In the March 15th 1907 edition of the Lichfield Mercury, there’s an article written by Clifford Mackay entitled ‘Lichfield in 2007 – A Dream of the Future’. Old Ben Wallace, a Lichfield cobbler, takes a trip through the city streets and discovers how things have changed over one hundred years.
Here’s a heavily abridged version, so that you can see for yourself where Mr Mackay got it right (a new theatre called ‘The Garrick’, new houses, mixed schools), got it wrong (a tube station at the Friary, a model Venetian village hiring out gondolas) and sometimes got it very wrong indeed (meeting visitors from Mars on the way to Minster pool).
New houses, a large new theatre of varieties, and an entire renovation of the Market, now Dr Johnson’s Square, are amongst other things which come before his astonished eyes, besides a tremendous building called the ‘Royal Garrick’ Theatre, many shops bearing familiar names but entirely rebuilt, and all the streets reconstructed on an absolutely novel, yet excellent plan.
….the old man noticed the date of the year – 2007- for the first time he also sees one of the airships from London come in. A tube station now stands at the Friary corner, and a large new hotel – the Savoy- has been erected. Sandford St is now a magnificent thoroughfare, and the ‘George’ and ‘Swan’ hotels have also been rebuilt. They encounter some of the visitors from Mars, and arrive at Minster pool, which has undergone great changes. The two pools, Minster and Stowe have been purchased by the council and now form magnificent pleasure lakes. The former is now illuminated every night, while a band plays from the wonderful new stand erected in the middle
They visit Elysia – the large new pleasure gardens formed out of the late Museum Gardens and Recreation Grounds, and take a trip round in a gondola hired from the model Venetian village
Inevitably, old Ben finds himself at the Cathedral and it’s here where you begin to wonder if there is more of a point to this article than just a bit of fun. I don’t know enough about the protestant religion to comment but amongst other things, Ben the cobbler is told that,
The church had grown very worldly – it was neither one thing nor the other – so it had to be purged. It was disestablished and set to rule itself, with the result that many parsons came to believe that after all they were not the demi-gods and worldly magnates that some of them imagined themselves to be. These people here took the lead and set the example to the rest of England – and it was quickly followed everywhere. They gave up their large houses and went to live in smallest ones(the bishop giving his up to be a hospital for the poor and needy)
…..the people are religious as anything – it is a reality to us and not a sham. The Cathedral is packed every Sunday, at all services too, it’s hard to get a seat.
Soon though whatever point is being made, has been made and Ben finds himself
…close to the new marvel, which stood in the field before the Stowe Pool….raised in five lofty square iron towers, nearly sixty feet in height, one being at each corner, and one in the middle was a gigantic platform…..Inside each of ther four corner towers the old man could distinguish lifts ascending from, and descending to the ground floor. Tethered to one of the sides her engines still throbbing, and having an indication with the word Aberdeen printed on it, affixed to its side, lay a huge aeroplane.
Away from the Cathedral Ben is surprised to learn about the changes in another religion – Lichfield City FC are doing well having won the English Cup seven times, fielding four international players and getting an an average gate of gate of 12 to 14,000 per match. Of course,the Lichfield manager does it for the love of the game and the reputation of the City rather than as a money making concern.
Ben also learns that the grammar school has been moved from its position near Borrowcop Hill due to drainage issues and that,
…all the schools are mixed in England now. Girls and boys all work together…its a splendid system
At the end of the walk it all goes a bit ‘Life on Mars‘ as old Ben is knocked down by a car on Wade St. But of course, as with all the best stories, it turns out to be just a dream, and he wakes back in his workshop back in 1907.
I know that a prediction of the year 2007, made a hundred years previous is a bit of an easy target. I’m sure if I were to make predictions here and now about the year 2112, it would be mostly ridiculous. Could we predict the next 50 or even the next 10 years? In looking to the future of Lichfield, would it reveal anything about our present? Maybe we should give it go. It’d give future generations a good laugh if nothing else. Any volunteers?