The Pensnett Canal and the Pensnett Railway

Preamble

In canal histories, the Pensnett Canal is usually little more than a footnote – a short, one and a half mile private canal, often referred to by its owner’s name as Lord Ward’s canal, extending from the south end of Dudley tunnel with no locks or major engineering structures, to the Wallows to the south west, serving a number of iron works and mines on the way, from 1840 when it was built, through to the 1940s when commercial traffic ceased. What little there is to say about it is summarized in the definitive work of Hadfield (1), The Pensnett Railway by contrast, figures rather more prominently in railway histories, and indeed there are at least two books devoted to it (2), (3). Its origins can be traced back to the Kingswinford Railway of 1829, of Agenoria fame, with which it later merged, but it came into existence in its own right in 1843, again centred on the Wallows area, and eventually spread out across the southern Black Country, with more than 30 miles of railway, serving the mines and local industry in some form or other though to the 1960s.

In canal histories, one finds that the Pensnett Railway is rarely mentioned in any description of the Pensnett Canal, and similarly railway histories do not include the Pensnett Canal to any extent in the description of the Pensnett Railway. The history of both undertakings has thus been neatly compartmentalized. In this post, I will argue that this compartmentalization actually obscures something of importance – that both Canal and Railway have their origins in the same industrial and commercial needs and that the Pensnett Canal was conceived in part as a link in a much wider canal network that was never built to meet these needs. These needs were actually met in the construction of the Pensnett Railway, and indeed the initial construction was to a significant degree based on the abortive canal network proposals.  Thus, the histories of the two undertakings need to be considered together, and in what follows we will attempt to do this in broadly chronological order.

The Kingswinford Railway

Figure 1 Canals and railways in the Kingswinford area in the 1820s (dark blue lines indicate canals, dark brown lines indicate railways)

In the early / mid 1820s, the area to the south of Dudley, mostly in the large parish of Kingswinford, was undergoing significant industrial development (figure 1). Coal and iron extraction was already underway in the south of the area around Brierley Hill and Brockmoor and a number of iron works were in operation. The transport needs of these industries were met by the three canals that existed in the area at the time – the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to the west, which offered an outlet for industrial products to the northern cities (via the Trent and Mersey Canal) and to the south and west (via the Severn). The Stourbridge canal to the south which allowed coal and iron products to access the Staffordshire and Worcestershire at Stourton, and via the Dudley Canal and the Dudley and Lapal tunnels gave access to the central Black Country area and the route to London.

However, as the decade progressed, coal and ironstone mining and iron manufacture pushed northward – to the mines and iron works of Corbyn’s Hall, owned by the Gibbons brothers (4), and beyond that to what would be the vast iron works of Bradley and Co in Shut End owned by James Foster (5). The Earl of Dudley’s Estate, which was the major landowner in the area was also beginning to develop significant mining activities in the Barrow Hill and Old Park areas. These concerns needed a reliable means of transportation for their products around the country. Discussions were held with the Stourbridge company to consider a branch into the area, but these came to nothing. The Dudley Estate, then took the matter into its own hands and conducted what was to become known as the Kingswinford Railway, which connected the Corbyn’s Hall and Shut End areas with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal at Ashwood Basin (figure 1). Most of the land was owned by either the Dudley Estate or by James Foster with just a small area owned the other major landowner in the area, John Hodgetts Hodgetts-Foley of Prestwood, with whom a lease agreement was concluded. It consisted of a 1 in 28 incline of 500 yards in length from Ashwood Basin which was followed by a largely level stretch of two miles, before another (Foster’s) incline that led to the Corbyn’s Hall area. A branch incline led into the Bradley and Co ironworks. The inclines were horse drawn, but the central section was operated by the steam engine Agenoria, about which much has been written (6). The line thus met the immediate needs and provided an outlet for the produce from the area, and also provided a steady toll income for the Dudley Estate.

Canal developments

Figure 2 Canals and railways in the Kingswinford area in mid / late 1830s (dark blue lines indicate canals, that were constructed, light blue lines indicate canals that never passed beyond the proposal stage, dark brown lines indicate railways)

Whilst the Kingswinford Railway addressed some of the issues, others remained. Perhaps the most significant of these was to find an outlet for both coal and iron products to the north and east. In the short term this issue was solved in the mid-1830s by the construction of quite lengthy tramways to the Stourbridge Canal Feeder branch from the Corbyn’s Hall area and from the Dudley Estate mines in the Barrow Hill area and from there products could be carried back to the main line of the Stourbridge and Dudley canals and the Dudley tunnel (7). However, such transshipment was expensive and time consuming and some better form of carriage was required. Thus in 1836 a new company, formed by some of the Stourbridge Canal shareholders, put forward for parliamentary approval a proposal for a canal from the feeder branch at Brockmoor (at its summit level of 356 feet above sea level) to Corbyn’s Hall and Shut End, then onward to Straits Green and Sedgley with a flight of locks rising to the Wolverhampton level of 473 feet above sea level, and then through a one mile tunnel to the Birmingham Canal at Bloomfield (figure 2) (8). This canal – the Stourbridge, Wolverhampton and Birmingham Junction – would thus give access for the products of the Shut End and Cotbyn’s Hall area to both north and south without transshipment from tramways. It was opposed by both the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Company and the Dudley company as it potentially offered a bypass from the south that avoided the Wolverhampton locks on the Birmingham canal at the junction with the former, and also offered a more direct alternative to the Dudley Canal and tunnel. The former put forward their own proposal for a branch from Hinksford to Gornal Wood near Oak Farm, with 13 locks rising 104 feet, which was supported by the Dudley Estate (9*). The conjectured route (following the course of the Holbeche brook) is also shown in figure 2.  The projected rise would have taken it to a height of around 320 feet, somewhat below the level of the Stourbridge, Wolverhampton and Birmingham Junction Canal. However, before parliamentary arguments could begin, it became clear that the Stourbridge Company could not raise the necessary finance, and the plan was curtailed and became a two-mile level canal from the Stourbridge to Shut End, with branches to Standhills and Bromley (the latter unauthorized) where it terminated. It was renamed the Stourbridge Extension Canal, and opened in 1840. As such it still served a useful purpose in allowing goods to be moved more speedily onto the Stourbridge Canal and then onwards, but it did not help with the issue of longer distance transport to the central Black Country and beyond.

Plots and intrigues

Figure 3 Canals and railways in the Kingswinford area in 1839/40 (dark blue lines indicate canals, that were constructed, light blue lines indicate canals that never passed beyond the proposal stage, dark brown lines indicate railways)

Whilst the Extension Cana was in its final stages of construction in 1839, two events occurred. The first was the building of the Pensnett Canal from the Wallows towards the southern portal of Dudley tunnel by the Dudley Estate. There were developing mining activities in the Wallows area, so of itself this was a justifiable step (figure 3).  As it was on land owned by the Estate, no parliamentary approval was required. It was completed and in use by 1840. The canal was built on the Wolverhampton level of 473 feet.  The start of its construction is captured on the Kingswinford Tithe Map of 1839 shown in figure 4 (10). The channel at what was to become the south west end of the canal can be seen, together with the “Pensnett Engine” that was used to dewater mines in the area – and which may have been intended to be the water supply to the canal.

Figure 4. Extract from the Kingswinford Tithe Map of 1839 showing the early stage of construction of the Pensnett Canal and the Pensnett Engine at the Wallows. Note the direction of north.

Also in 1839, the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal company revived their proposal of 1836 for a branch from Hinksford but extending somewhat further and ending near Hunts Mill (11*). This would have required more locks than the earlier proposal, to bring it to that point, which is around 350 feet above sea level – very close to the Stourbridge Extension Canal level.   If it again followed the line of the Holbeche Brook, it would thus pass a little way to the north of the Extension Canal. The Stourbridge and Stourbridge Extension companies were alarmed by this, as they could see that potentially this branch could link with the Pensnett Canal in direct competition to their route. It would seem that meetings were held, and the proposals were withdrawn.

However, it was soon to be shown that the worries of the Stourbridge and Stourbridge Extension companies were quite justified. In 1840 a proposal was put forward by the Dudley Estate for a canal that joined with the Extension Canal at Shut End at the Stourbridge level of 353 feet, then rose through 19 locks to the Wolverhampton level on the Old Park area, where it was joined by an extended Pensnett Canal (12), (13). It then passed through a tunnel before joining the Birmingham Canal at Tipton near the northern portal of the Dudley Tunnel. This would have served the Dudley Estates mining developments in the Wallows and Old Park area and would also have served the Estate mines in the Barrow Hill area.  Moreover, a direct connection with the proposed Staffordshire and Worcestershire branch would have been straightforward near the junction with the Stourbridge Extension Canal as they were on the same level.  But, as Hadfield (1) remarks, the time was past, and the newer more efficient railways were already beginning to make inroads into the area, and the scheme was never progressed. Had it done so, the canal map of the south western black country would have been very difficult.

The Pensnett Railway

Figure 5. Pensnett Railway proposals of 1843 (dark blue lines indicate canals, dark brown lines indicate railways that were constructed, light brown line indicate railways that never passed beyond the proposal stage)

Although the Stourbridge Extension Canal and Pensnett Canal were completed and came into use, the need for rapid transport of the produce of the area to the Black Country, Birmingham and beyond remained. This was to become less pressing however, as local needs for coal and ironstone were increasing at the same time as the output from the traditional sources in the Brierley Hill area were decreasing.  In particular the Level New Furnaces provided a ready market for the products of the Dudley Estate mines in the Barrow Hill area.  This led to the Trustees of the Dudley Estate commissioning F. P. Mackelcan to develop schemes for railways in the area (2). He proposed the following lines (figure 5)

  1. An extension from the end of the Kingswinford Railway and running to the Dudley Estate mines at Barrow Hill and Old Park via a one in seventeen incline.
  2. A branch from this line that went up the one in twenty-five Barrow Hill incline, passed underneath the Dudley – Kingswinford turnpike road and skirted the Fens pool to join the third line below.
  3. The upper line from the mines of the Old Park area, underneath the Turnpike Road, around the Fens Poll to the Wallows, and then to the Level New Furnaces and the top of the nine locks.
  4. A line uniting the end of the upper line and the end of the extension.

It is striking how much these proposals were influenced by the earlier canal proposals. Firstly, the extension of the Kingswinford Railway would have served the same function as the canal branch from Hinksford proposed in 1836 and 1839, connecting the mines in the Barrow Hill area with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. This proposal was not acted upon, as there were worries about the long-term stability of the existing Foster’s incline. Secondly the northern section of the upper line to Old Park (known as the “High lines”) follows closely the line of the extension to the Pensnett Canal proposed in 1840.  Thirdly the line connecting the extension to the upper line, which again was not built, would have followed the route of the 1840 canal proposals. Finally it should be noted that the designs were very much based on canal technologies – level stretches of track connected by inclined planes, and there were canal transshipment wharves at the Wallows and at the end of the Delph branch. Whilst the Pensnett Railway was to develop very much further in the area in a more conventional railway manner over the coming decades, its genesis in the various canal schemes of the late 1830s and early 1840s seems to be clear. The Pensnett Canal and the Pensnett Railway developed because of the same industrial needs and are best considered as different solutions to the same transport issues. Their history is inextricably tied together.

References

1. Hadfield C “The Canals of the West Midlands”, David and Charles, 3rd Edition, 1985

2. Gale W. K. V. “A history of the Pensnett Railway”, Goose and Son, 1975

3. Williams N. “The Earl of Dudley’s Railway”, The History Press, 2014

4. Grace’s Guide, https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Benjamin_Gibbons_(1783-1873)m  Accessed September 2022

5 Grace’s Guide, https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/James_Foster, Accessed September 2022

6. Grace’s Guide,  https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Foster,_Rastrick_and_Co:_Agenoria , Accessed September 2022

7. Baker C J, “Kingswinford Manor and Parish”, https://profchrisbaker.com/kingswinford-manor-and-parish-new/ , Accessed September 2022

8. Dudley Archives “Plan of Stourbridge, Wolverhampton & Birmingham Junction Canal”, DE/6/12/3/26, 1836

9*. Staffordshire Records Office “Plan, book or reference and section of an intended navigable cut or canal called the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at or near Hinksford in the Parish of Kingswinford, County of Stafford”, Q/RUm/86, 1836

10. Staffordshire Records Office “Kingswinford Tithe Map”, Staffordshire Past Track, 1839

11*. Staffordshire Records Office “Plan, book of reference and section of intended cut or canal called the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Navigation at or near Hinksford, in the Parish of Kingswinford, County of Stafford, to a certain close of arable land called the Plain Piece near Hunts Mill”, Q/RUm/121, 1839

12. Dudley Archives, “Sections of Intended Canals between Tipton Green and Shut End and between Dudley and Coseley”, DE/6/12/3/37, 1840

13. Dudley Archives, “Plan of Railways, Canals and Roads between the Black Country and Birmingham”, DE/6/12/3/44, 1841

* At the time of writing (September 2022) I have not consulted these items in full, as Staffordshire Records Office is closed for refurbishment. I will do so as soon as I am able and make any necessary changes to this post. However, what I have written is consistent with the catalogue contents, and what is presented in (1).

A view from St. Michael’s church in Lichfield in 1840

Recently, whilst searching for some lost material in the choir vestry at St. Michael’s, I came across a framed version of the picture shown above, which is one that I have not seen before.  It shows a view from the north side off the church looking out over the city in 1840. In some ways it is very familiar, with the cathedral in the background, and in the middle distance, towards the left of centre, we can see St Mary’s, but without its spire that wasn’t added until the rebuilding of the 1850s and 1860s. In front of St. Mary’s, we can see the back of houses that were on Greenhill, and housing in the area that we know as Deanscroft but was more usually referred to at that time as Dean’s Croft. Indeed parts of this were still owned by the Chapter of the Cathedral in the 1840s. The Greenhill / Church St / Dean’s Croft area was quite densely populated at that time. Now that area is largely taken by the old school buildings (built in stages in the second half of the nineteenth century). The position of the cathedral and the houses enables the position of the artist to be determined fairly accurately – see the map below.

The solid red circle shows the approximate position of the artist, the open red circle the position of the Emery tomb, and the red ellipse the position of the Harrison tombs.

But it is in the foreground that we see the major changes when comparing this picture with what we see now, with many more graves and monuments visible than is now the case. But here all is not all that it seems. Firstly, it is puzzling that the avenue of trees that leads from the church door to the north gate is not shown. This was planted as an avenue of elms in the 1750s and should have been visible. Perhaps they obscured the view, and the artist, as was his or her prerogative, thought it best to omit them. Secondly it is difficult to reconcile the grave locations in the picture with those currently visible. A photograph that shows roughly the same view is shown below. Whilst many of the headstones were laid flat in the re-ordering of the churchyard in the 1960s, the chest tombs were generally left in position, and these have usually survived to the present day.

The current view, showing the Emery tomb to the left and the Harrison tombs to the right

What remains in today’s view is the large Emery chest tomb to the left, and the rather dilapidated row of chest tombs to the right. The details of the graves in the picture from 1840 are a little different in the photographs with different grave styles and only three graves in the row to the right, again suggesting the use of “artistic license” in the drawing. Some of the grave details are reminiscent of those on other chest tombs in the graveyard, so the artist might have been trying to capture a range of details not completely in the field of view. The ground level also appears to have changed, with a build up of the ground around the base of the tombs so that they appear lower than they did originally. This is due to many decades of grass growth and mowing, leading to a steady increase in height of the ground surface.

Returning to the graves themselves, the inscription on the Emery tomb was recorded in the 1980s as follows, although much of this is no longer readable.

Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM EMERY died December 9th 1767 aged .9 years. And of MARY his wife who died… Also of ELIZABETH and ANN daughters of WILLIAM and MARY EMERY. ELIZABETH died January 27th 1773 aged 16. ANN died…… WILLIAM who died March 12th l…„and ANN EMERY his wife died July 8th 1825 aged 66. Also JOHN son of RICHARD and ANN EMERY died January 18th 1853 aged 46. And of RICHARD EMERY who died February 23rd 1826 aged 72 also ANNE wife of above died December 17th 1863 aged 82.

Those to the right are largely of the Harrison family. Again in the 1980s the inscriptions were transcribed as follows.

Rev. JOHN HARRISON son of THOS. and FRANS. HARRISON died January 22nd 1793 aged 39. THOMAS HARRISON son of THOS. qnd FRANS. HARRISON died December 31st 1807 aged 48

Here lieth the body of ANN the wife of SAMUEL HARRISON who departed this life  Jany 1st 1785 aged 48. Also near this place lies the body of JESSE DEE (brother to the said ANN HARRISON) who died June 1st 1785 aged 39

To the memory of SAMUEL HARRISON who died April 2nd 1798 aged 62.

In memory of Sarah Harrison who departed this life July 28th 1835 aged 72 years

These tombs have seen better days as can be seen from the close up picture below.

The Harrison tombs

Of course, what is also missing from the modern photograph is the sheep – the nineteenth century version of the council grass mowing machine – and the rather elegantly dressed family who are walking down the path from church. The husband and wife are very clear, but their two young children less so. In the original picture there is a similarly dressed gentleman sitting on a chest tomb that is no longer identifiable, apparently studying his laptop, although this is probably not the correct interpretation!

Lichfield’s first railway station?

In 2020 I published a blog post entitled “Lichfield Trent Valley 1847-1871” – a study of the “first” railway station in Lichfield that was built when the Trent Valley Line opened in September 1847, and shown in the engraving above. The figure below, reproduced from that post, shows the location of this station in relation to the station of the South Staffordshire Railway that crossed the Trent Valley line and the second (existing station). The underlying map is the 1848 Tithe map of the township of Streethay where the station is situated.

Extract from 1848 Tithe Map (red solid circle LNWR station location 1847-1871; red dotted circle – approximate SSR station location 1849-1871; green oval – location of current station

In 2021, I published a further post “Lichfield’s first station master” that looked at the life and times of William Durrad, the first to hold the position of Stationmaster. Both posts were gratifyingly quite widely read.

However a few days ago, I was browsing the 1851 census returns for Streethay (from which it might be concluded that I lead a rather sad existence). Sure enough, William Durrad and his family were there living at the railway station. But two pages earlier I came across the following entry.

Extract from the 1851 census for Streethay

It can be seen that it refers to Richard Mooney and his extensive family. Richard was a gatekeeper for the Trent Valley Railway and lived at the Old Station. Remember this was in 1851, when the railway had only been opened four years and, as far as anyone knows, the station that was built un 1847, the one shown above, was still in existence. What on earth was this “old station”? Looking at the order in which properties are listed on the census, the location of Richard Mooney’s dwelling can be quite precisely located, and is shown on the figure below, again on the 1848 tithe map. It can be seem to be where a road (the Old Burton Road) crosses the railway on a flat crossing – and thus the building shown is an ideal location for a Gatekeeper’s cottage. If this was a station, it was in use very briefly between the opening of the railway in September 1847 and the preparation of the tithe map sometime in 1848. Perhaps it was a temporary arrangement – simple platforms that were in use as the main station was being completed. It is also quite possible of course that the census entry is incorrect and based on erroneous information from Richard Mooney or the enumerator.

Extract from 1848 Tithe Map (red solid circle LNWR station location 1847-1871; red dotted circle – SSR station location 1849-1871; green oval – location of current station; purple circle – the location of the “old station”

So my initial post may not have been entirely accurate – it seems to me that there is a real possibility that there was, albeit for a very short time, an earlier station than the one I described in my earlier post. Sadly, there is nothing left of it on the ground. The crossing was replaced by a narrow bridge in the early 20th century, and this bridge was itself recently replaced by a much more substantial structure leading to the new cark park at the station. Any traces of the “old station” would have been destroyed when the foundations of the latter were being laid.

Measurements of Carbon Dioxide concentrations in a church

The measurements reported in this post were made by colleagues of the School of Engineering at the University of Birmingham – Dr David Soper and Dr Mike Jesson – whose help is gratefully acknowledged.

Introduction

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has understandably been increased concern over ventilation within buildings and on buses and trains etc. This has been reflected in church circles where church ventilation has also been much discussed. Whilst more modern churches will have been specifically designed with ventilation in mind, with proper ventilation paths between windows and doors, the same cannot be said about older churches. For many such churches the only ventilation is offered by the opening of doors, and by leakage through windows and roofs. Because of the large vertical size of such buildings, this lack of ventilation is ameliorated by the ability of any pollutants of pathogens to diffuse throughout the large church space.

One such church is St. Michael on Greenhill in Lichfield (figure 1 below), which is essentially two large, connected boxes – a nave, and a chancel, with a main door in the north wall of the nave and a smaller door into the choir vestry on the south side, and internal doors between the vestry area, the nave and the chancel (figure 2). A though ventilation path is rarely established however as the external and internal doors are seldom open at the same time. There are plans to build new parish rooms to the south of the church, on the grassed area of the figure below.

Figure 2. Plan of church (the measurement positions are indicated by red circles)

This brief post outlines a short series of measurements to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in St. Michael’s. CO2 is produced naturally by people during breathing and CO2 concentration levels are often taken to be an indication of pathogen levels when the population is infected. These measurements were made on Sunday May 15th 2022, when the service pattern was somewhat different from normal, with the normal 8.00 and 10.00 Holy Communion services supplemented by the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) at 11.15 and a 4.00 service at which a new Rector was Instituted by the Bishop and Archdeacon. As such it gave the opportunity to look at the effects of different congregation numbers (10 in the chancel for the 8.00 service, 50 for the 10.00 service and the APCM, and 150 for the Institution). A screen shot of a video of the Induction service is shown in figure 3 to give some idea of the density of the congregation.

Figure 3. The congregation during the 4.00 service

The measurements

Carbon Dioxide measurements were made with small transducers and data loggers at different points around the church. These were attached to pillars of left on suitable window ledges. These sampled automatically every minute and the results were transmitted wirelessly to a Raspberry Pi computer and from there to a University of Birmingham web site from where the data could be accessed in real time. These measurements were supplemented by measurements of temperature and pressure using further transducers with built in data loggers.

For the sake of simplicity only the results from two of the CO2 sensors will be shown, as the results from them all were very similar. The location of these are shown on the plan of Figure 2 – one on a pillar in the nave, and one on a window ledge in the chancel. The photographs of the instruments shown in figure 4 indicate that they are quite small and discrete and indeed were barely noticed by the congregation. The results will be presented from midnight on Saturday May 14th to midnight on Sunday May 15th.

The results of the trials

The weather on May 15th was quite pleasant with early morning temperatures of 10°C rising to around 20°C in the late afternoon and evening. The external humidity varied from 20% to 100% throughout the day. Inside the church however there was far less variation with temperatures between 16 and 21°C and humidity between 55 and 70%. The was a light southerly wind in the morning, with a somewhat stronger easterly wind from mid-afternoon onwards.

The results of the CO2 measurements are shown on the graph of figure 5. These are shown in terms of parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by volume and are relative to a general background level of around 400 ppm.

Figure 5. The carbon dioxide concentration measurements

The church was opened at around 7.30 am for the 8.00 Holy Communion service held in the chancel, which went on until till around 8.45. Around 10 people attended. There can be seen to be a small increase in CO2 levels in the chancel over the course of the service (A). Later in the morning there was a 10.00 Holy communion service in the nave with around 50 in the congregation, with a small choir of 4 or 5 in the chancel. This was followed immediately by the APCM from 11.15 to 11.45 in the nave with about the same number attending. During this period there can be seen to be a steady increase in CO2 levels both in the nave and the chancel (B). At 12.00 the church emptied and the doors were closed. This led to a steady decrease in concentrations (C) till about 2.00 when people started to arrive at the church to set up for the major service of the day – the Institution of the new Rector by the Bishop of Lichfield. At this point both the main door and the choir vestry door were opened (as Gazebos were being set up to the south of the church for refreshments after the service), and a ventilation path was opened through the church, with major CO2 concentration reductions (D). Around 3.00 the congregation for the 4.00 Induction service began to arrive and the church rapidly filled with around 150 attending, including a choir of around 20 in the chancel. There were significant increases in CO2 concentrations during the course off the service through till around 5.30 (E). When the service was over, both the main door and the choir vestry door were again opened, and there was a rapid drop in concentration levels till around 7.00 when the choir vestry door was closed (F). After some clearing up, the church emptied by around 8.00 and there was a gradual fall off in concentration levels (G).

Two main points emerge from these measurements. Firstly, and quite obviously, the levels of CO2 increase with the number of people in church and with the time they spend there – B and E on the above figure. Secondly it is clear that there are two different types of ventilation – the slow diffusion of CO2 throughout the building and leakage through the building envelope – roof, doors, windows etc. (C and G); and the rapid lowering of concentration levels when there is a direct ventilation path through the building between the two doors (D and F).

Now from the slope of the graph for the times when concentrations are falling, it is possible to get estimates of the time it takes for the concentrations to fall by 50%. For C and G these times are around 2.5 hours, whilst for D and F these times are between 10 and 30 minutes. Thus the through ventilation reduces the carbon dioxide levels much more quickly than simple diffusion and leakage.

Implications

The results show firstly that the method that was used is a simple and viable way of assessing the main ventilation parameters in a church. Colleagues from the University of Birmingham recognise that there is still work to on improving the frequency response of the sensors but overall the method has much promise. Secondly there are some implications for St. Michael’s itself – that large congregations in the church for lengthy periods of time can result in significant CO2 concentrations (and thus pathogens in times of infection), and that through ventilation is much more effective in reducing these concentrations than simply relying on diffusion and leakage. In the Parish Rooms developments that are under consideration for the area adjoining the choir vestry, it may be worth investigating if it is possible to design through ventilation paths through the church and the new development.

Train services on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways

The March / April 2022 service pattern

There are ongoing discussions, which at times are becoming quite heated, within the wider Ffestiniog / Welsh Highland Railway community about the nature of the services planned in this post pandemic period. On the one hand, the company sees the need to maximise train loadings and thus reduce the unit costs, to cope with huge increases in fuel and staff costs. This leads logically to the need to continue the successful pandemic style timetable of booked tours – from Porthmadoc to Tan–y-Bwlch / Blaenau Ffestiniog / Beddgelert / Caernarfon and back, with one train journey being filled before another is timetabled, and with no intermediate stops. The service pattern for late March 2022 shown above reflects this and consists of a number of named and themed trains. Without a doubt this meets the needs of most passengers, who are not necessarily railway enthusiasts, but simply want a good day our for them and their family, and is cost effective in that trains are maximally loaded. On the other hand, there is a strong, and as I perceive, growing, feeling amongst Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Society members and supporters that a more normal scheduled timetable with intermediate stops should be reinstated, to restore the railways to what are perceived as their true selves as service providers. I have sympathy with both points of view – the financial challenges are certainly significant and need to be addressed, but the provision of specific tours simply does not meet the needs and aspiration of many. This includes myself, as I nearly always use the railway for journeys to intermediate stops, with walks of varying length between stations and “tours” hold no attraction at all for me. As things stand I, along with others, have no real reason to travel on the railways. As I write there are, I understand, proposals are being worked on to reinstate intermediate stops on some journeys, although it is not clear if this will approach anything like a regular service pattern.

The purpose of this post is to raise just one issue that is of potential significance. Last year I had the privilege of being an examiner for a University of Birmingham PhD thesis by Robin Coombs entitled “The sustainability of heritage railways”. I quote from the thesis abstract.

………In particular, the thesis explores the necessary condition(s) for the successful operation of a heritage railway in terms of governing their sustainability as expressed through consideration of their life cycle trajectory around the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic and social. The hypothesis proposed in the study is that good governance of railway assets and management is the key determinate of the sustainability of a heritage railway. This hypothesis was tested through a survey of 39 Directors and General Managers and 252 heritage railway enthusiasts of 104 heritage railways, semi-structured interviews with 15 Directors and General Managers, and the author’s recorded field observations and participation in 52 heritage railway visits and events. The research shows that the longevity of heritage railways does not simply arise from ‘good governance’ but is in fact the product of multiple interlinked variables and processes. Indeed, many heritage railways have survived and prospered despite poor governance, rather than because of ‘good governance’. One of the most significant of these explanatory variables is social capital, a hitherto under-researched governance variable in heritage railway studies. Through case study examples, social capital is demonstrated to have compensated and mitigated for failures of organisational governance and weaknesses in operational conditions on heritage railways. In this respect, heritage railways are argued to be similar to charitable and other public-good organisations. On this basis the hypothesis was rejected, and an alternative hypothesis proposed: that social capital (of which philanthropy, reciprocity and trust are key constituents) is a key determinant of the sustainability of heritage railways.

Robin makes a very strong case for the importance of what he calls social capital in the long-term sustainability of heritage railways – supporters contributing financially and materially and through voluntary activities. To my mind this is of very great importance in the current Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland context. A robust approach to income and expenditure through a business plan is certainly required in these financially constrained times, but if in doing so the relationship with volunteers and supporters is fractured, through the provision of a service pattern that does not meet their needs or their aspirations for the railways, this could potentially have a serious effect on the provision of social capital and thus on the long-term future of the railways, as supporters direct their time, efforts and money elsewhere. This simple fact should not be forgotten as future service provision is considered. I would thus suggest that conserving and expanding the social capital that the railways have built up over the decades is as important for the future of the railways as a financially robust business plan.

Robin’s thesis will in due course appear on the University of Birmingham’s ethesis web site at https://etheses.bham.ac.uk/ . In the meantime he can be heard describing his work in this podcast.

The Petits of Ettingshall and Lichfield.

This post appeared in the April 2022 edition of the St. Michael’s church magazine. It is a selection from a number of earlier posts that discuss the Petits that can be accessed here and here.

The monument commemorating Louis Hayes Petit is very prominent at the front of the nave in St Michael’s, and recently a display board commemorating the life and work of his nephew, John Louis Petit has been erected in the graveyard close to the tomb of him and his siblings. But who were the Petit’s? In this short article I will give a brief history of the family from the time they first left France up to the death of John Louis and his siblings in the late nineteenth century.

The monument to Louis Hayes Petit in St Michael’s church

The first of the Petit family to arrive in England was Lewis Petit (1665-1720), a member of the ancient Norman family of Petit des Etans, who, with many other Hugenots, fled to England from Caen on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. He served in the British army as an engineer, rose to the rank of brigadier-general and was appointed lieutenant-governor of Minorca from 1708 to 1713. He was later involved in the suppression of a revolt by Highland clans. He had two sons, John Peter Petit and Captain Peter Petit. The former married Sarah, daughter of John Hayes of Wolverhampton, the owner of the Ettingshall Estate near Sedgley, and they occupied the manor of Little Aston from 1743 to the early 1760s. John Hayes died in 1736, and left Ettingshall to his son, another John Hayes. This John himself died in 1745 and the estate went to Sarah and her sister, and thus ultimately to John Peter Petit. Ettingshall was a large, originally arable estate, that even at that stage was beginning to be exploited for its coal and ironstone reserves. It is from that estate that much of the Petit wealth derived.

John Peter and Sarah’s only son, John Lewis Petit (1736-1780) qualified as a doctor in 1767 and was physician to St. George’s Hospital from 1770 to 1774, and to St. Bartholomew’s from 1774 until his death. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society from 1759 and was clearly regarded as a leader in his profession. He and his wife Katherine had three sons John Hayes Petit (1771-1822), Peter Hayes Petit (1773-1809) and Louis Hayes Petit (1774-1849), but clearly lacked imagination in the giving of names. Peter Hayes was a lieutenant-colonel of the 35th Foot and died of a wound received at Flushing in Holland during the Napoleonic war. Louis Hayes (he of the monument) became a barrister and, from 1827 to 1832, was MP for Ripon. He bought property at Yeading, Middlesex, and a house in Tamworth Street, Lichfield. After ceasing to be an MP, his remaining years were largely devoted to literary and philanthropic pursuits.

The eldest of the three brothers, John Hayes Petit (1771-1822) inherited the Ettingshall estate, but also followed an ecclesiastical career. He was ordained priest in Chester in 1798 and served a curacy at Ashton under Lyme near Stalybridge in Cheshire.  During his time there he married Harriet Astley of the nearby town of Dukinfield. Harriet was born in 1779 to the painter John Astley (1724-1787) and his third wife Mary Wagstaffe (1760-1832). John Astley had a colourful life, painting portraits of many 18th century notables, arousing strong passions of admiration (mainly in women) or distaste (mainly in men). His first wife was an unknown Irish lady who died in 1749. The second was Penelope Dukinfield Daniel (1722–1762) widow of Sir William Dukinfield Daniel, 3rd baronet, and a daughter of Henry Vernon, former High Sheriff of Staffordshire. John and Penelope were married with some rapidity after she intimated that the original of the portrait he was painting of her would be available if he wished. On Penelope’s death, and the death of his stepdaughter, Astley inherited the substantial Dukinfield and Daniel estates in Cheshire and was able to lead a life of some luxury and idleness thereafter.  Harriett was one of three sisters, known as the Manchester beauties, and her marriage to John Hayes would have brought him both a beautiful wife and a substantial supplement to his already considerable income.

In 1811 John Hayes Petit was appointed Curate of Donnington, and then in February of that year he was also appointed as a Perpetual Curate at Shareshill, to the north-east of Wolverhampton. Around 1817 he leased Coton Hall at Alveley in Shropshire from Harry Lancelot Lee, which was a very substantial property that once belonged to the Lee family. In 1636, Richard Henry Lee had emigrated to the US, and the family became rich through the ownership of tobacco plantations with a large slave population, and from whom the US Confederate General Robert E Lee was descended. It would not have been a cheap place to lease. After John Hayes Petit’s death in 1822, Coton Hall was bought by James Foster (1786 -1853), the very successful and wealthy ironmaster and coalmaster of Stourbridge.  After his death his wife Harriet and her unmarried daughters moved to the house in the house in Tamworth St, Lichfield that was owned by her brother-in-law Louis Hayes Petit.

John Louis Petit

John Louis Petit, the artist, born in 1802, was the eldest of  John and Harriet’s nine children. He inherited the Ettingshall estate on the death of his father in 1822, and also inherited the bulk of the estate of his uncle Louis Hayes Petit when the latter died in 1849. In total they formed a very substantial estate in the Wolverhampton area, that was being heavily exploited for coal, iron ore and limestone. He and his sisters also had a less tangible inheritance from his mother and his grandfather – the passion and the ability for painting and sketching.

After he graduated from Trinity College in Cambridge in 1825, John Louis Petit firstly pursued an ecclesiastical career being curate at St Michael’s in Lichfield from 1825 to 1828, under the Perpetual Curate Edward Remington, and then curate at Bradfield and Mistley in Essex from 1828 to 1834. During his time at St. Michael’s, the registers tell us he carried out 61 baptisms, 35 weddings and 163 funerals, as well as presumably leading the Sunday worship – a not inconsiderable load. He married Louisa Reid, the daughter of George Reid of Trelawny in Jamaica in 1828. The Reid family derived much of their wealth from slave plantation ns in Jamaica and the family received considerable compensation for their lost income when slavery was abolished in the 1830s.He gave up his post in Essex in 1834 and from the mid-1830s onwards he devoted his time to his painting and architectural criticism, and his story is told elsewhere. His artistic career is well described on the website of the Petit Society – http://revpetit.com/.

The Petit tomb in the churchyard hold the remain of John Louis and his siblings. The inscription reads

LOUISA PETIT sixth daughter of the Rev. HAYES PETIT deceased and HARRIET his wife. From a life of almost uninterrupted suffering which she bore with true Christian patience and cheerfulness she was released by a merciful providence on the 30 day of November in the Year of our Lord 1842 aged 30. Also of LOUIS PETER PETIT of Lincolns Inn, Barrister at Law, third and youngest son of the Rev. JOHN HAYES PETIT, and HARRIET his wife. He died on 28th May 1848 aged 32  years. PETER JOHN PETIT Lieutenant Colonel of Her Majesty’s 50th Regiment died February 15th 1852 aged 46 years. ELIZABETH HAIG daughter of JOHN HAYES PETIT born September 11th 1810 died July 5th 1895. Hic J acet quod mortal e est viri Reverendi JOHANN LS LUDOVICI PETIT AM, died 2 Dec. 1868 aet suae 67. EMMA GENTILLE PETIT born August 7 1808 died January 30 1893. SUSANNA PETIT died February 12 1897 aged 83.

The Petit Tomb

Football leagues – development sides and lower divisions

From time to time, the coaches of Premiership football clubs call for their development teams (usually for under 23s with a limited number of older players) to be allowed to play in the Championship or League 1 to give them more competitive games. Such proposals are usually strongly resisted by the lower leagues, as an attack in the integrity of their divisions. In this short post, I will try to show that league competitions can be constructed in a way that allows for the needs of the higher league Development teams and yet retains the integrity of the lower league competition and perhaps even enhances it. The method outlined is not just applicable to the football Premiership and Championship, but could be applied to other sports at all levels where there is a similar of “second” trams playing those in lower leagues.

Suppose we have 20 higher division developmemt teams and 24 lower division teams (the current numbers in the Premiership and Championship). We divide each group into two – HD1 and HD2 for the higher division development teams (10 in each group) and L1 and L2 for the lower league teams (12 in each group). The teams would play each other as follows.

  • L1 teams would play all the other L1 teams home and way (22 matches), the L2 teams once, half home and half away (12 games) and the HD1 teams once at home (10 games), giving 44 games in total (27 home, 17 away).
  • L2 teams would play all the other L2 teams home and way (22 matches), the L1 teams once, half home and half away (12 games) and the HD2 teams once at home (10 games), giving 44 games in total (27 home, 17 away).
  • HD1 teams would play all the other HD1 teams once, half home and half away (9 games) and the L1 teams once way (12 games), giving 21 games in total (4/5 home, 17/16 away).
  • HD2 teams would play all the other HD2 teams once, half home and half away (9 games) and the L2 teams once away (12 games), giving 21 games in total (4/5 home, 17/16 away).
  • L1 and L2 teams would be ranked separately on the basis of all games played, with the winners of each playing for the L title of that division. Both would be automatically promoted to  the league above, with the second and third place teams in each section playing off for other promotion places.
  • HD1 and HD2 teams would be ranked separately on the basis of all games played, with the winners of each playing for the title of the HD section of that division .

This format thus ensures the following.

  • The lower league teams and the development teams of the higher league teams would be ranked in separate divisions, even though there is some cross over on the teams that are played.
  • All teams would be ranked only alongside those teams that have played the same opponents the same number of times, ensuring integrity of competition.
  • The lower leagues teams would play a similar number of games to those that would be played in a conventional competition (44 as against 46), but with an increased number of potentially attractive home games against the higher league development teams.
  • The higher league development teams would play a significantly smaller number of games than the lower league teams, which conforms with current practice for such sides (for example on the Premier 2 league, teams play around 14 to 15 games in a season). All the games they play against the lower league sides can be expected to be very competitive.

The World Test Championship

The cricket World Test Championship is perhaps one of the most impenetrable of all sports competitions, with playing regulations and points coring systems that are not all easily understood by any except those who devised it and those with advanced statistical training. Details can be found here for those interested. The result of this complexity is to make it poorly understood by media and public, and it does little to generate interest (and perhaps financial sponsorship) for the test match format. But it needn’t actually be so. In this short post I describe a simple format for a World Test Championship that would be easily understandable; would result in meaningful matches and series; and would produce an undisputed champion every year. There is a snowball in hells chance of anything this sensible being implemented by the ICC, but its formulation has proved to be intellectually satisfying at any rate.

The basic principle would be to divide test playing countries into divisions of three. Based on current rankings (January 2022) these would be

  • Division 1 – India, New Zealand, Australia
  • Division 2 – England, Pakistan, South Africa
  • Division 3 – Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh
  • Division 4 – Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan

Given the current political climate Afghanistan’s position in Division 4 might be untenable, and it might need to be replace by another side (perhaps Netherlands or Scotland).

The basic principle would be that the sides in each division each year would play each other in a three-match series – one home series and one away series. The position in the division would be determined by giving 2 points for a series win and one point for a draw, or, if these points are equal, on the number of matches won. The top side in each division would either be declared world champion for the year, or be promoted to the next division, whilst the bottom side would be relegated. It would be no more complicated than that.

Essentially this would give a baseline for the number of test matches per year of six per team, which ought to be achievable. It does not preclude other series (such as the Ashes) being played as required – and indeed the world championship games could be designated tests in, say, a five-match series.  Each team would play different teams in succeeding years, apart from the top two in Division 1 and the bottom two in Division 4.

 The main requirement would be a need for flexibility in arranging fixtures on an annual basis, rather than as part of the longer-term future tours programme. This may be easier if designated periods were kept free from other series. The real advantage of such a method would be that it would greatly increase the profile of the long form game, with each of the series that are played being meaningful in terms of promotion and relegation, and gives the possibility of the championship finding a significant sponsor.

The memorial inscriptions in St. Michael’ churchyard in Lichfield

Preamble

The churchyard of St Michael-on-Greenhill in Lichfield is one of the largest and possibly one of the oldest in the country and has long served as the last resting place of the people of the Lichfield parishes of St Michael and St. Mary. Unsurprisingly it is rich in grave memorial inscriptions that give a glimpse into the life and times of those whom they commemorate. This post will consider a number of aspects of these memorials, although space constraints mean it will inevitably be somewhat superficial and will leave much more to be said.

Context

But first some context. The churchyard is effectively divided into two – the old (full and closed) churchyard around the church with an area of around nine acres, and the new churchyard to the west that is still in use, although space there is becoming limited. This post only considers the former. In the late 1960s, a major re-ordering of the old churchyard was carried out, prior to responsibility for it being taken by the local council. This involved moving many headstones into clusters and either grassing large areas of the churchyard for the purposes of maintenance or encouraging the growth of scrub and trees. This has led to it becoming something of a wildlife haven, with very many different species of plant and tree and it is highly valued as an outdoor resource by those who live locally. Before the re-ordering a survey was carried out of all the graves that were visible and 2084 graves were identified, and the names of those they commemorated were recorded dating back to the 16th century. In the 1980s the Birmingham Society for History and Genealogy carried out a major survey of all the monumental inscriptions in the graveyard, and transcribed 1562 inscriptions. Sadly, the effects of time have meant that many of the inscriptions identified in the 1960s and 1980s are now very difficult to read, and a considerable debt is owed to those who undertook the surveys and recorded the information for posterity. Indeed some of the inscriptions below can no longer be located due to the headstones being moved, and these surveys are the only record we have.

There is however some reason to think that the recorded graves and inscriptions represent only a small proportion of the burials in the graveyard. Between 1813 and 1905, there are 9128 entries in the church burial register. For the same period the 1960s survey identifies 1729 burials in 1099 graves and the 1980s survey of inscriptions identified 1623 burials in 1018 graves. Doubtless some burials and graves have been lost due simply to degradation over the course of the years – both due to the effects of the climate and to human action. With regard to the latter, pictures of the church from the 1830s in the William Salt Library show a number of gravestones that seem to have been done away with in the church rebuilding in the “gothic” style in the 1840s. The Victorian restorers were far from being historically sensitive. But the large number of recorded burials in relation to the number of graves does suggest that the major proportion were in unmarked graves, which is perhaps not surprising. This number of such burials was swollen by the fact that St Michael’s was the burial ground for Workhouse residents. Thus the grave inscriptions that we have only tell us something about the levels of society that could afford the services of a stonemason.

The nature of the inscriptions

The bulk of the inscriptions have a very simple biographical form – a dedication (In memory of / In remembrance of / Sacred to the memory of etc.) followed by the full name of the deceased, an indication of where they were from, a description of death (died / fell asleep, entered into rest etc.) and a date and age of death. A typical example is that of Maria Webster.

Sacred to the memory of MARIA WEBSTER of the City who died Jan. 16 1873 aged 78 years.

 This can be repeated a number of times depending on how many are buried in the grave or commemorated on the memorial, which is not necessarily the same thing. Apart from giving names and death dates, such inscriptions are not terribly informative. Where there are numerous burials in one tomb, the inscriptions can become very complicated. For example, those the Bird family tomb has the following set of inscriptions.

SUSANNA BIRD died October 28th 1754 aged 34 years. HENRY BIRD many years an Alderman of this City died November 1st 1783 aged 65 years. ANN BIRD wife of WILLIAM BIRD died May 28th 1778 aged 28 years. WILLIAM GUEST BIRD Esq member of the Corporation of Lichfield who died after an illness of two days in the Faith of Jesus Christ on the 5th day of September 1833 in the 46 year of his age at Margate in Kent where his remains are interred. Be ye therefore ready also for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not. SlJSANNA MARGARET SALT daughter of WILLIAM & ANN BIRD died November 28th 1851 . She was a Christian of rare excellence. WILLIAM BIRD of this City died the 9th of September 1817 aged 72 years. MARY BIRD relict of WILLIAM BIRD died April 7th 1821 aged 74.

The Bird tomb

However, some memorials contain more information. Some of this is an extension of the biographical, describing the role of the deceased or the nature of their demise. In the above example Susannah Margaret Salt is described as

a Christian of rare excellence

The biographical style is particularly common for military casualties. For example, that of James Henry Thorpe which is part of a larger family inscription

……..  Also of their youngest son JAMES HENRY THORPE, Sergeant 1st South Staffordshire Regiment who fell in action at Kleine Zonnebleke, October 26th 1914 aged 26 years……….

Instead of, or as well as, such biographical information, around 180 graves give inscriptions of a pious or religious nature. These are of three forms. The first, and earliest, is in the form of a verse (I hesitate to use the word poetry, since many of the inscriptions represent crimes against the English language!) such as that for Thomas Lee.

Sacred to the memory of THOMAS LEE who departed this life December 15th 1829 aged LXX. No flattering titles deck this humble stone. This verse is sacred to the truth above. Here lies exceed the character who can. An upright Mason and an honest man…

The second is a verse from the bible, often a verse used in the funeral liturgy – such as “In the midst of life we are in death” or “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord”. The third type is a simple vaguely religious, but non-scriptural sound phrase such as “Peace, perfect peace”, “Rest in peace” or “Reunited”.

Interestingly these three types can be distinguished by the age of inscription. The bar chart below shows the raw number of each type of inscription in 25 year periods – the non-uniformity of the data is such that I have not attempted a more rigorous statistical analysis. It is clear that the verse form has maximum popularity between 1826 and 1850, the biblical text between 1876 and 1900, and the simple phrase between 1926 and 1950.

Inscription types by date

In what follows, we will first give a few of the more interesting examples of the “biography” type of inscription, and similarly give some examples of the verse form.

Biographic inscriptions

Soldiers

There are a number of biographic descriptions of soldiers’ lives – both those who died at an advanced age and those who dies on active service. Perhaps the most visited of the memorials is that of Trumpeter John Brown, who served in the Crimean War.

Near here is the grave of Trumpeter JOHN BROWN 1815—189B who sounded the trumpet for the 17th Lancers at the Charge of the Light Brigade, Balaclava 25th October 1854.

Trumpeter Brown Memorial

More details of Trumpeter Brown can be found here. A number of Lichfield soldiers were killed in the first and second world wars and these are memorialized both on individual gravestones and on the Commonwealth War graves memorial. These include the following.

….. In Ioving memory of FRANK STANDLEY BUTLER 1st/ 8th Royal Warwicks who fell in action in France August 17 1917 aged 20 years.

…… Also FRANK LARKIN his brother Lance Corporal 1st North Staffs. Regiment who fell in action at Ypres July 9th 1915 aged 31 years. Also of MERVIN GODFREY LARKIN brother of the above born September 22nd 1888 who fell in action in France March 14th 1917.

,,,,Also his brother L/Cpl GEORGE WOLFE 6th North Staffs. Regt who made the supreme sacrifice at Caen Aug 15th  1944 interred in Grand Aunay British Cemetry France aged 23 years.

It is hard to imagine how the deaths of two sons affected the parents of Frank and Mervin Larkin.

Civic officials

A number of civic officials are buried in the graveyard, including former Mayors of Lichfield. The memorial to Alderman Joseph Raby from 1916, Mayor in 1915 also contains memorials to his wife who dies in 1938 and to his son who died in action in an unspecified location in 1918.

In loving memory of Alderman JOSEPH T. RABY, J.P. , F. J . I. Mayor of Lichfield 1915—16 called suddenly to rest May 30th 1916 aged 62. Also HANNAH his beloved wife died April 22nd1938 aged 86. Also Pte. HORACE S. RABY beloved son of the above who died November 8th 1918 aged 26 years.

The memorial to Robert Bridgeman, a sculptor by profession, contains both his biographic details, a short non-scriptural phrase, memorials to the death of his son in the first world war; and also the memorials to another son who was also mayor, and to that son’s wife, and is a good example of how complex the inscriptions can become.

ROBERT BRIDGEMAN, Sculptor. Sheriff and twice Mayor of this City departed this life March 1st 1918 in his 73rd year. After life’s fitful journey may he rest in peace. ROBERT GEORGE BRIDGEMAN Serge. Royal Engineers killed in action in France Nov. 5th 1916 aged 24. SARAH ANN wife of JOSEPH HENRY BRIDGEMAN died April 18th 1948 aged 83 years. JOSEPH HENRY BRIDGEMAN twice Mayor and also Sheriff of this City died February 24th 1951 aged 80 years.

Church officers and clergy

A number of church officers and clergy have memorials in the churchyard, The oldest of these is to the father and the son both named William Clarke, long term clarkes of the church. The death dates assigned when the stone was restored in 1870 were 1525 and 1562, although I have argued elsewhere that this is probably a misreading and they should be a century later.

Here lyes the body of WILLIAM CLARKE who was clarke of this church 51 years and buried March 5th 1525(?) aged ??. Here lies the body of William Clarke clarke of this church 71 years who died September 26th 1562 aged 86. Restored 1870

The two churchwardens that are explicitly mentioned are George Andrews and William Treadgold, the latter being warden at St. Mary’s rather than St. Michaels. There are however others buried in the churchyard who are not so identified – for example William Durrad, Lichfield’s first Station Master.

In loving memory of GEORGE ANDREWS sometime churchwarden of this parish born December 31st 1828 died July 24th 1905. Also of CATHERINE ANDREWS his widow born April 20th 1826 died April 24th 1909.

In loving memory of EMMA wife of WILLIAM TREADGOLD who died April 2nd 1935 aged 75. Also of WILLIAM TREADGOLD Churchwarden of St. Mary’s, Lichfield, who died September 1st 1944 aged 81.

Four of the first five rectors of the parish are buried in the churchyard – Thomas Gnossall Parr, James Serjeantson, Otho Steele and Percival Howard. The inscriptions on the graves of Parr, Steele and Howard are given below. Only the names of the Serjeantson grave were recorded in the 1960s survey and tnis was not recorded at all in the 1980s.  The story of these rector’s is told elsewhere.

THOMAS GNOSALL PARR died March 13th 1843 aged 68. ANNE his wife died May 31st 1839 aged 61. ANNE PARR their eldest daughter died Aug…. 1862 aged 59. THOMAS GNOSALL  eldest son of THOMAS GNOSSALL and ANN PARR…years, incumbent of this parish  ………and Deans Vicar of Lichfield Cathedral died December 23rd 1867 aged 68. RICHARD PARR died at Worksop May 19th 1862 aged 56. WILLIAM SEPTIMUS PARR died at Welshpool June 16th 1862 aged 47. BENJAMIN  & EDWARD PARR died in their childhood.

In loving memory of OTHO W. STEELE died 25th May 1922 aged 83 years. Rector of this Parish 1893-1913. CICELY MARY ANDERSON daughter of the above born 11th June 1877 died 2nd Sept. 1972. HENRY STEWART ANDERSON, C.M.G. , R. A.M. C. born 15th April 1872 died 12th May 1961.

PERCIVAL HOWARD born 7 July 1875 died 16 October 1955. Rector of this Parish 1913—1947.

Children

Of the different types of inscriptions, those in memory of children are the most poignant, and given the high incidence of child mortality up to the start of the twentieth century, the most common. A few illustrations are given below. The first, for Tabitha Morley, quotes a saying of Jesus, that refers to a dead child he brought back to life. The second and third record multiple childhood deaths in the same family.

Sacred to the memory of TABITHA the only and dearly beloved child of SAMUEL MORLEY Vicar of Warslaw—cum—Elkstone in this County and SARAH his wife. She died in her infancy 15th day of July 1861. She is not dead, but sleepeth.

In affectionate remembrance of the beloved children of JOSEPH and ANN ALLTON. JOSEPH who died June 12th 1855 aged 14 years. ELIZA ANN who died December 22nd 1856 aged 3 years 8 months and WILLIAM ALFRED who died June 7th 1862 aged 18 years. Also of three others who died in their infancy.

In memory of dearly beloved children of HERBERT & HARRIET LARKIN. AMY born October 24t  1872 died September 24th 1896. KATE ELLEN born September 30th 1877 died March 23 1897. WILLIAM HENRY born June 11th 1875 died April 8t 1876. FLORENCE born December 23rd 1878 died September 23 1879. LUCY DOROTHEA born September 21st 1885 died October 26 1886.

Others

There are a number of other interesting biographical descriptions in the churchyard. Firstly that of Elizabeth Logan. Her story perhaps to be told more fully.

Sacred to the memory of ELIZABETH LOGAN who died February 28th 1878. Having acted with MISS NIGHTINGALE in the Crimea on her return she followed the profession of sick nurse for which she was eminently qualified by her skill and experience. A strong sense of duty and great kindness of heart. No one who witnessed her self—denying exertions in aid of suffering humanity could ever forget them. Well done good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

The Corfield memorial is at first sight a simple family biographical memorial, until one realizes that nearly all of them died on the same day. This was the result of a fire in a house on Breadmarket Street in 1871 (next to the Johnson House) that resulted in William Corfield, his mother, his wife and his four children all suffocating due to smoke inhalation. A large crowd attended the funeral and the whole incident was covered in detail by the press.

In memory of MARGARET CORFIELD age 81. Also of WILLIAM her son age 47 and THERESA MARY his wife age 35. They died January 14th 1873. Also of their children WILLIAM JAMES age 5 years and 5 months. MARY THERSA age 4 years and 2 months. JOHN aged 3 years and 1 month. ELLEN age 6 weeks. They died January 14th 1873. THOMAS died May’ 27th 1871 age 17 days.

The Corfield Grave

Family Groups

There are a number of family groups of graves in the churchyard. The most prominent of these are those of the Treadgolds, with thirteen burials in six graves between1894 and 1971, the Gilberts, with thirty two burials in nineteen graves between 1790 and 1904, and the Larkins with forty three burials in 18 graves between 1827 and 1977. These include the grave of Sidney and Eva Larkin, the parents of the poet Philip Larkin, who famously once said of Lichfield ‘God, this place is dull’.  Behind Sidney and Emma’s grave is the memorial to another Philip Larkin who died in 1878. The story is told that when the 18-year-old poet came across this gravestone, he was understandably perturbed and wrote to a friend, ‘I reeled away conscious of a desire to vomit into a homburg hat’.

Verse inscriptions

A number of verse inscriptions are given below. It is very easy to be rude about the quality of both the rhyme and the rhythm of these verses – and indeed I have been so above. But nonetheless they were chosen by relatives of those who are buried in the churchyard and must express at least something of what they wished to say.  So, whilst 200 years on, we may be amused by what is written, it is perhaps important not to be too critical and scornful.

Early deaths

A number of the verse inscriptions refer to early and sudden deaths – often as dire warnings for those who follow to prepare themselves for a similar fate.

Sacred to the memory of ANN RILEY who died October 28th 1838 aged 75 years. Also of ROBERT RILEY who died May 24th 1843 aged 81 years. Sacred to the memory of SARAH RILEY who died September 18th 1825 aged 28 years. Lost in the bloom of life lamented maid. Sweet by thy slumber in death’s dreary shade. And when thou leav’st thy lowly bed of rest. O may’st thou mount and mingle with the blest.

In affectionate remembrance of WILLIAM HITCHINS who died December 27th 1867 aged 21 years. He sleeps in Jesus. Also of JOHN HENRY HITCHINS who died October 5th 1869 aged 23 years. Weep not for me my mother dear. I am not dead but sleeping here. My end you know, my grave you see. Prepare therefore to follow me.

In affectionate remembrance of HARRY ALLEN MOONEY who died June 30 1883 aged 20 years. Death to me no warning gave. Therefore be careful how you Iive. Prepare in time make no delay. For no one knows their dying day.

Sacred to the memory of SUSAN daughter of WILLIAM and SUSANNAH ROGERS who died Feby 28 1843 aged 19. Also of two sons and one daughter who died infants. Ye, who with youthful steps, now lightly tread. O’er these green hillocks of the unconscious dead. Pause a few moments at this lowly tomb. And learn — an early death may be thy doom. Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM ROGERS who died July 29th 1864 aged 82. Also of SUSANNAH his wife who died April 3rd 1866 aged 83.

Husbands and fathers, wives and mothers

The verses for family members are often quite sad and reflective whilst describing the attributes of the deceased.

Sacred to the memory of JOHN HILL late of the Scales in this City who died April the 27th 1809 aged 66 By sudden death, he was deprived of life. Left years, son and daughter, and a faithful wife. Who mourn his loss and hope his sours on high. With Jesus Christ above the starry sky. His near relations do his fate bemoan. And to his memory have placed this stone.

In affectionate remembrance of WILLIAM BOOTH who departed this life April 5th 1876 aged 67 years. Dear wife and children do not weep. Whilst with the dead do sleep. A troublesome world I left behind. A crown of glory I hope to find.

In memory of ANN the wife of GEORGE GILBERT who died November 2 1824 aged 57 years. and of two children who died in their infancy. A faithful wife in silence slumbers here. A tender mother and a friend sincere. While living just, industrious and kind. A loss to all her friends she’s left behind.

Sacred to the memory of HANNAH wife of JAMES DABBS who died March 15th 1834 aged 48 years. A long affliction I do bear. Physicians were in vain. Till God did please to summons me. And ease me of my pain. Sacred to the memory of PHILIP SALT who departed this life January 29th 1823 aged 46. Also SARAH his daughter who died May 16th 1834 aged 23.

A new rail connection for Blaenau Ffestiniog?

In a 2019 issue of the Ffestiniog Railway Society magazine, a brief article described the early days of a project to restore the Dinas branch at the Blaenau Ffestiniog end of the line, thus reconnecting the town centre with the area in the midst of the slate heaps to the south of the Conwy Valley line tunnel (see the above map from Wikipedia which shows the complex FR layout around Blaenau). A useful history of the branch is give here.  It was lifted in the 1950s but the trackbed remains visible and accessible to the west of the Conwy Valley line south of the Ffestiniog tunnel. The main driver for the project would have been to provide a connection between the town centre station and the Llechwedd quarry, to the east of the Conwy Valley line near the tunnel portal, which has become a major tourist attraction, both in terms of its mining heritage but also as a mountain cycling and zip line venue. Unfortunately, with the advent of the pandemic, this project seems to have dropped from view, which is hardly surprising. The idea was raised recently once again on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways Insider Facebook page, and the large potential costs of re-opening the branch against the potential income was again emphasized as the main barrier to taking this idea further.

Whilst I quite understand why the project has not progressed, it still seems to me that the initial reason for the proposed re-opening still remains. The centre of Blaenau has been transformed in recent years, but it is still an area that requires much investment in its future. To have its major tourist attraction an inconvenient mile and a half out of town with no public transport links, does little to help with the development of the town itself – indeed visitors to Llechwedd have no real need to stop off in the town centre at all. And of course the lack of any public transport connection simply encourages what is being increasingly appreciated as the unsustainable use of the private car. Thus in this brief post I suggest a way in which this project could be taken forward in what might be an affordable fashion (although I present no sort of cost benefit analysis at all).

The basic idea is simple – instead of relaying the former Dinas branch, the existing track formation of the Conwy Valley line should be used instead. With the current level of service provision on the line, in normal times the section from Roman Bridge just north of the  tunnel is occupied for only 45 minutes every 3 hour period. With a little imagination in the development of a signaling system to ensure safety, I would suggest that the line between the town centre and Dinas could be used for a shuttle service to take visitors between the town centre and the quarry complex when that section of track is not occupied. This could be done in two, relatively cheap, ways – either through the use of (lung destroying) standard gauge heritage DMUs, between the Conwy Valley line platform and a new platform at Dinas (which could be positioned on the eastern, Llechwedd side of the track and would avoid the need for a foot crossing that would be inherent in the relaying of the FR Dinas branch) and an access road to the quarry. More interestingly, a narrow-gauge track could be laid within the standard gauge track, with switches to allow narrow gauge trains to access these rails from the FT station, and a short station branch at Dinas. This would of course allow existing FR stock to be used.

Both these alternatives should be much cheaper than the relaying of the branch and could provide an attractive link between town and quarry. Realistically however they are likely to meet with strong opposition from the very conservative Network Rail culture, with its massively inflated approvals procedure, and great determination would be required to take forward these or other similar ideas.

At some stage in the future, I will write another blog post on the development of public transport links within the World Heritage Slate Landscape region – there is much to be said about transforming the current private vehicle dominated system into something that could be accessed by public transport. But that is for another day / week / month / year.