, outbuildings, excellent living accommodation. An old-established grocery and mixed business is carried on. Stock and loose fittings at valuation. The property is conveniently situated 3 miles from Sandbach and Alsager on the road leading from the New Inn Betchton to Hassall. To view apply the premises on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

After this there is little evidence to help me identify owners, so I have a gap to the 1970s. There may be other evidence to uncover, and perhaps old residents in Hassall Green may know something about this period.

1953 – Robinsons - a postscript

Here is an article which needs further investigation.

Sandbach Dentist for Hong Kong. Mr M A Burley, a well-known Sandbach dental surgeon, has secures a post in the Colonial Service at Hong King, and will leave this country by ir on September 18th. His wife and their 18 months old daughter, Linda, will travel later by sea. For over a year, Mr Burley worked with Mr FCR Lewis, dental surgeon, in Crewe Road, Sandbach. A native of Lincoln, Mr Burly was commissioned in the Royal Army Dental Corps during the war, and while serving in Germany, he met his wife-to-be, then Miss Robinson, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs E J Robinson of Hassall Green Post Office, near Sandbach, who was in the ATS.

1954 – 1:10,000 OS map

Note the parallel locks, and no motorway. The Post Office is shown at the shop. As with the 6 inch maps, the 1:10,000 scale maps show Lock 57 Cottage as a square footprint.

1957 – a sub-postmaster

The sub-postmaster at Hassall Green was Mr K Lea.

1963 – a break-in

On 4th May 1963 the Nantwich Chronicle reported:

Broke into a Post Office. Five boys admitted, at Sandbach Juvenile Court on Tuesday, jointly breaking and entering Hassall Green Post Office between March 2 ad 9, and stealing goods worth £12 9s. Two of them also admitted jointly breaking and entering the Post Office on a separate occasions and stealing goods worth £14. Two were aged 9, one 10, one 11, and one 12. Two other boys, aged 12 and 13, admitted reeiving 10s and 30s respectively, knowing it to have been stolen. These two were each given two years' probation. The eldest of the five boys charged together, described as the ringleader, was put on probation for three years. The others were conditionally discharged.

1967 – 1:10,000 OS map

Note that in this map the Motorway has been built, and it appears that there is only one lock, not a parallel pair.

1969 – the Post Office for Sale

In June 1969 Henry Manley and Sons advertised:

HASSALL GREEN NEAR SANDBACH. As a Going Concern. OLD ESTABLISHED SALES SHOP with LIVING ACCOMMODATION and gardens known as THE POST OFFICE, with sales area, good stock space, living room, kitchen, utility room, four bedrooms, bathroom. Extensive garage gardens 1/3 acre. Delightful setting in village centre and adjoining canal with expanding summer trade. RV £110. Mains water and electricity.

I'm sure the new motorway either prompted the sale or delayed a successful sale, as the adverts continued into September.

1972 – James Roberts Worthington

An article in August 1972 about a break in to a phone box by the post office reveals the name of the new postmasters – Mr and Mrs Worthington. Mr Worthington's obituary, printed on 2nd November 1988, tells us more about him.

Mr J R Worthington. The funeral has taken place of Mr James Roberts Worthington, aged 55, of Fir Trees, Wrenbury Heath Road, Sound, Nantwich. A service at Crewe Crematorium was conducted by the Rev D Wren. Born in the Manchester area, he trained as an electronic engineer, served for three years with the RAF in Germany, and was later in business at Hassall Green Post Office. He became the proprietor of Vistra Instrumentations Ltd (Hassall Green). Founder of H O P Underwood Lane, Crewe, in the early 1980s.

1979 – Terence Kevin Shutt

An article about a car falling into the canal in April 1979 reveals a postmaster – Terry Shutt. He also worked as a tutor. It appears from later evidence that he did not own the property at that time.

1983 – Arthur Frank Belcher

Peter Silvester recalls that Arthur Belcher was Val Shutt's father, and that he lived in a summerhouse in the gardem.

MR A F BELCHER The funeral has taken place of Mr Arthur Frank Belcher of The Post Office Hassall Green Sandbach, who was 85. A service in St Phillip’s Church Hassall Green was followed by burial in Sandbach Cemetery. R J and B Griffiths of 60 The Hill Sandbach were the undertakers.

1984 – Terence Kevin Shutt and Valerie Anne Shutt

Terry and Val must have bought (or inherited) the Post Office in about January 1984. In July 1984 Valerie Shutt, owner of the Post Office, applied to sell alcohol at the Post Office. According to the published applications, she stated that she had owned the Post Office for the past six months. The Shutts also offered boat services such as pump-outs.

In the early 1980, the Shutts built a new extension, including a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, office, corridor, and porch, linking the original house to the old two storey commercial building.

1985 to 1988 – the Silvester family

Peter and Christine Silvester bought the post office from the Shutts in late May 1985. They have confirmed in person that they bought it from Terry and Val Shutt. The plan below shows the layout when they bought the property.

The layout of the property in 1985 copyright Peter Silvester

The Silvesters didn't build any extensions, but they changed the use of some the rooms relating to the business. Initially they ran the left (original) part of Belvedere House as a Canal Centre, where you could buy Hassall Green pottery mugs, brasses, thimbles, and other souvenirs, and kept the Shutt's upstairs tea room going. They continued to offer boat services such as pump-outs.

The Cheshire Ring postcard below shows the original half of Belvedere House in use as a Canal Shop. Note the "Canal Shop" signage. Although undated, Peter Silvester confirms that this was definitely before 1986, as that was the years he put a new sign across the front of the building saying 'General Stores' and moved the existing 'Canal Shop' sign to the side of the main building facing the lock.

In 1986 Peter and Christine moved the Post Office and Grocery from its original location within Lock 57 Cottage, to the room where the canal shop was. At the same time they moved the canal shop stock into the bedroom in the 1980s extension behind the cottage. Thus all commercial activities were separated from Lock 57 Cottage for the first time.

Peter and Christine Silvester owned the property until about mid July 1988, when they sold it to Ray and Sue Paine. They are now well known for their management of Audlem Mill book and craft shop from 2007 to present (although they are now preparing to retire and have been selling their business).

The layout of the property in 1988 copyright Peter Silvester

1988 – Ray and Sue Paine

In July 1988, the property was purchased from the Silvesters by Ray Paine, who was previously a newsagent in Essex. He ran it as a Bed and Breakfast, post office, grocer's shop, and tearoom, as well as continuing to offer boat services such as pump-outs. In his spare time (what spare time?) he bred ducks and served as a Parish Councillor.

1989 – a letter about the Paines

A letter was published in the Crewe Chronicle on 5th July 1989. This letter reads:

I read with interest your front page article (June 28) on the Canalside Centre at Hassall Green. It is indeed a most pleasant place to visit, and Mr and Mrs Paine seem a delightful couple. Therefore I am sure they would be the first to admit that your reporter's statement 'Ray and Sue took over... when it was just a post office' is totally in error. The extensions and alterations to the property, the tea shop, and many of the lockside facilities for canal users, were the work of former owners of the property. B A Gilhooly, Alsager.

The Silvesters have confirmed that they did not carry out any extensions, so the writer must be referring to the extension built by the Shutts. The Silvesters know that the Paines continued with the Post Office and groceries, canal shop and boat services, and the tea room, all in the same locations that the Silvesters left them in.

The extension

Peter Silvester believes that the extension was built by the Paines in the late 1990s or early 2000s. The Geograph photo below, was taken by photographer Andrew Longton, and he says it was taken on Tuesday, 9 June, 1998. This is the last image I have found before the large cafe extension to Belvedere House. Andrew's photo confirms that the extension was built sometime after June 1998. Note that the old shop door in the cottage still opens directly into the car park.

Hassall Green Post Office copyright Andrew Longton (via Geograph)

The matching right part of Belvedere house was built in the style of a warehouse with a mock upper loading door. This half was used as a restaurant, initially called Brindley's. The seating for restaurant customers was laid out on the one of the two parallel locks which had been filled in.

1998 – the first photo with the extension

This Hassall Green postcard shows Brindley's (undated). The extension has been built and is looking very pristine! The boat registration number looks like 71456 which would date the boat to 1984. As the boat looks to be in good condition, I suspect this was taken not long after. The left part of Belvedere House may still have been used as Hassall Green Post Office and General Store.

Hassall Green showing Brindley's Restaurant soon after 1998

1998-2003

Not researched.

2003

The commercial building last changed hands in December 2003.

2008

The postcard below was photographed in 2008.

Hassall Green in 2008

2009

I believe this was the year that the Post Office closed.

2012

The General Stores and Lock 57 Café continued in use until 2012, still with a sideline selling diesel, logs and coal to boaters.

2014

In about 2014 the property was split into two titles, Lock 57 Cottage in one title, and Belvedere House, consisting of the old stores and cafe, in the other. An additional extension was added to the rear which provides a ground floor bedroom and en-suite, and a first floor kitchen.

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