Birchenough name origin
The Birchenough’s were generations of stone carvers and monumental masons. There are Internet sites, which seem to proclaim the name to be of Dutch origin - word "Birch" meaning birch tree, and "Hof" meaning enclosure, yard or even farm. However, they don’t fit into the evidence. Birchenough is in fact old English for a steep Hill with birch tree woodland on it, 'Birchen clough' (old Saxon cloh) and clan seems to originate within the forest around Macclesfield. The spot is on the boarders of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, at a place now called Wildboarclough. Above this strung out hill-farming community high on the western edges of the Peak District is Birchenough Hill (SJ995680). Today it is the summer site of mountain bikers, campers, and hill walkers, and in the evening - romantic liaisons, but in winter it is bleak indeed. On the evening of the 2nd January 1945 – a B-17G Flying Fortress (43-38944 of the 398th Bombardment Group), being ferried from Burtonwood to Nuthampstead, crashed on Birchenough Hill.
The tourist guides like to tell you that Wildboarclough's claim to fame is as the place where the last wild boar in England was killed. Wildboarclough is not in fact named after wild boar that may or may not have once roamed the valley but after the stream that runs through the clough. Normally placid the stream is prone to dramatic flooding -hence a ‘wild bore’. In 1989, flash floods rose water level by more than 18 feet wiping away the village bridge and claiming one life. Real wild boar can now be found at Lower Nabbs farm just off the clough in Greenways. The village is now a quiet backwater, popular with visitors at weekends. Walkers come to ascend Shutlingsloe - the 'Matterhorn of Cheshire' - a shapely conical peak that rises steeply to the west of the village. Though Shutlingsloe looks impressive from the valley of Clough Brook, at 506 metres, it's little more than a pimple, but it provides a stiff climb to the summit. The village also has the large house of Crag Hall - the country seat of Lord Derby – where the annual Wildboarclough Fete and Rose Queen are held.
Wildboarclough (pronounced Will'berclough) was a township and chapelry in Prestbury Parish, Macclesfield Hundred (SJ 9869). The population was 338 in 1801, 447 in 1851, 200 in 1901 and 168 in 1951. The Parish registers are held at Prestbury, St. Peter (C of E). A very large ancient parish, originally serving the local villages, until St Saviours was built in 1836. The original registers from 1560 are still held at the church, but registers of Baptisms 1560-1990, Marriages 1560-1969 and Burials 1560-1978 can be viewed on microfilm at the Cheshire Record Office
Again, the tourist guides like to sell you ideas about the carpet mill, which used Clough Brook to power, its machinery. The mill was largely demolished but the administration block remains, a fine building which once had the strange distinction of being the largest sub-post office in England. Before it was a carpet mill however, it was a Paper mill, and this building links my own family history to the area. My clan went North and South along the road between Staffordshire and Lancashire, and a few went west into Chester. On the whole, those near Chapel Le Firth, went into millstone production, At Leek into pottery, and many headed to the 'dark satanic mills' of Manchester.
In 1737, Abraham Bennett was employed upon the creation of machinery for a new paper-mill, to be built by the River Dane at Wildboarclough, Cheshire. He inspected the machinery in two other mills, to use as his model for Wildboarclough, but his apparent insobriety in the taverns of Manchester led to him returning with insufficient practical information to enable the proper execution of the project. However, Bennett set his men to work upon the proposed machinery, not being willing to forego the financial rewards of such a job. The assembled machinery would neither fit nor work. The work was described as a farce and that Abraham Bennett was wasting his employer's money.
James Brindley, his apprentice got to hear what was being said and became concerned for both the honour of the workshop and the reputation of his master. Brindley first went to Smedley Mill, one of the models for the Wildboarclough mill, to inspect the machinery in order to solve his master's problems. He had walked the twenty-five miles there on the Saturday evening and on the Sunday morning had approached Mr Appleton, the owner of the mill, and gained his permission to inspect the machinery. Brindley spent the whole of the Sunday making careful observations and pondering the solution to the difficulty. Confident of his own mastery over the problem he walked the twenty-five miles back to Macclesfield again.
Because of Brindley's effort, determination and demonstration of his skill Abraham Bennett handed the contract over to his apprentice. The whole design was revised according to Brindley's instruction, parts being rejected and rebuilt, others being redesigned and completely new improvements introduced. The work was brought to a successful conclusion, within the contractual time allowed, to the entire satisfaction of the proprietors of the mill.
James Brindley (Engineer 1716-1772) raised the status of the craft of millwright to that of engineer by successfully applying his knowledge of water management and his skills in devising machinery to the repair of silk throwing equipment and the building of canals. His genius in the mastery of water supply and control led to the canal era and the foundation for Britain's Industrial Revolution. My own Birchenough ancestors were in the stone trade - Stone Carvers, as Wildboarclough is a millstone grit area, where stones were cut for the Manchester region.
I assume that they were caught up in James Brindley's success, and were working for him, moving to the Duke of Bridgwater’s canal construction. My Great Great Grandfather James Birchenough (Ahnentafel 44 Stone carver), I think was working on the Manchester Ship Canal.