Day 9: Norman Castles and British Guardian Angels

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November 3rd 2010
Published: November 9th 2010
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Max: After the rain of yesterday, today breaks sunny and bright. I snuggle down in my newly washed sheets and watch the birds flying in the top branches of the trees close to the diamond patterned glass. Hog Cottage does have its charm. But today begins the search for explanations of my family name: de Macclesfield or “from Macclesfield”. At least that is one plausible explanation.

The Anglo-Saxons created the Macclesfield One Hundred: a division of land and title given to the first de Macclesfield, but the line died out. Later the son of John Alcock-a stockman on the Hundred- went on to the position of Keeper of the Royal Wardrobe for Richard II. He assumed the grander name of de Macclesfield in lieu of Alcock. In all truth, the name could have been taken by anyone who worked on the castellated manor, for they, too, were “from Macclesfield.” So who was great grand dad? A bastard child, someone who needed an alias, a worker in the manor of Macclesfield?

In the 1600’s, Thomas Macclesfield, or Maxfield as it is spelled interchangeably in the documents from the Catholic Church, is martyred because he is a recusant. Thomas had a
Caitlin in Her Explorer SuitCaitlin in Her Explorer SuitCaitlin in Her Explorer Suit

Note the fine hat and the small door.
brother, so could we be of that line? Or was an ancient ancestor on the lamb for his religious beliefs so he took the name Maxfield in honor of the martyered Thomas? Well, at least Caitlin now knows that it wasn’t just meanness that made me give her the middle name Maxfield; there was some kind of traditional family name value, whatever it turns out to be. So off we go to Macclesfield, our possible homeland, to see what there is to see and to find what there is to find.

By straying a bit off of our route however, we can make a stop at Castleton and Peveril Castle. William Peveril began the castle, in 1066, and thus helped to spread the Norman settlement into Derbyshire. King Henry II, when the castle came into royal hands, further strengthened it and built the square stone keep. Peveril Castle is situated on a defensible hilltop overlooking mining, hunting, and farming, similar to the view we had seen from Mam Tor and the burial mounds. Like so many others, this beautiful view only achieved by a steep walk and many stairs. On our way almost to the top Caitlin stops in
On the Road to CastletonOn the Road to CastletonOn the Road to Castleton

LooK! A very spacious road!
her tracks, “Can you hear that? It is the wind!” In the high reaches, when we arrive at the top of the abandoned keep, the wind sings through the walls where small trees and plants push through. Below us the autumn trees rustle and kids run around the remains of castle walls practicing for Halloween with their best ghostly groans and frightening “BOO’s!” It is hard not to stay longer.

But on to Cheshire County and Macclesfield.

Macclesfield is very different from the villages we have been roaming these past days. Macclesfield has the aura of a failed industrial town; with over 50,000 people it is large, busy with traffic, and local teenagers hang out around the medieval market square loudly jeering, laughing and swearing. “Babies with babies” are amongst them. All are smoking—except perhaps the infants-and the smell of marijuana hangs in the air. It is unsettling not only because we had not yet encountered this behavior, so common in the US, in England, but because the place they choose to gather is in the ancient church and burial yard of St. Michaels. I have come to visit this church and not only is it closed, it
The Hike to Peveril CastleThe Hike to Peveril CastleThe Hike to Peveril Castle

I can storm this castle: I have a guide book!
is not very friendly to just wander around and take pictures. In fact, the small bit that we visit of Macclesfield does not feel friendly. One exception is the lady at the Visitor Information Center who goes out of her way to show us the few remaining stones of the castellated Manor of Macclesfield, and then digs through all of her files for every bit of information that she has on the town.

The other friendly natives are the librarians in the Macclesfield Library where I spend a few hours trying to read ancient archives-some in Latin and Old English-on microfiche. It is like trying to read tea stains. I find many references to the family of John de Macclesfield in all of the variant spellings, but no Maxfields as such. I have come full circle: who was my many times great grandfather? Did our family come from Macclesfield as one family researcher supposes, and if so, who was the immigrant Maxfield who suddenly springs up in the US in the early 1600’s? And, what is the common link between my family and those DNA cousins who have shown up? We leave Macclesfield frustrated and kind of hoping we are not from there: it was not lovely like the Derbyshire.

It’s time to face those tiny, rock wall lined alleyway roads and head back to Wirksworth. But, we don’t get far. A loud bang and a rumble: I have hit a rock and we have a flat tire. There is a drive way and, thank goodness, a car park. We have managed to stumble into the park of Tegg’ s Nose--a favorite cycling and hiking spot. But, we have no cell phone reception and our Triple A card won’t work here—what does one do? Apparently, we soon find, you stand looking helpless and a lovely English people—from Macclesfield no less—will come to your rescue. Dan and Katie walk over to see what they can do and soon Dan has the tire off, but the flimsy jack collapse and so does the car. We will need more help. Katie approaches two bicyclists—the car will need to be lifted onto the jack. Just in the nick of time, along comes an Orange Rescue Truck. The cheerful Orange Truck Rescue Man laughs, “Oh, that road’s a good one for catchin’ rocks!” and quickly gets our car righted and fitted with a tiny space saver spare. With warnings to “Go slow,” we are back, ever so carefully, on our way to Wirksworth. Oh, and that cheerful Orange Rescue Truck Man, he doesn’t charge us because it wasn’t a call, he just happened to show up. British Guardian Angels, pro bono no less.

England: Not a big fan of the roads, but love the people.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


A Defensible HilltopA Defensible Hilltop
A Defensible Hilltop

The view down from the castle wall
The Norman PrivyThe Norman Privy
The Norman Privy

From the smell, generations have continued to use it well past the time the castle was abandoned.

The view of the town square: a medieval market place.
The Remains of Macclesfield ManorThe Remains of Macclesfield Manor
The Remains of Macclesfield Manor

The remains are glassed off for viewing in the Visitor's Information Center.
St. Michael'sSt. Michael's
St. Michael's

I was really sad that we could not view the interior.

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