Heads Up

First it was the Burton’s foundation stones, then the cockerels and now two heads above Oxfam on Market St. Have I been walking around Lichfield with my eyes closed for the last 7 years?

I have discovered from the listed building description that the correct term is corbel heads. I’ve taken a close up of each of them.

Corbel head on left, looking at building


Corbel Head , on right looking at building

Information on these heads is pretty thin on the ground. The listed building description tells us that the building is late C16th, does this mean that the heads date back to this period too? I’m not quite sure whether the one on the right is supposed to be sad or asleep (or as someone on twitter suggested ‘three sheets to the wind’).  Do they represent some sort of  old joke or story or moral? The building was a pub from at least 1793 (first record) until it closed in 1962.

There is a photo of The Castle on the Staffs Pastrack website, taken in the early part of the C20th. One peculiar thing, although this might just be me, is that the head on the right doesn’t look the same.  I think on the old photo it looks like he has a beard but he looks like he’s had a shave since! On the subject of the old photo, what is that circular object between the pub windows, beneath the lamp? The thing that looks a bit like an anachronistic satellite dish.

It’s just occured to me as I’m typing this that I could pop in & ask in the Oxfam shop if anyone knows anything. Of course, if there are any corbel head experts out there,  please let me know your thoughts!

Information on The Castle, taken from ‘The Old Pubs of Lichfield’ by John Shaw

21 thoughts on “Heads Up

  1. Kate I think that your ‘sat dish’ in the picture was maybe a brewery sign , The shop
    front I like most in Lichfield is now the Subway food outlet it is fantastic.
    Regards Pat.


  2. Thanks Pat, I think you could be right.
    The ‘Subway’ shop front is lovely, with that big lantern outside too. There’s the bag shop front a little further up too. Wonder what they were originally, might be able to find out with help of trade directories!
    Kind regards,


    • Kate, One of Lichfield’s most amazing sons Richard Greene lived in Market Street he was a close friend of Dr Johnson and opened a free Museum at his
      house I must find out more about him.
      Regards Pat.


      • Oh yes! I’ve seen a plaque by the City Arcade about him. If you do find out anything & want to share it would be really interested to hear about him 🙂


  3. Re the bag shop – that was Mercers, who were saddle makers and harness makers. If you go to the St Mary’s centre and look at the photos on the corridor wall, you’ll see a picture of it. I know because I did just that today!


    • Thanks Ian. I’ve just found an early C20th photo & advert for Mercers on Staffs Pastrack & it says they are the oldest windows in Lichfield! Here’s a link
      I think that Market St was called Saddler St at one time! I do need another trip to the Heritage Centre though 🙂
      By the way, terrible memory, I can’t think what was at Subway shop immediately before Subway, can you remember?


  4. I found out last night that the current owners of the bag shop are related to the Mercers through marriage. Mercers actually went bust, I was told.

    Also (sorry to harp on) I noticed today the shop front on Bird Street of the hairdressers on the corner (Morgan maybe?), they have lovely ornate “things” on the ends of them too. Sorry for the vagueness! :o)


    • I walked down Bird St on google maps & had a look. I’ve never noticed those “things” before either. From here it lools like some sort of plant maybe a thistle has been carved onto them? Amazing what we see when we actually look. On the contrary., please do harp on, it’s great to hear about other people’s discoveries. 🙂

      Shame that Mercers went bust, such a pity when companies with so much history cease to be(and of course for the people who lose their jobs). It was really sad yesterday to hear about Linfords yesterday too 😦


  5. Yes, I thought Thistles too. There must be a story to them…

    Mercer’s went a while back, so I’m told, and the name used now was the name of one of their products, but then I was on my fourth glass of red when I was told this! 🙂

    Re Linfords, really sad, and outstanding creditors, in particular a Saudi Prince on a huge home down south, helped push them over the edge. The cottage at the bottom of Quonians is worth an article if ever you get time.


    • The story with the cockerels was quite straightforward, the story behind the heads on Oxfam & the thistles I think are more of a challenge but you never know? Really interesting 🙂

      As far as I understand Linfords took over Bridgemans? There is a great book on Bridgemans by Owen Kyte called Annals of a Century. I was thinking about doing something on them before the events of this week, as I’d been finding out a bit about them via Vickie Sutton’s family. The Bridgeman’s buildings on Quonians Lane are incredible and I assumed you meant these at first but actually there is also a pair of cottages with round plaster image of the Virgin & Child too, did you mean these? Either way they are all fascinating buildings!


  6. I did mean the cottages yes Kate (sorry it’s taken so long to reply, been busy doing “things” – i.e. I dunno what!).

    I wouldn’t mind writing an article or three for your excellent blog…


    • Ian,
      I always wanted this to be a collaborative thing, with as much participation as possible and so I am really, really pleased that you’d like to contribute 🙂 I think that it will be fantastic to hear someone else’s take on this great city of ours. Go for it! You can send me an email or there might be a way to set you up as an author directly, I’ll have to check…technical’s not my thing!

      Looking forward to being the one leaving the comments!

      PS It’s amazing how much time “things” take isn’t it?!


  7. I am trying to catch up with your posts and this super blog, so excuse the ramblings of a lost son of lichfield
    This is a great area of town 2nd only to Dam St. It was the Medieval town. Market street was originally known as Robe then Sadler St (lots of leather working). Oxfam was The Castle Inn at one point and the modern oak was insisted upon by the planners. Subway was CHARRINGTONS Chemists originally before being passed on. MERCERS was opposite Samuals (which was a shop with the the Angel Inn next door). Wonderful Georgian bow fronted windows..pity Subway have painted them BLACK!!
    Market St was the place to live from the C17th onwards hense the ornate frontages, and the gardens ran into what is the car park next to Minster Pool.
    You mention Richard Greene but also Elias ASHMOLE herald to Charles the 2nd was born here around the corner in Breadmarket St (2 doors from Dr Johnsons birth place) and later founded the ASHMOLEIAN museum,and gave plate to the City.
    B&M was Woolworths (rebuilt several times) and the clothes shop next door is a modern replacement for the old Midland Bank (later HSBC which moved to its present place at the Market Square). Opposite, The Scales was both The Scales (with garge in the 20’s) and Commercial Hotel.. and Burtons next door.
    Caution however at the other end of the Market in Conduit St ….Currys as it was (can’t think what it is now..a cheapo toiletries shop???) has a Tudor frontage…its mock and and was the Malt Shovel Hotel… nice Victorian building.
    Next door is HALLS Butchers (is that the chaepo toiletries place?? now??) and I remember old Henry Hall very well. Towards the Earl of Lichfield pub , McDonalds was Central Garage upto the lates 70’s. boots I think was 1920’s mock (not sure).
    I hope this helps


    • It’s a pleasure to read the ramblings! That’s one of the reasons I do the blog – so I can find things out from people who know the City much better than I do!! I think it’s great when people join in and share what they know so thank you very much 🙂
      Funnily enough I know someone who is working at the Ashmolean. We don’t seem to make too much of a big deal out of him here. I’d say he’s probably fourth billing below Johnson, Darwin and Garric? Wonder why?


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