Although it looks ancient, Mow Cop castle is actually a folly or sham castle built as recently as 1754 by Randle Wilbraham of nearby Rode Hall. Built to look like a ruined medieval fortress it was in fact a summer house to be used for picnics and as an eye catcher from the recently built Rode Hall. Perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking Mow Cop Village the folly was built by local stonemasons John and Ralph Harding who were paid one shilling a day for their efforts.
While the addition of Mow Cop Castle to the landscape is a fairly recent occurrence the hill itself has a much more ancient history. It is generally believed to have once been a hill fort and later used by the Romans a beacon post – although there is little evidence to support this claim as extensive stone mining has just about removed any archaeological evidence that once may have existed. However, the area surrounding the folly has always been renowned for the quarrying of querns – high-quality millstones used in water mills. Excavations have found querns that date back to the Iron Age.
Over the centuries the castle became involved in several land ownership disputes. In 1923 the site was bought for industrial quarrying by Mr. Joe Lovatt much to the dismay of local residents. It quickly became the focus of an anti-quarrying movement that culminated in a demonstration of civil disobedience by local residents who vandalised the stone works. The dispute was finally settled when the land was taken over by the National Trust in 1937.
In the same year it was also the gathering point for 10,000 Methodists who came together on the hill to commemorate the first Primitive Methodist Camp Meeting which had taken place there in 1807 – eighty years earlier.
To celebrate the turn of the millennium a large fire was lit close to the folly as part of a nationwide chain of beacons. The monument was extensively restored in 1999 and again in 2002. The work is believed to have been carried out by the Cheshire Masonry Company.
People are allowed to visit the folly which can be accessed from a car park at the base of the hill. Please note that some areas have now been fenced for safety reasons.
Old Man Mow
The Old Man ‘o Mow is a large nearby rock formation that looks like a man’s face. Legend tells that a giant fell asleep on the hill one night and was still asleep when the sun rose which turned him to stone. Over the centuries the earth has covered his body so that today you can only see his head.
Mow Cop and its folly are central images in Alan Garner’s novel, Red Shift which deals with emotional love and distress across the millennia.
Ghost in the Window
Over the past decade several visitors to the castle have claimed to have seen the figure of an old man standing at the window inside the castle even though it has been sealed off with an iron gate and anti-climbing devices. As the walker nears the castle the figure moves away from the window and has vanished by the time the person can look through the bars of the gate. Visitors have also reported seeing a ghostly dog-like creature walking around the folly at night.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
A53 (Rd), Blackshaw Grange, Blackshaw Moor, Leek
Staffordshire, England, ST13 8TL
+44 (0)1538 300 285
- Address: High Street, Mow Cop, Staffordshire, England, UK – ST7 3PA
- GPS: 53.11303889,-2.214327778
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: ST7 3PA
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: None
- Visibility from Road: Very Good
- Image Credits: Header Image: Ben Bruce