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

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?

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You have to include a sign that has letters with eyebrows

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Business Study

I spent the morning with Dave and Angie Gallagher, who are doing a brilliant job of taking the ever growing collection of old photographs out and about into the city, encouraging people to share their stories and memories about Lichfield. I had a great time listening to people reminisce about how Lichfield used to be in days gone by and it’s put me well and truly in the mood to share more of Mr JW Jackson’s memories of the city’s shops and trades back when he was a young boy in the 1870s.

For obvious reasons, I thought this shop, now a bookies, might be Mr Welch’s fish and poultry shop?

Mr Jackson’s article begins with Sedgewick’s fried fish shop in Tamworth St, selling oysters, cockles, mussels, periwinkles, shrimps, bloaters and kippers. He also recalls H Welch’s fishmonger and poulterer’s business opening some years later on Tamworth St (Mr Jackson’s article was written in 1945 and he mentions that at that time Welch’s shop had been rebuilt as a ladies’ hair dressing saloon). Another fish shop was owned by James Clarke on Sandford St, and Mr Jackson recalls Mr Clarke with a ‘large, deep, circular basket suspended with a strap round his neck, filled with fried fish or oysters, shrimps and shellfish or at other times nuts and oranges, of which he found a ready sale in the public houses’. In his spare time, Mr Clarke was a groundsman and umpire for the Cricket Club on the Birmingham Rd.

The corner of Beacon St and Shaw Lane

Mr Jackson says that there were a large number of greengrocers in Lichfield, including Elkingston’s in Tamworth St (Wigham’s in 1945) and Tanner’s in Bird St (Perks’ Store in 1945). Adjoining Moss’s Entry on Bird St was Mr Walker’s grocery shop, and further down the road near to the King’s Head was Mr James’s grocers. On the corner of Shaw Lane and Beacon St was another grocers, a step below the pavement and old fashioned in appearance. Originally owned by Mr Hall, it was taken over by a Mr Warmington who rebuilt the old shop and added a bakery. Also on Beacon Street was Mrs Hague’s shop which apparently sold everything from ‘a needle to a sack of flour, including bread, sweets, etc’. The grocery business of old Dan Millington on Stowe Street, was particularly memorable due to the many tallow candles suspended from the ceiling.

Moss’s Entry, leading to Friars Alley is now between Green T and Lichfield Kebab shop.

Apparently, back in the 1870s, few people in Lichfield bought ready made shoes, preferring made to order footwear from places like Heath’s in Conduit St and Playfer’s in Market St (1). Mr Jackson remembers being measured for his own boots by Mr Brockhouse of Beacon St,  who lived in a small cottage opposite St Chad’s Rectory. Mr Hodges at the bottom of Beacon Hill (near Gaia Lane) had a shop which did ‘a large better class trade in boots and shoes made by himself on the premises’. Mr Jackson says there were also many cobblers who concentrated on repairs, including Tommy Lyons who lived in a small cottage in Gaia Lane and was described as a very religious man who could often be seen making his way to a meeting with his old well worn Bible.

I’m thinking we should all take a leaf out of Mr Jackson’s book and document our surroundings. This morning showed that the places we live and work in are continually evolving and it’s not until we stop and look back that we realise how much has changed (for better or for worse, depending on your point of view……).

Notes:

I found a photo of a shop called ‘Shakeshaft and Playfer’ on Market St, Lichfield thought to be from the 1860s on Staffs Past Track here. Is this the same Playfer? After zooming in it seems to be a men’s accessories shop – I can see ties and what look like straw boaters in the window! Also after zooming in, you can see the faces of three young people at the window, looking out onto the funeral procession below. I wonder whose funeral it was? Edit: Later, I found that Shakeshaft and Playfer were also undertakers, and arranged the 1894 funeral of George Fox of Elmhurst Hall amongst others, which would explain the photograph!

Sources:

Old Lichfield Trades and Tradesmen, J W Jackson, Lichfield Mercury, April 6th 1945

http://www.search.staffspasttrack.org.uk

Trading Places

In June 1945, local historican Mr Jackson contributed an article to the Lichfield Mercury in which he shared his memories of the shops and businesses that surrounded him as a young boy growing up in the city during the 1870s. I’ve summarised the article below so settle yourself down with a bottle of herb beer and a bag of toffee nobs and have a read!

In Breadmarket St, Mr Bartlam had a tinsmith business and Mr Marshall ran a dairy in the premises next to the old watchmakers and jewellers owned by Mr Corfield. Mr Corfield’s shop burnt down in 1872 – a tragedy that resulted in the entire Corfield family losing their lives (1). In 1872 there were three breweries – Griffith’s, the Lichfield Brewery Co. and Smith’s on Beacon St (the City Brewery and the Trent Valley Brewery came later). Mounsden and Sons was a wine and spirit business, according to Mr Jackson, one of the oldest in the city. There was Mr Nicholls, a photographer who also had a fancy goods shop on the site of what was to become the Regal Cinema (but has since been the Kwik Save and a nightclub, with plans to turn it back into the Regal Cinema again!).

Regal Cinema Lichfield. Late 1960s? Taken from Gareth Thomas’s Pinterest site http://pinterest.com/FieldOfTheDead/old-photos-lichfield/

A little shop in Tamworth St was kept by the Misses Wilcox who sold fancy goods and toys. Mr Jackson remembers that the shop was well below the pavement (why would this be?) and stocked everything from pins to rocking horses! He recalls buying yards of elastic for making catapults, along with marbles, tops and hoops.

Mr Young, a whitesmith, lived in the old Frog Lane School House and his workshop was in the same street. There were several ironmongers including Mr Crosskey on Market St, Sheriff of Lichfield in 1863 and Mayor in 1868. Next to the old Victoria Nursing Home at 15 Sandford St was Mr Tricklebank’s tin-ware business.

On Market St, was Mr Caldwell’s hardware business (Frisby’s Boot and Shoe store in 1945).  Over on Church St, Mr Platt made rope, twine and string (Mr Jackson believes he was the only one in the district at the time) and C W Bailey had an agricultural implement depot.  Blacksmiths were in demand – Gallimore on Lombard St, Mr Salt on Sandford St, Mr Sandland on Beacon St (later taken over by Mr Goodwin who, as you may remember from a previous post featuring Mr Jackson’s memories of Beacon St, was said to have shod a dancing bear).  Apparently, the smithy on Beacon St was the oldest in the city, dating back to the mid 1800s.

I believe that this building on Lombard St was once a blacksmith’s forge.

Wheel wrights producing traps, carts and wagons and well as the wheels to put on them could be found on Church St (Mr Davis) and Beacon Hill (Mr Horton).

This advert for John Simms shows that at some point the business moved to Church St. Image taken from Gareth Thomas’s http://pinterest.com/FieldOfTheDead/

John Simms had his mineral water works on Stowe St opposite St Chad’s School, and Mr Jackson remembers that when he was a pupil at this school in 1869, nearly every other cottage in Stowe St sold bottles of home made herb beer during the summer (was this actual proper beer or more like the ginger beer of Enid Blyton books?). Perhaps of even more interest for the little ones were the sweet shops – ‘Suckey’ Blakeman and ‘Suckey’ Perry in Market St and Mr Giles on Gresley Row with his ‘super’ toffee nobs.  When Mr Jackson moved up to the Minors School on the corner of St John St and Bore St, he recalls taking it in turns with his fellow students to fetch not just mere ‘super’ but ‘luxury’ toffee nobs from Miss Hicken’s (and later Miss Hobby’s) shop in St John St opposite the back entrance to the school.

Cities are constantly changing places. Even though my Lichfield memories only stretch back as far as the beginning of the 21st century (with the exception of one family day trip to Beacon Park in the 1980s) a lot has changed even in that short space of time with shops and businesses coming and, as is all too often the case these days, going. Just last week the Greenhill Chippy shut. A couple of years ago my friend and I were heading to the Duke of York when we got talking to a man who was passing through Lichfield on a long journey he was undertaking on foot. He didn’t explain why, and for some reason it didn’t seem right to ask him. He hadn’t any money and didn’t ask for any, but did accept a portion of chips from the Greenhill fish shop. I often think of him, and what his story may have been when passing by there. Anyway, my point is that places have memories attached to them and I think it’s important to record them, just as Mr Jackson did. There’s some great stuff being shared on the Lichfield Facebook group and some wonderful old photos on Gareth Thomas’s blog. For a much more in depth look at the shops and businesses of Lichfield, I know that there is a great book “Trades of a City: Lichfield Shops and Residents from 1850” by JP Gallagher, (although having only borrowed copies, if anyone can point me in the direction of where to purchase my own, I’d be grateful!). I think it would be brilliant to do some walks where instead of being led by a guide, people have a stroll around the streets together sharing memories and stories with each other. Until then, if anyone can identify any of the locations in Mr Jackson’s reminisces please let me know!

(1) This is a sad but interesting story in itself and I will cover it in a separate post.

Source: Lichfield Mercury 8th June 1945

Features and Reviews

Hopefully, anyone reading the blog recently has found the old graffiti interesting. I know that Gareth and I, and (for a few days at least!) a large broadcasting corporation did. After all of the excitement, I thought it was time for a bit of musing….

The discoveries (or perhaps rediscoveries is more accurate) in the Lichfield District Council offices got me thinking about the potential for other ‘unseen’ history out there. There’s unseen in the sense of being hidden away from view –  in attics, down pub cellars and down the bottom of the garden. However, I also think that something in plain view can be unseen –  people may pass by everyday, but no longer see what’s actually there or the potential of it, due to familiarity. During discussions about the graffiti, someone said to me, “I’ve walked past that graffiti loads of times and never even thought about it”.

The bread oven above is in the house of someone I know. I remember them buying the property years ago and excitedly telling me after their first viewing with the estate agent, “It has an old bread oven!”. When they moved in we all keen to peer inside but prior to taking the photo, it was last interacted with as part of an Easter Egg hunt.  However, taking the photo to show a friend, sparked a whole new conversation about the oven. Was it original? If so, would this have been the kitchen? Wasn’t it once divided into two houses? How was it laid out back then? Why was the house built in the first place? And so on….My point is, sometimes, we need to look with a fresh pair of eyes to see what’s in front of our nose.

I don’t think that the history in question even has to be a specific feature like the bread oven. I find the traces of people’s everyday lives fascinating. I visited a house in The Close last Christmas. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had nearly enough mulled wine to pluck up the courage to ask if I could take photos, so I’ll have to describe it. There were stone steps down into the cellar, worn away in the centre by centuries worth of footsteps. There were attic beams with layers of fading wallpaper still clinging to them up in the attic. To describe the place as ‘lived in’ would be an understatement.  The next question inevitably is ‘lived in by who’? Actually, photos wouldn’t really have done the place justice anyway because it was more than a visual thing. You wanted to touch, as well as see. ….

I’m really hoping that Lichfield District Council open their offices up for the next heritage weekend, so that people get to look around what was one the Old Grammar School for themselves. I’m not suggesting people throw the doors of their homes open to the public, but perhaps if we want to explore the history of the city and all its inhabitants, we sometimes need to look at the ‘normal’ buildings and places, where people lived and worked, and still do! I’m by no means detracting from those special, extraordinary buildings like the Cathedral, just saying that sometimes it might be worth looking again a little closer to home.

One of these terraced houses in Leomansley still has a tall chimmney at the back. An old washroom?

A wall brace on Greenhill. Does that say R Crosskex? Who was that? See edit below.

 

A selection of objects found in the garden Of Vicky Sutton’s Nan’s house near to Beacon Park (not including the pink flowery plate!).

The remains of a cherry orchard can still be found near…Cherry Orchard!

Edit:

After I woke up properly, I realised this actually said R Crosskey. I found a book about Henry William Crosskey, a geologist and Unitarian minister from Lewes (1) and found that his younger brother, Rowland Crosskey came to Lichfield as an apprentice ironmonger. He emigrated to Australia for a while and then,  after he returned to England, he started a business in Birmingham. Afterwards, he took over the Lichfield firm where he had served his apprenticeship. In 1868 he became Mayor of Lichfield and donated a civic sword to the City (Is this the one still used in processions today?).  He died in 1890. From census records, it looks like his home and business premises were initially in Market St. In 1888, he was in Bore St, trading as a ‘Military Camp and Store Furnisher’ with premises on the Burton Rd in partnership with Charles John Corrie. Also, just as a point of interest, Rowland was his Mother’s maiden name.

 

(1)Henry William Crosskey, LL.D., F.C.S. : his life and work by Richard Agland Armstrong; with chapters by E. F. M. MacCarthy and Charles Lapworth. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/e-f-m-maccarthy-richard-acland-armstrong.shtml

(2) London Gazette 1888

 

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!

 

The Streets of Lichfield

It’s quite well known that Bishop Roger de Clinton laid out the main streets of Lichfield in a grid pattern, still in evidence over 800 years later.

Lichfield 2011-ish

What about those in between though? An email from Pat and a chance conversation about a book ‘A Walk Around the Snickelways of York’ by Mark W Jones (1) got me thinking about the alleys, the passageways, the shortcuts and the entries, winding themselves around buildings and connecting one Lichfield street with another.

Pat’s email asked if I knew anything about The Tanneries, running from Tamworth St, along the left handside of what was the old Kwiksave building, (and the Regal Cinema before that) to Cross Keys carpark.

The Tanneries

The Tanneries is blocked off at present

I don’t, but I’m interested how long this pathway and the others around the city have been around for.

Some are documented better than others. Friar’s Alley running alongside the edge of the site of the old Friary and onto Bird St appears as Friers Lane on John Speed’s 1610 map (no 29).

1610 map of Lichfield

Later it shows up on John Snape’s map as Friers Alley in 1781. On later maps, the narrow part leading to (or from depending which way you are going!) Bird St was known as Moss’s Entry.

Moss's Entry/Friars Alley onto Bird St

One of my favourites is the old carriageway leading to the courtyard of the George Hotel. It takes you past doors and bricked up windows, but it’s the floor with its Rowley Ragstone Setts (2) that I really like, as this small side passage gives an idea how Lichfield’s main streets would have been paved in the late 18th century.

George Hotel from Market St
 

I’ve taken some photos of others I came across. Most are found in the city centre though I’m sure there are loads more to be found throughout Lichfield. Of course, if anyone wants to share one they know of, or has any more information about any of the above or below, that’d be fantastic!

 

Bolt Court - a really busy little street

 

Inside Bolt Court

 

Alongside butcher shop on Market St

 

From Market St...

 

The Close to Erasmus Darwin House

Lloyds Walk

 

Tudor Row out onto Bore St

You see buildings differently walking these paths, maybe I’ll explore the backside of Lichfield a little more……

Footnotes:

(1)Snickelway is a great word created by Mark W Jones. It’s a portmanteau (which is in itself a great word!) of Snicket, Ginnel and Alleyway and Mr Jones explains, ‘A Snickelway is a narrow place to walk along, leading from somewhere to somewhere else, usually in a town or city, especially in the city of York’.

(2) Information taken from Staffordshire Pastrack website.

Map information from: ‘Lichfield: The place and street names, population and boundaries ‘, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 37-42. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42340