Sign of the Times

On Facebook, another member of the Lichfield Discovered group posted a photograph of a shop sign that had been hiding underneath a Connells Estate Agents sign on Bore Street.

What other old signs lurk beneath the plastic facades?

What other old signs lurk beneath plastic facades?

I started to do a bit of reading about the use of signs and lettering on buildings and came across an article in the Independent, which features a self confessed font geek called Anthony Harrington. “Typefaces work well as little milestones,” he says. “They anchor a building to a time and a function, whether it’s commercial or social, and this is a heritage worth preserving”. There’s also a map and an app which aims, ‘to photographically record publicly available lettering and type throughout the capital’.

It’s an interesting idea and so I had a wander around to see what other examples I could find in the Lichfield. In October 1953, the School of Art principal Miss EM Flint declared that city was remarkably deficient in the provision of well-rendered signs and notices. Is this still true sixty years later? Anymore good examples out there?

SAM_9740

SAM_9714

SAM_9737

SAM_9707

You have to include a sign that has letters with eyebrows

SAM_9735SAM_9719SAM_9715

SAM_9731

SAM_9726SAM_9705SAM_9739SAM_9741SAM_9722SAM_9738

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A Storm Brewing

A comment from Mrs P on an earlier post about the City Brewery on the Birmingham Rd revealed another unhappy chapter in the story of Lichfield’s brewing industry.

In 1900, in many towns and cities across the north and west of the country, there was a huge rise in cases of what was originally thought to be alcohol related neuritis. Eventually doctors in Manchester, one of the worst hit places, began to suspect that alcohol may not be the cause.  After discovering arsenic in samples of local beer these suspicions were confirmed – people were in fact being poisoned.

There were thought be around six thousand cases of poisoning across the country, of which at least seventy were fatal.  On February 15th 1901 The Mercury reported that ninety one cases were discovered in the Lichfield urban district but there were no fatalities.

Samples from the City Brewery on the Birmingham Rd and the Lichfield Brewery on Upper St John St were taken. These tests showed that whilst beer from the City Brewery was arsenic free, the poison was present in beer brewed by the Lichfield Brewery.  Along with the other affected breweries across the country, they had been using contaminated brewing sugar from Bostock & Co of Liverpool. The sugar had been produced using sulphuric acid designed for industrial use, rather than of a food grade quality.  Bostock & Co blamed their supplier – a Leeds company called Nicholson & Son, whose defence was that Bostock & Co had not specified the need for ‘pure’ acid.

Offices of the former Lichfield Brewery, Upper St John St

Unsurprisingly, the City Brewery and another local rival, the Old Brewery on Sandford St were keen to inform consumers that their beers were arsenic free and took out large adverts in the Mercury announcing this. The Lichfield Brewery used the local press for a damage limitation exercise. On 12th December 1900, they printed the certificate that the public analyst and consulting chemist Dr Bostock Hill had issued to them from his laboratory in the Unity Buildings on Temple St, Birmingham, which included the following statement:

Gentlemen – I beg to report that I have analysed the three samples of Ales, and one of Stout, received from you on the 11th instant and find them to be PURE AND FREE FROM ARSENIC OR OTHER DELETERIOUS MATTER

Dr Bostock Hill’s opinion was also reported in the Mercury – he believed the brewery was not to blame and was instead a victim of circumstance. The report also praises the brewery for their honesty and openness in dealing with the matter noting that,

‘the strain on the executive has naturally been considerable, but it is in process (sic) of being completely relieved, The ordinary shareholders may possibly experience a slight temporary depression in the value of their holdings – nothing more; for the position of the company is now so secure, owing to its large reserve fund that the incident can only have a temporary effect, especially in view of the fact that it is one over which they had, under the circumstances, not the slightest control …despite the loss, the commercial value, importance and position of the Lichfield Brewery Company is quite unshaken’.

It seems the ‘considerable strain’ on the executive was relieved and the Lichfield Brewery continued for another thirty or so years, until Ind Coope & Allsopp Ltd took over the brewery and its 198 licensed houses in 1935.  So far, I have not been able to find a report into the strain on the health or livelihoods of those actually poisoned by the arsenical beer.

For a much fuller account of how events unfolded across the country, please read the article ‘Death in the beer-glass: the Manchester arsenic-in-beer epidemic of 1900-1 and the long-term poisoning of beer‘ by Matthew Copping. It also makes some very interesting points regarding how in addition to the complacency of the brewing industry, prejudice and stereotyping of those affected (mainly the working class) may also have contributed to these terrible events.

In the article, Matthew Copping describes the arsenic poisoning episode as a wake up call for those at fault, a phrase that’s has been heard again in recent days, due to the ongoing enquiry into contaminated meat. The timing of this post is actually coincidental (isn’t it, Mrs P?) and I don’t want to try too hard to draw parallels between these two events, separated by over a century. However, I think it is fair to say that, as in 1900, the public has been let down by complacency and broken systems once again.

Sources

https://lichfieldlore.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/poison.pdf

The Arsenic Century:How Victorian Britain was Poisoned at Home, Work, and Play by James C. Whorton

http://www.weasteheritagetrail.co.uk/salford-people/biographies/entry/the-salford-poisoned-beer-scandal.htm

Thirsty Work

My efforts to find out more about the City Brewery (Lichfield) Co were rewarded this week when I came across the work of Alfred Barnard. Between 1889 and 1891, Mr Barnard toured more than 100 breweries recording his visits and research across four epic volumes known as ‘The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland.

Happily, Mr Barnard considered two of our breweries here in Lichfield to be noted – the aforementioned City Brewery Company, and the Trent Valley Brewery Company (which I shall cover in another post). Although by and large, both breweries have disappeared, we can still take a look at these buildings through Mr Barnard’s eyes (though sadly not his tastebuds).

And so to the City Brewery in 1891, seventeen years old and,

‘a stately block of red-brick buildings, five storeys high…..built on the Company’s own freehold land, facing the South Staffordshire Railway, from which a siding has been planned, and will shortly be constructed. Immediately at the back of the brew house there is a small harbour on the Birmingham Canal, together with a wharf and warehouse, so that the brewery possesses every convenience for land and water carriage’.

The malt house (which survives today) is about to be built to the right of the West Brewery Yard and on-site there is also:

– a well, 70 feet deep from where water is pumped up to a reservoir in the roof of the brew house.

– a washing out shed, where the casks are cleaned, next to a cooperage employing four men

–  a horse-chop room (just to clarify this was where food for the horses was prepared!)

– new model stables with six stalls, each with a Staffordshire blue-brick manger and across the yard, the head horse keeper’s house and old stables with eighteen stalls (plus a further three for travellers ‘nags’)

– a dray shed that accommodates twelve drays

–  the  brewery foreman’s house and other cottages for workers behind the cask washing department

–  a store for maturing old ales, a blacksmith’s shop and a carriage house on the wharf

–  general offices near the main entrance, just past the engine-room (with a horizontal engine of fifteen horse power and two Cornish steel boilers).

– a bottling department where ales and stouts are bottled for the firm’s public houses (there is a further bottling store at St Mary’s Chambers in the city).

– the manager’s house with an adjoining two storey building containing a counting-house, cashiers office, a manager’s office and a board-room.

Mr Barnard doesn’t record the names of those who live and work at the City Brewery, together with their families, but of course the census helps us with this (the one below is for 1891, the year of the visit).

As discussed in earlier posts, most of the brewery was lost to a fire in the early hours of an October morning in 1916. After burning for ten hours, all that was saved the malt house and the manager’s house and offices (I think this is on the left of the picture. Today it is divided into three houses). Seventy men lost their job, and possibly some of them lost their homes.

I’ve been thinking about the visual differences of the scene today, but of course the sounds and smells have also disappeared. Would there have been a malty aroma mingling in the air with the smoke from the chimneys, and the trains? The sound of horses hooves and the noise of the engine room? As for a taste of the City Brewery, all that’s left now are the empty bottles that turn up in collections across the world, and so we shall have to take Mr Barnard’s word for it that the East India Pale Ale was ‘pleasant to the taste, bright and invigorating, and well-flavoured with the hop’, that the bitter ale was ‘clean to the palate, of light-specific gravity, sparkling as champagne, and highly suitable for family use’, that the XXX old ales were the most suitable drink for a working man, and the stout, although heavy was wholesome and nutritious. Cheers, Mr Barnard!

Notes

This was Mr Barnard’s follow up to his earlier tour of every whisky distillery in the UK – 162 in all.

The remaining houses and offices together with the malt house can be seen from the Birmingham Rd, next to Magnet.

Huge hat tip to Steve Williams and his blog here as this is where I discovered that the four volumes were available on line.

I have only included a fraction of the information given by Mr Barnard. Anyone who wishes to read the accounts for themselves (there is a lot more detail on the brewing process for example), or to look at some of the other breweries included, can find it here on the Ask About Ireland website

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

Bell-ow the Water

Water is in abundance at the moment, so Sandford Street seems quite an appropriate topic.   The street was once split into two parts -Sandford St and Sandford St, below the water. I believe that the latter is now known as Lower Sandford St, lay outside the city gate, and was once the main road to Walsall.

This plaque is near to the traffic lights on Swan Rd (confusing!) & the corner of Lower Sandford St

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully, this will make more sense in conjunction with John Snape’s 1781 map.

John Snape 1781 map, taken from wikipedia

I’ve only just found out that around the same time as this map was made, an artist called John Glover painted a view of  Lichfield Cathedral from Sandford St. It’s in the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and can be seen here.

The water in question seems to be Trunkfield Brook (formerly Sandford Brook) which still flows, with varying success, through the Festival Gardens. It’s thought that the name Sandford (earlier Sondeforde) might relate to a crossing over the brook, near to the gate. Apparently, a bridge was built there around 1520. I wonder if the brook was bigger in the past, as I’m pretty sure even I could jump over it. Almost.

Trunkfield Brook, often more mud than water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In view of the above, I think that the symbol on the Sandford St below the water ward banner, as shown below, is pretty self explanatory.

More of a challenge to decipher is the banner for the other part of Sandford St (i.e the bit within the city). Why did they choose to represent this with a bell?

In the absence of anything I can find that links this part of Lichfield specifically to bells, so far all that I can think of is that it might relate to the iron & brass foundry set up in Sandford St in 1879. On an 1884 town plan, it’s shown behind the Queen’s Head. Although it was set up by a Yoxall based firm called Perkins & Sons, Tuke & Bell, who already had a foundry on Beacon St bought it in 1923 and renamed it the Lichfield Foundry Ltd. The Sandford Street works lasted right up until 1983, so there must be plenty who remember it, or even worked there.

On a street somewhere in Lichfield. I’ll be honest, I forgot to note down which one!

So, does this explain the bell? If so, it’s interesting that the foundry wasn’t in existence until 1879, and so the design on the ward banner is unlikely to date to before then. If not…..???

Sources:

‘Lichfield: Economic history’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 109-131. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42349&strquery=sand  Date accessed: 07 July 2012.

A short account of the city and close of Lichfield by Thomas George Lomax, John Chappel Woodhouse, William Newling

Land of the Faroes

We’re really lucky to have a good range of independent shops and businesses, both in the centre of Lichfield, and in the surrounding area and it’s great to hear that another unique shop is opening next week.

Opening on Tuesday 3rd July, at the Heart of the Country shopping village at Swinfen, Faroe Born will be selling 100% Faroese wool clothing, accessories, yarn and more. All Faroe Born garments are machine-knitted or woven and then fulled according to traditional methods. This procedure ensures that the garment is wind and water resistant while it maintains its soft and warm texture. With the ‘summer’ we’re having, that sounds incredibly appealing! The shop will also be selling a range of cutlery and tableware. The shop belongs to Ian, a great supporter of this blog and all things Lichfield!

As if all that wasn’t enough, they also have one of the cutest logos around. Meet Sirri the Sheep!

 

Bit of a Bore

Last night in the Horse & Jockey on Sandford Street, the Holden’s Golden Glow and the football were in full flow. The former was definitely more satisfying than the latter. As Spain made their millionth pass around the forty minutes mark, my mind started to wander. It wandered back to Bore St, where I was still trying to work out which of the ward banners belonged to this Lichfield ward and why (some of the name plaques underneath the flags were obscured when I went back to check).

Bore St ward banner?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It dawned on me that this flag showed the city maces, which are used in civic processions and date from 1664 and 1690. The centre of civic events in Lichfield is of course the Guildhall on Bore St where of course the flag is hanging. So I should probably  have worked this one out a bit quicker!

The maces being carried in the 2012 Lichfield Bower procession

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst we’re on the subject of football, what about the golden balls of the Lombard St ward banner? I didn’t know until now but Lombard is another name for a pawn broker, and of course this type of business has long been identified by this symbol. Wikipedia explains that the concept originated in the Lombardy region of Italy.

Lombard St was once known as Stowe St infra barras (i.e. the part of Stowe St inside the barrs (or gate) of the city). Did the name change occur when this kind of business was set up in the street? Or is there another reason?

Lombard Ward banner