October 22 – A visit to Beeston Castle

A Few Church Micros on the Way to Lichfield

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We left our housesit in Willaston after doing our usual cleanup and said goodbye to Puss. We have two days before our new housesit begins in Rayleigh Essex so decided to go to Lichfield so that we can visit the cathedral there and also at Coventry. I worked out a path of church micros to visit along the A51 to Lichfield as it is less than two hours drive away.

Our first cache of the day was at Bartholomew’s church in Great Barrow and it was a nice easy find. Autumn is at its best today with leaves everywhere. One man was busy trying to blow all the leaves away – a never-ending job. The church was closed so we moved on to Duddon. I do not think we ever saw the church here nor was there anywhere easy to park the car so Mike stayed with the car while I carefully crossed the road which suddenly became as busy as the M1, grabbed the cache, signed the log and returned to the car.

St Helen’s church at Tarporley was open and was a lovely church with some wonderful Victorian stained glass windows including one depicting one of my favourite saints – St Francis of Assisi with the birds and animals all around him. The warrior saints window depicting St Alban, St Martin, St Oswald and one other was made by Heaton, Butler and Bayne while St Thomas and St John the Evangelist were by Hardman and Powell.  It also had a wonderful altar frontal made by Lady Eden in 1890. The rood screen had 16th-century Italian gates brought from Siena by the Countess of Haddington in 1889. St Helen’s also had some amazing wall monuments and tombs to the Crewe and Done families.

We saw a sign to Beeston Castle on our way to the next church so took a detour there. It was quite a tricky place to get to with tiny roads winding through the countryside but we could see it from afar standing on top of a hill. I was starting to chicken out as while I am happy to walk along the flat all day long I am not good going up or even worse downhill. Beeston Castle is an English Heritage site and costs non-members £7.50 to enter. Luckily we are members. Beeston Castle is one of the most dramatic ruins in the English landscape. It was built by Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester, in the 1220s and the castle incorporates the banks and ditches of an Iron Age hillfort. Henry III seized the castle in 1237 and it remained in royal ownership until the 16th century. In the Civil War, it withstood a long siege in 1644–45, before being surrendered by the Royalists and partially demolished. The outer bailey was roughly rectangular, with 6 feet (2 m) thick walls faced in sandstone and infilled with rubble. To provide the castle’s inhabitants with a supply of fresh water two wells were dug into the rock, one of them, at 370 feet (113 m) deep, one of the deepest castle wells in England. We walked up the hill and walked all around the castle ruins at the top with fabulous views in all directions. We even had our lunch up there right by the well where Richard II may have hidden his treasure.

From the top of the hill, you can also see Peckforton Castle which looked more intact than this one. We drove to it later only to find out that it was a Victorian country house built in the style of a medieval castle and is now a hotel which has been used as a location for shooting films and television programmes including Dr Who and Robin Hood.

St Boniface church at Bunbury is a very special church with some wonderful stained glass windows including Dutton’s window by L.C. Evetts showing the life of St Boniface and a brilliant modern window by Ann Sotheran in 2005 in the East window of the Ridley Chapel. Ann Sotheran also made the wonderful blue and yellow stained glass Millennium window. In Ridley Chapel is a monumental brass to Sir Ralph Egerton who died in 1527. He was the standard bearer of King HenryVIII. There are also some fantastic tombs including in the sanctuary the coloured  ‘Beeston Tomb’ for Sir George Beeston 1499 – 1601. He was the admiral of the Fleet and commanded the Dreadnought against the Spanish Armada in 1508. Despite his distinguished career during the reigns of four monarchs, he still lived to 102 years. The Calveley Tomb is for Sir Hugh de Calveley who died in 1394. He was a giant of a man and was over 7 ft tall. The parclose screen made around 1450 still has the painting of saints in red, greenand blue. the figures on the screen were St Anthony of the Desert, St Catherine of Alexandria, St Margaret of Antioch, St Appolonia, The Virgin Mary, St Juliana, Salome and St Helen. The rector’s date from 1304 with John de St Pierre and the coat of arms for the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in London hangs on the wall. We tried to find the geocache for St Boniface but when we were unable to locate it I checked the logs and found that it has been disabled. This church is very special and deserves to have people to visit it regularly so I hope the CO will soon replace the cache.

St Mary’s at Acton Nantwich was closed which was a pity as it looked like a good one. We could not find the cache either but we didn’t look too long as it was a busy road and there were too many people walking up and down. We felt very conspicuous so we called it a day. The next geocache on the list was at St Chad’s in Wybunbury. When we arrived there was a tower but no church as it was demolished in 1976 but the 15th-century tower was saved and is now a grade II building. As at least five and possibly more churches on this site have become unsafe and been demolished due to ground movement; the replacement church was built in 1978 on a site elsewhere in the village and contains several items from previous churches. The geocache was a little further down the road so I walked to it while Mike moved the car. I realised that the cache was on a street sign but there was a car parked right underneath it. Luckily the owner arrived and drove away or we would never have been able to grab the cache with her so nearby.

Our last church of the day was St Leonards church in Woore. It was an unconventional looking church built in around 1830-31 on white plaster in an Italianate design. It was designed by George Hamilton and is also a grade II listed building. We looked around for the numbers we needed but we were unable to find A for quite a while until I realised that it was in the description. I had guessed at two different possibilities but neither was any good. Once I found A things fell into place and we soon found the cache. This church micro was our first in Shropshire

By then my cell phone was running out of charge so we headed straight to Lichfield so that we could get to the hotel before we ran out of charge. The Cathedral Hotel in Lichfield was reasonable and had off road parking. It was also in an easy walking distance of town so after settling in we walked into town and had dinner at a fairly average Thai restaurant. We had a comfortable night with good internet for logging all our caches.