Our series Harper’s Mow Cop which ended last week created widespread interest in the legends and the myths surrounding Mow Cop Castle.
In the first post in our new series Focus on Kidsgrove, the Phoenix Trust’s chief executive international heritage lawyer and legal historian David Martin looks at Wilbraham v Sneyd, a 19th century case involving the castle.
Wilbraham v Sneyd
Most historians accept that Mow Cop Castle, which stood on the boundary of Staffordshire and Cheshire, was built by the Wilbraham family in 1754. The county boundary, which ran through the centre of the castle, marked the boundary between the Wilbrahams’ Rode Estate and the ancient Manor of Tunstall.
During 1847, Randle Wilbraham claimed that the castle, including the part erected in the Manor of Tunstall, belonged to the Rode Estate. He repaired the building and put a new door in the doorway which was kept locked to prevent the public gaining access.
Ralph Sneyd, the Lord of the Manor of Tunstall, said half the castle belonged to him because it was in the manor.
Randle was unable to produce any documentary evidence to prove that the castle was part of the Rode Estate and Ralph’s attorney broke down the door and regained possession for his client.
Randle sued Ralph for trespass.
The case was heard before Mr Justice Patteson at Stafford Assizes, which were held in the Shire Hall, on March 19th, 1850. To win his case, Randle had to prove he had the right to exclude everyone from the property.
Opening the case, Randle’s counsel Mr Keating QC told the jury the castle was of ancient construction and that there was no one alive who could remember when it was erected. He went on to say that the Wilbraham family, who resided at Rode Hall, believed the castle was built about a 100 years ago. He admitted it had been erected partly in Cheshire and partly in Staffordshire and that the door which had been forced open was in Staffordshire.
Despite this, the Wilbrahams had always treated the castle as their property and were surprised when Ralph said it belonged to him.
Mr Keating said he hoped to call witnesses, who remembered the castle when they were young, who would say it was kept locked and that the Wilbraham family had the key.
Concluding his opening speech, Mr Keating called his first witness.
To be continued.
Copyright David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2012