Further Research

Reference for further research on Combermere Abbey, the Cottons of Combermere, other families who married into the Cotton line, and the Crossleys of Combermere:

When the Cotton family, who had owned the Abbey since the Dissolution, sold the estate in 1919, almost all the archives were dispersed. Over recent years a huge amount of research has gone into filling in the gaps in our knowledge and expanding on what we do know. The result of that work can be found here;


Beyond the information on that site we actually know nothing more, and have no other documents. We try to help with enquiries, but all we can realistically do is point people to that site. Here though is our suggestions for anyone who wishes to research further on their own account.


The house is featured in two well-known books on historic Cheshire houses;

Cheshire Country Houses by Peter de Figueirado and Julian Trueherz (Phillimore)

A Guide to the Country Houses of the North-West by John Martin Robinson (Constable)

The house was also included in

England’s Thousand Best Houses by Simon Jenkins (Penguin Allen Lane)

Cheshire: The Buildings of England by Nicholas Pevsner (Pevsner Architectural Guides)

Please be aware that there are errors in Sir Simon’s account. Other useful books on the country around Combermere are:

Cheshire and its Welsh Border by Herbert Hughes (Dobson)

Chester and the Northern Marches by Guy Williams (Longmans)

A History of Cheshire by Allan Crosby (Phillimore)

Acton: The history of a Cheshire parish and its seventeen townships (Acton History Group)

Picturesque Cheshire by T Alfred Coward (Sherratt & Hughes)

A History of Cheshire, by Dorothy Sylvester (Phillimore)

Cheshire by Charles E Kelsey (CreateSpace)

The Origins of Cheshire by Nick Higham (ManchesterUniversity Press)

A History of Cheshire, F H Thompson (Cheshire Community Council)

Cheshire Under The Norman Earls by B M C Husain (Cheshire Community Council)

Cheshire in the Later Middle Ages, 1399-1540 by J T Driver (Cheshire Community Council)

A History of the County of Chester by A T Thacker (VictoriaCounty History)

Nantwich Through Time by Paul Hurley (Amberley)

Although the Abbey itself and two-thirds of the estate lie in Cheshire, it should not be forgotten that the remaining third is in Shropshire, and searching for references relating to that county can be fruitful.  An excellent book about the first Viscount Combermere is:

The Cheshire Hero by Dinah Andrew

In terms of the records of the original Cistercian abbey at Combermere,

The Book of the Abbot of Combermere (HardPress)

is invaluable, though effort and cross-reference is needed to understand it. The definitive work on the vehicles made by the Crossley engineering firm is:

Crossley by Eyre, Heaps and Townsin (OPC)

And for Crossley aircraft manufacturing:

Aviation In Manchester by Brain R Robson (Royal Aeronautical Society)


Google’s mass scanning of out-of-copyright books, periodicals and manuscripts is controversial, but it does make finding obscure material much easier. The various works by Lady Mary, Viscountess Combermere, the first Viscount’s third wife (and later, widow) are all online, and free to view. They include:

Memoirs and correspondence of Field-Marshal Viscount Combermere

A Friar’s Scourge

Our Peculiarities

A fascinating and very valuable military memoir by J N Creighton is the pithily-named

Narrative of the Siege and Capture of Bhurtpore, in the Province of Agra, Upper Hindoostan, by the Forces Under the Command Of Lord Combermere in the Latter End of 1825 and Beginning of 1826

 Rather more obscure, but equally interesting is this essay from an anthology;

Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country – We Want A Reform Bill, Viscount Combermere

In the middle of the Nineteenth century the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Salopian Robert William Eyton wrote several volumes of

Antiquities of Shropshire

and all of these are now online.


Neither time nor budget has allowed for searching through the British Library or any other national archive of historical rolls, and there is less material than one might expect in local libraries in Cheshire and Shropshire. Material can also be difficult to find, despite modern cataloguing. Finding and enthusiastic member of staff is the key.

The libraries in Whitchurch and Nantwich hold a certain amount of useful records, as does Shrewsbury. The archive to head for though is at Chester, split between the city library and the county records at the castle.

The archives of what is now Cheshire East are held at the authority’s offices in Sandbach, and these include censuses for the county.

Local authorities are good places to start when looking for historic maps, especially as they tended to be made carefully, and well looked after.


The internet is of course a massive and – nowadays – unmatched resource for research of any kind. They key is simply knowing how best to make it work for you, and that only comes with experience. A few years ago the online, free encyclopaedia Wikipedia, has considered to be rather less than entirely reliable, but I have found it to be very solid. It’s not fault-free, but then nothing is. Handle with care, certainly, but it’s as good as just about any other research tool on the internet.


 A good place to start for local county research is:


Do be aware that some pages will take you to a commercial site, Find My Past, so that you leave the local government site and have to pay fairly early on to access material. This site is particularly strong for tithe maps and parish records. Shropshire’s county equivalent is:


Rather more than Cheshire, Shropshire is very accommodating, and they encourage you to visit its archives. All the information you need is here:


There is an excellent history site, supported by Shropshire County Council and the National Lottery:


The National Archives is the largest resource of all, as one would expect, and contains a mountain of material. Anyone with any interest in the subject at all could spend days happily wading through it. A good opening gambit would be simply searching for Combermere, which brings up sixteen or so direct links:


Digitalising and uploading historic archives are understandably not high priorities for local authorities, and it is unfair to criticise them for not having more online – especially when they cannot predict what material is likely to be of most interest to researchers.

Craig Thornber’s eclectic site reflects his personal interests, and is excellent on Combermere:



Hundred of thousands of people have traced their ancestors on the web in recent years – often stimulated by television programmes – and this interest in personal history is nothing but a good thing.  Care has to be taken of course; it is very easy to jump to conclusions (for example where grandfather, father and son shared the same first name) and it’s not difficult to spend a lot of time following false leads. There is a small number of large commercial sites, which have bought access to public records; which is easy to criticise – as the archives were accumulated with tax-payers’ money, aren’t they already owned by the tax-payers? There are some very useful free sites. For anyone related to British aristocracy these are two excellent sites:



For the life stories of people who have been Members of Parliament this is astonishingly comprehensive:


It can be used in conjunction with this site:


British History Online covers the period from 1300 to 1800 and is a massive archive of documents, books and maps. Absolutely unmissable:


Hansard, the written records of the doings of parliament is also searchable online, and can be of interest:


For people and events living or occurring during the British Empire – more or less from the 1780s – this is an excellent and very enjoyable site:


For members of the Roman Catholic church search this site, though it’s not a genealogy site as such:


For anything historical, including biography and genealogy, relating to Wales:


A simple but reliable free genealogical site is:


The very best of the free genealogy sites on the web is that run by the Mormons. They have huge teams tracing family trees worldwide because they believe in christening the dead. No matter their logic; their work is great for everyone with an interest, and it can be found here:


Of the subscription sites the best may be:


The American archive has many of the now-scanned historic documents mentioned above.


Oxford University’s online archive is extensive, as you would expect, but occasionally frustrating:


For men who are or were Freemasons – as the first Viscount Combermere was – their site is superb:


For portraits go to the National Trust archives and the National Portrait Gallery (remember that only a small selection of the the works owned by the NPG is ever on show at any time; just because it isn’t on their walls doesn’t mean that they don’t own it:



The BBC’s arts section of its vast site also offers this potentially useful (and always interesting) resource:


This site is excellent for looking for print and paper books within British libraries:


 A complete and very comprehensive list of all the listed buildings in England, Scotland and Wales:



For Crossley vehicles, the Crossley Register cannot be beaten. Their members are Crossley polymaths, and those members can be found in many countries round the world – especially in old imperial countries. The Register’s website is here:


The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry own a small number of Crossley vehicles and engines, but also have very extensive archives. They are also very helpful, and welcome visitors (with an appointment). Start by searching on their website:


The Anson Museum in Poynton, near Stockport in east Cheshire has a number of Crossley stationary engines;


Other UK museums which have Crossley exhibits include: