The Hanging Gate Pub.
The Hanging Gate pub at Higher Sutton above Macclesfield was first recorded in 1668, but is believed to have been functioning as an Inn since 1621.
Standing at just under 1100 feet above sea level, it is the highest pub in Cheshire and the fourth highest in England. The name “Gate” is from the Scandinavian “Gata” which means path or way. It marks the entrance to the spot probably of the Greenway stone, where rustlers and poachers of the royal Macclesfield forest were hanged, hence the Hanging Gate.
The Greenway Stone, or the Plague Stone which can be found close to the pub is thought to be around 1500 years old and is believed to mark the path of a Ley Line or strong earth current which flows from the grove of the Druids at Fools Nook and culminates at Three shires Head. The cross which can be seen on the stone was carved when all the pagan stones in the country were “Christianised”. It was used as a plague stone during the years of 1603 and 1646 when the Great Plague visited nearby Macclesfield. The country folk would have brought their produce to the stone and leave it to be collected by the townsfolk. Money would have been placed in a bowl containing urine which was meant to disinfect the coins. There is also the possibility that the stone marks the burial place of a Guardian of the Forest, perhaps a Chieftain or Shaman (Holy Man).
When I called at the Hanging Gate Pub the landlord and Landlady very kindly gave me a guided tour of the pub, the landlady showed me where the outer wall and door would have originally been and which now forms the entrance to the restaurant which is a later addition to the pub. Just to the left of the entrance to the restaurant is a doorway on the left at the bottom of a flight of stone steps. Through this door is the cellar and the Landlady told me that criminals would have been chained to the wall in this room. Also on the same wall can be seen a recess which would have at one time been a serving hatch through which food would have been passed to criminals awaiting execution.
Also the Landlady told me that the criminals would have had to have used the drain in the centre of the cellar floor as a toilet which would have meant that they would not have been chained directly to the wall but must have been attached to a length of chain to have been able to reach the drain.
The Hanging Gate pub was known affectionately as “Tom Steel’s” from 1902-1952 after the one armed Landlord who used to run the pub during that period. He finally brought the pub off a Mr Hadfield of the Macclesfield family of Chemist’s for the sum of £1400 plus another £250 for the two fields attached to the property and in 1951 electricity finally reached this part of the world. Tom Steel didn’t get much chance to enjoy the luxury of electricity as he died the following year in 1952 aged 77 years. The hanging Gate was sold to Miss Jean Miller for £2600 which included the fields and also Toms dog.
Although I originally thought that the criminals/poachers would have been hung by the Greenway stone the Landlady told me that this wasn’t the case. She had come across an area next to the pubs car park where she believed the executions had once taken place, although now somewhat overgrown she told me that there is a paved area beneath the undergrowth and a chain which would have been used to secure the prisoner. Also the execution would have taken place in this prominent position so all would have been able to see what would happen to anyone who decided to take up poaching or law breaking.
The execution spot with the Hanging Gate pub in the background.
If you are looking for a pub with character and history, which serves good food and where you are made to feel very welcome you should make a point of visiting the Hanging Gate, but don’t take my word just read the reviews at http://www.onionring.co.uk/restaurants/restaurant_info.asp?RID=3667
The Hanging Gate Pub,
Macclesfield. SK11 0NG
Tel: 01260 252238