An Overview of Lichfield

Gareth Thomas, from Lichfield District Council, has very kindly sent me some aerial photographs of Lichfield. Taken in 1963 and 1971, they provide a record of how the  city has developed and grown in the last 50 or so years (a quick look at the population figures shows that in 1961 the population was 14,090, growing to 22,660. In 2008 it was 30,583) (1)

Lichfield 10th June 1963

Lichfield 8th September 1971

Another aerial view of Lichfield taken 8th September 1971

One of the things I like about aerial photography is that it gives you a different perspective on places. A good example of this are the earthworks off Abnalls Lane, thought to be the remains of a medieval moated manor house, that I’ve mentioned before. At ground level you might well walk past, unaware of its existence. Look at it from above however, and you get a whole different impression of the site. What’s exciting for me (and yes, maybe I do need to get out more!), is that the aerial photograph that Gareth has sent seem to show more of the structure than can be seen on today’s aerial photos. To my untrained eye, back in the 1960s, it looks like the moat had some sort of channel running from it, and branching off into two.  Looking at the recent google earth maps, this part of the feature seems to have disappeared.

Crop of aerial photo taken 8th September 1971, to show Abnalls Lane area

Abnalls Lane Moated site circa 2010

View of the moated site from the ground,  August 2012

Massive thanks once again to Gareth. I’m really enjoying studying these photographs and I hope that others do too (On one occasion, I was so engrossed I forgot I was in 1971 not 2012 and was momentarily confused looking for the non-existent little yellow man to do a street view).  Gareth also has a great pinterest site here where he’s adding the local maps he discovers and there’s a great range on there covering different parts of the city & district, so once you’ve had your fill of photos, go and have a look!

Also, I should say that there are some posts & discussions on BrownhillsBob’s Brownhills Blog, based around aerial photographs of Chasewater, Shire Oak and Stonnall, also provided by Gareth.

(1) Source – Lichfield City Council http://www.lichfield.gov.uk/cc-statistics.ihtml

Stumped

I had an email from Pat telling me there was a lump on the side of the A51, near to the junction with Abnalls Lane.  I assumed that it was an old tree stump, but Pat thinks it might be something more than that, and recalls seeing some stone there last year.

I went and had a closer look. Pat said in his comment on the Cross City post, the lump is covered in vegetation, but there is likely to be something solid underneath, as the grass is cut around it. I took a few photos and then the self -conciousness of being stood on a busy A-road taking photos of a grassy lump got the better of me and I headed back up Abnalls Lane.

So, does anyone else know anything about this, or do we just have to wait until the grass dies away in the Autumn to get a better look?!

In the meantime, it’s worth taking a trip up Abnalls Lane. In parts, it’s thought to be a holloway, and at times you’re surrounded by hedgerows, tree roots and sandstone, with carved names and dripping water.  It takes you past the site of one of Lichfield’s Scheduled Ancient Monuments – a moated site on the edge of Pipe Green and over the border into Burntwood.  It also passes nearby the site of Erasmus Darwin’s botanical garden, although unfortunately the site is not open to the public.

Spires of Lichfield from moated site at Abnalls Lane on the Lichfield/Burntwood Boundary

Interestingly, a section on Burntwood in the History of the County of  Stafford says that,

The road, now Abnalls Lane, was known as Pipe Lane at least between 1464 and 1683.  The point where it goes over the boundary was described in 1597 as ‘the place where the broken cross in Pipe Lane stood’; a ditch at Broken Cross was mentioned in 1467.

Is this one of the crosses already counted in Cross City, or a different one? 

Also, on the subject of research into stone things, at the end of Abnalls Lane, there are some interesting names – The Roche and Hobstonehill (according to the History of the County of Stafford, the placename ‘Hobbestone’ was mentioned in 1392).   

I think I need to spend my summer holidays at Lichfield Record Office.

Sources:

‘Townships: Burntwood’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 195-205. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42356  Date accessed: 27 July 2012.