Two Minutes of Your Time

Whether you’re Dimbles born and bred or a Katie-come-lately like me, everyone who has ever called Lichfield home is a part of the city and its history. A new project, led by artist and sculptor Peter Walker, wants to hear from you about what it’s like growing up, living and working here.

The aim of the project is to collect two minute long stories and anecdotes, and/or related photographs.  These will then be combined with archive images of the city to create a present day digital record of Lichfield and the surrounding district, as told through the voices of local people. The project began in Burntwood, where hundreds of images and stories have already been collected from people from all different backgrounds, and is part of a wider art project. As Peter explained in his email,

“We believe it is significant that we make a record of what it was like to grow up in the area from the community’s point of view.  There are many shared memories alongside individual successes that deserve to be recorded for posterity. Your story may be for example, the day you first went to school, winning a trophy for your local team, or simply memories of buildings and shops or people you knew. If you don’t wish to be recorded or bring a picture then you can still come along and write an anonymous postcard with information relating to your memory, to give to the collection to tell your story. Images and stories collected will be turned into digital formats and displayed on-line, with some being made into a short digital film and all stories will be archived as a digital time capsule.”

If you want to contribute, there are sessions at Lichfield Library on 5th and 6th of February 2015 between 10.30am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm. Like Lichfield itself, it’ll be what you make it.

Day to day life in Lichfield

Day to day life in Lichfield, Summer 2014

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Paths that Cross

On my way to pick up some tickets from the Garrick the other day, I passed Lichfield Library. I couldn’t resist popping in to have a quick peek at the local history section to see if they had any more information on the history on the grammar school,  following on from Gareth’s graffiti photographs.  (They did. A whole book in fact and I’ve updated the post accordingly!). So inevitably, my quick peek turned into two hours.

There was an added bonus to the visit too. Anyone who read my Cross City and Cross County posts will know that I was hoping there would be an ancient cross somewhere in Lichfield. Well, I finally found one! Actually that’s a fib. What I found is a photograph in a book of archaeologists finding one. A decorated cross shaft was discovered built into the foundations of the north wall of the nave of Lichfield Cathedral. It’s thought to be Saxon or Saxo-Norman, and could be a surviving remnant of the earlier church on the site. I wish I could share a photograph here, but all I can do is tell you that it’s on plate 1 in the ‘South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society Transactions 1980-1981 Volume XXII’ book, on the local history shelves at the library!.

I have a confession to make. Generally, I’ve thought that places like the Cathedral are so well known, there’s nothing much left to say. Yet, now I recognise that this was wrong. Whether it’s the magnificent discovery of the Lichfield Angel in 2003, the downright curious tale of a live frog embedded in one of the stones used to repair the Cathedral during the restoration*, or rolls of parchment, beer and tobacco found in the gilded balls on the top of the central spire – the Cathedral, as everywhere, is made of stories, as much as it is made of stone. There are those we know well, those we don’t, and those that haven’t even been told yet.  We need to make sure we  are listening, just as Gareth was when he discovered and questioned that graffiti on the walls of the old Grammar school.

*I’m not making this up…..but someone else may well have been!

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 😉

Kindred Spirit

I’ve referenced J(ohn) W(alters) Jackson several times in this blog and really wanted to find out a bit more about him. So here we go….

Mr Jackson was 2 years old when he came to Lichfield in 1864. He was a music teacher and the organist at Christ Church. He lived at 81, Walsall Rd until he left the city to live with his son in Newport,  Shropshire in October 1940 at the age of 78. During his time in Lichfield he was ‘City Librarian’. The Lichfield Mercury reported that after his appointment the number of readers increased from 70 a week to 500.

In the 1930s and 40s, Mr Jackson had a local history column in the Lichfield Mercury in  which he answered readers’ queries and shared an assortment of historical facts, folklore and transciptions from old documents. Each ‘subject’ is given a paragraph at most, so if one snippet didn’t interest, the next one wasn’t far behind!

I thought I’d share one of my favorites with you, to give you a flavour of Mr Jackson’s work. I like this one especially because the ancient manor of Abnalls is one of my favourite places in Lichfield and I love a good ghost story (this one has the added bonus of an intrepid one-man paranormal investigation as well). So I’ll hand you over to Mr Jackson…..

“The Abnalls dates back to the time of Edward I. The present hall has taken the place of the ancient manor. Many years ago it was said to be haunted. Half a century ago considerable alarm was caused by reports of a spectre being seen by various passers-by at belated hours. The writer personally visited (at midnight when ghosts are said to appear) on several occasions but after patiently waiting saw nothing of a spectral character further than weird forms in the trees and bushes in the dim light, and on one occasion the gentle waving of a white nightgown pegged on a clothes line.”

The site of the old manor off Abnalls Lane. I know it doesn't look it from the photo but it is very intriguing place and a scheduled ancient monument.The aerial view from googlemaps reveals a lot more but I'm having trouble adding it to the post at the minute, so in the meantime, maybe do your own investigation & see if you can find it!

 This kind of history might not be to everyone’s taste (but then what is?) but it sure is to mine –  I think it’s entertaining, accessible and a great source of information. If you get the chance I highly recommend that you have a look at the Lichfield Mercury archives (warning – give yourself plenty of time as you’ll be engrossed).  

I love the way that us humans,  no matter what age we belong to, are curious about the stories of the places that surround us and the people that came before us (well, most of us are anyway). Investigate the blog list to the right of this post and you’ll find a lot of curious* & entertaining souls. I like to think that if Mr Jackson was around today, he’d be doing a blog. I hope he doesn’t mind being included on this one!

 *curious in the inquisitive sense, not in the strange sense. I think 😉

Meripilus Giganteus & Wealhhnutu

Lorna from the Monks Walk Group has been in touch to say that unfortunately the beech tree in the gardens has been lost due to the Meripilus Giganteus fungus. The good news is that Staffordshire County Council is providing a walnut tree as a replacement.

 

I don’t know much about fungi or walnuts, so I did a quick bit of research. Apparently, Meripilus Gigantus also known as Giant Polypore is a common cause of death for mature beech trees. It seems we can’t even get our revenge on this fungus by eating it as, although not poisonous, it doesn’t taste particularly good.  However, it is sometimes eaten by mistake as it looks like the Hen of the Woods, which is a tasty, edible fungus (and very good in risotto according to Morgan from Walsall Wildlife!).

In one of my all time favourite books, ‘England in Particular’, the entry for walnuts tells us that the trees were originally brought to Britain by the Romans (the Old English was wealhhnutu which means ‘foreign nut’)and amongst other places were planted in monastery gardens, so it seems that Staffordshire County Council have made an appropriate choice!

A huge walnut wood was planted to the north-east of Ashby de la Zouch around 10 years ago. Jaguar Lount wood is the largest plantation of walnut trees in Britain and as you might guess from the name, the project was sponsored by Jaguar Cars and it includes an area where they are researching the the growth of different varieties for timber and for their nuts. You can see the Forestry Commission leaflet here.

Of course, it probably goes without saying that perhaps most importantly of all, walnuts are a crucial ingredient in Walnut Whips. Much tastier than Meripilus Gigantus.

Sources:
England in Particular – Sue Clifford & Angela King

A Cock & Bull Story

 

Somehow I’d not spotted these cockerels on Tamworth St before! The cockerels (or chickens as I originally thought they were!) reminded me of some carved cow heads that BrownhillsBob spotted on an old Lichfield butchers shop a few months previous (the old Savers shop) and posted on his great #365daysofbiking blog .

The keystone says that the building was built in 1865.  16 years later the 1881 census for Tamworth St shows the following household:

Name  Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability

 Henry WELCH Head M Male 54 Rugeley, Stafford, England Poulterer  

 Elizabeth WELCH Wife M Female 56 Harefield, Middlesex, England    

 Louisa WELCH Dau U Female 25 Lichfield School Mistress  

 Arthur WELCH Son U Male 20 Lichfield Poulterers Assistant  

 Alice Mary WELCH Dau U Female 19 Lichfield Dressmaker  

 Elizabeth WELCH Dau U Female 17 Lichfield Pupil Teacher  

 Mary Ann WELCH Dau U Female 15 Lichfield Pupil Teacher  

A poultry dealer on Tamworth St! I think there’s a good chance Mr Henry Welch and his family may have been the occupants of this building? By the way, the rear of the building is also interesting as there is a cart entrance.

Roger Jones (@ziksby on Twitter) very kindly did a bit of investigating on the great historical directories website but could only find general butchers on Tamworth St. However, Henry Welch does turn up as a ‘grocer & poulterer’ in an 1870 directory on Market St, Lichfield. So, it seems at some point between then and 1881 he moved the business to Tamworth St. Did he add the cockerels at this time?

By coincidence, earlier that day I had a look at the mosaic on the landing at Lichfield Library.

Information alongside says:

“This mosaic was rescued by the Lichfield Civic Society in 1985 from the stallriser of 13 Tamworth St. It was restored by Adam Cecconi of Cecconi & Son, Small Heath Birmingham with monies granted by the Swinfen Broun Charitable Trust and is on loan to the college.”

I also found a couple of old adverts for butchers on Tamworth St in a January 1891 edition of the Lichfield Mercury.

HP Craddock Family Butcher, Tamworth St, Lichfield
Fresh Meat daily. Pickled tongue always on hand.

Quantrills Est. 1872
2 Tamworth St, Lichfield
Pork pie & sausage establishment. A great display of hams, porkpies & sausages which surpass any in the city for quality & cheapness. Pure leaf lard, pickled pork etc.
All orders promptly attended to.

Richard Bratby (@RichardBratby) also got in touch via twitter to say that he had seen a photograph of Quantrills and it was on the corner of Bakers Lane, but demolished when the Three Spires shopping centre was built. Richard also said that the photograph is in Heritage Centre collection, so I’ll have to pay them a visit.

I think it would be really interesting to see if any of the other shopfronts & buildings in Lichfield City centre still have clues to the trades that were carried on in them (I think I already found an old branch of Burtons!). If anyone does find any, please get in touch.