architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, staffordshire, Summerhouse, Tower

Thistleberry Castle, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Undated photograph courtesy of Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

Thistleberry House (aka Thistlebury) was the home of Samuel (1767-1838) and Margaret Mayer (c.1773-1859). Samuel Mayer was a tanner and currier, and town dignitary, who was elected Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1833. He is said to have erected this pretty tower in his grounds in the first decades of the 19th century.

Daniels, William; Samuel Mayer (1767-1838); Walker Art Gallery; CC BY-NC.

Although the early history is unclear, Thistleberry Castle was extant by 1847, when it is marked on Robert Malabor’s map of Newcastle. It was a very attractive squat square brick tower with round corner turrets, curious slim battlements, and pointed arched windows. Standing three storeys high, the middle floor had a room decorated with shellwork, and housed a collection of statues, but frustratingly no further detail can be found. The tower would have been used as a belvedere and banqueting house – and would also demonstrate Mayer’s good taste and wealth. It was picturesquely situated in the middle of a square moat which was crossed on the western side by a timber bridge, whilst the elevation facing east towards the house was decorated with a pair of cannon. Thistleberry was on the rural outskirts of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, far from the noise and bustle of the industrial and industrious manufacturing town, and would have had views over open countryside.

Ordnance Survey 25″ Staffs XVII.4, revised 1875-77, published 1879. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. The tower (marked S.H.for summer house) can be seen in the middle of the square ‘Fish Pond’ with the access bridge on the western side.

No documentation has been found to confirm a date, but a possible architect might be Margaret Mayer’s father, John Pepper. Pepper (1751-1811) was an architect and builder, based in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, whose projects included the town’s Theatre Royal and Pepper Street, to which he gave his name. He also improved Maer Hall for Josiah Wedgwood, a family friend.

Undated photograph courtesy of Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

Mayer died in 1838, and his wife in 1859, after which the family left Thistleberry House. The property then changed hands a number of times as the century progressed. The tower was falling into disrepair when this photograph was taken sometime around the end of the 19th century – note the plank across the dilapidated bridge.

Boys skating on the frozen moat c.1900. Photograph courtesy of Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

In 1911 the tower featured in a local history lecture accompanied by lantern slides. By that date the statuary inside had been ‘mutilated’ and the shell decoration destroyed. The speaker hoped the ‘picturesque and curious tower’ would not be allowed to become completely ruined, but sadly his hopes were in vain. Land in the Thistleberry area of Newcastle-under-Lyme was much in demand for housing development, and by the early 1920s Thistleberry Castle had been demolished, with the stone used to fill the moat. The house survived until the 1940s before being taken down to allow for road improvements, and the Thistleberry Hotel was then built on its site.

These views from the collection at the Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme, seem to be the only traces of Thistlebury’s castle to survive.

If you know more about this lovely lost folly, or have any comments (which are always appreciated), please scroll down to find the comments box. Thank you for reading.

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7 thoughts on “Thistleberry Castle, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire”

  1. Gand says:

    I have forwarded this fascinating story to a friend who lives in N-u-L.
    Thanks and keep on strolling.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Gand. I always appreciate feedback and help spreading the word. Stay safe and well.

  2. Steffan Milonas says:

    If you look at the old map, it shows a villa to the North-West. Matching this with Ordnance survey mapping, and knowing the area around Thistleberry. I would place the tower on the roundabout at the north end of Pembroke Drive. The fish pond must have been filled in when the housing estate was built. Map ref: SJ842454. O.S. map 118. Best guess as to build date, believe C.1810.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Steffan. Such a shame this lovely tower is long gone.

  3. Amalia says:

    This is a great find! I stumbled across this article on a search for Samuel via Google, as I found out yesterday that he’s my 6x great grandfather’s brother (so my 6x great uncle). Margaret, Samuel’s wife, was born around 1773/74 and both her and Samuel are buried at St Giles in the town centre in a beautiful raised tomb right opposite the church gates near the church’s entrance! – the tomb does state that Margaret was 86 when she died on December 15 1889 which would place her birth around 1773. Thank you for putting in the time to research and write about their home – such a pity it’s gone as I live locally and have been past it’s original site many times without knowing 🙁

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Amalia. I’m very pleased to hear that my post helped add to the story of your ancestors. It’s such a shame that the house and folly are gone. I’d love to have seen the tower in its heyday. Thanks for getting in touch and good luck with learning more about your family.

    2. Valerie says:

      Interesting Amalia as I have recently learnt Samuel Mayer was my 4x Grandfather!! My Line is as follows : Samuel, Thomas, John, Oswald (who went to Trenton, N.J.) and John Wallbank Mayer, my grandfather.

      “A small world”!!

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