It is true, I am no longer in Basingstoke, I have relocated to Staffordshire and am currently crashing in a small place called Chasetown. Just up the road from it is the city of Lichfield
, which I visited today. The name should ring a bell with any fan of cathedrals, as it has a beautiful 3 spired example.
It is also home to something I had forgotten about.
The statue of Captain EJ Smith, commander of the ill-fated RMS Titanic stands in Beacon Park. He had no connection to the city of Lichfield, and it was reportedly put there in 1914 because authorities in Stoke-on-Trent refused the statue, not wishing to be associated with the perceived disgrace.
Now belatedly Stoke-on-Trent wants their most famous citizen back. Unfortunately for them, Lichfield has been home to the statue since 1914 and does not want to part with him.
The nearly 8ft statue was created by Lady Kathleen Scott, the widow of Captain Scott of the Antarctic.
I was quite taken aback when I saw the statue, it was one link to the Titanic I never thought I would see, but here he was, in Bronze, gazing out towards the distance.
Very close to Beacon Park is the Garden of Remembrance, with the War Memorial.
Dedication: First World War
Dedication: Second World War
There is one memorial which I found on the station which I want to include here, even though he did not come from this city but is worthy of being remembered.
From what I could find, Private WR Davies was 19 when he was shot dead by the IRA, in an attack at the station where he had been waiting for a train, to take him back home to Wales after completing his first 12 weeks of training.
Close by on the corner of Beacon Park is the Library. Do not get fooled by the blue skies though, they did not last long, and by the time I came out of the Cathedral the weather had changed (again).
My real target on this day was the Cathedral, and to get a feel for the city which is the closest railway station to where I am currently living.
I also wanted to scope out the War Grave situation in the city, there are a number of churchyards that have CWGC graves in them, and if possible to try get a few of them captured. However, my mind was really only just on the Cathedral and that was where I headed. My visit is documented in a different blog post
to this one, so I shall insert a pic of the cathedral below, and carry on with my walking around below the image.
Once I had finished my meanderings around the cathedral I headed back towards the town area, just to see what I could see and to scope out any possible shops of interest. The nature of Chasetown is that there is not really a lot there, so anything major that needs doing like banking or clothing shopping has to be done in Lichfield. The bus station is opposite the station, and the bus stop in Chasetown is across the road from where I live.
There was another church spire sticking out above the town, and I headed towards it (vaguely hoping for a graveyard?) , that church was very similar in design to one in Salisbury, and was no longer being used as a church, but rather as a tourist information centre and local history museum.
Called St Marys
, it is probably the 4th highest spire in Lichfield. The building dates from the 1870’s and it was probably much easier to photograph back then (assuming you had the ability) as it was more than likely not surrounded by the shops and buildings as it is now.
I was able to get directions to my next destination at the centre, and was soon ready to leave. The market square outside the church was filled with the usual purveyors of strange items, and I could not help wonder if there wasn’t a graveyard under this space? However, it does seem as if a market was there for a long time because I did spot the sign below affixed to the outside wall. The history of this unfortunate event is worth reading
, and I do find it ironic that the person burnt for heresy is remembered on a church wall, so many years after the fact. Are the men who judged him remembered?
On one of my later jaunts to Lichfield I managed to get a photograph of the market place without the hustle and bustle, and this is what it looks like.
There are two statues on the market place, the one statue is that of Samuel Johnson, who wrote the first authoritative Dictionary of the English Language
The house where he lived is across the road from the statue and is now a museum and bookshop.
My next destination was St Chad Churchyard
which wasn’t too far away. There were 16 CWGC burials
there which I hoped to photograph.
To reach the church I had to return the way I came and head towards Stowe Pool and the church could be seen from there. So far I had encountered quite a lot of water in the city, but could not see whether a river ran through it. The church dates back to the 12th century, although it has been extensively restored. Also on the site is a Holy Well by which St Chad is said to have prayed and used the waters’ healing properties. The church may be seem at the end of the right bank of the pool in the distance.
And like so many of these parish churches it is beautiful, with an extensive graveyard that proved to be a treasure chest of beautiful stones, many of them in slate.
The graveyard also yielded the oldest legible headstone that I had ever seen, dating from 1689!
Overall though, the headstones at the church were really amazing to see, as mentioned, many were of gray slate and the engraving was as crisp as the day it was made, and the detail that was on the headstones was truly fantastic. I suspect that there are older graves in the churchyard, but the legibility was as such that I could not be positive.
And while there were only 16 graves to find I seemed to have missed one grave, although was able to find a new private memorial.
The well of St Chad was not looking too good though, in fact the water was a decidedly unhealthy colour, and I was quite shocked to see a lack of fencing, signage and safety equipment at the well.
But who was St Chad? I had encountered his name (and chapel) in the cathedral and I have to admit I was curious. Naturally I am not an expert in these matters which is why I have provided a Wikipedia link, suffice to say that in today’s terms it would probably be safe to say he had a cult following. His influence may be felt as far away as Birmingham where there is a cathedral dedicated to him.
It was time to bid farewell to the church and head back towards town. The weather was changing again, and I was not ready to tackle the other two sites that had graves in them, I was considering that heading for home may be an idea, I was also peckish as my chocolate ration was finished..
I took a slightly different route back towards town, heading towards the spire of St Marys, church spires are handy landmarks, and I use them regularly when I am out and about. I seem to visit quite a few churches in my quest for war graves, and am really a lover of old churches.
I am also very fond of these black and white timber framed houses, and there are a lot of them in Lichfield.
I eventually found a pub and had fried fish and chips and ale, so was ready to do more photography as I wended my way towards the station.
This faded gem caught my eye, it could only have been an entertainment venue in its previous life, the building just cries out “Dance Palace” or “Movie House”, today it is just another old building that is surviving on the fringes of entertainment.
Close to the station is the “Hospital of St John the Baptist without the Barrs“. It is quite a historic place and I would really like to go inside and have a closer look around the chapel which I photographed very early in the morning
Very close to the chapel is the Library, which is a very impressive building, but I have yet to go inside it.
And opposite the library is the site of the former Franciscan Friary, which is now a park, with the outline of the original building visible in stone.
A bit further up the street towards Chasetown, is the Clock Tower which I had been seeing on the bus to and from Lichfield. It is a very pretty structure, but I really think it deserves to be in a more central point.
According to the bronze plaque on the wall, it had first been “…. erected in 1863 on the site of the old Crucifix Conduit, at the junction of the Friary Road with Bird Street”.
It was dismantled and re-erected at its current site in 1928, and repaired and restored in 1991.
I am not too sure what the Crucifix Conduit is/was, but there are two water fountains close to each other. The one is attached to the exterior wall of the clock tower. and the other is situated on a small island on the one side of the library. That one is plaqued and still has running water. The plaque informed me that the Crucifix Conduit stood near that spot and it brought water from Aldershawe to Lichfield 1301 and 1928.
The railways station was not too far away, and it was not really very busy either, although the platform buildings were wonderful, really from a different age altogether.
The only train I photographed was a class 323 of London Midlands. And the spire in the background is St Micheal on Greenhill which was where my next batch of gravehunting would happen.
It was time for me to get my bus back home. It had been a very productive day, and I had seen many thing so of interest. The follow up to this page will deal with Lichfield Cathedral, so watch this space! (or the one next door).
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