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Lichfield

Lichfield is a city of Staffordshire, 118 miles northwest of London and 24 miles northeast of Birmingham. The London and North-Western railway built stations at Trent Valley Junction on the main line, and in the city on a branch westward. These stations are now on the Cross City Line to Redditch via. Birmingham additionally Trent Valley Station is on the West Coast Main line with occasional trains to London and more frequent local trains. The town lies in a pleasant country, on a small stream draining eastward to the Trent, with low hills to the east and south.

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History

At Wall, 3 miles to the east of the present city, there was a Romano-British village called Letocetum (from the Celtic for "grey wood"), from which the first half of the name Lichfield is derived. It was based on a Roman fort next to Watling Street which was used in the first centuries AD, until about AD 160-170, when the fort's mansio[?] was destroyed by fire at the same time the forum in Wroxeter[?] was also destroyed by fire. This suggests a revolt of the local British.

The history of Lichfield in the following centuries is obscure. The Historia Britonum lists the city as one of the 28 cities of Britain. In the Welsh poem The Lament of Cynddylan, Caer Luycoed or Lichfield is said to have been taken by the sword by pagan opponents, most likely the Mercians to the east.

The first authentic notice of Lichfield occurs in Bede's history, where it is mentioned as the place where St Chad[?] fixed the episcopal see of the Mercians in 669. In 786, Pope Adrian I raised it at the request of Offa, King of Mercia, to the dignity of an archbishopric, but in 803 the primacy was restored to Canterbury. In 1075 the see of Lichfield was removed to Chester, and thence a few years later to Coventry, but it was restored to Lichfield in 1148. At the time of the Domesday survey, Lichfield was held by the bishop of Chester[?], where the see of the bishopric had been moved in 1075: it is not called a borough, only a small village. The lordship and manor of the town were held by the bishop of Chester until the reign of Edward VI, when they were leased to the town corporation.

There is evidence that a castle existed here in the time of Henry I, and a footpath near the grammar school retains the name of Castle-ditch. Richard II gave a charter (1387) for the foundation of the gild of St Mary and St John the Baptist; this gild functioned as the local government, until its dissolution by Edward VI, who incorporated the town in 1548, vesting the government in two bailiffs and twenty-four burgesses[?]; further charters were given by Mary, James I and Charles II (1664), the last, incorporating it under the title of the "bailiffs and citizens of the city of Lichfield," was the governing charter until 1835; under this charter the governing body consisted of two bailiffs and twenty-four brethren.

Lichfield sent two members to the parliament of 1304 and to a few succeeding parliaments, but the representation did not become regular until 1552; in 1867 it lost one member, and in 1885 its representation was merged in that of the county. By the charter of James I, the market day was changed from Wednesday to Tuesday and Friday; the Tuesday market disappeared during the 19th century; the only existing fair is a small pleasure fair of ancient origin held on Ash Wednesday; the annual fête on Whit Monday[?] claims to date from the time of Alfred.

In the English Civil War, Lichfield was divided. The cathedral authorities with a certain following were for the king, but the townsfolk generally sided with the parliament, and this led to the fortification of the close in 1643. Lord Brooke[?], notorious for his hostility to the church, led an assault against it, but was killed by a deflected bullet on St Chad's day, an accident welcomed as a miracle by the Royalists. The close yielded and was retaken by Prince Rupert in this year; but on the breakdown of the king's cause in 1646 it again surrendered. The cathedral suffered extensive damage from the war.

Famous people associated with Lichfield include the writer Samuel Johnson and his friend, the actor David Garrick. Another famous name associated with Lichfield is Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin and himself a great thinker and inventor.

Economy

In 1911, brewing was the principal industry, and in the neighbourhood were large market gardens.

In 2000, there are a number of light industrial areas predominantly on the east of Lichfield, not dominated by any one particular industry. Many residents commute to Birmingham.

Leisure

There are two sports centres situated adjacent to King Edwards and Friary Grange Schools. Many of the tourist sites are listed below.

Each year there is an International Arts Festival based primarily around the Cathedral. Spin off events include a Fringe Festival, Jazz, Blues and Real Ale Festival and a Medieaval Market.

Sites of Interest

  • Lichfield Cathedral A small (the internal length is 370 ft., and the breadth of the nave 68 ft.) church, that dates in its current form from various periods in the 13th and early 14th centuries, but the various portions cannot be allocated to fixed years, as the old archives were destroyed during the English Civil Wars. The walls of the nave lean outwards slightly, this was caused by the weight of stone used in the ceiling vaulting, some 2-300 tons of which was removed during renovation work to prevent the walls leaning further.

  • The Bishop's Palace (built 1687) and a theological college (built 1837) are adjacent to the cathedral.

  • Milley's Hospital dates back to 1504 and was a women's hospital.

  • St.John's without the Bars is a distinctive Tudor building with a row of seven tall brick chimneys. This was built outside the city walls (bars) to provide hostel accommodation for travellers arriving after the gates were shut. It now provides home for elderly Gentlemen and has an adjacent Chapel.

  • Darwin House was once home to Erasmus Darwin and restored to created a museum in the late 1990s.

  • The church of St Chad is ancient though extensively restored; on its site St Chad or Ceadda[?] is said to have occupied a hermit's cell.

Links

This entry uses text originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.



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