Manors and estates in and near the city

A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2005.

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J S Barrow. J D Herson. A H Lawes. P J Riden. M V J Seaborne, 'Manors and estates in and near the city', in A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions, (London, 2005) pp. 322-330. British History Online [accessed 27 May 2024].

J S Barrow. J D Herson. A H Lawes. P J Riden. M V J Seaborne. "Manors and estates in and near the city", in A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions, (London, 2005) 322-330. British History Online, accessed May 27, 2024,

Barrow, J S. Herson, J D. Lawes, A H. Riden, P J. Seaborne, M V J. "Manors and estates in and near the city", A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions, (London, 2005). 322-330. British History Online. Web. 27 May 2024,

In this section


Although Chester within the walls was regarded as the city proper, by 1066 it was grouped with nearby holdings to form a wider jurisdictional unit. The hundred of Chester included 'Redcliff' and the bishop's borough south-east of the walled city, Handbridge and Lee 'beyond the bridge' to the south, and Newton to the north-east. (fn. 1) All the holdings in the hundred, except Newton, were later included within the liberties, which emerged in the 12th and 13th centuries and had been defined with precision by the 14th. (fn. 2) This article focuses primarily on the manorial and estate structure of that area but also takes some account of the manors and estates immediately outside the liberties, holdings which were central to the local land market and whose owners and tenants often played an important role in civic life. In the 19th and 20th centuries many of those once-rural estates were built over to become part of suburban Chester, and wherever possible their disposal to builders and developers has been noted. Constraints of space, however, have made it impossible to cover their descents in full. More extensive treatment of estates outside the liberties is reserved for the detailed histories of the relevant townships in future volumes.


The rise of Chester as a town from the 10th century, and more particularly the emergence of a self-governing citizenry in the early 13th, restricted manorial development within the liberties, especially inside the walls. Although the king and earl had important financial rights in the late Anglo-Saxon town and maintained agents there, neither held a manor within the area of the later liberties. (fn. 3) Nor did the AngloNorman earls, whose castle, although some land was attached to it, never had manorial jurisdiction. (fn. 4) The two principal manors, those of the abbey and the nunnery, established in the late 11th and the 12th century, were largely extramural, the abbey's a compact holding to the north, the nunnery's smaller and more scattered to the south. Both had their own courts and associated privileges. Regarded with increasing suspicion by the citizens as the powers of the city courts grew, by the 16th century their business had been much reduced. (fn. 5)

The two principal manors, both of which retained their identity until the mid 19th century, were supplemented by other small manors and estates in the south of the liberties which were secular in origin and held mainly by local gentry. From the 18th century the Grosvenor family's accumulation of property intruded a new estate into what had been a largely stable structure, with substantial holdings both in the walled city and to the south and south-east.

St. Thomas's Manor

By the 12th century the most important manor within the liberties was that of the abbot of Chester. Although not expressly mentioned in the Domesday Survey or in the grants of the Anglo-Norman earls, its chief holdings in Chester were probably acquired at an early date. At its foundation in 1092, the abbey took over the 13 intramural houses of the Anglo-Saxon minster, while Earl Hugh I himself granted Northgate Street and his tenant Robert fitz Hugh two intramural tenements. (fn. 6) Earl Richard (1101–20) gave two more properties within the city and one outside the Northgate, and his tenants another three, two of them in the market. (fn. 7) Under Earl Ranulph I (1120–9) the abbey acquired a 'great shop' in the market place, together with a further six tenements, including two in front of the abbey church, one in Bridge Street, and one near the Shipgate. (fn. 8) Ranulph II (1129–53) gave two tenements before the abbey gates, and another outside the Eastgate was acquired in the time of Earl Hugh II (1153–81). (fn. 9) By the earlier 13th century the abbey also had intramural holdings in Parsons Lane (later Princess Street), Castle Lane, Cuppin Lane, and Fleshmongers Lane, and also in the Crofts in the north-west corner of the city, the site of its principal barn. Thereafter the community continued to acquire land in the intramural area, and eventually had property scattered throughout the walled city but with a concentration in Northgate Street and Parsons Lane. (fn. 10) John Arneway's endowments for his chantry in 1278 constituted an especially important gift. (fn. 11) Under Abbot Simon Whitchurch (1265–91) in particular, the abbey also built up its holdings in the town fields outside the Northgate, which came to form the bulk of its property within the liberties, extending west to Portpool, north to Bache, and east to Flooker's brook. The extramural possessions were largely agricultural, the main house property being concentrated in Upper Northgate Street. (fn. 12)

After the Dissolution the manor of St. Thomas passed to the dean and chapter of Chester, who retained it until 1845. In 1663 the annual income of their estate, by then known as the Bailiwick of Chester and leased out, was £73. (fn. 13) The intramural holdings remained largely focused on Northgate Street and Parsons Lane, mainly on the west side of the market area opposite Abbey Gate, and in the Crofts. Scattered holdings were also retained in Watergate Street, Eastgate Street, Bridge Street, and Cuppin Lane. Outside the walls, the cathedral's main property lay mostly in the north and west of the liberties, concentrated between Liverpool Road and Parkgate Road, but stretching west to Finchett's Gutter and north to Bache and Flooker's brook. To the east, it continued to hold the Kaleyards immediately outside the walls, together with other property in Foregate Street and Boughton. (fn. 14)

The abbey's exemption from the urban courts and its special fair-time jurisdiction were also the subject of explicit grants, attributed to Earl Hugh I. (fn. 15) From the 13th century or earlier until the reduction of its business in 1509 the manor court was held at St. Thomas's chapel outside the Northgate. (fn. 16) No records survive. After the Dissolution the cathedral held manor courts within the precincts. By the 1670s there were two distinct bodies: St. Werburgh's court, held at fortnightly intervals, and St. Thomas's, which met irregularly and much less frequently. (fn. 17) The business of both seems to have been confined to petty presentments. By the late 18th century the dean's court, to which the manors of Great Boughton and Bridge Trafford paid suit and service, was held in Abbey Gate. In all, 83 tenants were required to attend, including (in Chester) 25 holding property in Northgate Street, five in Abbey Square, two in Parsons Lane, and one each in Watergate Street and Cuppin Lane. (fn. 18)

The cathedral's Bailiwick estate, which had been granted to Lyman Cotton on a 20-year lease in 1832, was ceded to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1845. Reports by the commissioners' secretary, W. C. K. Murray, made then to assess the estate's potential, noted many changes since 1811. (fn. 19) In particular, there had been sales of land, the most significant, bringing in £9,000, to the Chester and Birkenhead and the Chester and Holyhead railway companies. (fn. 20) Murray put the annual value of the estate in 1845 at £3,048. He assessed the property under five headings: housing within or close to the city walls, with an annual value of £1,278; lands, chiefly small market gardens, at 'the skirts of the city' (£534); agricultural land in the north of the liberties around Liverpool Road and Parkgate Road (£574); other agricultural land, villas, and commercial buildings (£546); and tithe rent charges (£116 net). In addition the chapter retained 'considerable house property' in the city, mostly within the precinct and Northgate Street, the annual value of which had been estimated at £2,700 in 1811.

Murray considered that, with Chester's rising property market (in which, he noted, Earl Howe had already invested), (fn. 21) much of the extramural agricultural land was suitable for building, though the railways recently built across it had considerably weakened its value. His main recommendation was the immediate sale of 134 a. around Liverpool Road and Parkgate Road for development as villas. The commissioners heeded his advice, and over the next twenty years sold almost all the estate's extramural holdings, besides much of the property within the city acquired in 1845. (fn. 22)

In 1854 a second Order in Council transferred most of the dean and chapter's remaining holdings to the commissioners, including much of the precinct. By 1858, however, their re-endowment with a new permanent estate was under consideration, and in 1866, as part of that scheme, a further Order in Council returned to them property in Northgate Street and the precinct, including parts of Abbey Square and the Music Hall (the former chapel of St. Nicholas). Further transfers followed: in 1881 a house on the north side of Abbey Street to form a residence for the precentor, and in the 1890s much property in and around Abbey Square, Abbey Street, and Abbey Green. In particular, in 1899 the chapter purchased at a cost of £10,000 the abbey gateway and seven houses in Abbey Square, together with stables, outhouses, and gardens to the north of the square, at the rear of Northgate Street, and north of Abbey Green. (fn. 23)

Thereafter the commissioners' main holdings in Chester were five houses in the late Georgian terrace of Abbey Green (the sixth having been transferred to the chapter in 1866). Those too were eventually sold, nos. 2 and 6 to local purchasers in 1923 and nos. 3–5 to the dean and chapter in 1925. Nos. 2 and 6 were bought by the dean and chapter in 1938 and 1947 respectively. (fn. 24) The cathedral retained its reduced estate within Chester at the time of writing.

Other Holdings

In the 11th century there were seven or eight small rural estates immediately outside the walls, of which the bishop held one or possibly two in 1066. (fn. 25) Two belonged to Arni, a man of some substance who also possessed several manors near by in south Wirral and at Newton. (fn. 26) Two more were held by Leofwine and one each by Wulfnoth and by Gunnar, who was also probably lord of the nearby manor of Mollington Banastre. (fn. 27) Among their Norman successors, William fitz Niel the constable and Hugh fitz Osbern were important tenants of Earl Hugh for whom holdings near Chester would have been useful to ease their visits to the honorial capital. (fn. 28) Like other estates near the liberties, their importance waned as that function lost significance, and some of the holdings disappeared as separate entities.

St. John's College Estate. In 1086 the bishop had important financial rights and an agent in Chester. His small extramural estate at 'Redcliff', just outside the walls to the south-east of the city and assessed at two thirds of a hide, was assigned to the church of St. John in Domesday Book. It is uncertain whether 'Redcliff' included the bishop's borough, also referred to in the Survey and perhaps then free of geld. The status of the even smaller holding attached to St. Mary's minster, which lay near by and was assessed at 2 bovates, is similarly unclear, but it too seems to have been held by the bishop. All those estates, together with the minster's eight intramural houses, were probably eventually assigned to St. John's. The college's holdings were later augmented by chantry endowments and by property throughout the city given to the fraternity of St. Anne in the later 14th and 15th century. After its dissolution in 1547 or 1548 its property passed to the Crown and was sold, together with the fraternity's holdings and other obit lands. There was no mention then of any manorial rights. (fn. 29) The impropriate rectory was purchased in 1587 by Alexander Cotes of Chester and remained in the hands of his descendants until bought by Robert, 2nd Earl Grosvenor, in 1810. (fn. 30) The fraternity house in the churchyard was bought by Sir Hugh Cholmondeley shortly after the Dissolution and remained in his family until razed in the Civil War. (fn. 31)

'Redcliff': Secular Holding. Gunnar's small estate, assessed at a third of a hide, passed to Hugh de Mara before 1086. Granted by Hugh to St. Werburgh's abbey in the early 12th century, it has not been traced thereafter. (fn. 32)

Castle Demesne. The castle formed an extra-parochial precinct to which was annexed 85 a. of demesne, all in the south of the liberties or just outside them. In 1285 Edward I granted a large part of the holding, c. 29 a. in the Earl's Eye, to Randle of Merton. (fn. 33)

Handbridge. South of the river immediately beyond the bridge, at Handbridge, there were three small rural estates in late Anglo-Saxon times, assessed at 1 carucate each and perhaps of Hiberno-Norse origin. Arni's passed after the Conquest to William fitz Niel, Leofwine's to Hugh de Mara, and Wulfnoth's to Hugh fitz Osbern. (fn. 34) Their later history is uncertain, but they were perhaps among the lands in Handbridge which by the mid 12th century Earl Ranulph II and his tenants had granted to Chester nunnery. The earl also granted the prioress her own court and by the 14th century, when the nuns had consolidated their holdings in the south of the liberties, the estate was regarded as a manor. (fn. 35)

After the Dissolution the nunnery's holdings within the liberties, valued at £27 in 1535, were used to endow the new see of Chester. (fn. 36) In 1546, however, they were among the temporalities which the first bishop, John Bird, was forced to relinquish to the Crown. (fn. 37) Bird had apparently already leased the manor out, (fn. 38) and the Crown continued that policy, the early lessees, who held the manor courts, including the aldermanic families of Goodman and Gamull. (fn. 39) The manor remained at lease until the Interregnum, (fn. 40) when it was surveyed along with the rest of the late king's possessions in 1650. (fn. 41) It was later granted as dower to Charles II's wife, Catherine of Braganza, and again put out to lease. (fn. 42) In 1762 it was granted to Richard, later 1st Earl Grosvenor (d. 1802), who, like his predecessors, continued to hold a regular court leet to which tenants in Handbridge and Claverton paid suit. (fn. 43) About 1815 Robert, 2nd Earl Grosvenor, failed to obtain a renewal of the lease, which was granted instead to his bitter political rival Sir John Grey Egerton. (fn. 44) In 1819 the Crown sold the manor to John Edwards of Chester, after whose death c. 1850 Thomas Higgins bought the manorial rights. By then the estate had been broken up: some land was sold separately in 1819 and more was bought by Richard Grosvenor, 2nd marquess of Westminster, in 1850. (fn. 45)

The survey of 1650 listed property in Chester itself, in the town fields of Handbridge and Claverton, and in Eccleston. By 1782 the manor's principal holdings were in Handbridge, largely on the north side of the main street, in Green Lane, and scattered through the town fields especially between Eaton Road and Wrexham Road. It also continued to include much property within the walls, on the east side of Nuns Lane (near the former precinct), in Watergate Street, Eastgate Street, Newgate Street, Bunce Lane, and Claverton Lane (later Duke Street), besides a few isolated tenements east of the city, in St. John Street, Foregate Street, and Boughton. (fn. 46) All that amounted to a sizeable estate, the annual income being reckoned at £480 in the late 18th century. (fn. 47) Until inclosure under an Act of 1805 much of the land in Handbridge remained an area of open-field arable farming, its tenants having rights of common pasture in Saltney marsh until 1781. (fn. 48)

Overleigh. Overleigh, one of the two small rural estates which comprised the Domesday territory of Lee, lay south-west of Handbridge, athwart the road to Wales. Leofwine's single virgate there had been granted by 1086 to Hugh de Mara. (fn. 49) Whether by descent or some other means, it evidently passed to the barons of Mold, for c. 1230 Robert of Mold granted it to the abbot and monks of Basingwerk (Flints.). In 1462 the convent leased it for 100 years to Elis ap Deio ap Gruffudd, whose descendant, Matthew Ellis (d. 1574), a member of Henry VIII's bodyguard, bought it in 1545 from the Crown's grantees after the Dissolution. The timberframed mansion and chapel of the Ellis family were destroyed in the siege of Chester, and after the Restoration a new brick house was built by Thomas Cowper (d. 1695), who had acquired the estate partly through descent and partly through purchase. (fn. 50) In the later 17th and 18th century Overleigh Hall remained the home of the Cowpers, a prominent Chester family, who included aldermen, a city recorder, and a celebrated local antiquarian. After improvements by the last, Dr. William Cowper (d. 1767), (fn. 51) the hall was inherited in 1811 by Charles Cholmondeley of Vale Royal and let to a tenant. Purchased in 1821 with an estate of 135 a. by Robert, 2nd Earl Grosvenor, the house was demolished in 1830 to make way for a new entrance to the Eaton estate. (fn. 52)

Netherleigh. Occupying an area directly south of Handbridge beside the river and on the road to Eccleston, Arni's estate, assessed at 1 virgate, had been granted by 1086 to William fitz Niel. (fn. 53) The latter's eventual successor, John de Lacy, granted it to Adam of Dutton, from whom it passed c. 1270 to the Orby family of Gawsworth and thence in the early 14th century to the Fittons. Later, perhaps c. 1604, part of the estate was acquired by the Stanleys of Alderley, by whom it was sold in 1735 to the Chester alderman John Cotgreave. Thereafter the Cotgreave family built a modest seat, Netherleigh House, on the west side of Eaton Road. A late Georgian two-storeyed brick building of c. 1813 with two shallow bows to the front and a three-storeyed mid 19th-century addition to the rear, it was purchased by the 1st duke of Westminster in 1878. (fn. 54)

The ancient mansion of Netherleigh Hall on its moated site passed with another part of the estate to the Browne family of Upton, who resided there in the 17th and 18th centuries until they sold it to John Bennett of Chester in 1774. The hall, which had been fortified by Sir William Brereton in 1645 for use as his headquarters during the siege of Chester, was eventually let to tenants, and in the early 19th century was occupied by a farmer. (fn. 55) It afterwards disappeared and at the time of writing its site was unknown. (fn. 56)

Brewer's Hall. The estate, which lay west of the city on the river cliff overlooking the Roodee, was held by the Bradford family, serjeants of the Eastgate from the 1280s. It passed to the Trussell family of Warmingham in the 14th century and from them c. 1500 to the Veres, earls of Oxford. After its sale by Edward de Vere, 17th earl, in 1580, it passed successively to Hugh Beeston, Sir Thomas Egerton, and the Wright family, whose descendant sold it in the mid 18th century to William Hanmer of Iscoyd (Flints.). Hanmer's daughter Esther married Assheton Curzon, later 1st Viscount Curzon, whose grandson and heir R. W. P. Curzon-Howe, 1st Earl Howe, developed the estate, then disparaged as 'a cold bleak hill', in the 1840s. (fn. 57) The ancient mansion was demolished during the siege of Chester and was afterwards replaced by a farmhouse. (fn. 58)

Earl's Eye. The large tract of meadow known as the Earl's Eye, lying in a bend of the river east of the city, opposite Boughton and extending as far south as Claverton, seems to have been part of the castle demesne in the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1285 c. 29 a. of land and pasture there were granted by Edward I to Randle of Merton as part of an exchange. The holding remained in the hands of the Mertons and their heirs, the Gleggs of Gayton, until the 19th century. (fn. 59) Its western end was developed as the exclusive suburb of Queen's Park from the 1850s. (fn. 60)

Another holding in the meadows was acquired in 1568 by Gilbert Gerrard, probably from Sir Thomas Venables, and granted to William Gerrard, recorder of Chester, in 1569. (fn. 61) In 1588 the latter's heir, another Gilbert Gerrard, sold c. 30 a. of closes and pasture within the Earl's Eye to George Beverley of Chester for £400. (fn. 62) The origins and later history of the estate are unclear.

Ecclesiastical Precincts. Several small estates were formed from the city's main ecclesiastical precincts after the Dissolution. Sold by the Crown, they were developed by a variety of proprietors in the 17th and 18th centuries. The nunnery's conventual buildings were granted in 1541 to the Breretons, who established a mansion, Nuns Hall, which remained a seat of the family until it was destroyed in the siege of Chester. (fn. 63) Thereafter much of the site remained unoccupied except for a house at its east end built for the Holme family, heralds and antiquarians, in the mid 17th century. (fn. 64)

The three friaries were all sold by the Crown within a few years of the Dissolution. Fulk Dutton bought the Carmelite site and built a mansion in the western part of the precinct. (fn. 65) The property later passed to Sir Thomas Egerton who built a second house east of Dutton's and whose descendants retained the estate until the late 18th century. Development along White Friars and within the precinct took place from the early 18th to the early 19th century. (fn. 66) To the west, both the Dominican and Franciscan sites were acquired by a branch of the Warburtons, an important Cheshire gentry family, by the late 16th century, and inherited by the Stanleys of Alderley in the earlier 17th. The late 16th-century timber-framed mansion later known as Stanley Palace was built in the north-east corner of the Dominican precinct, reputedly by Sir Peter Warburton, and two other gentry houses on the west part of the site by the 1740s. Much of the remainder together with the Franciscan precinct was developed by the Stanleys in the 1770s and 1780s. (fn. 67)

Grosvenor Estate. By far the most important later estate within the liberties belonged to the Grosvenors of Eaton. The family, which had long had a close association with the city through its hereditary serjeanty of the Dee, began acquiring land in Chester by the early 17th century, when Richard Grosvenor (d. 1619) held three messuages. (fn. 68) Investment on a grander scale began in the 18th century as the Grosvenors started to play a greater part in civic life. In the 1720s the family bought the Sun Inn in Northgate Street together with land in Eastgate Street, and in 1788 they made the important purchase of the Talbot Inn in Eastgate Street. (fn. 69) The main acquisitions, however, were between 1810 and 1821, under Robert, 2nd Earl Grosvenor (later 1st marquess of Westminster). Although he bought property all over Chester, his most significant purchases were in the relatively undeveloped block of land covering the remains of the Roman baths and lying east of Bridge Street, south of Eastgate Street, and around Newgate Street. There, in 1818, he bought the Royal Hotel, which lay on the south side of Eastgate Street next to the Talbot, with which establishment it was merged. (fn. 70) Another significant area of acquisition was south-east of the walled city in Love Lane and around St. John's church, the impropriate rectory of which Grosvenor bought in 1810. (fn. 71) The 2nd marquess, Richard Grosvenor, consolidated his father's acquisitions, especially in the 1860s, when he rebuilt the hotel in Eastgate Street as the Grosvenor Hotel (fn. 72) and bought the Feathers Hotel on the east side of Bridge Street together with holdings near by in Feathers Lane. (fn. 73) Thereafter there were fewer purchases, although the marquess continued to buy land and property around St. John's, in the Groves, and in Love Lane. (fn. 74)

Outside the walls but still within the liberties, the Grosvenors were building up their estates in Handbridge throughout the same period. From 1762 until 1815 they were lessees of the Crown's manor of Handbridge. (fn. 75) Purchases of cottages and land in the town fields of Handbridge were made continuously throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, although curiously the family did not acquire the manor of Handbridge when the Crown eventually sold it in 1819. (fn. 76) Between the early 18th century and the mid 19th the Grosvenors also bought most of the rural township of Claverton, immediately outside the liberties but part of Handbridge manor, an acquisition completed by the 1st duke of Westminster before 1882. (fn. 77)

From the mid 18th century the Grosvenors' impact upon the city was considerable. In the intramural area their most significant investment was in the large block of land bounded by Eastgate Street, Bridge Street, Pepper Street, and the walls. There, in addition to the Grosvenor Hotel, the family established St. Michael's Row in 1910, and, most conspicuously of all, developed a large shopping precinct between 1962 and 1964. (fn. 78)

Outside the walls, the 1st duke cleared squalid courtyard housing from his land in Handbridge and built the new church of St. Mary without the Walls in the 1880s. In the late 1940s the Grosvenor estate was responsible for a modest group of 40 houses in Brown's Lane. (fn. 79) In general, however, the family did not promote development in the southern and south-eastern reaches of the liberties. Much of the area south of suburban Handbridge, especially beyond Netherleigh and on the western side of Eaton Road, remained rural and heavily wooded after the 2nd earl's inclosure of a large part of the town fields to create a grand drive to Eaton Hall, the Chester Approach, under an Act of 1805. (fn. 80) Elsewhere the family used their land to establish public parks. (fn. 81)


The liberties were mostly fringed by rather small estates, none of which was highly developed as a manorial centre. In the Middle Ages several were held by the abbey, and hence had no resident lord, while others belonged to prominent but largely non-resident gentry families. In the 13th and 14th centuries some members of the emerging civic elite took advantage of those circumstances to establish rural estates just beyond the liberties, especially in Claverton and Newton.

Although after the Dissolution the abbey's holdings were initially used to endow the new cathedral, the chapter soon lost control of them to fee farmers and they were progressively sold off, sometimes to longestablished undertenants. By the late 16th century the city was thus encircled by a group of small country houses, some of which were in the hands of mayoral and aldermanic families. Although several houses were ruined in the 1640s during the siege of Chester and some estates never recovered, others continued in existence until the earlier 20th century, often still in the hands of the civic elite. After 1918, however, none of the houses was occupied by the manorial lord and only a few by their owners. Most were let to tenants by 1939, and after 1945 those which remained standing were steadily enveloped in newly established housing estates.

The local gentry established on the margins of Chester were already by the mid 18th century being eclipsed as the dominant landowning influence on the city. The rise of the Grosvenors ensured that their seat at Eaton, three miles south of the Cross, became the main focus of aristocratic social and political power, a position it largely retained throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

The arrangement of manors and estates in this section works clockwise from the north. (fn. 82)


Immediately north of the liberties, on the far side of Bache brook, opposite the abbot's mills, lay the small manor and township of Bache. The abbey acquired the manor from Lettice of Malpas in the time of Earl Ranulph I (1120–9). (fn. 83) In the later 13th and the 14th century prominent citizens, including David the miller and members of the Doncaster family, had estates there, and by the 1430s the Chauntrells had established themselves as the principal landholders under the abbot. At the Dissolution the manor passed to the dean and chapter but in the 1550s was lost to fee farmers, under whom it continued to be held by the Chauntrells until 1606. It was then sold to the Whitby family, mayors and recorders of Chester, with whose descendants it remained until c. 1770. Thereafter the estate passed through various hands (fn. 84) until it was bought by the adjoining Cheshire county lunatic asylum shortly before 1914. (fn. 85) Bache Hall, the seat of the Chauntrells and the Whitbys, was destroyed in the siege of Chester, but was rebuilt afterwards and remained a gentry residence until c. 1910. (fn. 86)

Upton by Chester

Also north of the liberties, enveloping Bache, lay the substantial manor of Upton. In 958 King Edgar granted it to St. Werburgh's minster, but thereafter it was evidently lost. (fn. 87) Assessed at 4½ hides in 1066, it was held by Earl Edwin and at the Conquest passed to Earl Hugh. (fn. 88) Earl Ranulph I (1120–9) granted it to Chester abbey, (fn. 89) which retained it until the Dissolution and held a court there to which many of its other manors also paid suit. In the 14th century several prominent Chester families established out-of-town estates in Upton, including the Doncasters, Daresburys, and Hurrells. The manor passed to the dean and chapter at the Dissolution but was lost to fee farmers in the early 1550s. In the late 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries they included the Brocks, holders of the manor and resident at the hall, and the Brownes. In 1734 the manorial estate passed by marriage to the Egerton family of Oulton and remained in the hands of the Grey Egertons and their trustees in 1939. (fn. 90) Upton Hall was held by the Ithells, well-to-do tenant farmers, in the later 19th century and until the 1930s. (fn. 91)

Newton by Chester

The township, which was included in the Domesday hundred of Chester, lay next to Upton and north-east of the liberties. By 1086 the Englishman Arni's estate of 1 hide had passed, together with his holdings within the liberty, to William fitz Niel, (fn. 92) who later gave it to the abbey of St. Werburgh to become part of the manor of Upton. (fn. 93) Fitz Niel's grant also included the services of Hugh fitz Odard, ancestor of the Duttons, who long held lands in Newton. (fn. 94) At the Dissolution the manor passed to the dean and chapter, but was among those holdings alienated in the 1550s, (fn. 95) and by the 1580s it was held by the Hurleston family of Picton, from whom it passed by marriage to John Needham, later 10th Viscount Kilmorey, in 1738. (fn. 96) Much of the township remained in the hands of the Needhams until the mid 1930s. (fn. 97) Thereafter their land was sold off, the Newton Hall housing estate being built over it 1957–60. (fn. 98) Newton Hall, residence of the Hurlestons and later let to tenants or sold, stands in Plas Newton Lane. Built c. 1700, it is two-storeyed, of brick with stone dressings. (fn. 99)

Leading Cestrian families held land in the fields of Newton and built up estates there. In the earlier 13th century the township gave its name to a family which had extensive holdings under the abbot and was perhaps descended from the Duttons. (fn. 100) A little later the Erneys family acquired land in Newton, receiving grants from Geoffrey of Dutton and the Newton family among others. (fn. 101) In the later 13th and early 14th century the mayoral family of Brickhill also acquired a considerable estate in the township. (fn. 102) Lands there later escheated to the city corporation, and by the later 17th century the city was making inclosures in the town fields of Newton. (fn. 103)


The township of Hoole also lay north-east of the city. Together with Mickle Trafford a component of the FitzAlan earls of Arundel's manor of Dunham on the Hill, it descended with the latter through the Troutbecks, who purchased it in the early 15th century, and thence by marriage c. 1510 to Sir John Talbot, ancestor of the Talbot earls of Shrewsbury. The earls held Hoole Lodge, then considered to be the ancient manor house, in the early 19th century, and were lords of the manor until the 1930s, although they had ceased to be significant landowners by the 1920s. (fn. 104)

In the 13th and 14th centuries the Hoole or Holes family, which included a city sheriff in the 1280s, were mesne lords of the manor and probably resident, though by the late 14th century they had a mansion instead near Chester castle. They are not heard of after the mid 15th century. (fn. 105) By the 1450s the Bunbury family of Stanney resided at Hoole Hall, but the house was destroyed in the siege of Chester and the Bunburys sold their Hoole estate in 1757. The purchasers, the Baldwins, established a new hall. Built of brick, with five bays and two storeys, in the late 18th century, it was considerably extended in the 19th. Having passed by purchase through several hands, including members of the Potts family in the late 19th and early 20th century, Hoole Hall was derelict c. 1980, but by 1988 had been converted into a luxury hotel. (fn. 106)

From the earlier 18th century the Needham family, Viscounts and later earls of Kilmorey, also held property in Hoole. (fn. 107)


The estate of Flookersbrook, immediately east of the eponymous stream, lay partly in Newton and partly in Hoole. The estate, held by the Massey family of Kelsall, existed before 1450, and later passed to the Bruens of Tarvin and then the Sneyds, before being bought after 1538 by Sir Laurence Smith of Hough (d. 1582). Flookersbrook Hall, still held by the Smiths but then at lease, was destroyed in the siege of Chester and the estate was later sold to the Anderson family before being broken up in the 18th century. (fn. 108)

Great Boughton

East of the liberties lay Great Boughton, probably part of the estate of Huntington given to St. Werburgh's minster by King Edgar in 958, and certainly held by the church in 1066. (fn. 109) Having passed from the abbey to the dean and chapter and thereafter to fee farmers, the estate was purchased by a younger branch of the Davenports, who already resided there, and was still retained by their descendants, the Currie family, in 1939. (fn. 110) The old hall, destroyed in the siege of Chester, was replaced in the 1650s, although the family had ceased to live there in the later 19th century. Boughton Hall, which became a centre for amateur sporting activity in the early 20th century, was sold to its tenant in 1931. (fn. 111)


Granted to St. Werburgh's minster by King Edgar in 958, (fn. 112) Huntington, which lay south of Great Boughton, was regarded from the foundation of Chester abbey as part of the Saighton fee. Passing successively to the dean and chapter and the fee farmers, it was held by a variety of largely non-resident owners, the capital messuage being simply a farmhouse. In 1772 it passed to the Brock family, by whom it was sold to the 2nd marquess of Westminster in the mid 19th century. (fn. 113)

The Cowper family of Chester also had an estate in Huntington from the 17th to the 19th century. (fn. 114)


In 1066 Claverton, which lay immediately south of the liberties, was clearly of some importance. Held by Osmaer and assessed at 2 hides, like several other manors near Chester its appurtenances included burgesses (eight within the walls, four in Handbridge) and it also had a salthouse at Northwich. By 1086 it had passed to one of Earl Hugh's leading tenants, Hugh fitz Osbern. (fn. 115) In the 13th century its importance seems to have waned and it was apparently regarded as an extension of the town fields in the southern part of the liberties. (fn. 116) There was no manor house and probably few if any inhabitants. In the 13th and 14th centuries the main estate was held by the Pulfords, but other prominent citizens of Chester, including Philip the clerk, members of the Dunfoul family, and John Brunham, chamberlain of Chester, had agricultural holdings there. (fn. 117)

The Pulfords' holdings passed c. 1366 by marriage to the Grosvenors. With the partition of the Grosvenor estates in the mid 1460s, they were acquired by Peter Dutton of Hatton. The estate remained with his family until the early 17th century when it passed by marriage to the Gerrards, who held it until the 18th century. (fn. 118) During the 18th and 19th centuries the whole township was acquired piecemeal by the Grosvenors. (fn. 119)

Marlston cum Lache

Situated west of Claverton, in 1066 the township of Marlston cum Lache comprised two manors, Lache held by St. Werburgh's minster, Marlston by Arni. Marlston had passed to William fitz Niel by 1086. (fn. 120) Earl Hugh and his successors confirmed the new abbey in possession of a portion of Lache, but part of the manor appears to have been retained by the earl and was later given by Ranulph II to Basingwerk abbey. (fn. 121) Later a single manor of Marlston cum Lache was held of the earl by the Blund family, one of whom became serjeant of the Northgate in the 14th century. (fn. 122) In the 1350s and 1360s the nuns of Chester built up an extensive estate in Lache, including the manor. (fn. 123)

At the Dissolution the nuns' holding was granted to the Brereton family. In 1654 Sir William Brereton granted the manorial rights to Thomas Minshull, having let the land on a long lease to Col. Roger Whitley, from whom it passed by the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to Sir John Mainwaring of Peover. The latter's descendant Charles Mainwaring purchased the manorial rights in 1773 and the Mainwarings remained lords of the manor in 1939.

Lache Hall was sold separately to the Manley family, who retained it until the mid 18th century. It was then bought by John Snow, a Chester alderman, in whose family it remained until the early 20th century. (fn. 124) Although the township was developed from 1919, Lache Hall was still occupied as a farm in 1934. (fn. 125) It had gone by 1959 when the Lache Hall housing estate was established. (fn. 126)

The Bradford family, serjeants of the Eastgate, held a further estate in Lache from the 1270s together with their estate at Brewer's Hall within the liberties. It descended like Brewer's Hall to the Trussells in 1376. (fn. 127)

Blacon cum Crabwall

The manor of Blacon lay north-west of the liberties. Assessed at 2 hides and held by Thorth in 1066, it passed by 1086 to Ranulph de Mesnilwarin, ancestor of the Mainwarings. (fn. 128) Probably subinfeudated shortly afterwards, it was once again held directly by the family in the 13th century. The estate went by marriage to William Trussell, in whose family it remained until it passed by marriage to the Veres, earls of Oxford, c. 1500. The Veres sold it to the Crewe family whose descendants remained lords of the manor until the First World War. A manor house leased by the earl of Oxford was recorded by John Leland in the earlier 16th century and became the seat of Sir Randle Crewe in the earlier 17th. It was destroyed in the siege of Chester. (fn. 129)

The estate of Crabwall was granted by the Mainwarings to the Arneway family in the early 13th century. John Arneway, mayor of Chester 1268–78, granted it to the abbot of Chester as an endowment to maintain his chantries in the abbey church and St. Bridget's. (fn. 130) After the Dissolution the estate was given to a younger branch of the Gamull family of Buerton, who built a residence there in the early 17th century, demolished by c. 1800. The estate remained in the hands of the Gamulls' descendants until the 19th century, when it was sold to Philip Stapleton Humberston. (fn. 131) Its later history has not been traced. At the time of writing Crabwall Hall comprised a small brick house refronted in the early 19th century and much extended in 1987 to form a luxury hotel. (fn. 132)


  • 1. V.C.H. Ches. i. 326, 342–3 (no. 1), 344 (nos. 10–12, 14), 356 (nos. 181–3), 358 (nos. 210–12, 218).
  • 2. Above, 9–10.
  • 3. V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 24–5.
  • 4. Below, this section, Castle Demesne.
  • 5. Above, 25; Burne, Chester Cath. 251–2; V.C.H. Ches. iii. 146–7.
  • 6. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 17–18, 37. Cf. ibid. i, pp. 237–42.
  • 7. Ibid. i, pp. 40–1, 46.
  • 8. Ibid. i, pp. 48–9.
  • 9. Ibid. i, pp. 59, 95.
  • 10. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 166, 210, 242–5, 249, 253–6; ii, pp. 267–9, 343–8, 465, 468.
  • 11. Ibid. ii, pp. 464–70.
  • 12. Ibid. ii, pp. 267–8, 343, 346, 348–52; C.C.A.L.S., EDD 12/1.
  • 13. Burne, Chester Cath. 260.
  • 14. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, pp. 535–6; C.C.A.L.S., EDD 12/1, 4; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 616.
  • 15. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 14, 21, 23.
  • 16. Above, 25, 27; Morris, Chester, 133–6.
  • 17. C.C.A.L.S., EDD 11/1/1.
  • 18. Burne, Chester Cath. 249–52.
  • 19. Rest of section based on London, Church of England Record Centre, Ecclesiastical Commissioners' file 9544.
  • 20. Cf. above, 91–2.
  • 21. Cf. below, this section, Brewer's Hall.
  • 22. V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 236.
  • 23. London, Church of England Record Centre, Ecclesiastical Commissioners' file 9845.
  • 24. Ibid. file 1515.
  • 25. V.C.H. Ches. i. 344 (nos. 10–11).
  • 26. Ibid. i. 320, 356 (nos. 181–3).
  • 27. Ibid. i. 351 (no. 104), 358 (nos. 210–12, 218).
  • 28. Ibid. i. 309–10, 313–14.
  • 29. Ibid. i. 344 (nos. 10–12); ibid. v (1), 86; above, 129–30.
  • 30. Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 623–4; above, 138.
  • 31. Above, 131; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 223.
  • 32. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, p. 19.
  • 33. Above, 9, 204; below, this section, Earl's Eye.
  • 34. V.C.H. Ches. i. 356 (no. 183), 358 (nos. 211, 218).
  • 35. Charters of A.-N. Earls, nos. 97–8; V.C.H. Ches. ii. 147.
  • 36. Valor Eccl. v. 206; L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, pp. 535–6.
  • 37. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xxi (2), p. 295 (no. 574); P.R.O., C 54/445, m. 7; C 66/790, m. 29.
  • 38. P.R.O., E 134/6 Chas. I/Mich. 43, which gives the date (erroneously) as Mar. 1536.
  • 39. Ibid. E 210/10456; E 214/694; E 314/6 Chas. I/Mich. 43.
  • 40. Ibid. E 134/14 & 15 Chas. I/Hil. 5.
  • 41. Ibid. E 317/Ches./13A, 13B; Account of Manors held by Lease from Crown, reported by Commissioners to inquire in Royal Forests, Woods, and Land Revenues (1787), App. 3.
  • 42. Cal. Treas. Bks. 1714, 376.
  • 43. C.C.A.L.S., TS. schedule of deeds and documents relating to the Grosvenors' Chester Estate (hereafter cited as Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds), Box U, no. 2; C.C.A.L.S., ZTCC 77, 80; P.R.O., LR 3/14/1; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 628; Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 821.
  • 44. Thus Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 373, but there is no record of the lease in P.R.O., LR 1/167.
  • 45. Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Box T, no. 18; P.R.O., LR 1/168; Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 373.
  • 46. P.R.O., MR 1/282.
  • 47. Account of Manors held by Lease from Crown, p. 6.
  • 48. P. J. W. Higson, 'Pointers towards the Structure of Agriculture in Handbridge and Claverton prior to Parl. Enclosure', T.H.S.L.C. cxlii. 55–86.
  • 49. V.C.H. Ches. i. 358 (no. 210).
  • 50. 26 D.K.R. App. 34; Morris, Siege of Chester, 204; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 628–9; Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 336, 374–5; above, 303–4.
  • 51. C.C.A.L.S., DCC 16/59.
  • 52. Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Box F2, no. 1.
  • 53. V.C.H. Ches. i. 356 (no. 182).
  • 54. P. J. W. Higson, 'Landlord Control and Motivation in the Parl. Enclosure of St. Mary's-on-the-Hill Parish, Chester', T.H.S.L.C. cxxxvii. 95, 111; Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 230–1; Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Box X, no. 4.
  • 55. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 373; Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 230–1.
  • 56. Pers. comm. Simon Ward, Chester Archaeology.
  • 57. London, Church of England Record Centre, Ecclesiastical Commissioners' file 9544.
  • 58. Above, 218; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 628; Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 373; iii. 229–30; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 223.
  • 59. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 373; ii. 176, 179–80, 517–18.
  • 60. V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 237.
  • 61. P.R.O., CHES 11/59, 62.
  • 62. Ibid. CHES 11/62.
  • 63. Morris, Siege of Chester, 204.
  • 64. Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 576; above, 241.
  • 65. Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 576–7.
  • 66. V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 224, 228; above, 244–5.
  • 67. Above, 242–4.
  • 68. Above, 84; Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 836. Cf. Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Box Y, no. 1.
  • 69. Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Box Y, nos. 2, 5.
  • 70. Ibid. Box B2, no. 2.
  • 71. Ibid. Boxes Y, no. 8; Z, nos. 1–7; A2, nos. 1–3; B2, nos. 1–8; C2, nos. 1–2; above, 138.
  • 72. See esp. Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Boxes C2, no. 13; D2, nos. 1–2, 4, 6.
  • 73. Ibid. Boxes C2, nos. 12, 14; D2, no. 3.
  • 74. Ibid. Boxes C2, no. 10; D2, no. 5; E2, nos. 1–2.
  • 75. P.R.O., E 367/5190, 7242; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 628.
  • 76. Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Boxes U, V, W, X; above, this section, Handbridge.
  • 77. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 821–2; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 627.
  • 78. V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 232, 259.
  • 79. Ibid. v (1), 235, 263.
  • 80. Eaton Hall, Chester Estate Deeds, Box 3, no. 11; T.H.S.L.C. cxxxvii. 93–116; cxlii. 56–7.
  • 81. Above, 302–3.
  • 82. For maps see above, 2 (fig. 2), 13 (fig. 4).
  • 83. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 51–2, 58. Cf. ibid, ii, pp. 274–5, 352.
  • 84. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 773–6; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 616–17; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 49, 54, 100.
  • 85. Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1910), 56; (1914), 57; C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 856; above, 264.
  • 86. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 776; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 616–17; Morris, Siege of Chester, 204; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1857), 15; (1910), 56.
  • 87. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 8–13; V.C.H. Ches. iii. 132.
  • 88. V.C.H. Ches. i. 348 (no. 69).
  • 89. Charters of A.-N. Earls, no. 13.
  • 90. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 819–20; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 54; C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 15/9; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1934), 440; (1939), 444.
  • 91. Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1857), 249; (1892), 494; (1934), 441; (1939), 446.
  • 92. V.C.H. Ches. i. 356 (no. 181).
  • 93. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, p. 40.
  • 94. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 772; J.C.A.S. n.s. x. 49.
  • 95. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 773.
  • 96. C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 15/9; Complete Peerage, vii. 262.
  • 97. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 773; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1934), 300; (1939), 306.
  • 98. V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 262.
  • 99. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 773; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 618; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1939), 306.
  • 100. Cart. Chester Abbey, ii, pp. 356–8.
  • 101. J.C.A.S. n.s. x. 43–7, 49.
  • 102. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 772; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 54–5.
  • 103. C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 3, f. 32; ZCR 466/116, 119, 122–4; ZCHD 7/15.
  • 104. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 36–42, 812–13; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1906), 357; (1923), 386; (1928), 209; (1934), 202.
  • 105. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 812; J.C.A.S. n.s. x. 27, 32, 38–9; Cart. Chester Abbey, ii, pp. 342–3; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 212, 218; above, 306–7.
  • 106. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 813; Morris, Siege of Chester, 204; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1892), 289; (1906), 357; (1910), 365; P. de Figueiredo and J. Treuherz, Ches. Country Houses, 244.
  • 107. C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 15/9; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1923), 386; (1928), 209; (1934), 202; (1939), 207.
  • 108. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 773; iii. 503; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 619; Morris, Siege of Chester, 204; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 117.
  • 109. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 8–13; V.C.H. Ches. i. 344 (no. 18).
  • 110. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 771; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1939), 55.
  • 111. Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1857), 47; (1892), 162; (1934), 53; (1939), 78; above, 262–4, 268–9.
  • 112. Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 8–13.
  • 113. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 770; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 617–18.
  • 114. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 770.
  • 115. V.C.H. Ches. i. 367 (no. 332).
  • 116. V.C.H. Ches. v (1), 216.
  • 117. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 821; J.C.A.S. n.s. x. 33, 41.
  • 118. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 653; ii. 821.
  • 119. Above, this section, Grosvenor Estate.
  • 120. V.C.H. Ches. i. 345 (no. 35), 366–7 (no. 330).
  • 121. Charters of A.-N. Earls, pp. 4, 40, 52.
  • 122. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 822; above, 221.
  • 123. V.C.H. Ches. iii. 148–9.
  • 124. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 823; Lysons, Magna Britannia: Ches. 629–30; C.C.A.L.S., ZD/BC; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1939), 273.
  • 125. Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1934), 269. Not mentioned (1939), 273.
  • 126. V.C.H. Ches. v(1), 263.
  • 127. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 823; above, this section, Brewer's Hall.
  • 128. V.C.H. Ches. i. 362 (nos. 270–2).
  • 129. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 575–7; Morris, Siege of Chester, 204; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1914), 188; (1923), 198.
  • 130. Cart. Chester Abbey, ii, pp. 461–4.
  • 131. Ormerod, Hist. Ches. ii. 577.
  • 132. De Figueiredo and Treuherz, Ches. Country Houses, 226.