The owl and the castle - and a place in history

Today's papers are carrying pictures of an owl causing chaos at a wedding in Cheshire.  On cue, the owl (a professional "wedding owl") flew in to deliver the wedding rings, but the best men (there were three of them - it was a big wedding and the groom couldn't decide between his three best mates) had trouble unhooking the pouch containing the rings from the owl's talons and, as the bird began to flap its wings, the best men started flapping too . . .

This all happened at Peckforton Castle - an address that has a special place in the social history of our country.  In 1992, when I became MP for the City of Chester, Mrs Evelyn Graybill, the then owner of Peckforton Castle, came to see me.  She wanted to know why people wanting a civil wedding couldn't get married in her castle.  'People can be married in Chester Cathedral,' she said, 'why not in Peckforton Castle?'  I took her point - and, as a direct result of our meeting, introduced a private member's bill in parliament that became the 1994 Marriage Act and for the first time allowed civil weddings to take place in venues other than register offices.  It was a simple piece of legislation that totally changed the wedding business in our country.  Yup, if you've been married - or are planning to be married - in a beautiful hotel or an historic house or a stately home or whatever wonderful venue it may be, it's all down to Peckforton Castle, Mrs Graybill, and me.

Gyles Brandreth