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John Watson, Master Stonemason

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The Elephant and Castle and the restored Dovecote at Peckforton on The Cheshire Sandstone Ridge have generated so much interest that we decided to share with you the story of an individual who might have been regarded as a bit of a 19th century 'local celebrity'.

That individual is the Master Stonemason, John Watson.

John appears to have been born in Beeston and his occupation is listed on the 1851 Census and beyond as a 'Master Stonemason'. His sons, George, Robert and Arthur were all employed in the business and they too are listed as Stonemasons on the varying Census entries.

The Elephant and Castle curiosity at Peckforton and the much loved 'lions', which stand as gate guardians to (unsurprisingly) 'Lion House' in Tattenhall, are the legacy of Peckforton Stonemason, John Watson. The provincial press also confirms that John was contracted to undertake some of the masonry work on Bunbury Church, using stone from Peckforton Quarries.

Much debate exists regarding the exact function of the Elephant and Castle and again, the local press contains several letters from direct descendants of the family, all of whom claim:

  • that the sandstone was hewn from the quarry in the Peckforton Hills
  • that it was conveyed across the fields by horses with chains and rollers, and
  • that it's intended use was as a 'beehive'

It would seem that this artisan craftsman indulged in large scale hobbies, as well as carving the heads of animals on walking sticks.

The work of John Watson can also be viewed in Belle Vue, Manchester (if you have information on this, then do contact us).

The publication 'The Ridge: Rocks and Springs – A Sandstone Legacy' which was compiled by volunteers for the Sandstone Ridge Trust in 2017, contains further information on the 'Elephant and Castle' pp 84/85 – you can access this information from our publications page under Ridge: Rocks and Springs CLICK HERE

Click on image to enlarge.

sandstone wall in peckforton woods
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