Backford, Mollington & Lea Villages

Early History

The six individual settlements making up the original parish of Backford were Backford itself, Great Mollington, Lea, Moston, Chorlton and Caughall. Each has an early English name, indicating a foundation before the Norman Conquest in 1066, but the earliest known date of their combination is 1305. From then, too, it is certain that a vicar had been appointed to the church we know as St. Oswald's.

First World War

Because a proper village centre had never come into being, Backford Parish in 1914 was still made up of scattered groups of houses in its townships. The economy was mainly agricultural, with an emphasis upon dairy farming, and had for many years been dominated by the larger estates in Mollington and Backford. That ascendancy, however, was being affected by poor farming conditions and a lack of heirs in their own farming families.

Not many people in the parish had any experience by 1914 of: electricity, piped water, plumbing or a motorcar. But education was improving at the new schools and as industry became established in Cheshire alternative opportunities for employment were beginning to appear. The population in 1914 was: Backford 155; Mollington 246; Lea 104; Chorlton 70; Caughall 23; Total 598.

A Background of Farming

Behind our parish history has been the good farming land of Cheshire. Communities like Backford originally grew all their own food. Later came specialisation, and for those in this area, its deep lowland soil coupled with a damp climate meant the best crop was lush, rich grass. Arable crops were not excluded, but conditions were more appropriate for animal husbandry, especially dairy farming, and thus for milk and cheese production. In an ideal "Cheshire System" pigs also were included to eat up residual whey from cheese production.

In the 18th Century Cheshire cheese, which keeps well over a winter, was sold all over Europe, much being shipped out from Shotwick. Before refrigeration, nothing else kept so well, and everyone ate Cheese. It was a large and important interest for Cheshire. Then America started producing and undercut Cheshire on price, rapidly destroying the export business from this county. Other outlets for cheese were sought, notably the growing towns of the industrial revolution, and sales continued.

However, in the 19th century railways were built. Liquid milk could be delivered very quickly to the towns, and demand for it gradually changed most Cheshire dairy farms to milk alone. By the 1920s Mollington had eleven farms, Backford ten, Lea nine, Chorlton five and Caughall two, with much commitment to milk production. The number of dairy farms has declined since the war. In Mollington Home Farm, Rose Farm, Crosslooms and Well Farms have all gone ( in 1928 there were 33 farms in the parish, by 2000 only 9, and not all of those handled milk production ).

In the 1930s milk was handled in churns. A local business man, James Pownall improved things by starting milk collection, where previously each farmer had to use a horse and cart to deliver his own milk on a daily basis to Mollington Station. James delivered the milk directly to Birkenhead dairy for bottling and distribution. He then brought compound feeds back from Merseyside docks and mills as a return load. From the 1950s milk was collected in bulk, and taken by road to the dairy.

The foot and mouth epidemic of 1967 hit only 2 farms - Lodge Farm and Grove Farm at Chorlton. Fortunately, the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth did not hit Cheshire as badly as many other areas in the county and none of the farms in the parish were affected.

With the decline of dairy farming, sheep are often seen in the fields now, and there is more arable farming, especially of maize. On the other hand many of the farms have sold off their land, and, together with their barns, have been converted to homes.