Runcorn's Silver Jubilee Bridge
Coat of arms
|OS grid reference|
|o London||167 mi (269 km) SE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||North West England|
Runcorn is an industrial town and cargo port in the Borough of Halton in Cheshire, England. Its population in 2011 was 61,789. The town is in the southeast of the Liverpool City Region on the southern bank of the River Mersey where the estuary narrows to form the Runcorn Gap. To the north across the River Mersey is Widnes, with Warrington 7 miles (11 km) to the northeast and Liverpool 11 miles (18 km) to the northwest.
Runcorn was founded by Ethelfleda in 915 AD as a fortification to guard against Viking invasion at a narrowing of the River Mersey. Under Norman rule, Runcorn fell under the Barony of Halton and an Augustinian abbey was established here in 1115. It remained a small, isolated settlement until the Industrial Revolution when the extension of the Bridgewater Canal to Runcorn in 1776 established it as a port which would link Liverpool with inland Manchester and Staffordshire. The docks enabled the growth of industry, initially shipwrights and sandstone quarries. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it was a spa and health resort but this ended with the growth of polluting industries, especially soap and chemical works. In 1964, Runcorn was designated a new town and expanded eastward, swallowing neighbouring settlements and more than doubling its population.
Three bridges span the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal at Runcorn: the Silver Jubilee Bridge, Mersey Gateway, and Runcorn Railway Bridge. Its location between Liverpool and Manchester and its links to the rail, motorway and canal networks have made it a centre for logistics, manufacturing, energy, and wholesale and retail.
The earliest written reference to the town is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is spelled "Rumcofan", literally meaning "a wide cove or bay". This word is derived from the Old English words "rúm" ("wide" or "broad") and "cofa" ("cave" or "cove"). Other historical spellings of Runcorn include "Rumcoven", "Ronchestorn", "Runckhorne", and "Runcorne".
Little is known about the early history of the settlement but isolated findings of objects from the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages have been made and there is evidence of a Roman presence in the area.
The first recorded event in its history is the building by Ethelfleda of a fortification at Runcorn to protect the northern frontier of her kingdom of Mercia against the Vikings in 915. The fort was built on Castle Rock overlooking the River Mersey at Runcorn Gap.
Following the Norman conquest, Runcorn was not mentioned in the 1086 Domesday survey, although surrounding settlements were. William the Conqueror granted the earldom of Chester to Hugh d'Avranches who granted the barony of Halton to Nigel. It is likely that Nigel erected a motte and bailey castle on Halton Hill in the 1070s.
In 1115, Nigel's son, William Fitznigel, founded an Augustinian Priory at Runcorn. In 1134 the priory was moved to Norton, about 3.5 miles (6 km) away. In 1391 the priory was raised to the higher status of abbey. In 1536 the monastery was dissolved, and around nine years later the buildings and some of the monastic lands were sold to Sir Richard Brooke who converted the habitable part of the abbey into a house.
The first siege was led by Sir William Brereton in 1643; the second was during the following year. Following this, a "Council of War" was held in Warrington in 1646 at which it was decided that the castle should be slighted.
In 1656, Runcorn was described as being "nothing but a fair parish church, a parsonage and a few scattered tenements". And so it remained for over a century, an isolated and poor hamlet. The only through traffic used the ferry which crossed from Runcorn to the north bank of the River Mersey.
During the 18th century, water transport had been improved in the area by the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, the Bridgewater Canal and the Trent and Mersey Canal. This gave Runcorn waterway connections with most of the interior of England through the canal system and with the sea along the River Mersey, thus forming the basis for the development of the Port of Runcorn.
Industries began to develop within and around the town, in particular shipbuilding, engineering, chemical manufacturing, tanning, and sandstone quarrying. Towards the end of the 18th century and in the early years of the 19th century, the town was a health resort.
The growth of industry by the early 19th century had not diminished Runcorn's reputation as a health resort and in 1822 the town's first Saltwater Baths opened. This was followed by new visitor accommodation in 1831 at Belvedere Terrace "for the reception of visitors in search of health and pleasure".
In the middle of the century, the growing wealth of the town and its industrialists saw the construction of several new landmarks, including Halton Grange, St Paul's Methodist Chapel and All Saints' Church.
For hundreds of years, the only means of crossing the River Mersey had been by the Runcorn ferry. Thomas Telford proposed a 1,000 feet (300 m) single span suspension bridge as early as 1817, but it was not until 1868 that the first bridge, Runcorn Railway Bridge, was opened across the Mersey at Runcorn. This gave the town direct rail links with Liverpool and the rest of the country.
Runcorn was becoming an industrialised and highly polluted town. During the later 19th century the town became increasingly dominated by the chemical and tanning industries. In the 1880s a pipeline was opened between Northwich and Weston Point, supplying brine to the salt works and in 1896 the Castner Kellner chemical works was established.
In 1894 the Manchester Ship Canal was opened throughout its length. This allowed ocean-going ships to travel inland as far as Salford, some of them calling at the port of Runcorn. The rise in population between 1881 and 1891 and the drop by 1901 is explained by the number of people involved in constructing the ship canal.
In 1905, the Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge opened, giving a direct link for vehicular traffic for the first time between the two towns. This would not be replaced until 1961 with the construction of Runcorn Road Bridge (since renamed the Silver Jubilee Bridge) which allowed a more efficient means of road traffic across Runcorn Gap.
During the first half of the 20th century, the industry of the town continued to be dominated by chemicals and tanning. This growth was largely due to government fixed-priced cost contracts for tanned hides. In 1926, four chemical companies merged to form Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI).
During the second half of the 20th century, the tanneries closed (the last to close was the Highfield Tannery in the late 1960s) and the chemical industry declined. At the same time, light industry developed together with warehouses and distribution centres.
The designation of Runcorn as a new town in 1964 brought major changes and more than doubled the population. Much of the architecture of the new town was innovative, especially the Southgate development designed by Sir James Stirling and built between 1970 and 1977. Stirling's housing development was beset with problems and it was demolished in the early 1990s.
Under the Runcorn Improvement Act 1852, a board of Improvement Commissioners was established to administer the civil government of the town. By the Local Government Act 1894, the administration of the town and the surrounding areas was divided into Runcorn Urban District and Runcorn Rural District. Initially the urban district consisted of only the built-up area of Runcorn itself. By 1937, this area had been extended to include the communities of Weston and Weston Point to the south. In 1964, Runcorn was designated as a New Town and greatly expanded so that by 1971 it had grown to incorporate the village of Halton.
In 1974, as part of the Local Government Act 1972, Runcorn Urban District was abolished and its territory amalgamated with Widnes to form the Borough of Halton under Halton Borough Council and Cheshire County Council. In 1998, Halton Borough Council became a unitary authority within the ceremonial county of Cheshire. In April 2014, Halton Borough Council joined five other local authorities in Merseyside to form the Liverpool City Region.
Before the Reform Act 1832, Runcorn was in the parliamentary constituency of Cheshire which was represented by two Members of Parliament. Following the Reform Act, the town was placed in the North Cheshire constituency and from 1868 in the Mid Cheshire constituency. From 1885 to 1950 the town was in the constituency of Northwich. By an act of Parliament in 1948, the constituency of Runcorn was created, and in 1950 Runcorn's first Member of Parliament, Dennis Vosper, was elected. He continued to represent the constituency until 1964, when he was succeeded by Mark Carlisle.
In 1983, the constituency of Runcorn was abolished. The western part of the town, which includes the old town area and part of the new town, is in the constituency of Halton and the eastern part, containing the rest of the new town and private housing to the east of this, is in the Weaver Vale constituency. Since the 1997 general election the Member of Parliament for the Halton constituency has been Derek Twigg of the Labour party.Weaver Vale, on the other hand, is a marginal seat and has switched parties several times.
Runcorn is situated on a spur projecting into the River Mersey, which flows to the north and then to the west of the town. On the north bank of the river is another spur forming the West Bank area of Widnes; together these form Runcorn Gap, a narrowing of the River Mersey. Runcorn Gap is crossed by three bridges: Runcorn Railway Bridge (which carries the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line), the Silver Jubilee Bridge and the Mersey Gateway which carries the A533.
The town has a system of "expressways", roads designed to divert traffic away from the residential areas, which form a figure of 8 around the town. The Central Expressway runs through the centre of the town in a north-south direction and is the main through-road.
To the west of the Central Expressway lie most of the former settlements which formed the older part of the town, namely Runcorn, Higher Runcorn, Weston, Weston Point and Clifton (formerly Rocksavage), and the new town areas of Halton Brook and Halton Lodge.
To the east are the village of Halton, the old settlements of Norton and Stockham, and the new town areas of Castlefields, Palacefields, Windmill Hill, Murdishaw, Brookvale, Hallwood Park and Sandymoor.
The density of housing is generally high, but there are open green areas, in particular heathland on Runcorn Hill and the extensive Town Park created as part of the new town.
Industry is typically situated on the outside of the expressways. Chemical factories are concentrated mainly to the southwest of the town bordering the Mersey, while newer industries are to the northeast and southeast.
The Runcorn area drains into the River Mersey to the north and the River Weaver to the south.
Since the borough of Halton became a unitary authority in 1998, demographic trends have been collated for the authority as a whole, rather than separately for the towns of Runcorn and Widnes. While the two towns have different histories and come from different historic counties, their demographic features are similar.
The population of Halton in 2011 was 125,700. The change in population during the 20th and 21st centuries is shown in the following table.
The 2011 census showed that, of the people living in Runcorn, 70.1% declared themselves to be Christian, significantly higher than the national average in England of 59.4%. 23.5% stated that they had "no religion" and 5.5% made no religious claims. Those stating their religions as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islam, or Sikh amounted to 0.8%.
There are also several shared churches. Wicksten Drive Christian Centre is shared between the Church of England and the Methodists. Hallwood Ecumenical Parish in Beechwood and Palace Fields consists of 3 churches all recognised by the Church of England, the Methodists and the United Reformed Church. Norton Ecumenical Parish, covering Windmill Hill, Norton and Murdishaw, is served by an Ecumenical Partnership between St Berteline's Church (Anglican) and Murdishaw Ecumenical Church (Methodist run).
There is an Independent Baptist chapel, three independent Christian churches, and an LDS Church. The Jehovah's Witnesses have two Kingdom Halls with three congregations, and there is a Spiritualist church.
In the 2011 census, of Runcorn's 61,789 residents, 97.8% were White, with 96.3% identifying as White British. Mixed/multiple ethnic groups made up 1.2%, Asian/Asian British 0.7%, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British 0.2%, and Other/Arab 0.1%. 98.5% had English as a first language.
The major employment sectors of the town are logistics, manufacturing, energy, and wholesale and retail. Chemical engineering has been a major industry since the 19th century but the number of people employed in this sector has declined since the 1980s.
There are five main areas of industry in the town: Astmoor Industrial Estate in the north; Manor Park in the northeast; Sci-Tech Daresbury to the southeast; Whitehouse Industrial Estate to the south; and the Heath Business Park, extensive chemical plants and the town's two ports in the west. The main shopping area is at Runcorn Shopping City in the centre of the town and there are restaurants and shops in the old town.
The industry was dominated for many years by ICI's Chlor Chemical division but since 2001, Ineos has operated the extensive chemical works in the west of the town. In Runcorn, Ineos manufactures chlorine, caustic soda and chlorinated derivatives through its wholly owned company, Inovyn. It also produces salt, made from brine transported by pipeline from the saltfields of central Cheshire, and sulphuric acid. Several other chemical manufacturers also have a presence at the site, including Runcorn MCP Ltd (a joint venture between INOVYN and VYNOVA), Mexichem, VYNOVA, Industrial Chemicals and Packed Chlorine Limited. The site is considered to be of strategic national importance to the UK.
The site includes two independently owned power plants; the 810 MW natural gas fired Rocksavage Power Station and the Runcorn Energy Recovery Facility operated by Viridor which also supplies heat to the Inovyn facility.
ICI's other former site in Runcorn comprising offices and laboratories is now the Heath Business and Technical Park, which provides office, laboratory, conference, and leisure facilities.
Sci-Tech Daresbury is a National Science and Innovation Campus located on the south eastern edge of Runcorn. The campus offers lab space, offices and workshops to rent. It is home to the largest supercomputer in Europe and the Virtual Engineering Centre which works with Bentley motor cars, BAE Systems and Jaguar Land Rover. The site also houses Daresbury Laboratory which employs over 300 staff specialising in accelerator science, bio-medicine, physics, chemistry, materials, engineering and computational science.
Manor Park business estate houses several high tech engineering firms, including Sigmatex, a manufacturer of carbon fibre for Formula 1 racing cars, naval vessels, aircraft and communication satellites. Héroux-Devtek, a manufacturer of landing gear for the commercial and military aviation industry, also has a site on Manor Park.
Runcorn is also host to many conventional manufacturing firms, primarily on Astmoor Industrial Estate in the north and Whitehouse Industrial Estate in the south.
Runcorn's position between Liverpool and Manchester airports and its links to the rail, motorway and canal networks have made it a centre for logistics.
There are two adjacent ports in the west of the town on the Manchester Ship Canal. Runcorn Docks is owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Company, which is part of the Peel Ports Group. The Port of Weston is owned by the Stobart Group.
There are several large logistics depots across Runcorn, including Eddie Stobart Group's road haulage site and driver training school in Manor Park, the Downton haulage depot at the Whitehouse Industrial Estate, and an NHS Supply Chain Depot operated by DHL in Astmoor Industrial Estate.
There has been a shift in employment from manufacturing to service industries. In 1991, 34% worked in the manufacturing sector and 61% were in the service sector. By 2004 17% were in manufacturing jobs and 78% were in service jobs. This trend in the local region is demonstrated in this chart which shows the regional "gross value added" of Halton and Warrington at current basic prices, with figures in millions of pounds.
|Year||Regional Gross Value Addedd||Agriculturea||Industryb||Servicesc|
Runcorn has two shopping centres. The original shopping area was in the older part of the town on High Street, Regent Street and Church Street. This centre continues to exist, but with the coming of the new town, has declined. In the centre of the new town, Runcorn Shopping City is an enclosed shopping mall with two attached bus stations. Adjacent to it is Trident Retail Park containing shopping outlets and a cinema and nearby is a large Asda superstore that opened in 1989.
When plans for Runcorn New Town were drawn up, they included three distinct types of road: local roads, expressways and busways.
The expressways form a ring road around the town in a figure of eight and are intended to keep all through traffic off the local roads. This system links north to Widnes and Liverpool by the A533 over the Mersey Gateway bridge, east to Warrington by the A56, south to Northwich and north Cheshire by the A533, and west by the A557 to the M56 and to Frodsham. The M56 links to the M6 and, to the north of Widnes, the A557 links to the M62.
The Busway is a system of roads for use by buses only, and bears no resemblance to guided busways or bus lanes in use elsewhere, as it is a totally separate road system, not running alongside (or down the middle of) existing roads. It was designed so that most residents would be no more than five minutes walking distance, or 500 yards (457.2 m), from a bus stop. Bus services are provided by Halton Transport and Arriva North West.
There are two railway stations. Runcorn, located in the old town, is on the Liverpool branch of the West Coast Main Line, and is managed by Virgin Trains, who provide services between Liverpool Lime Street and London Euston. West Midlands Trains run a service between Liverpool and Birmingham New Street that calls at the station. Runcorn East station, located in the Murdishaw district of the new town, is managed by Transport for Wales, and provides services to Warrington, Manchester, Chester and North Wales.
The Silver Jubilee Bridge was the major road bridge over the River Mersey connecting Runcorn with Widnes until the opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge. The bridge will reopen after conversion to a toll bridge in 2020. As part of the conversion a new bicycle and footpath will be added. After reopening there will be no access to the bridge from the A533, the trumpet loop access roads will be demolished to make way for a new leisure and retail facility called the "Station Quarter".
A 1 km (0.6 miles) span cable stayed road crossing with a maximum clearance of 23 m (75 ft) above the River Mersey. The bridge passes over the Wigg Island Nature Reserve but there is no pedestrian access to the bridge deck.
Halton Castle is on the top of Halton Hill overlooking the River Mersey. A motte and bailey castle built circa 1071 was replaced with one made from local sandstone in the 13th century. The castle is listed as an Ancient Monument. Incorporated in the castle walls is the Castle Hotel building, which used to include a courthouse and prison, and is now a public house.
An important historical site and the major visitor centre in the town is Norton Priory, now a museum. The site contains the remains of a priory with adjacent gardens, formerly of a country house. Nearby are a walled garden, including a national collection of tree quinces, and an ice house.
Completed in 1856 as a mansion for Thomas Johnson, a local industrialist, Runcorn Town Hall is a Grade II listed building in the Italianate style. The building was designed by Charles Verelst and the gardens were planned by Edward Kemp.
Norton Water Tower is a water tower built of Runcorn sandstone, 112 feet (34 m) high, which holds 672,000 imperial gallons (3 million litres) of water and supplies it to Liverpool. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.
Runcorn War Memorial is located inside Memorial Garden at the junction of Moughland Lane and Greenway Road. The memorial is Grade II listed with Historic England and commemorates those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, as well as those killed in later conflicts. The garden contains a statue of Thomas Alfred Jones who was awarded a Victoria Cross. There is a memorial in Castle Road, Halton, commemorating residents of the village who served in the Boer War.
There are several listed buildings in Runcorn of some importance.
The listed churches are All Saints Parish Church and Holy Trinity Church in the centre of the older part of the town, St Mary's in Halton village, St John's in Weston, and Christ Church in Weston Point. All Saints' Church, a Grade II* listed building, dates from 1849 and was built by Anthony Salvin in red sandstone.
The oldest surviving houses are the Seneschal's House in Halton village (1598), Weston Old Hall (1607), Brookfield Farmhouse (1691) and Halton Old Hall (1693). Other notable places include Camden House and Cottage in High Street and Bridgewater House near the ship canal.
Runcorn Shopping City, at the heart of the New Town, was designed by Fred Roche CBE and at the time of its construction was the largest covered shopping centre in Europe. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972 and has 125,000 visitors per week.
The Brindley is a theatre and arts centre which opened in 2004. It is situated in the old town centre and named after James Brindley, engineer of the adjacent Bridgewater Canal. It contains a proscenium theatre seating 420 and a multi-purpose theatre seating 108, The Studio, which doubles as a cinema. There is an exhibition space for art installations, a small café and multi-purpose rooms. The centre is owned and administered by Halton Borough Council which runs community events in the building. In 2007, it won the title of "Best Arts Project in the UK" at the National Lottery Awards. A multiplex cinema run by Cineworld is in Trident Retail Park.
Runcorn has been used for the shooting of films and television programmes. Some of the sequences in the first two series of the BBC police drama Merseybeat were filmed in and around the town. The BBC situation comedy Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps was set in Runcorn. External shots of the Waterloo Hotel in the area of High Street known as Top Locks (which is known in the show as The Archer) appear as well. The opening credits show the Silver Jubilee Bridge and Halton Castle.Drop Dead Gorgeous, a drama on BBC Three, was set in Runcorn. Norton Priory has been used as a location in films and television programmes. Areas of Runcorn old town have featured in The Five TV crime drama series on Sky1.
Runcorn is served by two weekly papers, the Runcorn Weekly News and the Runcorn World. The town is also home to Halton Community Radio, which broadcasts over the Runcorn and Widnes area on the frequency 92.3FM. This is a non-commercial radio station which is run by volunteers. HCR was launched on 8 August 2008, and currently has a five-year licence to broadcast.
Before the building of Runcorn Railway Bridge and its attached footbridge, the only way to cross the Mersey at or near Runcorn Gap, other than by the dangerous method of fording, was by ferry. The ferry has a history going back to the 12th century. The ferry was celebrated in the monologue entitled The Runcorn Ferry, written by Marriott Edgar and popularised by Stanley Holloway. It includes the lines:
|"||Per tuppence per person per trip ...
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There are also several smaller local parks in the town, including Rock Park, Town Hall Park, Russell Park and Hallwood Park. Smaller nature reserves include Daresbury Firs, Dorchester Park, Murdishaw Valley, and Oxmoor Woods and Ponds. There is a promenade on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in the old town.
There are five allotments in the town: Clifton Road, Dukesfield, Haddocks Wood, Heath Road and Oak Drive.
Runcorn's hospital is Halton General Hospital, which is administered by the Warrington & Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Originally planned as a District General Hospital, it was never large enough to provide a full range of services. Acute medical services have been transferred to Warrington Hospital and Halton General has become a centre for non-emergency surgery and rehabilitation. Although it never had its own accident and emergency department, the hospital has an Urgent Care Centre for basic emergency care. On the same site is the Cheshire and Merseyside Treatment Centre, a purpose-built hospital for orthopaedic surgery.
The town has two senior football teams - Runcorn Linnets FC and Runcorn Town FC. It also has a Sunday League and a Junior League. There is an open age women's team, Runcorn Ladies FC, which is affiliated to Liverpool FA and plays in the Liverpool County Women's Open Age Division.
Runcorn Linnets were formed as a trust-based team in 2006 from the now defunct Runcorn F.C. Halton. It has existed in various guises since 1918, and its performance peaked in 1982 when it won the Alliance Premier League, then the highest division below the Football League. The club initially did not have their own ground so, up until the 2009-10 season, they took part in a groundshare with Witton Albion to play their home matches at Wincham Park, Northwich. In their first season the club gained promotion to Division 1 of the North West Counties League. In October 2009 planning permission was granted for the club to build a new ground in the Murdishaw area of Runcorn.
Runcorn Town was formed in 1970 as Mond Rangers FC with the club changing their name in 2005 in order to "try and bring a more professional look to the club in general, and increase support from both businesses and individuals in the local community." After finishing in third place in the West Cheshire League at the end of the 2009/10 season, the club were elected to join the North West Counties League at their AGM, the highest level that they have ever played at.
In the late 19th century, and prior to the 1895 schism, rugby union was played at the now defunct Runcorn RFC. Harry Collinge Speakman played during the 1888 British Lions tour to New Zealand and Australia and Samuel Houghton played for England.
When the rugby football schism occurred in 1895, Runcorn became founder members of the Northern Rugby Football Union (now Rugby Football League). Runcorn played from the 1895-96 season through to the end of 1914-15 season. They won the Lancashire League in both the 1895-96 and 1899-1900 seasons, and were losing semi-finalists in 1906-07 Rugby Football League Championship.
During the early part of the 20th century, five rugby league players from Runcorn played for both Great Britain, and England. Runcorn finished bottom of the league in the 1914-15 Northern Rugby Football Union season and did not recommence playing in the aftermath of the First World War.
Rugby league in the town is now represented by Runcorn RLC. Runcorn Rugby Union FC is based at Halton Sports Club in Murdishaw.
Runcorn Cricket Club and Runcorn Hockey Club are based at the Runcorn Sports Club in Moughland Lane.
Runcorn Rowing Club rows on the River Weaver Navigation near Clifton Village.
There is an 18-hole golf course at Runcorn Golf Club in Clifton Road.
Runcorn also has its own professional wrestling training-school, Runcorn Wrestling Academy, based in Grangeway.
The local authority runs two leisure centres at Runcorn Swimming Pool and Brookvale Recreation Centre in addition to outdoor sporting facilities in its parks.