Lily's Medieval Jigsaw Puzzle

Recently, twelve year old Lily made a very interesting discovery in Lichfield. Here’s her account of how the contents of a cardboard box found in an old gaol cell turned out to be far more exciting than than anyone could have imagined….

“In November 2014, I went to the Lichfield Gaol Cells in the Guildhall. It was a Lichfield Discovered event, and we were going to look and see if we could find any graffiti, names, or dates on the gaol cell doors. About 7 or 8 of us came to the event all in all, I came with my Dad. Everyone else managed to find lots of writing and names on the doors, I didn’t find much. Near the end of the session, we were looking inside the third jail cell, the one that is not normally open to the public. My Dad pointed out 2 boxes of old looking tiles on the floor, we took a quick look, but we didn’t pay much attention to them.

Tiles 1

Tiles in cardboard boxes in gaol cell now used for storage

The next time we came to the gaol cells was on 21st February, we had come back to see if there was any more graffiti that we had missed, also to take a second look at the boxes of tiles (Jo at the museum said it was ok). This time I had come with my Mom and there was around 8 people that turned up this time. Me and my Mom started looking through the tiles, we had picked about 5 up and we laid them on a chair to photograph them, but they werereally dusty so we couldn’t see if there were any other patterns on them.

There were so many tiles that we couldn’t fit any more on, we decided to move all of the tiles into the 4th cell, onto a wooden bed that the prisoners used to sleep in, (personally I would NEVER think of sleeping on one of them). We started taking some more tiles out of the box and moving them onto the bed. We moved them a few at a time, because the box was too heavy to lift. I had realised that there were a few tiles with the same pattern on. I really wanted to get a better look at what the patterns looked like, so my mom went to Wilko (just up the road) to buy 2 paintbrushes. When she got back we started brushing off the dust and dirt from the tiles we had got out, we could see the patterns a lot clearer. We had nearly finished emptying out the first box of tiles, and at the bottom my Mom found a bit of tile with ‘Lichfield Friary’ written on the back. She showed it to Kate and she said “Maybe it came from the old Friary!” and then we all got really excited!

tiles 2

Tile with Lichfield Friary writing on the back

We had found lots of bone shaped tiles that were exactly like the one that said ‘Lichfield Friary’ on it.

Tiles 3

“Bone” shaped tiles

Whatever the floor was, it was really big. We had found LOADS of tiles that looked the same, and maybe they belonged to the same floor. I started trying to see if any of the tiles might fit together, there were loads of circular tiles, some with patterns on, and some without. There was one round tile, with a triangle and circles intertwined in a pattern. There were also pizza shaped tiles, without a tip, like someone had taken a pizza and cut the middle out with a cookie cutter, if you get what I mean. Those tiles had a kind of moon, with a starfish shape in the middle.

Tiles 4

Circular “pizza” tiles with moon and star pattern

tiles 5

Plain “pizza” tiles

We had found one of these tiles that was complete and one that was broken, but fitted back together again. All the rest were broken, but I managed to get a full circle out of the fragments we had found. It was like a massive jigsaw-puzzle, but I did it in the end, and what was even more exciting, was that the circular tile fit perfectly inside the ring of pizza shaped tiles! Same with the tiles with no pattern on, but we didn’t find another circular tile.

There was also another set of tiles. We had found about 8-10 of the same type, they were square, and they all had the same pattern on, the kind that can make 2 different types of patterns, depending on which way you put them.

Tiles 6

Square tiles with pattern – my faves 🙂

Most of them were complete, apart from 3-4 of them which we only had corners of. I put them together, and they nearly made a 9 square pattern. These were my favourite tiles, and I hoped we found some more of them, we only had half a box or so left to get out. We did find a couple more of these tiles eventually. We finished emptying out the box, and then we started taking pictures of all the tiles. There wasn’t much time left, so we took all of the photos really quickly. As a result, not many of the pictures were very good. And the light was quite dim in the cells, so the light wasn’t the best either.

It was nearing the end of the session, so we had to put all of the tiles back in the boxes. I couldn’t help thinking that the tiles were from the old medieval Friary. At least some of them.

Kate asked me if I could do some research to see if the tiles were from the Friary, Me and my Mom went to the Lichfield Records Office, to go and look at ‘The Lichfield Friary’ by P. Laithwaite, which was reprinted from the Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeological Society where a report of Councillor T. Moseley’s findings from his exploration of the site in 1933 was given.

Laithwaite BAS 1934

D77/23/67 Copyright Lichfield Record Office

There were only 6 pages in the book. Page 5 had a drawing of some if the exact tiles we had found (the ones that looked like pizzas with the middle cut out) some with patterns, and some without.

EPSON scanner image

D77/23/67 The Lichfield Friary by P.Laithwaite Copyright Lichfield Records Office

Me and my mom were like O-O (AMAZED!). On the next page (page 6) there was a drawing on 3 tiles with different patterns on, all of which we had found in the box of tiles! 😀 (and my favourite one, the one that we had got like a 9 block square of the floor.)

EPSON scanner image

D77/23/67 Drawing of square tiles from The Lichfield Friary by P.Laithwaite Copyright Lichfield Records Office

We had found what we had come looking for, proof that the tiles in the boxes were Medieval from The Grey Friars’ Church at The Friary!”

Note – this is not where the story ends! Lily is having an afternoon on the tiles with Jo Wilson, Lichfield City Council Museum and Heritage Officer and medieval tiles expert, Karen Slade this week, so look out for an update soon. Lily’s doing such a great job – the initial discovery, the ongoing research, and writing it all up afterwards – that I’m thinking of joining the Right Revd Jonathan Gledhill in retirement and leaving Lichfield Lore in her more than capable young hands.

 

Ooh La La

When old buildings at the back of the Bolton Warehouse Company’s shop on Bird St (1) were being demolished in December 1960, a large circular room containing murals created with shells and pebbles, was found above a ceiling. One mural depicted the Cathedral, another a tree and the third was some kind of summerhouse on top of a hill (2).

The murals are thought to have been created by French prisoners of war, on parole in the city.  According to the County History, Lichfield had long been used as a place to quarter French prisoners, due to its position on a main road (and I have also read that it had something to do with us being about as far from the sea as you can get!).  On 7th January 1747, the Staffordshire Advertiser reported that a party of seventy four passed through Stafford on their way to Lichfield, where they were to be put on parole. It also mentioned a house on Bore St, where there was a cooper’s shop at the back used by prisoners (3). Eighty arrived in Lichfield in 1797 during the Napolenic Wars and in 1809, forty officers were quartered here. It seems that Dr Johnson’s birthplace was also occupied by a prisoner –  in The European Magazine for 1810, a contributor called ‘TSW’ wrote, “The house in the market place in which our great lexicographer born still remains nearly in its original state. It is now inhabited by Mr Evans a brazier and a part of it, believed to be the very room in which he first drew his breath is now let to a French prisoner of war”. According to their website, Pipe Hill House on the Walsall Rd also hosted some of the prisoners.

As well as spending their time creating enigmatic artworks, some of the prisoners gave French lessons to the city’s residents.  If the fragment of a page of French exercises, found in the same room as the Bird St mural was discovered, is anything to go by, the teachers had their work cut out. The sentences on the fragment of paper had been heavily corrected, with the comment ‘very bad’ at the end! Perhaps the Darwin and Wedgewood children who were taught French by one of the prisoners at Darwin’s house on Beacon St were better students?

The old clinic on Sandford St? Is it me or can anyone else see numbers in the brick work on the second storey?

In September 1951, the author of the ‘Round and About with Clock Tower” section of the Lichfield Mercury visited the site of the mural accompanied by the caretaker, Mrs Disney, and reported that the ‘pictures’ were still in existence in the dome-like roof of a derelict outbuilding behind the Sandford St Clinic (4). One side featured ‘a perfect replica of Lichfield Cathedral, made entirely from small stones, bits of glass and sea shells’  and other pictures included a ‘mosque-like building’, (which the reporter failed to recognise (5)), several ‘beautifully executed trees’ and a map of Lichfield. The outbuilding was in a poor condition, described as being encased in a mass of creepers, with two gaping holes in the roof. There was also a large hole in the floor, and as if things weren’t exciting enough already, Mrs Disney told the reporter that there were two passages running beneath the hole – one leading to the rear of the property and one believed to connect with the old ‘monk’s passages’ beneath the Friary.

Box made by French Prisoners of War (c) Lichfield District Council

Sadly, I think that this ‘Disney’ story doesn’t have a happy ending as the outbuilding was been demolished and the treasures inside lost (although there is the possibility that as the murals were still in existence in the 1950s/1960s someone may have been foresighted enough to photograph them?). However, there is a small consolation at Lichfield Heritage Centre in the form of a wooden box carved by French prisoners quartered in the area.

Edit 18/6/2015
A display at Lichfield Museum at St Mary’s features a photograph and a chunk of the mural together with the wooden box and some information about the soldiers themselves. St Mary’s is also staging a costume drama called ‘Lichfield’s Waterloo’ by the Lichfield Players on Friday 26th June and Saturday 27th June. More information here

Notes

(1) Does anyone have anymore information on the Bolton Warehouse Company’s shop, particularly where it was on Bird St?

(2) Could this have been a representation of Borrowcop Gazebo? The PMSA record (here) says ‘In 1694 a building called ‘the Temple’, probably stood on Borrow Cop Hill, in the 1720s an arbour was recorded, by 1750 this replaced by a summerhouse which may have been the cruciform building there in 1776. In 1756 the corporation ordered a line of trees along the path to the summit, with extra trees in 1783, possibly in connection with a fete champetre held in that year. By 1805 the building was replaced with one of brick with two arches each side and seats around to admire the view, the funds were raised by public subscription’. On the subject of Borrowcop, I just found at that an information board was installed up there in September (more about that here).

(3) Again, where would this have been?

(4) I understand that the clinic occupied the former premises of the Victoria Nursing Home which was on Sandford St until it moved to the Friary and became the Victoria Hospital.

(5) Any ideas as to what building this could be depicting?

Sources

Lichfield and Archaeological & Historical Society Transactions vol 2 1961

Lichfield: Education’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 170-184

Lichfield: From the Reformation to c.1800′, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 14-24

The European Magazine for 1810

Lichfield Mercury 21st September 1951

Friars on the Run

On Monday morning we’ll learn if human remains found beneath a car park in Leicester are those of Richard III, buried in the city’s Greyfriars church after his defeat at Bosworth in 1485.

Archaeological Dig Open Day at Greyfriars Leicester. 8th September 2012.
Image by RobinLeicester, Wikimedia Commons.

Naturally, the possible discovery of England’s lost king has generated a huge amount of interest and last week I had an email from someone in Lichfield who has been doing some background reading on the subject. In trying to find out more about the story of Greyfriars and King Richard III, they found that the Greyfriars were also linked to King Richard II. The reason for the email was to see if anyone knew anything more about the role of Lichfield in the story, as per the the following passage from the ‘History of the County of Leicestershire’.

The sympathies of the Leicester Franciscans for Richard II brought serious consequences upon the friary in 1402. A Franciscan declared to Henry IV that he and ten other friars of the house at Leicester, together with a master of divinity, had conspired in favour of the deposed Richard. In consequence eight Franciscans of Leicester, with the master of divinity, were arrested and brought to London for trial. The remaining two friars escaped. After two juries had failed to convict, a third jury found the prisoners guilty, and they were executed. Two other Franciscans from Leicester, presumably the two who had at first escaped, were executed at Lichfield about the same time.  In 1402, at a general chapter of the Franciscans held at Leicester, it was forbidden to any of the Order to speak against the king.

 

My anonymous correspondent wondered why the friars were executed here in Lichfield? What had brought them here in the first place, and was there any sympathy for them or Richard II amongst the Franciscan population here?

Remains of North Wall of Nave of Lichfield’s Franciscan Friary.

Other sources expand on the story a little to tell us that it was Prince Henry, the future Henry V (or at least members of his household) who caught and beheaded the friars at Lichfield. Our own county history tells us that in 1402, Henry IV had ‘ordered knights, squires, and yeomen from various parts of the country to meet him at Lichfield for his campaign against Owain Glyn Dŵr‘. This explains perhaps in part why the friars came to be executed here, but if there’s anyone who can add anything further to this story of fugitive Leicester friars in Lichfield, it’d be great to hear from you.

Notes:

A programme called ‘Richard III:The King in the Car Park’ will be shown on Channel 4 at 9pm on Monday 4th February.

Talking of archaeology digs in car parks, I believe that the report on the Friary Outer is due out anytime now – as far as I’m aware Victorian cellars and medieval pottery were the main discoveries. Of course, everyone knows that if you want to find lost kings in Lichfield, it’s Borrowcop you need to investigate….

Richard II visited Lichfield several times. Most famously he spent Christmas in 1397 at the Bishops Palace, returning to the city two years later as a prisoner of his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, soon to be Henry IV.

Edit 4/2/2013 – I probably don’t need to tell you this but it’s been confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that it is him! King Richard the Third’s remains will now be interred at Leicester Cathedral. I believe there may be a link between this story and Elford too?

Sources:

Friaries: Friaries in Leicester’, A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 2(1954), pp. 33-35. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=38172

Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272-1485, page 212 edited by Ronald H. Fritze and William Baxter Robison

Lichfield: History to c.1500′, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield(1990), pp. 4-14. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42336

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 😉

Hospital Ward

In 1781, John Snape carried out a census of Lichfield, making a list of the different wards of the city in the process. The wards are as follows: Bacon St (now Beacon St), Bird St, Sandford St, Sandford St below the water, St John’s St, St John’s St above the bars, Sadler St (now Market St), Bore St, Wade St, Dam St, Tamworth St, Lombard St, Stow St and Greenhill.

I think that these are the wards depicted by the flags hanging from the ceiling of the Guildhall, discussed here in my previous post. Now that I’ve finally made it back into the Guildhall to check which flag corresponds with which ward, I’m going to take each one in turn, trying to discover the significance of the design on each flag. Some I’m pretty sure of, others I’m really not (I’m talking about you Sandford St below the water ward!)

 

Photo from Ell Brown via flickr

 I’m starting with the flag that represents St John’s ward. Not only is it my favourite of the banners, it’s also seasonal with the feast of St John’s (or Midsummer’s Day) on 24th June. St John St gets its name from The Hospital of St John The Baptist (the place with the chimmneys!). The design from the flag is also on the board outside St John’s chapel, but what does it represent? The yellow flowers must be St John’s Wort, associated both with the saint and midsummer. What are the flowers growing around though?  Well, it’s taken a lot of googling but I think that it’s St Anthony’s Cross (also known as the Cross of Tau), often associated with St Francis. This possibly explains its inclusion, as the site of the Franciscan Friary lies within this ward . Part of the old Friary wall can still be seen on St John St.

Please feel free to join in with the speculation on this and any of the other flags that follow!

Photo of St John’s board from Ell Brown’s Lichfield Group photo set on his flickr stream, included with thanks.

The Tombstone at Lichfield Library

I may be wrong but I’m assuming that there aren’t many libraries which have a 14th century tombstone embedded in their wall. I couldn’t quite believe that Lichfield library did either and so after watching the Queen travel up Bird St to the Cathedral, it was time for the really exciting part of yesterday to commence! Sorry Ma’am.

I was reading a copy of ‘Hyacinths and Haricot Beans: Friary School Memories’ by Jean Bird.  The book tells of a slab from a tomb found during renovations in 1926 being incorporated in the Friary building itself, which of course housed the school prior to its move to Eastern Avenue.

Checking the site’s listed building description confirmed this:

“…window to right of entrance has ex-situ gravestone of C14 or earlier below: calvary cross fleury and worn inscription to Richard the Merchant, found in 1746”

Another fairly recent reference was the Public Monument and Sculpture Association National Recording Project which described the stone as being placed ‘at the rear of Tamworth & Lichfield College, set into the wall by founder’s door’.

Anyone passing would never notice the stone....

At the rear? Well, at least that would explain how I managed to visit at least once a week, without noticing a large tombstone embedded into the wall.  In fact, once I got to the back of the building and the founder’s door, it was clear that few would notice the stone. Partially obscured by a shrub, a faint carving of a cross can be detected. Time and weather have not treated the stone well.

The fading stone

A trip to the Staffs Past track website reveals a drawing of the stone as it was around 250 years ago. It seems the stone was found in 1746 and then somehow lost and then rediscovered in 1926!  Bulldozers working on the new Friary Road in the 1920s cut through the site of the Grey Friars cemetery.  One of the contributors to the Friary School book recalls the bones that were uncovered being reburied ‘in the site opposite’.  Perhaps that’s where the remains of Richard are today.

Whilst round the back of the library, I also discovered the wonderful Monk’s Walk garden, which I shall do a separate post on.  Something else I hadn’t noticed on all of my visits to the library. That’s one of the things with Lichfield, you just never know what’ll turn up next……

Edit 29/8/2011

In ‘A Topographical History of Staffordshire ed. William Pitt’ (1817), I came across a description of how the tombstone turned up in 1746. Apparently on October 14th of that year, Mr Michael Rawlins was living at the Friary and was building a wall with a gate. Whilst digging the foundations, he found the grave stone about 6 foot under the surface with a coffin and bones underneath it. He placed the stone in a niche in the wall of the stables.

 Sources:

Hyacinths and Haricot Beans: Friary School Memories 1892 – 1992 by Jean Bird

From: ‘Lichfield: Education’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 170-184. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42354 Date accessed: 20 July 2011.

http://lichfielddc.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/conservation_area_appraisals/lichfieldcaa?

http://www.staffspasttrack.org.uk

Public Monument and Sculpture Association National Recording Project