Appleton and Appleton Thorn (inc Hillcliffe)


Appleton: from old English æppeltūn ‘orchard’ (literally ‘apple enclosure’, ‘the place where apples grow’)

Apples were particularly important in the Middle Ages as a food for survival through the winter.

Population: 10,567 (2021 Census)

The northern boundary of Appleton is the Bridgewater Canal, but Appleton used to include the hamlets of Stockton Heath and Wilderspool until the 19th century. Today it includes Pewterspear, Cobbs, Wright’s Green, Dudlows Green and Hill Cliffe (shown as Hillcliffe on modern maps – one road is named Hill Cliffe Road).

London Road follows almost the same route as the Roman road through south Warrington and was a toll road from the 12th century called King Street.

The original line of the road is the location of the statue of the Roman god Janus at Owen’s Corner at Longwood Road. Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.

It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus (see also Encyclopedia Britannica). According to ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs, Juno was mistaken as the tutelary deity of the month of January, but Juno is the tutelary deity of the month of June.

A Tutelary Deity is a god or greater kind who plays the role of patron, guide, guard, or protector of a particular area, geographic feature, people, nation, person, lineage, or occupation (from the Latin tutela ‘keeping’).

The Lyons of Appleton Hall

One of the most prominent families in Appleton was the Lyon family who resided at Appleton Hall, located to the east of London Road between the site of Warrington Golf Club and The Dingle. It is recorded in 1781 that Thomas Lyon and Co and Joseph Parr and Co were in the sugar refining business. Warrington Interchange stands on the site of two sugar houses. Read more about this in Sugar Refining.

Appleton Hall was built in 1820 for Thomas Lion on land that had once belonged to the Warburtons of Arley, between London Road and The Dingle. Thomas Henry Lion succeeded in 1859 and was the squire for 55 years until his death in 1914. In the 1840s and 1850s the family lived with eighteen servants, but by the end of the century this number had declined to six as the others were housed in cottages on the estate. The Cheshire Hunt met regularly at the hall.

The Lyon family left Appleton in 1931 and the family home became a Domestic Training Centre for sixty girls. Before it was demolished in the 1960s it had also been used as a Home Office Approved School. In 1968 Appleton Hall Grammar School was built on the site, which later amalgamated with Stockton Heath Secondary Modern School and was renamed as Broomfield High School. And one other snippet for you: back in the 1980s Warrington people will remember Eileen Bilton on the TV adverts for Warrington-Runcorn: the nation’s most central location – well the very same Eileen went to the grammar school in the 1960s and 70s. The rest of the land of the Lyon estate is now covered with housing. Part of the boundary wall to the estate can still be seen along London Road.

Read more about the members of the family at

More views of Appleton

Appleton Thorn

Population: 1,372 (2021 Census)

Appleton Thorn is a part of the village of Appleton. Appleton appeared in the Domesday Survey as “Epletune” which means “the tun (town, place) where the apples grew”. The Domesday Survey also said that Appleton “was and is waste”. The Appleton Cross near Pepper Street is a reminder of a Warrington friar, Richard de Apulton, who was ordained as the sub-deacon at Colwich in 1365. The cross was erected by Adam de Dutton in the same year as a wayside or ‘weeping’ cross.

Each June, the village hosts the ceremony of “Bawming the Thorn”. The current form of the ceremony dates from the 19th century, when it was part of the village “Walking Day”. It involved children from Appleton Thorn Primary School walking through the village and holding sports and games at the village hall. The ceremony stopped in the 1930s, but was later revived by the then headmaster, Mr. Bob Jones, in 1967. “Bawming the Thorn” occurs on the Saturday nearest to Midsummer’s Day.

“Bawming” means “decorating” – during the ceremony the thorn tree is decorated with ribbons and garlands and the schoolchildren dance around singing the Bawming song.

According to legend, the hawthorn at Appleton Thorn grew from a cutting of the Holy Thorn at Glastonbury, which was itself said to have sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who arranged for Jesus’ burial after the Crucifixion.

Appleton Cross

The text for the stone tablet reads as follows:

“This ancient monument (which originally stood two metres to the north-east of its present position) was restored by Appleton Parish Council in1973 under the guidance of Mr J. R. Rimmer, director of Warrington Museum & Art Gallery. It is believed to have been a wayside or weeping cross and would probably have had a wooden upright cross resting in the socket stone. A Venetian Soldino coin found under the lowest layer now in Warrington Museum dates the probable erection of the cross to between 1400 & 1420. Such crosses were used as halting places for funeral processions and this one would be close to an early chapel of rest at Stretton”.

The cross is located at the junction of Stretton Road and Walnut Tree Lane in Appleton Thorn

St Cross Church, Appleton Thorn

St Cross Church, Appleton Thorn has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building. It is an active Anglican parish church in the diocese of Chester, the archdeaconry of Chester and the deanery of Great Budworth. Its benefice is combined with that of St Matthew’s Church, Stretton. The church was built in 1886 to a design by Edmund Kirby at the expense of Rowland Egerton-Warburton of Arley Hall.

It is built in red sandstone with a red tile roof, in Decorated style. Its plan is cruciform with a two-stage tower over the crossing. It has a three-window nave without aisles, a one-window chancel, an oak-framed north porch on a sandstone plinth, and a baptistery projecting from the west end. Above the baptistery is a rose window. The stained glass in the east window is by Harcourt M. Doyle, dated 1970, and that in the rose window is by Celtic Studios of Swansea, dated 1986. The organ was built in 1906 at a cost of £220 (£20,000 as of 2012), by E. Wadsworth.

The church has connections with the Royal Naval Association because during the Second World War a Royal Naval Air Service Station, HMS Blackcap, was in the village. Its ensign hangs in the church.

Retrieved from Wikipedia.

Link to the church website

Royal Naval Air Station/ HMS Blackcap

The airfield was originally built in the Second World War for the RAF but when Luftwaffe tactics changed, it was surplus to requirements so command of the station was given to the Royal Navy in 1942. The airfield was used by the Royal Navy to ferry aircraft to aircraft carriers in the Irish Sea.

Although the main runway remains, the northerly part of the airfield is now HM Prison Thorn Cross and an industrial estate. In the 1970s, the M56 motorway was built across the former air station.

For a more detailed account of the site, see my Military Service page.

Thorn Cross Prison

Thorn Cross Prison opened in November 1960 as an adult male open prison, on the site of the former RNAS Stretton (HMS Blackcap) airfield. The authorities used the original Nissen huts previously used by the captain and senior staff of HMS Blackcap. By 1981 the buildings were past their best and a decision was made to demolish them. It was rebuilt and re-opened as Thorn Cross Young Offenders Institution in 1985.

In 1996, the prison was re-categorised as a young offenders boot camp institution. At the time, Thorn Cross was the first such institution in the United Kingdom to enforce a military-style disciplinary regime for some of its inmates, which led to a part of the prison (unit 5) being labelled a boot camp.

In January 1999, an inspection report from His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons labelled Thorn Cross Prison as an inspirational example of good practice. In particular the report praised the prison’s High Intensity Training (HIT) project, and recommended it be rolled out to other prisons.

In October 2005, a further inspection report highly praised Thorn Cross Prison, again highlighting the prison’s HIT programme. The report also noted that Thorn Cross managed to reduce re-offending amongst its ex-inmates to just over 20 per cent, one of the best rates in the country. The report added that the prison had to do more to improve relations with the local community however.

HM Prison Thorn Cross is a Category D adult male institution for males aged 21+. Accommodation consists of single rooms, each prisoner having his own room key.

Education and training courses offered at the prison include construction crafts, motor vehicles, horticulture, hospitality and catering and rail construction (NVQ level 2). Thorn Cross has a number of partnerships with national and local employers, offering opportunities for work placements prior to, and on release.

Some information from Wikipedia

Appleton Thorn War Memorial

More scenes from around the village


Hill Cliffe (shown as Hillcliffe on modern maps, although one road is named Hill Cliffe Road). Hillcliffe was marked on Saxton’s Map of Cheshire in 1577 as “High clyff hill” [spelt in lower case on the map]..

Hill Cliffe was the location of a battle between Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians and the Royalist supporters of King Charles on 20 August 1648. This came after he had defeated the Duke of Hamilton’s forces in Preston, Wigan, Winwick and Warrington on 17, 18 and 19 August 1648. While he was in the Warrington area, Cromwell stayed at the General Wolfe public house on Church Street next to the black and white building now known as The Cottage restaurant.

The next day, Sunday the 20th, it is said that Cromwell and his troops then moved camp to the ‘Golden Field’ by an ancient house henceforth known as Cromwell’s House, which once stood close to the Baptist chapel at Hill Cliffe. The house was demolished c.1880. Cannonballs and silver coins have been found along Red Lane, Firs Lane and in fields surrounding Bellfield Farm.

Hill Cliffe Baptist Church

The start of the Baptist Church in Warrington and Hillcliffe is likely to have been around 1650 at the time of the end of the Civil War. The first recorded pastor at Hillcliffe is Thomas Lowe. His gravestone is dated 1695. There is evidence in Rev. Henry Maurice’s diary that Lowe was preaching in the area in 1672 and he is said to have attended the General Assemblies of Baptists in London in 1689 and 1692.

18th century

The members of Hillcliffe church in the eighteenth century were mainly small-holders, blacksmiths, tailors and weavers. In 1705 Rev. Francis Turner became pastor and he worked very hard to provide services for Baptist communities throughout Cheshire and Lancashire. In return these small churches paid ‘quarters’ to Hillcliffe. Early Hillcliffe pastors often served without receiving a salary.

One preacher dedicated to the work of the church in the 18th century was Mr John Thompson from Latchford. He was a schoolmaster and from the age of thirty he began preaching at Methodist meetings. From 1792 he preached three times on Sundays, and every week day evening at Hillcliffe. He also attended numerous village meetings in the area until at his death in 1825, when there were 170-180 members of the church.

19th century

James Bradford took over as pastor when Mr Thompson died in 1825. Mr Bradford was ‘a man eminently distinguished for holiness of life’. Sadly, at the age of forty-four he ‘caught a (fatal) cold’ travelling back from Liverpool, where he had been collecting donations for a new chapel at Little Leigh.

20th century

In September 1929 the minutes include a eulogy to Thomas Grounds, an Honorary Deacon, who worshipped at Hillcliffe for 51 years ‘having rendered loyal and faithful service in the cause of Christ & the Church…his cheerful personality and self-sacrificing labour could always be in evidence as an inspiration to all & there will always remain in this corner of God’s vineyard, memorials of unstinted devotion to the future wellbeing of all who may become his successors in labour within and without the sanctuary’.

In total, 11 servicemen who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars are buried in the graveyard, five from the First and six from the Second. In the Second World War an area of land was given over to the growing of vegetables to help feed the locals, with the work undertaken by young people.

The building

Since the earliest evidence of the Warrington Baptist congregation meeting in William Morris’s barn at Hillcliffe in the 1650s, there have been many changes to the building over the centuries. In 1663, when land was granted for a Baptist burial ground, the building was converted for use as a chapel. The first chapel probably had a thatched roof until 1723, when the purchase of slates was recorded in the church accounts. In 1730 a new minister’s house was built.

The chapel was enlarged and modernised in 1841 and a plaque with this date is still over the old entrance on the north side of the building. Many further extensions have been added since then. A pipe organ, with accompanying extension, was built in 1923.

From 1715 until 1945 the church had stables, and there was only a small area against Red Lane for parking cars. A major change in 1982 was a new access road to an off-road car park, with the opening two years later of the ‘Link’ which joined the schoolroom to the sanctuary and placed the entrance on the opposite side of the building.

You can read more about the church’s history on their website where you can also discover facts about the preacher from 1780 who was dismissed, a story of resurrectionists (body snatchers) and why the local football team rarely lost a home match.

Hill Cliffe Baptist Church is pleased to share its wonderful history with local people. We continue to be a Beacon on the Hill and we warmly welcome everyone to come and join us.  Please contact us or visit our website.

I am grateful to the church for permission to use extracts from their history on

Fox Covert Cemetery

This is one of five burial grounds owned by Warrington Borough Council. It is located on Red Lane and the first burial to take place there was on 6 October 1961. The cemetery occupies land originally known as Hillcliffe Gorse and gives good views across to the north of the town. There is a lot of wildlife on show in the grounds, including rabbits, foxes, badgers, buzzards, kestrels and sparrowhawks. On the outskirts of the cemetery there is a path which leads to Walton Hall Gardens and Appleton Reservoir.

Close to Fox Covert Cemetery there are two of the reservoirs serving the district’s water requirements. The first opened in 1903 and is linked to Houghton Green reservoir near Winwick. A second reservoir opened in 1951 . They are covered with grass so they blend in with the surrounding countryside. A third reservoir in Hill Cliffe opened in 1967 close to Warrington Golf Club.

The Warrington Waterworks Co was supplying the town with water from Appleton Reservoir when Warrington became a Municipal Borough in 1837.

Mum and Dad’s grave at Fox Covert

Warrington Golf Club

The club was established in 1903 and within the grounds there is a stone obelisk with four corners at its base. On the east side of base is a panel with a beast’s head in relief. It is shown on an Ordnance Survey of 1873 standing at the highest point of Hill Cliffe (known locally as High Warren) 345 feet above sea level on land that originally belonged to Colonel Lyon’s Appleton Hall Estate. It was erected in about 1874.