The architectural highlights of Cheshire

The county of Cheshire is famed for its rich landscape of breathtaking countryside and the noble halls and country homes that overlook them. From lordly estates styled as castles, to sleepy manors tucked away in woodlands, you’ll find many incredible edifices given listed status in throughout its lands.

However, there are plenty of surprises still in store for architecture lovers in Cheshire, from great copper-clad clocks mounted where Roman fortresses once defended a city, to towering telescopes that scan the stars. In the following passages, we’ll explore some of the unique structures that stand across the county just waiting for you to discover them.

Gawsworth Old Hall

Built in the black and white tradition synonymous with Cheshire architecture, this timber-framed country house nestles close to the village of Gawsworth and is Grade I listed. The house that stands today was constructed between the years 1480 and 1600 in place of the earlier Norman building. Designed most likely as a courtyard house that enclosed a quadrangle, much of original building has since been demolished, leaving the well-known U-shape of the present hall.

The hall is renowned for its rich history and famous past residents such as Mary Fitton, believed to have been referred to in Shakespeare’s sonnets, and playwright Samuel “Maggoty” Johnson, whose grave lies nearby in Maggoty Wood. Many tales are attributed to the hall, like the duel of 1712, fought over ownership of the estate that resulted in the death of both combatants.

Gawsworth Old Hall resides in picturesque parkland and gardens that were once used for jousting and to host a pleasure garden during the Elizabethan era. The old hall itself is roofed with locally sourced Kerridge sandstone that sits atop two storeys of brick. The main entrance to the great building can be found in the northern facade and leads directly into the main hall.

The Eastgate Clock

Widely believed to be the most photographed clock in the United Kingdom after London’s Big Ben, the Eastgate Clock in Chester is a renowned landmark for the city. Eastgate stands on the site that was once the entrance to Deva Victrix, the historic Roman fortress. While the ancient gate was once protected by a timber watch post in Roman times, by the 2nd Century it was guarded by a stone tower. The gateway that stands today is crafted from red sandstone and dates back to 1768, with the walkway that tops it connected to the circuit of Chester’s city walls.

A clock was added at the apex of the gateway in the year 1899 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Designed by one of the city’s architects, John Douglas, the clock features four facets and is supported by iron pylons in an openwork style. By 1955, the entire structure, including both clock and gateway, was designated a Grade I listed building.

Standout features of Eastgate are its wide centrally placed arch with rusticated jambs and a keystone presenting the county palatine coat of arms – a sword with three sheaves.

Jodrell Bank Observatory

The Jodrell Bank Observatory is situated near Holmes Chapel and is home to several radio telescopes and an integral part of the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. Once described by architect Roger Stephenson as “an important landmark you can see from all over Cheshire” and “a beacon to the rest of the universe” the observatory was first established in 1945 by radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell.

An iconic structure of the Cheshire landscape, the observatory is a complex and impressive example of British architecture. Officially a UNESCO World Heritage site as of this year, the structure’s gigantic Lovell Telescope is one of the top three largest radio telescopes that are steerable, measuring 76 metres in diameter and standing 89 metres tall.

Built over three fields in Cheshire purchased by Manchester University, the monumental radio telescope comprises a bowl of more than 7,000 individual steel plates and a mast mounted receiver surrounded by a steel space frame that rests on two towers supported by legs at both front and rear. Although renovated several times in its lifetime, the incredible design and engineering skills of those who constructed it have ensured it was built to last, with a radio telescope more powerful than ever still working at the forefront of its field.

Peckforton Castle

Designed in stunning Gothic style by architect Anthony Salvin, Peckforton Castle rises from the woods at the northern end of the Peckforton Hills, surrounded by a dry moat. The Grade I listed structure is Victorian era country house that was crafted to resemble a medieval castle in the mid-1800s. Built for affluent Cheshire landowner and member of Parliament John Tollemache as a family home, it was used in World War II as a shelter for handicapped children.

The castle was leased from 1969 through to 1980 to an American government employee George W. Barrett, who restored the tower, right wing and castle gardens. The first wedding to be held in the country home’s chapel was his daughter Pascale’s. Today, the castle belongs to the Naylor family, and has been repurposed as a hotel and event space for conferences and weddings.

Three storeys tall with a circular tower five storeys high, the red sandstone edifice is afforded incredible views of the verdant landscape that surrounds it. There are many structures to see in the castle complex, including the octagonal library tower, rectangular bell tower, and coach house. The arrow slotted castles walls feature a gatehouse complete with crenelated roofing.

While a sense of preserving history and nods to the past can be found in many of these beautiful buildings, Cheshire has always been able to look to the future too. Nothing symbolises this more clearly than the great radio telescope at Jodrell Bank that observes galaxies far beyond ours, constantly watching quasars and pulsars 352 days a year.

Next time you’re fortunate enough to travel through this northern county, make sure you take the time to visit some of these impressive achievements standing still today.

Posted by Mark
October 31, 2019

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