Delamere Street, Winsford, was once the centre of the ancient borough of Over, a borough that contained Over, Oulton Lowe, Wettenhall and the small hamlets of Swanlow and Winsford.

It had been an independent borough since King Edward I had granted it to the Abbott and Convent of Vale Royal.

At the time of the Dissolution, it became the property, as did Vale Royal Abbey, of Sir Thomas Holcroft a King’s Favourite who became the owner of a big chunk of Mid Cheshire. The acquisition of the Abbey was in part paid for by relinquishing the Manor of Cartmel.

Northwich Guardian:

Delamere Street in the 1920s

Eventually Over was sold to Edmund Pershall, a merchant from London and by the middle of the 17th century, Thomas Cholmondeley became the owner of the Abbey and Borough. His first son became the 1st Baron Delamere of Vale Royal who inherited both.

Northwich Guardian:

Vale Royal House

By the early 1900s, the 3rd Lord Delamere emigrated to Kenya with his wife and by 1934 his son, the 4th Lord Delamere, moved his family back to Vale Royal from Kenya.

Northwich Guardian:

The gatehouse to Vale Royal House

In 1939 the building was chosen by the government as a sanatorium for servicemen injured in the war. In 1947 Vale Royal House and Estate was sold and became a golf course.

Northwich Guardian:

Monkey Lodge on the drive from the round tower to Vale Royal House

In 1810 a large public house was built in Delamere Street, probably on land upon which an earlier pub owned by Vale Royal Abbey had stood. This pub, ‘The George and Dragon’ became the hub of this thriving community and its administrative centre. It was built with a large room upstairs to house civic ceremonies such as the Court Leet for the Lord of the Manor which was held each October.

Northwich Guardian:

Delamere Street in the late 1800s

Lord Delamere held this title for much of the time and was the owner of the George and Dragon until 1882 when it was purchased from him by Greenall’s brewery.

Until 1894 the Mayor of Over was also a justice of the peace, this privilege was removed from him by a new Local Government Act. Over was recognised then as the smallest municipality in England.

Northwich Guardian:

Winsford Mayoral maces, one of which Lord Delamere damaged while in a rage

When it was proposed to end the tradition whereby the owner of Vale Royal could appoint the Mayor of Over, Lord Delamere was not too happy. In fact, he was so unhappy that he picked up the ancient silver mace during a meeting at the George and Dragon and slammed it down onto the table damaging the mace. His tantrum had no effect however as the right to appoint a mayor was handed in an honorary capacity to the chairman of the new UDC. His Lordship continued to sulk and stormed off with the old mace; it had to be purchased back many years later!

Northwich Guardian:

Saxon Cross in Delamere Street

For a short time, prisoners for the court were locked in the cellar at the George and Dragon. This was to await trial by the mayor who at the time had the power to try minor miscreants in his capacity as JP. This use of the cellar ceased around 1840 when the Over Cross was built with an integral cell and iron door. This still stands opposite the pub, and the rear door has been bricked up.

Northwich Guardian:

The back of the cross with door blocked

Many ceremonies took place around the pub, one such, ‘The Onion Fair’ was about to be reinstated in September 2006. It had to be cancelled however on the sad death of Brian Curzon, the organiser.

As can be seen from this exceedingly small and simplistic delve into the history of Over and Vale Royal Abbey, there is plenty more to say and will be at a later date. The George and Dragon was an essential building in an important borough.