Monday, 2 September 2013


Fire Fire. Call interrupts the Annual Fireman's Dinner in October 1935!

Read all about it below! 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Pubs, Bogs and Ghosts in Sandford Street!!!!!

Archaeologists Dig Up Medieval Boozer & Bogs In Lichfield!

© Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit.

Above: just look at the size of that garderobe! The medieval toilet that aroused suspicions.

Archaeologists working on a site during Christmas 2000 in our historic town of Lichfield here in Staffordshire discovered unique evidence that a thirteenth century pub may have once quenched the thirst of pilgrims visiting Lichfield Cathedral.

The team, from Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit, made the discovery whilst working on a site situated near the medieval boundary of the town.

Chief among the finds was a large public toilet, complete with medieval faeces, revealing traces of the last pub lunches served in the ancient tavern. Elsewhere a vast range of rough-hewn jugs were discovered that
 are typical of the ware found in the inns and alehouses of Medieval England.

"There was an unusually large amount of low grade pottery," explained site director Kirsty Nichol, "but the first thing that led me to this interpretation is the sheer size of the toilet. You just don't get domestic toilets that size from this period - other than on castle sites, and this isn't a castle."

© Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit.
Left: a medieval bakery.

Analysis of the thirteenth century faeces from the communal convenience, or garderobe to give it its medieval monicker, lead to some interesting finds about the varied diet of the inn's patrons.

"What we've found covers everything from cultivated crops, to berries taken from the hedgerows," said Kirsty. "We've even got evidence of figs, which at the time was an incredibly high status food. They would have been imported from the Mediterranean and would have only been affordable to the wealthy."                                                                                                                       
 "We also found the remains of a bread oven, again this wouldn't have been uncommon in a manorial or castle site, but taken with the other evidence such as the lack of high class table wear, I think it points to the presence of an inn."

Kirsty believes the site could have been a thriving stopping off point - servicing the requirements of a wide variety of pilgrims as they arrived in Lichfield to pay homage to the tomb of St Chad in the local Cathedral, as well as other travellers, traders and locals.

© Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit.

Left: the passage of time or the ale? A mineralised raspberry found in the cess of the toilet.

"Medieval Inns weren't pubs as we know them today, it would have been somewhere pilgrims would have lodged, taken a room and had some food and ale."

The archaeology unit also came across a trench, which they believe to be evidence for the presence of the often debated but never discovered Lichfield Ditch that once surrounded the medieval town.

"This whole idea of a pub is still just one interpretation," added Kirsty, "but with the discovery of the ditch, which dates to the same period, the building is sited on the town boundary, so I think having an Inn on this site is quite logical."

The findings were revealed after a dig commissioned by Walton Homes between December 2000 and January 2001 on the site of Charter House, in Sandford Street.

Having now called last orders on their research, the Field Archaeology Team have left the site for the time being at least, with the rather pleasing and potent image of fourteenth century pilgrims thirstily quaffing ale in one of our most famous medieval towns. 

Looking at the site in more detail , a Pub existed on this site for many centuries, certainly our friends at Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit can start the story from 13th Century.  We also know that this site was also known as the "Royal Oak Public House" from the early 1700's

The site is littered with reports of historical finds according to the Historical Environment Record, ranging from rubbish pits, an Iron works, a tanning complex and an oven. Also just nearby is the lost feature called "Sandford Gate".  

The well known  Snape's plan of Lichfield City clearly shows the Royal Oak Inn and next door to this a Post Office and an extract of the location is below.

This area of the City is rich in archaeology as well as tales of ghosts. It is reported in Mystical Happenings by Carol Arnall, that a young girl aged 13, is reported to haunt Sandford Street . A pet shop that use to exist at the lower end of Sandford street towards the Royal Oak Inn , has some ghostly tales Stock has been known to move about and reports of deep cellars that dogs refused to go down into. Mysterious shadows appeared from time to time disturbing for the owner. One interesting fact is there is reported to be a "tunnel" that runs from the shop at Sandford Street towards the Cathedral and it is said that the girl that haunts Sandford Street is/was trapped in this tunnel and ever since has haunted  the entrance found in Sandford Street.

You have to wonder if this 13th century find also had a tunnel, perhaps one in the direction of the Franciscan Friar (Lichfield Library area) and one also to the Cathedral?

Yet another mystery that is all about Lichfield!! 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Lichfield Castle In the "AIR"

Friday December 17th 1965 - Lichfield Mercury

October’s discovery of irregular rock formations fourteen feet below ground level on the Levett's Fields site of Lichfield’s new post office unearthed a big question

Had Lichfield’s long-lost castle brought to light?

This week an expert said “NO” …. But his opinion has been challenged by a local archaeologist who has been interested in the site for some years,

The expert Dr M W Thompson, Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works , visited the site and viewed what was thought to be a moat linked with the old Gresley Row town ditch

But he told the”Mercury” on Tuesday that he did not think the excavations had revealed the remains of the castle , At first sight he thought workmen might have uncovered cellars of long demolished building, but on closer inspection he thought the rock has been quarried to use of buildings quite different from a castle…

“the rock” he said “has been dug out for a considerable are in rather irregular square patterns – too irregular to be a ditch of a castle as some people thought might be the case “

He went on :-

“It is very uncertain whether there was any castle in Lichfield , although the latin word “Castellum” is used in late medieval documents relating to Lichfield . But this is thought to apply to the fortified wall of The Close round the cathedral and not the site of the new post office"

Dr Thompson said he would not like to upset any local feelings on the subject by being “too categorical” and that sometimes there was room for more than one opinion.

However he said:

 “Our view is that there is no trace of a castle at all. The excavation in the rock looks like quarrying more than anything else. That is the most reasonable explanation

This opinion is not acceptable to Mr Frank Lyon of 27 Lyn Avenue, Lichfield, a founder member of the Lichfield Archaeological Society.

He said on Friday: “The investigation was carried out by a person who just looked and nothing has been proved. I am still open to conviction there is a castle site.”

About five years ago Mr Lyon and a collegue explored the area when old buildings were being torn down to make way for a new development. At that time he said “we found stones of a certain shape that we guessed may have come from the old castle.”

He believes stones from the castle were used to build cottages centuries old which were pulled down a few years ago. He says:-

“Alfred D Parker in his ’History of Lichfield’ published 40 years ago writes: “the legend of Lichfield Castle is hidden in shadowy past. An historian records that Richard II kept Christmas there in 1397. On digging the foundation of houses in Gresley Row , 1800 great quantities of horns of oxen were found possibly the outcome of King Richard’s splendid entertainment….

Lichfield castle (wherever it was situated) was probably his place of confinement on his way to the Tower of London in 1399 a captive prince . This lack of history and almost of legend leaves Lichfield Castle in the mists of antiquity”

It would seem that these shadows of the past still blanket the city’s ‘castle in the air’ in a fog of Uncertainty.

Below is a plan of the Levetts Field Site dated 1884  : It shows very much a large field, mostly unoccupied .

The aerial photograph(1921) below, shows the extent of the Levetts Field where it is alleged that the "Lichfield Castle " May exist.... The field does appear to show some signs of markings, but not clear enough to say what they maybe.

Below is a copy of the City Plan drawing which I wrote about here A Plan Indeed! Again the field is clearly seen and unoccupied except for a footpath.

I have some further background on where the "Castle" may have been and will continue this blog article soon, once more research has happened.

Monday, 8 July 2013

All About Lichfield: It’s Each Way at LICHFIELD RACES!!

All About Lichfield: It’s Each Way at LICHFIELD RACES!!: LICHFIELD RACES, in the eighteenth century was one of the most popular of the Midland race-meetings, started soon after the restoration. ...

It’s Each Way at LICHFIELD RACES!!

LICHFIELD RACES, in the eighteenth century was one of the most popular of the Midland race-meetings, started soon after the restoration. Held on Fradley Heath initially and they were supported by the corporation of the city which awarded a cup or tankard, known as the City Plate . 

Racing is reported to have commenced at Whittington Heath from around 1702 when the meeting was transferred to Whittington Heath where it was to continue without interruption until the end of the nineteenth century. With the move the official  connection with the city corporation seems to have ceased as the City Plate was no longer offered.

Below is an absolutely wonderful account by ANN J. KETTLE, M.A. of the events of LICHFIELD RACES and I really do encourage you to read about the politics, Whigs, Riots and Highwaymen through a complicated and bitter period of the LICHFIELD RACES.

Looking at the site, I share with you a number of plans that show the site as a racecourse. Today we know the site as "Whittington Golf Club" and also part where the dreadful HS2 rail line will carve its path through :-( 

The map extract below is taken from the Whittington Tithe Map of 1840 (click image or right click to download to zoom in more)

The map clearly shows the race course and you will notice just how big this race course actually was!

 The map extract below is taken from the 1884 Ordnance Survey Map  (click image or right click to download to zoom in more)

Here you can still see the outline of the race course and the emergence of the neighbouring land as "Whittington Barracks"

Looking at todays mapping you can really no longer see very much of the former racecourse , mainly due to now being a modern golf course . However some small parts of the former racetrack are still traceable on modern mapping: 

 (click image or right click to download to zoom in more)

But the story of this site doesn't end here. During last year I re-called a conversation between myself and twitter people and fellow bloggers @lichfieldlore ( and @BrownhillsBob (  regarding some other historical matters relating to the site.

Both the modern maps and the 1884 Ordnance maps showing a number of notations "Stones". These stones are more commonly known as boundary stones or boundary markers. Boundary stones/markers are physical stones that identify the start of land boundaries. More information regarding these boundary stones/markers can be found here . The maps below show the Ordnance survey location of these stones.

 (click image or right click to download to zoom in more)

 (click image or right click to download to zoom in more)

So back to the markers. I soon realised that these markers would still be in situ and I couldn't find any photo’s or other evidence except the plans. That got me thinking, shall I go and find them? I ventured out in the glorious weather of recent days in search of the location of the stones, hoping to find as many of them as I could. Using the maps above and noting the words "Stone"  I went in search

The map below shows the first few I have been able to find or gain access to (green spots) first find was at Point (A) then (B) , (C) and so on... aided by the use of GPS and Ordnance Survey detailed mapping

 (click image or right click to download to zoom in more)

At point (A) I found this :

At point (B)

 This particular stone was well hidden! and sunk deeper into the ground than the others 

The fourth find was at Point (C)
This particular stone we are blessed with inscriptions and a number! 

At Point (D) 

This is in situ in the footpath outside of the "Whittington Golf Club House" 


Whilst walking around the edge of the golf course I also came across this "Post" at Point E some of you will recognise this as a Triangulation station/point.  If you're interested in knowing more about Trig points then this Link will tell you lots more. I am a little doubtful though about what this is due to the lack of normal markings??

Eventually time ran out. There are so many more to find and record, and I fully intend to do so. I have created a map showing where the "Stones" are recorded by Ordnance Survey (in red) and these are the ones I need to find , possibly in the winter when vegetation has reduced and access is more easier.

 (click image or right click to download to zoom in more)

Its a fascinating piece of lost history that requires more in depth research not only to find why this boundary needed marking , but to try and preserve what is there for future generations.

After all it is All About Lichfield :-)