Hot Spring

Apparently, this is likely to be the hottest early May bank holiday on record. It’s so warm that even the birds in my garden were sunbathing yesterday. It’s something they do to keep their feathers healthy  but I think this one might have needed a bit of factor 30, as it seemed a bit red in places.

Sunbathing robin

This beautiful weather coincides with the blooming of the bluebells at my beloved Leomansley Wood. The trees which are now coming into leaf are relatively youthful but the soil here is ancient. Along with lesser celandine and wood anemones, those bluebells signal that this is a plantation on a much older site. In England, the definition of ancient woodland is land that has been continuously wooded since 1600. Given that the name Leomansley pre-dates England and indicates that there were once elm or limetrees here, this site could have been continuously wooded, well, since forever.

Leomansley Wood bluebellsWood anemones

Leomansley Brook trickles around the edge of the wood, into Leomansley Pool in the grounds of what once was Leomansley Mill, and out again through a culvert on Pipe Green.

Mill culvert

Leomansley Mill culvert, Pipe Green

Once upon a time, on hot days like these, the brook would be full of kids paddling as can be seen in this clipping from a 1937 edition of the Lichfield Mercury.

Lichfield Mercury 1937 Pipe Green paddling

I’ve been paddling there with my kids (and without them!) but I’m seemingly in the minority, something I’ve always found strange given the close proximity of a primary school. With the exception of the occasional hot dog, the brook is usually as calm as the millpond it once flowed out of.

Leomansley Brook May 2018

Those still waters run deep however. To the right of the pipe, you can see some of Lichfield’s many springs emerging from the sandstone aquifer far beneath the brook’s bed.

IMG_20180505_094853328

The pipe itself is currently the source of speculation between myself, the fantastic Jane Arnold of the Pipe Green Trust and others. Local historian J W Jackson talks of a pipe which ran from the well at Maple Hayes, which emptied its icy-cold water into the brook. He recalls how people would take bottles to be filled as the water was said to be highly beneficial for bathing eyes. Presumably this is the pipe he mentions but which well at Maple Hayes? Could he have been referring to Unetts Well, said to be the coldest water in Lichfield, where Sir John Floyer built a bath in 1701, later incorporated into Erasmus Darwin’s botanic garden?

I’ve always thought of natural history as having not much to do with local history but I’m beginning to see more and more how the former shapes the latter. Think its time to go and contemplate this a little more in the sunshine over a glass of water to which barley, hops and yeast has been added. It’s what Mr Worthington the brewer who once owned the Maple Hayes estate (which appears to have incorporated most of Leomansley at one point) would have wanted.

Advertisements

Everything From Shells

Despite the bitter cold, a large crowd gathered in the Museum Gardens around a figure enveloped in green velvet.

Once the poems, songs and speeches had concluded, local artist Peter Walker’s bronze statue of Erasmus Darwin was unveiled to applause.

Recently, I read a wonderful post by Susan Ward on her Staffordshire Bred blog which reminded me of the importance of the sense of touch, when connecting with something.  I was so pleased to hear that the scallop shell Erasmus Darwin holds in his left hand is not only an important symbol of his beliefs and his work on evolution, but is also there to be touched. This is not a hands off statue and I hope that people will touch it, that it will be a well-loved part of the city and that stories will grow up around it.

Those days are still ahead of us – the sun has not even set on the statue’s first day in the Museum Gardens yet (although judging by the temperature in the park today, I’m not convinced it actually rose in the first place!).

The statue belongs to the people of Lichfield, but today belongs to Erasmus Darwin and Peter Walker.

Monumental Task

I’ve used this database created by the Public Monuments & Sculptures Association a lot. It’s a national recording project that aims to collect information on all British public sculpture and monuments, whether historic or contemporary.

As well as including Lichfield’s usual suspects, the database also features some of our less obvious works such as the Calming Stone in Beacon Park, the etched glass in the Library foyer, the facade of Boots in Tamworth St and the Standing Stones I formed a bit of an attachment to back in November 2011.

 

Facade of Boots created 1908. Decorations include an owl, a beehive and a piper. There must have been a good reason for this motley crew!

They're outside!

 

Not everything on the list is still around – there’s an entry for Dean Denton’s Market Cross which was pulled down in 1849. There are also entries on the database that don’t seem to have made it as fully fledged pieces of Lichfield public sculpture.  Since Pat brought it to our attention back in November 2011 an entry has now appeared on the database about the Vision & Youth sculpture.

As the association says,  ‘The database is an excellent resource for students & researchers, conservators, local historians, art buffs, enthusiasts, genealogists and all who want to know more about public sculpture: statues; obelisks; columns; sculptures; installations; fountains; follies; commemorative clocks; wayside markers; and towers – from the Stuart era to the present day.’ I think it’s fantastic and you can read more about future plans & how you can get involved in contributing information here.

One to be added to the database in the future is the proposed statue of Erasmus Darwin at Cathedral Walk (I think there’s another one planned for Beacon Park too). I’ve just been reading a few of the comments about this on the S106 document. One person said that they were in favour of the statue, as Darwin is a local hero we should be proud of. However, the comment goes on to say that Lichfield should also celebrate more contemporary heroes relevant to young people and also more women ‘not just old blokes’.* I think this is potentially a whole new blog post but this is a really interesting point. Who or what should we be commemorating with our future public art & monuments?  

*I remember when I was a young person. A young person who used to go out on a Saturday night instead of sitting in reading the comments on S106 consultations 😉