I’m still not sure whether I live in Leomansley or Leamonsley but what I do know is that this area of Lichfield grew up around a fulling mill opened on Leomansley brook in the late eighteenth century, somewhere around where Leomansley Manor now stands. In the 1830/40s, a row of cottages, once home to many of the mill’s workers, was built along what was then the Walsall Road and the area has continued to develop since then.
Token for Leomansley Mill taken from Lichfield District Council flickr stream. Hard to believe this once stood alongside the brook in the woods. The mill may be long gone, but traces of the mill pond can still be seen.
Victorian terraced houses, 1930s semis, new build apartments on the site of the former Carpenter’s Arms pub (boo!), a former lodge at what was once an entrance to the demolished Beacon Place, vicarages old and new, post first world war council houses, a 1960s community hall and housing estate and a much extended Edwardian school – to walk around Leomansley is to take a trip through the story of domestic architecture during the last two hundred years.
There’s also a rather lovely Victorian gothic revival church too, and on the weekend of 4th and 5th July 2015, Christ Church is combining an Open Gardens event with an exploration of the social history of the area. Organisers, the Friends of Christ Church, have studied census records, deeds and maps, and collected oral histories which they’ve used to produce a guide which will tell you not only about the history of the twelve houses opening up their gardens but also the story of Leomansley’s development from an area of common pasture on the western boundary of Lichfield, to the place it is today.
Christ Church. Photo by David Moore.
Admission to the gardens is between 2pm and 6pm on both days, and programs will be available from Christ Church itself, plus any of the participating gardens, at £4 each. There will be refreshments at 19 Christchurch Lane, and there will also be plant stalls, for anyone feeling inspired by what they’ve seen. I know I’m biased but Leomansley is as lovely as it is interesting, and I hope that people from not just the immediate area, but also from far-flung and distant places like Boley Park come along and find out more about our bit of Lichfield.
Here’s a map of the Christ Church Lane area of Leomansley in Lichfield which Chris Pattison very kindly sent to me recently. The map is dated 1935 and as with everywhere, some things have changed (including the spelling of the name), whilst others have stayed the same.
South Staffordshire Waterworks Company map of Leomansley. Thanks to Chris Pattison
Yet, all is not what it seems. Christ Church school is shown in its original location, yet in 1910 it was rebuilt on the opposite side of the road. As someone else pointed out to me, the row of terraced houses known as Leomansley Villas was built in 1903 and so they should also appear but don’t. Another curious omission is the cottage near to the gates of Christ Church. This dates back to at least August 1875, as there are documents at Lichfield Record Office which show it was used as the residence of the schoolmaster or mistress of Christ Church school (who of course had to be ‘competent, of good character and a member of the Church of England’) at the time. Prior to this, it was a lodge for Beacon House (or Place) in what is now Beacon Park.
The Cottage, Christ Church, Lichfield
The obvious answer is that this plan was drawn in 1935 but was based on a much older map. However, whilst this would explain most of the ‘errors’, it doesn’t account for all of them.
A group of buildings on the far left of the map are labelled ‘Leomansley Mill’, yet I’m sure that this is actually Leomansley Mill Farm. The mill itself, disused and dismantled by 1860, stood somewhere near the site marked as ‘Leamonsley Cottages’ (now known as ‘Leomansley Manor’).
Token for Leomansley Mill c.1815 taken from Lichfield District Council Flickr stream.
Errors aside, it still gives us a glimpse of when all this were fields. Well, when a lot of it was anyway. If anyone’s interested in exploring the history of Leomansley further, there are some notes to accompany a walk around the area which I produced a couple of years back which you can access here.
Unlike the fulling mill built on Leomansley Brook in 1790, which only seems to have lasted for a hundred years or so, the nearby mill on the Trunkfield Brook was part of the landscape for a long, long time.
Up until the nineteenth century it seems it was known as Sandford Mill, but at some point became known as Trunkfields. Owned by St John’s hospital, it first appears in records in 1294, and again in 1658 when the miller got into trouble for encroaching on the highway when re-building it. Cartography wise, the first map I can see that shows the mill (just as a symbol), is the 1775 Yates one. In 1853 the Conduit Land Trustees rented it out and converted it to steam power and shortly afterwards was apparently used as a bone mill. Jame Meacham gave up the mill in 1872 and it fell into disuse. In 1883 it was suggested as a potential site for a small pox and infectious diseases hospital .The property owners and inhabitants in the area were not happy and came up with the following list of reasons why the site was, in their opinion, ‘in every way disadvantageous, not only to the immediate neighbourhood but to the whole city’.
1. The road past the pool was the only access road to a good deal of field property in the area.
2. A public footpath, much frequented, leading to the Birmingham Rd goes within a few yards of the building.
3. There are no less than eighty homes on the Walsall Rd, with a population of around 480 and there are other properties close by including the vicarage and the cottages (presumably those on what is now Christchurch Lane).
4. The site is in the midst of a large and respectable population.
5. There is a prospect of a considerable increase in the number of houses.
6. The prevalent wind on this side of the City of Lichfield is that which blows almost direct from the Trunkfield Pool to the city.
7. The site is notoriously damp and unhealthy and thoroughly unsuited for a hospital of any description
8.Many of the cottagers are in the habit of going to the pool for their water supply.
9. Trunkfield Pool is the only public place for skating within the precincts of the city.
In the end, there was no hospital on the site of Trunkfields Mill. Instead, it became a farm (and people carried on skating there for some years – an advert in the Lichfield Mercury, February 2 1917 carried an advert that simply said ‘Skating!!! Skating!!! at Trunkfields Pool, Walsall Road, Lichfield. You’d think people would have been more wary after horrific accidents like this in London 1867).
There’s not much left to suggest there was a mill here although there are sluice gates along the brook
On the Burntwood Family History website there is a great photograph of Mr and Mrs David Blair (see here) who came from Scotland to Trunkfields Farm in 1890. There is a snippet in the Lichfield Mercury about a not very neighbourly spat between David Blair and fellow farmer Edward Thomas Sankey of Sandfields Farm in November 1895, when the latter summoned the former for assault. According to Sankey he was making his way home via Trunkfields when Blair stopped him and told him he was trespassing. Sankey said it was a public highway and Blair apparently took hold of his coat and collar and pushed him. Then Mrs Blair came out and told Sankey to go home via Mr Hollier’s field. Sankey refused and Blair hit him in the face and threatened to throw him into the mill pond. Blair accused Sankey of being drunk and said if he had pushed him, as he was accused of doing, he would have fallen down. Another farmer, Joseph Standley was called as a witness. He had seen part of the dispute and was ‘so amused that he ‘nearly burst himself with laughing’, although he did support Mr Blair’s assertion that Sankey was drunk and hadn’t been hit or pushed by him. The case was dismissed and Sankey ordered to pay the costs.
Several sources, including the county history and local HER records record the mill pool being backfilled in 1930. However, this seems to be a bit at odds with an article in the Lichfield Mercury on 14th February 1947, which reported that Mr Saxton, the owner of Trunkfield Mill Pond, had been thanked by the Lichfield City Council health committee for agreeing that the pond could be used for controlled tipping without rent but given back to him when filled in. I’m sure the residents weren’t quite as thankful – what about the detrimental effect on the respectable population and their winter skating?
Apparently some of the mill/farm buildings remained until the 1980s/90s, which is before my time in Lichfield but there must be plenty that do remember. What I do recall is that until recently there was a derelict modern-ish property on the site, known as Blair House (presumably after David Blair and his family). This has now been demolished with new houses currently being built on the site.
Took me a while to work out what was going on with the chimney
There were objections to this, based on the fact that vehicular approach to the new houses was a narrow lane used by children walking to school. I suspect this must also have been the lane that the protesters against the isolation hospital were referring to. It’s now been given a (new?) name which turns out to be Halfpenny Lane, the road I was looking for back in October last year. Now split into two by the realignment of the Walsall Road in the 1830s (the other part is known as Middle Lane) it led to Christchurch Lane (the original Walsall Road) for at least two hundred years, if not longer.
Found a Halfpenny
I had intended to walk down this lane, but it was blocked off due to the building work and so I was forced to negotiate the labyrinth that is the Walsall Rd estate. I eventually found my way out and was rewarded for my efforts by the discovery of an old metal gatepost in some shrubbery near to the old Conduit Lands Pumping Station cottage on the Walsall Road which may be a left over relic from those days. More info on the pumping station on Brownhillls Bob’s blog here.
I was chuffed to spot this. I am very easily pleased.
I also saw some graffiti on the side of a house. I don’t condone it but I do confess to being a little intrigued…..
Lichfield: Economic history’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield(1990), pp. 109-131
Walking is such a pleasure. I get seriously itchy feet if deprived for more than a day or so, and my spirits are always lifted after a good old trudge around. Exploring somewhere for the first time is fantastic, but I also love to walk around the places I know. It somehow gives me feel warm and comfortable feeling, like a favourite old cardigan. And of course, sometimes there can be surprises up even the most familiar sleeve…
I’ve decided I’d like to try and put some walks here so that people can get out and explore for themselves. One of my best loved walks is of course around Leomansley, so here’s a walk around the lanes that I hope you’ll enjoy doing for yourself. Naturally, I always encourage straying from the path to investigate something that looks interesting. Getting lost is part of the fun!
Lanes Around Leomansley
The map below gives a rough idea of the route, which is about 2km (depending on how many diversions you take!). I’ve marked some of the points that I think are of interest but of course there may be other things…….Below the map is a PDF with a written version of the route, giving information about each of the points. Hope you enjoy it, I’d like to hear how you get on!