Chesterton and Holditch

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Chesterton is the site of the ‘old castle’ of Newcastle, one of a string of fortified Roman camps on the important road to Chester, and Holditch is where the first Romano-British settlement grew up just to the south between 80-160 AD.  

Today, the area also adjoins the wonderful Apedale Country Park – beautifully landscaped former open cast coal workings, which provide an increasingly popular venue for walks, wildlife observation and appreciation of Newcastle’s heritage.

Flanked by a Roman legionary, recently Paul opened the ‘Newcastle Way’ – a 25 mile walk from Mow Cop to Market Drayton, running through the heart of Apedale. He also unveiled the Apedale Memorial Wheel and has consistently supported the Heritage Centre volunteers, who are now adding a traditional railway attraction.

The first Staffordshire turnpike road passed through Chesterton, part of the London to Carlisle route, bringing inns and pubs which still ply their trade today.

Historically, metalworking was the area’s first main industry, using local reserves of ironstone, but by the 19th century had been supplanted by coal mining, as well as brick and tile-making. Iron-making, indeed, finally ended at Apedale – deriving from the old English, Aeppeldael, or apple valley - in 1930.

By the First World War, nine brick- and tile-works stretched from Apedale to Bradwell Wood to the north, fed by the local outcrop of Etruria marl. The area was honeycombed, with nearly 200 ‘bee hive ovens’, all coal fired, choking Chesterton with smoke. These days, only one survives, now owned by Ibstock and still relying on clay quarried at Knutton, to the far side of Black Bank up the steep hill past Apedale.

The local Holditch colliery was a new 20th century pit, whose first shaft was sunk in 1912. Ironically, German engineers had been engaged on further boreholes, and they were promptly interned for the duration of the First World War.

In 1937, an explosion at Brymbo pit at the mine killed 30 men, aged between 22 and 57, the largest loss of life in the Newcastle coal industry in the 20th century.

Holditch colliery finally closed in 1990 and, with substantial investment, the area has been transformed into Lymedale Employment Park, providing replacement jobs.

The regeneration scheme started a few years before Paul became the MP, but he has regularly voiced concern about the number of distribution sheds which have taken over, rather than a broader mix of skills, as originally intended. He has also strongly supported residents over design, nuisance and traffic issues.
 
Through all the adversity, Chesterton has remained a vibrant village, with great community spirit. ‘Single Regeneration Budget’ funds certainly assisted local groups, with their committed volunteers, as well as physically improving the area, including  the former Coal Board housing estate at Crackley. Modern housing at Waterhayes has also added a different dimension, bringing new families in.

Recently, the improvement in local education, and success of Chesterton High – now Chesterton Community Sports College – has been a source of immense pride locally.

Paul visits all the schools in Chesterton as frequently as he can and primary and secondary pupils regularly visit Parliament and London attractions on school trips, through a scheme worked out by Paul with Virgin Trains.

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