Know Your Boundaries

I’d wondered about this curious sandstone block, embedded in one of the gate posts of the Garden of Remembrance on Bird St, but it wasn’t until I read a newspaper article on the unveiling and dedication of the war memorial that I learnt that it is apparently an ‘ancient’ boundary stone. The article in the Lichfield Mercury, dated October 22nd 1920, describes how a high wall running along Bird St was demolished and replaced by the stone balustrade that now runs along the edge of the garden. Prior to its demolition, the boundary stone was originally incorporated into this wall, but whether that was its original location, or was an earlier effort to preserve the stone, I don’t yet know.

Boundary stone embedded in lower part of right gate pier of Lichfield’s Garden of Remembrance

Close up of the ‘ancient’ boundary stone

A newspaper report from May 1936 describes how the Cathedral Choristers observed the tradition of ‘Beating the Bounds’ each Ascension Day. Accompanied by members of the clergy, the boys would start opposite St Mary’s Vicarage and stop off at places were there was, or had been, a well – ‘midway between the pool and Gaia Lane’, the Bishop’s kitchen garden, the Dean’s kitchen garden, Milley’s Hospital, the boundary stone on the Minster Pool Bridge and the Verger’s house in the corner of the Close before finally gathering at the old pump to the North West of the Cathedral, to which water from the Conduit Heads up near Maple Hayes once flowed along a lead pipe. The boys would carry elm boughs, and at each of the stop off points there was a reading from the scriptures and a verse of a hymn was sung. In 1936, the elm boughs were brought inside the Cathedral and laid on the font. An account from 1910 describes how choristers would collect boughs from the Dimbles and then return to the Close where they would decorate the houses before commencing their perambulation. I understand that these days Ascension Day is marked by the choristers singing from the roof. It’s interesting that elm boughs used to play a part in the custom; it makes me think of old traditions related to the Lichfield Bower which takes place in the same month.

‘Beating the bounds’ apparently dates back to a time before maps and was a way of ensuring that the knowledge of where the boundaries of an area, or a parish, lay was passed on. The tradition in The Close seems to have been centred around wells and water, but in other places boundaries were also marked by other natural features.  A Gospel Tree is marked on OS maps of Gentleshaw up until the 1930s and Gospel Oak is a common place name, found all over the country.

On the subject of maps, there’s a great version of John Snape’s 1781 map on BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog here. I think that the boundary of the Close, similar to that described above, is shown clearly on this map in the form of a dotted line running around the Close. What do you think?

There’s a lot more to be said on boundaries and their markers, including the exciting possibility that if this one is still here, there just might be others preserved somewhere in or around the city. In fact, my neighbour may even have found one in her garden (if you’re reading this, you know who you are!). Just for now though, I want to concentrate on this stone in the wall. It seems to be marked and I’m wondering whether this is deliberate or not (or if I’m imagining it!). Also, just how ancient is ancient? Any thoughts?

Edit: Just had one thought myself actually! In many places it seems boundary stones and trees were actually hit with sticks (as can be seen here in Oxford) or physically marked in some other way, as people passed by them on their perambulation. Is it possible the marks on our boundary stone are evidence of it being ‘beaten’ over the centuries?

 

 

 

A Flag Post

Hanging in the main hall of Lichfield’s Guildhall are banners representing the city’s wards. I’ve read on an information sheet about the Guildhall that these flags were created in 1975, by students from Lichfield’s School of Art. However, I’m wondering if they are based on anything earlier or if they are just recent(ish) designs? It does seem possible that each ward may have had its own symbol in the past - talking about The Court of Array in 1805, Thomas Harwood said,

“The public officers of the city attend and various processions are made by the constables and dozeners of each ward who in these processions anciently bore tutelary saints but which are now converted into garlands of flowers or emblems of their trade”.

 

Now, I had written down which flag in the Guildhall related to which ward on a piece of paper but I left it at the pub over the jubilee weekend (Ye Olde Windmill in Gentleshaw where I had a lovely steak & ale pie.  In fact, as the name suggests there is a ruined old windmill in the grounds, so the pub probably deserves a post of its own). I’ve been back to the Guildhall several times since, but haven’t been able to get into the main hall for one reason or another.

I can remember all but two. I think. Some are definitely more obvious than others. I reckon the best thing to do is put the photos up and see if anyone has any ideas about which flag relates to which ward and why. In the meantime I’ll try and get back to the Guildhall to make another list and hold onto it this time!  

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By the way, there is no flag for Leomansley, so I’ll just have to design my own. If anyone from the Lichfield School of Art Class of 1975 wants to get in touch to give me a hand with this, or to share the story of how the other banners came to be made,  that would be fantastic!

(1) History, Gazeteeer & Directory of Staffordshire William White 1834

A Short Account of the City & Close of Lichfield’ by Thomas George Lomax, John Chappel Woodhouse, William Newling (1819)

Lichfield: Town government, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 73-87

 

Lichfield Armour

On Wednesday, Pat sent me a link to a British Pathe film. The short film is from 1938 and shows boys and men dressed in armour for the Lichfield Bower. This on its own is fascinating stuff. However, this week it’s not only an interesting piece of footage but also a topical one!

The lead story in this week’s Mercury tells how the Bower Committee feel they have no choice but to sell off two of the four suits of armour they own (presumably some of those featured in the film?), to ensure the survival of the event.  You can read the full article here.

There’s so much more to be said on the Bower, about its history & its future and also its place in the Lichfield psyche. There is a great site for the Bower which explores some of the history behind this Lichfeldian tradition, as well as giving updates on this year’s festivities.

You can view a copy of the film by clicking here. I think the procession is travelling down Beacon St in the film, what does anyone else think? Huge thanks to Pat for his great contribution, as ever.

I don’t have any photos of the Bower Armour, but I do have a photo of a suit of armour I took somewhere else in Lichfield. Anyone else spotted this chap in ye olde city?

 

 

Edit 23/2/2012

Over on twitter, the Beacon Street Blog have spotted a story in the Lichfield Mercury, saying that the armour has been withdrawn from the sale, due to a dispute over ownership with Lichfield District Council.

A Bower Queen in Beacon Park

This beautiful photograph is of Clara Talbott, and it was her prize for being chosen as the Lichfield Bower Queen in 1931. Clara was the third Queen to be crowned and although other parts of the Bower date back to much earlier, it seems this tradition only began in 1929. The Lichfield Mercury reported that Clara’s ‘long auburn hair had provided a very favourable comparison with the more modern ‘bobs’ and ‘shingles’. It goes on to tell us that Clara was assisted by her ‘fair maids of honour’ Misses R Orton, M Barker, F Nevill and K Carroll.

A mirror was used to give the impression of a reflection in water.

The photograph belongs to Vickie Sutton, Clara’s granddaughter. She told me that the photograph was taken in woods around Leomansley, where the A51 western bypass now cuts through the woodland. I understand that these trees here were planted by the owners of the now vanished Beacon Place.

Woodland at the edge of Beacon Park and the old carriage driveway from Christ Church to Beacon Place, with the A51 through the middle!

Clara’s family farmed land on Beacon Park and once married, Clara and her husband Frederick Hatchett lived in The Lodge in Greenhough Rd. As the name suggests this was a lodge for Beacon Place and at one point was used as a laundry for the house – it was known as Laundry Lodge in 1891! Vickie has heard from a family member that it may also have been used a some sort of cafe for soldiers in the first world war. I haven’t been able to find any specific references to this yet but records show that Beacon Place was used by officers during WWI and was purchased by the war department in 1922. Cuthbert Brown remembers military figures entering Beacon Place in his wonderful book ‘Lichfield Remembered’.

Once again huge thanks to Vickie for allowing me to share this. The Beacon Place Estate is definitely on my list of things to explore. It may be long gone, but traces of it still linger on….

Sources:

Lichfield Mercury May 1931
A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990)
1891 Census
Lichfield Remembered by Cuthbert Brown
Chatting to Vickie Sutton, font of Lichfield knowledge!