Our "Henbury Hiker" David Walker has kindly sent a little bit of local landmark history to accompany the walk we published last week.
Newcomers to the village may like to learn a bit of the village's history as they go. Lots more information can be found in the book "Henbury —
History of a Village" — available here.
The present structure, a handsome brick house with a front of five bays, was restyled in 1670 during the reign of William and Mary and the Dutch influence is apparent in the gables. There was a mediaeval hall previously on the site. During the 1745 rebellion, some of Bonnie Prince Charlie's officers were quartered at the Hall and according to local legend one was drowned in a nearby pond.
St Catherine's Church
In 1840 Thomas Hibbert, with the assistance of one of his sisters Laetitia, built Birtles Church (St. Catherine's) as a private chapel for the Birtles Estate. The Hibbert family had formerly occupied pews in Nether Alderley, but after a quarrel with the Stanleys over a resiting of pews Thomas decided to build his own church. It contains some fine mediaeval glass and a 17th century pulpit and choir stalls, collected from churches and monasteries in Europe in the wake of the Napoleonic wars and has earned a place in "England's thousand best Churches" by Simon Jenkins.
When Col. Hugh Hibbert left Birtles, he decided, probably at the suggestion of his aunt Laetitia, to convey the Church to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Laetitia, who died in 1887, left money in her will for an endowment for the new parish, and in 1890 St. Catherine's became the Parish church of the new Parish of Birtles and Over Alderley, carved out of the Parish of Nether Alderley.
Have you ever wondered when driving along the road from Henbury towards Knutsford, why that dead straight road goes into a series of bends — the notoriously dangerous Birtles bends — before straightening out again for the traffic lights and the road to Chelford? This is actually part of the ancient road, winding between the Bag Brook and the high ground of Birtles Hill Farm. Less obviously, and unknown to many who drive that route every day, there is an ancient water mill on the Brook, very close to the road but screened from it by a plantation. It was fed by a lake which can be seen from Birtles Lane. Before the damburst of 1872 the lake was supplied by a mill leat from some way up the Bag Brook; the bridge under the Chelford Road had separate arches for the main stream and the leat. The lake is now fed from a smaller stream which forms the Parish boundary.
The Old Smithy
Stands at the junction of Birtles Lane South and School Lane. It has been much modified over the last few years but the old outlines of the building can still be seen. Opposite, at the left of the junction is the ancient pinfold, where stray livestock was kept until claimed — a circular gated structure, now rather overgrown.
Henbury Hall. A glimpse or two can be seen of the hall from School Lane. The current Palladian-style building dates from the 1970s, built by Sebastian de Ferranti, but there has been a manor house or hall there since mediaeval times. If you do this walk in spring from the junction with Bearhurst Lane onwards you can enjoy views of the "Bluebell Woods" on your right.
Old School House
As you approach the A537 at the end of the walk you pass on the right Old School House, now a private residence. Until the late 1970s this was the local primary school and closed when Whirley CPS opened. The Henbury Hall Estate established the school (converted from an old farmstead) in the middle of the 19th century and also built the dominant feature of the village...
St Thomas Church (consecrated 1845)
Not only for the estate workers but also to be near Broken Cross which was described as "having long borne an evil reputation" — home to thieves and forgers.