Through the Broadheath area of the town there are the remains of a Roman road. It is part of one of the major Roman roads in North West England, and is linked the legionary fortresses of Chester (Deva Victrix) and York (Eboracum). In spite of the road there is no evidence that the Romans ever settled here. Altrincham is not named in the Doomsday Book yet a number of neighbouring areas are such as Dunham. After the Romans retreated from Britain in the early 5th century, the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain.
Until the Norman invasion, manors surrounding Altrincham were owned by Saxon thegn Alweard; after the invasion they became the property of Hamon de Massey. Baron of Dunham Massey based at Dunham castle was helping Edward 1 fight a battle against the Scots in 1286.
In 1290 the town was given a Royal Charter for a market by Edward 1. This was followed by de Masci creating his own Borough Charter which created Altrincham.
The charter allowed a weekly market to be held on Tuesday, later Fridays and Saturday. It is believed that the nearby Roman road which passes Altrincham may have been closed by Hamo de Masci to divert traffic through Altrincham to increase local trade in Old Market Place.
Earl of Stamford conceded the lands of Altrincham in 1340. The Stamford name is found on a number of buildings and roads within the town today. The earliest known residence in Altrincham was The Knoll, on Stamford Street near the centre of the medieval town. During the English Civil War, men from Altrincham fought for the Parliamentarian Sir George Booth against Wales and Scotland. During the war, armies camped several times on nearby Bowdon Downs. The Stamfords remained influential until the late 20th century.
In the 15th century the town was administered by the Court Leet, who administer a offences court; they also monitored the well being of Altrincham, being the unpaid equivalent of the Police, council officials and health and safety officers of their day. The Court Leet also appointed the Town Crier. Both are still active in the town today and can be seen in their ceremonial robes along with the Town Crier at special events.
Extension of the Bridgewater Canal to Altrincham (1765) stimulated the development of market gardening. For many years Altrincham was notable for its vegetables. Barge transport enabled produce to be sold in Manchester. In 1910 there were 157 market garden businesses in Altrincham and Sale. By 1767, warehouses had been built alongside the canal in Broadheath, the first step in Altrincham's industrialisation.
When the canal was completed (1776), it provided a water route from Manchester, through Altrincham, to the Irish Sea. Commuting to Manchester also took place by canal and road, before railways.
In the later 18th Century the town had a cotton and worsted trade. The town's growth was further stimulated when in July 1845, the Act of Parliament allowed for the construction of the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway (MSJAR). On 20 July 1849, the first railway train left Altrincham.
Altrincham became very desirable places for the middle classes and commuters to live. Between 1851 and 1881 the population increased from 4,488 to 11,250.
In 1849 the first Town Hall was established adjacent to the Unicorn Hotel.
In the 1890s Broadheath started to become heavily industrialised. Covering an area of 250 acres, Broadheath was founded by Harry Grey, 8th Earl of Stamford (1885) for the purpose of attracting businesses.
By 1900, Broadheath had its own docks, warehouses and electricity generating station. The site's proximity to rail, canal and road proved attractive to companies making machine tools, cameras and grinding machines. By 1914, there were 14 companies operating in Broadheath, employing thousands of workers. The Broadheath area boomed in the early 20th century as a major industrial complex.
There was little change in Altrincham from the turn of the 20th century to the start of World War II. Altrincham received some of the first bombs to fall in the North West. On 25th October 1941 in 'the petrol tank blaze' occurred - 41 high explosive bombs and one incendiary fell. Although experiencing some bombing as part of the Luftwaffe's raids, the town emerged from the war moderately unscathed and, along with the rest of Britain, experienced a boom period shortly after. This manifested itself in the construction of new housing and the rebuilding of the town centre in the 1960's. In the 1960s the Broadheath area was at its peak (15,000 employed).
The boom period was followed by depression (1970's). Employment at Broadheath fell by nearly 40%. Altrincham endured epidemics of typhoid and cholera (19th century) but in the latter part of the century many prosperous Manchester businessmen and industrialists took up residence. From here they commuted to Manchester.
Erected in 1900 the town hall buildings was used to house the Altrincham Urban District Council. Origianally part of Cheshire Altrincham became part of the larger newly formed Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council in 1974. The Town Hall (2006) was refurbished to create a contemporary community facility/venue for meetings.
The oldest surviving part of the town is that around the Old Market Place and Church Street. A number of Georgian buildings also survive in this area on High Street. Most of the town's heavy industry has disappeared and much of Broadheath is now a retail park.
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