This ancient market town was an important trading centre as far back as Roman times, when it was the major supplier of salt to the garrisons; it later became the largest salt-producing town in the country. In 1583, a great fire raged through the wooden buildings of Nantwich, lasting for 20 days - very little survived. Such was the strength of feeling throughout the land over this disaster, that Elizabeth I herself organised a nation-wide collection to fund a rebuilding project. This resulted in the elegant, half-timbered, black and white houses that crowd together in the quaint streets of present day Nantwich.
Despite the inferno, a few 14th century buildings did survive; most notably the splendid stone built Parish Church of St Mary. A striking church by any standards, with its soaring octagonal tower, its chancel displaying a remarkable stone vaulted roof, richly decorated with carvings, and its pink sandstone pulpit incorporating exquisite examples of medieval wood carvings. Another fine building to survive the fire is the half-timbered Churche's Mansion, built in 1577, surrounded as it was by a moat. The almshouses, built in 1638 by Sir Edmund Wright, are also decorated with the most beautifully carved miniature figures.
To the west of Nantwich lies Malpas, a small town of overhanging houses, hilly streets and half-timbered cottages, set in rich farmland. The 14th century church of St Oswald has medieval stone carving, attractive stained glass and a superb 13th century parish chest. From No Man's Heath, north-east of the town, there is a fine view across the rhododendron-covered parkland of the 18th century Cholmondeley Castle; a private mansion built in Gothic style.