Angel Delight

Inspired by Brownhills Bob’s love of the place and the inclusion of Holy Angels in Simon Jenkins’ list of England’s Thousand Best Churches, I finally visited Hoar Cross last weekend.

SAM_1271

As Nikolaus Pevsner says in his book on Staffordshire buildings,‘The story of Hoar Cross is well known enough’, but it bears repeating here. Work on the red brick, Jacobean style hall, now used as a spa resort, began in 1862, shortly before Hugo Meynell Ingram married Emily Charlotte Wood. The hall was completed in 1871, but in that same year Hugo was killed in a hunting accident. The widowed Emily employed George Frederick Bodley and his partner Thomas Garner to build a church in his memory, in the grounds of the home they had shared. Emily died in 1904, her remains interred near to those of her husband, whose body had been brought here from the parish church at Yoxall, after the dedication of Holy Angels in 1876. It’s said that Emily was never completely satisfied with her creation, but from what I’ve read it’s considered a masterpiece by all those who know their stuff architecturally. For what it’s worth, I think it’s beautiful too.

SAM_1245

If anyone wants to give me a lesson in how to take photos of windows & getting the light right I will be eternally grateful.

The contribution of Lichfield sculptor and stone mason Robert Bridgemans is acknowledge on thois tablet, decorated with a mallet, chisel and other tools.

You wouldn’t be able to tell, because the photo is so bad, but this tablet acknowledges the contribution of Lichfield sculptor and stone mason Robert Bridgeman and is decorated with a mallet, chisel and other tools.

However, as well as this story of love, loss and incredible architecture, I’m also interested in the earlier chapters in Hoar Cross’s history.  According to Horovitz’s Staffordshire place name study, the name of the village was first recorded in 1230 as ‘Horcros’ and is thought to refer to a grey cross or boundary cross. Whether this was a marker for the point where the four wards of Needwood Forest once met, or whether it indicated the extent of land owned by Burton Abbey in these parts, or whether something else entirely is a matter for ongoing speculation. Whatever its purpose, the cross that gave the place its name is long gone and now it is only the name that remains.

SAM_1172

There is another boundary marker on one of the grass verges in the village. It appears on a 1923 Ordnance Survey map as a ‘boundary stone’ and seems to mark a parish boundary – Hoar Cross sits between Yoxall and Newborough.

SAM_1191

I’d also like to know more about the original Hoar Cross Hall – the medieval moated house, known as the ‘Manor of the Cross’. According to Stebbing Shaw’s History of Staffordshire, the hall was destroyed in the 1700s and a farmhouse built on the site. According to the English Heritage Pastscape record, there is little in the form of maps or archaeology to back up this anecedotal evidence but the fact that there is an 18thc farmhouse known as Hoar Cross Old Hall suggests that Shaw was probably correct.

Meynell Ingram Arms

Despite not setting foot in the spa (not really my cup of herbal tea), my trip to Hoar Cross left my mind and spirit feeling indulged. Before leaving, I stopped off to indulge my body too, with a drink at the Meynell Ingrams Arms. Dating back to the seventeenth century, this former farm house became a coaching inn known as the Shoulder of Mutton. The name was changed in the 1860s, around the time of Emily and Hugo’s wedding, and the rebuilding of the Hall. Sadly, there was no sign of Basil, the horse who attracted media attention several years ago for actually walking into the bar and enjoying a pint of pedigree, but after a couple of hours at Hoar Cross, I had anything but a long face as I headed back to Lichfield.

SAM_1188

Sources:

http://www.eaststaffsbc.gov.uk/Planning/PlanningPolicy/LocalPlanEvidenceBase/Conservation%20Area%20Appraisals/Hoar%20Cross.pdf

Midlandspubs.co.uk
‘A Survey and Analysis of the Place-Names of Staffordshire’ by David Horovitz, LL. B http://etheses.nottingham.ac.uk/1557/2/397633_VOL2.pdf
Lichfield Mercury Archive

http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2014/04/art-for-lent-36-two-portraits-of-emily.html

Staffordshire (A Shell Guide) by Henry Thorold
The Buildings of England – Staffordshire by Nikolaus Pevsner

The Faces of Christ Church

I visited Christ Church on a numbingly cold and drab January afternoon, and I welcomed the sight of the first crocuses and snowdrops beginning to appear amongst the stones erected as memorials to those who once lived here in the parish.

Of course, memorials can take different forms and the blue clock on the tower is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Worthington, of Maple Hayes, presented by her husband Albert Octavius of the Burton brewing company. (1)

As you look at the clock face, on either side of the window below you notice faces of a different kind. On closer inspection, more of these faces can be found all around the church and I’ve included a few examples below.

The church was built in 1847, in the Gothic Revival style, and so I imagine the architect Thomas Johnson (of Davidson House, St John St) included them to emulate the corbel heads found in medieval churches (a good example and explanation can be seen on the V&A website here). This might explain what they are, and why they are here, but not necessarily who they are! (3)

As I stood thinking about the faces, someone arrived to unlock the church door. I explained that I’d been looking at the stone heads and was told that there are more inside and was invited in. Apparently, despite being the subject of much debate, no-one quite knows the story behind them. One suggestion that has been put forward is that they are benefactors of the church. Two of the chest tombs behind the church belong to Ellen Jane Hinckley, the founder of the church and her husband Richard Hinckley, who gave land in the corner of their Beacon Place estate on which to build the church. (2) Are they also here at their church in stone form? Is the portrait of Thomas Johnson the architect or the church’s first curate Thomas Alfred Bangham to be found here? Do they depict people who used to live in the parish or are these heads in fact creations from inside the head of the stonemason?!

Inside, the majority of corbel heads are in and around the chancel, which has the most stunning ceiling. Although this is not my first time inside the church, it is the first time I’ve been in and concentrated solely on the building, rather than what is going on within it.  It hardly needs pointing out that my photos do it no justice whatsoever, but they do at least give some idea of the beautiful murals painted for the church’s Golden Jubilee by Pre-Raphaelite artist John Dixon Batten in 1897,  and the reredos, designed by GF Bodley and carved by the sculptors Bridgemans of Lichfield (a discovery of both a new word and a new example of Bridgemans’ work for me!). (4)

I made my way back outside down the aisle, laid with original Minton tiles (5).

The day should have seemed even greyer after the rich, warm colours of the church but with a copy of the newly purchased and brilliantly researched ‘History of Christ Church’ in my bag and the knowledge that such treasures were to be found on my doorstep, it actually felt considerably brighter.

Edit 10/02/2013 Good news! There’s a sign outside Christ Church saying that there is an open day on 9th March – a great opportunity to go and visit this lovely church for yourself. By then, there may even be some spring flowers and wild garlic in the lane alongside which is a nice thought, when you’re sat typing with snow drifting down outside the window. More details here

Notes

(1) The clock was made by John Smith and Sons of Derby a business founded in 1856. Whilst the firm is still going strong, the original headquarters were at risk as these photos and a news story from February 2011 (read here) show. I’d be interested to know what the current state of the building is? Also, it’s not only the clock we have the county of Derbyshire to thank for! The church’s Millenium Gates were created by David Tucker, a master Blacksmith from Derbyshire, that I wrote about here

(2) The third of the Hinckley Tombs belongs to Mrs Hinckley’s son from her second marriage to Hugh Dyke Acland. Mrs Hinckley’s daughters from her first marriage, are the girls depicted in Francis Chantrey’s sculpture known as ‘The Sleeping Children’ as Lichfield Cathedral

Hinckley Tombs, Christ Church

(3) In a 1950s edition of Life magazine, I came across an interesting article about Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. Their old carved heads had eroded badly, and so a stonemason was enlisted to restore them. However, rather than recreate the old images, he carved new images of people associated with the church at that time including a bell ringer, the clock winder, a dog whipper (actually in charge of the grounds) and the youngest member of the church choir (who would now be in his 60s). You can read the article and see the photos here 

(4) I believe that Bodley and Bridgemans also collaborated on the South African war monument in Duncombe Place, York, which is where the sailor on the wall of Lichfield Registry Office was originally destined for but was apparently rejected  for being too warlike.

(5) Between 1844 and 1858, Herbert Minton donated tiles to 46 Staffordshire churches & parsonages. More information can be found in the report ‘Minton Tiles in the Churches of Staffordshire’, carried out by Lynn Pearson for the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society. At the time of the report in the year 2000, amongst others, there were also examples at St Mary’s, Aldridge, possibly St James’ Church, Brownhills (though covered) and St Peter’s, Elford. An online version of the report with photographs can be found here 

Sources:

Christ Church Lichfield – A History by Ursula Frances Turner, later revisions Robert Hazel, Julia Baker and Larry Ridout

Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country - George Thomas Noszlopy and Fiona Waterhouse

Everything From Shells

Despite the bitter cold, a large crowd gathered in the Museum Gardens around a figure enveloped in green velvet.

Once the poems, songs and speeches had concluded, local artist Peter Walker’s bronze statue of Erasmus Darwin was unveiled to applause.

Recently, I read a wonderful post by Susan Ward on her Staffordshire Bred blog which reminded me of the importance of the sense of touch, when connecting with something.  I was so pleased to hear that the scallop shell Erasmus Darwin holds in his left hand is not only an important symbol of his beliefs and his work on evolution, but is also there to be touched. This is not a hands off statue and I hope that people will touch it, that it will be a well-loved part of the city and that stories will grow up around it.

Those days are still ahead of us – the sun has not even set on the statue’s first day in the Museum Gardens yet (although judging by the temperature in the park today, I’m not convinced it actually rose in the first place!).

The statue belongs to the people of Lichfield, but today belongs to Erasmus Darwin and Peter Walker.

Statuesque

Walking home last Monday I took a detour past the Cathedral to have another look for the remaining five original, medieval statues.  I was pretty sure that I’d found two on the northwest tower –  one nameless woman next to Eve and another to the left of Deborah. The Victorian statues tend to have names on their pedestals. There’s an old photograph of the western front of the Cathedral pre-restoration on the English Heritage Viewfinder website, which you can see here. It shows the front looking strangely bare – above the row of kings only the niches containing the few remaining original statues are filled.

Medieval statue?, Deborah, Rachel, Rebekah, Sarah, Medieval statue?, Eve

According to a comment someone left on here, there are other statues on the other side of the north west tower. Unfortunately, my timing wasn’t great as someone was cutting the grass alongside the tower and a Midlands Today van had not long pulled up nearby and were making preparations to film (I later found out they were there to cover the Olympic Torch route story). As I didn’t fancy making a cameo appearance, dodging the mower in the background of a news report, I took a hasty few photos of the tower and carried on around the back of the Cathedral.  Stupidly, I didn’t check them before I got home and it’s not easy to make out much.  Another trip is in order….

Affix quality control sticker here

The medieval statue hunt continued as I walked around, in case one had sneaked in somewhere other than the northwest tower. I found Christopher Wren, Elias Ashmole and Dr Johnson amongst others along the way.

"The world is not yet exhausted; let me see something tomorrow which I never saw before" said Dr Johnson.

Most of the statues are accompanied by something symbolic – Johnson of course has his dictionary.  It’s the same for the kings (e.g. William the Conqueror holds the Domesday Book) and the biblical characters (I knew nothing about Deborah, but according to wikipedia she was a prophet and a judge and delivered her verdicts near a palm tree which explains why there’s one behind her statue).  I was wondering about Eve? Surely that’s an apple near her foot but what is she holding in her hand?  Imagine if you someone was to create a statue of you and they had to sum up your life with an object or two! 

Image taken from Wikipedia

Just past Dr Johnson and his big, papery thing is another statue.  She has no name and as far as I can see there is no clue to her identity. I’m speculating, but is this one of the many statues destroyed or defaced by the parliamentary troops during the Civil War?   Most of the other damaged statues were removed - where did they end up I wonder? I came across some great photos of a figure of Christ on Aidan McRae Thomson’s flickrstream at a church in Swynnerton, Staffordshire together with an interesting theory that the statue originated from Lichfield Cathedral. If anyone else has any theories or even evidence of where the statues ended up, I’d love to hear them!

I have to confess that for me, sometimes the Cathedral is just there, part of the scenery as I go about the city. However, there are other times when, either by chance (catching the light a certain way) or by design (medieval statue hunting), the Cathedral commands my full attention and once again, I am reminded of what an incredible building this is, and the skill and talent of the craftspeople who made it so.

 

I Spy….

David Evans, who does some great work over on BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog, has set a challenge! There are two photos below, and David wonders whether anyone knows where in Lichfield each of them were taken.

Where is this?

 

We have a clue for this one! 'A cut(let) above the rest, perhaps?'

As Pat recently sent me an email about the remaining medieval statues on the Cathedral, this seems like a good subject for a third question! I’ve read that there are five original statues on the north west tower. Has anyone ever identified which they are? I think I’d hazard a guess that there are two of them on the following photo, but I’d be interested to know what others think.


Thanks to David for contributing these photos, and encouraging us to keep our eyes open and not being one of the millions, as referred to on that sign!

Source:

Public sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country by George Thomas Noszlopy, Fiona Waterhouse

Monumental Task

I’ve used this database created by the Public Monuments & Sculptures Association a lot. It’s a national recording project that aims to collect information on all British public sculpture and monuments, whether historic or contemporary.

As well as including Lichfield’s usual suspects, the database also features some of our less obvious works such as the Calming Stone in Beacon Park, the etched glass in the Library foyer, the facade of Boots in Tamworth St and the Standing Stones I formed a bit of an attachment to back in November 2011.

 

Facade of Boots created 1908. Decorations include an owl, a beehive and a piper. There must have been a good reason for this motley crew!

They're outside!

 

Not everything on the list is still around – there’s an entry for Dean Denton’s Market Cross which was pulled down in 1849. There are also entries on the database that don’t seem to have made it as fully fledged pieces of Lichfield public sculpture.  Since Pat brought it to our attention back in November 2011 an entry has now appeared on the database about the Vision & Youth sculpture.

As the association says,  ’The database is an excellent resource for students & researchers, conservators, local historians, art buffs, enthusiasts, genealogists and all who want to know more about public sculpture: statues; obelisks; columns; sculptures; installations; fountains; follies; commemorative clocks; wayside markers; and towers – from the Stuart era to the present day.’ I think it’s fantastic and you can read more about future plans & how you can get involved in contributing information here.

One to be added to the database in the future is the proposed statue of Erasmus Darwin at Cathedral Walk (I think there’s another one planned for Beacon Park too). I’ve just been reading a few of the comments about this on the S106 document. One person said that they were in favour of the statue, as Darwin is a local hero we should be proud of. However, the comment goes on to say that Lichfield should also celebrate more contemporary heroes relevant to young people and also more women ‘not just old blokes’.* I think this is potentially a whole new blog post but this is a really interesting point. Who or what should we be commemorating with our future public art & monuments?  

*I remember when I was a young person. A young person who used to go out on a Saturday night instead of sitting in reading the comments on S106 consultations ;)

Standing Stones

Police Mutual is on my route into central Lichfield. It’s also our spec for watching the Bower procession (from where my parents always tut about the Festival Gardens being used as a car park, but I digress…..).

I always think of the sea when I look at the sculpture in the entrance. However, I’ve never gone up to the front door for a closer look. So whilst out for a walk on a Sunday, with the office closed, I decided to have a peep through the glass doors.

Standing Stones - Please DO NOT attempt to skim these across Minster Pool

On reflection it was probably a you had to be there moment, but at the time I was delighted to discover the stones weren’t actually behind glass. “They’re are outside! Look!”, I yelled to an unenthusiatic Mr G. I walked around the stones a couple of times, because I could! It’s fast becoming something of a cliche, but once again I found myself thinking, ”All the times I’ve walked past here & I didn’t know!”. On my third or fourth lap, a man walking past gave me a bemused look (possibly thinking I’d come straight from the Queens Head) and Mr G was trying to shuffle off in the direction of Greggs. As there was no further clue to what the stones represented or their purpose,  I took a photo and followed.

Back home, I discovered that the sculpture is called ‘Standing Stones’, and is an abstract in glass fibre reinforced concrete, designed by Marcus Hole in 2000.  And the sea connection? Well,  they are supposed to be larger versions of the water-smoothed pebbles that, if you’re anything like me, you pick up on the beach for closer examination. Go and have a look at the giant Lichfield ones & see what you think….they’re outside you know!

As always, one thing leads to another, and it got me thinking more about public sculpture & art, something it seems people have strong reactions to. Sometimes it’s positive, like the Angel of the North, often it’s not for example, the Polesworth Tower. I’m interested in discovering other examples of public art in the area and the reaction to it.  I believe the most recent in Lichfield,  is said to be the “Formation of Poetry”, by Peter Walker (who coincidentally shares the name with the author of the PMAS book!). It was commissioned to celebrate Dr Johnson’s Tercentenary and can be found in the Tesco carpark.

The Formation of Poetry

Intriguingly though, Pat has told me about an artwork commissioned to celebrate the millenium in Lichfield, that seems to have disappeared. It looks like an angel and answers to the name ’Vision & Youth’. Perhaps a bit of detective work is needed, which is quite appropriate as it was the Police Mutual book which started all this off ;)

Sources:

Public Sculpture of Staffordshire & the Black Country – George T Noszlopy & Fiona Waterhouse

http://www.malvern-net.co.uk/mal-net/m_biznes/carlytinkler/news/2000_12.htm

http://52weeksofart.com/main.php/2010/11/21/the-formation-of-poetry-model

Can I borrow £18k please?

Ian, who often makes a great contribution to this blog via the comments section,  has spotted something intriguing on ebay.

For £18,000 you can buy a statue of a prophet, said to originally be from Lichfield Cathedral.

The statue's orginal home?

Get your bid in here! http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Stone-Sculpture-Lichfield-Cathedral-statue-/350449588131?pt=UK_Antiques_Architecural_RL&hash=item51986c57a3

So of course, I want to know the story of the statue and my initial thoughts & questions are:

It was discovered 3 miles from Lichfield – I wonder where?

Who took it there and why?

I’m a bit confused by ‘dates to 1650′. Do they mean the statue was sculpted at this time, or comes from the Cathedral of this time?

Are there any other parts of the ‘old’ Cathedral anywhere else? For example, we know that most of the damaged statues on the West Front were taken down in 1744/1749.(1) What happened to them all?

Can anyone lend me £18,000 as I think this would look great in my garden?

Huge thanks to Ian for this great spot and it would be great to hear any theories anyone has about this prophet.

 

Sources:

(1)  ’Lichfield: The cathedral’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 47-57. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42342  Date accessed: 03 November 2011.