Widnes stands on the north bank of the Mersey Estuary, where it narrows to form the Runcorn Gap, opposite Runcorn.
Once in Lancashire, the area became part of Cheshire in 1974 following a reorganisation of local government.
Until the 19th century this was a rural area, consisting of just a few villages.
Development began in 1847 when a chemical factory, producing alkali, was opened at Spike Island. This was soon followed by several others and the town grew rapidly as social amenities and housing was built for the factory employees.
By 1862 the town was producing more alkali than any place in the world, as well as soap, borax and bleaching powder, and there was also an iron and copper works. In the 1890 the companies producing alkali combined to form the United Alkali Company.
Widnes became heavily polluted by smoke and the by-products of these industries.
The 1905 Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge, spanning the river Mersey, gave the town access to Runcorn for the first time. In 1961 the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge (or Silver Jubilee Bridge), replaced it.
Spike Island in the Mersey Estuary, the birthplace of the British chemical industry, is now a reclaimed toxic waste site.
The island is at the centre of the Mersey Forest, one of the UK's Community Forests. A surviving warehouse on the island houses the Catalyst Museum.
Towns Near Widnes To Visit - straight line distance:Runcorn (1.83 miles) Daresbury (4.28 miles) Frodsham (5.24 miles) Prescot (5.30 miles)
Catalyst Museum A good place to find out about science.
Spike Island For walks in the countryside in a number of different habitats.