Macclesfield is a market town in Cheshire.
Macclesfield is located where the Cheshire plain gives way to the Peak District. It was first recorded as existing under the name "Maclesfeld" in the Domesday Book of 1086. Its name is probably from a local landowner of the time. Two centuries later it was granted a charter. The Church of All Saints was built shortly afterwards, where St Michael's Church now stands in the centre of town.
The Earls of Chester established the nearby Forest of Macclesfield, much larger than its present-day counterpart, as their private hunting preserve. Most of it was cut down after population increased in the mid-14th century. Throughout the Middle Ages it was fortified. The names of downtown streets like Chestergate and Jordangate reflect the portals they led to in the now-vanished walls.
Those walls were severely damaged during the Civil War, when Cromwell's forces bombarded the Royalist forces of Sir Thomas Aston, who had taken shelter behind them. After the war the victorious Cromwell ordered what was left torn down. But rebellion was not done with Macclesfield. A century later, during the Jacobite Uprising, Bonnie Prince Charlie marched through on his effort to reach London.
Later in the 18th century Macclesfield, like much of that region of the country, began developing as a center for textile manufacture. By the 1830s it was the world's biggest producer of finished silks; some of the 71 mills that were in operation are scattered around today's Macclesfield. Fashions changed, however, increasingly preferring French silk and the cottons coming out of Manchester to the north, and many of those mills closed down. So little industry was left in town that it was the only English mill town not bombed by the Germans during World War II.
Macclesfield regained some measure of international fame in the late 20th century as the home of members of the late 1970s rock band Joy Division, which evolved into popular 1980s dance band New Order after lead singer Ian Curtis hung himself in his Barton Street home in 1980. Fans of Joy Division come to Macclesfield from all over the world, especially every 18 May, the anniversary of his death, to pay their respects at his grave marker in Macclesfield Cemetery. In 2007 Control, a film about Curtis's life and death based on his widow's memoirs, was filmed using many of the same Macclesfield locations that had figured in his life.
This association with the depressing songs of a suicidal musician has not been the only thing Macclesfield has had to live down. In 2004 The Times called the town England's least cultured, due to its lack of theatres and other cultural institutions. That led the town to establish the Barnaby Festival in 2010, a modern take on ancient customs of celebrating St. Barnabas's Day. The performance-centred Winterfest in November and December has brought even more people to downtown Macclesfield.
So, if you come listening to Joy Division on your headphones and expect a correspondingly grim Northern town to match, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Pay your respects to Ian, of course, but if you take the time to see more of Macclesfield you'll probably understand why it's a popular home for many top earners in Liverpool and Manchester.
Macclesfield is on the main train line between London and Manchester and is easily accessed from both by high speed trains (Manchester 20 minutes, London 1 hour 45 minutes). Some Cross Country services between Manchester and Birmingham also call at Macclesfield. Local stopping services are available to Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent. The train station is located in the town centre, just to the east of the main shopping area.
The nearest motorway is the M6. From the north, take Junction 19, and travel through Knutsford. From the south, use Junction 17 and follow the signs for Congleton until Macclesfield is signposted. In either direction, the distance from the motorway is about 15 miles (25 km). From the east, the main road into the town is the A537 from Buxton, known as the Cat and Fiddle road after the pub at its summit. It is a scenic route, but in winter it is occasionally impassable.
Manchester Airport is 12 miles (20 km) away. By taxi the fare is typically about £25 if pre-booked.
The town centre is easily traversable by foot. Buses to suburbs and nearby towns depart from the bus station on Queen Victoria Street. From the train station go up the hill and follow the road to the left.
- The 108 Steps (Descends from Churchside SE of the church to Waters Green next to the Old Millstone Inn). Stairs between the green and the town centre that are a beloved local landmark
- Macclesfield Cemetery, Prestbury Road (Enter at gates and lodge on N side of road 800 ft (250 m) W of A537 roundabout), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 9 a.m.-dusk daily. The grounds are pretty; the ornate stone gates, lodge and chapel are all listed, and there are many veterans of World Wars I and II buried or interred here, including Victoria Cross recipient George Harold Eardley. But the main attraction for visitors is the grave of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis, located on the walkway next to the trees a short distance from the crematorium and car park. It's very simple, marked with his name, date of death and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', the single that became a hit after his suicide. There's often memorabilia left there, but not so much that it detracts from the experience of contemplating his final resting place whilst listening to 'The Eternal' or another of Joy Division's darker songs.
- St Michael's All Angels Church, Market Place (In centre of town, next to Town Hall on Mill Street opposite Chestergate), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Its dark stone tower visible from much of the town, and looming over the rail station car park, St Michael's is the building most identified with Macclesfield. A grade II* listed building, the current edifice, built in the 1740s on the site of a 13th-century church, features two late medieval chapels.
- Macclesfield Town F.C., Moss Rose Stadium, London Road SK11 7SP (on main A523 road 1 mile south of town centre), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Macclesfield Town play in the Conference National, the fifth tier of English football. Adult seats £18 (matchday price).
- Arighi Bianchi, The Silk Road (E side of road 100m N of train station), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 0930-1700 Mon Fri. The best-known shopping destination in Macclesfield is this furniture maker's store, started by two Italian immigrants in the mid-19th century. Even if you're not in the market, consider going by just to check out the store itself, a listed building with a cast-iron and glass front inspired by London's Crystal Palace.
- Chestergate. The town's main shopping street, with many local boutiques.
- Treacle Market. Street vendors pour into the centre of Macclesfield on the last Sunday of every month for this event, named for an incident in the town's past when an overturned load of treacle was eagerly scooped up by the local poor. Many interesting goods for sale and idiosyncratic foods for consumption. Local restaurants that are otherwise closed Sundays maintain limited hours for this event, as well.
- Aquila Bacaro, 46 King Edward Street (SW corner of Westminster St intersection), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 1000-late Mon-Sat, 1600-2130 Sun (1000-2100 last Sun of month). Small restaurant emulating Venetian atmosphere and cuisine £5–10.
- Cherry Blossom Bakery, 6 Church Street (20 m S of Churchside on E side of street), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat 0900-1600, last Sun of month 1000-1600. Local bakery with many sweet and cakes in centre of town is a popular tea spot
- Chestergate Bistro, 66 Chestergate (20 m W of Churchill Way on S side of street), ☎ . Tue-Fri 1200-1400, 1730-late; Sat 1200-1430, 1730-late;. Small restaurant serving traditional British cuisine for lunch and dinner on Macclesfield's major shopping street Lunch £6, dinner £10–15.
- Maliwan, 47-49 Sunderland St (15 m S of Pickford St on W side of street), ☎ . Tue-Thu, Sun 1730-2230; Fri-Sat 1730-2300. Small but well-regarded Thai place in south town centre £15–20.
- The New Shalimar, 98–100 Chestergate (30 m E of Catherine St on S side), ☎ . Sun-Thu 1730-2300, Fri-Sat 1730-0000. Macclesfield's most prominent Indian restaurant, with take-away available £15–20.
- Rustic Coffee Co., 2, Church Mews, Churchill Way (S of the Esso station on the W side of the road opposite Stanley St), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tue-Fri 0830-1630, Sat 0900-1600, last Sun of month 1000-1500. Coffeehouse, opened 2013, serving breakfast sandwiches and lunch £5–10.
- The Salt Bar, 23b Church Street (At the SW corner where the street bends between Waters Green and the church), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tue-Sat 1700-2300, also 1200-1500 Fri-Sat; 1130-1600 last Sun of month. Scandinavian food with local ales on tap £11-25.
- The Bate Hall, 39 Chestergate (50 m E of Churchill Rd on N side), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 12:00-23:00 Mon-Thu, 11:00-midnight Fri-Sat, 12:00-17:00 Sun. The city's oldest pub serves a menu with many burger, steak and curry options plus desert
- The Jolly Sailor, 63 Sunderland St (NW corner of Pickford St intersection), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon 12:00-00:00, Tue–Wed 15:00-23:00, Thu 12:00–23:00, Fri-Sun 12:00–00:00. Traditional 1830s pub with jazz and blues music, fire downstairs; plasma and Space Invaders upstairs
- The Swan with Two Necks, 65 Chestergate (25 m W of Churchill Rd on the NW corner of the Little St intersection). 12:00 - 01:00. A warm and welcoming pub with drinks at decent prices (cheaper than the other pubs in Macclesfield but have a much wider range of drinks). Live bands play nearly every weekend and the music ranges from Indie to Metal to Tribute bands.
- Chadwick House Hotel, Beech Lane (E side of road 150 m N of A538), ☎ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. B&B style guesthouse close to the town centre. £38-59.
- Mottram Hall, Blackhurst Brow, Mottram St Andrew (Driveway NE off Wilmslow Road 500 m E of Prestbury Road), ☎ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Decadent 18th Century country house, 6 miles north-west of the town. £80-195.
- Premier Inn Macclesfield South West, Congleton Rd (On W side of A536 approximately 3.5 mi SW of town centre), ☎ 0871 527 8696. Budget chain hotel on the outskirts of town. £34-76.
- Travelodge Macclesfield Central, Gas Rd (50 m N of Waters Green across from rail station), ☎ 0871 984 6432. Macclesfield branch of the budget hotel chain. Opposite the train station. £15-55.
If you haven't come from there, Manchester, England's second largest city, is a short distance to the north. Often perceived as a dismal post-industrial wasteland, in actuality the reasons to visit—clubs, restaurants, shopping, museums—are too numerous for even a short list here to do the place justice.
Off to the east is the Peak District. After taking in the splendid scenery and trekking to your heart's content, either camping out overnight or staying in Buxton, you might want to continue on to Sheffield, another post-industrial Northern city with more to offer than that description suggests.
Almost as close to Macclesfield to the south as Manchester is to the north one finds Stoke-on-Trent. Once home to a thriving pottery industry, it is now a destination with museums and gardens amid its charming old buildings.