Through Doors and Windows

Anyone who has read the Written into Lichfield History and Making your Mark posts, will know that Gareth Thomas has been exploring the Lichfield District Council Offices, and very kindly sharing the photos here on the blog.  Gareth’s doing this because the buildings were once the Lichfield Grammar School, and generations of pupils, dating back to the 17th century have left their mark on the building.

I like the idea that even those who didn’t go as far as leaving their name still left a trace on the worn bannisters and floorboards

Last time, we got as far as the attic doors, where someone called ‘Watkins’, carved his name in February 1714/5. Amongst the other graffiti is the name WHoll, and Roger Jones (Ziksby) put forward the idea that this could be William Holl the engraver, which certainly warrants further investigation.  Back then the doors would have lead to the dormitories for the boarders at the school. Now thanks to Gareth, we get to have a look at what lies behind those potentially three hundred year old doors……

Who was WL Holden? Does C1 refer to his form or something else?

To us these are old timber beams, yet once they were brand new, and according to the Lichfield Conduit Lands archives, mostly donated in the form of individual trees!

 

Gareth has taken some photographs from the windows. Not only does this give an interesting perspective of the city, it also invites you to imagine what the boys would have seen looking out of this window, what’s changed and what’s the same.

In around 1813, Cowperthwaite Smith was appointed headmaster of the school with a salary of £170 per annum, plus rent free accomodation. At the time, board, lodging & tuition was being charged at between 40 and 50 guineas a year for each scholar. In 1828, according to the ‘Account of Public Charities in England and Wales’, there were 18 boarders, and around 30-40 students in total. It goes on to say that the only scholars receiving their education free at the school were the ‘six children of poor men born within the City’ (who were also given money for books, and slightly more curiously brooms, when the school was first endowed).  The people of Lichfield were apparently not happy that their grammar school was no longer a free school.

By then end of Cowperthwaite Smith’s time as headmaster in the 1840s, no boys at all were coming to the school. Allegations were made in the Wolverhampton Chronicle that Lichfield Grammar School had been closed for six years due to the the misconduct of the master. It claimed he was violent towards the children in his care, and that ‘his treatment of two boys on two separate subjected his modes of punishment to investigation before the magistrates one boy having subsequently confined to his bed under surgical advice for a fortnight’.

The newpaper was sued for its attempt to injure Cowperthwaite’s ‘good name fame and credit’ as a schoolmaster and clergyman, and ‘to bring him into public scandal infamy and disgrace’ and ‘to hold him up to public contumely scorn and ridicule and to vex harass oppress impoverish and wholly ruin (him)’. I’m trying to piece together exactly what happened as best I can from the court cases that followed these allegations and I’m hoping that the original newspaper reports might be available. There’s also a vast amount of information at Lichfield Record Office that I’d like to look through, and I think it’s best not to speculate or comment further until I have read more on this.

I am also working on another post as Gareth’s investigations took him to another part of the building, where he made another fantastic discovery, including our oldest dated graffiti yet.  In the meantime, Gareth, do you fancy going up that ladder in the attic?

(1) A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools of England and Wales, Nicholas Carlise 1818

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1846/apr/01/the-lichfield-grammar-school

http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/info/100004/council_and_democracy/588/history_of_district_council_house/2

http://eagle.cch.kcl.ac.uk:8080/cce/persons/DisplayPerson.jsp?PersonID=19831

Written into Lichfield history

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.

Lichfield District Council Building, formerly 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!

Sources

A Concise Description of the Endowed Grammar Schools of England and Wales, Nicholas Carlise 1818

Lichfield City Conservation Area Document