This week, we delve into the past of two buildings, both of which are no longer there.

We begin by looking at Lea House in Winnington, which has been known by different names and, over the years, had other uses but remained in place until the 1950s.

Lea House is shown on a map in 1882 across from a house called Shell Cottage on Winnington Road, and just 15 years later, the name had changed to The Ley.

It was a seven-bedroom mansion with a coach house, stables, and an extensive garden, and records show that a solicitor occupied it called William Sutton Bradburne, documented in the 1874 County Directory & Gazetteer as living at The Lay (another name for the same house).

Following Bradburne’s death in 1886, the house was put up for auction. By 1891, it was thought to have been purchased by Brunner Mond and occupied by Thomas Forgan from Scotland, a senior manager at the company, living there with his wife and family of eight daughters.

The house remained a part of the Brunner Mond site into the 20th century and was used as a Red Cross auxiliary hospital during the First World War.

Northwich Guardian: The Lays when it was a hospitalThe Lays when it was a hospital (Image: Rose Hurley)

It was under the management of Lady Charlotte Jarmay, wife of the Brunner Mond managing director, Gustav Jarmay (later to be known as Sir John Jarmay).

Gustav was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1856. He studied sciences in Zurich and London and gained his Certificate of Naturalisation in 1914.

He was knighted for his services to the war effort as the Ministry of Munitions recommended, specifically in connection with the high explosives he had invented.

Lady Charlotte was the officer in charge of the Ley Hospital and was awarded an OBE for her work there during the war.

The Jarmays lived in Hartford Lodge, more commonly known now as Whitehall, and Sir John was a well-known member in the Cheshire hunting field.

Northwich Guardian: Whitehall, NorthwichWhitehall, Northwich (Image: Rose Hurley)

Interestingly, the house was very similar in design to The Ley, as can be seen in the photos of both houses.

It was reported that in 1914, a hundred Belgian refugees were brought to Northwich and accommodated at the Bachelor’s Hall Winnington, whilst a further 17 would be provided for in The Ley, both at the expense of Brunner Mond.

During the 1920s, The Ley was used as a private school; the headmistress was Ellen Keating of Cassia Lodge Whitegate.

Through the 1930s and 40s, various events were held at The Ley as advertised in the local newspapers, such as first aid lectures, the Anglo-Polish community meetings, and, in 1954, the Claudia Stansfield School of Dancing held regular classes there.

Northwich Guardian: The site today of The Lays and later Brunner HouseThe site today of The Lays and later Brunner House (Image: Rose Hurley)

In the mid-1950s, The Ley was demolished to make way for the new Brunner House building.

Brunner House was a multi-story office block occupied by the ICI, and many Northwich folks will have vivid memories of it during the 1960s-80s.

At its height, it housed more than 1,000 ICI employees. The site was given the go-ahead for demolition in 1997 and was replaced by a large housing estate in the early 2000s.

Specialist diggers were required to remove or divert the steam conduits that criss-crossed the site.