At our meeting on Thursday 16 February, Helen Cooke gave an illustrated talk entitled 'The River Weaver: the good, the bad and the ugly'. Helen is a trustee of Nantwich Museum and member of its research group.
Her presentation was a fascinating blend of historic fact and speculation, with more recent science-based knowledge about the river and the importance of clean water for public health.
Fact – Helen pointed out the 'good' role the Weaver played during the Great Fire of Nantwich in 1583 in preventing the flames from the town centre reaching properties in Welsh Row.
Speculation – Was the river a game-changer in the English Civil War? During the battle of Nantwich (25 January 1644) the swollen river Weaver left the Royalist forces divided and the Parliamentarians scored a notable victory. The Royalists failed to win any battles after that event.
Fact – The use of the river as the tip for the town's human and industrial waste – including from tanneries and abattoirs – was an unqualified 'bad'. Outbreaks of typhus and cholera in the town, notably in 1849, could be traced to polluted river water.
Helen highlighted the improvements to public health for the people of Nantwich and elsewhere from a better understanding of the importance of clean water. Legislation, from the 1848 Public Health Act to the 2000 EU Water Framework Directive, has set standards and regulations for water quality which have protected us all.
We also saw examples of the work which Nantwich Museum has undertaken with local schools to give children a hands-on experience of analysing the quality of the River Weaver's water.
Helen also gave us a sneak preview of the Nantwich Science Festival which the Museum is organizing for the school holiday period. Parents and grandparents take note!
Next meeting: On Thursday 16 March, Kerry Kirwan of the Middlewich Heritage Trust will give a talk on the history of the town's salt industry. Our meetings take place in the Scout and Guide Hall in Cheshire Street and start at 7.30pm. All welcome.