Smoky Bacon

Why is Beacon St called Beacon St? Once upon a time it was known as Bacon St (or variations of this such as Bacunne). It’s suggested that at some point around the beginning of the 19thc, someone decided that Beacon St was a more fitting name.  It’s pure speculation on my part, but I wonder whether this name change had anything to do with the building of Beacon Place around 1800? The man who built the house was called George Hand. As there’s a cut of pork called ‘the Hand’, maybe he was keen to distance himself from all things porcine? As I said, mere speculation.

In books about Lichfield published at the beginning of the 1800s, both names are often given. One (1) gives the following description:-

Bacon or Beacon street anciently written Bakun or Bacun street, takes its name from a beacon placed upon the top of a tower which stood the Dean’s croft and adjoining field. It was the principal street of the town and was burnt down in 1646 at which time it was chiefly inhabited by cappers whose business was staple of the place

Beacon St Ward banner?

Is there any truth in this explanation? Or is a story, created to support the name change?  Is there any other evidence of an actual Beacon?  The above ward banner in the Guildhall surely relates to the Beacon St ward (although it’s another one where the name plaque is obscured). Alone it’s not evidence for the Beacon theory, although as I’ve mentioned before, I would be interested to see when/where the designs for these banners came from. There is a place in Lichfield called Dean’s Croft, but it’s near St Michaels, not Beacon St.

Thomas Harwood’s book (2) throws another explanation into the ring.

It is probable from the situation of Bacon street that name is an abbreviation from Barbican or Barbacane a word of Arabic original (sic). A barbacan is a sort of hold or fort for the security of the a munition placed in the front of a castle or an outwork.

In 1886, the William Salt Archaeology Society noted (3)’The present spelling of the name of this street is altogether unauthorised, and an innovation of this century. It is found spelt Bacon, Bacun, or Bacune uninterruptedly from the 13th to the 18th century’.

Likewise, I’m not convinced by the Beacon or Barbican theory….yet. As ever, would like to know what others think. I wonder what the good people of the Bacon Beacon Street Blog, think?

Edit 15/7/2012

Referring to the Beacon St area, the Collections for a History of Staffordshire Part II- Vol VI (1886) record that there is a reference to a Bacone’s Cross, along with a Swane Lane (now Shaw), Merliches Well, Poole Hall and Whitehall that I missed before.

Sources:

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

(2) The history and antiquities of the church and city of Lichfield by Thomas Harwood

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

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6 thoughts on “Smoky Bacon

    • I don’t know Pat. I’m of the ‘something to do with pigs’ school of thought at the moment, as I think that it seems to have more of a fit with the other streetnames, which seem to be to do with trades or physical descriptions rather than people’s names – Sadler St, Dam St, Stowe St, Sandford St. I may be wrong though, as I haven’t seen any real evidence to support any of the theories yet!

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  1. I can’t remember having spotted Dean’s Croft near Beacon Street on any maps, Kate, but two areas of what’s now Beacon Park used to be called Cock Croft and Cooper’s Croft (I’m talking during the period that Beacon Place was in existence). In fact, the Dean and Chapter owned several areas of the land around Beacon Place, so Dean’s Croft does sound a probable locality, though whether it had a tower with a beacon on it, I really don’t know.

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    • Thanks Annette. Deans Croft could have existed over there at one time then. I’m not sure about the tower with a beacon either. Sounds like a story that was made to fit, but I could be wrong!

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  2. Pingback: Under the Bridge | Lichfield Lore

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