Nail Art

As objects are the theme of our Lichfield Discovered meeting on Monday, and I had an hour to myself this afternoon, I decided to head over the border to have a look for the nailers’ stones that I’d been told were in the churchyard at Christ Church, Burntwood. The only reference to them I’ve found is on the Christ Church website which says,

‘Visitors will firstly note the magnificent west doors, believed to be original. The huge nails which have been used are indicative of Burntwood having been a nail making area due to the plentiful supply of charcoal and iron ore. (Nail making was very much a cottage industry, and should the visitor wish to, enter the churchyard, will find there several nail stones of different sizes).’

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for and had to rely on the, ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ method, which I’ve used many times before, with varying degrees of success. On this occasion it worked out just fine.

Nailer's Stone. Burntwood

Nailer's Stone. Burntwood 2

Group of nailers' stones

The above arrangement of stones reminds me of a stone circle of sorts

Group of nailers' stones, Burntwood 2

I wonder whether the nails in this door really were created locally?

I wonder whether the nails in this door really were made locally?

The first church in Burntwood. Apparently before it opened in 1820, the area was part of the St Michael's, Lichfield parish meaning a very long walk on a Sunday morning!

Before Christ Church opened in 1820, the area was part of the parish of St Michael’s, Lichfield, meaning a very long walk on a Sunday morning!

I couldn’t come all the way to Burntwood and not visit the world’s smallest park (is this official now?) with its trees known as Faith, Hope and Charity and so I had a five minute sit down and a bit of ‘We need a bigger park’ banter with a passerby, before heading to the Star Inn.

World's Smallest Park...or is it?

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According to the Burntwood Heritage Trail booklet, the Star Inn was where local nailers would take their products to be be weighed and paid for by ‘middle men’, who would also replenish their supplies of iron. The pub building itself is relatively modern but, according to the booklet, there has been a drinking establishment on this site since at least 1600 when a local blacksmith was licensed to keep an alehouse here, becoming known as the Star Inn by 1790.

The Star Inn. Burntwood

Unintentionally shining Star

Star Inn Plaque

One of the blue plaques on the Burntwood Heritage Trail, created by the fantastically named ‘Keepers of the Archive’.

Back home, I had a look for other examples of nailers’ stones and found that the Black Country History website has a photograph here of one very similar which they describe as a nail making anvil from St Peter’s Rd, Darby End.

I notice that there appear to be initials or names on the stones and it would be fantastic to know more about their provenance. The heritage booklet says that making nails was a way for a farming family to make extra money, and that the work was often carried out by the woman of the household.

I know these are Burntwood objects, rather than Lichfield ones but they tell the story of everyday folk trying to make a living for themselves and their families in an industry that’s now long gone, and that’s got to be worth sharing.

(For more on the nailmaking industry, please see the ‘Nailed it’ post on Brownhills Bob’s Brownhills Blog here)

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A Bower Queen in Beacon Park

This beautiful photograph is of Clara Talbott, and it was her prize for being chosen as the Lichfield Bower Queen in 1931. Clara was the third Queen to be crowned and although other parts of the Bower date back to much earlier, it seems this tradition only began in 1929. The Lichfield Mercury reported that Clara’s ‘long auburn hair had provided a very favourable comparison with the more modern ‘bobs’ and ‘shingles’. It goes on to tell us that Clara was assisted by her ‘fair maids of honour’ Misses R Orton, M Barker, F Nevill and K Carroll.

A mirror was used to give the impression of a reflection in water.

The photograph belongs to Vickie Sutton, Clara’s granddaughter. She told me that the photograph was taken in woods around Leomansley, where the A51 western bypass now cuts through the woodland. I understand that these trees here were planted by the owners of the now vanished Beacon Place.

Woodland at the edge of Beacon Park and the old carriage driveway from Christ Church to Beacon Place, with the A51 through the middle!

Clara’s family farmed land on Beacon Park and once married, Clara and her husband Frederick Hatchett lived in The Lodge in Greenhough Rd. As the name suggests this was a lodge for Beacon Place and at one point was used as a laundry for the house – it was known as Laundry Lodge in 1891! Vickie has heard from a family member that it may also have been used a some sort of cafe for soldiers in the first world war. I haven’t been able to find any specific references to this yet but records show that Beacon Place was used by officers during WWI and was purchased by the war department in 1922. Cuthbert Brown remembers military figures entering Beacon Place in his wonderful book ‘Lichfield Remembered’.

Once again huge thanks to Vickie for allowing me to share this. The Beacon Place Estate is definitely on my list of things to explore. It may be long gone, but traces of it still linger on….

Sources:

Lichfield Mercury May 1931
A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990)
1891 Census
Lichfield Remembered by Cuthbert Brown
Chatting to Vickie Sutton, font of Lichfield knowledge!