Doug Moller “Lord of the Roaches.”

I last met Doug Moller some years ago after having read his book which is available in the local library and in more recent years had used to read his weekly article in the Leek Post and Times, however for some time now his articles had failed to appear, so thinking the worst I decided to track him down and find out whether he was still alive.

The last time I had met Doug was at his home which is in one of the most remote areas of the Staffordshire Moorlands, his home is a lot higher than the village of Flash which holds the title of the highest village in England. After a couple of failed attempts at finding his home,

I at last managed to find it after the road comes to an abrupt end and you have to walk across a field to reach it. Unfortunately there was no one in when I called, however I called again some weeks later and was pleased to find that he was alive and well and the reason he no longer writes for the local paper was due to a change of Editor.

It was good to catch up with Doug and find that he was in good health, one of the reasons that I wanted to see him was to ask him if I could write his story and upload it to my website so that others could read about what has happened to him in the past, this he agreed to as well as allowing me to take some photos of himself. His story is as follows:

The story probably starts back in 1978 when Doug Moller and his wife brought Rock hall cottage at a public auction for £6000 the following newspaper article relates to what happened afterwards…… The “lord of the Roaches” is making a last desperate stand. If he loses his fight to protect his Lady and his manor, he plans he says, to blow the rock around him sky high. For the last two years Doug Moller has been battling to keep away climbers away from his castle like home, Rock Hall cottage, although he admits that his fight is against a minority of them. The little house, built right into the rock of the lower tier of the Roaches should have provided the quiet refuge he was seeking. But the behaviour of some climbers, he claims, has turned life for him and his wife, Anne, into a nightmare.

The battle for his territory has earned him his title of “Lord of the Roaches”, his adversaries are the Peak Planning Board and the Climbers Association who have one important card up their sleeve. Last month the board purchased 975 acres at the Roaches and the Back forest including the rock behind Doug’s cottage.

But 50 year old Doug who paid £6000 for the former gamekeepers cottage claims that climbers should stay off the rock behind his house. The reason being that the roof and back of his house join the rock which the climbers use, this results in damage to his house from falling stones and rocks which also endanger his life as well as his wife’s, he claims.

Doug’s fight centre’s around the health of his wife, who is in her mid fifties. She suffers with her nerves and it was for her sake that they moved to Rockhall and Doug was prepared for the task of renovating the dilapidated property. They believed they would find peace and quiet, “but climbers have made our lives a misery. They worry Anne so much that she has tried to commit suicide several times”, he said.

Rockhall cottage lies near a footpath leading to some of the most popular climbs in the Roaches. History and mystery surround it. At its rear lies a sacrificial altar also known as a Druids Cromlech. At the front of rockhall can be found a large boulder with steps carved into it, (I once asked Doug about this boulder, he went on to tell me that a cult used to meet here and the steps were carved into the boulder to allow someone to climb on top of it and blow a trumpet, this would have been a signal for the cult members to assemble at the boulder”.

One of the ancient caves forms part of rockhall and houses a generator that should supply light. Facing it is an ancient fireplace. The generator doesn’t work, vandals have seen to that, claims Doug. Life is difficult enough without help from outsiders. As well as being without electricity there is no piped water, no sanitation or gas, and only a gaping hole for a front door.

Beyond the hole lies what used to be a stable. Doug and Anne’s living room is open to this and the elements. Their furniture is grouped around a small fireplace forming a square to save as much heat as possible. It retains very little and even a few feet away from the fire, breath freezes.

Their bedroom lies at the top of an iron ladder, Doug plans to build some stairs.

Its cold, and on one occasion, after damage caused by vandals, they awoke with six inches of snow on their bed.

Because of Anne’s health Doug is unable to get a job, he has to be with her as much as possible. They struggle on £27 a week social security, from which he has to buy materials for repairs. “What is spent on patching up the cottage cannot be spent on food”, said Anne. “Our christmas dinner was egg and chips”. Water is fetched three times a day from a spring below the house, a hazardous job in icy weather.

Climbers, Doug claims, have not left this important life line alone, and have used it as a toilet.

The following newspaper article appeared on the 7th of December 1981 and is as follows: A remarkable, Peak district stone cottage, complete with roof battlements, which last year brought an offer of £8000 from the Peak Plannig Board, has attracted a firm bid of £55,000  from a Panamanian company, it was disclosed yesterday.

The offer is likely to herald the end of a long struggle by a couple against what they see as pressure by local bureaucracy frustrating their desire for a quiet rural life.

The 120 year old rockhall cottage, about 4 miles north of Leek, staffs, once part of the huge Brocklehurst estate, stands at an elevation of 1300ft, presses against towering black rocks which offer some of the best gritstone climbing in Britain and gives a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside.

Mr Douglas Moller, 49, self styled Lord of the Roaches, and his wife Anne, 56, brought the cottage three years ago at a public auction for £6000 and fenced of their land, with, he says, the agreement of two farmers who had brought adjoining land at the same auction.

But his problems started two years ago when the farmers sold their land to the Peak board. The board contended that the fencing was on their land and must be taken down, and also thaty it was barring public access to the climbing rocks in the area known as the Roaches.

After nine months of somewhat acrimonious negotiations the boards men moved in and dismantled the fencing. There were other disputes, too, including an allegation that Mr Moller was gathering firewood on park property, and in March last year thet decided to sell up.

In the summer of 1980 the board made an offer of £8000 for the property, which they would like to use as a Ranger base or a briefing centre. But the offer was withdrawn in August last year.

The couples efforts to guard their castle like home attracted local publicity and mention that the cottage was lacking in normal amenities brought a visit last March by a health inspector from Staffordshire Moorlands district council. The cottage was declared, ” unfit for human habitation”, and in October Mr Moller gave an undertaking that the premises would be brought up to an agreed standard within 30 months. But, if it is sold in the meantime, it cannot be occupied until power and water supplies and other work has been completed.

Mr James Angus, Chief Enviromental Health Officer for the district council, said yesterday that if the undertaking was not complied with in that time the council would be bound to make a closing order or demolition order under the housing act of 1974.

The water supply is hand pumped from a spring 150 yards away down the steep boulder strewn hillside. One estimate is that modernising the cottage would cost at least £15,000.

Mr Moller’s straggly beard, black eyepatch and rough clothing present a somewhat foreboding appearance and the estate agent’s sale notice warns interested parties: “do not visit without an appointment.” But the Lord of the Roaches is friendly enough to pre arranged callers. An open log fire provided the only light across the floorboards of the scantily furnished room as he served up tea and philosophy.

“My wife and I came here and just wanted to be left alone to stay here for life. There was no water or electricity but we thought it was wonderfully private for walks in the woods, which my wife loved. But after the climbers could get onto the rocks we have had radios blaring out at 5 am and other disturbances from some of the other visitors.”

A carved seat which celebrates a royal visit which can be found above rockhall cottage.

Doug added, “all this upset has affected my wife’s health and there has been so much pressure that we are selling up. We will try to find somewhere else quiet in the countryside where we will really be left alone.”

Six months ago Mr Moller’s then solicitor advised him to “cut your losses” and sell to the board. But Mr David Scarisbrick, the estate agent,said: “We have had quite a lot of offers up to £60,000, mostly from abroad, including one confirmed bid of £55,000.

This photo shows Doxy’s pool which can be found on top of the Roaches fairly close to rockhall cottage. There is a legend which says that a mermaid inhabits this pool and lures unsuspecting men into its depths with her singing. This legend may have arisen from the fact that Bess Bowyer once inhabited rockhall before its was a shooting lodge, when it was still just a naturally formed cave. According to legend she had a daughter who would sing amongst the rocks and it may have been this that gave rise to the legend of a mermaid luring people to their deaths from her singing. Bess’s daughter was abducted by unknown assailants and Bess died from a broken heart due to her sad loss.

When I met Doug recently he told me about the one man protest he staged at the Planning Board in Bakewell, he also told me that because he had threatened to use explosives on the Roaches an armed SWAT team arrived at the boards headquarters where he staged his protest! The following account was taken from a newspaper which appeared on the 8th of April 1987 and is as follows:

Self styled Lord of the Roaches, Doug Moller put Peak Park bosses on the spot last week when he staged an amazing one man protest.

The eccentric moorlands personality arrived at the Peak Parks Planning Board’s headquarters in Bakewell at the crack of dawn last Friday to tackle bosses over their plans to move him and his wife Anne from their home at Rockhall cottage to a house in Longor.

Staff arriving for work found Doug sitting in the middle of the drive leading up to the Peak Park offices, waving a banner protesting his refusal to accept the planning board’s proposal.

Despite pleas from Peak Park officials, Doug refused to budge and embarrassed staff were forced to cordon Doug off with traffic cones.

After six hours of open air discussions between 56 year old Doug and Peak Park officers, he agreed to end his protest and a ranger gave him a lift home.

Doug said later at his home at the foot of the Roaches that he had spoken to the Chief Planning Officer, Mr Bill McDermott but they had failed to reach a settlement.

He insists Peak Park plans to lease him the house in Longnor are unfair. The board should allow him to own the house outright in exchange for Rockhall cottage, he says.

But the board has said Doug will not have to pay rent and has guaranteed that he and Anne can live there for the rest of their lives.

This is not the first time a determined Doug has taken on the might of the Peak Park. He recently threatened to sue the planning authority for £10 million compensation, claiming that continuous heated wrangles between him and planning board officers had led to the loss of his and his wife’s sex life because of the anxiety they had suffered.

Mr McDermott said this week that he had failed to persuade Doug to take up the Peak Park’s offer. “We cannot force Mr Moller to accept the exchange. The board has no reason to offer the exchange property other than acting as good neighbours”, he said.

The following article appeared in the local paper on the 20th of December 1989 and is as follows: After twelve years of living without electricity or running water, Doug and Anne Moller have moved back to the twentieth century for Christmas. The couple have left bleak Rockhall in the Roaches – the house with definitely no mod cons – and set up home in a renovated cottage at Knotbury end, near Quarnford.

“Now I shall be able to have a bath, I’ve gone twelve years without one,” said Anne (65) this week. She had become a virtual recluse since the couple moved to the Moorlands from Wales. Doug (55) self styled Lord of the Roaches has fought for years to strike a deal with the Peak Park Planning board after finding he could not renovate Rockhall, built into the front of a sheer rock face.

Getting water from a spring 200 yards away, the couple have spent freezing winters huddled next to their log fire that provided light, warmth and somewhere to cook. Aladder led upstairs and the floor was bare earth.

Now the Peak Park have taken over the Victorian cottage and the Mollers are to rent remote Knotbury End from the board. A Peak Park spokesman said the future of Rockhall had yet to be decided, but it would probably be put to recreational use.

For the Mollers, who moved in on Saturday, it means a return to running water, electricity, a bathroom and even a television. Builders are still finishing £30,000 worth of renovations, but the couple are happy to be in for Christmas.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“At the moment its in a heck of a mess, but its nice and quiet here,” said Doug. “But I’m still very bitter that its taken so long to sort this out.”

Anne is still coping with the loss of her furniture, either rotted or burnt on the Rockhall fire, imcluding her beloved piano. “A lot of our stuff has been ruined, but its wonderful to think that this Christmas we will be warm and dry,” she said.

Doug and Anne lived happily until late November 2003 when a tragic accident occurred when she was tending the fire, her nightie caught on fire and she was severely burnt, although she was rushed to hospital complications set in and she passed away in early december.

Doug can still be seen around Leek on  wednesday when he catches the bus from by the Travellers Rest pub by Flash and travels in to collect his pension, you can’t really miss him he is the one wearing a black eye patch!

ADDED NOTE.

UNUSUAL ROOF INSULATION!

On the 10th May 2013 I travelled up to Knotbury to see how Doug was doing as I hadn’t seen him for a while, I nearly got blown off my motorbike (different world up here). When I eventually arrived at Doug’s Place he wasn’t in, although the fire was lit in the living room, he may have just gone a walk or been at a neighbouring farm, anyhow I turned around and was walking along the path towards the gate where I had parked my motorbike when I heard a noise above me, lo and behold there were three sheep standing on the apex of the roof! One side of Doug’s roof slopes nearly to the ground as the house is built on the side of a hill, for some bizarre reason these sheep seem to have developed the habit of climbing onto it, perhaps to enjoy the incredible views from this location?

Photo-0013

On the 8th of July 2013 I travelled up to Knotbury after having spent some time on Ramshaw Rocks taking photographs for an article I was writing  about Hindley and Brady visiting this area which can be viewed on this website at https://ludchurchmyblog.wordpress.com/hindley-brady-the-serpent-stone/ and I then called in to see if Doug was okay. He is in good health although he is awaiting some tests with regards to his asthma and I will probably call back up to see him in a month or so. I took this photo of him standing by my bike just before I left.

brady and hindley 002

I usually call and see Doug about once a month to make sure he is okay and take him a pie from Lawton’s pie shop in Leek where he usually eats on a wednesday when he travels to Leek to get his pension. I usually spend an hour or so with him listening to his stories and telling him some of the things that I’ve discovered in the Staffordshire Moorlands. I last called to see him on 28-4-15 when he gave me some information which he had been saving for me and which he kindly signed. I’ve reproduced the information and uploaded it onto this page as it may be of interest to some readers and it gives more of an insight into the Roaches and Rock Hall cottage where he used to live.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


37 Responses to “Doug Moller “Lord of the Roaches.””

  1. 19/11/2012. Hi there, I knew Doug very well, and he and I wrote to each other regularly whrn I lived in Kent. I have kept to this day an account of his life given to me by him at the time, at at his time in on the Lines in Chatham, in the Navy. It is very sad that these events happened to him, as he is a wonderful man. I now live in France, but if I can get to see him, I will surely do. If anyone has the exact address where he now lives I would be obliged

    • Hi Colin,
      Thanks for your comments about Doug. The last time I saw him he was awaiting some hospital test results which was about a month ago. I usually go to see him once a month and take a dinner up to him and to check that he is okay. He lives in a very isolated part of the Staffordshire moorlands, however his nearest neighbours usually check on him, sometimes in the winter he gets completely cut off from the outside world when it snows heavy, he told me that his neighbour who is a farmer uses’s a tractor to ger supplies to him. I will be calling up to see him soon, weather permitting and I will mention your name too him and ask him for his address which I could forward on to him if you let me have your e-mail address.
      Regards Gary

  2. Gary – I have been researching this story…not for press…not for gain, but purely and sincerley for inspirational purposes of the ‘personal’ kind. It would be such an honour to meet Doug..maybe drink tea or ale – whichever he prefers and just simply to utter words and share the time to be. I will not publicly post my reasons nor can I publicly post a contact number, but if you can get this message to Doug and he is interested I would be most grateful to you if you could take the tine to respond.

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Sharon,
      I visit Doug quite often, I usually go to see him on a friday, I call in at lawton pie shop in Leek which he has used for the past thirty years. I buy a couple of pies and travel up to his isolated house close to Three Shires Head and have dinner with him. I’m sure he would’nt mind if you came with me to meet him. I’m not sure if you live locally, however if you do the local library at Leek or Congleton should have a copy of his book. You can contact me at garytacagni@btinternet.com
      Regards Gary

  3. Gary – I have heard a rumour that our beloved lord of the roaches has passed away is this true 😦 I knew him since i was a small boy and he always fascinated me with his column in the leek post if you could email me i would be most greatful

    kindest regards
    Graham

  4. graham you do not know me but i am the youngest brother doug moller of fazakerley i have not seen him since our mother died we are 5 brothers &2 sisters what can you tell me about him .i am his young,s brother

  5. ask doug if he in a orphanage with brother kenath alan if he say,s yes you have your answerif not how do i no his family if you like i will tell all birthdays

  6. gary tell doug fred &i are still trying to find allen

  7. What a great article on one of life’s true country gents. I have the privilege of being in correspondence with Doug since 1987, when I first met him whilst on an outward bound course in Daneback (sp). Kevin, our instructor, warned us not to be afraid if we encountered a man wielding an axe wearing an eye patch! Some of the people in the group were put off, but not me and my twin – we were meeting a pirate!

    Please send Doug our love, and tell him I will write soon. Zena

  8. Hi, myself and my wife met Doug on Friday 3rd of may 2013 when we got lost on our way to Blackclough farm nearby. I got my camper van stuck on the dirt track by his cottage. A motorcyclist and Doug helped us out and he told us all about his life and his fight for justice. We feel lucky and privileged to have had the misfortune of getting stuck which led to the opportunity to meet such an incredible man and our friends didn’t believe our story when we arrived an hour late! When you see Doug next please offer him our sincere thanks and best wishes. His old carpet got our van off the dirt track and his stories will last us a lifetime. Kind regards Dale & Ruth

  9. I remember receiving the estate agent’s details of this place back in the early 80’s when my first husband and I were looking for a renovation project that would be our forever country hideaway home (much the same as Doug and Anne had intended, I now realise!). We didn’t go into the cottage because we hadn’t made an appointment, but walked around the outside of the fence and up onto the rocks above – we didn’t feel entirely happy about the fact that it was public access above the house and the details were sketchy about the potential to bring a proper plumbed water supply from the spring. We had no idea that the Mollers had suffered so much and I’m so glad our gut feeling prevented us from having a similar experience!!! If you see Doug again, please send him my best wishes, although he doesn’t know me.

  10. Hello,
    I came across this( great web site) today. I live in Canada but grew up in Derbyshire. And a few years back when visiting family, I told them I was going to do a hike around the Roaches. They told me about this guy that lived up there. We had a great walk but sorry to say I did not get the pleasure of meeting Doug (Moller).
    You have a very good site (Ludchurch) I have had a good rainy afternoon reading it. Keep up the good work………….

  11. Hi loved your Blog about Doug. I’ve put a link to it in the site for the Roaches Hut: http://www.donwhillanshut.co.uk.

  12. I called to see Doug yesterday but he was not at home unfortunately. I left a note and some biscuits. We have met and corresponded over 10 years now. When I first met him I was fascinated by his stories but loved his personality too. He is a real gentleman and enjoys engaging with people. I was interested to read about a relative in these blogs. Doug spent some years trying to reconnect with his siblings but did not have much joy. We will be calling back v soon…if you see him first please assure him of that. Pauline Tranter

  13. What a guy , I met him while on a school trip with a couple of other then teenagers ,we had been told tales of him……but they was proved untrue he chatted with us and told us about the climbers ……I’m really glad I read this thank you

  14. met doug once in leek- he was signing his fabbo book- he never got to meet princess Diana, her loss, walk all the way to chatsworth to see her but the police got wind of it and they had him away- he wanted her to save his home on the roaches.
    took him a big crusty loaf when i tracked him down near flash, but the road was blocked by stone wall builders- i turned back- one of my regrets- may buy another loaf and try again – hope he is still on the planet earth- one on his own he is. ciao michael

  15. Hi Gary
    We met Doug on DofE- we got very lost and ended up near his house. He was very kind and helpful (and a funny character too!) and pointed us in the right direction. He left us with the parting words “now, on your travels, you can say you met Doug, lord of the roaches!” We thought this quite eccentric until a climbing instructor told us today that he’s actually a local celebrity! He saved us hours of walking (and this was incredibly helpful as a friend had an injured ankle) so if you see him soon please pass on our thanks, even though he most likely won’t remember us 🙂

  16. Dec.2014 Hi all, living in France, dear Doug sent me a Xmas card again this year, he is such a wonderful person, and the Peak District Authority should have NEVER interfered with his life and made him move from the Roaches, and I’d like to think that they could refurbish, provide plenty of food and electricity etc. totally FREE for EVER in his cottage. I will get to see him hopefully sometime in the new year, and until then, he has my blessing.

  17. […] woods when it is dark feels a little nervous as it can be a mysterious place, I have no idea how Doug Moller lived up there for so […]

  18. I met ‘Lord of the Roaches’, travelling on the bus. He was an Amazing, eccentric character who entertained all the passengers and will live in my memory !

  19. Called to see Doug yesterday. He is 83 now but still fiercely independent. Still has a good yarn to tell, bless him. Don’t know how he keeps going in winter as he lives in such a remote place but he tells me that his neighbours are very kind and help him out. Such a lovely man.tranterp@yahoo

  20. Called to see Doug yesterday. He is 83 now but still fiercely independent. Still has a good yarn to tell, bless him. Don’t know how he keeps going in winter as he lives in such a remote place but he tells me that his neighbours are very kind and help him out. Such a lovely man.

  21. The roaches was the first place I went climbing 30 years ago. I remember belaying someone in this thick fog – could only see a few feet it was that bad. All of a sudden this figure came out of the fog. The figure was doug. I have to admit he freaked me out with the eye patch and his attire.
    As a youth I was scared to death of him but got to meet him on numerous occasions and found out that he was a really nice bloke.
    You don’t get characters like him very often

  22. Hi,
    Your e.mail is interesting. I have known Dear Doug for 40+years, but is very unfortunate that I am unable to get to see him at the moment as we live in France, however, if you do see him, PLEASE will you give him our Love and Best wishes, and say he will have a letter from me soon.
    Thank You once again,
    Colin-De Blonville

    • Hi Colin, I went to see Doug last week and he is okay, although he can’t walk very far these days. I usually call and see him once a month and I will be sure to pass on your message.
      Regards Gary.

  23. Thank You Gary, it will be very much appreciated.
    Colin

  24. I took a short series of photographs of Doug in 1981, after I had finished my three year course at Leek School of Art and Craft. My friend and I just chanced upon Doug whilst riding our motorbikes over the moors looking for interesting photographic opportunities. Well Doug certainly made our trip worthwhile!

    I’m planning to produce a website with a retrospective of my past work, which will include some of these photographs taken of Doug. I’ll post a link to it if anyone is interested. I it won’t be for a while though because I have lots and lots (and lots!!!) of negatives, all packed away in storage.

    Ant

  25. Hi Ant that would be great

  26. Hi I know Doug he is my uncle my dads brother I have not seen him for about 20 years

  27. Hi Paul, alsoto anyone else who will see Doug before Xmas. I have just received a lovely Xmas Card from Doug BUT, he didn’t say if he had received mine, because it had Money Enclosed !
    Colin

  28. I have not seen my uncle Doug since my nanna passed away I would like to get in contact with him and see how he is doing if you do contact him can you say that Freddy’s son Paul is asking after him i don’t know if he will remember my mum anne she passed away last year he might like to know thanks

  29. I remember Doug well in the eighties i used to take army cadets from leek camp climbing on the roaches and used to take Doug some ration packs. He used to frighten the cadets by holding his axe above the ropes good old Dougie fond memories all the best Kevin Danson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: