History of The Swan and Winwick
The Swan is a splendid 19th century Victorian tavern on the site of the former coaching inn of the same name, located in the picturesque Cheshire village of Winwick on the old turnpike road from Warrington to Wigan, now the A49. Rebuilt in the 1880’s at the height of Victorian enthusiasm for Tudor Revival architecture, this attractive inn with half-timbered gables on brick walls of chequered red and grey dominates the crossroads that formed the ancient centre of Winwick village. Opposite the historic 13th century church, itself built on the site of an earlier place of worship recorded in the Domesday Book, The Swan hosted travellers on the turnpike road and pilgrims journeying to St Oswald’s Well.
The Warrington to Wigan road was turnpiked in 1727, driven by the need to transport coal more cheaply, and a daily stagecoach service operated from 1762, carrying passengers like Ellen Weeton, a young governess from Upholland, who in 1818 stayed ‘at the sign of the Swan’ in Winwick on her way to Liverpool.
Winwick was an established small settlement by the time of the Domesday Book, and finds in the area suggest prehistoric occupation. The name Winwick is a mixture of an Anglican name ‘Wineca’ and the Old English ‘Wic’ meaning ‘dwelling place’ – so the name Winwick literally means ‘the dwelling place of Wineca’.
One of the most famous historic buildings in Winwick is St Oswald’s Church - a Grade I listed building. Parts of the church date back to the 13th century, named after King Oswald of Northumbria, who is believed to have been killed in battle against the Mercians in Winwick around 642 AD. Legend has it the exact location of St Oswald’s Church was selected with the help of the famous Winwick Pig, carved on the side of the west face. Taking a stone in his mouth, the pig is reputed to have carried it to the spot sanctified by the death of St Oswald. In practice, it is more likely that the carved pig relates to a statue of St Anthony, destroyed by Cromwell’s troops but replaced in 1973.
The site already had religious significance, with various excavations in the area over the last 200 years unearthing artifacts to support this - including three ‘giant skeletons’, discovered directly beneath the chancel in 1828, arranged in a ritualistic manner. In 1887, the church was the venue for the marriage of Edward Smith and local girl, Sarah Eleanor Pennington. Edward was a ship’s captain for White Star Lines and famously took command of the Titanic on its fateful maiden voyage in 1912.
Winwick was also the site of a historic and bloody battle – the Battle of Winwick Pass – at Red Bank, a mile north of The Swan. On 19 August 1648, during the Second English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians defeated a mainly Scottish Royalist army retreating towards Warrington. The Scots, led by Major-General William Baillie, lost 1,000 killed and 2,000 taken prisoner when locals showed Cromwell a route to flank the army. Some of the Scots foot made a stand on the village green where The Swan now stands, but surrendered after more fierce fighting.
Today Winwick is a tranquil village, and you can safely walk through its history via the Winwick Walk. Nearby Sankey Valley Country Park is a wildlife haven offering attractive walks, and the Sankey Canal Trail passes through Winwick at Winwick Lock, connecting the Mersey River with St Helens.
Cheshire offers visitors beautiful countryside and is a haven for ramblers and cyclists with its wooded hillsides and valleys and relics of its industrial past. After exploring the history of Winwick and the beauty of the surrounding area, the historic 19th century Swan Inn is the perfect place to relax. Delicious seasonal specials and sumptuous Sunday roasts are on the menu, along with a selection of fine wines and hand-pulled cask ales in this historic village.
You can find The Swan on Golborne Road, situated just minutes off Junction 9 of the M62. Simply key WA2 8LF into your satnav.