The name of Neston is of Old Norse origin, deriving from the Old Norse word Nes-tún, meaning
'Farmstead at the promontory'. A promontory is a high mass of land which overlooks a lower lying
body of water (in this case the River Dee. It is also mentioned in the Domesday Book as Nestone under
the ownership of a William Fitznigel.
Neston was originally divided up into four parts, with Great Neston being the first. Second was the
villages of Leighton, Thornton Hough and Raby. Third was Willaston and Ledsham, and finally fourth
was Ness and Little Ness. It is also interesting to note that Great Neston included the hamlets of
Clayhill, Hinderton, Moorside and part of Parkgate.
As with many of the cases in Wirral the larger township, in this case Great Neston; slowly enveloped
the surrounding small villages. It is recorded in the early days that the surround landscape of Neston
was extremely Baron and cold. The sea breeze brought into from the Dee, combined with the flat ess
of the land stunted the growth of trees giving the impression of a baron wasteland for many centuries.
Great Neston as it was known, is the part we associate with Neston today. It is the hub of activity and
what we class as the town centre, especially because it is known as the High Street and
accommodates the village cross. The manor was held by many well known families over the centuries
including the Cooks, Montalts, Hertcombes, Salisburys, Stanleys, Whitmores, and the Mostyns. The
village also contains an ancient church dedicated to St Mary and St Helen which dates back to 1875
although it is standing on the site of its predecessors which are said to predate the Norman conquest
of 1066. Situated in the centre of the town, the church boasts many items of interest for tourist,
visitors and researchers alike and is the first faith site in the country to receive the North West Multi
Faith Tourism Award, The Marque of Excellence. Among the treasures on view, are what some say, is
the finest collection of stained glass windows in the region including those of Burne- Jones, Harding and
Kempe. Also on view is a collection of Viking Stones Found in the foundations, that link Neston with the
Viking presence on the Wirral in time gone by. Being open every day, and on some days coffee being
served, guides can be arranged for conducted tours.
Neston is also the site of a famous market, having been granted permission to do so by royal charter
1728. In the early 19th century is was recoded that Neston had provisions for a market and butchers
meat every Friday and three annual fairs, against which, there is a petition to the king complaining that
they interfered with the tolls of the city.
In 1847 William Mortimer also notes:
"In Neston and the immediate neighbourhood, are several large and handsome houses. Ashfield, which is a
separate manor of its self is the property of John Wynder of Vaynor Park in Montgomeryshire. The house is
one of the finest modern mansions in this part of the county, with extensive grounds and well planted with
Little Neston is a small village within the township that was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086
when it was recorded that Robert the Cook held the land. Today the village still holds a number of
interesting old building which are certainly worth noting. A number of 18th century houses with date
stones intact sit near the Green and show a glimpse into the villages early existence. The White
House, which was built in 1732 bears the initials of G.J.B, representing the owners; George and Jane
Bedson. Number 26 'The Green' bears the date of 1731 and was owned by locals Hugh and Anne
Bennett. In later years this house had operated as a public house under the name of "The Durham Ox"
which closed in 1928. In later years the house It is hard to imagine life in this era, to give an idea of
the events taking place at this time Benjamin Franklin had only just started work on the Library
Company of Philadelphia and the American Colonies were still under our control.
Little Nestons most famous resident has to be Lady Emma Hamilton, who became mistress of Admiral
Nelson. She was the daughter of a local blacksmith, at Swan Cottage, which can still be seen today as
it stands opposite The Wheatsheaf public house. The Royal Oak was an another public house built
from fine stone, mullioned windows and a thatched roof. Sadly this building caught fire and burnt down
in 1901 when it was replaced by the present building. The Methodist Church was built in 1872 and St
Winefride's Roman Catholic Church was opened in 1843 and it was designed by Augustus Pugin.
The area was also major port before the River Dee silted up and had a large quay for the importation
and exportation of commercial and industrial goods. It is worth noting that at one time the most
heavily populated area of Merseyside and had the Dee not silted up, and should the right investors
came along, Nestons may well have replaced Liverpool. The port was then shifted further downstream
to the nearby village of Parkgate in an attempt to out manoeuvre the silting, although by early
nineteenth century most vessels had transferred to the Mersey and the docks of Liverpool.
Little Neston is also a former mining town, with a colliery located at the nearby hamlet of Denhall. It
was opened in 1760 by Sir John Stanley, the coal mine consisted of numerous shafts, some of which
were dug out underneath the river. Due to the silting up of the River Dee, coal shipments to Ireland
and North Wales ended. Alternative custom was secured from the railways, brought about by the
building of a link to the recently constructed Chester & Birkenhead Railway's branch to Parkgate. The
Wirral Colliery at Neston was taken over by the British government during the First World War. The pit
subsequently returned to private ownership after the war, but increasing competition from larger mines
precipitated in its closure in 1928.
Leighton is another small village consumed by the township of Neston. It too was recorded in the
Doomsday book, this being under the ownership of Robert de Rudlent. Upon his death, the manor fell
to the Barons of Montalt, under whom it was held by William de Leighton. His grand daughter and sole
heiress conveyed the manors of Thornton and Leighton by marriage to Richard de Hough and from their
his descendants took the name of Thornton Hough. The manor of Leighton then fell through several
hand until ending up in the ownership of the Mostyns who invested considerable money into it.
Mortimer records in 1847 that the fisheries at Leighton were formerly considerable but are now much
neglected, and it enjoyed some little trifling trade previously in alteration to the channel of the River
The Neston Trail