Youth Hostelling With….

I’ve had an email from Nick, who is looking for information of Lichfield’s Youth Hostels as he’s doing a talk on the subject.

Apart from a photo of a Lichfield Youth Hostel badge (showing the Cathedral!), all I can find is a list of dates from Wikipedia, showing that there was a hostel in Lichfield from 1937 to 1939, 1940 to 1941 and then from 1944 to 1973. We know that there was one on the Birmingham Rd (where Magnet is) and that this was once the Regional Office, but whether the earlier ones were here or elsewhere is uncertain.

If there is anyone out there who has any memories or photographs of the YHA in Lichfield that they are happy to share, please get in touch and I’ll pass your information on to Nick.



Last Christmas

I started this blog around this time last year. I was looking for the medieval conduit in the woods at Pipe Hill and thought I’d start a blog to record this & all of the other things I found out about Lichfield just in case anyone else was interested.

A year on and I’ve had a fantastic time exploring Lichfield and its nearby places. The best thing by far has been the discussions that have taken place whether on here, twitter, facebook, by email or sometimes even in real life! So thanks for reading, contributing and making this a joy to do. Happy Christmas to everyone, I’m really excited about &  looking forward to all that’s to come in 2012.

By the way, I still haven’t found that conduit head…New Years Resolution number 1?

I Love Archives!

I just want to enthuse about archives for a moment. For example, the documents I looked at regarding Elford also included a huge amount of information on how the City of Birmingham prepared for WW2, how they coped during the war and also their VE day celebration plans. Alongside this momentous stuff, there are also incredibly human documents for example, letters documenting an argument between two members of the council, after one was sat next to someone he didn’t like at a dinner! Archives and Record Offices, whether in Birmingham or Lichfield or wherever hold such wide range of important and fascinating information. I’m also pleased to say that in my experience, I have received nothing but incredibly helpful and knowledgeable assistance when using these services. Please use them too, whether it’s family or local history you’re interested in. And then let me know what you found out because I’m nosey 😉

My got-a-cough-&-cold archives survival kit.On my way to Birmingham, I'd eaten half the soothers by Shenstone

The Garden of Elford

A few months ago I wrote the Pomology post about the Elford Pippin apple and the rhubarb and grapes raised at Elford Hall gardens by Mr William Buck, gardener to the Hon FG Howard.

Although Elford Hall has been demolished, the gardener’s house, which would presumably have been home to Mr Buck in the early 1800s, still stands alongside the walled garden & its associated buildings.  The Elford Hall Garden Project was set up to restore the garden, which had lain unused and overgrown for some years. Birmingham City Council own the land and after some negotiating, agreed to lease it to the group.

A week or so ago, I went up to the gardens to have a look. Despite it being early evening,  I was given a wonderfully warm welcome by one of the project’s volunteers who then showed me around. The progress that has been made is fantastic.  Some of the buildings have been restored already, such as the melon house and stables and there are plans to do the same for other buildings such as the vinery (where apparently a 15lb bunch of grapes was grown in 1823!) and the mushroom house. The garden was filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables – this latest generation of Elford gardeners would even give Mr Buck a run for his money!

I am looking at the history of Elford Hall in more depth, but for today, I’ll leave you with a couple of photographs and a recommendation that you take a trip over there to see this lovely place for yourself. If you do go soon, ask if you can try one of those little yellow plums, they’re delicious.

Festival of History

I’ve been at Kelmarsh Hall, Northants, today for the English Heritage Festival of History. I know it’s not about Lichfield, but I thought I’d share a few photos anyway….

Ermine Street Guard

The Roman Tortoise

Gladiators Ready!

Battle of Bosworth Archers


King Richard III


Oliver's Army

Deeds not Words


First World War Trench


Inside the WWI Trench

Dig for Victory!

The Pub

Highgate Brewery Walsall!

Ausweis Ausstellen!

Army Bikes

Medical Truck

The Black Bear

Eilidh Armour-Brown

Leomansley House was once the home of the artist Eilidh Armour-Brown. She was chairman, treasurer and vice president of Lichfield Society of Artists and a founder member of Lichfield Arts Centre. Fans of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ will be interested to know that she was the great niece of Dr Thomas Barnardo. Eilidh and her husband Peter bought the house in the 1950s when it was three old mill cottages. Eilidh died in 1994 and there is a stone seat in the corner of Pipe Green Meadow, which reads ‘Peter Eilidh who loved this place’. I like to sit there and try and spot the deer at Maple Hayes through the fence. I love it too.


Some of Eilidh’s work can be found at

An interesting tidbit of info is that whilst renovations were taking place in 1956 an 11th century spear head was discovered by Master Derek Fearn.

Lichfield in Old Photographs by Howard Clayton & Kathleen Simmons

Lichfield Record Office

Hollow Ways with Cross in Hand

Abnalls Lane

I first came across a description of Hollow Ways in the excellent book “England in Particular: A Celebration of the Commonplace, the Local, the Vernacular and the Distinctive”  by Sue Clifford and Angela King.

They describe Hollow Ways as “…those curious rural tracks that have been gradually ground out from hillsides by generations of pedestrians”.

As ever whilst looking for somthing else, I found out that there are several hollow ways nearby – leading East from Farewell, on the Parish boundary between Farewell and Chorley and Burntwood, Cross in Hand Lane and in the Maple Hayes area (Abnalls Lane) amongst others.

It seems from this description in ‘Lichfield: Domestic buildings and communications’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990) that Cross in Hand Lane was the road to Stafford until 1770.

“In the north of the city the road followed Beacon Street, described as the road to Stafford in the later 13th century, and Cross in Hand Lane. It branched off to follow the lane running along the north-west boundary which was still known as Old London Road in 1835. The cross with the hand which stood at the fork by the 15th century was probably a direction post. In 1770 the course of the road was straightened to avoid the hollow way in Cross in Hand Lane by means of a new line to the east, the present Stafford Road.”

There are records of a medieval cross between Beacon Street and Cross in Hand Lane, but no trace of this cross has been seen. I have seen two theories for the name Cross in Hand. Firstly, according to ‘Townships: Burntwood’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), the area “..took its name from ‘the cross with the hand’ mentioned in the later 15th and early 16th century, evidently a direction post”. The Staffs Past Track website suggests this “The lane from Lichfield to Farewell, known as ‘Cross in Hand Lane’, is thought to be so-called because travellers wanting sanctuary at the Benedictine priory would use that route, carrying a cross in their hand”.

I have found a description of the Cross in Hand Hollow Way in ‘The Olio’ 1829.

“But the chief interest of the yew tree, in my eyes, is the mutual connection between it and some of the most stirring recollections of the past, and the most endearing circumstances of the present. How can I forget those twin Titans,superb in the blackness of their vivid foliage, that towered and waved over the red holloway near Lichfield! It was a little hamlet that, lying midway between the city and the old Benedictine Convent of Fairwell, was called Cross-in-hand, doubtless from the frequent monastic processions between the Nunnery and the Minster, or from some rustic image enshrined by the roadside.

The houses, nested under high banks, scarce revealed themselves by the smokewreathes among their orchards ; and the orchards themselves just raised their coloured raiment of blossom or fruit to a level with the smooth green uplands, which the holloway so deeply bisected. But the two yews, justly entitled Gog and Magog, upheaved their funereal forms and surgy branches into the free sky,— for miles the cynosure of this little caverned village”

I wonder if these two yews still exist. I’ll just add it to my ever growing list of things to go and have a look for!

Long Live the King’s Head!

 A neighbour of the King’s Head has been complaining about the noise. Perhaps when they moved to the area they didn’t realise that there was a pub nearby – after all it has only been there since 1495. Anyway, for anyone who is interested in one of Lichfield’s oldest and most historic inns, here is a bit of history and legend.
According to the County History, The King’s Head in Bird Street was known as such by 1694 but in existence as the Antelope by 1495 and later called the Bush.

 On 25th March 1705 Colonel Luke Lillingston raised a regiment initially named ‘Lillingston’s Regiment’, then the ’38th of Foot’, and finally ‘The South Staffordshire Regiment’.  The 80th Regiment of Foot was raised in 1793 by Henry William Paget for the Revolutionary War with France and the original headquarters and place for enlistment was The King’s Head.

It is of course listed and the description given is ‘A coaching inn, now public house. Mid to late C18 with early C19 alterations. A good example of one of the coaching inns which served the London to Holyhead and Carlisle road’.

From the 1828-29 Pigotts Directory (as seen on the Burntwood Family History Group Website).

TO LONDON the Herald (from Manchester) calls at the King’s Head every morning (Mondays excepted) at half past-two; goes thro’ Tamworth, Atherstone, Coventry, Daventry, Towcester, Stoney Stratford, Dunstable, St Albans Ec
TO MANCHESTER the Herald, (from London) calls at the King’s Head, every morning (Mondays excepted) at nine; goes thro’ Stone, Newcastle, Congleton Ec.
CARRIERS (i.e. freight)
TO BIRMINGHAM, Mrs. Bates, from the King’s Head,
TO BIRMINGHAM, UTTOXETER Ec.. Thomas Butler, from the King’s Head
The pub features on the Lichfield Ghost Walk. A maid is supposed to have died in a fire and a ghostly light is seen flickering in the upstairs windows. A mortally wounded laughing (!) cavalier wanders the pavement outside. According to the Staffordshire Encyclopedia there is also a ghost called George. On a personal note, I was sitting at a table with my family near the bar several years ago and I felt a sharp pain in my neck, as if someone had flicked it really hard and my necklace fell off. My neck had a big red mark on it and I’m still not quite sure what caused it!

Well, well, well! Merlich, Jacob & Mary

Most of us Lichfeldians know about St Chad’s well. However, I have come across a few other wells in Lichfield which seem to have disappeared.

Merliches Well – According to the William Salt Archaeological Society’s ‘Collection for a History of Staffordshire’, Merliches Well was on Merliches Lane, a short lane at right angles to Pipe Lane. Pipe Lane was the old name for Abnalls Lane and was on the east side of Beacon Street, or Bacone Street as it was known then.

From A Short Account of the Ancient and Modern State of the City and Close of Lichfield, ‘on the North Side of Shaw Lane leading to Merliche’s or Maudlin’s Well was a large house called Whitehall, and on the south side the Archdeacon of Chester had a house’. ( I think the Archdeacons house was on the corner of Beacon St and Shaw Lane).

John Jackson’s History of the City and Cathedral of Lichfield says that tradition suggests that Maudlins Well was so called due to a drunkard tumbling in one evening after one too many. However Jackson believes that the name instead referes to Magdalen.

Jacob’s Well – near Friar’s Alley, a few yards from the brook near this place was a spring formerly in repute for curing weak eyes and sores.

Marywell – In Breadmarket St, was a house called Priest’s Hall (now St Mary’s Chambers) and near here was a well called Marywell. According to the County History, St. Mary’s Well, in Breadmarket Street opposite the west end of St. Mary’s church, existed in the late Middle Ages

The Lichfield Gallows

A while ago someone told me that the Lichfield Gallows were situated near the Shell Garage on the London Road/Tamworth Road junction. A woman had told him she was walking past one evening and was pushed by unseen hands. Spooky!

I’ve always meant to check if this was correct and it appears that it is (the location that is, not the spooky story)!

Here’s a link to one of the oldest maps I know of – John Ogilby 1675 Lichfield to Chester  It’s fascinating in its own right, but for today’s purposes look at the bottom left corner and you’ll see Gallows marked, just outside of Lichfield.

‘The History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14’ tells us that ‘A gallows was built, or possibly repaired, at the bishop’s expense in 1532–3. In 1650 there was a gallows on the west side of the London road near its junction with Shortbutts Lane. The gallows there fell down c. 1700, its foundations undermined by people digging for sand, but it was re-erected’

In ‘Staffordshire Customs, Supersitions and Folklore (1924)’, Frederick Hackwood writes that at Gallows Wharf ‘half a centry ago a decayed oak stump stood two feet out of the ground….and was said to be the remains of the ancient gallows-tree’.

Given the description from the County History above, it seems unlikely that this is correct. However, it wouldn’t be the only one in the area – in Brereton (Brewerton?), near Rugeley, Mr Ogilby has marked ‘a hangmans oake on ye road’. A quick look at the archives does show a Hangman’s Croft in Brereton in the 1800s but at the moment I can’t find any other references.

JW Jackson, a City Librarian of Lichfield, contributed a local history column to the Lichfield Mercury in the 1930s. He carried out some research into crime and punishment in Lichfield and found that in 1711 the Sheriff of Lichfield was instructed to carry out two executions. One of these was a man condemned for murder. The other a woman who was sentenced to death for stealing a pair of shoes, a straw hat with brimming, a sixpenny loafe and a cheese. Presumably this poor woman fell foul of the 1699 Shoplifting Act which made it a capital offence to steal goods worth more than 5 shillings!

It seems public executions in Lichfield weren’t a common occurence. According to the website Capitalpunishmentuk, six executions were carried out in the City between 1735 and 1782.  Three men were hanged for uttering (which I understand is the crime of putting something forged into circulation) in April 1801 and the gallows was used for the last time on 1 June 1810 when three forgers were hanged. On the 1884 Ordnance Survey Map, the area is called Gallow’s Wharf, but by the 1920s it was known as St John’s Wharf.