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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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