PROBABLY the most famous school in mid Cheshire is Sir John Deane's. It is now called Sir John Deane's Sixth Form College, but where did it all start?

Firstly we travel back in time to 1540 when in Foregate Street, Chester there was a hotel called The Swan Inn. This later evolved to be the Swan Hotel, one of Chester's best-known hostelries.

Before the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, it came into the possession of St John's Church, once Chester Cathedral.

Then along came good King Henry and the Crown took the hotel and extensive lands in which it stood.

Time to see what the connection with Northwich was. Well, the hotel and grounds were sold by the Crown Estates to a man from Northwich called John Deane who was the rector of St Bartholemew the Great in Smithfield, London.

John was eager to leave a lasting legacy to the poor children of Northwich. He was born in Shurlach between Davenham and Rudheath. John Deane had the first free grammar school built in the grounds of St Helen Witton Church on Michaelmas Day 1557.

At this time the area was Witton-cum-Twambrook, and he donated all of his land and property in Chester to this cause.

Over the next 300 years, the trustees of the Witton Grammar School retained and leased the Swan Hotel to fund the grammar school.

To this end, the extensive lands upon which the hotel sat, were sold and the hotel remained open until 1972 when it was demolished to develop the land which became a modern shop development.

As for the school, it had a somewhat rocky ride. In the early 19th century there was a legal dispute involving the headmaster's salary and poor management of the funds which sapped them somewhat.

In the early 20th century the school became known as Sir John Deane's Grammar School and was given funding on the 350th anniversary of its founding.

These funds came from Sir John Brunner, and they helped pay for the building of the present school.

The school also came under the Cheshire County Council.

Sir John Brunner’s large portrait hangs in the dining room and there is an annual founder's day service at St Helen’s when Sir John Deane is commemorated.

In 1977 the school became Northwich’s Sixth Form College.