Local studies collections in Cheshire
Whether you are tracing the history of your family, doing research for a project, tracking down the history of your house or just interested in the local history of the area where you live, you can find useful information in our local studies collections.
The main collection of books and pamphlets, maps, trade directories, journals, local newspapers and other sources for local history research is to be found at the Cheshire Record Office.
Local studies in libraries
Many of Cheshire’s libraries have some local history material but the main collections are to be found at:
- Cheshire East libraries: Alsager, Congleton, Crewe, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Nantwich, Poynton, Sandbach and Wilmslow.
- Cheshire West and Chester libraries: Chester, Ellesmere Port, Neston, Northwich and Winsford.
These libraries hold a range of material covering their local area:
- Local Studies Catalogue
- Books and Pamphlets
- Maps and plans
- Trade Directories
- Local newspapers
- Periodicals and magazines
- Photographs and illustrations
- Township packs
- Special Collections
Books and pamphlets
Books and pamphlets covering all aspects of Cheshire life including subjects such as history, geography, religion, education, and local industry are to be found in our library collections. They will include the main Cheshire histories, such as George Ormerod’s History of the County Palatine and City of Chester (2nd ed 1882) and volumes of the Victoria County History, and will have additional material relating to the local library area.
An interview with John Hess, Ormerod's biographer can be watched on our YouTube channel.
Maps and plans
Complementing the extensive collection of Ordnance Survey maps, estate plans, and other maps at the Cheshire Record Office, our larger libraries have collections of maps and plans relevant to their local area. These will include copies of estate maps and maps of early Cheshire cartographers, such as Christopher Saxton (1577); John Speed (1610); John Ogilby (1675); Peter Burdett (1777); and Andrew Bryant (1831). They will also have copies of tithe maps and their related apportionments; Ordnance Survey maps at different scales and for different periods, and detailed town centre plans.
Some of these maps have been digitised can now be accessed online:
Trade directories were produced from 17c onwards, larger firms such as Kelly’s came to dominate the trade and, in addition to county directories, also produced directories for larger towns and cities such as Chester. Towns for which we have separate directories include Macclesfield, eg. Slater’s Directory of Macclesfield and District 1887 and 1890 and Nantwich, Johnson’s Nantwich Almanac running from 1888 to the 1970s.
Our main set of trade directories is to be found at the Cheshire Record Office but local extracts can be found in our library collections. They are an invaluable source for researching local and family history, businesses, churches and schools. Some of our older trade directories for Cheshire have been digitised by the Cheshire Local History Association and can be searched online.
Local newspapers first appear in Cheshire in early 18c and copies of the Chester Weekly Journal survive from 1724. From mid 19c, most towns of any size in the county supported a local newspaper and many of these titles are available on microfilm in larger Cheshire libraries.
Information about newspaper titles held on microfilm in Cheshire libraries can found by searching the Local Studies Catalogue.
Periodicals and magazines
Periodicals provide a considerable amount of detailed information about Cheshire’s past. Many of our journals and magazines such as Cheshire Life have been indexed and can be searched using the Local Studies Catalogue.
Useful local history journals with Cheshire content include:
Cheshire Archaeological Bulletin 1973-1984
Cheshire Historian 1951-1960
Cheshire Notes and Queries 1896-1910
Cheshire Round 1961-1969
Cheshire Sheaf 1876-1978
The most current content can be found in Cheshire History, the annual publication of the Cheshire Local History Association, and in the publications of the various antiquarian, historical and archaeological societies:
Photographs and illustrations
Many of the photographs held at the Record Office and in Cheshire libraries have now been digitised and can be seen free on the Cheshire image bank our fully searchable image bank of over 6000 photographs and other images relating to Cheshire.
There are collections of topographical prints at the Record Office and at Chester library. Macclesfield library has a collection of books illustrated by wildlife artist Charles F Tunnicliffe (1901-1979), who was born at Langley, near Macclesfield and Chester library has illustrations by the Chester-born artist, Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886).
A useful starting point for anyone researching into the history of a particular township of Cheshire, the content of our Township Packs follow a standard format providing extracts from: The Domesday Book; Omerod’s History of Cheshire; Trade Directories; population totals from census returns 1801-1971; maps, including extracts from the relevant tithe map and ordnance survey maps; and suggested titles for further reading. Some packs also include a selection of local illustrations. A list of all the townships we have covered to date can be found on our online shop.
Some of our Cheshire Libraries hold special collections of material related to their local area:
Curiouser and Curiouser: Stories from our Collections
Photo exhibitions on Flickr