The Village of Alvanley is situated on rising ground just to the South of Helsby, on the edge of an area of meandering country lanes, which weave their way over the central ridge running from Frodsham down to Peckforton Hills. Like Great Barrow it has its roots very firmly in farming and farmhouses still occupy prominent positions in the centre of the village. Yet it has the added attraction that many of the cottages here have been beautifully restored and would grace the pages of any coloured calendar – the very names of Clematis Cottage, Holly Tree Cottage and Rose Cottage seem to cry out for the passer-by to give them a second look.
Alvanley has a long and settled history. In existence during Saxon Times, it was noted in the Domesday Survey and later on came into the ownership of the Arderne Family, who held it until the estate was sold off in 1922. This stability ensured the village changed very little over the generations and long-held traditions were maintained so that even less than 200 years ago fire dances were still held at Teuthill, a practice stemming originally from heathen fire worship, while a somewhat more homely custom called ‘roping’ was also practised whereby a rope held across the Church gate forced newly wed couples to pay a forfeit enabling all the locals to drink their health in the nearby public house.
The oldest building in Alvanley is the Hall, built in 1622 of the characteristic red sandstone and situated in the majestic isolation to the south-east of the village. There is a tradition that a tunnel ran from the Hall to the Church many years ago, but so far no evidence has been found of either entrance or exit. The church is a comparative newcomer to the village dating from 1861 although there was a Chapel on the same site before this, and so perhaps the ‘medieval’ style of the present building is an attempt to fit more easily into the history of Alvanley (the bell from the chapel now hangs in the school clock-tower). It really is a place where the past is cherished and respected, and wherever you look you can discover buildings, which are being lovingly restored to their former glories.
Birch Cottage looks like the classic English Country Cottage with its carefully thatched roof, its appealing porch, and the brilliant white walls which seem to intensify the sunlight as it cuts across the surrounding fields, while Rose Cottage really does have the roses which give it its name. Commonside Farm is another house with a thatched roof, together with the more unusual feature of some tiny four-paned windows and the end wall of red sandstone contrasting strongly with the white painted brick used for the other walls. It even seems some people are not content with just restoring buildings which are already here – to the south-east of the village in the lea of Alvanley Cliff an entire Hall from the Nantwich area has been transported from its previous site and is being painstakingly rebuilt in its new location. Although really a ‘foreigner’ to these parts, this brick and timber-framed building should be a fascinating site to walkers passing on the Sandstone Trail, which now runs through the Parish. Yet Alvanley is not just a place where the past is venerated at the expense of the present, for the farming is still an important feature of village life and the farmhouses themselves are attractive in their own right. Church House Farm is late Georgian with a particularly pleasing brick frontage, Poplar Tree Farm dates from 1684 (with its blocked up windows being an indication of the ‘window tax’ imposed in former times) while Greenbank Farm has long been the home of one family who have farmed the land over many generations. The surrounding fields and woods in the Alvanley area are full of natural history, and there is an interlacing network of footpaths which opens up endless possibilities to the walker. All in all, a delightful part of the county which typifies the best in village life.