IT’S now 140 years since a besotted husband built Dobroyd Castle at Todmorden for his wife.

The story has been investigated by historian Steve Chapples, who revealed that when John Fielden, son of a wealthy industrialist, fell in love with a local weaver Ruth Stansfield and proposed to her, she said she would marry him if he would promise to build her a castle on a hill. The couple married in 1857 and John had Dobroyd designed and built by John Gibson, of London.

It was completed in 1869, after three years, at a cost of £71,589. It had 66 rooms and a stable for 17 horses and cost more than Todmorden Town Hall and Unitarian Chapel, also designed by Gibson.

Fielden wished to immortalise the family name and live in an edifice which had the most commanding view across the Calder Valley to Stoodley Pike.

In a dozen places around the castle can be seen the monograms JFR carved into the Devon marble and Caen stone as a symbol of their love. They had five maids, a porter, a footman, a gardener, a butler, a coachman and a groom, some of whom lived with their families in houses on the estate.

Ruth Fielden was small and pretty, but the marriage was not a happy one and the couple were childless. John was a social climber and sent Ruth to a finishing school in Switzerland to improve her education and learn social etiquette. He even had a Swiss chalet built for her near the bottom of the hill and, as the couple gradually became more and more alienated, Ruth would withdraw to her wooden chalet. She died aged 50 in February 1877 of jaundice, ostensibly so the London doctor affirmed, and was buried at the Unitarian Chapel across the valley.

Her husband soon remarried a lady of higher social standing called Ellen Mallinson, but in 1873 he was crippled, when he was kicked by a horse and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He died at the castle in 1893, aged 71, and in his will left £476,000, a small fortune in those days. Small wonder that he was known as the King of Todmorden!

The castle was bought by the new Kadampa Buddhist Tradition in 1995, for £320,000, and has been gradually restored.

They hold an annual open day in June, and people can attend weekend retreats and meditation classes there throughout the year.