Appeal of Bells

If you heard the bells of St Michael’s ringing out late yesterday afternoon, you were listening to the launch of a restoration fund for the bells, which are in need of essential maintenance work.

According to the churchwardens accounts, the bells have been rung in the past to mark important national occasions, and in the bell tower there are plaques commemorating some of these and more locally significant events.

The blue plaque commemorates the ringing of bells for the marriage of Charles & Diana; the brown one commemorates a farewell peal for the retirement of Prebendary P Howard in 1947

Bell Tower steps

After negotiating the narrow and windy staircase back down into the church, I had a look around the rest of this lovely building. According to the listed building description, although the church is thought to be 13th century in origin (with a 14thc tower), much of the building dates back to the restoration of 1842/3 by Thomas Johnson. However, the church history booklet (a snip at £1.50!) suggests that whilst the church had undoubtedly needed some restoration work at this time, much of this work was  unnecessary and things of historic interest may have been lost. The booklet goes on to say that some of the restoration work was undone at the end of the 19thc.

Royal coat of arms(1711) above the chancel

The royal arms, as seen above the chancel, are from 1711, and replaced an earlier version. I’ve read that after the reformation, anglican churches were encouraged to display the royal coat of arms somewhere prominent, reminding people that the monarch was also head of the Church of England. The custom of displaying the royal arms continued until Victorian times, but these days can be found in only around 15% of churches. You can read more about the Churches Conservation Trust’s guide to Royal Arms in English churches here.

Having previously read that the Marquis of Donegal had erected a spacious family mausoleum near the chancel, I have to confess I was a little disappointed to find no trace at all of the ostentatious Chichesters of Fisherwick Hall. However, the church booklet explained that the rabbit infested mausoleum had been replaced by a stokehold in the 1842/3 restoration, and the bones buried elsewhere. Seems like none of Donegal’s buildings were destined to last long….

The chap below fared a little better than Donegal. Whilst his bones also ended up elsewhere, his effigy survived the ‘restoration’ and is behind a bench in the chancel. It’s thought to be William de Walton who endowed the church with land and died around 1344. I particularly like the inclusion of the faithful dog watching over his master in death.

One man & his dog – William de Walton’s effigy

The church has several other monuments, including most famously, that of Samuel Johnson’s mother, father and brother.

Back outside in the churchyard,  a woman approached me and asked ‘Are you thinking the same as me?’. Actually I wasn’t, because whilst I was thinking about missing bones, the woman was thinking about missing apples. Apparently in previous years, rich windfall pickings were to be had from the trees growing alongside the footpath. This year it was hard to spot a single fruit.

Peals but no peel

One thing I read in the history booklet, which I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on,  is that around the year 2000, a pump was installed to keep the crypt from flooding. I read in an archaeology report that ‘St Michael’s is a low hill with natural springs’. Could this have anything to do with the flooding?  I’ll explore this ancient burial ground in a post of its own. In the meantime, perhaps we could get the University of Leicester involved in a hunt for William de Walton and the Marquis of Donegal. They seem quite good at that sort of thing…..

Part of the 9 acres making up St Michael’s churchyard

Sources:

St Michael’s Church. Lichfield – A Short History by Rev Carpenter 1947

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

Archaeological Desktop Survey OSA Report No. OSAO6DTO2 (Onsite Archaeology January 2006)

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Tree following: Midsummer

Even though it feels as if it’s barely begun, it’s already Midsummer and the lane next to the church is now green and leafy. Lovely as it is, this is probably the least interesting time for the lane.

Fallen elderflowers and other petals lie scattered like confetti from nearby Christ Church.

Alongside them are Midsummer reminders of Autumn.

The holes in the tree still hold a fascination for me. I put my hand in and took some more photos of the inside, with irrational thoughts of the Boca della Verita at the back of my mind.

 

 

Tree following: White Heat

“No, I can’t come out with you, I’m supposed to be working”. “You know you want to… I’m only going to be around for the next few days and then I don’t know when I’ll be back in Lichfield again”. “Oh, go on then…..”

Yes, my old friend summer is back in town, and so I went to see how my tree that I follow on the path from Leomansley Wood to Pipe Green is getting on. To be honest I’m now following pretty much the whole path, so the tree doesn’t get that much of a look in these days. I’m sure it’ll come in to its own as the seasons progress though!

It was a delight for most of the senses.  Birdsong and drumming woodpeckers, butterflies and an abundance of mostly white flowers along the floor and hedgerows, the warmth of the sun, the cool of the breeze and the shade of the trees and of course the scent of early summer in the air. Taste is the only one that eluded me on my walk (although I’m sure there were probably some wild goodies I could have tried if I was both more knowledgeable and brave about these things). I think my tea & cake when I got home might just about count though.

Into the woods….

I was lured into the woods by the promise of wood anemones…..then along the path past the old Leomansley mill pools….and finally onto the edge of Pipe Green common.

 

 

 

Tree following: …..bring May flowers

Leomansley Woods are lovely all year round but within the next few weeks they will be at the peak of their beauty. Well, I think so. You’ll have to visit and see if you agree.

There’s just a smattering at the moment, but soon the bluebells will fill the gaps between the trees and paint the woodland floor with their colour.

Getting bluer by the day

I could put a photo on here from last year but why spoil the anticipation? It’s not long to wait now! In the meantime there’s plenty more going on of interest, although I confess I’m not always sure what exactly. I’m still fumbling my way through with a variety of Woodland Trust swatch books and a junior nature guide but I am learning slowly. I’ve realised that trying to identify the plants from photographs is not the way to do it. Clearly, it’s a bit tricky to see if the leaves smell of anything (for example, according to my book, hemlock has ‘the strong smell of mice’!) and it’s hard to see other subtle details from a photograph too.

I know these are tulips.....

Fungus

This is some kind of fungus......

No idea???

 

No idea part 2????

The dandelions had closed up due to the rain (or maybe they’ were hiding, having heard of my plans to turn them into marmalade……).

Not so dandy

Elsewhere along the lane, other plants were still showing evidence of the last downpour.

Raindrops on leaves

The tree itself now has buds and I’m pretty sure that it is an oak. The path running past the tree goes past Leomansley House/Manor and leads to Pipe Green. Pipe Green is a wonderful area of meadowland managed by a trust and they have an equally wonderful website with details of all the birds, plants and animals you might spot whilst you are there. Have a look at the website here and then go and visit! I’m going to go and see if I can spot the wood anemones.

Oak Aged

Galls & Buds come out to play

Following the sale of the Maple Hayes Estate, to which it belongs, Leomansley Wood now has a new owner. Let’s hope that it will now be cared for and managed as well as it should be.

 

 

Tree following: April Showers…..

It was time to revisit my tree on the lane next to Christ Church.  

Now I think it might be a horse chestnut.

I managed to dodge the heavy showers that had been falling on and off all day, but there was plenty of evidence of them. The air had an earthy smell and looking back towards Christchurch Lane from the A51 end, I noticed the reflection of the trees in the puddles. I’m not sure whether the onion ring crisp spillage adds to or detracts from the scene.

Soggy Crisps

I bet that the crisps were an after school snack, dropped in the haste to get get home before the next shower, but I wonder how these flowers came to be here? From the nearby churchyard perhaps?

Discarded flowers

 It was good to see some new arrivals along the lane.

 

 

This reminds me. How are those bluebells in Leomansley Woods coming along?

Verdun Acorns

 

 

This plaque is in Lichfield’s Garden of Remembrance.  It seems that the planting of acorns from Verdun was not unique to Lichfield and that there are oaks grown from Verdun acorns at many other places in the country, including Kew Gardens, Coventry, and Reading.

In a forum (1), I found a possible explanation for this. It suggests that a box of chestnuts and acorns were sent from Verdun to the London and North-West Railway Company, so that they could be sold to raise funds  for the benefit of the War Seal Foundation (L & N-W Section). It also says that sample boxes were sent to towns and cities along the route of the railway (of which Lichfield would be one?).

I’m going to have a look throught the newspaper archive to see if there is any information on this. In the meantime, it would be great to know if anyone has ever heard of this before or has any further information. I wonder who Mr Knights was?

Oak tree thought to be grown from an acorn, from an oak tree grown from a 'Verdun Acorn'.

 

Edit 16/4/2012

I had a quick look through the British Newspapers archive and there is this snippet from the Western Times, Tuesday 24th July 1917.

“A resident of Ealing has presented the town with two chestnut trees and an oak tree grown from chestnuts and an acorn gathered by the Mayor of Verdun from the devasted forests of Vaux and Douaumount. They are to be planted in the Walpole Park as a memorial to the defence of Verdun’.

 Sources: