About Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey has a long history, as reflected in its 45 historically listed buildings. It was a locally important area of Cheshire County during the medieval period, and was the seat of the ancient Massey barony. The Georgian hall, with the remains of a castle on its grounds, is now a popular tourist attraction.

The old Roman road between Chester and York passes between Dunham Massey and the city of Bowdon and today forms the boundary between the two. The name Dunham is derived from the Anglo-Saxon "dun", meaning hill. The Massey element of the name is a result of its ownership by the Massey (Masci) family. The manor of Dunham is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having belonged to the Saxon thegn Aelfward before the Norman Conquest and to Hamo de Masci after. The addition of "Massey" to the name Dunham reflects the manor's importance; Dunham was the seat of the Masseys. The importance of Dunham is further emphasised by the presence of two of de Massey's castles: Dunham Castle and Watch Hill Castle on the border with Bowdon; a third, Ullerwood Castle, was near Hale.

The Booth family inherited the estate through Sir Robert Booth (d 1460), second son of John Booth of Barton, most of the Massey lands in 1409 when the Massey baron line became extinct, with Dunham Massey remaining at the heart of the estate. The Booth name originated as the name for someone who lived in a small hut or bothy, especially a cowman or shepherd. Adam de Booth, progenitor of the distinguished Booth lineage was a descendant of a Norman family of state, who came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066 and settled in the county of Lancaster.

By the Elizabethan period, the original Dunham Massey Castle had been demolished. Probably during the medieval period Dunham Massey Hall became the home of the manorial lord, and a center of power in the area. The hall was rebuilt by the Booths in 1616, leaving no remains of the old medieval hall. The mill at Dunham was first documented in 1353, although the mill's present structure dates to the 1860s. It lies on the River Bollin, opposite Little Bollington. The Dunham Massey Deer Park dates to before 1353.

In 1736, Lady Mary Booth, the daughter of Sir George Booth (1675-1758), 2nd Earl of Warrington married Harry Grey, 4th Earl of Stamford, becoming Mary Countess of Stamford bringing the Stamford title to Dunham. In 1772 the Countess died and Dunham Massey was inherited by the Grey family who continued to own Dunham Massey until the death of the 10th and last Earl of Stamford in 1976.

The 10th Earl left Dunham Massey in its entirety to the British National Trust. At the time, the 3000 acre estate and the house, including all its contents, made Lord Stamford's bequest the wealthiest in the Trust's history. The estate is now operated by the National Trust as a museum and deer park and welcomes visitors.

In the 18th Century, they used to say about Cheshire : "the tree of hospitality is seldom out of blossom."