Curiouser & Curiouser

On my work journey between Lichfield and Stafford, I used to drive past Wolseley Bridge twice a day, twice a week for two years, always curious about the collection of buildings and machinery opposite The Wolseley Centre and always meaning to return and take a proper look. Today I finally did!

The buildings house antiques, arts and craft businesses. Most are rescued relics from the our agricultural past – barns, stables and dovecotes. The main barn, facing the road, is thought to date back to the 17th century. It was taken down from Parchfield Farm in Colwich and re-erected here in 1985 and there’s a photograph here on Staffordshire Past Track of the work being carried out.

Side view of Parchfields Barn and Dovecote

Today I was lucky enough to see the re-construction of a timber framed building taking place for myself. Willey Barn came to Wolseley from Willey Lodge, in Presteigne, Powys in 1990. By 1993 one half of the barn, a three bay cart shed, had been rebuilt at Wolseley using traditional techniques but the second half, the granary, had remained in storage until now. There are some photographs of the barn in its original location on the planning application (details below).

Other buildings on site are the Moreton Stable and Cattle Shelter, the Ranton Barns, a Dovecote and an RAC callbox. Amidst the agricultural machinery is what looks like a small mine cart with part of a track and an old petrol pump (but please correct me if I’m wrong).  I think it’s fantastic that they have been preserved and given a new lease of life here and would really like to know more about their origins.

Incredibly, the biggest curio of the day for me was not found amongst this collection but up a track leading away from the craft complex and towards the Wolseley Park Estate.   I have plumbed both the depths of the internet and my imagination but as yet can’t find an explanation for this fenced-in stone structure. Does anyone else know anything?

Structure is to right of the track

Source:

Planning application: 12/16670/FUL | Extension to provide additional exhibition area | Willey Barn Wolseley Bridges Colwich Stafford Staffordshire ST17 0XS

 

 

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Cross County

Looking for ancient crosses in Lichfield, has so far lead only to hints of their existence – a one line reference in an old book here, a placename there. Nothing concrete (or should I say stone?).  So imagine how happy I was when I visited Ilam Park yesterday and found that were two thought to date back to the 10thc standing in the churchyard with a third shaft incorporated into the church wall…..

Church of the Holy Cross, Ilam, Staffs

 

…..and imagine how much I kicked myself when I got home and found out there was yet another stone, known as ‘The Battle Stone’, located in the grounds of Ilam Hall that I had missed!

However, as a consolation, I learnt at home that this spring near to the church is thought by some to be St Bertram’s Well (although others place this on a hillside near to the village).

St Bertram’s Well?

The Shrine of St Bertram (also known as St Bertelin or maybe Beorhthelm of Stafford) is inside the church. As you might expect, there is more than one account of St Bertram’s life. The most well known version seems to be the tragic story that he was a Mercian Prince whose wife gave birth to a child in a forest. The wife and baby were killed by wolves and St Bertram became a hermit near to Ilam, It’s thought this story might be represented on the churches font, which dates back to around the 12thc.

You can decide for yourself, if you look at this website on Romanesque sculpture, which gives a detailed description of the font, together with photos.

However, Stafford Borough Council have this version on their website, which doesn’t feature the tragic part of the legend.

The legend of St Bertelin derives from the 14th century account of him by Capgrave in his ‘Nova Legenda Anglie’, retold by Dr Robert Plot in his ‘Natural History of Staffordshire’ (1686). He is reputed to have been the son of the Mercian prince, the friend and disciple of St Guthlac who, after St Guthlac’s death c 700, continued his holy vocation on the islet of Betheney now Stafford. Here, he remained until forced to retreat from the ill-will of jealous detractors, when he repaired to Ilam, in Dovedale, Derbyshire where ultimately he died. His burial place in Ilam church was once a place of pilgrimage.

His burial place still seems to be a place where people come, not just seeking out history like me, but for spiritual reasons. As you can see from the photo of the shrine, prayers (I didn’t read them) and candles are still left there.

I have found a copy of the ‘Nova Legenda Anglie’, but as my Latin only stretched to ‘Caecilius est pater’, I need a bit of time alone with google translate.  So, I’ll leave the legend of St Bertram/Bertelin there for now other than to say that it’s believed that the remains of St Bertelin’s chapel in Stafford were excavated in the 1950s and they discovered part of a 1,000 year old cross. And this one is made of wood!

Ilam, Stafford and I’ve seen references to existing crosses in Wolverhampton, Leek, Chebsey (between Eccleshall & Stafford), amongst other places. With the discovery of the ‘Battlestone’ in Ilam (the one that I missed!) in the foundations of a cottage, during a restoration in 1840, I’m still clinging to the hope that at least a fragment of one survives somewhere in Lichfield!

Sources:

http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/gateway/

http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/ (Entry numbers 1038113, 1012654, 1012653,

Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain & Island http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/index.html

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/705619

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/ (St Bertram’s Well http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=14731)

http://www.staffordbc.gov.uk/in-touch-with-the-past