Macclesfield

Macclesfield from the town's train station.

Macclesfield is a market town in Cheshire.

Understand

Macclesfield is located where the Cheshire plain gives way to the Peak District. It was first recorded as existing under the name "Maclesfeld" in the Domesday Book of 1086. Its name is probably from a local landowner of the time. Two centuries later it was granted a charter. The Church of All Saints was built shortly afterwards, where St Michael's Church now stands in the centre of town.

The Earls of Chester established the nearby Forest of Macclesfield, much larger than its present-day counterpart, as their private hunting preserve. Most of it was cut down after population increased in the mid-14th century. Throughout the Middle Ages it was fortified. The names of downtown streets like Chestergate and Jordangate reflect the portals they led to in the now-vanished walls.

Those walls were severely damaged during the Civil War, when Cromwell's forces bombarded the Royalist forces of Sir Thomas Aston, who had taken shelter behind them. After the war the victorious Cromwell ordered what was left torn down. But rebellion was not done with Macclesfield. A century later, during the Jacobite Uprising, Bonnie Prince Charlie marched through on his effort to reach London.

Later in the 18th century Macclesfield, like much of that region of the country, began developing as a center for textile manufacture. By the 1830s it was the world's biggest producer of finished silks; some of the 71 mills that were in operation are scattered around today's Macclesfield. Fashions changed, however, increasingly preferring French silk and the cottons coming out of Manchester to the north, and many of those mills closed down. So little industry was left in town that it was the only English mill town not bombed by the Germans during World War II.

Macclesfield regained some measure of international fame in the late 20th century as the home of members of the late 1970s rock band Joy Division, which evolved into popular 1980s dance band New Order after lead singer Ian Curtis hung himself in his Barton Street home in 1980. Fans of Joy Division come to Macclesfield from all over the world, especially every 18 May, the anniversary of his death, to pay their respects at his grave marker in Macclesfield Cemetery. In 2007 Control, a film about Curtis's life and death based on his widow's memoirs, was filmed using many of the same Macclesfield locations that had figured in his life.

This association with the depressing songs of a suicidal musician has not been the only thing Macclesfield has had to live down. In 2004 The Times called the town England's least cultured, due to its lack of theatres and other cultural institutions. That led the town to establish the Barnaby Festival in 2010, a modern take on ancient customs of celebrating St. Barnabas's Day. The performance-centred Winterfest in November and December has brought even more people to downtown Macclesfield.

So, if you come listening to Joy Division on your headphones and expect a correspondingly grim Northern town to match, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Pay your respects to Ian, of course, but if you take the time to see more of Macclesfield you'll probably understand why it's a popular home for many top earners in Liverpool and Manchester.

Get in

Macclesfield station

By train

Macclesfield is on the main train line between London and Manchester and is easily accessed from both by high speed trains (Manchester 20 minutes, London 1 hour 45 minutes). Some Cross Country services between Manchester and Birmingham also call at Macclesfield. Local stopping services are available to Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent. The train station is located in the town centre, just to the east of the main shopping area.

By road

The nearest motorway is the M6. From the north, take Junction 19, and travel through Knutsford. From the south, use Junction 17 and follow the signs for Congleton until Macclesfield is signposted. In either direction, the distance from the motorway is about 15 miles (25 km). From the east, the main road into the town is the A537 from Buxton, known as the Cat and Fiddle road after the pub at its summit. It is a scenic route, but in winter it is occasionally impassable.

By air

Manchester Airport is 12 miles (20 km) away. By taxi the fare is typically about £25 if pre-booked.

Get around

The town centre is easily traversable by foot. Buses to suburbs and nearby towns depart from the bus station on Queen Victoria Street. From the train station go up the hill and follow the road to the left.

See

Ian Curtis's grave marker

Do

Buy

Chestergate in downtown Macclesfield

Eat

Drink

The Swan With Two Necks

Sleep

Go next

If you haven't come from there, Manchester, England's second largest city, is a short distance to the north. Often perceived as a dismal post-industrial wasteland, in actuality the reasons to visit—clubs, restaurants, shopping, museums—are too numerous for even a short list here to do the place justice.

Off to the east is the Peak District. After taking in the splendid scenery and trekking to your heart's content, either camping out overnight or staying in Buxton, you might want to continue on to Sheffield, another post-industrial Northern city with more to offer than that description suggests.

West of Macclesfield one eventually gets to Chester, with its quaint medieval architecture and walls. It's an excellent stopover for travellers heading into Wales, a short distance away.

Almost as close to Macclesfield to the south as Manchester is to the north one finds Stoke-on-Trent. Once home to a thriving pottery industry, it is now a destination with museums and gardens amid its charming old buildings.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, November 27, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.