Sign of the Times

On Facebook, another member of the Lichfield Discovered group posted a photograph of a shop sign that had been hiding underneath a Connells Estate Agents sign on Bore Street.

What other old signs lurk beneath the plastic facades?

What other old signs lurk beneath plastic facades?

I started to do a bit of reading about the use of signs and lettering on buildings and came across an article in the Independent, which features a self confessed font geek called Anthony Harrington. “Typefaces work well as little milestones,” he says. “They anchor a building to a time and a function, whether it’s commercial or social, and this is a heritage worth preserving”. There’s also a map and an app which aims, ‘to photographically record publicly available lettering and type throughout the capital’.

It’s an interesting idea and so I had a wander around to see what other examples I could find in the Lichfield. In October 1953, the School of Art principal Miss EM Flint declared that city was remarkably deficient in the provision of well-rendered signs and notices. Is this still true sixty years later? Anymore good examples out there?

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You have to include a sign that has letters with eyebrows

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Business Study

I spent the morning with Dave and Angie Gallagher, who are doing a brilliant job of taking the ever growing collection of old photographs out and about into the city, encouraging people to share their stories and memories about Lichfield. I had a great time listening to people reminisce about how Lichfield used to be in days gone by and it’s put me well and truly in the mood to share more of Mr JW Jackson’s memories of the city’s shops and trades back when he was a young boy in the 1870s.

For obvious reasons, I thought this shop, now a bookies, might be Mr Welch’s fish and poultry shop?

Mr Jackson’s article begins with Sedgewick’s fried fish shop in Tamworth St, selling oysters, cockles, mussels, periwinkles, shrimps, bloaters and kippers. He also recalls H Welch’s fishmonger and poulterer’s business opening some years later on Tamworth St (Mr Jackson’s article was written in 1945 and he mentions that at that time Welch’s shop had been rebuilt as a ladies’ hair dressing saloon). Another fish shop was owned by James Clarke on Sandford St, and Mr Jackson recalls Mr Clarke with a ‘large, deep, circular basket suspended with a strap round his neck, filled with fried fish or oysters, shrimps and shellfish or at other times nuts and oranges, of which he found a ready sale in the public houses’. In his spare time, Mr Clarke was a groundsman and umpire for the Cricket Club on the Birmingham Rd.

The corner of Beacon St and Shaw Lane

Mr Jackson says that there were a large number of greengrocers in Lichfield, including Elkingston’s in Tamworth St (Wigham’s in 1945) and Tanner’s in Bird St (Perks’ Store in 1945). Adjoining Moss’s Entry on Bird St was Mr Walker’s grocery shop, and further down the road near to the King’s Head was Mr James’s grocers. On the corner of Shaw Lane and Beacon St was another grocers, a step below the pavement and old fashioned in appearance. Originally owned by Mr Hall, it was taken over by a Mr Warmington who rebuilt the old shop and added a bakery. Also on Beacon Street was Mrs Hague’s shop which apparently sold everything from ‘a needle to a sack of flour, including bread, sweets, etc’. The grocery business of old Dan Millington on Stowe Street, was particularly memorable due to the many tallow candles suspended from the ceiling.

Moss’s Entry, leading to Friars Alley is now between Green T and Lichfield Kebab shop.

Apparently, back in the 1870s, few people in Lichfield bought ready made shoes, preferring made to order footwear from places like Heath’s in Conduit St and Playfer’s in Market St (1). Mr Jackson remembers being measured for his own boots by Mr Brockhouse of Beacon St,  who lived in a small cottage opposite St Chad’s Rectory. Mr Hodges at the bottom of Beacon Hill (near Gaia Lane) had a shop which did ‘a large better class trade in boots and shoes made by himself on the premises’. Mr Jackson says there were also many cobblers who concentrated on repairs, including Tommy Lyons who lived in a small cottage in Gaia Lane and was described as a very religious man who could often be seen making his way to a meeting with his old well worn Bible.

I’m thinking we should all take a leaf out of Mr Jackson’s book and document our surroundings. This morning showed that the places we live and work in are continually evolving and it’s not until we stop and look back that we realise how much has changed (for better or for worse, depending on your point of view……).

Notes:

I found a photo of a shop called ‘Shakeshaft and Playfer’ on Market St, Lichfield thought to be from the 1860s on Staffs Past Track here. Is this the same Playfer? After zooming in it seems to be a men’s accessories shop – I can see ties and what look like straw boaters in the window! Also after zooming in, you can see the faces of three young people at the window, looking out onto the funeral procession below. I wonder whose funeral it was? Edit: Later, I found that Shakeshaft and Playfer were also undertakers, and arranged the 1894 funeral of George Fox of Elmhurst Hall amongst others, which would explain the photograph!

Sources:

Old Lichfield Trades and Tradesmen, J W Jackson, Lichfield Mercury, April 6th 1945

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

Trading Places

In June 1945, local historican Mr Jackson contributed an article to the Lichfield Mercury in which he shared his memories of the shops and businesses that surrounded him as a young boy growing up in the city during the 1870s. I’ve summarised the article below so settle yourself down with a bottle of herb beer and a bag of toffee nobs and have a read!

In Breadmarket St, Mr Bartlam had a tinsmith business and Mr Marshall ran a dairy in the premises next to the old watchmakers and jewellers owned by Mr Corfield. Mr Corfield’s shop burnt down in 1872 – a tragedy that resulted in the entire Corfield family losing their lives (1). In 1872 there were three breweries – Griffith’s, the Lichfield Brewery Co. and Smith’s on Beacon St (the City Brewery and the Trent Valley Brewery came later). Mounsden and Sons was a wine and spirit business, according to Mr Jackson, one of the oldest in the city. There was Mr Nicholls, a photographer who also had a fancy goods shop on the site of what was to become the Regal Cinema (but has since been the Kwik Save and a nightclub, with plans to turn it back into the Regal Cinema again!).

Regal Cinema Lichfield. Late 1960s? Taken from Gareth Thomas’s Pinterest site http://pinterest.com/FieldOfTheDead/old-photos-lichfield/

A little shop in Tamworth St was kept by the Misses Wilcox who sold fancy goods and toys. Mr Jackson remembers that the shop was well below the pavement (why would this be?) and stocked everything from pins to rocking horses! He recalls buying yards of elastic for making catapults, along with marbles, tops and hoops.

Mr Young, a whitesmith, lived in the old Frog Lane School House and his workshop was in the same street. There were several ironmongers including Mr Crosskey on Market St, Sheriff of Lichfield in 1863 and Mayor in 1868. Next to the old Victoria Nursing Home at 15 Sandford St was Mr Tricklebank’s tin-ware business.

On Market St, was Mr Caldwell’s hardware business (Frisby’s Boot and Shoe store in 1945).  Over on Church St, Mr Platt made rope, twine and string (Mr Jackson believes he was the only one in the district at the time) and C W Bailey had an agricultural implement depot.  Blacksmiths were in demand – Gallimore on Lombard St, Mr Salt on Sandford St, Mr Sandland on Beacon St (later taken over by Mr Goodwin who, as you may remember from a previous post featuring Mr Jackson’s memories of Beacon St, was said to have shod a dancing bear).  Apparently, the smithy on Beacon St was the oldest in the city, dating back to the mid 1800s.

I believe that this building on Lombard St was once a blacksmith’s forge.

Wheel wrights producing traps, carts and wagons and well as the wheels to put on them could be found on Church St (Mr Davis) and Beacon Hill (Mr Horton).

This advert for John Simms shows that at some point the business moved to Church St. Image taken from Gareth Thomas’s http://pinterest.com/FieldOfTheDead/

John Simms had his mineral water works on Stowe St opposite St Chad’s School, and Mr Jackson remembers that when he was a pupil at this school in 1869, nearly every other cottage in Stowe St sold bottles of home made herb beer during the summer (was this actual proper beer or more like the ginger beer of Enid Blyton books?). Perhaps of even more interest for the little ones were the sweet shops – ‘Suckey’ Blakeman and ‘Suckey’ Perry in Market St and Mr Giles on Gresley Row with his ‘super’ toffee nobs.  When Mr Jackson moved up to the Minors School on the corner of St John St and Bore St, he recalls taking it in turns with his fellow students to fetch not just mere ‘super’ but ‘luxury’ toffee nobs from Miss Hicken’s (and later Miss Hobby’s) shop in St John St opposite the back entrance to the school.

Cities are constantly changing places. Even though my Lichfield memories only stretch back as far as the beginning of the 21st century (with the exception of one family day trip to Beacon Park in the 1980s) a lot has changed even in that short space of time with shops and businesses coming and, as is all too often the case these days, going. Just last week the Greenhill Chippy shut. A couple of years ago my friend and I were heading to the Duke of York when we got talking to a man who was passing through Lichfield on a long journey he was undertaking on foot. He didn’t explain why, and for some reason it didn’t seem right to ask him. He hadn’t any money and didn’t ask for any, but did accept a portion of chips from the Greenhill fish shop. I often think of him, and what his story may have been when passing by there. Anyway, my point is that places have memories attached to them and I think it’s important to record them, just as Mr Jackson did. There’s some great stuff being shared on the Lichfield Facebook group and some wonderful old photos on Gareth Thomas’s blog. For a much more in depth look at the shops and businesses of Lichfield, I know that there is a great book “Trades of a City: Lichfield Shops and Residents from 1850” by JP Gallagher, (although having only borrowed copies, if anyone can point me in the direction of where to purchase my own, I’d be grateful!). I think it would be brilliant to do some walks where instead of being led by a guide, people have a stroll around the streets together sharing memories and stories with each other. Until then, if anyone can identify any of the locations in Mr Jackson’s reminisces please let me know!

(1) This is a sad but interesting story in itself and I will cover it in a separate post.

Source: Lichfield Mercury 8th June 1945

Land of the Faroes

We’re really lucky to have a good range of independent shops and businesses, both in the centre of Lichfield, and in the surrounding area and it’s great to hear that another unique shop is opening next week.

Opening on Tuesday 3rd July, at the Heart of the Country shopping village at Swinfen, Faroe Born will be selling 100% Faroese wool clothing, accessories, yarn and more. All Faroe Born garments are machine-knitted or woven and then fulled according to traditional methods. This procedure ensures that the garment is wind and water resistant while it maintains its soft and warm texture. With the ‘summer’ we’re having, that sounds incredibly appealing! The shop will also be selling a range of cutlery and tableware. The shop belongs to Ian, a great supporter of this blog and all things Lichfield!

As if all that wasn’t enough, they also have one of the cutest logos around. Meet Sirri the Sheep!

 

Shopping Daze

Dam St is one of the most wonderful places in Lichfield, offering a winning combination of varied architecture, independent shops, duck feeding and ice-cream on route to the Cathedral. 

Three small signs above the shops at the Market Square end may well go unnoticed. They say ‘J Dean Putney Maker’ and have little hooks on them. A quick google search leads to the website of ‘Deans Blinds & Awnings’ established 1894 and tells how the company was started by a policeman’s son called Tom Dean, and was taken over by his brother John. It seems John Dean and subsequent generations of his family were involved in the ownership of Fulham FC as well as manufacturing blinds and awnings.

 

J Dean Putney

 

The listed buildings describes them as ‘late C19 shop fronts with bracketed cornice and canvas canopies’. Another look at these buildings and you can also see the chains attached to these awnings, which presumably must still be there, tucked away from sight. I wonder when they were rolled shut for the last time? What kind of shop was this when these canopies were added? There was a drapers & silk merchants in this area of Dam St in 1914, could this have been it?

J Dean 2 with Metal erm thing

On the second photo, there is also a metal….thing. I first came across these in Tamworth, where nearly every shop seems to have one albeit slightly newer looking.

Tamworth version of 'the metal thing'. They have lots of interesting things on buildings in Tamworth including mermaids.

Someone got in touch on flickr and suggested they were holders for flags or Christmas trees. I was in Bakewell in Derbyshire last week where they seem to be using them for the latter, as you can see here in the Matlock Mercury. Looks pretty, doesn’t it! I’m guessing the Dam St one was a flag holder but am more than happy to be proved wrong by memory or photographic evidence or just a convincing argument as to what else it might be 😉

You can also have a look at the Street View here, perhaps whilst eating a mincepie by a roaring fire (although it is out of date, as The Staffs Bookshop is now Realwoods).

Last weekend someone spotted something else interesting high up on another building in the city centre. I’m not saying anymore, as I’m hoping that they might consider doing something on this themselves. No matter how well you think you know your surroundings, there are always still things to discover. So whilst out and about shopping in the 8 (is that all!) shopping days left until Christmas try looking at Lichfield from a different angle. Who knows what you might notice…..

Edit 23/12/2011

Pat’s been on googlemaps and has spotted not only a whole load of these brackets on Tamworth St but also one actually in use outside the Scales! So I think that definitely answers this little Lichfield mystery!

Heads Up

First it was the Burton’s foundation stones, then the cockerels and now two heads above Oxfam on Market St. Have I been walking around Lichfield with my eyes closed for the last 7 years?

I have discovered from the listed building description that the correct term is corbel heads. I’ve taken a close up of each of them.

Corbel head on left, looking at building

 

Corbel Head , on right looking at building

Information on these heads is pretty thin on the ground. The listed building description tells us that the building is late C16th, does this mean that the heads date back to this period too? I’m not quite sure whether the one on the right is supposed to be sad or asleep (or as someone on twitter suggested ‘three sheets to the wind’).  Do they represent some sort of  old joke or story or moral? The building was a pub from at least 1793 (first record) until it closed in 1962.

There is a photo of The Castle on the Staffs Pastrack website, taken in the early part of the C20th. One peculiar thing, although this might just be me, is that the head on the right doesn’t look the same.  I think on the old photo it looks like he has a beard but he looks like he’s had a shave since! On the subject of the old photo, what is that circular object between the pub windows, beneath the lamp? The thing that looks a bit like an anachronistic satellite dish.

It’s just occured to me as I’m typing this that I could pop in & ask in the Oxfam shop if anyone knows anything. Of course, if there are any corbel head experts out there,  please let me know your thoughts!

Sources:
Information on The Castle, taken from ‘The Old Pubs of Lichfield’ by John Shaw