History of Warrington

WARRINGTON HISTORY: Warrington formally known as Waeringtun whose name means (settlement by the Weir), is the largest town in the county of Cheshire and is located 20 miles east of Liverpool, and 20 miles west of Manchester.


Here we have detailed a brief history of our town, researched and written in the main by Tim Lambert.  We hope you will find it interesting and enlightening to see how from humble small beginnings the town faced challenges and earned its reputation as “the town of many industries” with history books often quoting glass making, beer brewing, soap boiling, wire weaving, tanning and even ship-building and motorcycle-making as significant local industries!

WARRINGTON IN THE MIDDLE AGES: In AD79 Warrington was founded by the Romans who built a settlement at Wilderspool, an important crossing place on the River Mersey. In 407 The Roman army began to leave Britain and the Roman settlement in Warrington was abandon around 410. Later, a new settlement was established by the Anglo Saxons, they named the town WALINTUNE which is the name found in the Domesday Survey of 1086..


At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Walintune was only a small village but in time grew larger and more important. St Elphin's Church existed by 1086 and probably much earlier. Furthermore, the Normans built a wooden castle at Warrington around 1070 AD.

By the beginning of the 12th century, Warrington had grown into a small market town. In 1255, Warrington was granted the right to hold a fair. In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year and they attracted buyers and sellers from a wide area. From 1277 Warrington had 2 fairs.

Sometime in the 13th century (the exact date is unknown) Warrington was given a charter. (A document granting the townspeople certain rights). In 1292 a second charter was established.  Medieval Warrington was a small town with a population of several hundred and at that time was under the control of the Lord of the Manor.


Then in the late 13th century Augustinian friars came to Warrington. When the Friary was established in the 13th century, the 'centre' of Warrington had started to shift from its medieval location in Church Street to land above the new Warrington Bridge / River Mersey crossing at Bridgefoot. Such a location was ideal for the Augustinian Friars who, unlike some religious orders, did not seek seclusion but preferred instead to live alongside busy thoroughfares where they could preach and collect donations from passing travellers.


Although the friary building itself was modest in size, its grounds are believed to have stretched upwards from Bridgefoot to Friars Gate and as far back as Barbauld Street.  In 1495, at the very end of the Middle Ages, a stone bridge was built over the Mersey.

WARRINGTON 1500-1800: In 1526 a wealthy man named Sir Thomas Boteler left money in his will to found a grammar school in Warrington. In 1539 Henry VIII closed the friary.

During the 16th century and the 17th century Warrington grew larger and more important. This was despite outbreaks of plague in 1613 and 1647. There was also a famine in Northwest England in 1623-1624, which led to many deaths. However, Warrington recovered from each disaster and continued to grow.

By the time of the civil war in 1642, Warrington was still a small town with a population of around 2,000, but it was strategically important because of its bridge. In 1642 Royalists seized Warrington but the parliamentarians laid siege in 1643. In May 1643 they captured Warrington and they held it for the rest of the war.

Bank Hall was built in 1750. It later became the Town Hall. The first newspaper in Warrington was printed in 1756.

Georgian Warrington was famous for its sacking and canvas industry and benefited from Liverpool’s growth by creating a large market for sailcloth. In the 1770s a writer said that Warrington supplied 'nearly one half of the Navy of Great Britain'. He also said that making pins was an important industry in Warrington. So was making 'locks, hinges, cast iron and other branches of hardware'. The writer said that near the town there was: 'A very large works for the refining of copper'. He said the glass industry and sugar refineries 'employ many hands'.

John Wesley, a Methodist itinerate preacher visited Warrington on numerous occasions when travelling to Liverpool, Manchester and Chester to preach the gospel. Most of his preaching in Warrington took place in the old market place outside the Barley Mow pub. He also preached in three cottage rooms, all close to Padgate Lane, The three cottages appear to have been 5 Sankey's Cottages (demolished in 1970); an unnamed cottage, half way between the old and the new chapels, on the Padgate side of St. Oswald's car park, and a room behind the present Grange Mount, on the estate of William Bennett. His last visit was in 1792.

WARRINGTON IN THE 19th CENTURY: By 1801 the population of Warrington was over 10,500, which made it a fairly large town by the standards of the time. It grew rapidly.  In 1831 Warrington was connected to Liverpool and Manchester by railway and by 1861 its population grew to 26,000.  By 1901 the population had grown to nearly 65,000.

In the 19th century there were a number of improvements to Warrington. In 1813 an Act of Parliament formed a body of men called Police Commissioners. They had powers to pave, clean and light the streets of Warrington. At first oil lamps lighted the streets but in 1821 gaslight was introduced to Warrington. The Commissioners also organised refuse disposal and from 1828 they provided a fire brigade. The first police force in Warrington was formed in 1838.

However, like all early 19th century towns Warrington was overcrowded and unsanitary.  In 1810 a dispensary was opened where the poor could obtain free medicines.  However, in 1832 there was a cholera epidemic that killed 169 people.  However, life in Victorian Warrington gradually improved. In 1846 a company was formed to supply Warrington with piped water supply. In the 1860s and 1870s sewers were dug and in 1877 Warrington infirmary was opened.

In 1847 Warrington was made a borough and gained a mayor and corporation. In 1848 the first public library opened in Warrington. In 1856 a Market Hall was built and in 1860, a 281 feet high spire was added to St Elphin's Church.

The towns motto is found on the inscription on the coat of arms located on the golden gates at the entrance of the Warrington Town Hall states,  ‘DEUS DAT INCREMENTUM’.  The English translation for this inscription is taken from the book of 1st Corinthians in the bible chapter 3: verses 6-7 and reads ‘GOD GIVES THE INCREASE’.  Warrington's history shows that increase has been at the very heart of life in this town since its inception. 

In the late 19th century parks were opened. Bank Park opened to the public in 1873. Victoria Park opened in 1897. So did Queens Gardens. Parr Hall opened in 1898.

During the 19th century Warrington was transformed from a market town to a major industrial centre. In the early 19th century glass making in Warrington declined due to competition from St Helens. However other industries boomed. There was a large metalworking industry in Warrington in the 19th century and there were many ironworks. After 1884 aluminium was made in Warrington. The file making industry in Warrington boomed in the 19th century. There was also an important wire making industry in Warrington. The pin making industry also flourished. There was a considerable textile industry in Warrington in the 19th century. There were many fustian cutters.

The linen industry continued. Some cotton was woven in the town but Warrington never developed into a cotton town like those further north. There was also a large soap making industry in Warrington. From the end of the 19th century gas cookers were made in Warrington.

WARRINGTON IN THE 20th CENTURY: In the 20th century Warrington, like other towns, underwent 'de-industrialization'. Old manufacturing industries declined and service industries such as retail, education and local government grew rapidly.

The first electricity was generated in Warrington in 1900. Between 1902 and 1935 electric trams ran in the streets of Warrington. The first buses ran in 1913 and between 1931 and 1935 they replaced the trams.

In 1917 Orford Park (originally the grounds of a hall) opened. The first council houses in Warrington were built in the 1920s and 1930s. Many more were built after 1945, many of them to replace demolished slums.

Then in 1968 it was decided to make Warrington a new town. People from Greater Manchester were moved to the town. As a result, Warrington grew rapidly and new suburbs and industrial estates were built.

Woolston Park opened in 1977. Birchwood Shopping Centre opened in 1980. Cockhedge Shopping Park opened in 1984. Golden Square Shopping Centre was opened in stages. The first stage was completed in 1977. The second stage was finished in 1979 and the third stage was ready in 1983.

In 1974 the boundaries of Warrington were enlarged and in 1998 Warrington became a unitary authority.

WARRINGTON IN THE 21st CENTURY: In the 21st century Warrington is still a thriving town. The Pyramid Arts Centre opened in 2002. Today the population of Warrington is 210,000.