Angels and Demons

Built in 1750 on the site of the Talbot Inn, as a private residence for wine merchant George Addams, the Angel Croft was converted to a hotel in the 1930s. The name seems to come from another inn known as The Angel, on an adjoining site to the south. Since 2008, it has been vacant with the exception of the occasional urbexer and kids who have spent too much time watching scary movies and not enough time at school passing through.

ange-croft-graffiti

If you want to create the illusion of black magic, make sure you can spell properly.  Anyway, Redrum would have been more apt. Kids these days!

angel-croft-door

Over the years, hopes have been raised and then dashed as several developers have come and gone whilst the Grade II* Listed Building continues to deteriorate. Earlier this month, I was delighted to meet with the current owner, keen to take on the challenge of saving this fallen angel and restoring it to glory. Should he succeed he shall undoubtedly be known as St Dan of Beacon Street and I propose that Peter Walker creates a statue of him holding a model of the hotel for the West Front of the Cathedral. You see, people care a lot about this building. We appreciate its Georgian good looks and there are also many Lichfeldians who have a personal connection with it.  Everytime I’ve posted about it here or on our Lichfield Discovered fb group, people have shared their memories of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and the best Bakewell Tart in the city.  One particularly glamourous occasion involved Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh staying the night.

angel-croft-sign

Dan very kindly invited me to have a look around to tell me about the plans he has for the building and its environs. I had seen photographs taken shortly after its closure when the furnishings and fittings were so intact that one of the bedroom radios was still playing.  However, eight years on it’s little more than a shell. The 1970s soft furnishings have been mercilessly ripped out, the windows are smashed, the floorboards sag and the walls run with water (admittedly, better than blood). Despite all this, the potential of the Angel Croft shines through and Dan tells me that in the new year, there will be a website to keep people up to date with the plans to convert the building to apartments and also any interesting discoveries history-wise.

angel-croft-stairs

Bothy or gardeners' house with remains of glasshouses and orangery at Angel Croft

Bothy or gardeners’ house with remains of glasshouses and orangery at Angel Croft

A building that’s probably far less familiar to all but the nosiest is the one behind Westgate House (used as a boarding house for girls from the Friary School between 1952 and 1981, according to Patrick Comerford and also earmarked for development by Dan and his company) and the former Probate Court (built on the site of David Garrick’s childhood home c.1856 and a rare example of a purpose built court and once used as part of Lichfield Museum and as I’m typing this, striking me as definitely worthy of further investigation in its own right). As one of the nosiest, I had noticed it and vaguely had an idea it may have been a ramshackle remnant of the brewery which stood nearby. A town plan of 1884 clearly shows a brewery behind Cathedral House (No 5 Beacon Street) and the Angel Croft (No 3 Beacon Street) and the County History tells us, ‘By 1848 the wine merchants John and Arthur Griffith had established a brewery in their Beacon Street premises behind Cathedral House. They had a malthouse to the south on the site of the later Lichfield library’. The library is now of course the Registry Office.

beacon-st-building

beacon-st-building-2

beacon-st-building-4
Now Dan and his team have stripped the ivy and cut back the undergrowth, a series of doors and windows on the rear of the building (visible from the car park behind the Registry Office), a decent bit of brickwork and two entrances on the front of the building, accessed via a fairly narrow passage, have been revealed.  Now, logistics isn’t my strong point, but it doesn’t seem the most practical set up for a building used for industry of some kind? My new best guess is that it is a garden building relating to Westgate House.  I’ve been told that are some very basic toilets inside, which may or may not hold a clue to its use(s)?  Ladies and Gentleman, I shall investigate further and hope to report back. And Dan…may the force be with you.

 

 References:

‘Lichfield: History to c.1500’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield, ed. M W Greenslade (London, 1990), pp. 4-14. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol14/pp4-14

http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2012/11/beacon-street-lichfield-street-lined.html

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One thought on “Angels and Demons

  1. The Sheriff’s rough ride…how the mighty fell.

    The mention of the wine merchants John and Arthur Griffith led me to further investigation and to some interesting facts that do not seem to be well-known!

    Thomas Arthur Griffith came from an old Leicestershire family and came to Lichfield with his brother John. They started a business as wine and spirit merchants in 1841. Thomas must have been successful as in 1860 Dr Rowley proposed him to be High Sheriff, he had great pleasure in proposing “a very honourable citizen, a man of talent and a man of mind, one in every way qualified to discharge the duties of the office.” He was elected.

    In 1867 Alderman Birch proposed Thomas as Mayor for his position and personal qualities. “He would if elected discharge the duties with credit to himself and satisfaction to his fellow citizens…he was the oldest friend he had in Lichfield, for some 30 years. In the sports of the Chase he was A1, and no doubt he would be A1 amongst the Mayors of Lichfield. He was elected.

    Thomas died at the house of his daughter in 1892 at Ealing. The Lichfield Mercury had a short obituary saying he had been a striking figure in the social life of Lichfield for upwards of half a century. He was an enthusiastic sportsman and took an important part in establishing the South Staffs Hunt during 1867/8. He was Mayor of the City and composed many hunting songs which were published in 1876.

    But as with Colonel Kilian there seem to be things that have not been mentioned. In August 1889 at Walsall Bankruptcy Court was the public examination of Thomas Arthur Griffith trading as J and A Griffith of the Old Brewery, Lichfield. The debtor attributed his failure to the death of his partner and a serious accident to himself in the last year. The examination showed that Thomas had started business in 1841 in partnership with his late brother and a Mr Sanders. He had put no capital in but the other two put £2,500 each into the business. In 1858 they added a brewing business. In 1856 RT Lovett joined the firmas a sleeping partner, bringing in £5,000; but he returned in 1865 and was paid out. In 1869 the debtor and his then partners made an arrangement with their creditors and assigned all their estates to a trustee, who sold it and paid the creditors a dividend of 5s 9p in the pound upon liabilities amounting to £20,000. They recommended business as a wine and spirits and ale merchants at the Museum Buildings, Beacon Street, and soon after added a brewing business in Beacon Street. Mr Sanders found £300 as capital, and the partners obtained a credit at the bank guaranteed by friends… The debtor and his brother continued the business, trading as J and A Griffith until his brother’s death in 1886….After that in accordance with terms of the partnership deed, the debtor paid his brother’s widow £130 for one year. An investigation of affairs showed a deficit of about £700….a committee of inspection was appointed under which the business was carried on, but some of the creditors would assent to the assignment and Thomas Griffith had to file a petition….

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