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Macclesfield, Cheshire. A Silk Town west of the Peak District.
The Peak District covers much of Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. There are numerous interesting towns such as Ashbourne, Bakewell, Buxton, Leek, Matlock and Wirksworth, plus many enchanting villages
|The Cheshire area of the Peak District is discrete from the rest of the Peak, separated from it by the high, gritstone ridge above the Goyt Valley which is surmounted by Shining Tor and the Cat and Fiddle Inn and crossed by the dramatic A537 road. The angle of the underlying strata is tilted much more steeply than on the eastern side of the Peaks so the ground slopes down relatively quickly to the Cheshire Plain, with most paths converging on Macclesfield, an ancient market town which was mentioned as 'Maclesfeld' in the Domesday Book.|
Macclesfield was the administrative centre of the 'Hundred of East Cheshire' - part of the estates of the Earls of Chester, who created the nearby Macclesfield Forest as an area for their hunting, and the town received its charter in 1261 from the future Edward I. The nearby church of St Michael was built in 1278.
The Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie passed through here in 1745 and the citizens were forced to welcome them. From the 1780s onward the town developed rapidly on the back of the silk industry, for which it became a major centre, and became very prosperous.
A magnificent Georgian town hall, constructed in 1823, gives some idea of how important Macclesfield felt itself to be in this period.
The Macclesfield canal opened in 1831, passing just above the town centre and linked it to other important industrial centres such as Manchester and the mainline railway arrived in 1873.
Macclesfield is full of former 19th century brick-built silk mills - all now converted to other uses. The Heritage Centre on Churchill Way is housed in a magnificent former Sunday school and has an exhibition relating to the town's past as a silk-making centre - this is open Monday-Saturday 11am - 5pm. There is a silk museum in Park Lane and guided tours of Paradise Mill, which show how it was in the 1930s before the local silk industry collapsed, are available.
Macclesfield's main industries are now pharmaceuticals (Astra-Zeneca have one of their main bases here) and computer software. The town is very prosperous, with a bustling shopping centre and business area.
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