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Cheshire East Collection: Nantwich Food & Drink Festival

In honour of next week's Nantwich Food Festival and the recent upload of Nantwich Cemetery records to the Deceased Online database, this week's blog looks at the surprising salty past of this historic Cheshire market town 

From 1st to 3rd September 2017, the annual Nantwich Food Festival will be held entirely in the town centre among one of the county's largest collection of historical buildings. Over 200 exhibitors, demonstrators and entertainers will be based around the Elizabethan, Georgia and Victorian buildings against the backdrop of the medieval 14th century St Mary's Church. The organisers expect around 40,000 visitors.
Nantwich or Shrewbridge Lake, a salt water lake just outside Nantwich, Cheshire, UK (Wikimedia Commons)
Nantwich has notable Roman history and was known in the medieval period as 'Wich Malbanc'. Being a significant settlement near the Welsh border, Nantwich was also known by the old Welsh Hellath Wen. In the 18th century the name was changed to 'Namptwych'.

During the 19th century, Nantwich suffered an outbreak of cholera. By the end of 1849, the disease had caused the deaths of around 180 people (out of a population of circa 6,000). There was no cemetery in the town at this date and most were buried in the grounds of the parish church.

Nantwich Cemetery opened just over a quarter of a century later, in 1875. This allowed not just more burials, but also for the those who were neither Anglican nor Christians. The cemetery continues to be active, with up to 50 burials taking place each year. You can now search 11,150 records of this cemetery, dating up to 2015, in the Deceased Online database. Users can search free of charge by name and date, but there is a small fee to download register scans or access grave details (showing who else shares the plot). Do note, there is some historic lack of accuracy in the older records.
Example of a Nantwich Cemetery burial register entry from 1941
If you have Nantwich ancestors, you may find they worked either in the leather tanneries or in salt production as the town was one of the biggest salt producers in the country. In the 19th century, salt was popularly used to preserve food. The salt came from brine, which occurs naturally in springs across the region. After the decline of this method of salt production, Nantwich's salt springs drew what we might today call 'health tourists'. Between the 1880s and 1940, those ill with conditions such as stomach complaints, gout, rheumatism were drawn to Nantwich's springs. The heated outdoor brine swimming pool, opened in 1935, remains popular for those who travel across the country seeking a saltwater experience between May and October. Some of its earliest users were wounded veterans of the Great War.

We would love to hear from anyone who has family connections to Nantwich. Did they work in the salt industry or have you found any ancestors buried in Nantwich Cemetery? Do let us know in the Comments Box below or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!


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