One of my recent posts mentioned layers of history and people leaving their mark on a building. A literal example of this is graffiti and Gareth Thomas has sent me some great photos of names he found carved into the brickwork of the Lichfield District Council offices, formerly the Lichfield Grammar School.
The graffiti is on the above building, the old school room, rebuilt in the mid 1800s by architect Thomas Johnson, after falling into a ruinous state. Staffordshire Past Track has an engraving from 1833, taken from a similar position. It shows the previous incarnation of the school room (which stood from 1577 to 1849), as seen from the school-yard (now the grassed area).
In 1818, a book on the endowed grammar schools of England and Wales listed the former pupils of the grammar school ‘who in the splendour their names, have reflected honour upon Lichfield’.
The elegant Addison, Elias Ashmole the Philosopher Chemist and Antiquary and Founder of the valuable Musem called after his name at Oxford, Gregory King an heraldic and commercial writer, George Smallridge Bishop of Bristol, Thomas Newton Bishop of Bristol, Lord Chief Justice Willes, Lord Chief Baron Parker, Mr Justice Noel, Lord Chief Justice Wilmot, Sir Richard Lloyd Baron of the Exchequer, Robert James MD well known for his Medical Dictionary and as the inventor of the Fever Powder, Isaac Hawkins Browne an ingenious and elegant Poet, David Garrick the unrivalled actor, Samuel Johnson LL D
The names of Johnson, Ashmole and Garrick and the others are written into the history books, but what about those names on the old school wall? Can we find the stories of Buckton, Brawn, Beckwith and others written in censuses, newspaper reports and other archives? There’s an inspector’s report from 1869 that tells us something about how they’d have spent their time at school (when not carving their name into brickwork, of course!). What became of them when they left?
Brownhills Bob did a wonderful post on a similar theme called the Persistence of Memory, with some equally wonderful comments from people who recognised the names. You don’t have to look to hard to find bridges, walls, trees, and other surfaces marked with names and initials. Why do people seem compelled to add their names to the fabric of a place? I may even have written the odd ‘Kate was here’ myself, on a school desk or two in my time. And does that ‘….was here’ explain why we do it? Knowing that few of us will ever get a statue or our own museum, is this a way of letting people know that once, we were here?
A huge thank you to Gareth for the photographs and drawing my attention to this. Also, Gareth, if you’re reading this, I’ve read that there’s more graffiti to be found, carved into the wooden attic doors of the schoolmaster’s house next door. It’d be great to see some photos…..hint, hint!
A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools of England and Wales, Nicholas Carlise 1818
Lichfield City Conservation Area Document