History of Lach Dennis

What’s In A Name? 
The history of Lach Dennis can be traced back as far as the great land survey commissioned by William The Conqueror in 1086, more commonly known as ‘The Doomsday Book’.  At that time Lece (as it was known) was divided into two manors, each owned by a different man and therefore our village was actually listed twice!

Of these 2 owners, the most notable was William FitzNigel, 1st Baron of Halton.  He was an important land-owner of the day and in addition to Lece, held 29 other manors in Cheshire.  Lece itself was not considered to be particularly fertile and cultivatable land, which was highlighted by the fact that his workable land was recorded as only large enough to warrant a single plough!

A clue to why this was so, lies in the name, which is derived from the Old English, ‘laecc’ which means boggy stream, or stream running through boggy land.  Draining and farming the land at that time would have been considerably difficult.  In addition, given the population and requirement for food, it simply wasn’t necessary to farm this area to fulfil local demand (remember, local transport links were made by horse and cart over rough ground)

The other landowner of Lece at the time of the Doomsday Book was a man called Moran, who had started to cultivate some of the land, which was large enough to support one smallholder and two ploughmen and their respective families.

In subsequent land surveys through the ages, the name Lece changed and had several incarnations, including Lache, Lach and even Lace!  Also, the village started to acquire additional names, most of which lasted less than a century as the land was bought and sold by different owners.

One of the earliest records of the village having a double-barrelled name was Lache Malbanke, which was recorded in the 1260s.  The suffix comes from the name of a powerful land-owning family named Malbank, who held the barony of Nantwich.  Their name suffixed several Cheshire villages where they owned land throughout the middle ages.

Lach Dennis has also had a long-standing association with Rudheath, and has been known over time as Lache apud Rudheathe, Lache iuxta Rudheathe, Lache super Rudheathe or Lach in Rudheathe, these link words deriving from Latin words for near, next to and beyond, providing a reference point to its location.

By the 14th Century, the village had become known as Lache Merton as the land changed hands and became owned by Randle de Merton and his descendents, David and Stephen de Merton who owned the land between 1301 and 1356.

The first recorded incarnation of the village’s present name dates back to 1260, when it was referred to as Lache Denneys, but it may have been referred to as such for many years prior to then.  In the same vein as the village was referred to as Lach Malbank, it is likely to assume that Dennis is derived from a local landowner’s surname, however no such family is known to have held lands in medieval time.  This has proven to be a difficult puzzle, but the explanation has come through heritage derived from the original settlers to this area of Cheshire.

The solution to this conundrum may be found via a connection to the land owner named in the Doomsday book, Colben, as this was not a traditional Anglo-Saxon name.  The name Kolben is well documented in Old Danish history books, so perhaps Colben was a descendant of some of the Viking settlers who came to Cheshire in the 9th and 10th Centuries?  That being the case, the village could well have been known for some time as Laecc Denisc pronounced ‘Latch Dennish’.  This would have differentiated it from the part owned by William FitzNigel and literally translates as, ‘the Danish part of Lach’.

Pronunciation of Denisc would have gradually mutated to Dennis as the original meaning and derivation of the word was forgotten over time.  Also, Dennis became a popular forename in medieval times, so the change of spelling would have been associated with this growth in popularity.  This has not been conclusively proven however, and it certainly seems a plausible and more likely answer than the alternative theory regarding land ownership and surname associations.

Perhaps the most dominant feature of the village these days is the village pub, the Duke of Portland.  Originally known as the Farmer’s Arms, the pub changed its name in honour of King Edward VII as he commonly used the ducal title as his pseudonym when he travelled North to ride with the Cheshire Hunt.

His wife, Alexandra, was the daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, so whatever the truth about the name Lach Dennis, the village has strong connections with at least one Dane!

  • Lach Dennis means "wet and marshy land".
  • The population of Lach Dennis in 1801 was 43, by 1901 it was 184, and by 2001 it had grown to 233 – the next census is in 2011.
  • The average age of village residents in 2001 was 48 – did that surprise you?