A FEW weeks ago, we looked at historic buildings in Winsford or, initially, Over, Winsford and Wharton with their constituent hamlets. Winsford, at the time, being a hamlet itself. I said that there was a notable omission, and that was Marton Grange just off Whitegate Way.

As shown in records of the period, Marton Grange was built around 1220; this was possibly the date of Ranulph de Merton’s entitlement to the land upon which it was built. In 1284 there is mention of a fishery on the site.

Around the end of the 13th century, when Vale Royal Abbey came into being, the Manor of Merton passed to the Abbey. It then became known as Marton Grange, a moated monastic grange of which there were others belonging to the abbey under the control of the Abbot of Vale Royal.

A monastic grange is a farm owned and run by a monastic community. At the time, most farms came under the authority of the Lord of the Manor, being called Manorial Communities who controlled them and the servile labour force that was needed to run them.

Monastic communities did not fit into this pattern and were there to provide the sustenance of the monks and nuns of the community.

The Cistercian Order, of which Vale Royal was one, first established this form of monastery support, and other orders followed suit.

The Abbot of Vale Royal was all-powerful.

A Grange was compared with ordinary secular farms, but they were well endowed with funds to run, improve, and add to the buildings and land under the monastic community.

Having been built outside the monastic community, Marton Grange was somewhat different and older slightly than the introduction of purpose-built granges. For instance, it was moated and set on an island surrounded by a moat built of brick and sandstone; no drawbridge here, but there was one before the bridge it was built for defensive purposes.

It remained under the control of the abbot until 1539, when Henry VIII arrived with his confiscation of all of the Vale Royal Abbey buildings and land.

The king being a fair-minded individual, albeit he was not exactly good friends with the pope, shared the monastic spoils with his friends.

One of whom was Thomas Holcroft, who received the grange, two fishponds, and extensive farm buildings in the gift.

He, in turn, sold it to the Mainwaring family, who built the new Tudor Manor House. This was demolished, and a new hall was erected just to the south of the island.

Marton Grange has been a first-class, relatively intact site for excavation, and this was done in 1848 before the building of the new hall.

Ancient coins, several documents, and the remains of two coffins with the bones of the interred complete.

At the start of the drive to the hall (Marton Grange became Marton Hall, and this is its current title), there is a stone cross with just the damaged base remaining from a solid square of sandstone below the cross. This dates from the building of Vale Royal Abbey.

Most of the ancient granges have been incorporated into housing developments or demolished. Marton Grange so far has not, but how long this lasts, we don’t know.

When building the Winsford to Cuddington railway, now Whitegate Way, an embankment was constructed to carry it across the Grange Hall land. A brick tunnel allowed the drive to pass beneath.