On the way toward Macclesfield, northeast from Congleton, you’ll find quite a smattering of wonderful architectural marvels in Adlington, Gawsworth, and Capesthorne Halls with medieval origins. Driving further north there is Macclesfield Castle itself, which is completely in ruins but Grade I listed and just a little further north on the Cheshire/Manchester border is the sublime Lyme Hall !
Macclesfield itself which had fortifications and a castle plus a few museums to take in when you get there. This northernmost corner of the county borders the ever burgeoning Greater Manchester which has claimed a bit of Cheshire’s former territory. Today, much of the fortifications, probably started by 1100, were ramparts and three principal gates: Jordangate, Chestergate and Wall (or Wellgate) which are now completely missing. Equally missing is Macclesfield Castle which stood very near where the ancient well (or Wellgate) is indicated today, made of sandstone of square proportions with projecting wings. It was built by commoner John de Macclesfield between 1392-1398 as a manor house. A year later this officer of the court of Richard II, whose official title was Keeper of the Great Wardrobe, applied for a license to crenellate but by then the king had died and he found no favor with Richard’s successor, Henry IV. Nevertheless, he was finally granted his license by 1410 and by 1444 the lands were bought by Humphrey Stafford, the 1st Duke of Buckingham and it came to be known as Buckingham Castle and Buckingham Palace, by turns, after he made additions. Henry VII visited this castle after the Earl of Derby came into possession late in the 15th century. A hundred years later it fell into decay but parts of the castle were still being used during the period between 1793 and 1811 by a Roman Catholic congregation. By 1932 the porch and parts of the curtain wall that remained were completely dismantled and the dressed stone was reused to build cottages and shops in the city. Excavations were carried out in 1985 after some of the remaining stones were uncovered by accident. This is a sad end for a castle which once featured a vaulted interior in unusual Tudor rose, dating back to Henry VII. In my photo album I have included a photo of the town with St Michael’s cathedral in the back ground.
Before you leave Macclesfield be sure to check out the silk museums on Roe Street. This award-winning program features exhibitions, models and costumes. Tours include seeing jacquard silk looms, demonstrations of weaving with expert guides showing life in the 1930s in Macclesfield. T-01625 613210
Five miles north, in Macclesfield Forest, Adlington Hall is quite a dichotomy in architecture. It isn’t eclectic. It’s rather dissociative, to be more precise, in psychological terms. Over six hundred years of continuous building, alterations, and demolitions have produced something of a curiosity. It’s a great place to show off the differentiation in English architecture, though.
The four faces of Adlington are basically in the Elizabethan East Wing, the 18th century Georgian South Front- which is the private residence of today-, Tudor brick and even Restoration. No two facades could possibly be more different than the east and south wings! Facing adjacent to each other helps to soften the impressions but nothing will prepare you for the shock of these wings being connected in any way.
The true beginnings of this complex of buildings are with the Cheshire black and white timber Tudor east wing although only a portion was originally a hunting lodge built in the year 1040 by the Saxon, Earl Edwin. He bequeathed Edulvintone (as it was once called) to Hugh Lupus. Very little of that original lodge remains. The moat is also gone.
The 2,000 acres of the estate became home to the Legh family in 1315 and has been in the family, one way or another, ever since. Today it is a four-sided courtyard with a 15th century Great Hall with wings built in the late 16th century. The north front which is the back of the hall was refaced in brick and refenestrated after the Restoration and shows off its gables.
The earliest part of the house is the Great Hall on the north where all visitors enter. This was the work of Thomas Legh, the seventh heir, built between 1480 and 1505 in timber with a sandstone base, sand stone roof slate and red-brick chimneystacks. Its southern wall was refaced in brick and stone and plastered and the hammerbeam roof was finished by 1480. A marvelous organ on the east side is supported between two oak trees, still rooted in the ground and is all that remains of Earl Edwin’s hunting lodge. The Bernard Smith (ne’e Schmidt) organ was built in the 17th century, late, with a pre-Cromwellian console. Adlington Hall’s greatest and most famous story is Handel’s visit and subsequent playing of this organ in 1741 and again in 1751 ! Handel and Schmidt hailed from Halle in Germany so the association with the Legh family is two-fold. The true enthusiast for such music in the family, however, was Elizabeth Legh, the daughter of John and Isabella Legh. She was a great harpsichord player and an admirer of Handel. Unfortunately, she had already passed on at the young age of forty several years before Handel’s visit to Adlington. The west wall is canopied and contains no less than 60 panels of Cheshire heraldry. Incredible murals cover the walls on all sides of the Hall. The porch, pictured above, was built by Thomas Legh’s grandson, also a Thomas, in 1581 and may have also added the entire east range.
Inexplicably, Charles Legh, who was the sixteenth successor to the estate, tore down the south range in 1754 and built the current Georgian south front with a heightened classical portico. He also constructed the stable block and laid out gardens including a shell cottage, Chinese-style bridge and T’ing House with the actual work being carried out by the ever illustrious Capability Brown. He added a west wing which was modern for the time with a Carolean staircase, formal dining, drawing room and ballroom along with a suite of rooms along the northwest corner. All this work was completed by 1757, but in 1928 a large part of this west side was demolished taking out the ballroom and other rooms. Two projecting bays which were originally attached to the new South Georgian wing were pulled down. A large brick barn which forms the present Hunting Lodge was added in 1817. It is now used as a venue for weddings, events and as a conference hall.
T- 01625 829206 Guided tours by arrangement except in July.
South of Macclesfield Gawsworth Hall is another Cheshire black and white Tudor which has survived mostly because of the amount of restoration it has undergone. The detailing in the overhead bays in this three-winged courtyard manor is extraordinary, visually. This is no ordinary Tudor house and it’s apparent why the Richards family acquired it in 1962!
The Fitton family were as unique in history as their ancestral home appears. Full of scandals, duels, heavy players in the War of the Roses and court intrigue, these tenants to the Stanhope fortune gave history a run for its money. It’s fitting that the billiard room features a reclining statue of Echo and the extensive tilting (jousting) track was made into pleasure gardens. Ah, peace at last !
A Norman beginning was rebuilt in 1480 and extensive remodeling followed in 1701 coinciding with the death of the 3rd Earl of Macclesfield. The basic courtyard layout is reminiscent of Little Moreton Hall in Congleton, but here it’s much more open with a three-storey, jettied bay on the far wing with the original window frames. Inside, an original Great Hall, which appears to be reduced, remains as the Green Drawing Room. There is a library furnished with Pugin bookcases, the staircase chandelier is Waterford crystal ( last-minute save apparently!) and a small chapel which was rebuilt in 1701 but has existed here since 1365. Here, the Richards family built an additional ambulatory in which they installed William Morris windows along with other furnishings taken from a church in Ipswich. Upstairs, again, is the Green Drawing Room along with bedrooms and priest’s holes in Tudor-style throughout with the exception of a 50s style modern bathroom, which is surprisingly listed for preservation as well !
Only five miles west, at Siddington, Capesthorne Hall has been the Bromley-Davenport ancestral home since the Norman conquest when the responsibility of Master Sergeant was appointed them to essentially keep law and order for the forests of Leek and Macclesfield. Many generations of this family have served at Parliament with the Bromley side as both Chancellor and house Speaker. Eight generations have lead up to the current squire of Capesthorne, Lord Lieutenant William Arthur Bromley-Davenport and his wife, Elizabeth Watts, an American artist.
The current hall is the work of Salvin remodeled by him after 1861 when the first Tudor Revival hall was gutted by fire which destroyed the entire central portion leaving only the two wings remaining. Originally designed by the Smiths of Warwick in the first half of the 18th century, it was altered by Blore in 1837 in neo-Jacobean. Salvin’s salvation of the mansion was in turning the original three-stories into two but raised the heights of the rooms giving the main interior of the house a more spacious and grand look. Only the beautiful Georgian chapel, also built in 1719, survives as original and services are still held there. When touring through the rooms, it is difficult to believe the house was once used as a Red Cross Hospital during WWII and the cellars were used as a bomb shelter.
Lenette, William Arthur’s mother, is partly responsible for the interior decoration which is full of color and an amazing amount of fine art. Elizabeth, the current lady of the house has also contributed immeasurably in acquisition of fabric and furniture. The entrance hall is a vivid yellow with a large chimney sporting Flemish figures taken from the chapel and Victorian Willement glass along with portraits. Salvin’s interior flair along with the Bromley-Davenport paintbrush fills the house along with an extensive collection of portraiture and sculpture. Upstairs, the American Room commemorates Lenette’s Pennsylvania background with a more rustic and simple look compared to the décor elsewhere in the house. The entrance hall contains historical paintings, marble sculptures, English, French and Dutch antique furniture and 16th century stained glass windows. There is a room dedicated to sculpture which sits between the saloon, which is filled with the family portraits, bronzes and ebony furniture and the Queen Anne Room which is dominated by a large fireplace with heraldic mantelpiece surrounded by paintings, marble pieces and porcelain figurines. Salvin’s staircase leads to first floor exhibition rooms which give the visitor more family history in the Royal Bedroom, Bow Room, Child’s Room, the aforementioned American Room, Dorothy Davenport Room and Box Room. Some family legal documents dating from 1153 can be viewed as well !
Today it is rented out as a conference, wedding and events venue as well. Capesthorne Pavilion was added this year which can easily seat 450 along with a brand new lakeside evening area. Vintage car shows are regular events every summer, at the end of each month, one of which featured classic American models in 2005.
Near the chapel, 18th century Milanese gates open to fine gardens and three lakes which occupy over 100 acres including herbaceous borders and an array of perennials. In late summer, a variety of rare rose varieties are in bloom, rhododendron woods and woodland walks lead to an arboretum, an ancient ice house, Old Boat House and the curious Swallow Hole.
Special tours through the Hall manager Christine Mountney
Christmas at Capesthorne 2009 Craft Show from November 27–29th
Lyme Hall gateway
The land that Lyme Hall occupies south of Disley, near Stockport, is part of a medieval deer park in the Peak District National Park. It is seated in lake-surrounded formal gardens directly on the border of Cheshire and Manchester and has the honor of being the largest house in Cheshire with a Grade 1 listing but its appearance as Palladian from the approach doesn’t give you the full appreciation you will have upon closer examination. Its beginnings are almost unlikely.
Considered the noblest house in the northwest, it was originally built as a hunting lodge for Sir Thomas Danyers in 1346 for saving the Black Prince (Edward III) at the battle of Crecy in France. It may have been built onto in 1465 as the first records of a house being built on the premises bear that date. Through marriage it passed into the hands of the Leghs in 1388 and remained in their possession until it was granted to the National Trust in 1946. This prodigy of architectural heritage is seated 4 miles west of Whaley Bridge and looks splendid in its parkland environment. It took the unlikeliest architects to get to its sublime appearance but that is often how such magnificence is achieved.
It was started in Elizabethan with Sir Piers Legh VII, in the middle of the 16th century by an unknown designer. It had an L-shape plan with east and north ranges and small additions were made during the 17th century. In 1720 an architect from Venice, Giacomo Leoni, added a south range turning it into a courtyard and retaining some of the Elizabethan features but mixed Palladian and English Baroque to stunning effect. Deterioration had occurred before Wyatt was commissioned by Thomas Legh to do restoration during the period 1816-1822. Much of his work concentrated on the interior, of course, but he did add a hamper tower which was for servants and a one-storey block to the east wing with a dining room.
A large part of the late 19th century work involved grounds structures, such as gardens and landscaping initiated by the 1st and 2nd Barons Newton. Richard Legh, the 3rd Baron, inherited the estate in 1942 but sold it quickly. The 15 acres of park and gardens contain a mill pond, a stone bridge called Killtime, a sunken Dutch Garden (by William Legh), and an orangery with flower gardens. The deer park is a conservation area which protects rare and original breeds and 17th century trees. Wyatt added a conservatory years before.
To tour Lyme Hall is serious architectural study. A prodigious mix of Palladian with English Baroque was applied to the exterior and the original Elizabethan dominates some of the interior. One interior ceiling is Rococo, in the Saloon, which also contains wood carvings attributed to Grinling Gibbons imported from the dining room and placed expertly by Wyatt. Lyme’s interiors span four centuries, with early 17th century Mortlake tapestries (added a century ago!) in the entrance hall along with portraits of Edward III and a unique collection of English clocks. The drawing room features exquisite strapwork, a renaissance fireplace with the coat of arms of Elizabeth I and medieval stained glass. The Long Gallery has a Jacobean ceiling and portraits from the National Portrait Gallery. Everywhere you look your eyes will be filled with Corinthian pilasters, Doric and Ionic columns, bays and pediments featuring Minerva, Neptune, Venus and Pan. Every type of window is displayed in the rusticated courtyard entrance which features an Italian renaissance well (in simulated marble) in the center. It is better to see than to describe the beautiful doorway.
View of The Cage from Lyme Hall
The approach is a long drive into a deep ravine which was enclosed in the 14th century but never really landscaped. It wasn’t necessary. The façade you will see from the drive is the Elizabethan frontispiece of 1570, built by the unknown architect, of course, a nine-bay, three-storey facade which has a single storey extension protruding from the middle. Oddly, the latter was Wyatt’s work. Some odder features of Lyme Park are the gateway and a tower called The Cage which sits far afield of the hall. Legend says that a secret passage leads from the Knight’s Room to The Cage built especially for the 2nd Lord Newton’s mother-in-law who was convinced that the house was overrun with burglars. Both appear to be asides but worth taking a look, even though they seem to be irrelevant. If Lyme Hall seems somewhat familiar to you it’s possible that you have seen it before. It was used as Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s seat in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
T- 01663 762023
from The Castle Lady (non-prepossessing but immodest kisses) ! hee hee