Mackworth Castle - Real or Fanciful?

Oh well here I go again, going against conventional wisdom and the claims of 'experts' on the history of Derby and it's locality. This time the subject is the ruin known as Mackworth Castle.

Hutton, the Derby historian says, “Mackworth, two miles West of Derby. This place was probably five hundred years ago the property of the ancient family of Touchet Lord Audley, who, being a man of the sword, and of great wealth, retained several Esquires in his service. To a favourite follower, who had distinguished himself under his banner at Poitiers in 1356, he gave the manor of Mackworth. This gentleman built a castle for his residence, and assumed the name of the village. His successors continued there some ages. But in the civil wars of Charles the First, that melancholy contest, which was to determine whether a man's person and property ought to be directed by himself or his Sovereign, this castle was destroyed. It is now in ruins”.

My friend and co-member of the Derby Heritage Forum, Don Farnsworth, took a great interest in this building and expressed some doubts about it's authenticity. He explains his concerns in his book, A history of MARKEATON and MACKWORTH - FROM MEARCA TO CLARK-MAXWELL - ISBN 1 85983 503 1. Don's book contains the earliest known depiction of the castle which is an engraving by Malcolm dated 1793.

Like my investigation into the Mayors Parlour the only evidence for this 'ancient' building is late, in this case eighteenth century. (The Mayors Parlour I found to be middle nineteenth century).

I would have been happy to leave the castle as a medieval mystery but by accident I stumbled upon one Sanderson Miller, (1716 – 23 April 1780). tells us that this gentleman was “an English pioneer of Gothic revival architecture and landscape designer. He is noted for adding follies or other Picturesque garden buildings and features to the grounds of an estate”.

Looking at his other works some similarity of style and detail can be seen when comparing them with Mackworth castle. What is interesting is that on the website dedicated to him we find that his collaborators, the Hiorn brothers were in the area in 1757.

On page 37 of a dissertation based on Sanderson Miller we are told that, “The Hiorn brothers did not devote their attention solely to the Shire Hall, (Warwick), during the period of its construction. In addition to the library at Arbury, they are known to have been responsible at this time for building Kyre Park in Gloucestershire, a bridge at Charlecote, Derby County Gaol and Daventry Parish Church.

There is also a rather tenuous connection between The Mundy's of Markeaton who probably owned the land upon which the 'castle' stands and another estate which is known to have employed Sanderson Miller to build a Gothic building. This is Laycock Abbey, the home of William Henry Fox Talbot whose wife Constance Fox Talbot was the youngest daughter of Francis Mundy (1771–1837),

There may have been prior contact between the two estates for William and Constance to have met so the works of Sanderson Miller could have been known. It was John Ivory Talbot who had the Gothic Hall built.

I would be interested to hear from other investigators or interested parties on this issue.

 Ron McKeown

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