Something for the Weekend

Chatting to a friend last weekend about everything that goes on in Lichfield made me realise that I do take some of it for granted. Then, a few days later, another friend chastised me for being rubbish at promoting things, even events I’m involved in myself! So, influenced/shamed by both of them, here’s a quick run down of some of the history related goings-on in and around Lichfield this weekend.

Sheriff's Ride passing the pinfold, 2013

Sheriff’s Ride passing the pinfold, 2013

On Saturday morning, the Sheriff of Lichfield will set off with a party of horses and riders to perambulate the city’s boundary. This has happened on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or on the nearest Saturday at least), every year since 1553 when Queen Mary made Lichfield a separate county with its own Sheriff, as a way of saying thanks for all the support during that game of thrones business.

Alterntive Sheriff's Ride 2013

Alternative Sheriff’s Ride 2013

Pinfold Rd

Once the traditional Sheriff’s Ride has passed by and headed up Cross in Hand Lane, a group of us will be setting off from the Beacon Street pinfold in the opposite direction on the Alternative Sheriff’s Ride, which has happened every year since 2013 when my friend Lichwheeld had the idea and thought, ‘Well, why not?!’. At around four miles, the alternative ride will be considerably shorter than the current circuit of twenty miles, which has increased from the sixteen miles described in the 1800s by Thomas Harwood, as follows:

It begins at a place called the Cross and Hand near the end of a street there called Bacon street and from thence goeth northward along the lane leading to Longdon Church unto a little lane at the further side of Oakenfields and so along that little cross lands unto another lane that leadeth from Lichfield to King’s Bromley and then along that lane towards Lichfield unto a little lane lying between the Grange Ground and Collin’s Hill Field commonly called the Circuit lane unto the further end of it betwixt two fields the one called Hic-filius and the other Piper’s Croft and so over across a lane that leadeth from Lichfield to Elmhurst and then into another little lane between Stichbrooke Ground and Gifforde’s Crofte and so along that little lane to a green lane at the further side of the Lady being the land of Zachary Babington Esquire and down that lane to a called Pone’s Brook and so over that brook into another lane called Stepping Stones lane and so along that lane taking in the land of Richard Dyott Esq Pone’s Fields unto a lane leading from Lichfield to Curborough Somerville so along that lane towards Lichfield until you come to the upper end of the grounds called Scott’s Orchard and then leaving that lane turn into a field of Lichfield called Whisich at a stilt going into the fields called Browne’s Fields and so taking in the field clled Whisich then go by the closes called Browne’s Fields Hedge unto the grounds called God’s Croft Hedge and so along that hedge taking in the field called Whisich lane called Goslinge’s lane and along Goslinge’s Lane unto a lane called Matthew Coal Lane and so over across that lane into a field called Cross field at or near an elm tree and so along a head land about the middle of Cressfield unto the nearer end of Gorsty Bank into the lane leading from Lichfield to a cross way called Burton turnings and from thence along Ikenield street taking in Spear Hill and Boley unto a cross way leading from Lichfield to Whittington and so along that lane towards Whittington unto the south end of Austin’s Coat Grounds then turning upon the left hand at that brook to a gate going into Fulfin Grounds unto the moors called Dernford Moors and so along by the hedge of those moors unto the nether side of Dernford Mill stream and so going by the mill door to the pool dam and going along by the pool and the brook taking in Horslade and a meadow belonging to Freeford House unto a bridge called Freeford Bridge in a lane leading from Lichfield to Tamworth and so from that bridge up the sandy lane to Freeford House and along that lane to the corner of the meadow and then turning into Bispells at the corner of the meadow and so going by the meadow hedge until you come to the brook that runneth to Freeford Bridge and so going up a little pool taking in all Bispells unto a ford called Baltrex ford and then entering into Old field turn up the left hand to the brook that runs from Freeford Pool and so along that brook to Freeford Pool and along by the pool and the brook that comes from Swynfen Mill until you come into the lane that leads from Swynfen unto the mill and so along that lane to a gate that leads from Lichfield unto Swynfen called Old Field Gate and then not coming in at that gate but going to the corner of the hedge adjoining to Cley Lands come in at a gap and taking in all Old field come by the demesnes of Swynfen unto a place called Long bridge and so entering into a little lane between Long furlong and Long bridge grounds leading to Well crofts and so taking in all Well crofts along by the Knowlc Leasowes being the Hospital Land unto Ikeneld street and so along Ikeneld street unto the further side of a close called Gorsty Leasowe and leaving the hedge on the left hand taking in that close going along by that hedge leading to Hare house Ground and so along that hedge unto the top of Dean’s Slade taking in all Hare house Ground northward enter into Park field leaving the hedge on the right hand and so following that hedge unto a little lane at Aldershawe that comes down that lane to the gate and through the gate then turn upon the left hand by Aldershawe Hedge taking in the barn and so go into the Wheat Close leaving the hedge on the left hand unto the road called the Fosse way up to the top of Mickle hill then crossing over Pipe green along an old decayed cart way into a lane end that leads to Pipe grange lane to the further side of Padwell’s and so taking in Padwell’s leaving the hedge on the left hand to a little lane that leadeth into Ashfield leaving the hedge on the left hand into the grounds called Lammas Grounds and leaving the hedge on the left hand and so into Lemondsley then following the brook to Pipe green gate and so along the brook in Pipe green into a little lane that butteth upon the lane that leadeth from Lichfield to Pipe and crossing that lane into Smithfield at the corner of Abnell Hedge and so taking in all Smithfield leaving Abnell Ground on the left hand unto the Cross and Hand where it began

All you need to join in is a roadworthy bike and a sense of humour. I’m not sure if we’ll be visiting God’s Croft Hedge or Hic-filius on our ride, but I do know that we’ll be stopping off at a secret location for tea and cake half way around, and finishing up in the beer garden of the George and Dragon. The traditional ride will arrive back in the city via Beacon St around 6.15pm, about the time that Beacon Park will be filling up with people and their picnic rugs, ready for the free Proms in the Park concert, organised by Lichfield District Council.

The horns are kept in the church of St Nicholas

The horns are kept in the church of St Nicholas

At eight o’clock on Monday morning (8th September), the current generation of Abbots Bromley horn dancers will collect their thousand year old reindeer antlers from St Nicholas, beginning a ten mile journey around the village and out to Blithfield Hall, before returning to the church twelve hours later. Whether the dance began as a pagan fertility ritual or is to do with hunting rights, no-one really knows but the mystery surrounding its origins is part of the tradition’s appeal.  Last year, I watched the dance as darkness fell in the village.

Horn Dance 1

This year, I’ll be spectating at Blithfield Hall at midday, along with the other commoners being kept off the lawns below the Ha-Ha, to ensure I’m back in time for our Lichfield Discovered ‘Weeping Angels’ talk that evening.

We may not have David Tennant, but we do have public historian David Moore to talk to us about the symbolism in Victorian cemeteries. We also have custard creams. The talk starts at 7pm, at St Mary’s in the Market Square, Lichfield. We don’t charge, but we do make a voluntary collection which we donate to the centre for use of the room.

Weeping Angel (c) David Moore

Weeping Angel (c) David Moore

There’s plenty more happening in the weeks to come, but for now, enjoy the weekend in Lichfield and please share any photos you take during it with us for our new Lichfield Discovered photo project ‘A Year in Lichfield‘. Email them to ayearinlichfield@yahoo.com, or share them on Twitter (@lichdiscovered) or on Facebook.

 

Advertisements

Four Legs, Two Wheels, One City

As the participants in the annual Sheriff’s ride gathered on horseback outside the Guildhall to take part in this centuries-old tradition, another group met at the Stafford Rd pinfold to begin their inaugural two wheeled alternative.

As the cyclists left, a police car arrived, heralding the arrival of the horses and their riders travelling in the opposite direction.

You can find out how they got on with the alternative ride (straight from the horse’s mouth!) by reading all about it here on the Lichwheeld blog. I prefer two feet to two wheels, but I really wished I’d have joined in as it’s such a great idea and seemed like such a lot of fun (as all the best traditions are!). There’s always next year…

Cheers to all those who keep our traditions going and to those who start new ones – this city is definitely big enough for the both of them!

A Fleeting Present

A while back I wrote about Mr J W Jackson, the ghost hunting city librarian who wrote a local history column for the Lichfield Mercury in the 1930s and 40s. Last night I found an article about ‘dear old Beacon Street’, written by Mr Jackson in November 1943, in response to a letter from one of his old school friends who emigrated to Canada in 1870, at the age of twelve. Of course, in describing the changes that have taken place in seventy years, Mr Jackson gives us a glimpse of Beacon St in both his past and his present, which is actually now our past. Before things get too wibbley wobbley timey wimey, let’s move on to a summary of the changes Mr Jackson noted in Beacon Street over the seventy years leading up to 1943.

Mr Jackson says the old pinfold still remained but was hardly, if ever, used for its original purpose – in the past it frequently containing horses, cattle or sheep caught straying on the road and penned by official pinner, Watty Bevin.  Fifty yards away from the pinfold as you walked back towards the city there used to be an old iron pump where the children used to fill up the vinegar bottles they were taking home from Hagues in Beacon St, after enjoying a couple of sips.  The Anchor Inn kept by Billy Godwin had been cleared away and the field between the Inn and Smith’s Brewery was now the residential school. The brewery itself where the children took cans to be filled with barm had been converted into a foundry.

The Fountain Inn still remained  but visitors from the Black Country no longer came to play bowls on its lawns. The Lemon Tree Inn, kept by Sam Boston was now a house, as was the old butchers shop (kept by Mr Yeomans) and the Pheasant Inn previously kept by Mr Stone is also a house.  The wall shutting off Beacon Hall had been partly taken down and was now a garage and a residence. The old fashioned grocery shop at corner of Shaw Lane, owned by Mr Hall had been sold and replaced by a much larger shop, eventually becoming an antiques shop. Whitehall and Milley’s Hospital remained as they were in 1870 but the Free Library & Museum had been built near to the site of Griffith’s Brewery. (Note: Think this was probably earlier – Free Library & Museum built 1859?)

Green house was formerly the Lemon Tree Inn

The Angel Croft was described by Mr Jackson as ‘now a hostel’. The Old Beehive Inn had also been converted into a residence as had the Wheel Inn at the corner of Wheel Lane. The windmill where Mr Jackson played as a child was no longer in use but converted to a picturesque residence. Apparently the miller came in a considerable fortune and disappeared leaving everything as it stood and nothing was heard of him again.

Beacon Gardens built 1925

Council houses known as Beacon Gardens had been built on the fields in front of the Fountain Inn. The old blacksmiths, where legend has it that a French man once took his dancing bear to be shod was still going strong.  The Feathers Inn was still licensed and the row of cottages adjoining was much the same. The Old St Chad’s Rectory garden and field had been built over, the new road known as Nether Beacon. By 1943, the wheelwrights shop on brow of Beacon Hill had long since disappeared but the Little George Inn still stood as did the George & Dragon.

Of course, we can also now compare Beacon St seventy years on from when Mr Jackson did his comparison. I took most of the photos on Sunday (before I found the article weirdly!). The old pinfold still remains, but I doubt anyone now even remembers it being used to lock up straying animals.

Beacon Street School Sanatorium

The residential school has now been converted into apartments and the site of the Foundry is now Morrison’s Supermarket. Funnily enough you can probably get barm, or something similar there once again, as I think it’s a type of yeast (as in the northern ‘Barm Cake’). The Fountain Inn is still open, and Milley’s Hospital and Whitehall are still there. The Free Library and Museum building is of course now used as the Registry Office. As we are all too aware the Angel Croft is still there, but for how much longer in its desperate state?

The blacksmiths has gone but is not altogether forgotten with road names ‘Forge Lane’ and ‘Smithy Lane’ to remind us. The Feathers Inn is still licensed but has now expanded into the row of cottages adjoining (for the record, I had a very nice jacket potato in the beer garden there on Bower Day this year). The George and Dragon, thankfully, still stands but the Little George is now a private, rather than public house. According to John Shaw’s Old Pubs of Lichfield, after WW2, the licence of the pub was transferred to the new pub on Wheel Lane, known as the Windmill. This ‘new’ pub which, wasn’t around in Mr Jackson’s time will probably not be around for much longer, as it is has been closed for some time and the site earmarked for development.

Mr Jackson’s article reminds me of the need for recording the everyday and the seemingly ordinary, as one day the present will be the past and what was once commonplace may no longer be.  I’m a big believer in using place names that reflect the history of a place, but on its own, a street sign for ‘Smithy Lane’ only tells you part of the story. Had Mr Jackson not added the story of the dancing bear’s shoes and the missing miller and his money to his reminiscences, they may well have been forgotten. “So what?” some may say, dismissing them as mere trivialities, but I disagree. I think stories matter.

Perhaps in seventy years time someone will look back at how Beacon St was in 2013. I wonder what will have changed and if we’ll have left them with any good stories?

Sources:
Lichfield Mercury archive
The Old Pubs of Lichfield, John Shaw