Lichfield

LICHFIELD, a city and county of itself, and the head of a union, in the S. division of the county of Stafford, 16½ miles (S. E. by E.) from Stafford, and 118 (N. W. by N.) from London; containing 6761 inhabitants. This place, called by Bede Licidfeld, and by Ingulphus and Henry of Huntingdon Lichfeld, both implying "the field of the dead," is supposed to have derived its name from the martyrdom of more than 1000 Christians, who are said to have been massacred here in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian: an allusion to this event appears in the corporation seal of the city; and a spot within its precincts, in which they are said to have been interred, still retains the appellation of the Christian field. During the heptarchy, it appears to have been patronised by the kings of Mercia, of whom Peada, son-in-law of Osweo, King of Northumbria, having been converted by the preaching of Cedd, a hermit who had a cell near the site of St. Chad's church, is said to have erected the first Christian church here in honour of that recluse, who had been assiduous in his efforts to convert the Mercians to Christianity, and afterwards became their bishop. In the reign of Offa, this see not only obtained the precedence of all the Mercian bishoprics, but through the interest of Offa with Pope Adrian, was made the arcbiepiscopal see, and invested with the greater part of the jurisdiction of Canterbury. Eadwulph was appointed archbishop of Lichfield in 789, and had for his suffragans the Bishops of Worcester, Hereford, Leicester, Sidnacester, Elmham, and Dunwich; but in 803, Leo succeeding to the pontificate, restored the primacy to Canterbury, and Eadulph, stripped of his supremacy, died in 812.

At the time of the Conquest, Lichfield, notwithstanding the distinction it had enjoyed under the Saxon kings, was but an inconsiderable place; and in 1075, when the conncil decreed that sees should no longer remain in obscure towns, Peter, Bishop of Licidfeld, transferred his see to Chester. It continued there till it was removed by his successor, Robert de Limsey, to Coventry, whence it was restored to Lichfield in 1148 by Roger de Clinton, who began the church, and fortified the castle. At what time, or by whom, the castle was originally built, has not been clearly ascertained; it is asserted upon very good authority, that Richard II., after his deposition from the throne, was detained here as a prisoner, on his route to the Tower of London: no vestiges of the building remain. During the parliamentary war, Lichfield embraced the royal cause; and Charles I., after the battle of Naseby, slept for one night in the Cathedral Close. In 1643, Sir Richard Dyott, with some of the principal gentlemen of the county, under the command of the Earl of Chesterfield, fortified this part of the town against the republican forces under Lord Brooke and Sir John Gell, the former of whom, having stationed himself in the porch of an adjoining house, was shot by a member of the Dyott family, from the battlements of the cathedral. The attack being continued by Sir John Gell, the garrison surrendered on honourable terms, and the parliamentarians retired, leaving a body of troops, who, in the following month, were repulsed by Prince Rupert: the royalists kept possession of the town till its final surrender to the parliament. During these conflicts the cathedral suffered material injury; its rich sculptures were destroyed, it was converted into stables by the parliamentarian troops, and in 1651 it was set on fire, and, by order of parliament, left to neglect and decay.

The city is built in a pleasant and fertile vale, within two miles of the Roman station Etocetum, and about the same distance from Offlow Mount, another station at Swinfen. The houses in the principal thoroughfares are handsome and commodious; the streets in general are well paved, and the town is well lighted, and amply supplied with water. Certain property, called the Conduit lands, was granted in 1546 to trustees, by the brethren of the guild of the Blessed Mary, Lichfield, "for the common wealth of the city and town," and for keeping in repair the conduit pipes and pumps, providing fire-engines, and defraying other charges incidental to supplying the city with water from the springs at Aldershaw, which are about one mile and a half distant: the property consists of about 340 acres of land, and produces nearly £600 per annum. In the environs are numerous elegant seats and villas. A mechanics institute was established a few years since, and is held in a room of the guildhall; the Rev. J. T. Law, the president, has endowed it with books and natural curiosities, and also contributes liberally towards its support. A permanent library is maintained by subscription, and there is also a newsroom. A small theatre, in which Mrs. Siddons made her first appearance after her marriage, is open during the races, and occasionally at other times. The races take place in September, when a queen's plate of 100 guineas is run for on the first day; the course is on the road to Tamworth, about two miles from the city.

Lichfield is not a place of much trade; there are extensive coach and harness manufactories. The Wyrley and Essington canal runs within a quarter of a mile, and joins the Fazeley and Birmingham line about three miles distant. The Trent-Valley railway, opened in 1847, runs by the town: an act was passed in 1846, for a railway from Lichfield to Birmingham; and another act was obtained in the same year, for a railway to Walsall. The market is on Friday, and there are cattle-markets on the first Monday in every month, for cattle, sheep, bacon, and cheese; the charter fairs are on Shrove-Tuesday and Ash-Wednesday, and others are held on the 10th of January, and the first Tuesday in November. The market-house is a commodious building, occupying the site of the ancient market-cross; in the market-place is a colossal statue in stone of Dr. Johnson, erected in 1838, by the Rev. J. T. Law.

The city was anciently governed by a guild, at the head of which were a master and four wardens, assisted by a council of twenty-four brethren. This guild, established in 1387, was dissolved in the 2nd of Edward VI., who granted to the inhabitants a charter of incorporation, which was confirmed and enlarged by Mary and by Elizabeth, the former of whom erected the city into a county of itself. Subsequent charters were conferred by James I. in 1623, and Charles II., in the 16th of his reign, under the latter of which the corporation consisted of two bailiffs and twenty-one brethren, assisted by a recorder, steward, town-clerk and coroner, sheriff, and two serjeants-at-mace. The government is now vested in a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors, under the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76: the city is divided into two wards, the municipal and parliamentary boundaries being co-extensive; a sheriff is appointed by the council, and the number of magistrates is seven. Two chief constables are chosen by a jury of burgage tenants, at their court leet on St. George's day; and several petty constables at the great portmote court on the 22nd of July. The freedom is inherited by the eldest sons of freemen, and acquired by servitude in one of the seven trading companies of the Cordwainers, Smiths, Saddlers, Bakers, Weavers, Tailors, and Butchers. The city first exercised the elective franchise in the 33rd of Edward I., and continued to make regular returns till the 27th of Edward III., from which period it ceased till the time of its incorporation by Edward VI., who restored the privilege; two members are sent to parliament, and the sheriff is the returning officer. The recorder holds quarterly courts of session, and also a court of record weekly for the recovery of debts to any amount above 40s.; the justices preside at a petty-session weekly. The powers of the county debt-court of Lichfield, established in 1847, extend over part of the registration-district of Lichfield. The guildhall is a neat edifice of stone, ornamented with a pediment in front, in the tympanum of which are the city arms; the hall is spacious, and well adapted to the purposes of the several courts, and underneath is the common gaol for the city. Formerly an annual fête, called the Court of Array, took place on Whit-Monday in the guildhall, whence it was immediately adjourned to an eminence named Greenhill, where a temporary bower was erected; the expense was defrayed by the corporation. This ceremony is supposed by some to have been instituted by King Osweo, to commemorate a victory obtained by him over Penda; but others, with more probability, ascribe it to an act passed originally in the reign of Henry II., ordaining the high constable in each town frequently to inspect the arms of the inhabitants. It is still kept up with some difference, but the expense is now defrayed by subscription. The town is the place of election for the southern division of the county.

Lichfield was at an early period a see jointly with Coventry, and, after the demolition of the abbey buildings at Coventry, became in reality, though not in name, the sole seat of the diocese. Within the last few years, Coventry has been transferred to the diocese of Worcester; the jurisdiction now extends over the counties of Derby and Stafford, and a considerable part of the county of Salop. The ecclesiastical establishment consists of a bishop, dean, precentor, chancellor, the archdeacons of Salop, Stafford, and Derby, a number of canons residentiary and non-residentiary, five minor canons, and other officers. The bishop is now styled Bishop of Lichfield, and has the patronage of the archdeaconries, the chancellorship, and the canonries; the Dean and Chapter have the patronage of the minor canonries. The minor canons form a corporation of twelve members, including an organist and six choristers. The Cathedral, which had been reduced during the parliamentary war to a state of extreme dilapidation, was restored by Dr. Hacket, on his preferment to the see of Lichfield and Coventry in 1661, to its original state of splendour and magnificence: various improvements have subsequently been made; and the choir has been greatly enlarged, under the superintendence of Mr. Wyatt, by the removal of the screen in front of the Lady chapel. The prevailing character of the edifice is the early English, approaching very nearly to the decorated style. The west front is magnificently rich, and the spires of the western towers are in beautiful combination with the lofty central spire; the east end is hexagonal, and the whole exterior is highly ornamented in various parts with statuary and sculpture of exquisite design and elaborate execution. The interior presents various styles, with several later insertions. The transepts display considerable portions in the Norman character, and the choir, which deviates from the line of the nave, is in the decorated English style: it is richly ornamented, and lighted by windows of beautiful tracery; the bishop's throne, and the prebendal stalls, are fine specimens of tabernacle-work. St. Mary's chapel, built by Bishop Langton, is an edifice of elegant design, with nine lofty windows, of which the three at the east end are more rich in their tracery, and are ornamented with stained glass brought by Sir Brooke Boothby from the dissolved abbey of Herckenrode, in the bishopric of Liege; in the central window on one side is a painting of the Resurrection, by Egginton, from a design by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In this chapel was the shrine of St. Chad, which was demolished at the Dissolution. Among the monuments in the cathedral that escaped the ravages of the parliamentary troops are those of Bishops Langton and Pattishull. There are, also, a monument to Dr. Johnson; a bust of Garrick; a mutilated statue of Captain Stanley; and a monument by Chantrey, to the memory of the infant children of Mrs. Robinson, which is unrivalled for beauty of design, intensity of feeling, and force of expression. A passage from the north aisle leads to the chapter-house, a decagonal building of great elegance, whose finely-vaulted roof is supported on a clustered central column. Above it is the library, instituted by Dean Heywood, in which are the Gospels of St. Chad, a Koran taken at the siege of Buda, and a folio edition of Chaucer, richly illuminated. The bishop's palace, on the north-east side of the Close, is a spacious edifice.

The city comprises the parish of St. Mary, containing 2634 inhabitants; part of that of St. Chad, containing 2036; and part of that of St. Michael, containing 1887; also the liberty of the Cathedral Close, which is extraparochial, with 190 inhabitants. The living of St. Mary's is a discharged vicarage, with the living of Statfold annexed, valued in the king's books at £10; net income, £458; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter. The church is a modern edifice, erected on the site of an ancient structure described by Leland as "right beautiful." The whole parish of St. Chad, including the villages of Elmhurst and Curborough, comprises by measurement 2488 acres; the rural portion of it is in general land of good quality, and in profitable cultivation. The living is a perpetual curacy; patron, the Vicar of St. Mary's; net income, £179. The church, by far the oldest in Lichfield, was rebuilt on the site of an ancient one erected by Bishop Headda, in honour of St. Chad, and near his hermitage. The parish of St. Michael comprises by computation 10,400 acres, of which by far the greater portion is arable; about 2000 acres are common, a part of which has been recently inclosed, and the remainder, with the exception of a little woodland, is meadow and pasture. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar of St. Mary's, with a net income of £154; appropriators, the Dean and Chapter. The church is situated on an eminence called Greenhill; the nave and aisles were admirably restored in 1842-3, and now afford exquisite specimens of the decorated and later styles of architecture: it contains a tablet with an inscription by Dr. Johnson, to the memory of his parents. The churchyard comprises upwards of seven acres, and is the principal cemetery of the city. At Burntwood and Wall, in this parish, are chapels, both erected by subscription; and a district chapel has just been built at Leamonsley, also in St. Michael's parish. There are places of worship in Lichfield for Independents, Wesleyans, and Kilhamites, and Roman Catholics. The free grammar school appears, from a small endowment payable out of the exchequer, to have been founded by Edward VI.; the school-house was erected in 1692, at the joint expense of the corporation and the feoffees of the Conduit Lands. The master receives from the feoffees £35 per annum, and the usher £10 from funds devised by Henry Beane, in 1546, for this and other purposes; the premises are also kept in repair by the feoffees. An English free school was founded in 1677, by Thomas Minors, who endowed it with a messuage for the school-house, and rents amounting to about £30 per annum; Andrew Newton, Esq., in 1801 bequeathed in aid of this charity the reversion of the dividends on £3333. 6. 8. three per cent. consols., and the annual income is now upwards of £135. A diocesan training establishment for schoolmasters was founded in 1838.

St. John's hospital was founded in the reign of Henry III., by one of the bishops of the diocese; and in 1252, Randulph de Lacock, canon of Lichfield, endowed it with lands at Elmhurst and Stichbrook, for the maintenance of a priest, and the support of the poor and infirm. It was visited by the bishops of Lichfield for many years, but fell into neglect and decay, from which it was retrieved by Bishop Smyth, who was translated to the see in the reign of Henry VII.; that prelate rebuilt the premises in 1495, and formed the statutes by which it is at present governed. There are thirteen almshouses, apartments for the master and other officers, and a chapel: the last was enlarged in 1829, by the erection of a gallery and north wing, at the expense of the master of the hospital, and an organ was purchased by subscription; there is now a numerous and respectable congregation. An hospital for women was founded in 1424, by Bishop Hayworth, and endowed in 1504 by Thomas Milley, one of the canons residentiary, with lands now producing, with subsequent benefactions, an income of about £380, for the maintenance of fifteen aged women and a few out-pensioners. An institution for the benefit of widows or unmarried daughters of clergymen of the Church of England in the diocese, was founded by the above-named Mr. Newton, who endowed it with £43,333 consols., the dividends on which, amounting to £1238. 13., are chiefly distributed in pensions of £50 each, among 20 individuals, who must be upwards of 50 years of age: the buildings of the institution, situated in the Close, contain apartments for that number of persons. There are also donations and bequests, amounting to £1000 per annum, for distribution among the poor generally. The union of Lichfield comprises 29 parishes or places, with a population of 24,127.

Among the monastic establishments was a convent of Grey friars, founded in 1229, by Alexander, Bishop of Lichfield; it was burnt down in 1291, and, being rebuilt, subsisted till the Dissolution: the remains are now let on lease, and the rents appropriated to charitable uses. Several relics of antiquity are preserved in Mr. Green's museum, among which is a wooden lintel or doorway, pierced by the ball which killed Lord Brooke, the parliamentary officer, during the siege of the cathedral. There is a chalybeate spring; and some good specimens of agate, in a state of decomposition, are found in the vicinity, where a fine sort of clay for pottery is also met with. Elias Ashmole, the antiquary, and founder of the Ashmolean museum at Oxford; Dr. George Smalridge, and Dr. Thomas Newton, both distinguished as theological writers; and the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, were natives of this place: among the residents were Garrick, Dr. Darwin, author of The Botanic Garden, and his ingenious biographer, Miss Seward. Lichfield gives the title of Earl to the family of Anson, created in 1831.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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