Ale Tales

One of the many lost pubs that John Gallagher found for us on the brilliant Lichfield Discovered tour he led on Monday was the former Windsor Castle on Dam Street (1). There is a great story about this pub, which J W Jackson shared in his Lichfield Mercury column in 1939. I feel like I should take it with a pinch of salted peanuts, but it’s worth sharing again here.

‘Its (the Windsor Castle’s) backyard runs along the back of the workshops of Messrs R Bridgeman and Son, the well-known ecclesiastical sculptors, and it appears, years ago, the carvers in order to obtain liquid refreshment without leaving their work, ingeniously removed several bricks from the wall which separated the shop from the Windsor Castle, and through the aperture received bottles of stout or beer from the licensee (a lady at that time) at a certain time each morning and then replaced the bricks. This arrangement worked very smoothly for a long time until one morning the late Mr R Bridgeman brought a visitor into the shop to see the sculptors at work just at the time when the ‘refreshment’ was due and, of course, the men could not remove the loose bricks. Suddenly, a voice sounded clearly through from the other side of the wall, ‘Now, then you b___s, don’t you want your porter this morning?’ Mr Bridgeman, who had his back to the men at that moment, swung around quickly and taking in the situation shouted ‘Joe, come here at once and block up this hole and use cement’. (Joe was Joe Stokes who lived for many years in the little old cottage which still stands in Quonian’s Lane, adjoining the offices)’.

Mr Jackson goes on to describe how the workers got around this setback by bringing bottles into the workshop in their wheelbarrows, storing the empties in their tool chests until the coast was clear, and then returning them to the establishment for a refill.

The former 'Windsor Castle' public house

The former ‘Windsor Castle’ public house

Mr Jackson refers to the Windsor Castle as Lichfield’s oldest licensed house, a claim which I was puzzled by after reading in the official listed building description that the property only dates back to the ‘mid to late 18thc with late 19thc alterations’. However, by delving into Lichfield’s District Council’s online planning records, I have found a survey of the building (2) carried out around seven years ago, which suggests that part of the building may in fact date back to the 16thc. According to the surveyors, the original building would have been a simple one room wide structure running north/south along Dam St. The current facade was added in the early 19thc and it’s thought that the height of the roof was increased and the oriel windows added at this time too (although I’m sure John showed us a photograph of the pub without these windows on? Can anyone else remember?)

Whenever they were added, those windows feature a curious and seemingly eclectic collection of carvings.  I’m not even sure what some of them are supposed to be, but in Lichfield’s very own pub quiz version of ‘Only Connect‘, I give you a man with a fish, a man drinking beer, some sort of castle, Lichfield Cathedral and an owl, a man composing music (possibly the same man as the one with the fish?) and a building with some foliage. Are they telling a tale of some sort, and if so, what is it?

windsor castle 5

windsor castle carvings

windsor castle carvings 4windsor castle carvings 2

windsor castle arvings 3

Notes:

1) A great write up of the walk can be found here, together with some photographs of the other pubs we visited on the night.
2)Something else I noticed on the survey were references to, ‘inappropriate repair works undertaken to the brickworks using a cement based mortar’, which, in view of how the Bridgeman workers’ cheeky ruse came to an end, made me smile.

Sources:

Lichfield Mercury Archive
Smiths Gore Condition Survey, 16 Dam Street, Lichfield (08/00186/LBC)

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The Faces of Christ Church

I visited Christ Church on a numbingly cold and drab January afternoon, and I welcomed the sight of the first crocuses and snowdrops beginning to appear amongst the stones erected as memorials to those who once lived here in the parish.

Of course, memorials can take different forms and the blue clock on the tower is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Worthington, of Maple Hayes, presented by her husband Albert Octavius of the Burton brewing company. (1)

As you look at the clock face, on either side of the window below you notice faces of a different kind. On closer inspection, more of these faces can be found all around the church and I’ve included a few examples below.

The church was built in 1847, in the Gothic Revival style, and so I imagine the architect Thomas Johnson (of Davidson House, St John St) included them to emulate the corbel heads found in medieval churches (a good example and explanation can be seen on the V&A website here). This might explain what they are, and why they are here, but not necessarily who they are! (3)

As I stood thinking about the faces, someone arrived to unlock the church door. I explained that I’d been looking at the stone heads and was told that there are more inside and was invited in. Apparently, despite being the subject of much debate, no-one quite knows the story behind them. One suggestion that has been put forward is that they are benefactors of the church. Two of the chest tombs behind the church belong to Ellen Jane Hinckley, the founder of the church and her husband Richard Hinckley, who gave land in the corner of their Beacon Place estate on which to build the church. (2) Are they also here at their church in stone form? Is the portrait of Thomas Johnson the architect or the church’s first curate Thomas Alfred Bangham to be found here? Do they depict people who used to live in the parish or are these heads in fact creations from inside the head of the stonemason?!

Inside, the majority of corbel heads are in and around the chancel, which has the most stunning ceiling. Although this is not my first time inside the church, it is the first time I’ve been in and concentrated solely on the building, rather than what is going on within it.  It hardly needs pointing out that my photos do it no justice whatsoever, but they do at least give some idea of the beautiful murals painted for the church’s Golden Jubilee by Pre-Raphaelite artist John Dixon Batten in 1897,  and the reredos, designed by GF Bodley and carved by the sculptors Bridgemans of Lichfield (a discovery of both a new word and a new example of Bridgemans’ work for me!). (4)

I made my way back outside down the aisle, laid with original Minton tiles (5).

The day should have seemed even greyer after the rich, warm colours of the church but with a copy of the newly purchased and brilliantly researched ‘History of Christ Church’ in my bag and the knowledge that such treasures were to be found on my doorstep, it actually felt considerably brighter.

Edit 10/02/2013 Good news! There’s a sign outside Christ Church saying that there is an open day on 9th March – a great opportunity to go and visit this lovely church for yourself. By then, there may even be some spring flowers and wild garlic in the lane alongside which is a nice thought, when you’re sat typing with snow drifting down outside the window. More details here

Notes

(1) The clock was made by John Smith and Sons of Derby a business founded in 1856. Whilst the firm is still going strong, the original headquarters were at risk as these photos and a news story from February 2011 (read here) show. I’d be interested to know what the current state of the building is? Also, it’s not only the clock we have the county of Derbyshire to thank for! The church’s Millenium Gates were created by David Tucker, a master Blacksmith from Derbyshire, that I wrote about here

(2) The third of the Hinckley Tombs belongs to Mrs Hinckley’s son from her second marriage to Hugh Dyke Acland. Mrs Hinckley’s daughters from her first marriage, are the girls depicted in Francis Chantrey’s sculpture known as ‘The Sleeping Children’ as Lichfield Cathedral

Hinckley Tombs, Christ Church

(3) In a 1950s edition of Life magazine, I came across an interesting article about Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. Their old carved heads had eroded badly, and so a stonemason was enlisted to restore them. However, rather than recreate the old images, he carved new images of people associated with the church at that time including a bell ringer, the clock winder, a dog whipper (actually in charge of the grounds) and the youngest member of the church choir (who would now be in his 60s). You can read the article and see the photos here 

(4) I believe that Bodley and Bridgemans also collaborated on the South African war monument in Duncombe Place, York, which is where the sailor on the wall of Lichfield Registry Office was originally destined for but was apparently rejected  for being too warlike.

(5) Between 1844 and 1858, Herbert Minton donated tiles to 46 Staffordshire churches & parsonages. More information can be found in the report ‘Minton Tiles in the Churches of Staffordshire’, carried out by Lynn Pearson for the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society. At the time of the report in the year 2000, amongst others, there were also examples at St Mary’s, Aldridge, possibly St James’ Church, Brownhills (though covered) and St Peter’s, Elford. An online version of the report with photographs can be found here 

Sources:

Christ Church Lichfield – A History by Ursula Frances Turner, later revisions Robert Hazel, Julia Baker and Larry Ridout

Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country – George Thomas Noszlopy and Fiona Waterhouse