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!

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.

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

James Jordan Serjeantson – Rector of St. Michael’s church in Lichfield, 1868 to 1886

From the early 18th century until 1867, the clergy at St. Michael’s were “perpetual curates” – appointed by the incumbent of St. Mary’s. These were paid a cash stipend, but had no income from tithes and glebe lands, and were often of lower social standing than Rectors. At the start of December 1867, the then perpetual curate, Thomas Gnossall Parr, who has been in post as a Perpetual Curate since 1831, was made the first Rector of the parish. He was not to enjoy that title for any length of time and fell ill and died shortly afterwards on December 23rd1867.

He was succeeded in June 1868 by the first to actually be appointed to the post of Rector – James Jordan Serjeantson (pictured). Serjeantson was born in Liverpool in 1835, the son of a Liverpool merchant and an Irish mother and attended Liverpool Grammar and Rugby Schools. In 1854 he matriculated at Trinity College in Cambridge and was awarded his BA in 1858 and his MA in 1861. He was a rowing blue and part of the University crew that lost the boat race in 1857 by 11 lengths. There have only been six larger losing margins in the 190-year history of the race, so I doubt it was an experience he relished. He was ordained deacon in 1859 and priest a year later, both at Lichfield Cathedral. He served a curacy at Stoke from 1859 to 1868 before coming to St. Michael’s. He left Stoke in June 1868 to high praise from his incumbent and the Archdeacon, with gifts (including a hall clock) from parishioners and Sunday School children.  He married Elizabeth Buckley, a clergyman’s daughter in August that year and they were to have seven children. 

It is clear from the records we have that he was an assiduous, hard-working parson, much admired and respected by his parishioners. In June 1877, he notes in the service register that “this is the 1000th sermon I have preached in this church”. In June 1983, he was to write again “this is the 2000th sermon I have preached in this church”.  This is an average of around 130 per year! Some indication of his activities can be judged from the activities of Holy Week in 1882 shown below. In total there were 16 sermons or addresses that week, all preached by Serjeantson.

He presided at the pastoral offices – 1123 baptisms, 1189 marriages and 215 funerals in total over the years of his incumbency and also presented 20 to 30 young people each year for confirmation. One of the more memorable funerals was that of William Corfield and his wife Theresa, his elderly mother and four young children who all died from suffocation in a house fire on Breadmarket Street, next to Dr Johnson’s birthplace in January 1873. The press reported that James Serjeantson’s voice trembled with emotion as he read the words of the funeral service around the grave before the coffins were lowered one by one.

Theologically, he seems to have been very much against the ceremonial associated with the Anglo-Catholic Oxford movement and is recorded as a signatory of a letter of 1875 to the bishops that argued against legalizing the use of eucharistic vestments and the eastward position for celebrating the eucharist. Some aspects of current worship at St. Michael’s would have certainly made him uncomfortable! The service register indicates he was a strong supporter of the Melanasian Mission, formed by Bishop Selwyn, the former Bishop of New Zealand, and indeed one of his curates, Rev John Still (1869-1871), left Lichfield to become a missionary in the South Pacific, at a time just following the martyrdom of Bishop John Patteson in the Solomon Islands.

Serjeantson had gifts other than his preaching and pastoral abilities. Within twelve months of arriving in the parish he was awarded the prize for the best variegated geraniums at the annual flower show (which almost certainly didn’t go down well with some of the more established exhibitors!) and he was also a valued member of the bell ringing team. His name can still be found on a number of memorial boards in the belfry, that commemorate the ringing of specific peals – for example he was part of the team that rang a complete peal of Grandsire Minor in 1876. He also served as a Workhouse Guardian and took an in various educational initiatives within the city.

In 1881 he and his wife, their two sons, Cecil (10) and Ronald (7), and three daughters, Mildred (5), Edith (3) and Monica (1) lived at the Rectory on Mount Pleasant, with a housekeeper, cook and two servants. Two other children died as babies – Edward in 1870 and Joyce in 1884.

He died on New Year’s day 1886 and was buried four days later with the Bishop of Lichfield presiding at his funeral. His final illness seems to have been short – he was still presiding at funerals two weeks before he died. Elizabeth was to outlive him by 33 years. Their graves, and the graves of their infant children, are, at the time of writing, currently inaccessible in the very overgrown area at the east of the old churchyard. I have not succeeded in identifying them, although I have received many bramble scratches in the trying.  But James Serjeantson does have other memorials. A fountain on Greenhill that was erected in his memory in 1886 contains the inscription.

Erected by parishioners and friends in grateful and loving memory of the Rev J J Serjeantson MA, Rector of St. Michael’s, Lichfield.

In addition, a plaque in the chancel at St. Michael’s reads

To the glory of God and in loving memory of James Jordan Serjeantson M.A. for 17 years rector of this parish who by the sympathy and energy with which he fulfilled his ministry on Christ endeared himself to his parishioners and by the brightness of his manner and his cheerful readiness with which he brought out the stores of his varied learning won for himself the esteem and love of all classes.   He fell asleep January 1st 1886 aged 50 years.

Both memorials speak eloquently of the high esteem in which he was held in the church and the city and the love that his parishioners felt for him. He perhaps deserves more recognition as the first to be appointed Rector of the parish.

Chris Baker

St. Michael’s church, Lichfield – from the parish magazines 1889-1892

I have recently come across a bound copy of the church magazines from 1889 to 1892. In this article I will share some items of interest that I found there – some that will describe situations that will be very familiar to the current congregation and some that are rather strange in modern terms.

The vicar for those years was the Rev. Cyril Hubbard, an old Etonian who the census tells us lived at the Rectory in Mount Pleasant with his wife, two children and four servants (!), and had been Rector since 1886. He seems to have been the driving force behind the magazine and wrote an article each month – a mix of devotional and news material. He was particularly concerned to increase the number of communicants, but also to repair and restore the tower and the chancel which were in a poor state of repair – more of this below. As ever, there were financial issues, and not infrequent requests for subscriptions to projects and for increased weekly offerings.  In the November 1892 magazine he both announced that he was leaving the parish and also named his successor who had been appointed by the Bishop of Lichfield – Rev Otho Steele from Hanley. He was to leave early in 1893, and Rev Steel took up the post very soon afterwards. It doesn’t happen like that these days!

Rev. Cyril Hubbard

The magazine was a simple four- page affair – essentially a folded A4 sheet. There is an indication that these magazines were the first that were wholly church produced – a more generic ”Banner of Faith” magazine having been used beforehand. The front page was standard and gave details of the services and other activities. On a Sunday there were four or five services – a weekly Holy Communion at 8.00am (some things never change); Mattins at 10.45; a monthly Holy Communion at 12.00; an afternoon service at 3.00, that on various Sundays of the month included a Children’s service, baptisms, or churchings; and Evensong at 6.30.

There were also services on Wednesday evenings at 7.30 in church, and on Tuesday evenings at 7.30 in St. John’s St., and in Streethay. It is not clear where the latter were held – presumably in hired rooms?  Sunday Schools were held in the School at 9.30 and 2.30, and also in St John’s St. and occasionally Streethay at 2.30. There were a number of regular Monday meetings – a Clothing Club at the School from 12.00 to 1.00, three Mothers meetings at the Rectory, City Mill, and Birmingham Road Barracks at 2.00, and a Band of Hope Meeting (a young person’s temperance society) at 6.00 in the School. On Saints’ days there was a service of Mattins at 9.00. The Rev Hubbard and his congregation were not idle!

In addition to all the above there were occasional lectures, bible studies, concerts and so on. Of particular interest were the Smoking Concerts for men, where the entrance fee was 2d, for which they received 1d worth of tobacco and the rest being spent on the hired room and heating. Newspapers and board games were provided, and those who came entertained each other with song and rhymes (in a fog of tobacco smoke one assumes). The annual Vestry meeting took pace just after Easter, for the election of Churchwardens and presentation of their accounts; and the election of sidesmen for the parish and for the surrounding hamlets – Streethay, Fulfen, Tamhorn, Freeford, Statfold and Fisherwick. Sidesmen had a more representative role in that period than their current role as being welcomers into church. The churchwardens accounts for 1890 show a total income of £204 with £70 from St. Michael’s Trust, £52 from the offertory and £45 from burial and other fees; and an expenditure of £165 with £37 being spent on the organist and choir, £51 on the Sexton’s wages; £25 on the heating and cleaning; and £18 on “making a new carriage road to the church door”. There were special collections for charities such as “Waifs and Strays”, CMS, the clothing club et.c of £32 in total.

At the start of the period covered by the magazines, both the tower and the chancel were in a poor state of repair and it had become inadvisable to ring the bells except when strictly necessary. The tower had suffered from severe settlement problems, and by late 1889 there was a wide crack in the south wall that ran the entire height of the tower and part of the spire, and the western buttresses were also in a poor state. There were also problems with the north wall, and parapets. An appeal was launched to meet the £250 required for the work, which was successfully completed by September 1891.

The chancel had been extensively modified in the 1840s, when the roof was lowered, the walls plastered, a vaulted roof added, and all the windows (including the large east window) replaced by narrow lancet windows- in an effort to restore it to some (fictional) early English style. By 1889 it was in a very poor state of repair and work clearly needed doing. Rev. Hubbard largely financed this from his own resources.  The plaster was removed, a new oak ceiling added, and the east window restored to its past (and current) form. At that point there was not enough money to install stained glass, which was eventually incorporated a decade later. To the right of the altar a credence niche was created in the wall for the communion vessels. It was decorated with tiles found in a vault to the north of the altar that was entered by stairs beneath it – these tiles can still be seen.  The choir were moved into the chancel, a move which gave the Rev. Hubbard some anxiety as to whether they were too remote from the congregation to properly lead the singing, and he pleaded for the congregation to join in the singing psalms and hymns. The clergy reading desk was also moved into the chancel, which gave similar concerns, although it seems that the (unamplified of course) voice of Rev. Hubbard could still be heard.

The new Girl’s school was opened with a great fanfare in July 1889 – effectively the completion of the school in the form that many older residents of the parish will have known it. The new building was the part of the school next to Church Street and connected with the 1858 building with the tower to the south of it. At the opening, children’s games were played and after a short service of dedication the building was handed over by the Hon Alfred Percy Allsop, who had served on the school management committee for a number of years and had paid for the new building. The enthusiasm was somewhat damped within a few days by the sudden departure of the much-respected schoolmaster, Mr Lasseter, following the death of his wife and his own ill health. A former pupil teacher was drafted in to keep the school running while a new master was appointed. The school accounts for 1889 show an income of £479 with a government grant of £217, school pence (from families) of £130 and voluntary contributions of £53; and an expenditure of £493, with £404 spent on teachers’ salaries. There were 107 boys on the register, 92 girls and 60 infants (who were presumably also boys and girls).

At that time most of the burials in the churchyard were in the now overgrown area next to what we call the new churchyard, and these are recorded month by month in the magazine, in much the same way as now. A couple of articles also give details of the avenue that runs up to the church from the north gate. Mr Henry C Malden, in describing his research in the parish registers, informs us that the avenue was set with elm trees on February 26th 1750 – on a “windy Tuesday”. In 1890, many of these were in poor condition and had, according to Mr Walden, felt the effects of many windy Tuesdays and seen their best days, and it was decided to replace every other one by quick growing lime trees. Of crab apples there is not a mention. Mr Malden ends his article with the words.

“Sooner or later, my readers, like them, will have seen their best days, and have their names added to the long list of those whose last home is in the old churchyard on the hill.”

And that seems a good place for me to stop as well!

Lichfield St. Michael’s – pictures held by William Salt Library

The William Salt Library holds a significant number of mainly late eighteenth and early to mid nineteenth century drawings and paintings of St. Michael’s church in Lichfield that show the development of the church over that period when significant rebuilding took place. For copyright reasons these cannot be reproduced, so in this post I have listed them all in chronological order; given a link to the web page for each picture that opens in a separate tab; and reproduced the text describing each picture. The intention is to provide a convenient platform to understand the development of the church and churchyard throughout the period concerned.

1732 ‘The South West Prospect of the City of Lichfield.’ Stretching from the west to St. Michael’s, an easterly suburb. With a key describing the important features. Inscribed with a brief history of Lichfield. Artists: ‘S. & N. Buck, delin. et sculp., [drawn and engraved].

19th of April 1746 ‘St. Michael’s Church near the City of LICHFIELD.’  Anonymous.

1760 – 1799 (c.) ‘St. Michael’s Church Lichfield, with the Arms formerly in the Windows.’ North view of the church, [apparantly adapted from V.142b.] The church is surrounded by drawing of 17 coats of arms, which used to be in the windows. Anonymous, [? Stringer.]

1769  ‘St. Michael’s Church, Lichfield, 1769.’ North view showing the clerestory, the north aisle and porch, and the three-staged tower and spire at the west end. Anonymous.

1760 – 1799 (c.) ‘Showing the tower and spire from a field to the west of the church. Artist: ‘E. B. pinx.,[painted].’

1784 ‘St. Michael’s Church in Lichfield, North (corrected to South.)’ One dormer window is shown over the south aisle. The tower and the south door (without a porch,) are also shown.’J. W. delin.,’ [drawn; John Wright, 1784]

1784 ‘An ancient monument in the chancel of St. Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing a recumbent figure under a cusped arch. artist: ‘J. W.’ [John Wright, 1784.]

1798 ‘St. Michael’s Lichfield, 1798.’ South east view showing the south door with no porch. The clerestory and nave are not shown owing to the high south aisle. There is also a high chancel with a row of top windows. Anonymous,

1800 – 1899 (c.) ‘Showing an old tomb called ‘saddle-back’ and dated 1674, with a distant view of Cathedral from the south east. Anonymous.

1805 ‘An Ancient View of the City of Lichfield. From a painting in the possession of the Revd. Henry White.’ West view showing the gate tower, St. Mary’s church with a spire, and St. Michael’s church on a hill to the right. ‘C. Pye, sculp., [engraved]’.

1824 ‘Font in St. Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing an octagonal font with shields on panelled sides, and fleurs de lis and roses below. One shield is marked W.C., 1669, and another with a cross flory between Maltese crosses. Artist: ‘J. B.,’ [John Buckler.]

1832 ‘St. Michael’s Church, Green Hill, Lichfield, Sketched 1832.’ Showing the church in a country setting, with people standing on a road in the foreground.’Robt. Noyes.’

1833 ‘North West (corrected East) View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing the east window, the chancel (with clerestory), the north aisle and porch, and the tower with a spire. artist: J. Buckler.

1838 ‘South West View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing the tower and the spire,

1841 ‘South East View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing the east window and the chancel (before rebuilding) with later [?vestry] addition to the south aisle. Artist: G. Buckler.

1841 ‘North West View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Chiefly showing the tower and the spire, also the north aisle and the porch. Artist: J. C. Buckler.

1841 ‘Ground Plan of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Shown before the extension of the south aisle. A south doorway is shown, but a north porch. Artists: J. C. and G. Buckler.

1841 ‘Interior View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield, from the Chancel.’ Showing the pulpit, a reading desk, and some carved pews in the chancel. artist: G. Buckler.

1841 :Interior View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield from the north aisle.’ Showing a view across the nave, with box pews and a three deck pulpit. Artist: J. C. Buckler.

1841 ‘The North Porch of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ North view showing a crenellated porch, with two shields of arms and a canopied niche above, but without cross or letters. Artist: J. C. Buckler.

9th of September 1842 ‘North east view of the north porch with shields of arms and a canopied niche, but without cross. Anonymous, [A.E. Everitt.]

1843 ‘South East View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing a two-storey addition which has been made to the south aisle on the east end (with door) and a south door has been inserted in the chancel. Artist: J. Buckler.

1844 ‘South West View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing the tower and the spire, and the south aisle. Artist: J. Buckler.

1844 ‘North West View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Chiefly showing the tower and the spire, also the north aisle and the porch. Artist: J. Buckler.’

1844 ‘North East View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing a north north east view of the east window, the chancel (with clerestory), the north aisle and porch, and the tower with a spire.’J. Buckler.’

1844 ‘Interior View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield, from the Chancel.’Showing a view of the Nave through the chancel arch (perpendicular style). The three pairs of colums seen are of cluster type, (the sides are rounded and should be hollowed.) artist: J. Buckler.

1844 ‘Lichfield, St. Michael’s.’ South west view showing the tower and the spire, also the south aisle. Artist: H. J. Noyes.

1845 ‘Porch on the North side of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ North west view showing a crenellated porch, with two shields of arms and a canopied niche above, also letters E and R, and a floriated cross above. Artist: J. Buckler.’

1846 ‘South East View of the New Chancel of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing the three lancet lights at the east end, and two on the south side. There is no door. Artist: J. Buckler.

1846 ‘Effigy on the North side of the Chancel of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ Showing a male with a long gown and hood, with long sleeves. His hands are as at prayer, his head is on a cushion and his feet on an animal. Artist: ‘J. B.,’ [John Buckler.]

1846 ‘Interior View of the Chancel of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield. Showing the interior of the new chancel, which has a stone groined roof, and lancet lights. In the north wall is a plain arch with an old recumbent effigy. Artist: J. Buckler.

1847 ‘East View of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield.’ A three lancet window has taken the place of a five light perpendicular window, and the chancel clerestory has been removed. Artist: J. Buckler.

1858 St. Michael’s has a Perpendicular west tower and spire and the rest of the church is mostly Early English. It was extensively restored by Thomas Johnson of Lichfield in 1841-42. This is one of a series of watercolours of all the churches in Lichfield Diocese in Staffordshire, painted by Miss Theodosia Hinckes and Mrs Rebecca Moore for Lichfield Cathedral between 1857 and 1861. Reproduced by Kind Permission of the Chapter of Lichfield Cathedral who retain copyright.

1950 – 1970 (c.) Most of the Church dates from 1842-43 and is by Thomas Johnson.

More Black Country pictures of John Louis Petit

In an earlier post I discussed the two pictures of John Louis Petit shown above, and attempted to identify both the subject and the location from which they were painted. The title of the left hand picture, from the 1830s, suggests it shows mines in Wolverhampton, possibly on the basis of the two church towers in the background. I argued however, on the basis of the orientation of the towers and the location of the coal field that this was unlikely and that another location should be sought – perhaps to the west of Dudley, although this was very conjectural. The right hand picture from the 1850s is entitled Spring Vale Iron Works, and after examination I have no reason to doubt that attribution, and on the basis of the tithe map of the area, was able to identify a location from which it was painted, on the edge of John Louis Petit’s Ettingshall estate in Sedgley. Wherever they were painted however it does seem to me that their main significance lies in the fact that they are early representations of Black Country coal mines and ironworks and are of historical importance in that sense.

Since wring that post however, two other industrial scenes by Petit have been sent to me and they are shown below. Thanks to Philip Modiano of the Petit Society for permission to use these here. They are both believed to come from the 1830s. The first shows an ironworks in the distance, framed by a much more rural location. My best guess for this is that it is again a representation of the Spring Vale Iron Works, or perhaps the nearby Parkfield works seen from the western side of the Ettingshall estate at a location on the headwaters of the Penn brook (which leads into the Wom brook, and then into the River Smestow).

The second picture shows another ironworks, but this time with four furnaces rather than the three of Spring Vale. The position of the two churches in the background, the one with the spire and the one without, again matches St Peter’s and St John’s in Wolverhampton and their relative position suggest that the picture was painted from the south east in the Bilston area. The level of details it shows is remarkable. The furnaces themselves can be clearly seen, together with quite detailed depictions of ancillary buildings in the foreground. It would be interesting to know what was the function of these buildings. There are perhaps impressionistic indications of tram tracks and a canal basin in the right foreground, although this is very conjectural.

One of the many things that intrigue me about the work of Petit is its breadth that ranges from the type of scene in these pictures to his more usual output of sometimes quite idyllic churches. I wonder if he saw, in the size and functional architecture of blast furnaces, the same grandeur that he perceived in may of the churches that he drew, an, in his mind at least, the stark differences between churches and blast furnaces were not as significant as the similarities.

The Black Country pictures of John Louis Petit

Preamble

The landscape artist and architectural critic John Louis Petit (1802-1868) painted a small number of scenes of Black Country activity during his career. In this post I look at two of them, one depicting mines at Wolverhampton, and the other the Spring Vale Furnaces at Bilston. I do not consider their artistic merits – indeed I would be quite incapable of doing so – but rather I will discuss the scenes the paintings portray and the locations from which they might have been painted.

Mines at Wolverhampton

The picture Mines at Wolverhampton is shown above and is reproduced by permission of the Petit Society. On the Petit Society website, it is captioned

c1830-35, 15x20cm, watercolour on paper, private collection.

The main feature of the painting is the pair of pits showing the scaffoldings of the “Rattle Chain”. This is a very early representation of such mechanisms. The nature of the structure between the scaffoldings is not clear but could perhaps be some sort of furnace or processing plant. The grim reality of the destruction of the surrounding countryside by spoil from the mines is also very apparent in the foreground. The figures of two mine workers wearing brimmed hats can also be seen. Nothing by way of safety equipment was provided and there were may injuries and deaths, which were simply regarded as part of the costs of the operation.

In the background there are two churches shown, one with a tower and one with a spire. It is from these churches that I guess the painting finds its title, because at first sight they would seem to show the Wolverhampton churches of  St. Peter’s to the left with the tower, and St. John’s to the right with the spire. The former was a favourite subject of Petit. However, this placing of the churches suggest that the scene was painted from the west of Wolverhampton, as St. Peter’s is to the north of St. John’s. This however is not possible, as there were simply no mines in this region – indeed the boundary of the south Staffordshire coal field is to the east of the town – see the picture below from the Coal Authority website that shows mine openings in the Wolverhampton area.  Indeed, if the picture does show Wolverhampton, it is painted from either the south east or the east, and there are no church pairs that match from that direction. We are left with two possibilities – either the artist added the church towers to a scene painted from elsewhere to contrast the old and the new (which of course as a painter he was perfectly at liberty to do), or the painting depicts a scene from elsewhere. In terms of other locations, I can find only one other location in the vicinity from which a church tower and spire could be observed – somewhere to the west of Dudley where St. Edmund’s and St. Thomas’s churches are so aligned. This would give a location for the pits somewhere in the Gornal area, which would be quite possible, being close to Petit’s Ettingshall Park estate. However, if this were the location, one would have expected Petit to have skewed the scene slightly to show Dudley Castle, which would be just off the left of the current picture. There may however be alternative possibilities that I have not identified in the Wolverhampton area.  Reader’s thoughts would be very welcome.

Mine openings around Wolverhampton – From Coal Authority website

Springvale Ironworks, Bilston

This picture appears in the book “Petit’s Tours of Old Staffordshire” and is again reproduced with permission of the Petit Society. It is believed to have been painted in 1852 or 1853 and to depict the Springvale Ironworks at Bilston to the south of Wolverhampton. It clearly shows a number of blast furnaces and other industrial buildings. In the foreground there is the depiction of a small housing settlement. The land here is greener than in the Wolverhampton painting, but still broken, looking as if it had been used for some extraction activity. The horses walking along the foreground track again give the contract between the old and the new. In the background we can see the chimneys of the Black County and perhaps, just to the left of the furnaces, a depiction of a church tower.

After some investigation, I am led to the conclusion that the painting does indeed show the Springvale works, although there is perhaps another possibility I will consider below.  In my view the painting is clearly looking east – there are too many chimneys etc in the background for a westerly view which would look out over more open country. There are two detailed maps of the area available for the relevant period – the Tithe Allocation maps of Sedgley and Bilston of 1845, and the large-scale Ordnance Survey map of 1882. Sketches prepared from both these maps are shown below. The track running north to south on the left of the sketches is the current Spring Road, and that running across the top of the sketch is the current Millfields Road. The church shown is the original Holy Trinity, not the current building. The painting shows what is referred to as the left hand “Iron Works etc” on the 1845 map and “Spring Vale Furnaces” on the 1882 map. The building in front of the furnaces is Spring Vale Iron Works on the 1845 map and Spring Vale Foundry on the 1882 maps. The maps only show the ground plan of what was in existence at the time they were produced, so the details of the furnaces and other buildings cannot be seen. Also of course all the buildings, with the exception of the furnaces, were ephemeral in nature and would be regularly modified and replaced. The canals and railways that can be seen on the maps are not visible on the painting – they would have been low lying and obscured by the topography. Most ironworks in this region were situated close to the canal which was used for both bring in raw materials and taking out finished products.

From 1845 Tithe allocation maps – blue indicates canals; brown roads or tracks
From 1882 Ordnance Survey map – blue indicates canals; brown roads or tracks

The position from which the picture is painted can be more precisely defined. A sketch from the 1845 map showing a wider area,  is shown below and indicates the likely position – at the road junction to the top left, where the name (presumably of a pub) is given as the Fighting Cocks. This is at the junction of the current Parkfield Road with the Dudley / Wolverhampton  Road. The 1845 map indicates a cluster of housing at this point. Interestingly the1882 map shows the latter road is the course of a tramway, and this might also be the case for the 1845 map, although tramways and roads are not always distinguished on these maps. If this were the case then the horses in the foregrounnd might be pulling wagons along the tramway. The ground also dips from this site towards the site of the ironworks as in the painting, although it is difficult to compare modern topography with that from the 1850s as most of the land is “made ground” of one sort or another. The painting position sits just outside John Louis Petit’s Ettingshall estate, although he did not live there, so one can conjecture that the picture was painted on a trip to the estate to conduct whatever estate business was required with his agent and tenants.

From 1882 Ordnance Survey map – blue indicates canals; brown roads or tracks; black dotted line – from painting position to furnaces

As noted above, there seems to be a church tower in the background, although this is far from clear. If this indeed is the case, then this depicts St. Bartholomew’s at Wednesbury. This church has a tower and a short spire, which was even shorter in 1853. Perhaps just a hint of this spire can be seen in the picture. The position of the church in the picture does however give confidence in the deductions of the painting position as the alignment is very much as expected given the position of painting.

As mentioned above, there is however another possibility for what the picture shows. It is possible that it depicts the Parkfield Furnaces, shown on the maps above. The reasons for thinking that this might be the case  are firstly that one might expect these furnaces to be shown on the left of the picture if the painting position is as suggested, secondly that on the 1882 map there is a long building in front of the furnaces that could be that shown on the painting, whereas no such buildings are shown the vicinity of the Spring Vale Furnaces on either map. Against this suggestion is the fact that the Parkfield Furnaces do not seem, from the maps, to have been on the same scale as those at Spring Vale. On balance my feeling remains that the picture displays the Spring Vale Furnaces.