History of Dunham Woodhouses

Historic development of Dunham Woodhouses

Formerly sited in the parish of Bowdon, and located to the north-west of the great house of Dunham Massey, the historical development Dunham Woodhouses is intimately connected with the Dunham Massey estate.  The nearby village of Dunham Town is mentioned in the Domesday Book which suggests that settlement in the area was properly established by the 11th century.

The village of Dunham Town and the manor of Dunham Massey were transferred to Hamo de Massey in the same period, remaining in the hands of the de Massey family until the mid-14th century.  After the last Hamo de Massey died in the 1340s without an heir, the manor passed to the Ingham family, and then successively to the Stranges, Fittons and Venables.  In the mid-15th century the manor and its associated lands passed to the Booth family, who continued to hold the Dunham Massey seat until the 19th century.

The Booth family were highly influential in local and national political spheres. Sir George Booth was one of the most notable politicians of the early Stuart court, while his son William Booth and grandson, also George Booth, continued the family’s important national position. Sir George led the Royalist Booth Uprising in Lancashire, Cheshire and North Wales in 1658 in opposition to the Rump Parliament.

In the first quarter of the 18th century the second Earl of Warrington, another George Booth, rebuilt the house at Dunham Massey and also remodelled the landscape. As a consequence of the scale of these works, it does not seem coincidental that during this same period we have the first evidence of the settlement of Dunham Woodhouses.

The earliest evidence of settlement is derived from fabric evidence: the survival of Agden View, a Grade II listed property outside the Conservation Area on Woodhouse Lane with a 1725 date stone. The house is located to the south-east of the historical centre of the village, which clusters around the intersecting roads.  There are a number of buildings grouped along these intersecting main roads that date to the middle or latter part of the 18th century, as well as to the early 19th century. These buildings are predominantly farmhouses and cottages. The nature of these buildings suggests that the settlement was originally established to provide additional houses for estate labourers, perhaps as part of the second Earl’s wider reordering of the manor house and productive estate.

There is also some evidence that the settlement was established with the aesthetic principles of the picturesque in mind. Support for this idea can be found in the choice of the hamlet by the second Earl to erect a dower house, now called Manor Farmhouse, in the mid-18th century.

It is evident from the tithe map of 1842, as well as from a comparison of successive Ordnance Surveys, that Dunham Woodhouses has changed little from the footprint of the 18th- and early 19th-century settlement. This is despite the land changing hands several times since, passing to the Grey family via the marriage of the second Earl’s heir Mary Booth.

Dunham Woodhouses also appears to have escaped the sale of land by Catherine, Countess of Stamford and Warrington, for speculative development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This occurred in the neighbouring hamlet of Dunham Town and led to some small-scale speculative development in the town.

Dunham Woodhouses has avoided substantial development since the 19th century. The only notable changes to the built environment are the 20th-century agricultural buildings at Ash Farm and Yew Tree Farm, and a small amount of residential infill at the junction of Station Road and Woodhouse Lane.