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Mow Cop Castle

Mow Cop castle

This prominent hill-top has been of spiritual and practical significance to man for thousands of years.
The Castle, surrounding land and the Old Man rock pillar were given to the National Trust in 1926 by Joseph Lovatt.
The ground around the Old Man was bought in 1968.

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View of Mow Cop, Cheshire - Pastel by John Dodridge
John Dodridge
This view of Mow Cop in pastel was kindly provided by John Dodridge,
a local artist. For prints telephone 01270 878750
or see the directory at www.congleton.biz

The castle was built in 1754 by local stone masons John and Ralph Harding, for Randle Wilbraham of Rode Hall. The ruined curtain wall was never more than a picturesque folly to add effect to the eastern skyline as seen from Rode Hall 3 miles away. The tower was a summerhouse, originally two storeys high with a cone shaped roof which could be used as a beacon.

"I can remember when the floor was there, the windows in and glassed,
when the door was locked by an inside lock and key...."

" We were accustomed to boil our kettle and have tea in it (tower) on calm days..."

It was built exactly on the county boundary and used by two families, the Wilbrahams and the Sneyd family of Keele who owned the Staffordshire side. The idea of the structure possibly perpetuated the custom of building a tower as part of the ancient celebrations held at Lammastide (1st August). These festivities became formalised as Mow Wake, an event which survived to the 19th century. Quarrying of the hard-wearing rock known as millstone grit probably began on Mow Cop during the iron age. The first product was querns, the hand mills used for grinding corn. By early medieval times these were replaced by flat circular millstones. Below the tower on the eastern side may still be seen a half-hewn millstone. The stone was also used for buildings, sinks, troughs and othe domestic or agricultural items. This outcrop of rock is the western limit of the folded Carboniferous rocks which form the Pennine chain. On the eastern side of the summit coal was mined, and limestone was quarried on the western slope. Further west are the low-lying softer rocks of the Cheshire Plain. The OLD MAN OF MOW stands as a rock pinnacle isolated by quarrying. Its top is the highest piece of solid ground on the hill, 356 metres (1170 ft) above sea level.

Local historians suggest that it marks the original position of a cairn, which may have been a burial chamber of the type seen 6 miles to the north at Bridestones. This would have contributed to the spiritual significance of the hill-top and might explain why the quarrymen left it.


Methodist crowd scene

An open air meeting was held here on 31 May 1807, organised by Hugh Bourne and William Clowes and attended by several thousand.

That is traditionally regarded as a turning point which led to the expulsion of those nicknamed "The Ranters" from the ranks of the orthodox (Wesleyan) Methodists. Seeking a return to a simpler form of worship, one group established a separate "Primitive Methodist" movement. The event is commemorated on a simple stone standing near the path to the Castle and by hymns sung at subsequent anniversary camp meetings.

"Sing glory! hallelujah!. . .The little cloud's increasing.
The Lord is with us still; . .That arose upon Mow Hill."

This information was adapted from a notice on the site installed by the NATIONAL TRUST
The Camp Meeting is also described by Arthur Wilkes and Joseph Lovatt in their book
'Mow Cop and the Camp Meeting Movement : Sketches of Primitive Methodism'. Here is a brief extract

WALKING FROM MOW COP a footpath leads northwards following the Millstone Grit ridge.
It ascends to the summit of THE CLOUD which is also owned by the National Trust. The trail descends to the Dane valley near Rushton to make a total distance of 9 miles.

Further Information

There is an excellent site dedicated to Mow Cop at www.mowcop.com

Last Update: 4 Jan 02

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