Darnhall Hall and
Since my ancestors are supposed to have
worked as smithies at Darnhall Hall for over 200 years, I am trying to
find it's location. My great-grandfather George Dodd (1846 - 1910),
ran the smithy in Balterley with two of his son's Thomas
(1873-1957) and George Dodd (1877-1964). His father
Thomas Dodd was christened
at "St David"
Wettenhall in 1824, just down the road from Darnhall and he went on to
a blacksmith there, following on from his father, another Thomas
Dodd (b:1790), who was also a blacksmith at Wettenhall
and his Uncle John (b:1787) was a blacksmith at Darnhall.
It seems that the area has been used as a hunting lodge and
park by the Earls of Chester from before the Norman conquest. It must
have been part of the Mara or Mondren forests (latter merged and called
le Scot, the last Norman Earl of Chester was supposed to have been
murdered by his wife Helen
there. She was a Welsh princess, her father was Llewellyn
the Great (the Greatest Welsh Prince of Wales), on her mother's
side she was the granddaughter of King John of
England (of Magna
Carta fame). Both Henry III and his
son Edward, Earl of Chester visited Darnhall. Edward wanted to
build a great Cistercian abbey at the Royal Lodge, (a promise he made
God when he was saved in a shipwreck by a miracle) and I
in gratitude he would fund the buildings. He sent a small group of
to Darnhall, to plan the works. The monks built two mills here (a grain
and a fulling mill) and a grange farm.
The monks wanted to build the abbey to the east of what is
now Whitegate [map],
the land which was owned by the nuns of Chester Convent. Apparently
some people up there had visions and heard strange music, and the monks
felt the people up there where more trustworthy. Anyway, King Edward I gave
permission to build the abbey on the nuns' land. He gave it the name of
'Valis Regalis' (Vale
Edward laid the Corner stone in 1277.
It took them until 1281 to build some temporary wooden building for the
monks to live in including St Mary's
Church, until then they trudged back an forth between Vale Royal
Some time after this King Edward I, stopped paying for the
but gave the lands at Darnhall to the Abbey. Today the land around the
demolished abbey is the Vale
Royal Abbey Golf Club.
From 1294 to 1306, Walter Deaur, the Abbot of Vale Royal created Over
as a market village, under authority of King Edward I.
In the book "The
Ledger Book of Vale Royal" by John
Henry Cooke is an account of a grisly murder at Darnhall. It says:
John de Boddeworth, the Abbot's servant, killed by the Brethren of
Oldynton. Edward etc. to his well beloved and trusty R. de Holland, his
justiciar of Chester, greeting. We command you diligently to enquire by
the oath of honest and lawful men of your bailiwick, by whom the truth
of the matter may best be known, who are the malefactors and disturbers
of our peace and who villainously slew a certain servant of our well
beloved in Christ, the abbot of Vale Royal at Dernhale, and afterwards
cut off his head and carried it away with them, and kicked that head
like a ball, and made their sport therewith; and who afterwards
knowingly received those malefactors and the whole truth of all details
touching that felony in any way whatsoever.
those whom, by that inquisition, you find guilty thereof, you shall
take and cause them to be delivered into the prison of our county
aforesaid. And from that prison they shall in no wise be set free by
fine or redemption, or in any manner heretofore accustomed to be used
in such cases in those parts, for we specially reserve to ourselves the
fines and redemptions to be taken from men convicted or to be convicted
of homicide. And for the rest, you shall bear yourself so circumspectly
in the premises that the felony shall by no means remain unpunished.
Given at London on
the 20th Day of October, 1320."
I see that in this extract the spelling of 'Darnhall' is
'Dernhale'. The book also makes the following quote: 'Be slow to
damn the sinner, we all make slips'.
In 1329 John de Oldynton is the steward and sergeant of the peace
Another incident occurred in 1337 when Thomas de Venables wounded
John de Eynesham, a monk of Vale Royal over fishing rights at Darnhall
pool. He was fined £5 by the church court in Marton.
From this and other battles between the Venables and the monks, I
assume that the monks of Vale Royal Abbey where still the landlords at
Darnhall at this time. Read "Specture
of Historic Doubt" by Brian Curzon for more details.
"Harsh laws, plagues and famines
made conditions so wretched that the 'Cheshire Rising' took place in
the reign of Richard II. In the district of Winsford and Over, the
people rose against the Prior of Darnhall and murdered
one of his monks, then proceeded to 'play football with his head...'" quoted
Cheshire Magazine October 19, 2001.
"In 1828 there was conflict
again when men from Nantwich came shooting pheasants for their
Christmas dinners. The gamekeeper and the staff at the hall were
surrounded, and afterwards no trace could be found until the men were
detected in Nantwich. They were arrested and about to be transported
under a law which forbid people to carry guns during the hours of
darkness. There was public outrage at the sentence and eventually the
men were released on a technicality. Although witnesses had said they
were carrying guns at 12 o clock no one had
said if this was night or noon!"
I found on the internet that the Hall was demolished in 1950s.
"Amongst so much that is old is a remarkably modern
landmark, almost hidden by trees when you are close to it, but visible
from a distance away is a radio telescope. In 1978 it was
realized that to build a telescope big enough to replace Jodrell Bank
be too expensive even if it was possible, instead a linked grouping
of smaller dishes was built. The Darnhall example and a similar
one at Pickmere cost over £3 million to build, but linked to
others at Defford in Worcestershire, Oswestry in Shropshire and Wardle
Nantwich they form a grid of receiving dishes which send their signals
direct to Jodrell Bank. This M.T.R.L.I. (multi telescope linked
interferometer!) is able to detect details from distant galaxies which
could otherwise never have been studied." quoted in "THE PLACES WHERE WE LIVE- A BRIEF ITINERARY" May
At the Salt Museum in the "Footsteps
in History" exhibition, one can see a film produced by the Mid Cheshire College
with the help of Darnhall Primary School and GNVQ Media course leader
Rowena Beighton-Dykes, and primary school teacher Carol Hunter.
Contract the Salt Museum
in Northwich for more details. ...
The map on the left is a more detailed
look at Darnhall, it is taken from the
interactive map at the The Countryside
Agency., this site has great
information on trails, paths, woods, forests and parks in England. I
have added the colour so my water and woods may not be quite right, I
used the map at Streetmap.co.uk
to get the colour. My guess is it was located in the circle north of
Mill Wood, between Hall Wood and Lodge Wood.
Now maybe my English cousin can verify my theory. Who thought
that we would get to be digging up old manor's, as my mother
said when we where in
England in 1998 looking around various cemeteries, "we are digging up
'Old Bones' of our past relatives".
Well my American cousin came through with a picture of the hall from a
book. I says that Sir
William Verdin was the Lord of the Manor, and one of the 'salt
king' family. Now we will have to find the Rest of the Story.