Upton

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Upton (here showns in 1831) was once a largely rural area before the growth of vast housing estates.

Overview

Formerly a township in Broxton Hundred, it included the hamlet of Upton Heath. The population was 173 in 1801, 555 in 1851, 1,769 in 1901 and 6,343 in 1951.


A Brief History

North of the liberties of Chester, enveloping Bache, lay the substantial manor of Upton. According to one history (see: Cathedral), in 958 King Edgar (The Pacific) granted the manor to St. Werburgh's minster (this is the first mention of "definite" evidence of the existence of a church of canons dedicated to St. Werburgh at Chester), but thereafter it was evidently lost. Edgar only became King in 959, but in 955 he had seized the Northumbrian and Mercian kingdoms from his older brother, Edwy, and so there may be some truth in that tale and it appears that Edgar did grant land to the familia of St. Werburgh in the form of seventeen hides of land in Hoseley (Flints.), Cheveley, Huntington, Upton, Aston, and Barrow.

Upton has been said to have been assessed at 4½ hides in 1066, although Chester was not conquered by the Normans until later. It was held by Anglo-Saxon Earl Edwin and after the Conquest passed to Hugh of Avranches, when it was held by "Herbert the Jerkin Maker" and Hamon de Macey (Massey). Some versions state that Hugh's heir, the ill-fated Earl Richard of Avranches (1101–20) supposedly granted it to Chester abbey, which retained it until the Dissolution and held a court there to which many of its other manors also paid suit. In the 14th century several prominent Chester families established out-of-town estates in Upton, including the Doncasters, Daresburys, and Hurrells.

The manor, based at Upton Hall, passed to the dean and chapter at the Dissolution (1541) but was lost to fee farmers in the early 1550s. In 1553 it was granted to Sir Richard Cotton, which were passed on to his son George, then sold to Richard Spencer. In the late 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries the fee farmers included the Brocks, holders of the manor and resident at Upton Hall, and the Brown(e)s. In 1734 the manorial estate passed by marriage to the Egerton family of Oulton (the male Brock line having died out) and remained in the hands of the Grey-Egertons and their trustees until around 1939.

Upton and the Vikings

In 937, at "Brunanburh" Æþelstān and his half-brother Edmund subjected the combined armies of Olaf III Guthfrithson (Viking King of Dublin), Constantine II (King of Scotland) and Owian (King of Strathclyde) to a crushing defeat. The Mercian and West Saxon army attacked in two divisions: Mercians faced the Scandinavians, and the Saxons headed off against the Scots. The precise location of the battle has never been established, but some evidence (possibly) points to Bromborough on the Wirral, a few miles north-west of Chester. The importance of the battle cannot be denied - Æþelstān's defeat of the combined Norse-Celtic force facing him irrevocably confirmed England as an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, forcing the Celtic kingdoms to consolidate in the positions that they occupy today.

This battle has been confused with the legendary Arthurian battle of "Mons Badonicus" which was already reported by Nennius/Gildas in De Excidio Britanniae ("The Ruin of Britannia") many years previously. However, the fact that Alfred fought the Danes at Chester, and that his son Edgar fought (and died) at Farndon, may have meant that if third-generation Æþelstān fought another battle near Chester, later legends would mix all these elements together. Bromborough is perhaps well worth a visit as there is compelling evidence that the Wirral was settled by the Vikings and an excellent guide can be found together with heaps more stuff on the Viking Wirral pages. Tennyson translated an epic poem about the battle and the text can be found on the Victorian Web. As the AS Chronicle puts it:

  • 937 - Her æþelstan cyning, eorla dryhten, beorna beahgifa 7 his broþor eac, Eadmund æþeling, ealdorlangne tir geslogon æt sæcce sweorda ecgum ymbe Brunanburh. (A.D.937: Here, King Athelstan, leader of warriors, ring-giver of men, and also his brother, the prince Edmund, struck life-long glory in strife around Brunanburh)

It is possible that a boundary stone ("Vínheíþr-stan" in Icelandic) existed at Upton giving rise to the name of "Wealstone Lane". The reference to "Vínheíþr" is interesting as "Vin Heath" is mentioned in Egils Saga (see Chapter 52) as being the location of the Battle of Brunanburh. Æþelstān was encamped prior to the battle at a town a little way to the south and, given the time that it took for messengers to ride between the opponents, this may well have been Chester. "Vin" is often interpreted as a personal name, but the so-called "Wirral Micro-climate" may be such that it was possible to grow grape-vines there in Viking times, so the "Vin" may be a reference to a place where grapes grew. There is a further reference to vines on the 1735 map of Upton. Port-, Tapa- and Wing-Fields are grouped together along Liverpool Road behind the Egerton Arms (now "The Mill") – Upton Drive area. Tapa is a personal name (NB Pica in Picton), words begin-ning with ‘wing’ in the Old English dictionary relate to vines.

Directory

The directory for Upton in 1878.

Links