Cheshire, a maritime county, bounded on the NW by the Irish Sea, on the N by Lancashire, on the NE by Yorkshire, on the E by Derbyshire, on the SE by Staffordshire, on the S by Salop, and on the SW by North Wales. Its outline has two projections, north-westward between the estuaries of the Mersey and the Dee, forming the Wirral Peninsula, and north-eastward to Yorkshire, forming the district known as Longendale, but is otherwise nearly oval Its greatest length north-eastward is 58 miles, its greatest breadth 36 miles, its mean breadth about 18 miles, its circuit about 200 miles, its area 657,068 acres. A ridge of hills, subordinate to the Derby and Yorkshire mountains, extends along all the eastern border; another ridge, much broken, crosses the west centre northward from Malpas to Frodsham. A remarkable isolated rocky eminence, about 366 feet high, is in the line of the latter ridge at Beeston. A chain of high ground goes through the Wirral Peninsula, and a few other eminences occur near Macclesfield and toward Salop. The rest of the surface, comprising about four-fifths of the entire area, is remarkable for flatness, and has a mean elevation of probably not more than 150 feet above the level of the sea. The chief rivers are the Mersey, the Dee, the Weaver, the Dane, the Bollin, the Tame, the Goyt, the Peover, and the Wheelock. Lakes bearing the name of meres are numerous and pretty enough to give feature to some landscapes, but are all small. Rocks of millstone grit occur along the eastern border, and fill the extremity of the north-eastern projection; rocks of the coal measures, rich in coal, form a broad band immediately west of the millstone grit; rocks of hunter sandstone occupy a great tract westward of the coal measures, and a still greater one from the vicinity of Malpas, Tattenhall, and Frodsham all westward to the sea; and rocks of the keuper marl and sandstone occupy most of the country between these two tracts, and occur to some extent near the extremity of the north-western peninsula. There occur ores of copper, cobalt, manganese, carbonate of lead, galena barytes, and oxide of iron, but not in sufficient amount to be profitably worked. Bed sandstone for building is extensively quarried at Runcorn, Manley, Great Bebbington, and other places, and limestone and millstone are found at Mole-Cop Mountain. Coal is worked to the amount of over 600,000 tons per annum. Salt abounds in strata and in springs near Northwich, Nantwich, Winsford, and Middlewich, and constitutes the most important mineral product of Cheshire, The annual production of salt in Cheshire amounts to more than 1,400,000 tons, while the production of all the rest of England scarcely amounts to 500,000 tons. Only a small proportion of the output is quarried as rock-salt, over 1,300,000 tons being obtained from brines produced naturally or artificially by flooding the salt-bearing strata with water, and thus dissolving out the salt, which is recovered by evaporating the liquid in pans.
The soil in some parts is a light sandy earth, in other parts a dark peat mould, hut in most parts a rich reddish loam, variously sandy and clayey. The sub-soil in general is either clay or marl, and has to a vast extent afforded material for the improving of the soil. About 64,000 acres are water and sea-sand; about 17,000 are bog and morass; about 28,000 are heaths, commons, and woods, and the rest of the area is variously building site, pleasure ground, park, pasture, meadow, and arable land. Most of the land is under grass, dairy-farming being the most common. Wheat is not much cultivated.
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Archives and Libraries
For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.
List of Registration Districts in Cheshire from 1837 to 1974.
Directories & Gazetteers
Transcript of the description of Cheshire from Pigot & Co. directory of Cheshire, 1828-9
The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Cheshire online for the period 1833-1915, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, Harrod.
A listing of the Hundreds in Cheshire, with the parishes contained in them.
Land and Property
The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Cheshire is available to browse.
Old map of Cheshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)
Old map of Cheshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)
Parishes and places
The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.
The population of Cheshire largely increased during the 19th century; the following table shows the numbers at each census:-
The Visitation of Cheshire, 1580 is available on the Heraldry page.