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 😦


(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


15 thoughts on “Under the Bridge

  1. The house next door to The George and Dragon (right hand side as you face them)..
    Has a bricked up circular hole in the cellar.
    A friend used to live there – he said it was either an old well, or entrance to the tunnels.

    That is of course, opposite Shaw Lane.


  2. Might the well not be on the site of ……. “An inferior court, called Maudlin’s Court, is annually held in Lichfield. It was anciently instituted for punishing drunkenness, and for the purpose of administering the oath of office to the dozeners or petty constables.” ?


  3. kate, The amount of silt in the pool the only way you would be able to view the
    foundations would be if the pool was drained and four feet of mud and duck
    poop was removed first ,But go ahead with the wet suit idea we can sell tickets
    for people to watch the creature from the black lagoon re-play.


  4. Dr Rawson was a dry old stick wasn’t he? I only realised recently that he was responsible for erecting a stone building (now gone) around St Chad’s Well. I think he had a real obsession with water and hygiene.


    • I’d be interested to find out more about him. He does use the word filth a lot! I didn’t know it was Dr Rawson that built the wellhouse until recently either. Have you seen this archaeological report from when they were considering building a visitor centre at St Chad’s back in 2006? I found it when I was doing a post on the well. I hadn’t realised there was a separate spring feeding the well either. Have you seen the new info board with a QR code?


  5. Ooh, very interesting thanks – I love that he calls it ‘an undignified puddle’. I think that site has undergone quite a few changes over the years. I haven’t seen the QR code yet, as I last went over just days before it was installed.


    • Last time I went the water was a bit green. Dr Rawson would be horrified 😉 Also I found a reference to a Dean’s Croft in the Beacon St area – no mention of a Beacon (unsuprisingly), but I did see a reference to a Bacone’s Cross instead!


  6. Yay! Dean’s Croft resurfaces – very interested in what you said about Maudlin’s Well, as i’d also spotted it on a map (as Upper Maudlin’s Well) and was curious about that. Did you also know there was an area (on Beacon Street around Darwin House) known as Dovehouse in the 18th century? I think Cuthbert Brown also mentions it in his memoirs of Lichfield. Hope I’ve remembered this right – I can’t check as I’m typing this on my mobile on the train! Do let me know if you come across any refs to Dovehouse on your travels!


    • I will! There’s a Dovehouse Fields in between Upper St Johns St & Birmingham Rd too. Actually I just found this in History of County of Stafford – There were several dovecots in the Close in the Middle Ages. One stood in the grounds of the bishop’s palace in 1298, and another at the west end of the Close in 1315. There was a newly built dovecot near the cathedral in 1327. Other dovecots were presumably indicated by land in Hungerhill field called ‘Duffehowshey’ in 1339 and by Dovehouse field, recorded in the early 16th century. There was a goosehouse in Wade Street in 1495.


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