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Lichfield

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Template:GBthumb Lichfield is a small city in Staffordshire, 110 miles northwest of London and 14 miles north of Birmingham. Famous for its three-spired Cathedral, Lichfield lies in pleasant country, on a small stream draining eastward to the Trent, with low hills to the east and south. It is the main town in the Lichfield district. The population of the district according to the 2001 census is 93,237; of the city itself 27,900.

Contents

History

At Wall, 3 miles to the south 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 the Great.

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.

During the 18th Century the city became a centre of great intellectual activity, being the home of many famous people including Samuel Johnson, David Garrick, Erasmus Darwin and Anna Seward, this prompted Johnson's remark that Lichfield was "a city of philosophers".

Economy

In the Middle Ages the main industry in Lichfield was making woollen cloth. There was also a leather industry in Lichfield.

By the end of the 19th Century, brewing was the principal industry, and in the neighbourhood were large market gardens.

Today there are a number of light industrial areas predominantly in the east of the city, not dominated by any one particular industry. The district is famous for two local products: Armitage Shanks, manufacturers of baths/bidets and showers, and Arthur Price of England, master cutlers and silversmiths. Many residents commute to Birmingham.

Lichfield is served by two railway stations, Lichfield City and Lichfield Trent Valley, both built by the London and North Western Railway. 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.

Famous Lichfeldians

In 1830 the musician Muzio Clementi lived for a time after his retirement in a large house off Stafford Road, now the Hedgehog public house.

Places of interest

The present building was started in 1195, and completed by the building of the Lady Chapel in the 1330s. It replaced a Norman building begun in 1085 which had replaced one, or possibly two, Saxon buildings from the seventh century.

  • 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.
  • The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum is a museum to the Good Doctor's life, work and personality.
  • The Lichfield Heritage Centre is an exhibition of 2000 years of Lichfield's history.
  • 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.
  • Christ Church is an outstanding example of Victorian ecclesiastical architecture and a grade II* listed building. It was founded in 1847 by Ellen Jane Hinckley, the mother of “The Sleeping Children” - subject of a famous monument in the south choir aisle of Lichfield Cathedral. The choir ceiling is gloriously decorated with a recently restored tempera picture by John Dixon Batten of the Birmingham pre-Raphaelite school (1897).
  • The Market Square contains two statues, one of Dr Johnson overlooking the house in which he was born, and one of his great friend and biographer, James Boswell.

Other items of interest

  • Legend has it that a thousand Christians were martyred in Lichfield around AD 300, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and that the name 'Lichfield' actually means 'field of the dead'. There is however, no evidence to support this legend.
  • In 1291 Lichfield was severely damaged by a fire, which destroyed many buildings. In 1690 thatched roofs were banned in Lichfield because of the risk of fire.
  • The motto on Lichfield's coat of arms quotes Samuel Johnson's tribute to his native city in his Dictionary, "Salve, magna parens" - "Hail great Mother".
  • 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.
  • Lichfield Cricket Club nick-named after the cathedral: 'Three Spires', is a thriving club which plays at Collins Hill.

Twinnings

The City of Lichfield is twinned with Limburg an der Lahn, Germany and Sainte Foy les Lyon, France.

Links

See also

Lichfield Canal, Lichfield Cathedral, Lichfield Cricket Club, Letocetum Heart of England Waysv:Lichfield

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