musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Lichfield

By the time you read this….

I will be Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. Yes, it is true, I am starting a new job on Wednesday. The last week in Staffordshire was kind of crazy and I had to make a decision in a hurry as to what I was going to do. The die however is cast and I am sitting in a loft thinking about what I have done.
 
I did have an interesting time in Staffordshire though, I saw many things, and many places, and visited many graves, There were four gems of cemeteries, (Ryecroft, Belgave, Key Hill and Warstone Lane) that I visited, and of course I also visited the cities of Birmingham.  and Lichfield
 
I do not know how long I will be where I am now, but hopefully I will be able to settle down and make something of my new situation. I expect there will be cemeteries to visit, and Worcester, Cheltenham and Gloucester are not too far away, and Bristol is also within range, Maybe you will soon be reading about my travels there soon.
 
So, do not despair, as they say in the classics… “I be bak!”
Updated: 03/05/2016 — 19:48

Pausing at Letocetum

On our way to Tewkesbury, we stopped over at Letocetum, which is one place I had meant to go visit, but had never gotten round to it.

Also known as “Wall Roman Site”, it is close to the city of Lichfield and it was an important military staging post, and posting station near the Roman military road to North Wales, and Icknield (or Ryknild) Street. Ryknield street is actually Watling Street, (the old A5), The road we parked on was the old A5. It has been double carriageway’d in the meantime and to make it a double carriageway it was diverted. The A5/Watling Street had a bend just to the east of Letocetum. Ryknield Street itself is in Lichfield, and would have extended towards Watling Street and formed a junction with it roughly at the point of that bend in Watling Street as mentioned above.

Like at so many other Roman sites scattered around Britain, there is a legacy of architecture and ruins left for us to ponder over. Although in the case of Letocetum, there is probably more not seen than what is visible.

 
Realistically these are merely foundations, although it is relatively easy to deduce the what the ruins may have been part of because if anything the Romans were predictable, they liked their comfort, they enjoyed their baths and they built to last. Two major structures were at this site, the Mansio and the bath complex. The bath complex is the building with the courtyard, it would have had a change room, heated room, an exercise area and probably a cold room, and a place where you could get a quick massage or possibly a meal while talking business with a friend.
 
The Mansio (or hotel) is the building across from the bath and it was where travelling officials or visitors could stay. (For a quick bath just go over the road).
  
This was a thriving community back then, a fort having been established close by in AD50 and probably abandoned near the end of the 3rd century; the bath-house and mansio being destroyed by fire.
  
It is strange to consider this small piece of Rome so far inland, the closest beach to Lichfield is over 70 miles away, and it must have been quite a journey to get here, especially in the days before highways, railways and modern vehicles.  I am sure the Roman in transit must have welcomed this small haven in a country that was not always as friendly towards them as they would have liked.
  
And while we were there, a child was attempting to do cartwheels on the grass, and I could not help but wonder if so many centuries before a Roman child was doing the same thing? That is the problem with ruins like this, it is hard to imagine them as being real places with real people living in them.
  
 
 
Some images were taken from the information boards at the site. 
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 30/04/2016
 
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:42

Dropping in on Dudley

This fine morning I had an interview in Dudley, which is North West of Birmingham, and about 45 minutes away from Lichfield by train. This was also my first tentative step towards exploring the “Black Country”. To reach Dudley I had to catch a train to Birmingham New Street and then a different train to Wolverhampton, bailing out at Dudley Port. 
 
The Class 323 running from Lichfield is quite a comfortable, if somewhat noisy beastie, and oddly enough my train journey was quite mundane, although I was really hoping to pick up some interesting stuff at Birmingham New Street Station. 
 
The Dudley Canal runs alongside the station, and an aqueduct runs over the road close to where I had to catch my bus, called the Ryland Aqueduct, canal barges would have been a major way to transport goods in the period before the railway became dominant, and the truck dominated the railway. The first bridge in the picture is the railway bridge. 
 
The name Dudley Port emerged during the 19th century, due to the extensive number of warehouses and wharves emerging around the Birmingham Canal to serve industries in Dudley. Dudley city centre is not served by train courtesy of Dr Beeching and his axe. It is a bit of an odd situation though, but the future may seen things change.

During my navigation exercise, I spotted a castle on a hill; this is Dudley Castle, and I mentally added it to my list if I had time to spare. I had allowed two possible train arrivals which would either give me an hour to find my destination from the station, or 90 minutes. I had my camera in my bag “just in case”.

The bus dropped me off at the bus station, which was over the road from my destination, and next to the Church of St Edmund the King and Martyr which just happened to have a handy graveyard for me to explore.

 

Feeling much better after a bit of gravehunting, I paused at the statue of?  I was not able to read the inscription, so decided to rather look that one up when I got home.

It turns out that this is the statue of William Humble Ward, 11th Baron Ward of Birmingham, Viscount Ednam and Earl of Dudley. He died of pneumonia on the 7th of May 1885 at Dudley House in London. That could explain why I did not find him in the two graveyards I visited. I often wonder how relevant a statue like this is, especially in the light of the furor going on in South Africa about the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at Cape Town University. 

There are two churches in the area of the city where I was, St Edmunds is known as the “Bottom Church”, as opposed to St Thomas’s parish church in High Street which is known as “Top Church”.  Naturally I did not know this at the time. I was hoping to make the trek up the road to more or less where they would have placed a war memorial if there was one. With a bit more time on my hands I could afford myself the luxury of a bit of a look around. The hill where Dudley Castle was really dominated the area, and effectively it meant everything had to go around it. I could see part of the Castle on the hill, and managed to zoom into into.

It really did look intriguing, but at the moment there was an even more intriguing statue in the Market Square. I do not know if this was the war memorial or not because there was major construction going on in the area and parts of the statue/fountain were obviously being restored. It must have been very impressive though, whatever it was.

From here I could see the “Top Church” and time was still on my side so I headed in that direction.

Called “The Church of St Thomas“, the building is almost 200 years old, and the graveyard dates even further back than that. It is a very impressive building, and the graveyard was even more of a surprise.

 

 
I have not seen a such a small church graveyard with so many large headstones in ages, it was really a surprise. The presence of many large concrete slabs was puzzling though, and reading between the lines (and on the graves), the church has vaults underneath it. Unfortunately the information board of the church was almost illegible, but there was enough on it to be able to read about a Medieval crypt or chapel on the premises. The church was open too, although there were some people praying in it so I did not stay very long. It was very impressive inside.

Time was marching and I headed off down the road to my interview. It had been a productive day so far, and I was feeling smug that I had been able to see these two beauts.
Once my interview was over I headed across to the Castle, which is on the property of the Zoo (or is it the other way around/). Unfortunately, to see the former you needed to pay for the latter and frankly 15 pounds was not something I would pay to see the castle, especially when the zoo has no interest for me.  I decided to head for home instead.  I found this image on Wikipedia, and am going to use that in lieu of a personal visit.

Image I am using in this post is By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons) (Image size is 1280×529.
Dudley Castle Courtyard

Dudley Castle Courtyard

I could also see part of a tower sticking out over the hill, but there was no real way I was going to see this castle so I headed for the bus station. I still had two trains to catch and time was marching and weather was gathering. 
  
The only exciting thing I saw at Birmingham Station was a Virgin Trains Pendolino. I was hoping to spot one of these because it was on one of them that I had had my first experience of train travel in the UK when I was in Manchester on business in 2008.

The wheel had come a full circle since then and I have travelled on a number of different trains since I arrived here in 2013. 

When I got back to Lichfield we ended up making a detour at the village of Hammerwich to take a look at the Church of St John the Baptist. 

It was a very pretty building with a surprisingly large graveyard, the oldest headstones that were legible dated from the 1780’s.

And that was my day. It had been an excellent one from a gravehunting point of view, and I had managed to get to Birmingham, or at least gone through it. Weather and time permitting I do want to do a day trip to the city if possible, as it too is full of history. And I really like history. As for the interview? never heard from them again.

© DRW 2015-2018. Created 01/04/2015. Images migrated 29/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:04

Lichfield Cathedral

Continuing where we interrupted my trip around Lichfield, this post is devoted to the Cathedral. Photography is only permitted inside with a permit which is available at the shop. Unfortunately the lighting conditions vary considerably as you move between areas, and using a flash is really frowned on, which is why many of these images are not as clear and bright as I would have liked them to be.
 
I will not discuss the history of the building, it has its own website for that. And given how long the building has been around it has accumulated a vast amount of history.
 
There is something about these magnificent structures that makes me feel small (apart from the size of course), there is definitely a sense of awe, and of course respect for those who constructed them. It was no mean feat to build something like this, especially when you consider that everything was built by hand, there was no machinery, no project managers, health and safety reps, computer aided design and calculation, and definitely no mass production. However, there were plenty of skilled tradesmen and artisans. It is no wonder that a building like this was a job for a lifetime.  
 
The closest comparison to the building that I can use is probably Salisbury Cathedral,  and there are similarities in this building to the church in Salisbury, however, I did find this building somewhat darker and more intense in the feel of it. Salisbury was light and friendly, this one was more brooding and you could really feel the weight of time on it. Don’t get me wrong though, it is a magnificent piece of architecture.
 
This window is above the entrance to the nave, and there is a lot of stained glass in the building, so much so that you could spend a whole day there and probably miss some of it. 
 
Moving towards the end of the cathedral, there is a screen which sits at the junction of the two transepts and the Quire. The South Transept houses (right hand side of the image above) the Military Chapel (right hand image below), which was definitely on my list of places to see.
 

 
The North Transept felt like it was just a spare area to store odds and ends, there was no real utilisation of this space at all,beyond that of the font which is in the centre of this area.

 

There are a lot of really beautiful wall monuments lining the aisles and walls, and they are works of art in their own right.

 
There were a lot of burial effigies too, and the most intriguing was hidden behind the partitions in the North Transept, and I could not really get close to it. But, that is made up for by some of the others dotted around the cathedral.

 

The next part of the cathedral that I visited was the Chapter House, which was really a meeting place where the business of the cathedral was conducted. It was not a large space, and it held an exhibition retaining to the St Chad, as well as the Staffordshire Hoard,  It was difficult to photograph this area because of the size and the amount of people that gravitated towards it. The image below is really the assembly area and it was a really beautiful space.

I continued my exploration towards the Quire and the Lady Chapel, there was a talk being given about the stained glass windows in the latter, so I was really trying to put off going to that area without disturbing the talk.

I did not find the quire to be too ostentatious, but it was a very pretty space, and I am sure that it must be quite an experience standing at this spot during a full blown service.

Turning around with your back to the quire was the High Altar, with the altar rail and a screen behind it which separates it from the Lady Chapel behind. 

 
The Lady Chapel is beautiful, and where some of the best stained glass is to be found,  it is also the area  where a number of artefacts are housed. It was added in the early 14th century to honour The Blessed Virgin Mary. There was no sign that the stained glass talk was going to disperse soon so I headed off in the direction of the South Transept. At the same level of the Quire in the aisle was St Chad’s Head Chapel. I kept on coming across references to St Chad of Mercia, and he is really the patron saint of the cathedral, with numerous artefacts relating to him being stored and on display. The head chapel was the place where his skull was kept in the days when relics formed an important part of the church and it’s congregation.
 
Exiting St Chads I came across one of the more beautiful memorials I have ever seen in a church. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and the history of it is even more tragic. Called “The Sleeping Children”, it is the memorial to Ellen-Jane and Marianne Robinson, who died in 1813 and 1814.

In the history of the memorial they mention the Boothby Memorial, which is equally beautiful, and an inspiration for this one.

I was now in the South Transept which is very military orientated as is to be expected. The Staffordshire Regiment  is well represented here, and there is even a very impressive memorial to members of the 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment that lost their lives in the Boer War.

With that portion completed it was time for me to leave and to explore the outside of the cathedral.
This image was taken at the Lady Chapel end of the cathedral, unlike Salisbury there is not a lot of space to get an image that encompasses the complete building. I believe the colour of the stone is due to air pollution, and in parts the sandstone is crumbling.
  The churchyard still exists around the building, and headstones are laid flat with the surface. Many that I saw were of officials from the church, as well as clergy. The area around the cathedral is known as the Cathedral Close and the buildings are in use as offices, a school, shop, and a number of other functions. This area was very involved in the civil war, and the cathedral and buildings were damaged.


There are large number of statues mounted on the cathedral as well as the invariable Gargoyle. I suspect you would need a lot of time to photograph them all, and each was hand made, there was no mass production involved at all.  I believe that even Queen Victoria is on here somewhere, and probably St Chad too. I always feel that it is quite a pity that you are unable to get high enough to really have a good look at the statues, and to photograph them would really be a mission. 

That concluded my visit, and I will probably return to here, the spire tours happen on a Saturday and I would not mind having a go at getting up there to have a look, but, there are many factors at play which may preclude that from happening. A last look and I was heading on my way once again.

   Random Images.
 
 
 
 
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© DRW 2015-2018 Images migrated 28/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:13
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