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Having now almost completed two sides of the triangle which encompassed ancient Stockport, I have to speak of the long straight third line which from the Hare and Hounds extended to the outer wall of the castle area.
I am indebted to Mr. Thomas Axon for the information that the line of a great fault exists between the top of Rostron Brow, the site of the priests' house, and the eastern side of the castle area. He informs me that it inclines outwards above the marls which lie between it and the Permian sandstone. By the light of this we are enabled to reconstruct the place of the Steep-ford or Stop-port as it even yet is called.
We have passed along the walls by the west and south. To the east, underneath the present Market Place, in a diagonal line almost north and south there is this outwardly inclining natural rampart of defence, which was formerly inaccesible from below when the Great Portwood lake existed, or from that portion which on the recession of the river afterwards became "the park" below the town. From this statement it will be clear that the row of shops to the north-east of the Market Place is built on filled up material, as is also Park Street and Millgate, except the two shops, numbers 28 and 29, which are partially built on this remarkable fault. Its companion fault on the Permian rock, which ran parallel with it across the Mersey river into Lancashire, had the merit, from its possessing a very hard conglomerate consistence, of forming the causeway which made the ford at Stockport practicable as a great highway to the north before bridges were built. This causeway of rock across the Mersey was only two or three feet wide, and hence in time of flood it must have been an exceedingly perilous path.
Having arrived at the area commonly called the "Castle Yard," it is well to state that it has been
asserted in opposition to the opinion of Heginbottom, the historian of Stockport, that there never was a castle there. I think this opinion has arisen from confusing the word castle as meaning only a residential fortification, and that it does not properly apply to a fortified encampment. To give the word castle this restricted meaning is unfortunate and unjust, because Richborough Castle, in Kent (the ancient Rutupiæ), was, like Stockport, a fortified encampment, and yet it is entitled to be called a "castle." The word castel (Saxon) is derived from the Roman castellum, which is only a diminutive of castrum, a camp, meaning a fortified place which will keep a small number of men as safe as an encamped army can.
I think no one will say that Stockport was never a fortified place, for the remaining walls which support the castle area would not have been raised otherwise, nor would those I have indicated on the map. The castle walls may be inspected by passing down Vernon Street on the left, from behind number 20 in Warren Street, and in the large yard in Bridge Street.
It is a most singular thing that every writer upon Stockport and its antiquities seems to have confined himself to theories about the mysteries of its castle only, and to have quite overlooked the more important walls which enclosed the town, a plan of which is here produced. It is true they are concealed behind houses and shops of three story height, and many an unsavoury place has to be visited to thoroughly comprehend and examine their situation and extent. The site of Stockport before a stone or brick was laid upon it was a triangularshaped rock, the half of a square cut across its angles. To the north and east it was bounded by the river Mersey and the great lake of Portwood, to the south the uplands were of clay and sand with marl and peaty
soils, to the west was richly-wooded Cheshire over the red sandstone area beyond the Hempshaw or Tin Brook. Its principal approach was across the brook up what is now called Mealhouse Brow. Hence we may conclude that in ancient days Stockport was naturally a stronglyfortified place of easy defence, which afterwards was strengthened by art, and that it was of such security that its times were happy, since it has so little history.
HURCHGATE.-Our local antiqua
ries do not seem to have considered the position of the gatehouses, if any existed, in Churchgate, Millgate, Hillgate, and Chestergate. It is tolerably clear that when the great natural escarpment of the rock fault formed a barrier to the east there could be only
two entrances to Stockport, one by the Mealhouse Brow and the other by Bridge Street Brow. With regard to the latter some masonry on the left-hand side, half way down, seems to point to an archway having formerly spanned the brow and connected the castle wall with the town walls. The one at Mealhouse Brow would be beside the old dungeon, so that at the earliest dates there would be only two, the north and south gates. When Churchgate was formed by levelling up the ditch of the great fault, and the church and cemetery were established in their present position, there would seem to have been needed a gate to guard this extension of the town area.
In the very narrowest part of Churchgate, where it is only fifteen feet wide, and opposite to the picturesque old