My name is Kevin Stone and I live with my wife somewhere near the village of Mow Cop. MowCop.com was launched in September 2008 as a site to collect photographs of Mow Cop castle. My bedroom whilst I was growing up looked out over the castle from down in the Biddulph valley, and from my current home I can still see the castle. The castle has always fascinated me and I was fortunate enough to purchase www.mowcop.com to showcase photographs of the castle.
I also run three other websites:
Use of the site is subject to the site's terms and conditions.
Mow Cop Castle
Mow Cop is a village that straddles the Staffordshire/Cheshire border and Mow Cop castle has been a familiar site to anyone who has lived in the area in the last 250 years.
Prior to the castle some have suggested that the Romans built a beacon or watchtower on the site during their occupation of England. This idea is supported by the fact that the Romans had a small camp at Bent Farm, Astbury. The Romans built a road from Bent Farm through to Biddulph via the Nick O' Th Hill which would have bought them very close to Mow Cop. The coal, millstone grit, and limestone in the area would have benefited them greatly. The A34, which itself was an old Roman road, could have easily been watched over from a tower on the top of the hill. However there is no hard physical evidence of Roman occupation. It's quite likely any evidence would have been destroyed with the many years of quarrying and mining in the area.
The castle itself was built as a summerhouse in 1754 for Randle Wilbraham I of Rode Hall. It was built to look like part of a castle of a bygone era, and would have enhanced the view of the newly constructed Rode Hall, some 3 miles away on the Cheshire side of the hill. Mr Wilbraham employed local stonemasons John and Ralph Hardin, it is said they were paid 1 shilling a day, and one of the members of the family lost a hand while constructing the castle. The Wilbraham family used the summerhouse for picnics and entertaining friends on days out. In the early part of the 19th century, Miss Wilbraham wrote "We have always believed the family tradition, that towards the end of the 18th century, the Wilbraham then resident at Rode Hall built the tower. The wall was always broken so as to have effect off a ruin when looked at from the valley." She also wrote "We were accustomed to boil our kettle and have tea in it on calm days."
In the mid 1800s, a row over the summerhouse started between Randle Wilbraham and Ralph Sneyd of Keele Hall. Sneyd claimed that part of the summerhouse was built on his land, and that part ownership should fall to him. A court case followed in 1850, presided over by Mr Justice Patteson of Staffordshire.
At the turn of the 19th century, the Wilbraham family moved up to Lancashire and when they returned some 50 years later the summer house had fallen into a poor state. The upper floor, stairs and doors had all gone. They set about restoring the house to its former glory so that it may be used again. The court also heard that while the Wilbraham family had been away, Gordon Reece, a steward for Mr Wilbraham, had maintained the summerhouse as an ornamental ruin.
Reece told the court that in 1824 part of the walls had been restored and the door replaced at a cost of £4 4s. It was also worked on in 1841, however it wasn't until the family returned that the full restoration took place, at a cost of £34. Up until this point the house was open to the public, but was locked up after renovation.
It was eventually ruled that because the boundary cut through the land that the summer house was built on, that both parties should share the building, and the cost of its upkeep. The public was to have free access as before, except on Sundays at the time of divine service, at this time it should remain locked. By the end of the 19th century, the house had once more fallen into disrepair, the windows and doors had gone and all the turf that had once been described as "soft as velvet to the feet", had been washed away. At about this time, the postmaster of Scholar Green. Mr G H Morris decided to measure the castle and archway.
In 1923 the castle and all the surrounding lands (including the Old Man O' Mow) were purchased from the late Sir Philip Baker-Wilbraham and the Bishop of Derby, who were the Lords of the Manor on the Cheshire side, by Joe Lovatt for the purpose of quarrying. What followed was a bitter legal wrangle that lasted up until 1935.
The land and the castle had been commonly used for many years and people from near and far were furious that firstly the land had been sold, and secondly that it was to be quarried. Joe Lovatt offered the castle and a ½ acre of land for public use, if the public would repair the castle. The offer was refused, as the people firmly believed that no-one had a right to quarry the land they had used for many years. Joe Lovatt carried about his business and many thousands of tons of rock were removed, including all of the old stone heaps that had built up over the years. The people, backed by their MP, formed the Mow Cop preservation committee and in September 1923 a meeting of 500 protesters and 50 committee members marched upon the quarry and pulled down loose stone walls, wire fences and even upturned a stone crusher. It was done in a civilised manner, and as time went by, the crowds got less, the committees changed and many solicitors' letters went back and forth.
Eventually the quarrying stopped and in June 1937, the deeds for the castle and surrounding lands were handed over to the National Trust, in front of a large crowd. The saga had finally come to an end. The castle was repaired to its present day condition, with a large V shaped section missing where one of the windows had collapsed, and a large section of the buttress wall missing. Why did that part of the castle collapse? One theory offered was that vibration of quarrying work weakened the stonework, another explanation was that it fell on its own at the end of WW1.
In the castle was a large stone with the letters CEST carved into it. Just what the inscription means no-one seems to know. The stone was coincidentally in the position where the alleged collapse took place. Did a stone mason or someone else decide they would like that stone for another job? More restoration work was carried out in 1999 when National Trust decided to protect people from themselves and make sure no-one could enter the castle and sit in the windows and fire place. Iron bars were added and a large iron gate was added, which remains padlocked shut.
At the end of August 2002 scaffolding went up around the castle, the process taking around 4 weeks. The purpose was to reinforce the foundations which had became exposed and weak, and to point up the brickwork, making the castle a safe place to visit once again. The National Trust property manager, Paul Rutter, indicated that the entire project cost £80,000, with the work undertaken by Cheshire Masonry. By January 2003 the work of repairing the castle was finished.