History of Whitley Pool by Jason Webb

Whitley pool is located just off Village Lane in the area known as Higher Whitley in the tranquil surroundings of the Cheshire Countryside. It is regarded as one of Lymm Angling Clubs outstanding venues and is known as a pleasure and runs water providing anglers with non stop action when the fish are on the feed.

It is a beautiful tree lined venue of about 3 acres in size with very deep margins, undulating contours and deep holes of up to 25 feet in places. The deep margins are usually the hot spots accounting for most of the thousands of Crucian Carp which the water is famed for. They average around the 1 ½ lb mark but larger specimens are caught along with the many Brown Goldfish hybrids which have been banked at over 4lb in weight. Catches of 50 or 60 fish in a session is common and with the pool holding thousands of Mirror, Common and Ghost Carp it makes for a very entertaining days fishing.

The Mirror, Common and Ghost Carp average 7 to 8 lb and are numbered in their thousands. Larger specimens reside in the pool with a few caught up to 18lb in recent years. Sightings of a mid 20 Ghost Carp and several other 20lb fish have been spotted basking in the sunshine on a hot summer’s day but they have so far eluded capture. The Carp in Whitley used to grow much larger and it was around 1995 when the lake
record Mirror Carp was caught weighing in at just over an impressive 32lb. Around the same time a 29lb Carp was also banked by a very surprised and shattered angler who battled to land it on his pole!

Unfortunately these fish have not graced the banks since and they are unlikely to inhabit the pool any more. Whitley pool is also home to Catfish, The first stocking of these was back in 1990/91 when 10 were introduced to the water. These are still alive and well today and although they rarely get fished for, occasionally they surprise the unsuspecting carp angler and fall to a meat bait. Recent captures have been around the 20lb mark but a 30lb fish was reported a few seasons back.

Tench put in a fairly frequent appearance with the average weight around 3lbs, the occasional ornamental golden Tench is also caught with weights up to 2 ½ lbs. Other species present are Roach, Rudd and Perch but these are in very small numbers. Whitley is without doubt a fantastic runs and pleasure venue and provides prolific sport with a variety of fish to target.

The ambiance of Whitley Pool captured by Lymm AC member Carpsid.

When we look back through time the first settlers in the area were the Vikings settling in “Grims” as described in the Grimsditch history article. This was around 800 AD and the area was heavily forested back then. The Saxons arrived on the scene shortly afterwards and this is where the word “Whitley” can be traced back to. “Whitley” is derived from the Saxon language “Ley” meaning “pasture” and “Whit” meaning white wood. White wood referring to Silver birch trees which were very common and abundant in this part of
Cheshire at that time.

Whitley is mentioned in the famous Domesday Book of 1086. The Domesday Book was
commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066. It refers to Whitley at that time as a meadow, land under plough and a wood. Unbelievably back then the population of Whitley was just two people, and one of those was a mere Serf. The total population of Cheshire at this time was just 1524 people.

The Domesday Book also recognises the two parts of Whitley now known as Higher and Lower. Back then they were originally called Over Whitley and Nether Whitley. It wasn’t until 1837 that this changed to Whitley Inferior and Whitley Superior. This then changed again in 1936 to Higher and Lower Whitley as we know it today.

From 1100 to 1500 AD farming and crop cultivation took priority in the Whitley area, A total of three mills were built and large areas of land were sectioned off for growing crops, but as far as records date back the area where Whitley pool is today was used as Pasture land back then. Possibly unsuitable for cultivation due to the high sand content within the soil.

Between the years 1642 and 1648, Cromwell’s army passed through Whitley on several occasions. In 1643 Sir William Brereton set out from Northwich to attack the Earl of Derby at Warrington. Sir William’s army was routed at Stockton Heath and tradition has it that many of Cromwell’s army who died on the Heath were buried at Hill Cliffe and Budworth.
Cromwell’s army camped just across the way from Whitley Pool, just off the main A49 road as it is today. There were a few pools on that side back then which are no longer there today. Cromwell used the pools to supply the army’s horses with water. The farm now called Crimwell Pool Farm was originally called Cromwell’s Pool Farm. The name was changed due to the fact that new owners who came to live at the farm to breed Shire horses couldn’t name them Cromwell’s as that name was already in use, so they changed it to Crimwells.

With Cromwell’s army slaughtering the Royalists and anyone else who opposed them, civil war and chaos had engulfed the kingdom and a group of devout Christian people didn’t like the way the country was being run and with what was going on… These people got together and this was the birth of the Quakers also known as “The religious society of friends”.

They started out around 1650 and Whitley was a leading area for them. Their numbers were very high in the area and as their following grew their movement expanded and they started to come up against a lot of opposition. Many folk didn’t like what they were preaching and the Quakers were persecuted, imprisoned and some even hanged for preaching their views and beliefs. Some of their more noted campaigns were for the abolishment of the slave trade and for women’s rights amongst other causes.

The Quakers graveyard next to Whitley is named Frandely Burial ground and is one of the oldest in Britain with graves dating back to 1657. The wall around the graveyard is classed as a Grade II listed monument and dates from around 1680. The oldest readable headstone is from the 17th Century and is that of a John Starkey of Stretton dated 1686, the most recent headstone is dated 1990….

According to the “Register Book of burials for the people called Quakers” held with the council well over 200 Quakers are buried in or around that little cemetery… Somewhat disturbing when we look at the map below…..The map below is dated 1842 and clearly shows a small burial plot named “Friends Society of Frandely trust burial grounds”. Where Whitley pool is was classed as pasture land and owned by a Mr Thomas Starkey back then, however the disturbing fact is that, that field was also named “Burying field” as
recorded by Cheshire County Council. This indicates that some of the 200+ graves may have been in the field that we now know as Whitley Pool… .

With this in mind it’s strange that most members which visit Whitley Pool can’t help but feel the eerie mysterious ambiance associated with this venue. It’s the kind of place where some members feel they are not always alone, even when they appear to be the only angler fishing. In the early 1990’s a bailiff reported finding a member cowering in the car park after he apparently saw a figure walk out of the pool itself.

Another committee member around the same period reported seeing a Quaker in full ritual dress, moments later the Quaker had disappeared… The police have also had several reports filed of a large cat seen in the area, a member of the club also reported seeing it to the police.. More tales circulate regarding Whitley & Village pools than any other Lymm AC water and fishing after dark is not for the faint hearted.

Below is a map from 1910. There is still no sign of either Whitley or Village Pools at this time.

It is not until the late 1930’s that sand started to be excavated from Higher Whitley. During the 1960’s it was the main source of sand for building the M56 motorway. It was quarried and dug out from depths of over 30 feet from the bottom of Whitley Pool. The Village end of Whitley was where the old pump house used to be and there are still some nasty submerged snags at this end from old machinery and scrap metal left from the quarrying. The M56 motorway was completed around 1975, but sand excavation from Whitley had halted around 1969 and the quarry was used as a waste tip for a short period before filling
with water. The picture below was taken around 1974 and shows a barren pool with patches of sand everywhere. Water levels are well down and there were hardly any tress growing around the pool back then. The small island in the top right is clearly visible along with other areas that are now submerged.

Lymm Angling Club was formed in 1948 but it wasn’t until around 1971 when Whitley was added to the Lymm club card. A depth survey of the pool was carried out by committee members in 1972 and sometime later the club purchased the venue for the grand sum of £30.

1982 was the saddest year for Whitley Pool. Ammonia leeched into the water through springs from an old chemical landfill site and severely contaminated the pool. Occasionally today after a heavy down pour a yellowish cloud can still be seen at the village end. When it first happened in 82 it was a catastrophe, many good fish died and an immediate rescue operation was launched to rescue some of the remaining fish.

The water level was pumped right down and about 15 Carp between 11lbs and 18lbs were rescued and put into a holding area at Lymmvale. These were later released into the vale without authorisation by a member at the time who was subsequently caught and banned.

For many years after that Whitley Pool was believed to be devoid of any fish. But some fish had remarkably survived. Whitley is without doubt one of life’s mysteries, scientifically no fish should be alive in there. The Environmental Agency can’t understand how any fish survive in the pool, let alone breed as well. The Ammonia levels are around 36 parts per million and fish normally die when the level reaches 7 parts per million. Amazingly the fish have managed to adapt to their environment and build up some kind of immunity never seen before…. Any new fish introduced to the pool would die the same day. However
Whitley is home to some of the freakiest fish in the North West, Several are deformed or mutated in some way probably due to the Ammonia pollutant. Two such fish are shown below courtesy of Lymm AC member Spamkid.

It all adds to the mystery of the venue, back in the early 90’s several carp over 25lb were caught, One by one these fish started to mysteriously disappear… never to grace the Whitley bank side again. Reports were made that fish thieves stole several of the bigger specimens and the police were brought in to investigate. No charges were ever brought against anyone but similar fish to the missing ones were turning up in other clubs waters… The fact that Whitley holds thousands of carp and they were known to grow to
such proportions leaves it open to debate as to whether any of the larger specimens are still in there.

Whitley Pool is a fantastic fishery shrouded in mystery and abound with tales of one thing or another. In its short 40 year history it has been through a lot, yet remarkably it has bounced back to the top offering prolific sport and is up there amongst Lymm AC’s best waters. All the hard work put in by work parties over the years has made a massive difference to this pool bringing it up to a very high standard and it’s a credit to all those involved that they have helped to produce such a great fishery.

Written by Jason Webb (Mancman) on 08/10/2009 with thanks to Cheshire County Council. Information researched through various Internet sources, Cheshire Guardian Archives and Lymm AC members.

4 thoughts on “History of Whitley Pool by Jason Webb

  1. Pingback: Whitley Pool - 6th June 2015 |

  2. I’ll never forget that horrible day when I arrived at WP for the first day of a new season in the pitch black with a dozen other anglers. Nobody could get a run/bite and only when it got fully light did we see the grey, soapy looking water in front of us. It was obvious that there had been severe pollution. Personally I don’t believe that any of the fish survived long term exposure to this. I think that any fish found later were illegally stocked over the coming years.

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