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Lichfield, Staffordshire

Historical Description

Lichfield, a city and a county of itself, a municipal borough, the head of a poor-law union and county court district, and four parishes in Staffordshire, and a diocese partly also in Salop, Warwickshire, Flintshire, Derbyshire, and Cheshire. The city stands on a small affluent of the riverTrent, on Icknield Street, near the intersection of Icknield Street with Watling Street, and near the junction of theWyrley and Coventry Canal with the Grand Trunk Canal, 9 miles NE of Walsall, 16 N by E of Birmingham, 16 SE by E of Stafford, and 118 by rail from London. It has two stations, one on the Trent Valley section of the L. & N.W.R., about 1½ mile SE of the city, and the other in the city, on the Walsall and Derby and Birmingham-Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield branches of the same railway. Its site is a fine open vale surrounded by fertile hills of moderate height and easy ascent, and the S part is. divided from the Cathedral Close by the Minster Pool, which has been converted from a swamp into a picturesque lake by the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, who use it as a reservoir. The city was surrounded by walls and marshes. Its outline is irregular, and some of the streets stretch away to a considerable distance from the main body. A ditch was at one time formed round the early precincts, but this has left no other trace than the name Castle Ditch in the E. Most of the present houses are modern. The environs have gardens, agreeable walks, and a diversity of pleasant views.

History.-Lichfield probably sprang in some way from the Roman station Etocetum, which stood at the intersection of Icknield Street and Watling Street. The name is Saxon, was anciently written Licedfeld, Licethfeld, and Lichfeld, and has been derived by some from lych, " a marsh," with allusion to the marshy character of its site-by others from lych, " a dead body" or " the dead," with allusion to the tradition that a great battle was fought on " a field " here by three kings, who slew one another on the spot now known as Borroucop Hill, from the traditional names of kings, Borrow, Cope, and Hill. Another tradition alleges that the town existed in the Roman times, that it was the scene of a slaughter of Christians during the Diocletian persecution in 286, and that it took its name of " the field of the dead " from that slaughter. It probably was no more than a small village in the time of Oswy, king of Northumbria. That monarch, about 656, having defeated and slain Penda, the heathen king of Mercia, introduced Christianity among his subjects, and made Lichfield the seat of a bishopric. Chad, a zealous ecclesiastic, afterwards canonized, was made bishop in 669, and he greatly propagated Christianity among the people and raised Lichfield to the condition of a considerable town. Offa, king of Mercia, about 790 obtained from the Pope a decree for dividing the province of Canterbury and making the see of Lichfield archiepiscopal, but after Offa's death that decree became obsolete. Lichfield did not flourish well even as a simple see, and at the time of the Norman Conquest had sunk to small importance. The bishopric, therefore, was transferred from it in 1075 to Chester, whence in 1096 it was removed to Coventry. Roger de Clinton, being appointed bishop in 1129, reconstituted the bishopric of Lichfield, and rebuilt its cathedral. The title was changed in the time of Charles II. to that of Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and since 1836 the occupant of the see has been styled simply Bishop of Lichfield. De Clinton, besides rebuilding the cathedral, founded a priory and erected a strong castle or magnificent tower, and the castle became the prison of Richard II. on his way to the Tower of London. The town had a mint in the time of Stephen; it was burnt in 1291; it was ravaged by the plague in 1593; and it was taken by the Parliamentarians in 1643, retaken by Prince Rupert, and given back to the Parliamentarians in 1646. Richard II. kept Christmas in it in 1397, two years before being a prisoner in the castle; Queen Elizabeth visited it in 1575; James I. visited it in 1624; Charles I. lodged in it three times in 1643; and the Princess Victoria visited it in 1832, and again as Queen Victoria in 1843; the Prince of Wales visited Lichfield in 1894 and inspected the Staffordshire Yeomanry. William de Lichfield a learned monk, Whytingdon a scholar, Butt and Buckeridge the theologians, Camden's father, Dr Thomas Newton, Dr Samuel Johnson, Elias Ashmole, Smallridge, Major Andre, and Dilke the dramatist were natives; Dr Erasmus Darwin, the author of "Zoonomia" and other works, but better known as the grandfather of the great naturalist Charles Darwin, lived in Lichfield, and practised as a physician; and the Boniface of Farquhar's " Beaux Stratagem " kept the George Inn in 1707. The city gives the title of Earl to the family of Anson.

The, Cathedral.-The Mercian Church at Lichfield was built by King Oswy, and the cathedral in 700 by Bishop Hedda, but neither has left any vestiges. The Norman church, as rebuilt by Bishop de Clinton, has left scarcely any remains. The present cathedral appears to date from about 1200, but includes numerous additions and restorations, from the 13th century downwards. The nave, the transepts, part of the choir and the chapter-house, are ascribed to the period between 1200 and 1250, the west font to about 1275, the Lady chapel to about 1300, and the presbytery to about 1325. According to Fuller the cathedral was completed between 1420 and 1447. Numerous portions belong to an extensive restoration, at enormous expense, during the years 1647-69; the roofs of the aisles and parts of two of the spires date from 1788 till 1795; the glass of the Lady chapel dates from 1530 till 1540, but belonged to a Flemish abbey near Liege, and was brought to Lichfield so late as 1803. In 1860 a restoration of the interior was commenced under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott; and the restoration of the west front was commenced in 1877, and completed in 1884. Further restorations are still in progress. Vast damage was done to the pile in 1643-46; the Royalists and the Parliamentarians then alternately held and used its Close as the fortalice of the city; upwards of 2000 shot and 1500 grenades were fired against it; the lead was torn from it to be cast into bullets; parts of its walls were shattered, and most of its central spire demolished; and so great was the quantity of rubbish from the result of demolition that, in order to prepare for the very costly renovation which followed, the eight carriage horses of the bishop were employed to assist in clearing the rubbish away. The cathedral is considerably smaller than the chief cathedrals of England, but is one of the most beautiful. Its site is on an eminence; its surroundings are free from cloister or precinct wall, from gate or ancient monastery; its W front is inferior only to the W fronts of Wells and Peterborough; its general architecture is of the best dates, in admirable proportions, with symmetrical arrangement, alike chaste and ornate; its three beautiful spires spring exquisitely aloft from the general mass; its very stone, of a pale rose colour, looks soft and mellow.

The entire pile is 379 feet long; the nave is 177 feet long, 66 wide, and 60 high; the choir and Lady chapel are 195 feet long; the choir is 37 feet wide; the Lady chapel is 27 feet wide; the transept is 152 feet long and 45 wide; the western spires are 183 feet high; the central spire is 258 feet high; and the chapter-house is 45 feet long, 28 wide, and 23 high. The W front has three doorways, a Decorated window of six lights, and a gable with trefoiled panels, and is flanked with two towers, surmounted by hexagonal spires. The central doorway sliows a rich combination of foliated arches, exquisitely wrought mouldings, and canopied statues. The flanking towers have hexagonal stair turrets on the sides, and' are crowned with crocketed pinnacles at the angles; and the-spires are delicately banded at intervals, and have four successive tiers of canopied spire lights. The whole of the west front was covered with statues, most of which were destroyed, but at the restoration in 1884 nearly all the niches were refilled by new stone statues. In the central gable, between the two spires, is a statue of our Lord, and below Him are-the four archangels; below is a tier of patriarchs, then two tiers of prophets, a tier of British and English kings, from Peada to Richard II., and at the base the twelve apostles. The SW tower is adorned with statues of the six bishops who wer& concerned in the building or restoration of the cathedral- Clinton, Patteshull, Langton, Hacket, Lonsdale, and Selwyn. On the NW tower are statues of St Mark and St Luke, St Helena, St Cyprian, and Queen Victoria, the latter from the studio of Princess Louise (Marchioness of Lome). The central tower rises one storey above the roof, has canopied two-light windows on each face, and is crowned with pinnacled turrets at the angles; and its spire is of the same form as the other two spires, and of similar character, but is crocketed along the sides. The nave is of eight bays, with remarkably beautiful aisles; and shows the Early English character in a distinctive manner, neither as simply as Salisbury nor as richly as Lincoln, yet more akin than either to Decorated English. The four massive piers which support the central tower have-clustered shafts, bound with three fillets. The transepts are-comparatively plain, and are not in keeping with the rest of the edifice; yet their doors are very elaborate, and have statues and other decorations such as to make them not very much inferior to the great W door.. The choir is of six baySy with aisles, and a retro-choir of two bays; shows well the Decorated English character; deflects several feet out of the line. of the nave, to emblemize the drooping head of the crucified Saviour; has a hexagonal form in the E end; and is subtended by two sacristies on the S side, and by a vestibule and the chapter-house on the N. The Lady chapel is the gem of the cathedral, and gives it a beautiful termination; has nine lofty windows, rich tracery, and graceful flowering canopies. The stained glass of the windows is said by experts to be of unequalled beauty. The chapter-house is polygonal, has a single central pier, and is richly ornamented; and the vestibule— of it is arcaded. The library is above the chapter-house; resembles it in character, but has less ornament; and contains, among other interesting matters, the manuscript of Chaucer's " Canterbury Tales," and an Irish MS. of the 8th century copy of the Gospels, familiarly known as St Chad's Gospels. Superb monuments of Lord Basset and two Lords Paget were destroyed at the time of the Civil War. The chief monuments now are-in the NW tower, one of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, by Westmacott; in the N transept, a monument of Miss-Seward's parents, by the junior Bacon; in the S transept, a bust of Dr Johnson, a monument of Dr Newton, and a memorial to the 80th Regiment, overhung by three standards taken at Sobraon; and in the choir, effigies of Bishops Langton, Patteshull, Hacket, Lonsdale, and Selwyn, Dean Howard, and Archdeacon Moore, an efiigy of Sir John Stanley of the time of Henry VIII., a cadaver of Dean Heywood, a fine altar-tomb of Archdeacon Hodson, and the famous figures of the two daughters of the Rev. W. Robinson, known as the " Sleeping Children," by Chautrey; also a statue of Bishop Ryder, one of Chantrey's latest works. An Episcopal palace is atthe NE corner of the Close, and was rebuilt by Bishop Wood in 1687, and enlarged by Bishop Selwyn in 1867. Thedeanery stands to the W of the palace in the Close, and dates from the beginning of the 18th century. The prebendal houses are in the SW and NW, and some of them include specimens of ancient brickwork.

Churches.-St Mary's Church stands on the S side of the Market Place, was opened in 1721 on the site of a very ancient church, which Leiand describes as " right beautiful." It was rebuilt in 1868 as a memorial to Bishop Lonsdale, retaining a lofty W tower erected in 1855. St Chad'sChurch stands at Stowe, a little to the E, is a small ancient structure, with a fine Early English S door and a square tower, and took its name from being on or near the site of St Chad's cell or hermitage. A spring called St Chad's Well is in its neighbourhood, under a small temple wreathed with sculptured roses, and bearing the initials of St Chad on the arch. St Michael's Church stands on Greenhill, at the SE side of the city, was erected in the time of Henry VIII., and partially rebuilt in 1644; has a fine spire, and contains a good font, an effigies of William de Wotton of the time of Edward III., and many handsome monuments. The father of Dr Johnson was buried in this church. Christ Church was built in 1847, is in the Decorated style, and has a square tower. It was enlarged in 1887 by the addition of two transepts. St John's Chapel stands in St John's Street, is annexed to St John's Hospital, but serves as a chapelof ease, and is a singular structure, with curiously formed windows and a fine open roof, it was restored in 1870. There are Roman Catholic, Congregational, Wesleyan, and Primitive Methodist chapels. A vicars' choral college was founded in 1240 by Bishop Pateshull, and a friary founded in 1229 by Bishop Stavenby was burnt in 1291 and rebuilt in 1545, and was made the headquarters of the Duke of Cumberland in 1745.

Schools and Institutions.-The grammar school, in St John Street was founded by Edward VI., and rebuilt in 1692 and 1850; is a brick edifice in the Tudor style, 60 feet long, and numbers among its pupils Dr Johnson, Bishop Newton, Bishop Smallridge, Addison, Garrick, Salt the traveller, Aslimole the antiquary, Wollaston, author of the " Religion of Nature," King the herald, Hawkins Browne, Chief Baron Lloyd, Chief Baron Parker, Chief Justice Wil-mot, Judge Noel, and James the inventor of the " fever powder." The diocesan theological college for students intending to enter holy orders is near the cathedral. The school of art in Dam Street was erected in 1882, and contains also a subscription library. The museum and free library, near the Minster Pool, erected in 1859, includes a newsroom and library, gardens, and recreation grounds. The museum contains relics of the siege of Lichfield, relics of Dr Johnson, portraits of the chief Lichfield worthies, and a collection of antiquities and objects of art. St John's Hospital, in St John's Street, was instituted in the time of Henry III. by Bishop Clinton, was rebuilt, with the exception of its chapel, in 1495, is a gloomy structure remarkable for the number and curious form of its chimneys, and gives house-roomand money allowances to thirteen old men. Dr Milley's or the Women's Hospital, in Beacon Street, was founded in 1424, rebuilt in 1504, and gives support to fifteen aged women. Andrew Newton's Almshouses, for the widows and daughters of clergymen, were founded in 1798, include twenty comfortable dwellings, forming a neat building in the Close; and afford £50 a year, with house and small garden to each of twenty persons. There is a workhouse.

Other Buildings.-The Guild-hall, in Bore Street, is a modern building and includes court-rooms, city offices, police station, and armoury for the local volunteers. The market-hall and corn exchange, in St Mary's Square, was built in 1850; is in the Tudor style, has an arcade along its entire front, leading into a spacious covered market, and includes an upper room capable of accommodating from 600 to 800 persons. An ancient cross, erected by Dean Denton, stood on the site of this edifice, comprised eight arches resting on massive pillars, and had, on two of its sides, about 5 feet from the ground, two brass crucifixes. The house in which Dr Johnson was born still stands on the W side of the marketplace. A statue of Dr Johnson, presented to the city in 1838 by the Rev. James Law, chancellor of the diocese, stands in the market-place, opposite the house; is in a sitting position, 7 feet high, and rests on a square pedestal 10 feet high, the sides of which have bas-reliefs of various incidents in the doctor's life. St James' Hall, in Bore Street, is used for concerts, &c. A parish room for meetings, &c., is in Wade Street. A drinking fountain, at the comer of the museum building, was erected in 1862, and has sculpture representing Christ and the Woman of Samaria at Jacob's WelL Both the Minster and the Stow Pools are used as reservoirs by the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, and the houses, public conduits, and Cathedral Close are well supplied with water from springs about a mile to the SW, under a trust devised by Hector Beane.

Trade, &c.-Lichfield has a head post office and three banks, is a seat of county courts and petty and quarter sessions. Two weekly newspapers are published. A weekly market is held on Friday, and a fair on Shrove Tuesday. Brewing, owing to the excellence of the water, is an important industry. Market gardening, coach building, and the manufacture of agricultural implements, are carried on. Lichfield is the headquarters of the 38th and 64th military regimental districts, and contains the depots of the South and North Staffordshire territorial regiments. The South Staffordshire Regiment consists of the old 38th and 80th Foot and the 1st (King's Own) Staffordshire Militia (forming the 3rd and 4th battalions). The North Staffordshire Regiment consists of the old 64th and 98th Foot and the 2nd (King's Own) Staffordshire Militia (forming the 3rd and 4th battalions). Both regiments have volunteer battalions attached. Lichfield is also the headquarters of the Staffordshire YRomanry Cavalry. The city was governed from 1387 till the time of Edward VI. by a guild, consisting of a master, 4 wardens, and 24 brethren; was incorporated as a borough by Edward VI., and is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. It sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. till that of Edward III.; it began to send two again in the time of Edward VI.; it was deprived of one member in 1867, and in 1885 its representation was merged in that of the county. The borough has a separate commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions, and is divided into two wards. Acreage, 3475; population, 7864.

Parishes.-The city contains four parishes, St Mary (acreage 58, population 2555); St Chad (acreage 1102, population 1934); St Michael (acreage 2136, population 3086); and The Close, formerly extra-parochial (acreage 16, population 212). The parishes of St Chad and St Michael extend also beyond the city, and include the townships of Curborough and Elm-hurst, Pipehill, Wall, Burntwood, Chasetown, Chase Terrace, Boney Hay, Hammerwich, Fisherwick, and Streethay, and the hamlet of Freeford. There are five ecclesiastical parishes, St Chad (population 1679), St Mary (2564), St Michael (2910), The Close (212), and Christchurch (constituted in 1848 from St Chad and StMichael, 1311). Burntwood, Chasetown, Hammerwich, and Wall form separate ecclesiastical parishes. The livings of St Mary, St Chad, and Christchurch are vicarages, of St Michael, a rectory-all in the diocese of Lichfield; gross value of St Mary, £430 with residence. Patron, the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield. Net value ofSt Chad£14with residence. Patron, the Vicar of St Mary. Net value of Christchurch, £170 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of Lichfield. Net value of St Michael, £234 with residence. Patron, the Vicar of St Mary.

The Diocese.-Lichfield diocese comprehends the entire county of Staffordshire, except the ecclesiastical parishes of Amblecote, part of Blackheath, Oldhill, Reddan Hill, and Rowley Regis (diocese of Worcester), and parts of Bob-bington and Tuckhill (diocese of Hereford), Bartholomew (diocese of Chester), and Croxall (Southwell), the northern portion of Salop, forming the archdeaconry of Salop, and a small portion of Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Flintshire. Population, 1,196,095. There is a suffragan bishop of Shrewsbury. The cathedral establishment includes the bishop, the dean, four canons, three archdeacons, twenty prebendaries, a chancellor, and six minor canons. The income of the bishop is £4200; of the dean, £1000; of each of the canons, £500; and of each of the archdeacons, £200. The most noted of the bishops have been Roger de Clinton, who died as a Crusader at Antioch; Gerard la Pucelle, the canonist; Pateshull and Langton, who were Lord Treasurers; Northbury, who was Lord Keeper; Close, one of the architects of King's College Chapel; Smith, the founder of Brase-nose College; Hacket, who restored the cathedral after the Restoration; Hough, who made sturdy resistance to King James at Magdalen; Hard, Earl Comwallis, Samuel Butler, Lonsdale, Selwyn, and Maclagan, afterwards Archbishop of York.

The diocese is divided into the archdeaconries of Stafford, Stoke-upon-Trent, and Salop. The archdeaconry of Stafford comprises the deaneries of Lichfield, Allstonefield, Brewood, Cheadle, Eccleshall, Handsworth, Himley, Leek, Newcastle-under-Lyne, Penkridge, Eugeley, Stafford, Tamworth, Trent-ham, Trysull, Tutbury, Uttoxeter, Walsall, and Wolverhampton. The archdeaconry of Salop comprises the deaneries of Condover, Edgmond, Ellesmere, Hodnet, Shefnal, Shrewsbury, Wem, Whitchurch, and Wrockwardine.

Lichfield Parliamentary Division of Staffordshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 52,020. The division includes the following:-Penkridge (part of)-Great Wyrley, Norton Canes; Elford-Alrewas, Alrewas Hays, Clifton Campville and Haunton, Edingale, Elford, Fisherwick, Fradley, Freeford, Fulfen, Harlaston, Haselor, Oakley-in-Croxall, Orgreave, Statfold, Streethay, Syerscote, Tamhorn, Thorpe Constantine, Whittington, Wigginton; Rugeley-Armitage-with-Handsacre, Bromley(Hayes) Bromley (King's), Colton, Curborough and Elmhurst, Hamstall Bidware, Longdon, Mavesyn Ridware, Pipe Ridware, Rugeley; Shenstone-Burntwood, Edial and Woodhouses, Canwell, Drayton Bassett, Farewell and Chorley, Fazeley, Hammerwich, Hints, Hopwas Hay, Ogley Hay, Pipehill, Shenstone, Staffordshire Moor, Swinfen and Packington, Tamworth (part of). Wall, Weeford, the site and curtilage of the public buildings of Brownhills in Norton Canes; Lichfield, municipal borough; Tamworth, municipal borough (the part in Staffordshire).

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyStaffordshire 
Poor Law unionLichfield 

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Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Lichfield from the following:

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Staffordshire is online.


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Newspapers and Periodicals

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Villages, Hamlets, &c

Woodhouses (High Offley)
RegionWest Midlands
Postal districtWS13
Post TownLichfield