Wolverhampton Wandering

I had to pop into Wolverhampton today. I knew from my search for an ancient cross in Lichfield a couple of years back that there was a Saxon cross shaft here and went to find it.  Unlike the Lichfield cross, I didn’t have to try too hard – it’s huge! Its size, and also the fact that it is made from sandstone not found in Wolverhampton, has led some archaeology types to suggest that it is probably a reused Roman column, possibly from Wroxeter or even just up the road in Wall.

Saxon Cross Shaft, WolverhamptonThe elements and pollution have not treated the shaft kindly but its still clear that this was an incredible piece of craftmanship – the Black Country History website describes it as, ‘one of the finest cross shafts in the Midlands’. The carvings of acanthus leaves which decorate the shaft alongside those of birds and beasts have given archaeologists some problems when trying to establish a date as they suggest different periods. The plaque accompanying the shaft in the churchyard has decided to go with the earlier date of the ninth century, whilst others believe late tenth century is more accurate.

Cross Shaft Wolverhampton

On the way out of the churchyard I noticed another stone with a good back story. Known as the Bargain Stone, its said to be where the good (and probably not so good) folk of Wolverhampton would agree sales and make deals by shaking hands through the hole. The nearby plaque suggests it is an old gargoyle and the hole is what remains of its mouth.

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Talking of hands, why didn’t it occur to me to put my hands over the railings to take a better photo?

As if ancient crosses and stones weren’t enough of a treat, we also found Holden’s Brewery’s Great Western near to the train station. This is a proper pub – cobs on the bar, Holden’s Golden Glow (amongst other delights) on tap and really friendly staff. Although we were tempted to sit outside in the sun, the interior was so quirky and there was such a nice atmosphere, we sat inside.

Great Western

Wished I’d got the train. Definitely not driving next time.

The Great Western

The great Great Western

We walked off our pork baps with a little bit of a wander around the city streets. This building caught my eye, not only because it has no floors, meaning you can see down into the cellar, but also because of the handwritten sign someone had stuck to the window.

SAM_0045SAM_0046I’m not sure a traffic warden would be the person I’d turn to in a trapped bird scenario but maybe they do things differently in Wolverhampton.

Another perplexing sign is the one suggesting that the half timbered building on the junction of Victoria St and St John’s Lane was built in AD1300. It wasn’t and no-one knows the reason behind the claim – the best suggestions anyone has seems to be that it was some kind of joke to emphasise that it was a really, really old building! It more likely dates back to the seventeenth century when it was once an inn known as The Hand. These days its home to Wolverhampton Books & Collectables, where you can buy anything from an ancient tome on the history of Staffordshire to a souvenir 1950s Wolverhampton Wanderers hankerchief (which you may, or may not, wish to blow your nose on, depending on your allegiances…).

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We took the scenic route back to Lichfield (not through choice but because I went the wrong way on the ring road), passing through Wednesfield, Sneyd, the intriguingly named New Invention and Brownhills before stopping off at Waitrose for a couple bottles of Golden Glow.

Sources:

http://blackcountryhistory.org/collections/getrecord/WOHER_MBL337/

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/listed/lindylou.htm

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Familiar Looking

Always happy to be distracted from shopping, I had a wander down Quonians Lane to take a photo of a door (that’s a whole different post!).  Everyone loves Quonians Lane with its strange name and its carvings and plaques. Annette Rubery wrote a lovely piece about it back in May, which you can read here.  I love Quonians Lane too, although now my visits are tinged with sadness that the company, whose workers created these wonderful objects and many more across the city, the county and the country, is no more.

I saw the triangular roof of a small outbuilding above the brick wall and went to have a look, thinking it would be quite interesting in its own right. It was a lovely surprise to find these two marble statues stood in the doorways. If you want to see them for yourselves, go down Quonians Lane, and just after you get to the headless angel take a right, through the wall.

So the moral of this story once again is what I say in my ‘About Lichfield Lore‘ spiel.  “Go out and have a look at what’s around you. Then when you’ve done that, go back and have another look!”  I believe this more with each day I do this blog. I think that you can make new discoveries in the same place, depending on a whole range of things including the weather, your mood, what you’re thinking about at the time, the time of day or year or who you’re with. Actually I might change that to include having a smell/touch/listen too. Not sure about taste because I’m not sure I should be encouraging the kind of thing this young man got up to here…..

Anyway, today is a perfect day for me to bang on about this, as it’s the day we heard the news that around ninety further objects had been found at the Staffordshire Hoard site, three years after the original discovery was made. If that doesn’t convince you of the merits of having at least a second look, then I don’t know what will….

 

 

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!

 

Back to Black

After finding out about the Millenium Gates at Christ Church, created by contemporary Master Blacksmith, David Tucker, at his Derbyshire forge, I was interested to see if there was any trace of the many smithys and forges Lichfield once had. Using a town plan of Lichfield from 1884 & trade directories from the late 19th and early 20th century, I came up with a list of those whose location I thought I could roughly identify.

A weathervane I spotted on my travels

The locations are: Upper St John St;  Lombard St; Bakers Lane (3 in this area according to the map!) and Beacon St.

I headed to Lombard St first but it occured to me on the way over, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for anyway? There might be some sort of clue I suppose, but surely there wouldn’t be a sign saying this used to be a forge…..

Well almost! Apparently, behind this facade is a building dating back to the late 17th century. To the right of the house is the workshop in the photo below – the listed building description describes it as ‘an interesting building where further investigation might reveal other early features’.

Workshop on Lombard St.

Before getting too carried away though, on the 1884 map of Lichfield, the smithy is shown on the other side of Lombard St. So this contradiction is a bit of a puzzle…. At home I tried to find out more – on the 1881 census for Lombard St is a Mr Joseph Baxter, blacksmith and his wife Catherine. On the 1896 directory, there is a Mrs J Baxter, blacksmith, Lombard St and the 1901 census seems to confirm that Catherine Baxter, now a fifty year old widow, took over her husband’s trade and was working as a shoeing smith, at 3 Lombard St.

1884 map indicated the Lombard St smithy may have been around here?

Next stop was Bakers Lane. I wasn’t holding out any hope for anything here but in the interests of a comprehensive search I had a look. Plus I needed some milk. As suspected, on face value there doesn’t appear to be much left of anything here.

So I headed for Upper St John St, where it looks as though a smithy (possibly listed to Fred Meacham in 1900) existed either alongside or within the Lichfield Brewery. I couldn’t find anything obvious here on the street, but later at home I did find a newspaper story telling how in July 1903, Mr Meacham, a blacksmith at the City Brewery had a terrible accident being run over by a horse float, after helping in a hayfield. Although Mr Meacham sustained a serious injury, the 1911 census shows that he did return to work as a blacksmith.

Whilst looking at the newspaper archive I found this notice taken out by William Goodwin in the Friday July 11 1902 edition of the Mercury. In it, he advised ‘Nobility, Gentry, Farmers & Others’, that he had taken over the blacksmith’s shop on Beacon St, lately occupied by George Goodwin.

Is there any physical trace of the forge on Beacon St though? Well yes and no. While nothing seems to remain of the building (as far as I could see), the road next to The Feathers pub is ‘Forge Lane’ and the road off this one is ‘Smithy Lane’.

 Footnotes!

In exploring this subject and related matters, I’ve had some great discussions with and help from BrownhillsBob so a big thank you to him.

Although I couldn’t see anything at some of the locations, that’s not to say there is nothing there…..

A few doors up from Catherine Baxter on Tamworth St, in 1881, another widow, Louisa Wood is listed as a ‘Plumber & Decorator’. Ann Tricklebank on Sandford St seems to take over her husband’s trade as a tin worker. I’d not ever thought about the role of women in these traditionally male trades before, so this is something I’d like to find out more about.

Even in 2007, the idea of a female blacksmith seemed to create much excitement in a national ‘newspaper’ with talk of ‘hot stuff’ and ‘unladylike professions’ and ‘an ancient art more traditionally associated with barrel-chested macho men’.

Almost 200 years ago, there are seven blacksmiths listed in the 1818 Lichfield Directory and by 1834 there were 10 – in Market St, Birmingham Rd, Sandford St & Tamworth St, as well as some of those mentioned above.

In surrounding areas there are of course also traces of blacksmiths. For example, in Burntwood there’s a Forge Lane, an Old Forge at Fisherwick, and an old smithy in Fradley. Even further afield, you can see some photos of Staffordshire smiths on the Staffs Past Track website.  

Using the town plan for Lichfield prompted me to see if there was one for Cirencester, where in the late 19th century, my g-g-g-grandfather ran a pub. I had read a while back that it’s no longer a pub so I had a quick look at it on the town plan to see where it would have been. Funnily enough, at the rear of the pub is a smithy and in the 1901 census my g-g-g-grandfather is listed as a Blacksmith & Innkeeper. Maybe that explains why I’m interested in blacksmiths and erm, pubs 😉

Update 19.2.202

Bob has very kindly put a post on his blog about the forge, with four great old maps of Lichfield. There are some great comments and based on these it looks as though the workshop was the smithy & the 1884 town plan may have it wrong. Also, you’ll see that Roger (@ziksby on twitter) has found 34 blacksmiths on the 1881 census. 34!

Sources:

Lichfield Mercury Archives

1884 Town Plan Lichfield

Staffordshire General & Commercial Directory 1818

Whites History, Gazeteer & Directory of Staffordshire `1834

Kellys Directory of Staffordshire 1896, 1900 & 1912

Shopping Daze

Dam St is one of the most wonderful places in Lichfield, offering a winning combination of varied architecture, independent shops, duck feeding and ice-cream on route to the Cathedral. 

Three small signs above the shops at the Market Square end may well go unnoticed. They say ‘J Dean Putney Maker’ and have little hooks on them. A quick google search leads to the website of ‘Deans Blinds & Awnings’ established 1894 and tells how the company was started by a policeman’s son called Tom Dean, and was taken over by his brother John. It seems John Dean and subsequent generations of his family were involved in the ownership of Fulham FC as well as manufacturing blinds and awnings.

 

J Dean Putney

 

The listed buildings describes them as ‘late C19 shop fronts with bracketed cornice and canvas canopies’. Another look at these buildings and you can also see the chains attached to these awnings, which presumably must still be there, tucked away from sight. I wonder when they were rolled shut for the last time? What kind of shop was this when these canopies were added? There was a drapers & silk merchants in this area of Dam St in 1914, could this have been it?

J Dean 2 with Metal erm thing

On the second photo, there is also a metal….thing. I first came across these in Tamworth, where nearly every shop seems to have one albeit slightly newer looking.

Tamworth version of 'the metal thing'. They have lots of interesting things on buildings in Tamworth including mermaids.

Someone got in touch on flickr and suggested they were holders for flags or Christmas trees. I was in Bakewell in Derbyshire last week where they seem to be using them for the latter, as you can see here in the Matlock Mercury. Looks pretty, doesn’t it! I’m guessing the Dam St one was a flag holder but am more than happy to be proved wrong by memory or photographic evidence or just a convincing argument as to what else it might be 😉

You can also have a look at the Street View here, perhaps whilst eating a mincepie by a roaring fire (although it is out of date, as The Staffs Bookshop is now Realwoods).

Last weekend someone spotted something else interesting high up on another building in the city centre. I’m not saying anymore, as I’m hoping that they might consider doing something on this themselves. No matter how well you think you know your surroundings, there are always still things to discover. So whilst out and about shopping in the 8 (is that all!) shopping days left until Christmas try looking at Lichfield from a different angle. Who knows what you might notice…..

Edit 23/12/2011

Pat’s been on googlemaps and has spotted not only a whole load of these brackets on Tamworth St but also one actually in use outside the Scales! So I think that definitely answers this little Lichfield mystery!

Heads Up

First it was the Burton’s foundation stones, then the cockerels and now two heads above Oxfam on Market St. Have I been walking around Lichfield with my eyes closed for the last 7 years?

I have discovered from the listed building description that the correct term is corbel heads. I’ve taken a close up of each of them.

Corbel head on left, looking at building

 

Corbel Head , on right looking at building

Information on these heads is pretty thin on the ground. The listed building description tells us that the building is late C16th, does this mean that the heads date back to this period too? I’m not quite sure whether the one on the right is supposed to be sad or asleep (or as someone on twitter suggested ‘three sheets to the wind’).  Do they represent some sort of  old joke or story or moral? The building was a pub from at least 1793 (first record) until it closed in 1962.

There is a photo of The Castle on the Staffs Pastrack website, taken in the early part of the C20th. One peculiar thing, although this might just be me, is that the head on the right doesn’t look the same.  I think on the old photo it looks like he has a beard but he looks like he’s had a shave since! On the subject of the old photo, what is that circular object between the pub windows, beneath the lamp? The thing that looks a bit like an anachronistic satellite dish.

It’s just occured to me as I’m typing this that I could pop in & ask in the Oxfam shop if anyone knows anything. Of course, if there are any corbel head experts out there,  please let me know your thoughts!

Sources:
Information on The Castle, taken from ‘The Old Pubs of Lichfield’ by John Shaw

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.