Have you noticed the existence of gamecock metalwork on the estate? They may be hard to find, but our most evident example of them is by St Mary’s church.
They date back to the time where Patshull Hall was in possession of the Astley family, from 1451 until 1765 when it was sold to the Piggott family.
What is the connection of cockfighting at Patshull Park?
Sir Richard Astley was known in his day for his interest in cockfighting and inventing a device for the matching of gamecocks. This piece of information about matching gamecocks is quoted so frequently by writers on cockfighting and on Staffordshire notabilities, without any explanation as to why the topic is worth mentioning, but a brief exposition may be useful. Cockfighting, which has been illegal in this country since 1859, was for many years one of the most popular sport is in Britain: it’s consistent in matching one game cock against another and, in most cases, the loser was killed by the winner. Very great pains were taken to match the contestants exactly for size and weight, and Sir Richard Astley was very interested in the techniques then employed.
In 1686 Robert Plot wrote“… The nicest piece of art ever I saw, any way relating to the feathered kingdom, and indeed the most curious, was an instrument shewn me by the right worshipful Sir Richard Astley of Pateshull, Baronet, Of his own invention, only to match gamecocks discovering their sizes. The idea of the device was to measure very accurately indeed first of the length and then the girth of the bird. Plot gives a most beautiful drawing.”The Instrument” quotes Thomas Cook, Full of enthusiasm for the device over 40 years later, open “is called a Collistigium or Pillory for a Cock, Who is stretched out at his full length upon three Pillars, which stand upon a Brass Plate 24” long, figured and divided, his head being enclosed in that at the one end, and his feet at the other, the middle one bearing up his body, by which the length of his body is known to the eighth part of an inch. As to the girth of it, that is measured by a brass ring, made for that purpose, with the like exactness; it being taken in or let out at pleasure; both which have been much more approved of by the best Masters of that sport.”
There is also mention of cockerel figures throughout the Hall…
By the late 17th century, there was an elaborate formal garden next to the old house, with walks, prospect mounds, statuary, knots, waterworks and elaborate wrought iron screens and gates. It was described in 1680 by Robert Plot thus:
“The house is built of squared stone quite through. The gardens about it have delicate vistas opening quite through them, with many stately gates of ironwork, curiously painted and gilt, leading into them, with mounts and places of repose at the ends. In them are most curious water-works, and great variety of them; viz. Within a large rotunda, fenced about with an high brick wall, opening with fair iron gates over against the front of the house, there is a curious large fountain, that throws up a column of water near an inch diameter a great height, which falls into a bason underneath, proportionably large, yielding a most grateful prospect, not only toward the house, but in the walks about it. In another garden, on the left side of the house, is a cock, to which there belongs an instrument, which may be put on or taken off at pleasure, which will cast water any way, according to the direction of him that governs it. In a garden on the North side of the house, the water passeth through a barrel into a cistern in the bird-cage; and Eastward of the house is a long fair canal, walled about with square stone, at the South end whereof is a delicate grotto, which adds very much to the perfection of this seat.
Interested in more Patshull history blogs?
We hope that you’re as interested in the history of Patshull Park as we are, and we love to share the information that we learn. There are new findings coming up all the time and we’re always excited to write about what we know. Here are some more blog posts that we’ve written. Check out our History page too!