Darnhall Hall and Surrounding Area


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), Overhead of location of Darnhall Hall 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" in Wettenhall in 1824, just down the road from Darnhall and he went on to be 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 Delamere Forest). John 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 to God when he was saved in a shipwreck by a miracle) and I assume in gratitude he would fund the buildings. He sent a small group of monks 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 them permission to build the abbey on the nuns' land. He gave it the name of 'Valis Regalis' (Vale Royal). 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 and Darnhall. Some time after this King Edward I, stopped paying for the construction, 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.


Darnhall Map In the book "The Ledger Book of Vale Royal" by John Henry Cooke is an account of a grisly murder at Darnhall. It says:

"For 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.

And all 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 for Darnhall.

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.

Mill beside the stream at Darnhall
"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 in The 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 would 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 near 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 29, 2000.

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. ...

DarnHall Hall site 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.
Darnhall Hall
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 the '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.


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