St. Michael on Greenhill, Lichfield – a history. Introduction

The word “church” of course primarily refers to the body of Christian believers, and in this sense the church has a history extending over 2000 years since the time of Christ. Nonetheless in popular usage the word has come to refer to the building in which believers meet. Some church buildings have very long histories of their own. One such is the church of St. Michael on Greenhill in Lichfield. This is a very ancient worship site, and has probably been the focus of some type of ritual activity for the last 1500 years and perhaps longer. The church itself is less ancient, first appearing in the historical record in the twelfth century but it has an interesting story to tell. Here we tell that story in three parts – from the Romans to the Reformation, from the Reformation to the end of the eighteenth century, and for the nineteenth century.

The links below will take the reader to a web page for each part of the story. Each web page has a roughly 1000 word summary of the period, but also gives a link to a downloadable pdf, suitable for most ebook readers, where the period is covered in much greater detail. Each pdf has a common implicit structure. Firstly the development of the parish in the period under consideration is set out, and then the church and churchyard are considered. It then describes as far as is possible, the nature of the worship that would have been offered within the church at that time, before moving on to discuss the laity and the clergy of the period.

Part 1. From the Romans to the Reformation – Lichfield and St. Michael’s to 1535

Part 2. Reformation, Restoration and Enlightenment – St. Michael’s from 1535 to 1800

Part 3. St. Michael’s in the nineteenth century (1800-1900)

Obviously a history of this type uses material from a wide range of sources. The approach taken here is to try to make the text of both the summary and the longer pdf essays as readable as possible, by not including detailed references, but using web links to specific sources and details of the more general sources that have been used have been put in the bibliography below.

One important source of information has been the numerous late eighteenth and nineteenth century pictures of St. Michael’s held by the William Salt library in Stafford. These cannot be directly reproduced for obvious copyright reasons. To enable these pictures to be compared to each other, I have listed them chronologically in a blog post, with links to the specific William Salt web pages. This can be accessed through the button below.

This history extends only to 1900, and thus does not cover the modern period, where the sources are much more extensive and require detailed investigation. I may, in some future decade, get round to looking at this period. But for the reader who is interested in how the church and churchyard look today, there are a number of “virtual” tours on the church web site that will be of interest. These actually contain a small number of the William Salt pictures noted above, that are reproduced under license.

Some of the material in the three ebooks derives from my earlier investigations that are reported in blog posts and listed on the Historical Studies page. For convenience the most significant of these are given below.

Finally, it is almost certain that there will be inaccuracies and typos in parts of what I have written. If a particularly erudite reader picks any of these out, then please let me know by email (c.j.baker@bham.ac.uk) and I will do my best to correct them.