The confluence of the Rivers Weaver and Dane lies at the heart of Northwich. One of the Cheshire 'wich' towns, Northwich suffered greatly in the past from subsidence caused by salt extraction. This has affected the building methods used. Many older buildings are timber framed to better withstand the movement caused by ground settlement. These are often painted black and white, providing an attractive contrast with the more modern structures. Some buildings were even constructed on steel girders so that the whole building could be raised by jacks when subsidence took place. As at nearby Winsford, subsidence in the nineteenth century led to the creation of lakes known as Flashes, which are nowadays used for leisure purposes. Recent years have seen a great deal of work carried out to stabilise the area.
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Northwich is a market town. There is a purpose built market hall that houses Northwich Indoor Market, Immediately adjacent to this is the outdoor market area, Northwich Covered Market. The markets are open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The bus interchange is right next to the market area.
The main shopping area is pedestrianised. Unfortunately the Weaver Square shopping area, which runs from Northwich Market to Witton Street, has been run down after the owners went into administration. It has been taken over by the council but they have not yet been able to address the number of vacant shops successfully, which has not helped the market. Witton Street itself runs from the Bull Ring next to the confluence of the rivers, right up to the top of town. There are many chain and independent shops on Witton Street. On the opposite side of Witton Street to the market is Baron’s Quay development.
Northwich has a plethora of supermarkets, some would even say too many for its size and population of just over twenty thousand people. These existing supermarkets will be added to by yet another one as part of the ‘Baron’s Quay’ scheme. This development is due to include a cinema complex, retail area, dining and parking. Traditionally Northwich has benefitted from extensive free parking and it is hoped that the current spate of parking charges that have been introduced will only be temporary.
The first electrically operated swing bridges in England are in the centre of Northwich. Town Bridge and Hayhurst Bridge wre built right at the end of the nineteenth century and both bridges carry road traffic and pedestrians across the River Weaver The town centre has had a controversial one-way system imposed which many people believe has caused fewer people to visit Northwich and adversely affected local businesses. Both bridges are ‘pinch points’ in this system, the poor design of which means that if there is a problem with either of the bridges traffic becomes gridlocked as there are no viable alternative routes.
Northwich railway station is on the line linking Chester and Manchester. This gives a straightforward link to the Manchester Metro system at Altrincham station. Once out of the town centre, Manchester Airport is only a twenty minute drive.
Business in Northwich was historically centred around the chemical industry but nowadays the range of business opportunities in Northwich has considerably widened. Going back to Roman times the town was known for salt production. Much more recently the main source of employment was ICI with three chemical works around the town. They have now pulled out of Northwich and the remaining works are owned by Tata. Northwich has several business and industrial estates. On the Rudheath outskirts, with direct access from the A556 Northwich bypass, stands Gadbrook Park business park, providing office space and business premises. Wincham Industrial Estate is about a mile and a half to the North East of Northwich town centre.
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