Biddulph In Earlier Times
Biddulph, Staffordshire Official Guide - Late 1960's
Biddulph Urban District Council
The rectangular earthwork on the hill called the Cloud, to the north of Biddulph, is believed to date from about 1,500 B.C. In the vicinity may also be seen a ruined stone burial chamber of about the same early period, known now as the Bridestones. These and other prehistoric remains around Biddulph indicate that this part of England was inhabited as far back at least as the Bronze Age.
Nearly two thousand years ago the Romans constructed their many roads throughout England. One of these ran from Derby through Buxton to Manchester and Carlisle, whilst another one, also from Derby, linked the Cheshire salt towns to the Mersey. This latter road passed through Stoke-on-Trent and a branch road has been traced from Buxton to Leek which probably continued on past Biddulph to Stoke.
A road at Biddulph called Moody Street is thought to be of Roman origin. Pottery and other Roman relics have been found near it and excavations are now being undertaken there.
After the withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain the country was invaded from the Continent and Scandinavia. Numerous local place names are of Danish or Saxon derivation, indicating that these invaders subsequently settled permanently in and around Biddulph.
This is supported by various documentary references in Saxon and other early records. One such reference shows that by the 10th century there must have been a well established community at Biddulph as it had its own church which was destroyed by the Danes in the year 999.
In Medieval Days
The original place name seems to suggest both Roman and Saxon associations, for it was Wulfracester. After the Norman Conquest the manor of Biddulph was granted to one, William, by Robert the Forester who was the overlord of what was then the extensive forested area of Lyme.
Ormis, a later lord of the manor, joined one of the Crusades to the Holy Land. There is a tradition that he brought back Saracen prisoners who were settled on Biddulph Moor.
It is noteworthy that the older families living there now have the physical characteristic of very dark complexions. An alternative tradition is that, in the late 17th century, Colonel Biddulph returned from India accompanied by a large number of native servants who were settled on Biddulph Moor.
Biddulph Grange was a possession of the Cistercian monks of Abbey Hulton until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.
The Biddulphs were a staunch Catholic family. When the 17th-century civil war broke out between Charles I and his Parliament, John Biddulph fought bravely under the Royal Standard and was killed at the battle of Hopton Heath. His son, Francis, entrusted the defence of Biddulph Hall to Lord Brereton and joined the King's army, being taken prisoner at the fall of the city of Chester.
Lord Brereton was besieged at the Hall by the Parliamentarians under his uncle, Sir William Brereton. At first he held out; but when heavy artillery was brought up from Stafford he was forced to surrender the mansion in 1644. It was then demolished by the Parliamentarians to prevent it being re-garrisoned.
Francis Biddulph was released from imprisonment and came back to live at Rushton, one of the family possessions just outside the present Urban District. He engaged an Italian governess for his children who became known as "Singing Kate" because of her beautiful voice.
It is said that the devastating outbreak of the plague in this part of Staffordshire in 1647 was due to her as a carrier. When his household contracted it, Francis Biddulph rode through the night to find a doctor, spreading the plague wherever he stopped. The Biddulph victims of the outbreak were buried in pits near Rushton Grange which are still referred to as "Singing Kate's Hole".
During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 the Young Pretender's army marched from Congleton to Leek, passing up Dial Lane to Rushton. Drummers Knob, at Cloud End, commemorates the drummer who was shot and killed at this spot.
After the meetings on Mow Cop which resulted in the establishment of Primitive Methodism in 1807, Biddulph bacame a strong Nonconformist centre. In the early days of Methodism John Wesley visited Biddulph on various occasions when he stayed at The Hurst with the Gibson family.
It is of interest that two descendants of the Biddulphs became well known. One was John Biddle, remembered as the Father of English Unitarianism, and the other was General Biddle, a commander of the United States forces during the 1939-45 war.
The Urban District
The present Urban District includes the original township of Biddulph and the village of Knypersley, also Bradley Green, Gillow Heath, Biddulph Moor, Lask Edge, Brown Lees, Biddulph Park, Overton and various smaller hamlets.
Whilst an elevation of 977 feet is attained in the south-west of the Urban District and the village of Biddulph Moor rises to just over 1,000 feet, the maximum elevation within the Urban District is on its north-east border at 1,102 feet above sea level.
In spite of its long history Biddulph is largely a 19th century town; but with its few older buildings and even older street and place names, it still retains memories of earlier days.
An overall scheme for the complete redevelopment of the town centre is now in course of preparation by the Urban District Council in conjunction with the Staffordshire County Council as the local planning authority.
One of the principal features of this scheme when carried out will be the pedestrianisation of High Street in modern planning concept. The first stage will be the creation of a shopping area on a site opposite the new Town Hall which will entail the demolition of the old existing Public Hall and the adjoining premises.
Biddulph Old Hall
The most stirring part of the history of Biddulph is associated with the ruins of the manorial mansion builtby John Biddulph in 1558 with stone quarried on his own estate. This Elizabethan family seat originally had seven towers of which only one now stands.
After the great cannon called Roaring Meg was brought up against Biddulph Hall and the garrison surrendered, it was largely destroyed by the Parliamentarians to prevent further occupation. The building became even more ruinous after the local inhabitants, for their own building purposes, pillaged the masonry, ironwork and other useful materials.
Originally a monastic possession, this estate was acquired by James Bateman in the 19th century. He surrounded the house with magnificent gardens and grounds converted from the swampy moorland, the most notable features being the Chinese and Egyptian gardens, the Wellingtonia avenue, the yew topiary, box avenue and the picturesque ravine.
This mansion is now an orthopaedic hospital and much of the beauty around it has been preserved.
The Parish Church
Dedicated to St. Lawrence, and possibly occupying the site of the original Saxon church destroyed by the Danes, the present church has been much restored and altered but still retains interesting medieval work. Its oldest possession is the late Norman font with a circular bowl and ornamentation of interlaced arches.
Also noteworthy are the old sculptured sandstone altar rails and the ancient Flemish glass still preserved in one of the church windows.
There is a memorial brass to William Bowyer (1602) of Knypersley, his wife and their fifteen children, and the table tomb of William Bowyer (1640) another member of the same family. The handsome marble monument of Christ and two angels is to William and Mary Heath.
Outside around this church may be seen a fine collection of medieval stone coffin lids engraved with swords, battle-axes and crosses in a style which indicates the Crusader period.
Situated in the south of the Urban District at well over 600 feet above sea-level, Knypersley is a place of ancient origin. Knypersley Hall is said to have been first built in the 12th century during the reign of Henry II when the Bowyer family were given the lordship of this manor. Later Knypersley Hall became the seat of the Gresleys.
At Gawton's Well, about a mile south-east of the village, may be seen some large stones, formerly thought to be a cromlech, or early burial place, similar to the Bridestones near the Cloud; but in fact this formation is now considered to be natural, the large stone having fallen down the hillside on to the others.
This impressive stretch of Pennine moorland extends northwards from Brown Edge, across the Urban District to the Cloud, rising to 1,044 feet at Lask Edge, attaining its maximum elevation of 1,102 feet midway between Spring House and Halfway House, and then descending to 925 feet at the Bridestones cromlech on the county border.
This moorland commands fine views eastwards over Rudyard reservoir, which is 2½ miles long, and beyond to the Peak District. Although Rudyard Kipling was born in India, his parents named him after this lovely lake for it was here that Lockwood Kipling proposed to Alice Macdonald.
The Cheshire Border
The parallel moorland which extends along the western boundary of the Urban District from Gillow Heath to Mow Cop, has well wooded slopes down to the vast Cheshire Plain.
It rises to 977 feet within the Urban District and attains 1,091 feet at Mow Cop where six acres of the summit with the 18th-century mock castle are now preserved by the National Trust as well as the rock adjoining the Biddulph Urban District which is known as the Old Man of Mow.
There are splendid views from Mow Cop across Cheshire to the Welsh Mountains.
Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this guide, and the statements contained herein are believed to be correct, the publishers and the promoters of this publication will not hold themselves responsable for any inaccuracies.
Biddulph - Staffordshire Official Guide 1960's (P28 - 33) - Published by Home Publishing (Northern) Ltd
Biddulph Urban District Council