Macclesfield is a market town in Cheshire.
Macclesfield is located where the Cheshire plain gives way to the Peak District. It was first recorded 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 streets such as 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 centre 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.
During the 19th century many Macclesfield silk-workers followed the lead of John Ryle in emigrating to the USA. Ryle settled in Paterson, NJ, and hundreds of workers followed him across the Atlantic.
The pharmaceuticals conglomerate Astra-Zeneca has a large manufacturing site in Macclesfield, though its research centre at nearby Alderley Edge was closed in 2014. The biotech and pharmaceutical industry is a significant source of local employment.
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 hanged 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. Control (2007), a film about Curtis's life and death based on his widow's memoirs, was filmed using many of the same Macclesfield locations in which he lived.
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. (By local custom, “Barnaby Week” in June was when the mills closed and many of the townspeople went to the seaside in North Wales.) The performance-centred Winterfest in November and December has brought even more people to 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, including some of City’s and United’s finest.
The town centre is mostly built around Mill Street and has very little architectural merit. As with many towns it has declined in recent years, but redevelopment is continuing with the planned addition of new shops and a cinema. To the south of the centre is the High Street conservation area. To the south, west and north are mostly residential areas, with an industrial estate and more residential housing east of the Silk Road (A523), the main north-south route through Macclesfield. This runs in a valley alongside the River Bollin and the railway line. To the east the land rises steeply as you leave Macclesfield and enter the Peak District.
There is a visitor information office in part of the old Town Hall facing Market Place.
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 just to the east of the town centre and 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.
There is no direct train or bus service from the airport but there are frequent trains into Manchester Piccadilly with connections to Macclesfield. Alternatively the 199 bus connects with Stockport from where you can take a 392/3 bus or train.
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, cross the road to Waters Green and follow this up the hill and round to the left.
Nowhere in Macclesfield is completely flat and some parts are rather steep, but every so often you’ll see a view of the hills that makes it all worth while. Be aware that cobbled streets can be slippery when wet.
- 1 The 108 Steps (Descends from Churchside SE of the church to Waters Green next to the Old Millstone Inn). Stairs between Waters Green and the town centre that are a beloved local landmark.
- 2 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. 09:00-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.
- 3 St Michael and 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 mediaeval chapels. There is no churchyard but there are great views to the east from Churchside, the road that runs around the church.
- Silk Museum and Paradise Mill, Park Lane, SK11 6TJ, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mill: Mon-Sat 12:00 and Sat 13:00 (by guided tour only), Museum: Mon-Sat, 10:00-15:00. The museum tells the story of silk and its association with Macclesfield. The mill contains 26 original Jacquard looms, some of which are still usable, and other machinery used for silk working. Entrance to the mill is by tour only, booking is advised. There are some limitations for visitors with mobility restrictions. There is a tea room and museum shop.
- Old Sunday School (Heritage Centre), Roe Street, SK11 6UT, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Sat, 10:00-16:00. Built in 1814 to provide a purpose-built school for over 2 000 local children, most of whom worked in the mills from the age of 6 onwards. It now serves as a community hub, including Cinemac (see below), and is host to the Northern Chamber Orchestra on occasion.
- Unitarian Chapel. A Grade II* listed building dating from the 17th century. Still in regular use.
- West Park Museum, Prestbury Road, SK10 3BJ, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Wed-Sun, 13:00-16:00. A small and personal collection of Egyptian artefacts and fine art. Highlights include a child’s mummy case and a stuffed panda. Free.
- Barracks Square (Armoury Towers), Off Crompton Road, SK11 8HF. A former military installation, long since in other use. Privately owned, but accessible (externally).
- High Street conservation area. The small network of roads to the south of Park Lane is an example of early industrial planned housing and is a conservation area.
- Weavers’ cottages (Look for these on Paradise Street and elsewhere.). These are generally terraced houses with the top floor or loft used for loom-weaving. They have distinctive large windows on this floor to maximize the light.
- Street art. Macclesfield has acquired several pieces of gable-end art in recent years, particularly in the Sunderland Street area (the nearest you’ll get to an edgy cultural quarter).
- 1 Macclesfield Town F.C., Moss Rose Stadium, London Road SK11 7SP (on main A523 road 1 mile south of town centre), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Macclesfield Town (“The Silkmen”) play in the Conference National, the fifth tier of English football. Adult seats £18 (matchday price).
- Middlewood Way (Access from various points, starting from Black Lane at the exit from the Tesco superstore.). This former railway line has been reclaimed to provide 7 miles (11km) of greenway for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Stretching from Macclesfield to Marple it connects with many other footways and is reasonably well surfaced for accessible use.
- Macclesfield Canal (Access from various points.). Macclesfield Canal runs between Marple to the north, and Scholar Green to the south, passing through the eastern edge of the town. It forms part of the Cheshire Ring (125 miles / 200km, 110 locks) which passes through some spectacular scenery. Freedom Boats on Brook Street offers canal boat hire. The canal is also popular with walkers and the occasional cyclist as it runs in parallel with the Middlewood Way – ideal for round trips.
- Barnaby Festival. Takes place every June, in and around town. Typically consists of art displays, community events and a parade, usually in the rain.
- Bluedot Festival. At nearby Jodrell Bank, every July. Science and music festival.
- Rewind North. Music festival, every August, usually held near to the town.
- The Snow Goose, Sunderland Street, SK11 6HN. Live music most weeks and occasional community events. Check the colourful notices in front of the bar for more information.
- The Treacle Tap, Sunderland Street, SK11 6JL. Hosts a number of groups (books, photography, stitching and others).
- MADS (Macclesfield Amateur Dramatic Society), Lord Street, SK11 6SY. A small but well-attended theatre offering several shows each year.
- Cinemac. Macclesfield’s answer to the lack of a “proper” cinema (one is expected in 2019). It’s essentially a converted hall with a single screen and very basic facilities, but the nearest alternative is 10 miles (15km) away in Stockport.
- Parks. West Park (next to Sainsburys superstore) has a large children’s play area, a skateboard circuit and a bowling green. South Park has a small lake, a bandstand, skate/BMX bowl plaza, bowling green, 18-hole pitch & putt course, tennis and netball courts. Victoria Park (east of the Silk Road) has an aviary, bowling green, bandstand and small football pitch. Riverside Park follows the Bollin Valley to the west of Tytherington.
- 1 Arighi Bianchi, The Silk Road (E side of road 100m N of train station), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 0930-1700 Mon Fri. The best-known shopping destination in Macclesfield is this furniture maker's shop, started by two Italian immigrants in the mid-19th century. Even if you're not in the market, consider going by just to see out the shop itself, a listed building with a cast-iron and glass front inspired by London's Crystal Palace. The furniture is pretty expensive but there’s a nice café.
- 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 (or the Sunday before Christmas) 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 – hence the nickname “Treacle Town”. 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.
- 1 Aquila Bacaro, 46 King Edward Street (SW corner of Westminster St intersection), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 1000-late Mon-Sat, 1600-2130 Sun (1000-2100 last Sun of month). Small restaurant emulating Venetian atmosphere and cuisine £5–10.
- 2 Cherry Blossom Bakery, 6 Church Street (20 m S of Churchside on E side of street), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
- 3 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.
- 4 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.
- 5 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.
- 6 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: email@example.com. Tue-Fri 0830-1630, Sat 0900-1600, last Sun of month 1000-1500. Coffeehouse, opened 2013, serving breakfast sandwiches and lunch £5–10.
- 7 The Salt Bar, 23b Church Street (At the SW corner where the street bends between Waters Green and the church), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tue-Sat 1700-2300, also 1200-1500 Fri-Sat; 1130-1600 last Sun of month. Scandinavian food with local ales on tap £11-25.
- Sutton Hall, Bullocks Lane, Sutton, SK11 0HE, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Sat 11:00-23:00, Sun 11:00-22:30 (no food service during last 90 mins). 500 year old manor house, nicely converted into a rambling restaurant.
- 1 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
- 2 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
- 3 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.
- The Snow Goose, 52/54 Sunderland Street, SK11 6HN, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon 11:00-00:00, Tue-Sat 09:30-00:00, Sun 11:00-23:00. A quirky place with lots of interesting stuff in several rooms. Local art and craft, live music and other events, as well as a bar and a limited selection of food.
- The Treacle Tap, 43 Sunderland Street, SK11 6JL, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Thu 16:00-23:00, Fri-Sat 12:00-00:00, Sun 12:00-23:00. A small modern place serving local and craft beers and food. Also hosts a number of local clubs and events.
- Red Willow Brewery and Bar, 32a Park Green, SK11 7NA, ☎ . Tue-Thu 16:00-23:00, Fri 15:00-00:00, Sat 12:00-00:00, Sun 12:00-23:30. Pizzas and locally brewed beer.
- Leather’s Smithy, Clarke Lane, Langley, SK11 0NE, ☎ . Mon-Fri 12:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00, Sat 12:00-23:00, Sun 12:00-20:00. Country pub on the edge of Macclesfield Forest and next to the Ridgegate Reservoir. Popular with walkers and cyclists. Large selection of whiskies.
- 1 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.
- 2 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.
- 3 Premier Inn Macclesfield South West, Congleton Rd (On W side of A536 approximately 3.5 mi SW of town centre), ☎ 0871 527 8696 (high cost number). Budget chain hotel on the outskirts of town. £34-76.
- 4 Travelodge Macclesfield Central, Gas Rd (50 m N of Waters Green across from rail station), ☎ 0871 984 6432 (high cost number). Macclesfield branch of the budget hotel chain. Opposite the train station. £15-55.
- Bollington A large village adjoining Macclesfield, locally nicknamed “Happy Valley”. The sights include several 19th century mills (factory style, not windmills) built for cotton spinning and related uses, now converted mainly for accommodation. White Nancy is a small monument commemorating the Battle of Waterloo on top of Kerridge Hill. As the name suggests it is painted white, though occasionally redecorated (officially or unofficially).
- Prestbury A village adjoining Macclesfield. One of the UK’s most expensive areas to live outside central London. The village centre is picturesque and you can glimpse the mansions of the rich and famous, if you so choose.
- Alderley Edge A large village west of Macclesfield, home to numerous wealthy residents including at one time the Beckhams. The village sits at the bottom of an escarpment (“The Edge”) which was first mined for copper in the Bronze Age, some 5000 years ago, with occupation going back twice as far. The area is popular for walking in the woods and there are far-reaching views from the sandstone ridge.
- Poynton A large village north of Macclesfield, home to coal workings from the 16th century onwards, The “inclines” (tramways lines for moving the coal) are still evident in places. The Anson Engine Museum has over 250 gas, oil and steam engines, many still working.
- Macclesfield Forest A working, mostly coniferous forest with reservoirs supplying water to Macclesfield. Stunning views and many good walks, including to Shutlingsloe, the local peak.
- Teggs Nose A local country park with great views over the surrounding countryside. The site was formerly used as a quarry, and much of old Macclesfield is paved with its stone. The remnants of quarry equipment are still lying around.
- Hare Hill A walled garden owned by the National Trust.
- Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre Home to one of the world’s largest steerable radio telescopes, built in1957 (using gun turret mechanisms from scrapped battleships to drive it). There are three discovery pavilions of especial appeal to children. Jodrell Bank also hosts festivals such as Bluedot.
- Gawsworth Hall A nearby hall and gardens. Open air theatre and concert venue.
- Capesthorne Hall A nearby hall and gardens. Hosts various events and is a popular wedding venue.
- Lyme Park The largest house in Cheshire, now owned by the National Trust. Set in extensive grounds (free access from surrounding footpaths). Famously used as the exterior of Pemberley in “Pride and Prejudice”, though the scene with Mr Darcy emerging from the lake in a wet shirt wasn’t really filmed there.
If you haven't come from there, Manchester, England's second largest city, is a short distance to the north. Perceived by those who've not visited as a dismal post-industrial wasteland, whereas 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 is Stoke-on-Trent. Once home to a thriving pottery industry it is now a destination with museums and gardens and a thick streak of local pride.