A little more on a Nurse’s Grave

In a recent post I set out what we know of Elizabeth Logan, a nurse who swerved with Forence Nightingale in the Crimea and who is buried in St Michael’s churchyard. Towards the end of the post I wrote

” In addition, sadly, her grave can no longer be positively identified, and there are a number of broken or very worn monuments in the region where a1984 survey by the Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry (Midland Ancestors)  suggests it is to be found.”

Thankfully her headstone has now been found, not by me, but by my wife who took all of 60 seconds to find what I had spent several hours looking for. My only excuse is that I was looking for a reasonably vertical headstone rather than one laid flat and half buried under grass – see the photo below. It can be seen to be in rather poor condition, and clearly some thought needs to be given as to how it can be better cared for and displayed.

A nurse’s grave

In the records of headstone inscriptions for St. Michael’s churchyard in Lichfield, we find the following entry.

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 burial register tells us that she was 66 when she died and the register and lived on Dam St. In the 1861 census she is recorded as a nurse, lodging with a greengrocer and his wife on Market Street. She there identifies herself as “Mrs” and her birthplace is given as Glasgow. This leads me to conjecture that she was widowed before she went to Crimea, and probably had no children, although there are lots of other possibilities of course.

In the records of Miss Nightingale’s nurses she is noted as coming from Edinburgh and having been recommended by “Dr Simpson and others and committee of Nursing home” and was “one of the very best nurses, returned on the Ottawa, July 1856”. Florence Nightingale writes of her to her friend Lady Cranworth, from the Barrack hospital at Scutari in early July 1856.

My probable last letter to you is merely to say that Elizabeth Logan, nurse, whom I have sent home by the Ottawa is, on the whole, the one I consider the most respectable and sober, efficient, kind and good of all my nurses, the one I most hope not to lose sight of, the one I have the deepest regard for. She wishes for a private situation. If she comes to you for a character, I think you may be perfectly safe in recommending her. She is an excellent nurse.

Praise indeed from such as she. We read of Elizabeth briefly again in August 1856 when she wrote to Miss Nightingale saying her wages had not been settled (one presumes by the army), and in February 1857 when she wrote thanking her “for the Sultan’s gift and for her help in securing her present agreeable situation”. Would that we knew what the gift and her situation was!

And that is about as much as we know of her. The fact that she was probably a widow with her husband’s name makes her very difficult to trace through the census and baptism and marriage registers. Indeed Elizabeth Logan is not an uncommon name in Glasgow and Edinburgh around that period. So we have no details at all of her early life, or what she did when she returned from Crimea, other than that she finished up in Lichfield. In addition, sadly, her grave can no longer be positively identified, and there are a number of broken or very worn monuments in the region where a1984 survey by the Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry (Midland Ancestors)  suggests it is to be found. But the presence of her grave in the churchyard does balance to some degree the many soldiers graves found there, including of those who fought in the Crimean War.

So to end with a plea – if any reader can provide any more information about her life, it would be hugely appreciated.

The Churchyard at St. Michael’s, Lichfield – registers and records

The churchyard of St Michael on Greenhill in Lichfield is very large and of some antiquity, with indications that it was a place of worship well before the Conquest. Today it comprises two sections – the old churchyard, which was formally closed to new burials in the late 1960s, and the new churchyard, which opened in 1944 and is still in use, although burial space is becoming very restricted. Both contain numerous graves and monuments, and the churchyard is of considerable interest to both local historians and those involved in family history research. Unsurprisingly, the church receives many requests for family history searches. 

In the past two surveys have been carried out of the graves and monuments – one of the grave positions by the local council in 1967 before the reordering of the old churchyard and the moving of the headstones, and one if the monumental inscriptions in 1984 by the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry (BMSGH). There is also a full set of burial registers available from 1813 to the present, with those to 1905 having been transcribed in 2005 by the Burntwood Family History Society.

Over the last few months, I have been occupied in working on a project to bring together all the grave and register information into one spreadsheet that can be publicly accessed by those interested in researching their own family history. The results of this project can be found on a series of web pages that can be accessed from the button below. In developing these webpages, the 1967 and 1984 surveys have been collated and the latter has been very considerably extended to include memorial inscriptions up to 2012. A significant number of what appear to be typographical errors in both surveys have also been corrected (and no doubt others introduced). The registers from 1906 to 2012 have also been transcribed. The debt to those who produced the original surveys and inscription transcripts remains significant.

The material is presented as follows.

  • An introductory page.
  • A page that contains maps and plans that define the positions of graves and monuments from the 1960s to the present. The situation is complex, with a number of different classification systems used over the decades, and the headstones being moved to different locations.
  • A page that links to sub-pages which describe the current state of the various grave areas and clusters within the churchyard and contains photographs of the more notable monuments.
  • A page that links to and describes the downloadable spreadsheet that contains all the register and monument information in a searchable format. These include, for each entry in the registers, the surname and Christian names, death date, cremation date and interment date (where available), the inscription on the grave, and indications of original gave location and current headstone location within the churchyard.

In addition, photographs have been taken of all extant headstones. Although web site storage limits do not allow these to be uploaded, they can be obtained on request.

There is of course much more that could be done. The information in the spreadsheet can be used to carry out a detailed demographic analysis and analysis of funeral practices; there is much information there that can be integrated into the very long history of St Michael’s church and parish; and there is much, much more to be said about the lives of those who found their last resting place in the churchyard. Over the course of the next year or two, I hope to follow up on all of these. So watch this space – but don’t expect anything very quickly!

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!

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

Lichfield’s first station master

In this post I will consider the life and career of Lichfield’s first Station Master, William John Durrad (1817-1889). All the information in this post is gleaned from public sources – registers of birth and death, census records, employment records and the local press. Whilst these can describe a life in broad terms, they cannot really give a proper picture of the person’s character and personality. But in the case of William Durrad, they do show a typical Victorian progression from humble origins to gentleman status, brought about through a mixture of patronage and effort, and cast some light on the life of Lichfield in the nineteenth century.

For the sake of readability, I have not given any sources of information in the text below – should readers be interested in where the detail comes from, please email me on c.j.baker@bham.ac.uk for further information.

Early years

William John Durrad was born in 1817, the second child John and Ann Durrad of the village of Welford in Northamptonshire and baptised in the parish church. To avoid confusion with others, I will generally refer to him as William John in what follows. The Durrad name has a long history in that area, with a John Durrad of the nearby village of Misterton (d1726), being part owner of the Lordship of the Manor and a considerable donor to local charities.  William John’s father, John (b1780), however seems to have been of humbler stock and is described at William John’s baptism as a weaver. William John had one elder sister and four younger brothers, at least two of whom died in childhood. Their relative lack of prosperity can be judged by the fact that in 1851 his elder sister Mary was a servant at a household in Lancashire and his younger brother Richard was a butler at a house in Surrey (where he was later to marry the cook). His father John died in 1826, and William John’s mother Ann married again in 1827 to William Sanders, an agricultural labourer, and had several other children. We will meet one of these, Stephen Sanders (b.1831), again in what follows.

William John next firmly appears in the historical record as an employee of the London North Western Railway in the mid-1840s. It is possible however, at least provisionally and with some conjecture, to piece together some aspects of his early life. The first clue comes from his obituary in the Lichfield Mercury in 1889 where we read

“Being brought into intimate relations with the late Archdeacon Moore, he was fortunate enough to secure the good wishes and kindly offices of that dignitary of the church, and by his influence obtained a situation under the London and North Western Railway Company in the early days of railway enterprise”.

The Venerable Henry Moore (1795 – 1876) was Archdeacon of Stafford from 1856 to his death in 1876. He was born at Sherborne, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and ordained in 1819. In the 1840s he was vicar of Eccleshall near Stafford and Penn near Wolverhampton and was made Archdeacon of Stafford and Prebend of Handsacre in 1851. The pictures below show the sketch by the artists Henry Armistead for this effigy in the cathedral, and the finished monument.

The second clue comes from the rather unusual name of Durrad. From as early as 1839 to the end of the century and beyond, there was a store in Eccleshall trading under the name, firstly, of William Durrad, and later of Joseph Durrad. The early mentions of this firm in the press in 1839 were as an agent for the selling of “Woolriches Improved Diuretic Horse Balls”, “Simpson’s new antibillious pills” and “Wesley’s Family Pills”, but from 1841 it is referred to as “Stationers” and from 1844 onwards as “Booksellers”. The firm acted as a publisher of postcards and political pamphlets, and as the local agent for many weekly subscribing magazines. One of these pamphlet from 1847, “A Political Sketch of the Relative Position of England and France” by Herbert Rice Esq. can be read on Google books by anyone interested in that sort of thing.  A photograph of the shop from 1897 can be found here.

The 1861 census identifies the owner of the bookstore as William Durrad, born in Leicester in 1821, and described as “Painter and Bookseller, organist, distributor of stamps”. This younger William was the son of a James Durrad, born in Welford in 1798. It seems very likely, given that they were both born in Welford, that James Durrad was related in some way or other to the William John’s father John, possible a younger brother or nephew. Note William’s age however – in 1839, when we first hear of the firm, he would only have been 18 years old.  Unfortunately, none of the sources give a middle name that can be used to identify him more precisely, and we will refer to him as the younger William in what follows. There is however a tantalising reference to W. J. Durrad from 1843 in a press advert for  Wesley’s famous product.

The third and final clue is that in the London North Western Railway records, William John’s profession before entering the service of the company is given as “bookseller”.

Thus, we can conclude that in the early 1840s William John and the younger William, who were probably cousins, were owners of a bookshop in Eccleshall, with William John, at least at first, being the senior partner. It is likely that the W. J. Durrad mentioned above from 1843 refers to him. It was there that they met Henry Moore, then the vicar of the parish, who could be expected, given his background, to be something of a bibliophile. From that meeting, the influence of the clergyman was enough to find William John a position in the London and North Western Railway. The bookshop was presumably left in the hands of the younger William and was eventually taken over by his younger brother Joseph (b1838) in the 1860s, after Joseph had worked as an assistant in a bookshop in Leicester, when the younger William retired.

Of course this leaves the question unanswered as to how William John came to be in Eccleshall in the first place, where he obtained the education that was presumably required to operate as a bookseller, and how he obtained the necessary resources to open a shop at all. It is unlikely that these questions will ever be answered.

Station Master and family man

We first read of William John in the London North Western Railway records as being, in 1845, the Lichfield agent for the company. As the company wasn’t in existence until July 1846, he was presumably an agent for one of the companies that ultimately came together to make up the LNWR – probably the Trent Valley Railway. His duties were thus to represent the interests of the railway during its inception phase. He was paid either £100pa or £130pa – the sources are contradictory. By the time the station opened in 1847, he was the designated Station Master, on a salary of £120pa. He was also at that stage a married man, having married Elizabeth Lowe, at Tettenhall in April 1846. There is no indication of how or where they met.

The employment records note that William John joined the railway when he was 21, which seems like an error, as that would be in 1838, 5 years before parliamentary approval was given for its construction, and too early for the bookshop to be left in the hands of the younger William. However, his obituary of 1889 says that, before coming to Lichfield, thanks to the good offices of the Archdeacon, he worked for some time at Edge Hill station in Liverpool. This had been in existence since 1831 as part of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It is just about possible, given the constraints on his timeline, that he worked there in 1844 or 1845 before moving to Lichfield. However, there is another possibility. In the LNWR records we find reference in the mid-1840s to Stephen Sanders, William John’s half-brother, calling himself Stephen Sanders Durrad, as being employed at Lichfield under William John’s supervision and later at Edge Hill as a clerk. This might possibly be the cause of the confusion.

I have described the original Lichfield station in another post. Basically, it was situated on the west side of the Lichfield / Burton road which the railway crossed on the level, i.e. on the opposite side to the current station. The picture below shows the rather grand style that was adopted by the architect John William Livock. The station building contained not only the passenger facilities and offices, but was also the Station Manager’s House, for which William John paid £15 a year in rent. To the east of the station and the Burton road, from 1849 the railway was crossed by the South Staffordshire Railway (now the Cross City line). This had a station to the north of the crossover entitled Lichfield Trent Valley junction. The South Staffs Railway was leased to the LNWR in 1861 and absorbed into the company in 1867. Clearly having two stations was inconvenient for passengers and both stations were closed in 1871 and a new station, with low level and high-level platforms, opened at its present site.

William John was the Station Master for the entire life of the original Lichfield station, with a wide range of responsibilities for the passenger and freight traffic, and for a significant number of staff. It is difficult to be precise about staff numbers as only the clerks and the porters tend to be mentioned in the records, when in reality there would have been a range of others associated with the adjacent freight yard that William probably had some responsibility for.  That being said, in 1847 there were seven named staff – Stephen Sanders Durrad mentioned above in a temporary post, plus six porters.

William John’s and Elizabeth’s children were born at regular intervals over the first decade and a half of his tenure as Station Master, and all were baptised at St Michael’s church, the station being situated in Streethay, a township at the northern end of the parish. William Henry was born in 1848, Arthur James in 1850 (confusingly named as Alfred on the census return of 1851), Walter Richard in 1852, Emma Helen in 1853 and Bertram George in 1860. With them in the house there were a succession of young servant girls which indicates that the family were comfortably off. William John’s salary steadily increased – to £130pa in 1853 and £135pa in 1859.

From time to time we see mentions of him in the press. In 1855 he was a witness in the trial of William Marson, who was charged with stealing two trusses and a large quantity of cloth from a wagon that had arrived from Stafford last in the evening and not unloaded till the day after. This is interesting in indicating his responsibility for the goods traffic as well as the passenger traffic. In 1869 he was a witness at an inquest into the death of Charles Lees from Barton-under-Needwood, a goods brakeman for the LNWR, who was working on a train from Wychnor to Shrewbury. At Lichfield it was engaged in shunting activities to leave some wagons behind and pick up some others. This involved moving trucks down the rather steep incline from the old South Staffs station to the Rugeley sidings at low level. Acting very much against the company rule Lees uncoupled the wagons as they rolled down the incline, fell and his leg was crushed by the following wagons. His wounds were bound up as far as possible, and then William John decided to have him taken by train to Stafford, as this was the quickest way to get medical attention. However, he died of his injuries, although the inquest jury agreed that Durrad’s actions had been appropriate.

It has been mentioned that all William John’s children were baptised at St Michael’s parish church, and his obituary specifically mentions his ongoing involvement with the activities there.  A picture of the church after the ill-fated restoration of the 1840s is shown below. He was a Churchwarden there in the 1850s. The registers of the parish reveal a rather curious incident in 1869. Emma Helen Durrad, then aged 16, was recorded as having been baptised as an adult at a private ceremony, and this was entered in the registers. The incumbent at the time, James Sergeantson, must have been aware from a register entry of 16 years before by his predecessor Thomas Gnossall Parr that she had already been baptised as an infant, and thus this was certainly in breach of canon law. Why and where the baptism took place, and why Sergeantson agreed to enter it into the register is not clear. Perhaps she had become involved with a non-conformist body that insisted on adult baptism, and the parents were trying to regularise this and perhaps put the Rector under some pressure to make an entry in the register?

William John Durrad resigned from his post as Station Master in June 1871, by which time his salary was £150pa. Why is not at all clear – but perhaps the fact that he would be required to move into less palatial accommodation when the new station was built may have been a factor.  There was a collection for a testimonial in the town, announced in the press, that raised a considerable (but not specified) sum. In the census of April 1871 all his children were still living at home. William Henry (22) was cashier at Lloyds Bank in Rugeley ; Athur James (20) was an undergraduate at Jesus College, Cambridge (and presumably on vacation), Walter Richard (19) was also a bank clerk; whilst Emma Helen (17) and Bertram George (11) were identified as scholars. Both Arthur and Bertram attended Lichfield Grammar School and Loughborough School – and this may well have been the case for William and Walter too. William John’s brother Richard also lived close by – he and the cook he married when he was a butler in Surrey were now running an Inn in Rugeley – and when he died in 1874, William Henry was to act as one of Richard’s executors.

A Civic Official

After his retirement William John and his family moved to Misterton Cottage. This is on the corner of Trent Valley Road and Wissage Road and still exists – as Holly Lodge – in the grounds of the Samuel Johnson Hospital – see the map and photograph below. It may indeed have been newly built at the time, perhaps under the direction of William John, as it does not appear on the 1848 tithe map but is present in the 1880 Ordnance Survey map. Its name is of course an echo of the Durrad’s roots in Northamptonshire. It was a substantial property. When it was eventually sold in 1890 it is described as being comprised of

Entrance Hall, Two reception rooms, Kitchen, Scullery, Pantry, Cellar, Four bedrooms, dressing room and WC. Well laid out gardens and a quarter of an acre of land.

Shortly after his resignation from the railway, William John took up the post as High Bailiff at Lichfield County Court, based in St. John’s Street, which he was to retain for the rest of his life. In this role he was responsible for executing warrants and court orders. He also had ecclesiastical responsibilities that may have dated back to his time as Station Master. Firstly, he was Apparitor to Archdeacon of Stafford, with the responsibility to summon witnesses and execute the orders of the ecclesiastical court. The Archdeacon, up to 1876, the Venerable Henry Moore. Secondly, he was sub-librarian in the Cathedral library, so he obviously retained his bibliographic interests. Both of these positions would have supplemented the pension from the LNWR.

In his civic roles he appeared regularly, if briefly each time, in the local press in the 1870s and 1880 – at the Mayor’s luncheon, the Sheriff’s breakfast and the perambulation of the city. He was also active in the St John’s Freemasons Lodge end held office there – as Junior Deacon in 1870 and as Junior Warden in 1876.  He also featured on an annual basis in the published list of partners in the Lloyds Banking Company Ltd., together with his son William Henry, who rose to become a Bank Manager in Rugeley in this period.  Presumably again, this was an additional source of income.

Walter Richard was married in 1874 to Sarah Stevens from Hertfordshire, and in the same year Arthur James, having graduated from Jesus College, was ordained Deacon in York. January 1882 saw the death of William Henry in Rugeley, from “congestion of the lungs”. A muffled peal of bells was rung at St Michael’s after evensong on a following Sunday, where both William Henry and his father had been regular ringers. Just two weeks after William Henry’s death, Bertram George, the youngest child, having also graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge, was ordained Deacon in Lichfield Cathedral. The following year William’s wife Elizabeth died from heart disease. Bertram married Margaret Wright from Marston Montgomery in Derbyshire in 1888. In 1881 Emma was a teacher and companion to the daughter of Frances Carver, a widowed farmer in Whaddon in Cambridgeshire.

Last days

William John died in January 1889. His obituary records that he had been ill for several weeks beforehand following an operation from which he was never to recover. The lead mourners were of course his family – Arthur James, by then Vicar of Ellerburne near Pickering; Walter Richard, Foreign Correspondent’s Clerk at Coutts in London; Bertram George, the English Anglican Chaplain in Berlin; Emma Helen; and Mrs W. Durrad and Lizzie Durrad. The latter were the second wife and daughter of his cousin, the younger William from Eccleshall. His first wife Louisa had died in 1879, without having had children, and having moved to London, he married Elizabeth Whittle, 24 years his junior in 1881. Clearly William John had maintained contact with that branch of his family over the years. The funeral was a full choral service and at the burial the choir gathered around the grave and sang the hymn “Now the Labourer’s task is o’er”.

An obituary notice appeared in the February 1889 edition of the St Michael’s church Magazine, which sheds some further light on his work for the church.

William John, his wife Elizabeth and his son William Henry are buried together in one grave in the graveyard of St Michael’s church. It is currently (May 2021) somewhat overgrown and difficult to access. Nonetheless its design is rather unusual as can be seen below.

They are also commemorated in floor plaques in the church at the front of the chancel beneath the pulpit, These are positioned (deliberately?) on the opposite side of the chancel to two similar plaques commemorating the lives of two of the 19th century Bishops of Lichfield (Selwyn and Lonsdale) – see below. I strongly suspect this placement was deliberate on the part of the family and church leaders. This is perhaps a final indication of the perceived importance of the Station Master in Lichfield society at the time. 

The Durrad Memorial tablets in St. Michael’s Lichfield
The memorials to Bishop Londsdale and Bishop Selwyn
The placing of the Durrad memorials in St Michael’s. When the memorials were installed, the main font would have been just to left of the Bishop’s plaques. (For those who can spot such things, the combination of the Advent Candle ring on the left and a container of sanitizer on the pulpit steps on the right marks this photo as having been taken in December 2020.)

The Durrad memorials contain a further point of interest, in the symbols at the bottom of each plaque beneath the names. On that of William Henry, it is a fairly conventional and formal fleur -de-lis. On Elizabeth’s, we have the snowdrop – seen as a symbol of both death and rebirth. On William John’s plaque we have the Speedwell, or Veronica, a symbol of sympathy and mourning . Perhaps these decorations were deliberate and say something of the families feelings and the characters of those commemorated. Alternatively they may just have been what was available from the manufacturer’s catalogue!

In his will, with Arthur James and Bertram George named as executors, William John’s effects are said to be worth £3138, a very considerable sum. What this refers to is not clear, but probably includes Misterton Cottage and its contents, some land off the Walsall Road as well as his personal effects and any other savings . The year after the funeral Emma Helen married Frances Carver of Meldrith in Cambridgeshire (for whom she had worked as his daughter’s teacher and companion), Misterton Cottage was sold, and the Durrad family finally severed its connections with Lichfield.

A historical curiosity – Fog Cottages

The original Lichfield Trent Valley station

Next to the original Lichfield Trent Valley station (north if the current one – see my blog post at https://profchrisbaker.com/…/lichfield-trent-valley…/ ) the OS map of 1900 shows a row of cottages that the census return names as Fog Cottages as shown in figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Lichfield Trent Valley 1900 OS map

I noticed recently whilst out walking that there is another similarly named row of cottages just beyond Rugeley Trent Valley station. This is not shown on the 1900 map, but is there on the 1920 map, again shown on Figure 2.

Figure 2. Rugeley Trent Valley 1920 OS Map

The Staffordshire Past Track website has a picture of these cottages at https://www.search.staffspasttrack.org.uk/Details.aspx… with the following explanation for the name.

“A postcard view of Fog Cottages, on the Colton Road near Trent Valley Station, Rugeley. They acquired the name Fog Cottages because the end cottage had an alarm bell installed and this was used in foggy conditions to call out the railway men who lived in the cottages to go and place fog detonator alarms on the nearby rails to assist the train drivers.”.

A modern view of the Rugeley Cottages (from Google Street View) is shown in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3. Fog Cottages, Rugeley

The question then arises as to whether the name of Fog Cottages has more widespread use. And the answer is that it does. Mathams and Keshall (2014) present an old photograph of a now demolished set of Fog cottages at Amington, next to the LNWR line north of Tamworth (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Fog Cottages Amington (Mathams and Keshall, 2014)

Rightmove (perhaps one of the more unusual historical sources!)  reveals that there are Fog Cottages at Watford, Collingtree and Althorp Parkin Northamptonshire and at Tring in Hertfordshire (see the Google Street View shots of these in figure 5). There are almost certainly more that I have not identified. All are next to the LNWR line, but only some are near stations or the sites of former stations. On the Amington Cottages Mathams and Keshall write

The LNWR standard cottages were built after 1883 when the design was introduced by Francis Webb, Chief Engineer of the LNWR and later examples – built after 1883/4 – are recognisable by the courses of stepped-out brickwork on the gable ends and under the eaves, and the four red-brick bands which run round the building in line with window sills and lintels, all of which can be seen in the picture below.  Nearly everything (except the slates) came from the LNWR works at Crewe;  bricks, woodwork and metal fittings.  

I can find no mentions of Fog Cottages other than in LNWR territory so it looks as if we have here a specifically LNWR naming policy. But if there are any occurrences away from the LNWR I would be pleased to be told.

Lichfield Trent Valley 1847-1871

Figure 1 The original LNWR station looking north (down platform on left; up platform on right)

As it stands today, Lichfield Trent Valley railway station is situated at the point where the West Coast Main Line (WCML) is crossed by the extension of the Cross City Line towards Burton-upon-Trent. It has three platforms – two low level platforms on the WCML and one high level platform on the Cross City Line. It lies to the east of Trent Valley Road, the old turnpike road from Lichfield to Burton. In this post, I will describe the earliest stations in this area that existed between the late 1840s and the early 1870s and will also describe the career of the first station master. It will be seen that the grandeur of the early station building and the status of the Station Master in Lichfield society indicates the importance and significance of the early railway system.

The original Lichfield Trent Valley station

The positions of the first stations in the area are shown on the Lichfield St. Michael parish (Streethay township) Tithe Map of 1848, an extract from which is given in figure 2. The current station location is indicated by a green oval. The original 1847 Lichfield station of the London and North Western Railway (red circle) is on the west of the Turnpike Road, with platforms on either side of the track, and the main station building on the down line. The station is illustrated in the drawing of figure 1 and can be seen to be quite a substantial affair, designed by the architect John William Livock in the gothic style. It was clearly designed to make a statement as to the importance and grandeur of the company. As was normally the case at the time, the platforms were much lower than is the case today. The Turnpike Road crossed the railway on a flat crossing rather than the current bridge, and it is likely that passengers also used this crossing.  The map also shows the line of the South Staffordshire Railway that crosses the London North Western line, although that was not completed when the map was produced and not opened until 1849. Its station (Lichfield Trent Valley Junction – indicated by the dotted red circle) was just to the south of the point where the  line crosses the Old Burton Road and was connected to the LNWR station by a chord as shown in the 1882 Ordnance Survey Map of figure 3. It is not known if there was also a pedestrian connection between the stations, but one can surmise that there was as otherwise the walk between the two would have required a considerable trek along local roads and tracks. (For those who know this area, this would have entailed a walk down Burton Old road in Streethay, to the current junction with Cappers Lane, which did not exist at the time, then along Burton Old Road east to the path across the Cross City line by the tip, then up Trent Valley Road to the other station.)

Figure 2 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)

Figure 3 1882 Ordnance Survey map showing the station sites (key as in figure 2)

Building survival after closure

To make connections easier, a new station (Lichfield Trent Valley) was built by the London North Western Railway in 1871 at its current location. This is shown on the 1882 Ordnance Survey Map in figure 3 and there can be seen to be station buildings on both the low level LNWR line and the upper level South Staffordshire line. Interestingly the old LNWR station building can still be seen on the down side of the line next to a set of sidings, although that on the up line has been obliterated by other sidings. This building survived into modern times, as can be seen on the 1970 Ordnance Survey map of figure 4. The realization that this building was around till then made me take a more careful look at some 1960s train photographs, and I was gratified to find a number of shots of the building, which are shown in figure 5. Those of figures 5a and 5b are taken from the Trent Valley Road bridge over the railway line, and those of figures 5c and 5d from track level on the west of the bridge. Clearly here the focus of the photographers was on the locomotives rather than the building, but they do show that the original station building survived in its more or less original form until modern times.  Perhaps one can even see a surviving gas light column – see the enlargements of figure 6 – although here I may be confusing a signalling column with a lamp stand.

Figure 4 1970 Ordnance Survey map showing the station sites (key as in figure 2)

Figure 5 1960s photographs showing the original LNWR station in the background

Figure 6 Gas lamp survival?

The later stations

The station buildings of 1871 survived until the 1970s when they, like so many elsewhere, were replaced by much less substantial structures – effectively portakabins and bus shelters. In 2014 a rather more substantial main building was constructed on the WCML down platform, and more recently lifts have been built to improve access to the high level platform and the up WCML platform. The various incarnations of the station are shown in figure 7. Figure 8 shows the site of the original South Staffordshire station – nothing now survives. The same is true of the LNWR station, although the site is no longer accessible and cannot be easily photographed (I have tried!). Nonetheless, the fact that the original LNWR  building survived for over a century was perhaps a historical accident,  but enables the grandeur and the ambition of the builders to be appreciated.

Figure 7 Later station buildings

Figure 8 The site of the original South Staffordshire Railway station

The first station master

The first Station Master of the 1847 station was William Durrad, born in Northamptonshire in 1819, the son of a weaver. He was married to Elizabeth, two years his junior. Their first son, another William, was born in 1849, and he was followed by Arthur in 1850, Walter in 1852, Emma in 1854 and Bertram in 1867. They continued to live in the old railway station building until the 1871, with a succession of live-in servants. All the children survived to adulthood, and two of them (Arthur and Bertram) were educated at Loughborough Grammar School and studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, both becoming clergymen. William junior and Walter worked in banks and the former became a bank manager in Rugeley. William senior retired from his role of Station Master in 1871 at the closure of the first station. and we next read of him in the local press as a Bailiff (law officer) in the County Court. He was clearly an important man in the locality and the press of the time frequently mention his name as an attendee at various civic functions.  William junior died in 1882 and Elizabeth in 1883. William senior himself died in 1889, living £3138 in his will, a very substantial sum. He is recorded as living at Misterton cottage on Trent Valley Road. These three are buried together in one grave in the graveyard of St Michael’s church. They are also commemorated in floor plaques in the church at the front of the chancel beneath the pulpit – see figure 9.  These are positioned (deliberately?) on the opposite side of the chancel to two similar plaques commemorating the lives of two of the 19th century Bishops of Lichfield (Selwyn and Lonsdale). This is perhaps a final indication of the perceived importance of the Station Master in Lichfield society at the time.  Now, as well as spending too much time writing blog posts, I am also a minister at St Michael’s church and it came as a surprise to me that I should have been walking over these memorials in the course of celebrating the eucharist for the last twenty years, yet having  not the faintest idea who they related to.

After the Durrads left the old station, the building seems to have been divided into separate residences, but in 1881 only one was occupied by a railway porter and his wife. There was however a considerable community of railway staff (labourers and platelayers) in the nearby railway cottages that can be seen in figures 3 and 4. Unfortunately the 1891 census records for the area seem to be missing (or at any rate I can’t find them), but by 1901 the old railway station was occupied by 16 people from four families of railway workers (porters, platelayers, clerks), including the station master David Brown, his wife Sarah and their five children. There were a further 28 people from five (mainly railway families) living in the associate cottages, by this time referred to as the Fog Cottages.

Figure 9. The Durrad memorials in St Michael’s Church

A study of the ancient prebends of Lichfield Cathedral

The Cathedral Prebends

In this post we will use the information provided on the Lichfield Tithe maps to investigate the nature of the Cathedral prebends. Until quite recently (in historical terms) members of cathedral staff (prebendaries)were supported by the income from various estates (prebends). In the case of Lichfield, there were basically two types of prebend – the first consisting of estates of various sizes that were leased for farming, industrial or residential purposes; and the second consisting of the income from specific ecclesiastical foundations. The system is well described in the Lichfield Cathedral section of the Victoria County History. At the peak of the prebendal system, Lichfield had 32 prebends, most of which were held by clergy who were only required to be in Lichfield for a few months a year. Twenty four  these were of the second type, based on the income from various churches in the diocese and eight of the first type based around specific land allocations. It is thought that five of these – the prebends of Freeford, Handsacre, Longdon, Statfold and Weeford were actually the estates that supported the five canons of Lichfield mentioned in the Domedasy book. Since the prebends are named after areas around Lichfield, it seems reasonable to assume that they consisted of specific areas around the city. Now for many of the properties that are listed, the tithe maps give an indication of which prebend they were in in the middle of the nineteenth century, and thus offer the possibility of mapping these prebends in more detail than has been previously possible. In what follows, we will thus attempt to do this, and it will be seen that it offers a description of the Anglo-Saxon geography of the area that is quite distinct from the later geography. It must however be stressed that what the Tithe maps show is the outcome of many hundred years of land sales, exchanges and re-organisations and thus absolute clarity on the original extent of the prebends is not to be expected.

Lichfield from Domesday to the Reformation

Figure 1. Lichfield and the surrounding area

(blue indicates rivers; solid brown lines indicate early, possibly Iron Age roads and trackways that survived to the present time, and dotted brown lines indicate Roman roads)

Figure 1 above shows the area around Lichfield, with the Rivers Tame and Trent and the early road system identified in the topographical studies of Stephen Bassett, that I have briefly described in an earlier post.  The names shown in regular type are the members of the Manor of Lichfield given in Domesday that lie in the vicinity of the city itself, and those in italic type are places that occur in other Domesday entries. It can be seen that the extent of the Manor was large stretching west to Hammerwich and east to the Tame at Tamhorn. There are some obvious gaps on the map – for example around Longdon to the west and Whittington to the east. There are also names not included on the map as their location cannot be identified – Horton, Burweston and Littlebeech. The important thing to observe from the perspective of the current investigation is that the three ancient prebends that are named on the map – Freeford, Hansacre and Weeford have no special importance over the rest. This suggest that if they are basic building blocks of a geography of the area, then this geography significantly predates Domesday and is very old indeed.

The town of Lichfield was set out by Bishop Roger de Clinton around 1140 and became styled as the Manor of Lichfield in its own right, with the rest of the area taking the title of the Manor of Longdon. Over the following centuries many of the members of the Manor became parishes in their own right (as we shall see below) and Lichfield itself shrank to the region of the what were to become the parishes of St Michael’s, St Mary’s and St Chad’s. Within this area there was no parochial system as such, with pastoral care being on the basis of the prebend. The three churches were staffed by the vicars of the five ancient prebends of Freeford, Handsacre, Longdon, Statfold and Weeford. A vicarage was created for St Mary’s with jurisdiction over the city centre in 1491 with the stipend paid from a number of prebends, with the five ancient prebends contributing the majority of the resource. The parishes of St Michael’s and St Chads came into existence in the seventeenth century, although they remained as perpetual curacies until the nineteenth.

Lichfield Parishes

The parishes in the wider area around Lichfield around 1840 are shown in figure 2, drawn with information from The Parish Atlas of England, by Tim Cockin.   The three Lichfield parishes can be seen to be of very different sizes, with St Michael’s parish extending a long way to the west at Burntwood, with a detached portion to the east at Fisherwick. St Chads, occupies the northern area of Lichfield, whilst the parish of St Mary and the extra-parochial areas of the Close and the Friary, are very small in comparison. Whilst much of the rest of the area shown in figure 2 is divided into parishes in the normal way, there are a number of extra-parochial areas, often representing areas of former or existing common land such as the Hays at Ogley, Alrewas and Kings Bromley.

Figure 2. Parishes in the Lichfield area around 1840

(1 – Kings Bromly Hay EP; 2- Croxall; 3- Ingale; 4- Thorpe Constantine; 5 – Statfold, 6- Hopwas Hay EP; 7- Freeford EP; 8 – St Mary’s, Lichfield; The Close EP; The Friary EP; 9 – Detached parts of Farewell)

The immediate area around Lichfield is shown at a somewhat larger scale in figure 3. The individual townships in St Michael’s and St Chad’s parishes are shown. It can be seen that the parish of Farewell and Chorley, to the west of St Chad’s parish has detached portions to the east.

Figure 3. Lichfield parishes and townships

The prebends mapped

Figure 4. Prebends in the Lichfield parishes

(Letters referred to in text; diagonal stripes indicate prebend to which tithe allocated; vertical stripes indicate region with name of prebend; red – Freeford; green – Weeford; blue – Statfold; yellow – Gaia Major)

The tithe maps give details of the tithes payable for each individual property that they list. Where appropriate they also give an indication of which prebend the tithe is allocated to. The information given varies somewhat in form from parish to parish, and thus we will consider each parish in the area around Lichfield below. We begin by considering the Lichfield parishes themselves in figure 4.

  • St Michael’s parish, St Michael’s township (A on figure). Here the prebendial split was at its most complex. Figure 4 shows only the regions that can be identified as part of Freeford prebend, which occur across the township, and probably indicates the major underlying land unit. The rest of the area was in the main occupied by land that was allocated to Freeford, Handsacre, Statfold and Weeford jointly, either as part of what is referred to as the Part Pound Tithing, or simply a two or more prebends being allocated tithes jointly. In addition each of these prebends were allocated the tithes from cluster of residential properties close to the city in the Greenhill and St John’s area. There was also a small area where tithes were allocated to the prebends of Bishopshull, Bishops Itchington, Prees and Pipa Minor, but in general the underlying prebend, seems to have been Freeford.
  • St Michael’s parish, Burntwood, Edial and Woodhouses, Wall and Pipe Hill townships (B, C, D). Almost uniformly the tithes in this area were allocated to Weeford prebend, again with allocations for small residential areas to the other prebends near the city. The large tract of land to the west is indicated on the tithe map as Burntwood Common and no prebend is indicated.
  • St Michael’s parish, Hammerwich township (E) Tithes in this are allocated to the “Appropriator” – the one to whom the rights to the tithes were sold at some point in the past. No prebends are given.
  • St Michael’s parish, Streethay township (F). Here the major allocation of tithes is to Statfold prebend (shown on the map), with some small allocations to Bishops Itchington, Curborough and Gaia Minor prebends.
  • St Michael’s parish, Fulfen township (G). As with Hammerwich, tithes are allocated to an Appropriator in this region.
  • St Chad’s parish, St Chad’s township (H). Here the situation is again complex. There are large allocations to Freeford and Weeford, together with a large allocation to the prebend of Gaia Major in the central area. There are also smaller allocations to the major prebends in the residential areas, and also small allocations to Bishopshull, Curborough,  Gaia Minor and Pipa Minor.
  • St Chad’s parish, Elmhurst township (I). The tithes of most of the land in this township are allocated to the Mark Part Tithing – jointly between Freeford, Weeford, Handacre, Statfold and Gaia Minor. There are some allocations to Bishopshull, Curborough, Gaia Minor, Handsacre and Pipa Minor prebends in the north.
  • Freeford extra parochial area (J). There is no tithe map available for this area, but it has been assumed on figure 4 that the entire area here was allocated to Freeford prebend, which does not seem unreasonable.

Figure 5. Prebends in the wider area around Lichfield

(Letters referred to in text; diagonal stripes indicate prebend to which tithe allocated; vertical stripes indicate region with name of prebend; red – Freeford; green – Weeford; blue – Statfold; yellow – Gaia Major; purple – Longdon; brown – Handsacre and Armitage)

Figure 5 shows a rather wider area around Lichfield indicating the situation in the surrounding parishes. The parishes of Longdon (A), Weeford (B) and Statfold (C) have tithes allocated to the vicar of the parish, or to an Appropriator, but are here marked as belonging to Longdon, Weeford or Statfold prebend. The outlying pat of St Michael’s parish at Fisherwick (D) has tithes with discrete areas allocated to Statfold and Freeford prebends. The parish of Aldridge and Hansacre (E) has tithes allocated exclusively to the prebend of Handsacre and Armitage, the successor of the ancient prebend of Handsacre. The tithes of the parish of Whittington (F) are allocated to the prebend of Whittington and Berkswell (the latter being in Stafford), which is a relatively modern prebend.  All the other parishes shown have tithes that are allocated to the vicar of the parish, or to an Appropriator. At this point it should be noted that there is a minor discrepancy between the tithe maps and material in the Parish Atlas for Farewell parish. On the tithe maps, the lower arm to the east of the parish is shown to be a detached part of Elmhurst township in St Chad’s parish, with its tithes allocated to Pipa Minor prebend, whilst in the latter it is shown as integrated into Farewell, as shown here.


So what of the original premise of this post – can the ancient prebends be said to have well defined territories. I would suggest, on the basis of the maps of figures 4 and 5, the answer is a tentative yes. Let us consider each of the ancient prebends in turn.

  • The area where the tithes are allocated to Freeford, together with the eponymous hamlet, suggest that the original Freeford estate included most of St Michael’s township and part of St Chad’s and probably the city centre parish of St Mary as well. To the east it included Freeford, part of Whittington, the southern part of Fisherwick and perhaps extended to the river Tame through Tamhorn.
  • The territorial extent of Weeford prebend was very large, assuming that the later parish of Weeford was included within it. As well as the parish, it included the eastern part of Brownhills, Edial and Woodhouses township, Pipe Hill township and Wall township, as well as a small part of St Chad’s parish. It also possibly contained the Hammerwich area and the parish of Hints. Figures 4 and 5 suggest that part of Shenstone parish would probably have been included as well in order to make the eastern and western portions more of a coherent whole. If that were the case it would have been centred on Wall, the oldest settlement in the area at the junction of the Roman roads. In total it formed a wide arc around the southern and western edges of the city.
  • Statfold prebend extended from Streethay township in the west, through Whittington and the northern part of Fisherwick, and presumably to the parish of Statfold itself in the east. If it formed a coherent connected estate, it would have to have included parts of Elford and Clifton Campville parishes, for which there is no evidence.
  • The situation with respect to the two western prebends of Longdon and Handsacre is complex, probably because of the early formation of Longdon parish, and its role as the centre of the manor after the setting out of the town by Bishop Clinton. From figures 4 and 5 it can tentatively be suggested that it included Longdon parish itself, Farewell and Chorley parish, Elmhurst township and perhaps the area in St Chad’s parish allocated to Gaia Major. The latter could as easily be part of Weeford or Freeford prebends.
  • Handsacre prebend obviously included the later parish of Armitage and Handsacre in its entirety. If it ever extended closer to the city, it would have needed to include at least part of Kings Bromley parish and perhaps Elmhurst township too. There is no indication that this was ever the case. Geographically the parish boundaries suggest it may once have been associated with Longdon and perhaps represents and early division of the prebends in the Anglo Saxon era.

So what then might be the implications of this study? It points to an early Anglo-Saxon subdivision of the area around Lichfield into a small number of large divisions.  One of these, that later bore the name Weeford, was probably centred on Wall and was thus a territory associated with the Roman settlement of Letocetum.  Another, Freeford, seems to have embraced the location of the current city centre and extended eastwards a considerable direction. The -ford in Freeford has been taken to refer to the rather inconsequential ford over a brook close to the current Freeford House. If one accepts that Freeford originally encompassed the city centre, then the ford referred to might be the more substantial one that would have crossed the Leomansley Brook in the region of the current Minster pool.

A comparison of the prebend areas with the road system shown in figure 1 is of interest. Basically each of the prebends is connected with the centre of Lichfield via an ancient road – Freeford via the road that is now the Tamworth Rd, Weeford by the London Road and the Roman road network, Longdon by the Stafford Road and Hansacre by the road to Rugely. Statfold is connected by the road that enters the city via Darnford Lane and Boley Cottagee lane. If this extended all the way to Statfold, its route east of Whittington is however not clear. The prebends thus form a well-connected network with easy access to the central area.

I have argued elsewhere, based in the main on place name studies, that the Lichfield area was a centre of pre-Christian pagan worship, and that the ancient prebends played a significant role in this. The current work does nothing to counter such a proposal, and perhaps, by showing the extent of the prebends tends to confirm it.

“That way madness lies” – the search for solar alignments in Lichfield


A few years ago, whilst looking at some maps of the Lichfield area where I live, I was struck by the overall southwest / northeast alignment of the city, and wondered if this might hide some sort of topographical alignment based on midsummer sunrise (in the northeast) and midwinter sunset (in the southwest). The fact that the bronze-age ceremonial centre at Catholme was to the northeast of the city encouraged me in these views.  Now seeing alignments of any sort from maps isn’t terribly well regarded by serious historians – those somewhat idiosyncratic types who spend their lives looking for “lay lines” connecting monuments of different types have rather made this sort of speculation somewhat less than respectable. And there is some cause for this suspicion, as alignments of different sorts can be found almost anywhere should one look hard enough. For instance I noted a few years ago that Borrowcop Gazebo, Lichfield Cathedral and Rugeley Power station were lined up very nicely, which I suspect doesn’t have much historical significance.  But nonetheless these thoughts have stayed with me, and given that during the current lockdown situation I have time on my hands, I thought I would investigate this a little further. This blog post is the result. In the next section I outline how the directions of summer sunrise and winter sunset can be accurately calculated using some simple maths (readers who don’t like that sort of thing may care to pass over this section quickly).  I then identify a possible midwinter sunset alignment from Catholme. Finally I speculate on what might be the implications of such an alignment,

Calculating solar alignments

Wood (1978) gives the following simple formula for calculating the azimuth (degrees from north) of the midsummer sunrise midwinter sunset

The site latitude is easily determined from geographical data. The elevation is the angle from the point of observation to the horizon over which the sun will set, corrected for the curvature of the earth and atmospheric refraction. The actual angle is easily obtainable from software such as Google Earth, and Wood (1978) gives values for the two corrections. The declination is the angle between the plane of the celestial equator and the terrestrial equator. The values of this angle for the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset have the same magnitude but different signs. The declination also varies with time, so the values from 4000 years ago differ from current values by about 0.6 degrees. This is quite important for the calculation and needs to be specified by a historically reasonable time being specified for the alignment in question. 

The Catholme alignment

The first step in identifying whether or not there is a possible solar alignment is to identify the end points of such an alignment. So we begin with Catholme itself. The ceremonial complex is shown in figure 1. Essentially there are three monuments within the complex – a cursus dated to around 3000BC; a sunburst monument due east of the cursus, characterised by post holes radiating from the centre, and a Woohenge monument, characterised by concentric circles of post holes, to the east of the sunburst monument and slightly to the south. The Sunburst and Woodhenge monuments have been dated to between 2600 and 2400BC and remained in use for several centuries. There thus seem to be three possible starting points for the alignments, at each of the three monuments. 

Figure 1 Sketch of the Catholme complex (Chapman et al, 2010)

But what of the other end of the alignment? In the first instance I expected this to be in the Lichfield area, but a study of the topography profiles (using Google Earth) on a south-westerly line from Catholme through Lichfield shows that Lichfield lies in a hollow and can’t be seen from Catholme. Also the horizon from Catholme is well beyond Lichfield in the Walsall Wood / Pelsall area.  An investigation of maps of this area however revealed a very suitable location in Castlebanks (the site of an Iron Age Hill fort), a prominent hilltop that would have been on the horizon from Catholme and would act as a natural marker for observing the setting of the sun. 

So as a first step, I calculated the directions from the three Catholme monuments to Catlebanks, simply using the longitude and latitude values for each of the sites. These are as follows, with direction measured clockwise from north.

Cursus to Castlebanks                                        225.7 degrees

Sunburst monument to Castlebanks               226.4 degrees

Woodhenge monument to Castlebanks           227.4 degrees

So there is a difference of around two degrees in the alignments from the various Catholme monuments. The next step is to find the direction of the midwinter sunset from Catholme around 2500BC.   The latitude of that site is 52.74 degrees and the elevation can again be found from the profile produced by Google Earth. With the corrections specified by Wood (1978) this value comes out close to zero at -0.2 degrees. Wood (1978) gives a declination of – 23.98 degrees for 2500BC for the midwinter sunset.  Putting these values into the above equation gives a value of 228.1 degrees for the midwinter sunset as seen from Catholme.  This figure changes slightly to 228.0 degrees using the declination for 3000BC. Using the current value of declination, gives a direction of 229.1 degrees. Also of course there would be an offset of up to -0.5 degrees depending upon how the observer defined the sunset, and the particular topography that ultimately obscured it, giving the most likely value as being around 227.6 degrees. On this basis, the Woodhenge to Castlebanks line seems the most likely alignment. This is shown in the figures below. Figures 2 and 3 are Google Earth screenshots ands show the complete alignment and an expanded view of the alignment over the Lichfield area. Figure 4 is the elevation profile for the whole alignment. It can be seen that this line passes over Lichfield as expected, but its exact course is of interest. It passes over Greenhill (where the church of St Michael stands) and over the high ground at Pipehill, the source of the springs which provided water to Lichfield for many centuries. In fact from Carholme the midwinter sunset in 2500BC would have taken place over a line of hills – Greenhill in the foreground, the Pipehill ridge behind it and Castlebanks on the horizon. The midwinter sunset alignment here is so good, I do not think it can be accidental. The lining up of three prominent hills on a midwinter sunset alignment was probably just too good to miss for a Bronze Age priest who wanted to add another solar alignment to his ceremonial complex!

Figure 2 The Catholme – Castlebank alignment

Figure 3 Expansion of the map of figure 2 over the Lichfield area

Figure 4 Elevation profile of the Catholme – Castlebank alignment

Speculations on meaning

Clearly Catholme included solar alignments from its earliest date – the east-west axis of the cursus, with the Sunburst monument on the same alignment, would give two spring / autumn equinox alignments. The Woodhenge monument thus seems to have been positioned to create a midwinter sunset alignment with Castlebanks. What the ultimate purpose of these alignments were is of course impossible to know – they may have been purely for calendar purposes, or may have had a deeper cultic aspect. But from the perspective of a current Lichfield resident, I would like to ask if the Lichfield area were in any way, other than an accidental one, part of this overall scheme? 

Now Pryor (2003), based on a study of a wide range of pre-Roman sites, identified the following characteristics that indicate the ritual use of such sites.

  • Solar or lunar alignments.
  • Rivers, marsh or open water, which has been used for votive offerings of weapons and other utensils, sometimes with causeways in to or across the body of water.
  • The proximity of barrows or other burials.
  • A distinction between the “domain of the ancestors” identified by “hard” stone monuments, and the “domain of the living” identified by “soft” wooden henges or monuments.
  • The usage of the site by many groups or tribes, as a communal meeting point.

Now let us address each of these issues in turn for the Lichfield area.

  • Clearly the Lichfield area meets the first of these criteria – as part of the longer Catholme – Castlebank alignment and also with Greenhill and Pipehill being on that alignment and having an internal alignment of their own. 
  • In terms of rivers and bodies of water, there are clearly springs on both Greenhill and Pipehill, and the centre of Lichfield was likely to be quite swampy at the confluence of the Leamonsley and Trunkfield brooks. Both neolithic and bronze age axeheads have been found in the area, although the precise locations are not known. Such artefacts have been known to be ritually deposited at other sites (Carver, 1981). 
  • There are a number of prominent barrows in the area, and in particular Offlow to the south, and possibly Borrowcop to the south east. 
  • There is no archaeological indication of stone monuments from the bronze or iron ages in the Lichfield area, but there is of course the historical association of Greenhill with the rituals of death – the large graveyard at St Michael’s church and the dedication to the Christian “psychopomp”, the collector of souls. But these indications come from 2000 years after the Woodhenge monument was last in use. 
  • Similarly with regard usage of the site for communal gatherings, Bassett (1981) has shown that in the pre-Roman era, Lichfield was the centre of an extensive trackway system linking a range of communities in the area. But again this reflects a later age.

From this it can be seen that there are perhaps some indications that the Lichfield area fulfils some or all of Pryor’s criteria for a cultic site set out above, including the existence of the solar alignment, and may be of importance as a cultic site from early times. But of course, as with all such speculations, final proof is impossible. 


Ancient Monuments UK (2019) https://ancientmonuments.uk/115453-hillfort-known-as-the-castle-fort-at-castlebank-plantation-aldridge-north-and-walsall-wood-ward#.Xo8tmi3MxzA

Bassett S (1981) “Medieval Lichfield: a topographic review”, Transactions South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society, XXII,  pp 93-121

Carver M G H (1981) “The archaeology of early Lichfield: an inventory and some recent results” Transactions South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society, XXII, pp 1-12

Chapman, H, Hewson, M & Watters, M (2010) “The Catholme Ceremonial Complex, Stafforshire, UK”,  Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, London. 76, 135-163, 10.1017/S0079497X00000487 

Pryor F (2003) “Britain BC”, Harper Collins, London

Wood J E (1978) “Sun, moon and standing stones”, OUP