Not All About that Bass

Last Sunday, I had an appointment at Burton upon Trent and wanted to make an afternoon of it. However, it seemed unfair on my designated driver to make him explore the town’s famous brewing industry without being able to sample a drop of ale and so I thought we’d base our trip on water instead, and whilst doing a bit of research for this, I found a great story about air.

Winshill tower

Winshill Water Tower, also known as Waterloo Tower as it stands in front of woodland planted in 1815 to commemorate the battle, was built by the South Staffordshire Water Company in 1907 to improve water pressure in the area. Since the 1990s, the 50,000 gallon capacity tank has been empty and the tower’s only practical purpose has been to host communications aerials and masts on its summit. It’s a much loved Burton landmark though, supposedly visible from wherever you are in the town. (1)

Winshill water tower

During Burton Aviation week, held from 26th September to 1st October 1910, flags were flown from the tower to signal to the crowds gathered on on Bass Meadows (1) whether flights had been suspended due to wind or whether another flight was imminent. An advertising poster for the event announcing that Helene Dutrieu (2) would be one of the seven fliers and carrying passengers can be seen here.

Helene Dutrieu (image from wikipedia)

Helene Dutrieu, pioneering aviator and much, much more. Image from Wikipedia

Due to high winds, nothing much happened on the first day of the show. On day two however, things got very exciting, and not just for people gathered on Bass Meadows. News had reached Lichfield that some of the pilots would be flying around the Cathedral in an attempt to win a cup given by the Marquis of Anglesey for the fastest round trip. Large crowds assembled around Minster and Stowe Pools, in the Cathedral Close (it was even reported that there were people up the central spire) and on the Burton Road. At quarter past five in the afternoon, Julien Mamet whirred into sight on his Bleuriot plane, swept around the north side of the Cathedral, flew south over Christ Church and the Bowling Green and headed back for Burton where he arrived at fourteen minutes later. There was a lot of cheering and waving of hats and hankies (what would we wave nowadays? Nothing probably, we’d be too busy trying to record it on our phones). An hour later, a shout went up as another Bleuriot, this time piloted by Paul de Lesseps, was spotted. The Mercury reports that although De Lesseps lost his bearings by following the wrong train line somewhere around Wychnor Junction, he managed to find them again, approaching the city from the South and flying parallel to Bird Street above the heads of the crowd.

By this time it was dusk and De Lesseps, deciding he would be unable to reach Burton before dark, landed his aircraft in a field belonging to Grange Farm on Wheel Lane, clipping the tail on a fence (it was later reported that De Lesseps had only narrowly missed the roof of the farmhouse). As darkness fell back at Bass Meadow, the mood changed from excitement to concern. Mamet had flown up to meet his rival, but saw no sign of him.  As spectators lit bonfires, flares and lamps in the hope they would guide De Lesseps safely back to Burton, a search party set off in the direction of Lichfield. Eventually, they found De Lesseps in the field, signing scraps of paper for a crowd of autograph hunters by matchlight. The damaged plane was taken charge of by the police, and De Lesseps was taken to the George Hotel, where he informed a crowd gathered at the steps that he hoped to fly back to Burton at four the following afternoon, once he had made the necessary repairs.

Well, that was the plan anyway. Flying back to Burton, however, in an attempt to break the record for flying at high altitude, De Lesseps missed the town altogether.  There was another anxious wait for the crowd who had seen De Lesseps flying over at a great height before disappearing in the direction of Derby. Eventually, a message was received that he had landed safely at Colwick Hall near Nottingham.

De Lesseps’ return journey to Burton had was also not without drama. As he flew over Meadow Lane, where Notts County were playing Bristol City, he caused such a sensation that the match had to be stopped for a for a few minutes as the crowd, players and officials gazed upwards.  Unfortunately, the referee, a Reverend Marsh, forgot to adjust his watch, blew his whistle four minutes too early and had to call the players, some of whom had already started to get changed, back out out of the dressing rooms to finish the match. As if this wasn’t a memorable enough occasion already, it was apparently also The Magpies’ first victory at their new ground (where’s this guy when you need him?).

Aerial view of Meadow Lane (and City Ground. I did not realise how close they were!) Wonder how much has changed since De Lesseps saw it from a similar perspective?

Aerial view of Meadow Lane (and City Ground. I did not realise how close they were!) Wonder how much has changed since De Lesseps saw it from a similar perspective?

Mamet may have taken the prize for the out and home Burton to Lichfield flight, but De Lesseps definitely stole the show.

Notes

(1) On my next trip, I plan to take the bus and check whether it is really visible from everywhere, including several beer gardens.

(2) Bass Meadows was an area of land owned by the brewing company and used to provide sports facilities for their employees.

(3) Helene Dutrieu was a racing and stunt cyclist, a racing car driver and a pioneering aviator. During the First World War, Dutrieu became an ambulance driver and director of a military hospital and later become a journalist. More about her incredible life here.

Sources:

Lichfield Mercury Archives

http://www.burton-on-trent.org.uk

 

Trailgating

Perhaps the biggest faux pax you can commit about the place that gave the world Samuel ‘Dictionary’ Johnson is to spell the name incorrectly. Outsiders, please note that these days the only acceptable ‘T’ in Lichfield comes with biscuits and/or cake. The other way to wind up a Lichfeldian is to refer to Staffordshire’s premier heritage city as a town. En-route to the Guildhall Cells, perpetrators of this crime are taken past our central railway station to illustrate just how wrong they were.

"Lichfield City Station (6668724487)" by Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom - Lichfield City StationUploaded by Oxyman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lichfield_City_Station_(6668724487).jpg#/media/File:Lichfield_City_Station_(6668724487).jpg

“Lichfield City Station (6668724487)” by Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom – Lichfield City StationUploaded by Oxyman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Once they are in the stocks, heretics are then read to from the charters, currently held at the museum in St Mary’s, which include Queen Mary’s declaration of 1553 that Lichfield was not only to be a city, as granted by her brother Edward five years earlier, but also a county in its own right.

stocks

“OK it’s a city. I get it. I’m sorry. I’m from Tamworth”

This is the charter which gave rise to the annual Sheriff’s Ride (and its much more recent and considerably shorter spin-offs), a twenty mile perambulation of the current boundary of Lichfield. I had often sat and wondered whether at any point, the boundary was physically marked in someway (I do need to get out more) and just recently found an article written in the late nineteenth century which says it was, “formerly marked by wooden posts, but they have much deteriorated and in some instances disappeared. A renewal in iron of the most important has recently taken place”.

The Sheriff perambulating Cross in Hand Lane in 2014

The 2014 Sheriff perambulating Cross in Hand Lane.

Descriptions of the boundary of the City of Lichfield date back to the late 1700s. Back then it was only a sixteen mile round trip. Although in 1806, local historian Harwood said they were based on ‘ancient writings’, I understand there is no earlier written description of exactly what constituted Lichfield. However, there are piecemeal records showing some of the boundary changes over the centuries. And there must have been a fair few changes to get from a medieval town you could walk around in an hour to a city with a circumference of sixteen miles.

Last week I spent a sunny morning trying to trace the boundary of what would have been the medieval town. With the help of John Snape’s 1782 plan of Lichfield, it’s actually fairly easy to do, even for someone as illiterate at map reading as me.  Bishop Roger de Clinton surrounded the south part of the new town he had laid out in the late twelfth century with a bank and ditch and fortified the shared northern boundary of the town and Cathedral Close. Apart from a couple of inconveniently placed walls, you can pretty much walk the whole way around.

The moat marking the northern boundary of both medieval Lichfield and the Close. Described on Snape's map as a dry ditch or dumble.

The moat marking the northern boundary of both medieval Lichfield and the Close. Described on Snape’s map as a dry ditch or dumble.

Remains of the NE Tower, part of the Close's fortifications.

Remains of the NE Tower, part of the Close’s fortifications.

Thanks to archaeological investigations, we know that the town ditch in the St John’s Street area was about five metres wide, two metres deep and inevitably, was also used as a public tip.

Castle Ditch plaque

The driveway passing the LD Council Offices follows the line of the town ditch, and there's a plaque there telling you that.

The driveway passing the Lichfield District Council Offices follows the line of the town ditch, and there’s a plaque there too.

When a section in the Council House car park was excavated in 2008, archaeologists discovered the sole of a woman’s shoe from the twelfth century, part of a medieval jug and the remains of a medieval dog’s head.

This plaque is located at the junction of Lombard St, Stowe Rd and George Lane

This plaque is located at the junction of Lombard St, Stowe Rd and George Lane.

Back to plaque, looking up George Lane which was actually once part of the town ditch

Back to plaque, looking up George Lane which was actually once part of the town ditch, possibly until the 16thc

Snape’s plan also marks the gates, or bar(r)s, at the main entrances into and out of Lichfield, and there are plaques at each of the locations, with the, hopefully temporary, exception of the Sandford Street gate. The building it was mounted on has recently been demolished but I’m sure the plaque is being kept safely somewhere….

Perhaps the best known of the gates is the one at St John Street which is still recalled in the name of St John the Baptist without the Barrs. You know, the place with all the chimneys. As the name indicates, this stood just outside the gate and started out as a hostel for those arriving when Lichfield was closed for business for the night, many of them pilgrims on their way to see the shrine of St Chad at the Cathedral.

st john sign

On the subject of names, the section of the ditch running from the gate on Tamworth Street, to the gate near St John’s Hospital was known as Castle Ditch, and this, alongside hard evidence in the form of stones turning up nearby and evidence of a slightly more fluffy nature in the form of myth and folklore, has caused endless speculation as to whether Lichfield ever had a castle proper alongside the fortified Close with its towers, turrets and strong walls.

Remains of south gate tower leading from dam Street to The Close. Excavated in the 1980s

Remains of one of the towers which were part of the south gate between Dam Street and The Close. Excavated in the 1980s.

So, plenty of opportunities to get out more here. I think the two mile-ish walk around the ditch will make an excellent Lichfield Discovered adventure. I would also happily walk sixteen miles to find one of those old iron boundary markers although I may be on my own with this. It’d also be interesting to see how Lichfield has burst its boundaries over the years gobbling up all of the surrounding settlements, so much so that it’d take you six hours and twenty four minutes to perambulate the current perimeter, according to this walking calculator I’ve found.  And that doesn’t even include getting distracted by other things or stopping off at the pub. It’ll have to wait though, as right now I’m off on an expedition to Borrowcop to see if I can capture Lichfield Castle.

1)  If we’re doing names, then I have to mention that Bakers Lane was once known as Peas Porridge Lane. Just because.

Broken Record

The ‘Heritage at Risk’ register for 2014 was published by English Heritage today. The Register includes grade I and II* listed buildings, grade II listed buildings in London, and all listed places of worship, scheduled monuments, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields and protected wreck sites assessed as being at risk.

There are eight entries from around the Lichfield District this year, including scheduled monuments at Alrewas, Elford, Fradley and Streethay, the Fazeley and Bonehill conservation area and three buildings, namely, the Angel Croft Hotel on Beacon Street, the Manor House at Hamstall Ridware and the old church tower at St John’s in Shenstone.

Angel Croft Railings

The Angel Croft Hotel has been deemed ‘At Risk’ for many years, but there is now a glimmer of hope that Lichfield’s fallen Angel may be saved. This year’s entry notes that, ‘permission has been granted for conversion to apartments with an agreement to secure the repair of the gates and railings. Work should start in the summer’. Time will tell, but I really do hope that 2014 will be the last time that the Angel Croft appears on the register.

Whilst the plight of the decaying Angel Croft is well known in Lichfield, other local entries on the list may be less familiar, but no less worthy of salvation. Fazeley, according to Lichfield District Council, ‘represents a remarkably intact industrial community of the period 1790-1850. It contains all the principle building types necessary to sustain the community; terraced housing, mills, factories, a church, a chapel, public houses, a school and prestigious detached Georgian houses’. They go on to say that, ‘the waterways, pools and associated structures built by Robert Peel Snr are an important part of Fazeley’s industrial heritage and have archaeological significance. Their significance extends beyond just the immediate locality as they represent one of the most important water power systems dating from the early part of the Industrial Revolution. As a contrast to Fazeley’s industrial heritage, the appraisal tell us that, ‘the historic hamlet of Bonehill…. is an important remnant of the areas agricultural past and despite the developments of the twentieth century still retains a peaceful, rural feel. It has a direct association with the nationally renowned Peel family’.

Yesterday, Gareth Thomas, GIS Manager at Lichfield District Council, uploaded a number of photos from their archive to Flickr. It just so happens that alongside the reminiscence-tastic images of Lichfield shops and businesses, Gareth has uploaded a number of photographs of the conservation area at Fazeley and Bonehill, showing us just what is at risk here, hopefully inspiring us to pay a visit ourselves.

Taken from Lichfield GIS photostream, Flickr

Taken from Lichfield GIS photostream, Flickr

Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

Taken from GIS photostream, Flickr

Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

Taken from GIS Lichfield, Flickr

Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

Also making an appearance in both the Lichfield District Council’s photo collection and on the ‘At Risk’ Register, is the Manor House at Hamstall Ridware. The pictures speak for themselves – the condition of watchtower is so bad that it is deemed at risk of collapse. Perhaps appropriately for something that may not be long for this world, I first caught sight of it from the churchyard of St Michael’s and All Angels and managed to find out a little about its history here.

Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

That’s quite a crack! Taken from GIS Lichfield photostream, Flickr

Hamstall Ridware manor 3 Hamstall Ridware manor and church

Over in Shenstone, it seems there are ongoing discussions between the council, the Parish Council and the church regarding the old tower. At least for the time being, the structure is ‘considered stable’ – let’s hope that they all start singing from the same hymn sheet soon.

Old tower at St John's Shenstone, by Jason Kirkham

Old tower at St John’s Shenstone, by Jason Kirkham

Same time, same places next year folks? Let’s hope not…

 

 

Thanks to Gareth Thomas and Lichfield District Council for the archived photos of Fazeley and Hamstall Ridware, and to Jason Kirkham for his photograph of the old tower of St John’s at Shenstone.

Passing Time

Happy New Year! A couple of days ago, many of us will have seen in 2013 to the bongs of Big Ben. Rather appropriately, Gareth Thomas from Lichfield District Council has found another fantastic document in his treasure trove, relating to our very own clock tower here in Lichfield, said to have been inspired by that famous London landmark. Gareth, in his characteristic generosity, has scanned it on and sent it over for me to share here. A while back I did another post on the Clock Tower (which you can read here), and it’s fantastic when more parts of the jigsaw come to light!

Entitled ‘ Agreement for sale and purchase of the Clock Tower situated in Saint John Street in the City of Lichfield’, the document describes how on 24th August 1927, the Lichfield Conduit Lands Trustees (some of their names will be familiar I’m sure!) agreed to sell the Clock Tower to the Mayor Alderman and Citizens of the City of Lichfield for £50. One of my favourite parts is where it states that:

‘any coins or other articles of value or antiquity which may be discovered shall be considered the property of the Trustees and shall be handed over to the Warden immediately they are found (sic)’

I wonder if they did find anything? And if so, did they hand it over?!

A plaque recording this event can be found on the Clock Tower:

The document can be seen by clicking on the PDF links below (it was too big to add as one whole document!)

Clock 1

Clock 2

Clock 3

Clock 4

As you may know,  the Clock Tower was erected in 1863, making it 150 years old this year. I think it would be fantastic if, as a celebration, we could give people  a closer look at the tower that they pass by and the clock that they hear each day, by opening it up to the public (I did go up Birmingham’s ‘Big Brum’ clock tower once so I don’t think it’s too harebrained an idea).

Here is a bona fide harebrained idea though – what about starting a new tradition of seeing in the New Year with the bongs of the Lichfield Clock Tower? I wonder if there are any records of people doing this in the past, when we didn’t have Jools Holland on the tellybox to see in the New Year with. Shall we make a date then?  New Year’s Eve 2013 in the Festival Gardens. I’ll bring some party poppers….

Sources:

http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/info/200161/tourism/760/heritage_trail/9

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichfield_Clock_Tower

Gareth Thomas and his magical storeroom 😉

Water Tower

I pass by the Clock Tower at the Friary several times a week and in the stillness of the night, I can hear it chime, slightly out of synch with the Christ Church clock. According to Annette Rubery‘s wonderful new book, Lichfield Now and Then, the tower was built in 1863 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Conduit Lands Trust. When the new Friary Rd was built, the tower was moved to its present location. The Wikipedia entry here has some photos of it in its original site at the junction of Bird St and Bore St. The Staffordshire Past Track has some great photos of the tower being dismantled, including one of the bells being lowered down (is this one of those I can hear?).

The tower was originally built over the site of an ancient water conduit, known as the Crucifix conduit. Some say this name came from a crucifix on top, others say it derived from its location near to The Friary.  Back in 1865*, someone called CW wrote in to ‘Notes and Queries’ (a publication resembling a magazine, but actually sold under the description of ‘A Medium of Inter-Communication for Literary Men, General Readers, etc’!) on the subject:

At Lichfield is a structure The Crucifix Conduit. It has been rebuilt within the last few years and now there is a plain cross on the top. Did the original have a crucifix? Was the crucifix, if any, destroyed in Puritan times?  Is there any drawing of the building in existence And if so where can see it?

A literary man (or possibly a general reader!) replied as follows:

The old conduit at the Friary gate does not appear have been surmounted with a crucifix but was so called from Crucifix being the name of the locality on which stood. Gregorius Stoneing receiver of the rents of possessions of the Fryars Minors of Lichfield after dissolution thereof in his account in the court of Augmentation answered, and so was charged with, and the rent of a certain water course within the compass circuit of the late house of Fryars aforesaid running from Poolefurlonge to Lichfield street, viz to a certain called the Crucifix demised to John Weston at the will of the Lord. (Shaw’s Staffordshire  1820) A engraving of the old crucifix conduit will be found A Short Account of the Ancient and Modern State Lichfield 1819′.

A quick search on the invaluable googlebooks finds that book, and as promised, a drawing of the crucifix as it looked in 1819.

I had thought that the Crucifix conduit was no longer in use by the time the clock tower was built – the listed building description says it was built over the ‘redundant conduit’. However, different accounts suggest that the conduit was still used as a public water supply beyond this date.  The County History says ‘In 1863 it (the Crucifix Conduit) was adapted as the base of a clock tower designed in a Romanesque style by Joseph Potter the younger, but the conduit continued in use’.This probably explains why what look like drinking fountains can be seen built into this section of the tower!

I find this next bit confusing and am happy to be corrected! What I understand is that the water came from a spring at Aldershaw. In 1301, Henry Bellfounder granted the Fransican monks the right to built a conduit head over the spring, and to pipe the water to the Friary. He apparently did this for motives of charity and for the sake of his and his ancestors’ souls’ health.  Although it seems the water was supposed to be for the friars’ use only, a public conduit was built outside the Friary gates.  When the Friary was dissolved in the mid-16th century, I understand that the Conduit Lands Trust took over the responsibility for maintaining the water supply to Lichfield when the spring at Aldershaw was granted to the ‘Burgesses, Citizens and Commonalty’ of the City of Lichfield. A fountain marks the approximate site of the original public conduit (and of course the later clock tower) near to  the library and record office. Although the water is no longer suitable for drinking, it serves as a symbolic reminder of the water supply that was once available here.

A stone conduit head dating back to 1811 can apparently still be found over the spring at Aldershaw. The spring was known as Foulwell which may not sound like the most appealing place to get water from, but as BrownhillsBob explained to me that the name ‘foul’ is most likely to mean ‘obstructed’ in this context. What’s also interesting is that the well seems to have an alternative name – Donniwell, which crops up in some transcriptions of old documents (dating back to the 4th year of the reign of Edward VI which would be 1551. I think.) that Thomas Harwood made in 1806.

Funnily enough, searching to find an interpretation of the name lead me back to another edition of ‘Notes and Queries’, (this earlier issue from 1855 was described as a ‘Medium of Inter-Communication between for Literary Men AND Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists etc). Someone else had questioned the meaning of Donniwell in relation to the spring near Lichdfield, and received the following answer from WLN of Bath.

The word Donni or Donny in Donniwell is merely the old Keltic (sic) vocable don (otherwise on or an), water,  with the diminutive y, and signifies the little stream or brook The word is still retained in the name of the rivers Don in Yorkshire, the Don which falls into the sea at Aberdeen, another Don in county Antrim Ireland, and in the Don in Russia. Hence, too, the Keltic name for the Danube, Donau, latinised Danubius. There is also Donnyland in Essex and the two rivers Oney in Salop and Herts, Honiton or Onyton in Devon and the Uny in Cornwall are all different forms of the same root.

I might offer many other illustrations but will refer only to the same word in the primitive nomenclature of Palestine the Dan which, with the later Hebrew prefix Jor (river) we now by a double pleonasm, call the river Jordan

So there’s one idea…..anyone have any other ideas of where this name may have derived from?

Coincidentally yet appropriately, today is the 8th December, the Feast of the Conception of St. Mary, the date on which two wardens were appointed each year to keep the conduits and watercourses of Lichfield’s water supply in repair.  I also like the idea that the chiming bells of the Clock Tower provide an appropriate, yet coincidental link to the name and occupation of the man who originally gave the spring at Aldershaw which fed the conduit (at least I think its coincidental….). I also find it interesting that back in the mid 19th century people were asking similar questions to the ones that I’m asking today. It seems it’s not just me that is fascinated by the idea of springs, wells, conduits and water in general!

Now I know a little more about where the water came from, and where it went to, I’d like to know more the inbetween part i.e. the actual route of the water. That also goes for the conduit between Pipe Hill and the Cathedral Close too. As it looks unlikely that I’ll be able to go looking for the conduit head at Aldershaw (it’s on private property) as I did with the one at at Pipe Hill, I shall have to concentrate instead on tracking down the archaeology reports and journals that reveal more about our medieval conduits,  at Lichfield Record Office.

Also, for more about the Friary, Gareth Thomas has added some original deeds and plans to his blog All About Lichfield.

*This date is a little strange as the Clock Tower was built in 1863. Perhaps the letter was written before this time and not published until 1865.

Edit: 10/12/12

I’ve just been reading part of The History of the South Staffordshire Water Works Company. This suggests that a public water conduit of some description, pre-dates the granting of the spring at Aldershaw to the Friars. Apparently, there was a public conduit in the early 13thc, and there are also references in the Cathedral records to a Conduit St, and a conduit in the high street.  Are these are connected to the Crucifix conduit or separate? And where did this water come from?

The document also gives some really interesting information on the pipes themselves. It says that originally wooden pipes were used (bored tree trunks). It refers to a document from 1707, that says the pipes ‘being made of alder had become rotten, leaky and in decay and accordingly taken up and replaced by leaden pipes’. Interesting that the pipes were made of Alder, and the water came from Aldershaw. It also says that in 1801, the Conduit Lands Trust replaced a small gauge lead conduit from Aldershaw with a larger diameter cast iron main, which enabled a greater volume of water to be carried to the City. It also gives this interesting information on what happened when supply started to exceed demand.

By 1821, Aldershaw was proving to be inadequate source and a scheme was devised to supplement the spring’s supply, by collecting the surface water from Tunstalls Pool, the Moggs and other pools and diverting water into the common conduits. When the situation worsened in the mid 1850’s, the trustees acquired the Trunkfield Mill and Reservoir and a pumping engine was installed to increase the supply. In 1868 the supply of Aldershaw yielded 15,000 gallons a day. Trunkfield supplied 160,000 gallons a day, all of which was pumped to Crucifix Conduit. Water was provided to fifty seven public pumps, thirteen standpipes and public taps, thirty fire hydrants and three hundred and forty three houses.

The document isn’t too specific about their sources, so having to take what they say on face value for now. Lots more reading to do I think….Luckily for me, local historian Clive Roberts is going to send me some information he has on the Conduit Lands Trust!

Sources:

Lichfield Then and Now Annette Rubery

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

The History & Antiquities of the City of Lichfield by Thomas Harwood (1806)

Lichfield: Public services’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield(1990), pp. 95-109

Water Technology in the Middle Ages: Cities, Monasteries, and Waterworks after the Roman Empire by Roberta J Magnusson

Walsall Road, Lichfield, Staffordshire. A Report on an Archaeological Evaluation
Marches Archaeology Lyonshall : Marches Archaeology, 2000, 18pp, figs, tabs
Work undertaken by: Marches Archaeology

History of the city and cathedral of Lichfield by John Jackson

Notes and Queries 12th Volume 1855

Notes and Queries 3rd Series Volume 8, 1865

In defence of Lichfield

As I mentioned in the last post about the West Gate, some other remnants of the Close’s medieval defences are visible.  I’ve marked the ones I know about, on the map below, with a bit of information on each. I’m sure there’s probably more, and we could probably work out where the other defences were, but it’s a start!

1. Site of the West Gate – see previous post here

2. Remains of North East Tower & ditch. A scheduled monument, sometimes known as the Bishop’s Tower, this was part of the original, medieval bishop’s palace. The pastscape record can be seen here. A description of the tower and how it fitted into the rest of the palace can be found in several books on the Cathedral & Close (1) and is based on a plan that was held in the Bodleian Library (is it still there?). A plan drawn from this can also be found here.

At the north east corner was a tower fifty two feet high and each of its ten sides thirteen feet on the outside. It was called the bishop’s tower and the ruins yet remain. Adjoining this tower was a square room with stone stairs leading to the top on the north west of which was an apartment with a cellar underneath twenty two feet in breadth and sixty three feet in length. The bishop’s lodging room was forty feet by thirty two with a leaden roof and cellar underneath. On the north side of this room was a large chimney piece opposite to which a door led to the dining room sixty feet long and thirty broad. At the east end was a door opening into the second tower which consisted of five squares eleven feet in width and thirty two in height. There were two apartments each twenty feet by seven separated from each other by the large hall chimney, , the lady’s chamber…the brewhouse…and the kitchen.

 

 3. St Mary’s House. Incorporates a turret and part of the Close wall on the east and south side. Not only are there are arrow slits, but there are also rumours of a secret tunnel down below….Actually, it’s not that secret as loads of people seem to have heard about it.

 4. Remains of Eastern Tower of South East Gate. This description comes from the ‘Lichfield: The cathedral close’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield

The gate built by Langton at the south-east corner of the Close had two towers. The eastern one, whose base was excavated in the late 1980s, was a half-octagon with 12-ft. sides. The western tower was presumably of similar dimension. The gate had a portcullis in 1376.  There was a drawbridge, still in existence in the earlier 18th century, which crossed the outflow of water from Minster Pool, and also a wicket for pedestrians. The gate was removed in the mid 18th century in order to improve access for coaches into the Close.

 

There’s also this bit of wall behind the Chapters coffee shop, which provoked a bit of discussion on Brownhills Bob’s Brownhills Blog, and with Annette Rubery. Especially about what that recess is!

While I was having a flick through googlebooks trying to find information on the subject, I came across an interesting snippet. Adrian Pettifer, in ‘English Castles: A County Guide’ makes the point that that unlike the majority of cathedral cities, there was no wall around the city of Lichfield as a whole.

So whilst the Close was protected by a strong wall, a ditch, 50ft towers, drawbridges and portcullises (when you put it like that it really does sound like a castle!), what did the rest of the city have? Well, there was a ditch. It’s thought even this was used more for controlling traders coming in and out of the city, than for defences. An archaeological dig carried out on the Lichfield District Council carpark in Frog Lane, also confirmed that the ditch was used as the city dump and found a variety of material, including it appears, the dog from Funnybones. There were gates too, the positions of which are still marked by plaques. Again, though it’s thought these might not have been defensive. I think the ditch and the gates deserve a post of their own, so I’ll come back to them another time.

Credit: Ell Brown (taken from flickr photostream)

This will also give me time to think about my latest question (one I’m sure has been thought about and answered by clever people already!). Was the city of Lichfield defended, along with the Close? And if not, then why not? Of course, if anyone has any ideas about this in the meantime, please let me know!

Footnootes:

(1) This particular description is taken from ‘A short account of the city and close of Lichfield by Thomas George Lomax, John Chappel Woodhouse, William Newling

(2) Thanks to this website http://gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/3329.html for pointing me in the direction of some great links.

(3) I’ve also used this book From: ‘Lichfield: The cathedral close’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990)