Basking in the history of its Domesday past, Cheadle today is a burgeoning township with an inflated property market and exclusive appeal – much as it was during the 12th Century. Enveloped by ancient woodlands and minor village networks, Cheadle has lost none of its rural character, despite being the second largest thoroughfare for Stoke-on-Trent. Located within the North-Central region of Staffordshire county, Cheadle lies a mere eleven miles from the former industrial capital and less than five miles from Britain’s premier theme park, Alton Towers. Its situ at the heart of the county lends to its popularity as a base for exploring nearby attractions, including the Caldon Canals, Churnet Valley Railway and mystical Croxden Abbey.
With a population in excess of 13,000, it doesn’t seem feasible that picturesque Cheadle could once have been a tiny hamlet, home to less than nine families. During the time of William The Conqueror, this affable town was better known as ‘Cea Ledh’, quite literally meaning “clearing in the woods”. While ancient firs and solid oaks may have been felled to make way for the town’s expansion, one can’t deny there remains a medieval air about the place – most noticeably at ‘Pugin’s Gem’ (formally known as St. Giles Catholic Church).
Towering some 200 feet above the rooftops of Southwestern Cheadle, the 18th Century parish landmark strikes a bold presence on the horizon, no matter where you are in the town. Completed in 1846, St. Giles Roman Catholic Church is regarded Britain’s foremost architectural example of the Gothic Revival period and owes its moniker to the celebrated architect Augustus Pugin. One can’t fail to appreciate the attention to detail, particularly upon approaching the West Door. Guarded by the stately lions of Shrewsbury’s coat of arms, the ironwork is a stunning example of local artistry. Finished in alabaster, gold leaf and filigree, Thomas Roddis’ High Altar is the eye-catching focal point of the main nave and the point to which many visitors are drawn, due to its sheer size and beauty. Huge wall murals depicting the burial and Resurrection of Christ adorn the Wall of The Easter Sepulchre, framed by Thomas Roddis’ elaborate Rood Screen and Sedilia. Although small, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a tranquil spot from which to appreciate the entire main nave.
Cheadle has a long affiliation with art culture. Although born in Stockport, Greater Manchester, impressionist Alan Lowndes is alleged to have visited Cheadle often as a child and “Blackadder” actor Tim McInnerny was also raised here. In recent years, the quaint market town has garnered attention for a very modern installation: the Cheadle Art Trail. Winding from the very heart of the town, to a stunning lookout atop a hill on the very fringe of Cheadle Heath, local artists Kerry Morrison, Anthony Hammond and Ian Naylor are accredited with the creation of various fascinating installations along the Cheadle Art Trail route. Kids will love treasure hunting for pebbles mounted into resin road signs; cast slabs depicting the Cheadle skyline and a binocular sculpture, marking the lofty hilltop vista as an artwork in itself. Various other walking trails can be found near Cheadle, including the Ladybrook Valley Interest Trail from Cheadle to Lyme Park and Abney Hall, official starting point for the annual Cheadle 5k Run.
With its thousand acre deer park and adventure attractions, Tatton Park is a captivating setting in which kids will find no end to the activities on offer. Less than 7 miles from the Staffordshire market town, the 18th Century country manor constitutes one of the most popular attractions for visitors to Cheadle, blending history and education with various opportunities for adventure, including pony-trekking tours, sailing, adventure playgrounds and a world-class garden maze. Serene, yet invariably enchanting, the 250-year old Japanese and Kitchen Gardens are a must see for anyone interested in botany or wildlife.
Built during the 15th Century, Tatton Park Tudor Hall is a remarkably preserved example of an English Tudor manor. Set at the rear of the 18th Century Neo-Classical mansion, it hides amid a blur of lush foliage and ancient oak trees next to Cruck Barn – the early servant quarters for the entire estate. Humble, yet beautiful, the grand house with its cobbled floors and inglenook fireplaces is a regular setting for medieval country fayres, cooking courses and archery lessons. Crammed with 20 foot tapestries and restored period furniture, it remains a living museum showcasing the rural Tudor way of life. Tatton Park Mansion is also worth a look. Designed by architects Samuel and Lewis Wyatt, the mansion is itself a stunning feat of craftsmanship, however, pales in comparison to the extensive art, china and furniture collections by Pouccin, Gillow’s of Lancaster and Minton respectively. Visitors are invited to wander the Card Room and Housekeeper’s Sitting Room, wherein can be found stunning collections of Staffordshire ceramics and china – including the one-off Sevres dessert service, crafted for the Egbert family by Minton.
Long known as a gathering place for Peak District farmers plying their organic weekly trade, Cheadle continues to be a popular market town, frequented by visitors from as far afield as Durham and Newcastle. Crammed with over 60 stalls, the Cheadle Farmers Market is a great place to discover the fruits of Staffordshire every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Experience the tantalizing aromas of Lobby, that infamous Potter’s dish made famous by the working classes of Stoke-on-Trent; Staffordshire Oatcakes and the increasingly popular Cheadle Flapjack. Rosy, ripe and satisfyingly crunchy, the scent of homegrown apples also permeates the air. Specialist fairs, such as the Farmers, Collectibles and Antiques Markets occur every 2nd and 3rd Saturday of the month – certainly worth a look if you’re vying for truly unique crafts, homeware or gifts!