Wolverhampton Wandering

I had to pop into Wolverhampton today. I knew from my search for an ancient cross in Lichfield a couple of years back that there was a Saxon cross shaft here and went to find it.  Unlike the Lichfield cross, I didn’t have to try too hard – it’s huge! Its size, and also the fact that it is made from sandstone not found in Wolverhampton, has led some archaeology types to suggest that it is probably a reused Roman column, possibly from Wroxeter or even just up the road in Wall.

Saxon Cross Shaft, WolverhamptonThe elements and pollution have not treated the shaft kindly but its still clear that this was an incredible piece of craftmanship – the Black Country History website describes it as, ‘one of the finest cross shafts in the Midlands’. The carvings of acanthus leaves which decorate the shaft alongside those of birds and beasts have given archaeologists some problems when trying to establish a date as they suggest different periods. The plaque accompanying the shaft in the churchyard has decided to go with the earlier date of the ninth century, whilst others believe late tenth century is more accurate.

Cross Shaft Wolverhampton

On the way out of the churchyard I noticed another stone with a good back story. Known as the Bargain Stone, its said to be where the good (and probably not so good) folk of Wolverhampton would agree sales and make deals by shaking hands through the hole. The nearby plaque suggests it is an old gargoyle and the hole is what remains of its mouth.

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Talking of hands, why didn’t it occur to me to put my hands over the railings to take a better photo?

As if ancient crosses and stones weren’t enough of a treat, we also found Holden’s Brewery’s Great Western near to the train station. This is a proper pub – cobs on the bar, Holden’s Golden Glow (amongst other delights) on tap and really friendly staff. Although we were tempted to sit outside in the sun, the interior was so quirky and there was such a nice atmosphere, we sat inside.

Great Western

Wished I’d got the train. Definitely not driving next time.

The Great Western

The great Great Western

We walked off our pork baps with a little bit of a wander around the city streets. This building caught my eye, not only because it has no floors, meaning you can see down into the cellar, but also because of the handwritten sign someone had stuck to the window.

SAM_0045SAM_0046I’m not sure a traffic warden would be the person I’d turn to in a trapped bird scenario but maybe they do things differently in Wolverhampton.

Another perplexing sign is the one suggesting that the half timbered building on the junction of Victoria St and St John’s Lane was built in AD1300. It wasn’t and no-one knows the reason behind the claim – the best suggestions anyone has seems to be that it was some kind of joke to emphasise that it was a really, really old building! It more likely dates back to the seventeenth century when it was once an inn known as The Hand. These days its home to Wolverhampton Books & Collectables, where you can buy anything from an ancient tome on the history of Staffordshire to a souvenir 1950s Wolverhampton Wanderers hankerchief (which you may, or may not, wish to blow your nose on, depending on your allegiances…).

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We took the scenic route back to Lichfield (not through choice but because I went the wrong way on the ring road), passing through Wednesfield, Sneyd, the intriguingly named New Invention and Brownhills before stopping off at Waitrose for a couple bottles of Golden Glow.

Sources:

http://blackcountryhistory.org/collections/getrecord/WOHER_MBL337/

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/listed/lindylou.htm

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Holy Stones

Although St Peter’s Church at Elford was largely rebuilt in the nineteenth century, it is famous for its medieval monuments.  The most well known is the ‘Stanley Boy’, said to depict young John Stanley, last of the male line, holding a tennis ball in his left hand, and pointing to the place where it fatally hit him with his right. On face value, it’s a great story, but the fact that it has been cast into doubt by some makes it even more interesting in my opinion. Nikolaus Pevsner and an article called ‘The so-called Stanley boy monument at Elford’ by Sophie Oosterwijk for the Church Monument Society date the monument as thirteenth century whereas, according to the story, John Stanley died in around 1460. It has been suggested that at some point the effigy may have been modified to add weight to the local legend. It’s a nice reminder that when it comes to history, you can’t even trust what’s carved into stone. There’s a drawing of the effigy from the eighteenth century here on Staffordshire Past Track.

Unfortunately, on my recent visit, I didn’t manage to see the Stanley Boy (or whoever it may be!) close up. The wooden gates separating the Stanley Chapel from the rest of the church seemed to be locked and I didn’t try to hard to open them.  A lady doing her stint on the flower rota had told me that the church had suffered from a recent lead theft and I didn’t want to add to its troubles by breaking anything. Anyway, there were plenty of consolations including the beautiful Minton tiles, stained glass and another curious monument outside.

Just one of the lead pipes stolen for scrap metal, leaving the church vulnerable to water damage.

I’ve walked around my fair share of churchyards and although I’ve seen plenty of worn and weathered stones,  I can’t remember having ever seen a hole in one like this before and would be grateful for any explanations (or failing that, guesses!) for what’s happened here.