Murray’s Handbooks for Travellers were travel guide books published in London by John Murray beginning in 1836. These are the 3 final routes described in the Handbook for Travellers in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Staffordshire which was first published in London in 1892. The Society has a copy of the original book in its archives.
Route 35:: Uttoxeter to Macclesfield, by Alton Towers and Leek [Cheadle].
[N. Staffordshire Railway 32 miles.]
For the first few miles the Railway follows the course of the Dove, passing right (in Derbyshire) Doveridge village and Hall, the seat of Lord Waterpark, and, a little further, Crakemarsh Hall (C. T. Cavendish, Esq.) (Route 34)
4 mile Rocester (Junction Station). Hence a branch goes off on E. to Ashbourne (Route 34). Just before reaching the station Woodseat (J. F. Campbell Esq.) is seen on West, and in the space between the two lines, Barrow Hill (Captain Dawson) and Dove Leys (Sir Thomas P. Heywood, Bart.). Rocester, which was a Roman station, had a house of Black Canons founded by Richard Bacon about 1146, some foundations of which remain in a field S. of the Church. The Church was rebuilt, with the exception of the tower, and a spire added, in 1872; in the Church-yard is the shaft of a cross, with interlaced work, and 3 sculptured sepulchral slabs.
2 mile West of Rocester is Croxden, which contained a famous Abbey, founded for Cistercians by Bertram de Verdun in 1176; his widow Roesia was the foundress of Grace Dieu, in Charnwood (Route 24). In it were buried a number of the descendants of that family, together with the heart of King John, whose physician was Abbot of Croxden. His name was Thomas Shepeshed, and his Chronicle is extant in the British Museum.
The remains of the abbey, which are incorporated with the farm-buildings, are of considerable extent. They consist principally of the ivy-clad West front, lighted by three lofty Early English windows deeply splayed. The West door is a very fine example, and is deeply recessed. The South wall of the nave still stands, as also the South transept lighted by Early English windows, and containing a round-headed doorway and some piers with plain capitals. This doorway probably led into the sacristy, now used as a carthouse. To the South of this transept are the walls of the monastic buildings, of which the great hall and the refectory are the best preserved, and offer some beautiful details. Several stone coffins, and an effigy (probably of one of the Verdons), will be noticed. The situation of the abbey is delightful, and the walk from it to Alton or Rocester (each about 2 miles distant) abounds with varied country scenery. Croxden Church was rebuilt in 1885 by the Earl of Macclesfield.
The line now proceeds up the valley of the Churnet, which joins the Dove 1 mile below Rocester, and presently enters the defiles of a broken and romantic district, which extends several miles in a North West direction, and has on E. the Moorlands (post).
5½ miles Denstone (Station), where a very beautiful Church has been built by Sir Percival Heywood from designs by Street; it has painted windows, and is profusely ornamented with Derbyshire marble. Near the Church is St. Chad's College, for middle-class education in connection with St. Nicholas' College, Lancing, on a site given by Sir Percival Heywood. The ground-plan of the building is in the shape of the letter H; architects, Slater and Carpenter. Centrally seated as this institution is for the great towns of the Black Country, the Potteries, Lancashire, and Birmingham, the site is admirably chosen.
7½ miles Alton (Station). The station occupies a most picturesque position in a valley, on one side of which rises a lofty cliff crowned by a modern nunnery and some slight remains of the old castle of Alton (post), and on the other is the very striking modern pile styled.
Alton Towers (Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot). The estate was an ancient property of the Talbot family, and their lands were entailed by the famous Duke of Shrewsbury, who obtained an Act for the purpose at the beginning of the 18th century. Lower Heythorp, Oxfordshire (see Handbook for Oxford), was their ordinary residence, till the attention of Charles, 15th Earl of Shrewsbury (from 1787 to 1827), was directed to this beautiful spot. He erected a moderate house, and turned his energies to landscape-gardening, commencing in 1814. His nephew and successor John, “the good Earl,” while improving the gardens, specially devoted himself to architecture, and took the house in hand, converting it into a vast dreamy, ill-connected series of galleries and towers-picturesque at a distance, uncomfortable to inhabit - and thoroughly incorrect in style and detail. The name Alton Towers was his invention. Later in his life, and after he had become intimate with Pugin, he began remodelling the building on sounder principles. Unhappily the deaths of both architect and owner have left the noble pile unfinished. Pugin when he ceased work was engaged in fitting-up and decorating the bed-chambers. Earl John died in 1856, leaving no issue, and on the death of his successor Earl Bertram, shortly after his majority, the senior line of the Talbots failed, and the title and estates were claimed by the late Earl Talbot of Ingestre, who established his right to the earldom in 1858, and was in 1860 adjudged in the Court of Exchequer to be the owner of Alton and the remaining entailed estates. From motives of convenience, approach to Alton Towers is usually made from the South, when a castellated gateway will be seen at a short distance East of the Station, but by far the most striking view is obtained from the opposite quarter (or from the Station at Oakamoor, post), where, from the abundance of bare rock, and the abruptness of the tree-clad banks, the scenery is almost of mountainous character. In fact, Alton Towers stands on the southern extremity of those high lands which, commencing in Staffordshire and Derbyshire, culminate, as far as England is concerned, at the Northumberland borderland. The house is built on an elevated plateau near the valley of the Churnet, up which the Railway runs, and at the head of a subsidiary valley in which the famous flower-garden is situated. In front is a sheet of water and beyond this the stables, poor in themselves, but masked by an imposing screen wall of baronial architecture. Alton Towers is picturesque building, but there is a want of composition in it. Its towers do not combine into a whole, and thus do not produce the impression of its real extent. The grand entrance is through a lofty tower, approached by a flight of stops guarded by the family supporters, two tall rampant Talbot dogs, each holding a gilt banner, with the motto, “Prest d’accomphr.” In the days of Earl John a blind Welsh harper was seated in the vestibule to maintain the baronial illusion. Crossing beneath a narrow tower, open to the roof, the Armoury is reached. It is a long narrow gallery, and once contained a valuable collection of arms, 50 suits being ranged round the walls, with weapons of war and the chase. Under the oak roof, in the Tudor style, hang numerous banners, including that of Ireland, which is borne before the Earl, as hereditary high steward. At the end, a glazed screen formed of spears and halberts leads into a continuation called the Picture Gallery, contents of which were sold and dispersed on the death of Earl Bertram, the last Roman Catholic Lord Shrewsbury.
Beyond these two galleries is the Octagon, a spacious apartment, in imitation of the chapter-house of a cathedral. With better details it would be a fine feature, but the imitation graining of the roof is both of plaster and of a depressed and ungraceful outline. The lancet windows are filled with portraits of bishops and archbishops of the Talbot family in stained glass. To this, 4th in order of the apartments, succeeds the Talbot Gallery, decorated by Pugin; the upper part of the wall is divided into compartments filled with shields bearing the quarterings of the Talbots, and showing their descent from the Conqueror.
The Conservatory, which forms the entrance to the private apartments, branches from the Octagon to the right. The iron framework is partially Gothic in form. In addition to rare and beautiful plants, trees, and flowers, filling the air with their fragrance, through the windows a view is gained of the little recherche flower-garden of the lady of the castle, encircled by its buildings.
Next comes the Transept Gallery, so called because it runs across the suite of rooms. The corridors, panelled with black oak, once contained a museum of antiquities.
The Chapel, in the Tudor style, was one of the early rooms, but taken in hand by Pugin as far as the decoration of the altar went. The reredos, which is highly coloured and gilt, contains statues of St. Augustine, St. Thomas of Canterbury, Edward the Confessor, and St Chad, first Bishop of Lichfield. Since the accession of the present line it has been devoted to the service of the Church of England.
The Great Dining Hall, rebuilt by Pugin on the site of the previous dining-room, is a really beautiful specimen of a baronial hall in Perpendicular architecture, with open oaken roof.
The Gardens, formed out of a bare rocky glen, the sides of which are boldly planted, on which Earl John lavished his attention, are alike remarkable for their natural beauty, and the questionable taste of many of the artificial decorations. A small Gothic temple incloses a bust of Earl John, with the inscription, “He made the desert smile.”
The grounds and woodlands are very grand, while from the abundance of conifers and rhododendra they are full of verdure even in winter, and the trees, though none of them are old, have attained a satisfactory growth. On a projecting knoll of sandstone rises a tower, about 90 ft. high, a reproduction of the choragic monument of Lysicrates at Athens, which commands a view extending to the Welsh border, though, strangely enough, it is not placed on the highest point of the estate. That is occupied by a large reservoir, which abounds in fish, and also supplies the fountains with water. These are whimsical in their construction: the War fountain is so named from the numerous jets crossing each other like spears; the Screw fountain is a short pillar with deeply-grooved sides, in which the water flashes like bands of silver; and the Chinese fountain, where a jet of water streams like a flag from the gilt pinnacle of a pagoda.
The house is very seldom shown, but the gardens and grounds are open to the public on certain days in summer, and are visited by excursionists in thousands.
Across the narrow valley of the Churnet (up which the rail winds) is the village of Alton, with some slight remains of its old Castle, commanding the junction of Alton Glen with the Vale of Churnet. It was a stronghold of the De Verdons and Furnivals, ancestors of the Talbots. Close by stands the pretty Roman Catholic chapel of St. John by Pugin, but the chief feature is the pile by the same architect, half castellated, half ecclesiastical in aspect, overhanging the rock, with its lofty apsidal chapel, like some castle of Rhineland It was intended as an asylum for aged priests, but remains unfinished; by the side of it is a convent, occupied by the Sisters of Mercy. In the chapel and cloisters are monuments and brasses to the last Roman Catholic Earls of Shrewsbury; Charles (d. 1827), John (d. 1852) and his countess; and Bertram (d. 1856).
Alton Church, originally Norman, has been restored; it retains a good Early English doorway at the West end.
From Alton the line continues through the same broken and romantic valley to:
9 miles Oakamoor (Station). This is a hamlet of Cheadle, with a modern Church. Here are the works of Messrs. Bolton & Sons for making telegraph wire; there are also extensive brass and copper works. 3 miles South West is Cheadle, the road lying through a pleasantly-wooded country.
Cheadle is a small market-town. It lies at the base of a slight eminence, in the centre of a basin, surrounded by a belt of high land, which was an open moor half a century ago, but has now been brought into cultivation. A small river, the Tean brook, which drains this basin, has an excellent reputation as a trout stream. The Church, which stands on high ground, was rebuilt about 1840 in Perpendicular style; it contains some stained glass, and the chancel is ornamented by good oak carving, the production of a local workman. But by far the most noticeable object in Cheadle is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Giles, a rich Decorated Church of red sandstone by Pugin, built chiefly at the expense of John Earl of Shrewsbury in 1846. It consists of a nave with aisles, chancel chapels, and a sacristy. It has a very lofty and graceful spire, which, although the Church stands in a low situation, forms a conspicuous feature in the landscape for miles. The interior contains some beautiful stained glass, and is elaborately decorated. Notice the triptych altarpiece of gilded oak in the Lady Chapel, carved by Flemish artists, and representing the Passion; the chancel arch painted by Hauser of Rome, subject, the Last Judgment; the elaborate brass screen in front of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament; the reredos and sedilia; the great East window representing the tree of Jesse; and the West door, each leaf of which displays the lion rampant of the Talbots in brass, of large dimensions. Around the Church is a spacious enclosure, which contains a priest’s house, a guest hall, and schools. The whole is said to have cost £120,000. Cheadle is apparently in the centre of a small coalfield. There are several small collieries in the neighbourhood, but they cannot be developed for want of railway communication. In the town, and at Tean in the neighbourhood, are the tape mills of Messrs. J. & N. Philips & Co. Various old customs are observed here. The curfew rings at 8 o’clock in the winter; on the first Friday in the year is the gayboys (pronounced gawbys) fair, a reminiscence of the old hiring fairs, and the wake fair takes place in the week after St. Giles’ day (Sept 1st).
1½ mile E is Hales Hall (Mrs. Whieldon), with a noble yew avenue. The property once belonged to Sir Matthew Hale, but the present house was built by his grand-daughter. Near is Woodhead Hall (W. S. Allen, Esq.). 24 miles South, at Upper Tean, the old Hall, part timber, part brick (1615) serves as the office and residence of the manager of Philips’ tape mills; the interior is worth seeing.
12 miles Froghall (Station). This is a busy place, where the rich earthy haematite iron-ore is found in the neighbourhood and conveyed to the North Staffordshire iron-works. There is a steep tramway, 3 miles long, by which lime is brought from the quarries at Cauldon Low. 24 miles North is Ipstones, most picturesquely placed beneath Ipstones Edge, where are extensive quarries of gritstone. Belmont was built by one of the Sneyd’s, who planted 10,000 larch trees in its neighbourhood. On the West side of the line is Wetley, standing under a bold ridge of limestone, called Wetley Rocks. Wetley Abbey (Josiah Hardman, Esq.) is a large modern edifice in the Decorated style. It was the birthplace of George Mason, A.R.A., the painter, and Wetley Moor supplied the landscapes for his well-known pictures. Consall Hall (Captain H. S. Smith) stands between Wetley Rocks and the Railway and is bounded on East by the Cauldon Canal, which traverses a deep and most picturesque glen on its way to Cheddleton and Norton. Close to the Railway is Basford Hall, the modern seat of J. W. Sneyd, Esq.
16 miles Cheddleton (Station). The Churnet valley here widens considerably, and affords a good extent of rich pasture. The Church mainly Decorated but with late Perpendicular tower, was restored by Scott: it has a piscina, sedilia, and a modern font of alabaster. There is a Churchyard cross and a handsome lichgate. Ashcombe Hall (Dryden H. Sneyd, Esq.) stands in a fine deer park, on the site of Bothams, an Elizabethan house: and Westwood Manor (W. Meakin, Esq.), the old seat of the Powys family, is a modern stone edifice.
At 17 miles a branch line goes off on West to Stoke (Route 33). It follows the course of the Cauldon Canal, and has stations at Endon 3½ miles), Milton (7 miles), and Bucknall (10 miles). Endon is very prettily situated, and has a large number of good houses occupied by the thriving business men of the Pottery district; the Church has been restored. The Derbyshire custom of well-dressing has been introduced, but the festival is held on ”Restoration-day;“ it is accompanied by a Church service. Milton and Bucknall are in reality suburbs of Burslem and Hanley.
18½ miles Leek (Station) Stands on high ground, 640 ft., near the head of the valley of the Churnet, and is a busy place, where the traveller will observe his approach to the silk districts of Macclesfield in the general engagement of the population in the manufacture of sewing silk, there being upwards of 50 mills in the town and its vicinity. Leek belonged to Algar of Mercia, and was at the Conquest given to Hugh Lupus, the 1st Earl of Chester. Ralph, the 6th Earl, gave it to Dieulacresse Abbey, which he founded in the 13th century. Button-making was a trade very early; practised here, but it has been superseded by the silk trade introduced by the French Protestant refugees.
The old Church dedicated to St. Edward the Confessor, stands on high ground in the centre of the town. A former Church was burnt in 1297, and the present edifice must have been built soon after, its main features being Decorated; it is remarkable for its fine pinnacled tower, and for the richness of its fittings, including chancel screen, stalls, and painted windows. In the N. aisle is a very beautiful rose window. The chancel was rebuilt by Street, and a reredos, pulpit, and font, all of highly ornamental character, were added. There are but few monuments, but the small brass of John Ashenhurst (d. 1597) may be noticed; it represents himself, his 4 wives and 10 children, In the Church-yard is a monument to Wm. Trafford of Swithamley, d. 1697, set. 93, who in the time of the civil war refused to answer any questions, or indeed to give any answer, but “Now thus,” whereupon they set him down as an idiot, and left him. On the stone is depicted a man threshing corn, and the words “Now thus,” with the date 1697. There is also a remarkable Danish pillar, about 10 ft. high, with a carved capital and sides. The view from the Church-yard, looking North, is exceedingly fine. To the W. is the Cloud Hill (1190 ft.), behind which, for a few days in summer-time, the sun appears to set twice, reappearing on its northern side after sinking out of sight.
St. Luke's Church, on the Buxton road, is a modern edifice (1848). Decorated, with a good tower, copied from that of Brislington, Somerset (see Handbook for Somerset).
The Church of All Saints was built by Norman Shaw, R.A. in 1887. The Nicholson Institute, containing a Free Library, an Art Gallery and School of Art, was built and given to the town by the late Mr. Joshua Nicholson.
Lord Chancellor Macclesfield (b. 1666) was the son of an attorney at Leek, and the grandson of General Venables, the conqueror of Jamaica. He founded the Grammar School, and his descendant, the Earl of Macclesfield, is now lord of the manor.
Westwood Hall (J. Robinson, Esq.), a short distance from Leek, occupies the site of a picturesque gabled house of the Trentham’s, to which a ghostly legend was attached. The Lady Trentham of the time of James I. being accidentally killed in leaping a gate, was, by her un-sympathizing husband, buried in the cellar. Her ghost, resenting such usage, haunted the Hall, and when the neighbouring clergy were summoned to exorcise her, she pleaded so powerfully with them that they ordered the body to be removed to the Church, after which the spirit was seen no more.
About one mile North of the town are some remains of Dieulacresse Abbey, founded in 1214 for the Cistercians by Ralph do Blondeville, Earl of Chester. He was a renowned Crusader, and was also very liberal to the monastic orders. The Chronicle of Dieulacresse tells a wild legend, how, after death, the evil one was baffled in keeping possession of his soul, by the great white mastiffs (Molossi) of Dieulacresse and other abbeys howling to such a pitch as to disturb the very depths of hell itself. At the suppression the abbey was valued at £243 per annum. It was granted by Edward VI. to Sir Ralph Bagenal, when the whole building was pulled down, and the existing farm-house was erected, but additions have since been made, and portions of sculptured stone worked up in a gateway, with the date of 1667; detached corbels also are to be seen every here and there in the walls, and a cow house has the upper part of a handsome 14th-century window. In another place is seen an incised sepulchral slab, with a cross ragulee and a sword.
2 mile beyond Dieulacresse is the village of Meerbrook, where a small Church built circa 1562 by Sir Ralph Bagenal, the grantee, was replaced in 1870 by one in early 14th century style by R. N. Shaw, R.A. The village underlies the wild tract of the Roaches, a moor with bold and picturesque gritstone rocks, shooting up into varied aiguilles, reaching to a height of 1,670 ft. The most conspicuous features are two parallel serrated ridges (of which the least elevated, but not the least grand, overhangs the Buxton and Leek road, from which it may in a few minutes be mounted) and an isolated hill standing out like an advance-guard, called Hen-Cloud (1000 ft.). The loftier ridge is known as the Back Forest. On its remote verge towards the North East, adjacent to Swythamley and to the beautiful wooded glen of Gradbach, is to be seen one of the most wonderful sights in all this romantic region, worthy to be classed with the seven wonders of the Peak, viz. the rock crevasse of Lud Church. From the moor nothing is seen but the tops of a few scrubby trees forming an irregular line, and the entrance has to be closely looked for it will be found by following a footpath leading South under a cluster of rocks called Castle Cliffs. A flight of rough steps will be seen, descending which the tourist will find himself in a chasm bounded by perpendicular rock-walls, rich with the ferns and plants that nestle in the clefts, of a width never exceeding a few feet, and of a variable height according to the levels of the footway, but averaging 30 feet. The whole length. reckoning the turns and angles, is nearly 300 yards. A flight of steps leads out of the chasm on the South, but the chasm itself continues some distance further, and ends in a cavern, in which a subterranean stream is heard, but cannot be reached. The Gradbach glen joins at Quarnford that of the Dane, of which the opposite bank is in Cheshire.
The high road from Leek to Buxton (12 miles) passes near the South foot of the Roaches (leaving Meerbrook to the West), and thence over the very wild and rough country on the borders of Stafford and Derby.
To the East stretch the Moorlands, with the heights of Morridge rising to 1500 ft., and with the Black Meer or Blake Meer, of which Plot tells marvellous tales. A small moorland inn, the Mermaid, near this, stands midway between it and the source of the Hamps, which will be found not far from a farm called the Lumb. Further East lies Butterton Moor, above which rises Ecton Hill; to the South is the ridge of Weaver (1,154 ft.). Looking northward, the open moors of Fawfield and Heathy Lee are seen, with a few scattered farmhouses and single dwellings. To the West the Roaches occupy a considerable space, and they are succeeded by Goldsitch Moss, flanked by a tributary of the Dane, and some remains of Macclesfield Forest. Coal of poor quality is found in the district.
On the high road, at 3 miles from Leek, is Upper Hulme, where there is a large flax-mill, and where a tributary of the Churnet runs through a most picturesque glen far below the bridge.
At 7 miles is an inn which bears the name of the Royal Cottage, from the tradition that Charles I. once passed a night there. On the verge of the county is the village of Flash, with an inn, called the Travellers’ Rest, much visited from Buxton. Flash is now a neat, quiet-looking little place, with a small Church; but, like the whole surrounding district, it was formerly of evil repute, the resort of coiners, and also gave its name to the “badgers,” or hawkers, who “squatted on the waste lands and commons in the district, and were notorious for their wild, half-barbarous manners and brutal pastimes. Travelling about from fair to fair. and using a cant or slang dialect, they became generally known as Flash-men.“ Smiles. Badgers’ Croft, near Flash Bottom, preserves the remembrance of their earlier appellation. A good though steep road leads down South West from Flash to Quarnford and Gradbach, and forms the easiest access from Buxton to the wonders of Lud’ s Church. On the other side the steep byeway from Flash to Longnor (Route 34) affords fine prospects of the hills about the heads of the Dove and Manifold. For the remainder of the road to Buxton (4 miles), see Route 7.
A good hill-walk may be taken from Buxton to Leek by the following route: —Buxton over Axe Edge (1,750 ft.) to Cat and Fiddle (4 miles); passing down Dane Bower by Gradbach to Lud’s Church (3 miles); thence to Leek by Swithamley Hall (5 miles).
20½ miles Rudyard (Station). This is a hamlet, consisting only of a few farmhouses, but it is a pleasant resort, on account of the picturesque reservoir of 2 miles in length, called Rudyard Lake, and made for the purpose of supplying the Cauldon Canal. Rudyard Hall (now a farmhouse) was the residence of Sir Benjamin Rudyard, an eminent member of the Long Parliament. He was one of the most accomplished men of his time; a scholar, a poet, and a distinguished orator. Ben Jenson addressed three epigrams to him. At a short distance is Horton, where the Church has been restored. It contains some stained glass, and monuments to the Crompton, Fowler, and Wedgwood families. Part of the reservoir is in this parish, the banks are steep and well fringed with wood, and here is Cliff park hall (Rev. E. D. Booth).
23½ miles Rushton (Station). There are 3 small townships known as the Rushton. At Rushton Spencer (once a possession of the Despensers) is a small ancient Church styled the “chapel of the wilderness;” it is almost wholly of wood, and was built temp. Henry III. “The situation of this humble but highly picturesque little chapel is eminently striking, perched as it is on the summit of a stoop elevation apart from the village, and screened by noble old black firs and yew trees.” - (Sleigh’s History of Leek.) The date 1630 over the East window probably marks the time when some portions of the wooden structure were replaced by stone, but the very massive font is believed to be coeval with the original building. In the Church-yard is a gravestone with the singular inscription, “Thomas, son of Thomas and Mary Meaykin, interred July 16, 1781, aged 21 years. As a man falleth before wicked men, so fell I. Bin Bavaros.” This has reference to a tragic story of a youth who dared to make love to his master’s daughter, and was supposed to have been drugged and buried alive at Stone. His friends had his coffin opened, when the body was found on its face; they then removed it to Rushton, his native place, and erected the above memorial.
The line enters Cheshire soon after quitting Rushton, and reaches at
32 miles Macclesfield (Station). See Handbook for Cheshire.
Route 36: Stoke-on-Trent to Congleton, by Biddulph.
[North Staffordshire Railway 14 miles]
The line on leaving Stoke (Route 33) runs South for some distance; then, sweeping round to the North East, it at 2½ miles reaches Bucknall (Station), a suburb of Hanley. At 4 miles the branch to Leek is given off (Route 35), and at 5¼ miles is Ford Green (Station), where are the ironworks of the Messrs. Heath. In the immediate neighbourhood are the populous places of Norton-in-the-Moors, Brown Edge, Milton, and Smallthorne, all engaged in either the coal or the iron trade. The line ascends the valley of the infant Trent, having on the East the high ground of Norton, and on the West the smoky district of Tunstall, with the large Union House of the Parishes of Wolstanton and Burslem.
At 7¾ miles is Black Bull (Station), from which New Chapel, where Brindley is buried, is about 1½ miles West (Route 33). The ground now becomes very broken, and romantic as the Railway runs under the eastern base of the millstone-grit ridge of Mow-Cop, or Congleton Edge, which rises to a considerable height, and constitutes the boundary between Staffordshire and Cheshire.
10 miles Gillow Heath (Station). To the East are the townships of Biddulph, Biddulph Moor, Knypersley, Bradley Green, and Brindley Ford, all except the first comparatively recent places, and all seats of collieries, quarries, and ironworks. Biddulph is mentioned in Domesday, and it had a Church at a very early period; but the existing building is modern Gothic. It contains stained glass windows from Belgium, a richly carved stone altar, and an altar-tomb to the Bowyers of Knypersley, also their pew in good carved woodwork. The glass represents the Virgin and Child, the Wise Men of the East, Abraham offering Isaac, &c. In the Church-yard is a mortuary cross of Decorative date. On being removed seven incised slabs were found at its basement.
Not far from the Church is the noble seat of Biddulph Grange (Robert Heath, Esq.), formerly the residence of Mr. James. Bateman, who, some 50 years ago, created out of an old farmhouse and a swampy moor a series of the most perfect gardens in England, celebrated alike for the beauty and rarity of their contents, and for the choice and ingenious examples of landscape gardening, all rendered the more surprising from occurring in such a lofty and inhospitable region. A great feature in these gardens is the exquisite taste with which groupings of shrubs, such as Irish yews, sambas, tree-ivy, &c. have been arranged. There are also an orangery, camellia and rhododendron houses, the latter filled with some of the most splendid specimens in England, such as R. Windsori and R. Nuttaliae.
The house itself is a long irregular Italian building, and contains a very interesting geological gallery, and a model of a Roman tomb, in which is arranged a collection of cinerary urns and sarcophagi.
Among the many curiosities in the horticultural way may be mentioned the Egyptian Court, characterised by yew obelisks and pyramids; the Pinetum, devoted to pines, araucarias, and deodars; the Ravine, filled with ferns; the Arboretum. partly paved with stones brought from the Appian Way; the Wellingtonia Avenue; the Obelisk Walk, the gradients of which are so treated as to deceive the eye into the impression that what is really a path is an obelisk; the Rainbow, planted with rows of different coloured rhododendrons and azaleas; an Italian Garden, beyond which is a small sheet of water with a picturesque island; the Chinese Garden, which is approached by two mysterious paths through tunnels. At one of the entrances to which is the Glen, a romantic rocky hollow with a small lake hemmed in by masses of rocks, which are decorated by Japanese joss-houses, temples, bridges, dragons, and other Chinese monstrosities, such as; bulls and frogs, which startle the visitor by their unusual and unexpected apparition. A tiny fort mounting two cannons commands the whole place. The pyracanths, junipers, barberries, &c., in this garden are extraordinarily fine. At the eastern end is the "Stumpery," which serves for a collection of Greenland roots and trailing plants. In fact, the whole of these unequalled grounds are cultivated and ornamented in every particle—not an inch is lost or wasted, and not a single opportunity is missed of a beautiful vista, a quaint decoration, or a surprise almost verging on the sensational. Immediately in front of the house are the cherry orchard, and what is called the Dahlia Walk, a splendid vista of colour when those flowers are blooming, but which is so arranged that it may be altogether avoided when they are out of flower. The whole excites a feeling of surprise and admiration that endures long after one has emerged again from this fairy-land into the moorland and rough country of North Staffordshire.
Visitors are admitted to the grounds with the guidance of a gardener. A waiting room is provided for their accommodation. The extensive fruit and vegetable gardens are at Knypersley Hall, which lies to the South, an old seat of the Bateman family. The glasshouses are most complete, including orchard houses for forcing full-grown trees. Prior to the Batemans it belonged to the Bowyers, and before them to the Knypersley’s, in the time of Henry III. Sir John Bowyer was an active Parliamentarian, and Sir W. Dugdale records in his Diary that he removed the Bowyer achievements from Biddulph Church.
Adjoining the Grange are the ruins of Biddulph Hall, a noble specimen of Elizabethan manor-house (date 1588) built by Francis Biddulph, and destroyed in the time of his grandson, who was a devoted royalist. The siege took place in 1643, under Sir Wm. Brereton, the garrison being commanded by his nephew, Lord Brereton. But the Hall was very difficult to destroy, so they sent to Stafford for a famous cannon called “Roaring Meg,” by the help of which the siege was successful. A modern house of the same name occupies a part of the old site (Robert Bateman, Esq.).
In the parish of Biddulph, in the opening between Cloud and Woof Lowe, stood the Bridestones, now destroyed, a fine early circle of eight upright stones. Biddulph Moor, on which the Trent rises, was formerly inhabited by the “Biddlemoor men,” a fierce, hall-gipsy race, traditionally said to be descended from a Saracen, whom one of the early lords of Biddulph brought from the Holy Land, and made bailiff of this wild spot.
About 2 m. beyond Biddulph the line enters Cheshire, and reaches at
14 miles Congleton (Station). See Handbook for Cheshire.
Route 37: Stoke-on-Trent to Market Drayton, by Newcastle-under-Lyme.
[North Staffordshire Railway 17½ miles]
Leaving Stoke, the line passes the suburb of Hartshill, where are the new Church, the Roman Catholic convent, and the North Stafford Infirmary, all buildings of considerable architectural merit (Route 33).
2 miles Newcastle-under-Lyme (Station). The town stands on a hill by the Lyme brook, but retains no trace of the New Castle, built about 1180 by Ranulph, Earl of Chester, whence it had its name. This was founded in the place of a Saxon stronghold at Chesterton, two miles North, but the town itself is of earlier origin, as is shown by the Norman West door of the Church. Newcastle received a charter from Henry III in 1235, and was possessed by Simon de Montfort, John of Gaunt, and other historic characters, but is not known as the scene of any important event. The waste lands around were inclosed in 1816, and a part of them has been laid out in public walks; other improvements have since been effected, but still the appearance of the place is quaint and old fashioned, without possessing any object of striking interest. The tower of the Church is lofty and well-proportioned, Norman in the lower part and Decorated above. The body of the Church, which was rebuilt in 1720, has been replaced by a structure more in agreement with the tower. The Educational Endowments are important, and include a High School and a Middle School for boys, and a High School for girls.
Newcastle was once a place of great business in hat-making, but it is now more occupied with brewing and paper-making; there are also ironworks and collieries in the neighbourhood. It was the birthplace of Sir Ralph Bagenal, a courtier and soldier of the time of Henry VIII and the three succeeding reigns. Of him it is recorded that he alone, of all the Parliament, refused to be reconciled to Rome by Cardinal Pole, saying that he was sworn to the contrary to his old master. Harrison the regicide was also a native of the town, and Serjeant Bradshaw was its recorder. New Municipal Buildings, erected in 1890, in the Flemish style, provide an Assembly Hall and accommodation for the Free Library and School of Art.
5 miles Silverdale (Station), a colliery village, with a handsome modern Church with tower and spire. The geologist will find it to his account to examine the shale-heaps from the pits at Silverdale, which have yielded an extraordinary number of coal fishes. They have been figured by Sir Philip Egerton. There are also very extensive ironworks. From Silverdale a branch line goes off on North to Harecastle (Route. 33).
6¼ miles Keele (Station). Here also is a handsome modern Church, in Decorated style, which has replaced the old structure. Keele Hall (R. Sneyd, Esq.) has been the seat of the family of Sneyd from the time of Edward III. The picturesque gabled structure, built by Ralph Sneyd in the 16th century, having fallen into decay, his namesake re-erected it from Mr. Salvin’s designs (1855). The new house, of red sandstone like the older one, follows its general features, but is much enlarged and enriched, and is one of the most successful of modern-antique mansions, while it is full of costly works of art. The gardens and grounds are very beautiful, command fine views, and have been much improved by the present proprietor. The hemlock spruce flourishes, and there is an avenue of deodars; but the chief lion is a clipped holly-hedge, 100 years old, measuring 612 ft. in length, 23 in height, and 24 thick at the base, and tapering upwards. There are other notable holly-hedges, but none so large.
9 miles Madeley Road (Station). For the village of Madeley, which lies one mile North (Route 27).
At 11 miles the line passes into Shropshire.
11½ miles Pipe Gate (Station).
14¼ miles Norton-in-Hales (Station).
17½ miles Market Drayton (Station) See Handbook for Shropshire.