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Ladder Stiles on the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge


Distributed widely across the mid-Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, from Alvanley in the North to Peckforton in the South, can be found a curious form of country stile. They are constructed from two massive sandstone 'rails' cut with a number of mortises intended to bear steps — probably of wood. Some stiles are set upright and some at an angle, rather like a step-ladder. Five have so far been identified: two at Peckforton, one at Tiverton, one near Delamere and one at Alvanley. One of those at Peckforton might be regarded as typical (see image taken at Peckforton on Footpath 6).

None of the stiles identified to date has a return ladder, suggesting that they were either designed to raise the user from a lower level to a higher level or that the typical stile was normally upright, crossing a boundary from one type of land-use to another.

The Sandstone Ridge Trust would like to identify and record as many of these stiles as possible with a view to understanding their origins, dates and functions and, hopefully, in the future restoring them. They seem to be typical of the Ridge although the technique of cutting mortises into stone gateways has been recorded elsewhere. In a 'Furniture Photo Report' produced by CWAC in 2010, seven similar stiles have been noted off the Ridge.

As autumn fast approaches and as the brambles and hedgerows retreat, we are asking our readers to keep their eyes open for further sightings. The stone rails may well remain beside modern gates and stiles, but might currently be hidden by brambles and undergrowth.

We will be walking the footpaths associated with the five currently identified stiles to see if there are any more to be spotted in those locations and would welcome contributions from the public. Please let us know the location of the stile, the number of mortises visible, whether vertical or set at an angle, and what kind of boundary they are crossing. The stones may, of course, have been moved from their original position and re-used for some other purpose. They are likely to be identified by their mortises and would also be of interest to us.

Anyone with information about these stiles and, of course, photos, would be welcome to contact SRT at:

List of currently identified stiles
1. Alvanley FP 10 farmland/road CWAC — OS:SJ 502745
2. Delamere — farmland/road — CWAC — OS:SJ 557681
3. Tiverton FP20 — junction with FP24 — CWAC — OS: SJ 55096082
4. Peckforton FP16 — farmland/road — Ches. E. — OS: SJ539575
5. Peckforton FP6 -woodland/farmland — Ches. E. — OS: SJ537565