An Inconstant Stream

According to place name expert Margaret Gelling, Leomansley Brook has a pre-English name. It’s thought the name could contain the Celtic word lēmo, meaning ‘elm’ (1) or lēme meaning ‘limetree’ (2).

1- Conduit Heads; 2 – Start of Leomansley Brook?; 3 Site of Leomansley Mill/House/Manor; 4 – Former Beacon Place fishponds, now Beacon Park boating lake

The brook rises near to the conduit heads at Pipe Hall Farm, Burntwood (at a place I’ve just noticed was also known as The Dimbles, just as the area near to the Circuit Brook is/was!), and crosses the Lichfield/Burntwood boundary, to fill a series of pools on the edge of Leomansley/Sloppy Wood before meandering through Pipe Green.

As mentioned in my previous post, Leamonsley Mill was built on the brook at the edge of Pipe Green in the 1790s. There are a few traces of the industry that was once here – ‘Leomansley Mill Cottage’ is a little further back down the track towards Christ Church Lane and there are also some possibly related brick structures. The second photo shows the place where the brook re-emerges to flow through Pipe Green, and is shown on some maps from the late 19th and early 20th century as a ‘Spout’.

Taken June 2011. On old maps, this is marked as sluice. This part of the watercourse was filled with water once again this weekend

Taken December 2010. Shows as spout on old maps.

I found a recollection by someone who spent the summer of 1984 at the old mill cottages then known as Leomansley House (which they have included a photo of!) producing the first and only issue of what they describe as a ‘local anarcho-DIY philosophy magazine’. In their description of the old house, they describe how Leomansley Brook ran past the front door.

The other stories I’ve found about the pool relate to changes brought about by nature. In February 1902, the frozen pool was used for ice skating.  The Lichfield Mercury reported that on the Friday after the freeze, the pool was quiet, but by Saturday a group of ‘horrid hockey people’ (as one unnamed woman described them) had discovered it and monopolised the best part of the pool.

Another Mercury story, from April 1976 when the artist Eilidh Armour Brown lived at Leomansley House, tells of a water shortage at the pool

Lichfield District Council Staff had been prepared to move fish from Leomansley Pool, after the water levels dropped to a dangerous level for the fish. The fish were to be transferred to Minster Pool until the water level at Leomansley had risen. Luckily a storm that weekend brought the much needed rain and it was no longer necessary.

Things couldn’t have been more different this weekend. The normally dry part of the course along the edge of the woods was full, and levels in the pools were high, as you’d expect.

Taken November 2012. This part of the brook is normally dry.

Taken November 2012. I was told there used to be a bridge somewhere near here for farm carts to cross into the adjacent field.

Taken November 2012

As you can see in the above photo, not only was the brook refilled,  but the water was also claiming parts of the path. I imagine that’s how the name Sloppy Wood came about!

From Pipe Green, the brook is culverted under the A51, and then flows through Beacon Park, filling what used to be the fishponds for Beacon Place (now the boating lake in the park), before finally ending up at Minster Pool.

November 2012 – Through Pipe Green

 

November 2012 – Looking back towards Leomansley House/Mill/Manor!

June 2012 – Leomansley Brook enters Beacon Park via a culvert under the A51. The reason the water looks murky by the pipe is that a little dog was paddling just before I took the photo!

June 2012 – Passing the play area in Beacon Park. This used to be a fish pond for the mansion Beacon Place (demolished 1964).

I don’t know anywhere near as much about streams and brooks as I’d like to but am really interested in them and their importance in the development of our landscape, e.g., the formation of natural boundaries and giving names to places that grew up along them. I’m also fascinated by our relationship with watercourses like these and our attempts to manage them, for better or for worse.

Sources

(1) ‘Lichfield: The place and street names, population and boundaries ‘, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 37-42.

(2) http://finds.org.uk/staffshoardsymposium/papers/mattiasjacobsson

Under the Bridge

It might not have rained on St Swithin’s day here in Lichfield but water was still the theme this weekend. On Saturday, I was supposed to be at the Festival of History at Kelmarsh in Northamptonshire. However, it seems that nature wanted to get involved in the reenactment of history too and successfully managed to put the marsh back into Kelmarsh. Maybe Dr Rawson was right when he warned ”Drive nature out as you will, and she will come back”!

Here in Lichfield, I’ve read that marshy land was known as ‘moggs’ and that the Museum Gardens were once known as Swan Moggs or the Bishop’s Fish Pool.  You can see an artist’s impression from 1848 of the scene in 1548 here.

A causeway was built to separate the Moggs from from Minster Pool in the early 1300s, and the road became known as Newebrugge St, later Brugge St and eventually Bird St. According to Rawson, the original bridge was widened by 5 foot in 1768. It was replaced by a new bridge in 1816, but I was quite excited to see that the listed building description  says that the remains of the old bridge could still be below the water of Minster Pool. Has anyone anyone ever been down there to have a look, I wonder? I’m probably not quite excited enough to hire a wetsuit and go looking for it, but you never know!

Adding Olympic Flames to the waters of Minster Pool, near the Causeway Brige

It seems that other interesting discoveries have been made near the site of the bridge. According to the Pastscape record, during the 19th century there was a malthouse on the causeway and in 1802, when they were digging a well they discovered a roman goblet called a cyathus and fragments of several human remains. How did they come to be there?

Once again, it’s worth taking a look at John Snape’s 1781 map of Lichfield as it show the extent of the Moggs at that time.

While we’re at it, here’s John Speed’s 1610 map again as well!

1610 map of Lichfield

As you might expect, the Bird St ward banner features the Causeway.

Something I’m especially interested in relating to all this are the references I’ve seen to a well in the vicinity. So far, I’ve seen it called Merelynswele, Merliche Well and Maudlin’s Well and various sources seem to place it adjoining the Bishop’s Fish Pool, and accessible from Shaw Lane.

View down Shaw Lane, off Beacon St

I might be wrong but is the original name made up of three watery elements i.e. Mere-lyns-wele with mere as in Windemere, lyn deriving from the celtic word for for lake and of course wele for well?

The name of the well seems to have changed over the years.  For example, John Jackson suggested that the well became known as Maudlin’s as, ‘Tradition says some person having enjoyed his bottle rather too freely tumbled into this well which has since been distinguished by its present epithet Maudlin signifying a state of inebriation. It is clearly however an abbreviation of Magdalen’s’. Dr Rawson referred to it as Merliche, the pool-marsh well.

What I really need to do is to get down to the record office to have a look at the plan of Maudlins Well and Dean’s Croft that they I’ve just found out that they have. Wait, Dean’s Croft? That sound’s familiar….. Might wait until it stops raining AGAIN though :(

Sources:

(1) An inquiry into the history and influence of the Lichfield waters by Rawson 1840

(2) A short account of the city and close of Lichfield by Thomas George Lomax, John Chappel Woodhouse, William Newling

History & Antiquities of the Church & city of Lichfield by Thomas Harwood

Collections for a History of Staffordshire Part II- Vol VI (1886)

History of the City and Cathedral of Lichfield by John Jackson

A History of the County of Stafford Vol 14: Lichfield edited by MW Greenslade

 

Into the woods….

I was lured into the woods by the promise of wood anemones…..then along the path past the old Leomansley mill pools….and finally onto the edge of Pipe Green common.