Written into Lichfield history

One of my recent posts mentioned layers of history and people leaving their mark on a building.  A literal example of this is graffiti and Gareth Thomas has sent me some great photos of names he found carved into the brickwork of the Lichfield District Council offices, formerly the Lichfield Grammar School.

Lichfield District Council Building, formerly Lichfield Grammar School

The graffiti is on the above building, the old school room, rebuilt in the mid 1800s by architect Thomas Johnson, after falling into a ruinous state. Staffordshire Past Track has an engraving from 1833, taken from a similar position. It shows the previous incarnation of the school room (which stood from 1577 to 1849), as seen from the school-yard (now the grassed area).

In 1818, a book on the endowed grammar schools of England and Wales listed the former pupils of the grammar school ‘who in the splendour their names, have reflected honour upon Lichfield’.

The elegant Addison, Elias Ashmole the Philosopher Chemist and Antiquary and Founder of the valuable Musem called after his name at Oxford, Gregory King an heraldic and commercial writer, George Smallridge Bishop of Bristol, Thomas Newton Bishop of Bristol, Lord Chief Justice Willes, Lord Chief Baron Parker, Mr Justice Noel, Lord Chief Justice Wilmot, Sir Richard Lloyd Baron of the Exchequer, Robert James MD well known for his Medical Dictionary and as the inventor of the Fever Powder, Isaac Hawkins Browne an ingenious and elegant Poet, David Garrick the unrivalled actor, Samuel Johnson LL D

The names of Johnson, Ashmole and Garrick and the others are written into the history books, but what about those names on the old school wall? Can we find the stories of Buckton, Brawn, Beckwith and others written in censuses, newspaper reports and other archives? There’s an inspector’s report from 1869 that tells us something about how they’d have spent their time at school (when not carving their name into brickwork, of course!). What became of them when they left?

Brownhills Bob did a wonderful post on a similar theme called the Persistence of Memory, with some equally wonderful comments from people who recognised the names. You don’t have to look to hard to find bridges, walls, trees, and other surfaces marked with names and initials. Why do people seem compelled to add their names to the fabric of a place? I may even have written the odd ‘Kate was here’ myself, on a school desk or two in my time. And does that ‘….was here’ explain why we do it? Knowing that few of us will ever get a statue or our own museum, is this a way of letting people know that once, we were here?

A huge thank you to Gareth for the photographs and drawing my attention to this. Also, Gareth, if you’re reading this, I’ve read that there’s more graffiti to be found, carved into  the wooden attic doors of the schoolmaster’s house next door. It’d be great to see some photos…..hint, hint!


A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools of England and Wales, Nicholas Carlise 1818

Lichfield City Conservation Area Document


18 thoughts on “Written into Lichfield history

  1. On the 1851 census H J Beckwith is a 10 year old pupil at the Grammar School in St John Street (Headmaster – John C Bentley)
    10 years later he was an Ensign in the 53rd Shropshire Regiment based at the Raglan Barracks in Stoke Dameral, Devon. In 1865 he was a Lieutenant, instructor of musketry. By 1991 he was aged 60 and a retired army officer living alone at Millichope Park, a stately home at Craven Arms Shropshire not far from his birthplace of Eaton Constantine. I say alone, except for 8 servants!


    • Roger, that is absolutely brilliant.Thank you so much. Not only have you made this discovery via the census, Gareth sent me the photos of the doors in the attic!


    • I’ve just been reading a little more. I’m not at all good with military terminology so bear with me. I found this:
      Ensign Henry John Beckwith to be Lieutenant,
      by purchase, vice George Porter, who retires.
      Dated 9th April 1861.
      By purchase, means that you paid for your promotion? Also, an ensign was a junior officer who carried the regimental standard?


      • Also I think WA Holmes might be Wilfred A Holmes, scholar aged 10, living at Whittington Nursery, Whittington son of Edwin Holmes a Nursery & Seedman employing 35 men, 8 boys and 4 women. And also, I wrote about Mr E Holmes last October in relation to the creation of the John Downie apple from Whittington! Coincidence! https://lichfieldlore.co.uk/2011/10/31/malus-john-downie/
        Wilfred was 30 in 1901 and had moved to Wrexham where he was a Railway Timekeeper.


  2. On the 1881 census is a 15 year old scholar named A R Buckton. His widowed mother is described with landed property and at age 15 he must be a Grammar school candidate. Nothing else of interest … had a quick look for Brawn, Hall but nothing found.


  3. Roger, Kate, what wonderful work ! This is totally enthralling me so please keep digging finding Beckwith is so good, it really put a picture now to the words engraved onto the wall. This is soo Lichfield 🙂


  4. When he died in 1927 Beckwith left £332661 (today £16million). He retired from the army before age 40 and lived initially at Silksworth, T&W, with his uncle John Beckwith. a nephew of General Beckwith. Obviously inherited his wealth. He was a JP for a time. His son William also a high ranking army officer Coldstream Guards, married daughter of 7th Duke of Richmond, Lady Muriel Beatrice Gordon-Lennox.
    HJ’s father was the vicar of Eaton Constantine. Many landed gentry families had a son who took holy orders.


  5. Pingback: Making a Mark | Lichfield Lore

  6. Evening

    The lad named AR Buckton was the son of Maria Buckton who lived at the old Diocesan School in Bird Street. This property in turn became the old WH Smiths and demolition along with the Lichfield Mercury offices in 1972 and is now the road leading to the car park behind B & M(or Woolies).
    It appears that by 1891 she was living in Surrey and he was residing in Middlesex


    • Thank you, that’s great. I’m going to spend some time tonight seeing if there’s anything on the others. Looks like it was a mixture of local lads and boys from further afield, who I imagine would have been boarders.


  7. I think I’ve found a connection with BRAWN on the bricks and SWAN on the door. Maybe not, but the one led me to the other.
    The Brawn family were timber merchants in Birmingham Road and I find mention of a Brawn’s Wharf (Ancestry). Coincidentally a John Swan lived at Brawns Wharf (Brown’s Wharf?)
    Brawn’s wharf probably disappeared with the canal, but I think it must have been where the Birmingham Rd/Falkland Road roundabout is(but what do I know?)


      • Bob said there were Brawns at Brownhills too. Also, in the 1896 directory there’s a James Brawn, farmer at Bosses Farm, Stonnall and a Samuel Brawn at Shelfield Farm, Walsall Wood.
        Edit – Think I may have found a possible match on 1871 census, John Brawn, Scholar aged 14, 115 Stowe St, Lichfield. Son of Thomas Brawn.


    • 1870 George Swan, James Swan, and Jesse Corbett all of Brawn’s Wharf were charged with fishing with nets during the night on the canal, the waters of Major Elwell, near Tamworth Road.

      Fined 10s with 7s costs


  8. Pingback: Making a Mark | Lichfield Lore

  9. Pingback: Through Doors and Windows | Lichfield Lore

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