Park Views

When Lichfield District Council applied for Lottery Funding to improve and develop Beacon Park, Minster Pool & Walk and The Garden of Remembrance, the ‘Friends of Lichfield’s Historic Parks Group’ was set up as part of the bid. Although the work has now been completed, the Friends group has continued and have now also taken Stowe Pool and Fields under their wing.

People enjoying Fuse Festival 2013 in Beacon Park

The Friends are independent of LDC, made up of a group of residents who want these beautiful and well loved places in the heart of Lichfield to be enjoyed and valued by people of all backgrounds, ages, abilities and interests. Part of their role is to facilitate discussion between Lichfield District Council and users, volunteers, friends and local residents, so that everyone can be involved in decisions made about their parks.

Getting ready to light up Minster Pool with hundreds of flames – Minster Pool June 2012

As a way of connecting with a wider range of park users, the Friends have set up a new Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/FoLHP and want to encourage people to use this forum to share their views on the park, making suggestions and asking questions. Those not on Facebook can email their views to parks@lichfielddc.gov.uk or call the parks team on 01543 308869.

Stowe Pool Regatta June 2012.

I think it’s a great opportunity to have your voice heard, so please join in the discussion. I know I will be! Of course, if you’d like to be more than a Facebook friend, and would like to join the Friends Group itself,  they would be delighted to welcome new members. More information can be found on their leaflet here – Friends of Lichfield’s Historic Parks

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Co-operation

On the corner of Bore St and Breadmarket St is a building that I’ve never paid much attention to before. However, after hearing that someone carrying out some work there in the 1970s had uncovered a dolphin mosaic, I thought I’d fish a bit deeper into the building’s history…

The someone in question was Frank Clarke, a regular contributor to the fabulous Facebook group ‘You’re probably from Lichfield, Staffs if…..’. Frank found the mosaic under rotting floorboards when carrying out renovation work there in the 1970s. According to Frank, the mosaic was concreted over and may still be there to this day. Unfortunately, it seems that due to practicalities (involving concrete and money!) it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure.

What we do know though is that the Dolphin Inn once stood on the site, demolished in 1912 and replaced by the current building in 1913 by local builders JR Deacon to house the Walsall and District Co-operative Society Ltd Branch No.13. You can still see where the lettering for this ever so catchy name used to be, as shown in all its glory here, on the Staffs Past Track site. Burtons were the most recent occupiers, but they left in March this year, leaving the property empty. (1)

Built in 1913, this was once the Co-op, more recently Burtons.

According to John Shaw and his now legendary book, The Old Pubs of Lichfield, the Dolphin is first listed in 1818. However,after finding out that the original building on the site was timber framed, dating back to the 16th century, I was hoping to find out something about the building’s earlier uses. After reading the obituary of Rev John Kirk (d.1851),  it seems that prior to becoming an inn, the building had been occupied by a baker, with some of the upper rooms being used as a Roman Catholic chapel created in 1801.(2)

Rev Kirk had been the priest at the chapel at Pipe Hall from 1788 to 1793, where Catholics in Lichfield had previously worshipped. When this chapel was closed following the sale of the property to a non-Catholic he was asked to return to Lichfield as the resident priest at the new chapel. However, Kirk found the location and conditions far from ideal – the sanctuary was apparently directly above the baker’s oven and Kirk wasn’t happy about living in such close quarters with the baker and his family. By 1803, Rev Kirk had built a new chapel dedicated to St Peter and St Paul in Upper St John St.  Due to religious sensitivities, the chapel was originally designed to look like a dwelling house, but 1834 a turret and a new entrance was added, and the name changed to Holy Cross. The congregation was relatively small, but numbers were often boosted by those passing on their way to London and French Prisoners of War.

Holy Cross, Lichfield.
Source: Dennis Blenkinsopp (http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/43370)

Back to the mosaic, which started all of this off! You would have to assume that its depiction of a dolphin is a reference to the name of the Inn. No great mystery there (although I would like to know why that particular name was chosen for a Lichfield pub!). What is more of a puzzle is how the mosaic came to be in the new building. Was it rescued during the demolition of the old one? Was it created to reference the history of the building that previously stood on the site? Or was the previous building not fully demolished, just significantly altered? I don’t know, and it seems probably never will.

I’m very grateful to Gareth Thomas for bringing the matter to the attention of the experts at Lichfield District Council, and also to the Civic Society for making enquiries as well. I think it’s great that members of the facebook group, the Civic Society, the council and even me have all been able to contribute to the discussion. This is how it should be, and I would like to see people working together more in the future, building on the great work that Gareth has done to bridge the gap between council and its residents, not least by making historic photographs and documents available through his own blog, and elsewhere.

I understand that talks are ongoing, however, the general feeling at present seems to be that without further evidence, the cost and disruption arising from trying to retrieve the mosaic (if indeed it has survived the last forty years) could not be justified. A shame, but for now it seems we shall have to let sleeping dolphins lie….unless anyone out there knows any more?

Edit 12/5/2013 Just reading about the opening of the Co-op. Apparently the builder, Councillor Deacon handed the chairman of the Co-op a walking stick made from one of the wooden beams of the old Dolphin Inn, which is quite a nice little addition to the story. No mention of a mosaic yet though 😉 

Notes

(1) Burtons previously had a branch on Market St, where you can still see the two foundation stones commemorating the opening by two of business founder Montague Burton’s sons. The post I did on this ages ago is here 

(2) So that takes us back to 1800-ish. Still three hundred years or so of the building’s history to account for though!

Sources:

Thanks to Frank Clarke for allowing me to share the story of his discovery here.

The Old Pubs of Lichfield, John Shaw

Catholic Staffordshire 1500 – 1850, M R Greenslade

The Gentlemans Magazine Volumes 191 – 192

Lichfield: Roman Catholicism and Protestant nonconformity’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 155-159

http://www.staffspasttrack.org.uk/

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