Peckforton Castle stands opposite Beeston Castle on a tree-covered rocky outcrop in the Peckforton Hills in the west of Cheshire. From a distance the two castles appear to be from the same period, but Beeston is a genuine medieval castle, Peckforton was built in the 1840s.
It was the dream of John Tollemache to build a faithful recreation of a medieval castle. In the late 18th century there had been a fashion for what were regarded as 'sham' medieval castles. They were criticised for not being true to the design and concept of the originals. Examples include Cholmondeley Castle and Bolesworth Castle. Tollemache intended Peckforton Castle to be as authentic as possible.
Construction began in 1841 under architect George Latham but he was dismissed in favour of Anthony Salvin who had already established a good reputation in the restoration and extension of genuine medieval buildings. Peckforton Castle was completed in 1849.
The building is arranged around an oval-shaped courtyard. It is laid out on two axes at 45 degrees to each other, which lends the castle a look of authenticity, and gives an unusual layout to rooms and corridors.
The Great Hall looks to me virtually the same as a medieval building, with its high vaulted roof, traceried windows, and an impressive hooded fireplace. It was in the Great Hall that the wedding ceremony we attended took place.
Adjacent to the Great Hall is the long, narrow Gallery, which was used after the wedding ceremony as a communal area . Leading off from that, is the triangular billiard room, now used as a bar area, and the Drawing Room, where the wedding banquet was held. This large and impressive room is distinctive for the two bays extending from either corner. Our table was in one of them. The bride and groom's table was in the middle of the room.
Later we went back to the Great Hall for the party which continued into the night. Again, the thought came to my mind of an imaginary medieval musical celebration with lute players and minstrels instead of loudspeakers and disco lights.
The toilets were accessed by descending the stairs, which are in the shape of a five-sided shape, and proceeding along the long vaulted corridor. At the far end of the corridor, set in the octagonal base of the tower, I had a peep into the wine cellar bar, with its sloping ceiling and candles. It looked very inviting, but wasn't one of the rooms reserved for the wedding.
Outside, the uneven profile of the castle, as seen from the courtyard, with its battlements, turrets and towers, is very impressive. All in all, the castle seems to offer all the romance and grandeur of a medieval castle with Victorian practicality and solidity of construction.
As in the case of many stately homes, the 20th century brought social changes, making large houses much more expensive to run. By the 1930s, the larger rooms were no longer lived in on a regular basis, and after the Second World War the house stood largely empty.
That is until it became the Peckforton Castle Hotel and was fully fiitted out to modern standards, but retaining the original character of the building to a large extent.
Peckforton Castle is said to be the truest recreation of a medieval castle in the UK and is a Grade I listed building. It offers guests an opportunity to experience a genuine taste of aristocratic life from Britain's illustrious past.
For more information on Peckforton Castle go to www.peckfortoncastle.co.uk.
See also the Wikipedia entry on John Tollemache.
This information is taken from the excellent book Cheshire Country Houses by Peter de Figueiredo and Julian Treuherz, 1988. I referred to it at the Archives and Local Studies Unit at Manchester Central Library.
Thanks to Tara and Jon for inviting us to a wonderful wedding ceremony and celebration and we wish them all the best for the future.Written by Aidan O'Rourke