A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.
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SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES
The festivities at Greenhill associated by the 15th century with the inspection of the watch during the Whitsun fair included the erection of a bower for the bishop's steward. (fn. 1) The practice continued after the transfer of the manor to the corporation in 1548, but the inspection seems to have become entirely ceremonial by the late 17th century. (fn. 2) The first detailed description of the festivities dates from the 1790s. (fn. 3) On Whit Monday the sheriff, bailiffs, and town clerk processed from the guildhall to the bower at Greenhill, accompanied by the two manorial constables, ten armed men, eight morris dancers, a fool, and a band of musicians playing drums and fifes. At the bower the town crier proclaimed the opening of the manor's court of array, and read through the list of suitors. The ceremony of calling the court having been completed, the constables and armed men, with the dancers and musicians, returned to the city centre, and in each street or ward the party was led by the ward's dozeners (tithingmen) past each house, over which a volley was fired as a salute. The dozeners, carrying pageants (puppets on the end of poles), and all the householders of the ward then returned to the bower, where they were provided with a cold collation; anyone failing to attend was fined 1d. Meanwhile the constables' party returned to inspect the next ward. After all the wards had been inspected, everyone assembled in the market square where the town clerk delivered an oration. The pageants were then deposited in the tower of St. Mary's church.
Certain aspects of the festivities, such as the procession, the morris dancing, and the bower itself may have derived from earlier folk customs. In 1698 Celia Fiennes referred to the occasion as the Green Bower; the main attractions were then the dressing of the dozeners' pageants (which she called 'babys') with garlands, and the procession to Greenhill. Besides the bailiffs' bower there were then smaller ones in which fruit and sweetmeats were sold. (fn. 4) In the 1730s or 1740s Richard Wilkes, the antiquary, noted how people flocked from the neighbouring villages to see 'this gaudy show'; each ward had its own mawkin (doll) or a posy of flowers carried in the procession, with the city drummers providing music. (fn. 5) Possibly the pageants were originally effigies of saints, but by the early 19th century trade emblems were used. (fn. 6) Anna Seward described the festivities in 1795 as 'our grotesque Whitsun Monday anniversary'; in her youth the day had been enjoyed by all ranks of society, but it had become 'the vulgar jubilee of the town and its environs'. (fn. 7) Thomas Harwood, the historian of the city, a few years later thought it 'an idle and useless ceremony, adapted for the amusement of children'. (fn. 8) It was also expensive. In 1705 the cost, borne by the corporation, was apparently only £7. 7s.; it rose to £27 in 1793, £37 in 1798, and £40 in 1802. (fn. 9) After the 1806 festivities the corporation ordered that on the grounds of expense and inconvenience there was to be in future no bower or procession, although the inspection continued to be held. (fn. 10)
In response to popular demand the celebrations had been revived by 1811. The expense was met by subscribers, notably the city's M.P.s and General William Dyott of Freeford, and there was a management committee. (fn. 11) In 1825 the corporation agreed to make an annual donation of 10 guineas, but that was withdrawn by the first elected council in 1836. (fn. 12) By 1851 relations had improved and the mayor attended the celebrations in his robe of office. (fn. 13) The restored procession included a Maid Marian and, from 1850 or earlier, a knight whose armour was hired from London. (fn. 14) Tableaux were introduced in the 1870s, and a bower queen was first crowned in 1929. (fn. 15) Pageants were still carried in procession in the 1880s. Cakes were distributed free in the early 20th century; they were reduced in size and confined to children in 1922 and stopped altogether in 1939. (fn. 16)
Menageries and circuses were added to the festivities in the early 19th century, and in 1827 there was a fireworks display at the Bowling Green inn. From the early 19th century theatricals performed by travelling companies became a regular feature. (fn. 17) Trains later brought large numbers of day trippers from the Black Country, the East Midlands, and the Potteries; 20,000 were thought to have come in 1850. (fn. 18) In the late 1980s the Bower, held on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, continued to attract large crowds.
A boy bishop received a customary 5s. from the bishop on Holy Innocents' day (28 December) in 1306. (fn. 19) Copes for use by boys on that feast day were kept in the cathedral sacristy in the mid 1340s. (fn. 20) It was still a custom to appoint a boy bishop in the earlier 16th century. (fn. 21)
There was a maypole at Greenhill in 1674, and the 'new post' set up there by the corporation in 1702–3 was presumably a replacement. (fn. 22) The Greenhill wakes were mentioned in 1828, when they were held on Monday and Tuesday, 20 and 21 October. (fn. 23)
Morris dancers were paid by the Whig agent in Lichfield at a parliamentary election in 1761, and dancing at election time remained a custom in the earlier 19th century. (fn. 24) Morris men also danced at Christmas 'masquerades' in the late 18th and early 19th century. (fn. 25) They danced at the Greenhill Bower festivities until the late 19th century, when they were replaced by boys from the Truant school in Beacon Street; the boys still danced in 1907. (fn. 26) A group called the Lichfield Morris Men was formed in 1979 to perform dances particular to Lichfield. It resumed dancing at the Bower and also stages mumming plays at Christmas time. (fn. 27) A ladies' group, the Three Spires Ladies' Morris, was formed in 1981 to perform clog dances. (fn. 28) The Ryknild Rappers were formed in 1988 to per form traditional sword dances. (fn. 29) A week-end festival of folk dance and music was started in 1975 and continued to be held in the later 1980s. (fn. 30)
Well dressing took place in Lichfield on Ascension day in the early 19th century, the ceremony being conducted by a clergyman with children carrying green boughs; the gospel was read at each well and pump visited, and doors of houses were decorated with the boughs. (fn. 31) The decoration of houses alone was revived in the Close in the 1920s and still took place in the later 1980s. (fn. 32) Cathedral choristers wassailed at Christmas in 1800, and the custom continued in the later 19th century. (fn. 33)
A tournament was held at Lichfield in the presence of Edward III in 1348. (fn. 34) Daily tournaments took place when Richard II spent Christmas at Lichfield in 1398. (fn. 35) There was a tennis court in the grounds of the Franciscan friary before its dissolution, probably in an enclosed yard between the church and cloister. (fn. 36)
Bear baiting took place in the early 19th century at Greenhill, which was probably the traditional site for the sport. (fn. 37) A bull was brought by travelling showmen in 1827 and baited at Greenhill, Sandyway, and other places in the city. The baitings aroused disapproval and were probably not repeated. (fn. 38)
A main of cocks was held at the Talbot inn in 1704, with a team of gentlemen from Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, and Leicestershire matched against a team from Worcestershire, Shropshire, and Wales. (fn. 39) In the later 1740s mains were held at the Swan, where a pit was mentioned in 1800. (fn. 40) Mains in the early 19th century normally took place during the horse-race meetings. (fn. 41) In 1828 the city bailiffs closed the Swan pit, and despite initial resistance cock fighting there probably ceased. (fn. 42) A cock fight attracting competitors from Walsall and Dudley was held in 1851, probably in a pit south of Gresley Row. (fn. 43)
Hare coursing promoted by Lichfield innkeepers took place at Freeford in 1829. (fn. 44) A hare-coursing club had been established by the landlord of the Swan by 1876, with meetings held on estates around Lichfield. The club still existed in 1891. (fn. 45)
By the early 1680s horse races were held in September on Fradley heath in Alrewas north-east of Lichfield, with the corporation from 1686 awarding a prize of a silver tankard of 'about 6 pounds'. (fn. 46) In 1702 the races were moved to Whittington heath south-east of the city. The corporation continued its patronage, awarding the tankard initially for a four-year period only but probably continuing it after 1706. From 1716 the corporation awarded a plate worth £10, increased to 10 guineas by 1729 and still given in 1737. (fn. 47) In the early 1740s the meeting was held in the first week of September and lasted two days, extended to three in 1744. It became one of the leading meetings in the Midlands and had a notable effect on the city's social life, with well-attended public breakfasts and dinners, balls, and concerts taking place. The races became involved in party politics in 1747, and a rival September meeting, organized by Tories, was held between 1748 and 1753. (fn. 48) The line of the course was apparently altered in the early 1740s to give spectators a better view of the racing. (fn. 49) In 1766 the landlord of the Red Lion in Dam Street advertised his intention to set up a viewing stand and a booth at the course, and a grandstand was erected by subscription in 1773. (fn. 50) From the 1780s the meeting declined, and a third day's racing was sustained only with money raised by Lichfield inhabitants. The opening of a new stand in 1803 suggests a revival in the meeting's popularity, but in 1842 General William Dyott of Freeford, a trustee of the races, noted that the racing that year was 'not deserving description'. The meeting was overshadowed by one at Wolverhampton but managed to survive until 1895. (fn. 51)
In the early 18th century a race was held in March, apparently on land near the Swan. (fn. 52) A March hunt meeting on the Whittington course had been established by 1818 and was held under the auspices of Lord Anson from 1823 or earlier. (fn. 53) It did not find favour with General Dyott, who noted that it failed to attract people of quality; he described the 1836 meeting as 'a wretched affair', which included a hurdle race, 'a new fashioned sport much in vogue with the foxhunters'. (fn. 54)
Pony races were held on a field near the Shoulder of Mutton inn on the London road in October 1812. (fn. 55)
Bowls were played at the Bowling Green inn, built west of the Friary apparently in the 1670s; (fn. 56) a clubhouse which survived there in the later 1980s may have been that which existed in 1796. (fn. 57) The present Lichfield Bowling Club which uses the green was formed apparently in the 1840s. (fn. 58) A club established in 1901 using a green on the north side of the Swan was named the Swan Bowling Club in 1922. In 1962 it was re-formed as the Lichfield City Club and moved to a green laid out by the city council in Beacon Park. It continued to play there in the late 1980s under the name of the Lichfield Crown Green Bowling Club. (fn. 59) The Museum Bowling Club had been formed by 1922, playing on a green in Museum Grounds. (fn. 60) It still played there in the late 1980s. The Trent Valley Bowling Club, with a green behind the Trent Valley inn over the Lichfield boundary in Streethay, was formed in 1929. It still played on that green in the late 1980s. (fn. 61)
Archery butts stood in Castle ditch in the late 17th century. (fn. 62) They were at the Bowling Green inn by the early 1770s, when there was a society of Gentlemen Archers. (fn. 63) There were also butts on the east side of Beacon Street south of Wheel Lane in 1776. (fn. 64) An archery society still existed in 1824. (fn. 65) It was revived in 1846 under the presidency of J. S. Manley of Manley Hall in Weeford, and by 1850 it had 118 members. Competition meetings were held in July and August, using butts on land near St. John's hospital. (fn. 66) The society survived until at least 1914. (fn. 67) It was revived in 1965, with butts on the rugby football ground in Boley Lane; in 1968 the butts were moved to playing fields off Gaia Lane and in 1980 to Christian Fields off Eastern Avenue, where a clubhouse was opened in 1980. (fn. 68) On the occasion of a national competition hosted by the Lichfield society in 1987, butts were set up in Beacon Park. (fn. 69)
A cricket club was established in or shortly before 1817, and there was a Lichfield team in 1830. (fn. 70) Lichfield Cricket Club was formed apparently in 1844. In 1862 it used a ground off the Stafford road. (fn. 71) It later acquired a ground on the north side of Chesterfield Road. From 1873 that ground was also used by the newly formed county club, whose secretary from 1874 was H. S. Chinn, a Lichfield solicitor. (fn. 72) There was little enthusiasm for the sport, and an attempt to popularize it by the introduction in 1878 of a week-long festival was not a success. The last festival was held in 1883, when the county club left Lichfield and Chinn resigned as secretary. (fn. 73) The city club survived and continued to play on the Chesterfield Road ground in the late 1980s. A club for tradesmen was formed in 1861. (fn. 74) A cricket club was set up as a branch of St. Mary's Church Club probably in 1871, and in 1872 it played a match against another Lichfield team, the 'Hearts of Oak'. By 1885 St. Chad's church had a cricket club too. (fn. 75) The Lichfield Wednesday Cricket Club, evidently for tradesmen, was revived in 1912, and a club for artisans was formed the same year. (fn. 76)
A football club was also formed as a branch of St. Mary's Church Club probably in 1871, and St. Chad's church had a football club by 1885. (fn. 77) Lichfield Football Club was formed in 1874 and played on the cricket club ground in 1876 according to both London Association and Rugby Union rules. (fn. 78) It was re-formed as the City Football Club in 1890 and is probably identifiable as the Lichfield Phoenix Football Club in existence by 1908 and renamed the City Club in 1913. (fn. 79) Other clubs before the First World War included one for artisans, formed in 1912, and one for tradesmen, formed in 1913. (fn. 80) The present Lichfield Football Club was formed in 1966; it first played on a pitch in Beacon Park and from 1970 on one in Shortbutts Lane. (fn. 81) Lichfield Rugby Football Club was formed in 1925. It played on various sites before a permanent ground was acquired in Boley Lane in 1961. A new ground was opened off the Tamworth road over the city boundary in 1985. (fn. 82)
Lawn tennis tournaments were held on the cricket club ground during the week of the cricket festival between 1878 and 1883 and continued there in the late 1880s. (fn. 83) Lichfield County Lawn Tennis Club had been formed by 1890, and by 1900 it had courts on the north side of Birmingham Road near St. John's hospital. (fn. 84) The club still played there as Lichfield Lawn Tennis Club in the late 1980s. The present Friary Lawn Tennis Club was formed in 1937 with courts in the Dell between Christchurch Lane and the Walsall road. The club was a successor to the Christ Church Lawn Tennis Club which had played since the 1920s on courts in Christchurch Lane; the vicarage was built on the site in 1957. (fn. 85) In 1985 the Friary Club moved to a site off the Tamworth road shared with the Rugby Football Club. (fn. 86)
There was a roller skating rink at the Corn Exchange in 1877. By 1912 there was a rink in Beacon Street, apparently in a disused maltings; it had been closed by 1916. (fn. 87) There was an athletic club by 1888; it was dissolved in 1911. (fn. 88) A bicycling club was formed in 1881 and was one of two or three such clubs in 1904. (fn. 89) The Friary Grange Sports Centre attached to Friary Grange (later Friary) school in Eastern Avenue and open to the public out of school hours incorporates a sports hall and a swimming pool opened in 1977. (fn. 90)
WALKS, GARDENS, AND PARK.
A building called the Temple in 1694 probably stood on Borrowcop Hill: a path to it passed by an orchard called Cherry Garden (later Cherry Orchard) on the west side of Sturgeon's Hill. (fn. 91) In the early 1720s there was an arbour on top of the hill. (fn. 92) In 1750 the corporation apparently replaced it with a summerhouse, which may have been the cruciform building which stood there by 1776. (fn. 93) In 1756 the corporation ordered the planting of a line of trees along the path to the summit (fn. 94) and engaged a nurseryman, John Bramall, to plant more trees in 1783, probably in connexion with a fete champetre held that year. (fn. 95) By 1805 the building had been replaced by one of brick with two arches each side and seats around it from which the view could be admired; the cost was met by public subscription. (fn. 96) It was restored in the mid 1980s under the government's Community Programme Scheme.
In 1772 New Walk was laid out on the south side of Minster Pool between Dam Street and Bird Street, with a gate at either end, and in 1782 the Conduit Lands trustees ordered the removal of a lamp at the north end of Cock Lane to a position along the walk. (fn. 97) In 1773 the corporation decided to fashion the pool's northern bank as a serpentine, and by 1776 there was an island in the pool at its west end. (fn. 98) In 1789 an island in Stowe Pool was planted with fir trees by John Bramall, who carried out further planting in 1792; the island survived in 1802. (fn. 99) A walk around Stowe Pool was laid out c. 1790. (fn. 100) On the pool's north side stood a willow tree habitually visited by Samuel Johnson. The tree was blown down in 1829 and from it was planted another which survived until itself blown down in 1881. A third tree was planted from it but was felled in 1956 because it was unsafe. A fourth tree, planted from it in 1957, survived in the late 1980s. (fn. 101) A botanic garden north of the pool in the grounds of Parchment House was laid out probably in the early 1780s by John Saville, a vicar choral of the cathedral. It soon became a visitors' attraction. (fn. 102)
Beacon Park lying west of Bird Street and Beacon Street originated in land reclaimed out of Upper Pool; in the late 18th century there were lines of trees there and what may have been ornamental pools. (fn. 103) The area was chosen as the site of the free library and museum, opened in 1859, and a public garden (known as Museum Grounds) was laid out to the south. (fn. 104) A drinking fountain in the garden was given by Thomas Rowley in 1863, and in 1871 J. T. Law, the diocesan chancellor, presented an ornamental fountain. (fn. 105) The figures of lions around Law's fountain were given by R. P. (later Sir Richard) Cooper, a city alderman, probably in the late 1880s. (fn. 106) In 1892 the Conduit Lands trustees agreed to supply water to the fountain three times a week in the summer without charge. (fn. 107) East of the fountain is a statue of Edward VII, presented in 1908 by Robert Bridgeman, then sheriff. (fn. 108) West of the fountain is a bronze statue of Commander E. J. Smith, captain of the liner Titanic, sunk in 1912; it was carved by Lady (Kathleen) Scott, widow of Capt. Robert Scott, the Antarctic explorer, and unveiled in 1914. The cost was met by a national subscription, and the statue was placed in Lichfield because the city was both the centre of the diocese in which Smith was born and conveniently placed for visitors travelling between London and Liverpool. (fn. 109) Set by the east wall of the garden are the remains of a sculpture of the city's coat of arms taken from the pediment of the 18th-century guildhall. (fn. 110) A Crimean War cannon and a First World War German gun which had been placed in the grounds were removed for scrap metal in 1940. (fn. 111) A recreation ground was opened on nearly 5 a. west of the library in 1891. (fn. 112) The ground was extended north in 1944 with 11½ a. given by Lt.-Col. M. A. Swinfen Broun. (fn. 113)
The War Memorial Garden on the east side of Bird Street beside Minster Pool was laid out in 1920 and contains a monument and sundial made by the Lichfield firm of Robert Bridgeman & Sons. The stone balustrade along the street was formerly at Moxhull Hall in Wishaw (Warws.). (fn. 114) A Memorial Garden dedicated to Lichfield citizens who died in the Second World War and 'later struggles for freedom' was laid out on the south side of Minster Pool in 1955. (fn. 115)
The bishop's minstrels played at the Whitsuntide inspection of the watch at Greenhill in 1421, (fn. 116) and in 1449 histriones (eitherminstrels or dramatic performers) from Lichfield entertained Sir William Vernon, possibly when he was visiting his manor of Wall. (fn. 117) A fiddler was enrolled as a member of St. Mary's guild in 1488–9. (fn. 118) Minstrels played for the shoemakers' company at their feasts in the later 16th century. (fn. 119) The Lichfield waits were mentioned in 1572 when they travelled to Wollaton Hall (Notts.) to play for the Willoughby family. (fn. 120) Praised by visitors who heard them at the Swan in 1634, the waits then wore the badge of Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, who held a life interest in Lichfield manor. (fn. 121) Trumpeters and drummers played at the feasts of the smiths' company in the late 17th century and in the later 1730s, (fn. 122) and drummers played at the Greenhill Bower festivities in the earlier 18th century. (fn. 123) In 1686 Richard Dyott at the age of 19 formed a society of bell-ringers called the Loyal Youths, with himself as master. They met weekly and apparently rang both the cathedral's bells and those of St. Mary's church. Each ringer wore a flannel waistcoat edged with black buttons and a black silk cap. The society still existed in 1690. (fn. 124)
An orchestra was hired from Leicester to play for a ball in the guildhall during the 1714 race meeting. Tomson and Powell who sang at a concert during the 1733 meeting and Festener who played the German flute on the same occasion were probably professionals. (fn. 125) In 1746 Musgrave Heighington, the composer, performed for the city's music club, (fn. 126) and in 1796 Wilhelm Cramer, the violinist, played privately for Anna Seward and her guests at supper parties on four consecutive evenings. (fn. 127) The pianist and composer Muzio Clementi (d. 1832) lived at Lyncroft House on the Stafford road c. 1830, but he is not known to have performed publicly in the city. (fn. 128) The violinist Nicolo Paganini (d. 1840) played in Lichfield in 1833. (fn. 129)
Interest in music was fostered by a music club which by 1739 met in the vicars' hall in the Close. (fn. 130) It promoted public concerts, including by 1745 one annually on St. Cecilia's day (22 November). It was known as the Cecilian Society by 1752, when the feast-day concert was accompanied by a dinner, both taking place at the King's Head in Bird Street. (fn. 131) Concerts at other times of the year were held in the guildhall, until they were transferred to the newly decorated vicars' hall in or soon after 1756. A subscription ticket for five concerts in February and March 1767 cost 5s., with non-subscribers paying 2s. a concert. (fn. 132) A high standard was apparently maintained, and perfomers included the vicar choral John Saville, a principal singer at music festivals throughout the country. From the earlier 1780s he was accompanied by his daughter, Elizabeth Smith, also a singer. (fn. 133)
A dispute arose between performing and non-performing members as the meetings turned into eating and drinking sessions, with music taking second place; it was settled by agreement in 1790. The performers were to decide matters relating to the society's musical life, such as the purchase of scores and instruments, the choice of music to be played, and the restriction on the number of flutes, horns, and oboes to be used at a time. The number of non-performing members was fixed at a maximum of 60, and admittance to the feast-day concert and dinner was to be by ticket only. The landlord was barred from membership and forbidden to invite outsiders to attend the concert, the venue of which was transferred from the King's Head to the Swan. (fn. 134) The society seems to have lost support. A drive in 1817 to attract new members and revive the society's 'harmonic festivities' suggests that it had ceased to promote concerts, and in 1816 and 1817 subscription concerts were instead advertised as under the patronage of the dean and chapter. (fn. 135) The society was dissolved in 1837 (fn. 136) but had been revived by 1849, possibly in connexion with the formation by 1848 of the Lichfield Choral Society. (fn. 137) Nothing further is known about either society.
The Lichfield Amateur Musical Society was formed in 1852 and at first gave performances in the Corn Exchange; from 1853 the concerts took place in the guildhall. Three performances a year were given in the later 1860s at a cost of 10s. to subscribers, and the players practised twice weekly in the bandroom of Yeomanry House in St. John Street. (fn. 138) The society lapsed in 1874 but was revived in 1878 and re-formed in 1881 as the Lichfield Musical Society, still in existence in 1942. (fn. 139) The Lichfield Operatic Society was formed in 1895, dissolved in 1911, and revived in 1942. (fn. 140) It still existed in the late 1980s.
A militia band gave public concerts in 1800, one of them accompanied by a firework display. (fn. 141) A bandstand was erected in Museum Grounds by John Gilbert, a city councillor, in 1893 to mark the marriage of the duke of York to Princess May of Teck (later George V and Queen Mary). (fn. 142) Bands which played at the 1905 Bower festivities included the Lichfield Volunteer Band and a drum and fife band from Whittington barracks. Lichfield City Band was formed in 1910 and survived in 1937. A new city band was formed in 1985. (fn. 143)
A diocesan festival of parish choirs, the first of its kind in the country, was held in the cathedral in 1856 under the auspices of the Diocesan Choral Association. The festival was held every three years, growing in size until in 1880 there were over 1,800 singers. In 1883 the number of singers was limited to 1,000. (fn. 144) The festival was last held in 1912. (fn. 145) A music festival promoted by the dean and chapter and using the cathedral as the principal venue was held in 1980. It was held annually from 1982, lasting 10 days. Drama was added in 1986 and opera in 1987. (fn. 146)
Balls were held during the race meetings from the 1730s; in the later 1770s they took place in the guildhall under the management of the race stewards. (fn. 147) By the early 19th century they were less well patronized than before. General William Dyott remarked that the autumn race ball in 1821 was not 'attended by the neighbouring nobility and gentry, as was the custom twenty years ago', and that that of 1842 attracted only 'a thin attendance, and not a fag or rag of quality'. (fn. 148)
Subscription balls were held in the vicars' hall during the winters of 1779–80 and 1780–1, usually about the time of a full moon. A subscription ticket cost 10s. 6d. and individual tickets 3s. 6d. in 1797–8. (fn. 149) The George was then the usual venue. (fn. 150) Subscription balls were still held there in the late 1870s. (fn. 151)
Balls were held by 1820 for the Staffordshire Yeomanry when they assembled annually for a week's training on Whittington heath. They were still held in the early 1860s. (fn. 152)
By the late 1830s there was an annual county ball in January. (fn. 153) In the late 1870s it was held in St. James's Hall in Bore Street, which remained the venue until the hall's conversion into a cinema in 1912. The balls were then transferred to the George; they ceased during the First World War and were not revived. (fn. 154)
The histriones from Lichfield who entertained Sir William Vernon in 1449 were either dramatic performers or minstrels. (fn. 155) Lord Warwick's players, who evidently performed in the city on the occasion of Elizabeth I's visit in 1575, were presumably actors under the patronage of Ambrose Dudley, earl of Warwick. (fn. 156) George Farquhar's play The Beaux' Stratagem (1707) is set in Lichfield, where the author had been stationed on military duty. His play The Recruiting Officer (1706) was performed by amateurs in Lichfield in 1727, probably in a room in the bishop's palace; the part of Serjeant Kite was played by David Garrick, then aged ten, making his first stage appearance. (fn. 157) Professional companies played in the city at least from the later 1760s. One led by Roger Kemble came in 1770 and performed The Recruiting Officer, probably in the guildhall; the cast included William Siddons, the future husband of Kemble's daughter Sarah. (fn. 158) A company led by Samuel Stanton included Lichfield in its provincial circuit in 1776 and in the 1780s. (fn. 159)
In 1790 a theatre designed by John Miller of London was built in Bore Street on the site of the White Hart inn. The cost was probably met by subscription, and in 1793 ownership was vested in a body of shareholders. (fn. 160) James Miller, a theatrical manager from Worcester, was licensed to perform in the theatre for 60 days from 10 September 1791, but by the mid 1790s licences were for only 14 days, presumably an indication that longer runs were unprofitable. (fn. 161) Companies generally played for a week or less, usually at the time of the race meetings. (fn. 162) Players included Isabella Mattocks in 1797, Edmund Kean in 1809 (when still nationally unknown), William Betty (the Young Roscius) in 1807 after his voice had broken and again in 1816, and Dorothea Jordan in 1810. (fn. 163)
The theatre, known as the Theatre Royal by 1859, was demolished in 1871. (fn. 164) It was replaced in 1873 by St. James's Hall, which had an assembly room with a stage, and a separate dining room. (fn. 165) The hall became the usual venue for theatricals, concerts, and dances. (fn. 166) It was converted into a cinema in 1912. In 1949 it became the David Garrick theatre, under the management of R. F. Cowlishaw and his wife Joan. The theatre's second producer, in its opening year, was Kenneth Tynan, who produced Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem. Because of financial difficulties the theatre was closed soon after Joan Cowlishaw's death in 1953, and the building reverted to use as a cinema. (fn. 167)
George Stevens gave a performance in Lichfield of his humorous monologue 'Lecture on Heads' in 1773. (fn. 168) From the early 19th century theatricals, pantomimes, and comic routines were performed during the Greenhill Bower festivities by companies such as Richardson's and Holloway's. (fn. 169) Popular performances also took place when the Staffordshire Yeomanry assembled for its annual training week. (fn. 170) An amateur group, first recorded in 1853, played regularly for charity until dissolved c. 1890. (fn. 171) A group called the Lichfield Amateur Players was formed in the early 1940s and continued to give performances as the Lichfield Players in the later 1980s. (fn. 172) In 1946 Dorothy L. Sayers's play The Just Vengeance, commissioned by the dean and chapter and with music by Antony Hopkins, was performed in the cathedral in the presence of Queen Elizabeth. (fn. 173)
CIRCUSES AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENTS.
Exhibitions of wild beasts were held in 1751 and 1796, (fn. 174) and in the early 19th century they were a feature of the Greenhill Bower festivities. (fn. 175) In 1823 an exhibition at the Bower was accompanied by shows of giants and dwarfs, a display of horsemanship, and a camera obscura. Wombwell's menagerie advertised its attendance at the Bower in 1824 and 1826, as did Mr. Adams's Olympic Circus in 1826; the circus had previously been in Lichfield during the 1824 September race meeting. (fn. 176) Day's menagerie and Biddall's exhibition, apparently a circus, were attractions at the 1873 Bower. (fn. 177)
A troupe of Prussian acrobats performed in the guildhall in 1765. (fn. 178) Conjurors visited Lichfield in 1768, and in 1780 a conjuror named Herman Boaz gave shows in the guildhall. (fn. 179) In 1794 a Signor Rosignol performed bird imitations there. (fn. 180) The Chevalier D'Eon demonstrated his skill in 'the art of attack and defence with a single rapier' in Lichfield in 1795 at what was one of his last public performances. (fn. 181)
An exhibition of automata was held at the George in 1816. In 1823 a revolving panorama and a cosmorama, through which pictures were displayed, were shown at the theatre in Bore Street. (fn. 182)
'Animated pictures', including films of recent disasters, were an attraction at the 1909 Shrove Tuesday fair. (fn. 183) Films were shown in St. James's Hall from 1910, and in 1912 the hall was converted into the Palladium cinema. (fn. 184) Renamed the Lido in 1937, the cinema was burnt down in 1942 but was immediately rebuilt to ensure continued entertainment for United States soldiers passing through the nearby Whittington barracks. It remained a cinema until 1949 and then became a theatre until 1953. (fn. 185) The building reopened as the Adelphi cinema, which closed in 1959. (fn. 186) The Regal cinema in Tamworth Street was opened in 1932. It became a bingo hall in 1974, and films have since been shown regularly in the Civic Hall in Wade Street, opened the same year. (fn. 187)
The former post office in Bird Street was opened as an Arts Centre in 1970 and extended in 1972 and in 1976. It provides a venue for a wide range of activities and includes an art gallery; it also has a restaurant and bar. (fn. 188)
FREEMASONS AND FRIENDLY SOCIETIES.
An Ancient Lodge of Freemasons was established at the Scales inn in 1784 and still met in 1813. A Lodge of Moderns was formed in 1787 at the Three Crowns inn in Breadmarket Street and still met c. 1809. In the earlier 1830s the Three Crowns was the meeting place of St. John's Lodge, closed in 1850 but revived in 1865. (fn. 189) In the later 1970s the lodge moved to Tamworth, where it still met in the late 1980s. The Elias Ashmole Lodge was established in 1972; it too met in Tamworth in the late 1980s. (fn. 190)
Despite its name the Friendly Society of Florists and Gardeners, in existence by 1769, does not appear to have been a benefit society. (fn. 191) The earliest such society recorded in the city was the Lichfield Friendly Society, formed in 1770; it met at the Three Crowns in 1790. (fn. 192) There was a female society by 1773; its rules were confirmed in 1794. By custom in the 1770s its members walked in procession to hear a sermon in the cathedral on St. Peter's and St. Paul's day (29 June). A dinner and ball were held later in the day in the guildhall. (fn. 193) There were, in addition, five other friendly societies in the later 1790s: the Original Friendly, the Golden Tankard, the Old Crown Club, the Young Men's Friendly, and the Junior Friendly. (fn. 194) The Royal Oak Friendly Society had been formed by 1808. (fn. 195) A benefit club which met at the Three Crowns was dissolved in or shortly before 1827, when a new club, the Young Man's Independence, was formed at the same inn. (fn. 196) The Lichfield Friendly Institution, formed in 1833, drew membership from within 10 miles of the city boundary, an area reduced by 1862 to a five-mile radius from the city centre. The institution was dissolved in 1876. (fn. 197)
The benefit functions of the friendly societies were apparently taken over by lodges of Oddfellows, of which the earliest in Lichfield were the Loyal Brunswick Independent Lodge of Oddfellows, formed in 1812, (fn. 198) the Loyal Wellington Lodge, formed by 1816, and the Loyal Independent Lodge George IV, formed in 1821. (fn. 199) The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows established a district at Lichfield in 1842, and three lodges were formed in the city that year. The Loyal Brunswick Lodge joined the unity in 1867. (fn. 200) In 1876 there were 10 registered lodges of Oddfellows, 5 of Oddsisters, one of Free Gardeners, and a court of Foresters; the recorded membership of six of the lodges was then 690. (fn. 201)
A Rechabite tent was established in Market Street in 1911. (fn. 202)
CLUBS, COFFEE HOUSES, AND NEWSROOMS.
A gentlemen's drinking club known as the Court of Truth met weekly at the George in 1735; it moved to Harrison's coffee house in 1739 but returned to the George in 1740. (fn. 203) A gentlemen's club called the Lichfield Club was opened in 1879; it met at no. 24 Bird Street until its dissolution in 1934. (fn. 204) A working men's club, organized by the rector of St. Michael's, was opened in Church Street in 1878; its premises comprised a coffee house and a reading room. A temperance society, the Lighthouse Lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars, was formed there in 1893. (fn. 205) A soldiers' club was established at no. 17 Bird Street (later the Lichfield Mercury offices) in 1900 for the use of men stationed at Whittington barracks; it was closed in 1928, and the premises were taken over by a Conservative club. (fn. 206) A coffee house and newsroom in Breadmarket Street in 1818 was managed as part of the Three Crowns inn. (fn. 207) In 1850 there was a temperance house in Tamworth Street and by 1868 one in Market Street, possibly in the same premises as the coffee house recorded there in 1904. (fn. 208)
The Lichfield Afternoon Women's Institute was formed in 1917. From 1921 it met in the former Wesleyan Methodist hall in Lombard Street, which it sold in 1980. (fn. 209) In the late 1980s the institute met in the Arts Centre in Bird Street, as did the Lichfield Evening Women's Institute, formed in 1967. (fn. 210) The Lichfield Townswomen's Guild was formed in 1959 and met in St. Mary's Centre in the late 1980s. (fn. 211)
Recreational clubs were organized by the parish churches in the later 19th and early 20th century. (fn. 212) Social clubs were opened in Weston Road in 1953, in Purcell Avenue in 1968, and on the Boley Park housing estate in 1984. (fn. 213) Cruck House in Stowe Street, a timber-framed building, was opened by the council as an old people's centre in 1971. (fn. 214)
The Lichfield Newsroom was opened in 1832 in a room in a house in Market Street owned by the Revd. J. T. Law, the diocesan chancellor. (fn. 215) It was intended for the use of gentlemen living in and around the city, as well as army officers temporarily stationed there. Members paid an annual subscription of 30s., which was reduced to 25s. in 1836. The room was open on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. (10 p.m. from 1835); there was a selection of London and provincial newspapers, but no magazines. From 1837 the enterprise was in debt, chiefly because Law, who had acted as chairman, secretary, and treasurer, devoted less time to it. In August 1841 there were 55 members, and in December that year 45. In January 1842 the institution was moved to a room at the Swan. It remained there until 1845, when Law again rented it a room in his house; he also paid its debts and in 1848 gave it an endowment of £150. The abolition of newspaper tax removed much of the original purpose of the newsroom, and its membership further declined. By drawing on capital the newsroom survived at Law's house until 1867, when it moved to a cheaper room elsewhere in Market Street. In 1872 it moved to a room in the market square, and in 1875 to one in Tamworth Street. By then there were fewer than 20 members. In 1879 those who remained joined the newly opened Lichfield Club in Bird Street and wound up the newsroom.
It was the intention of the Revd. John Deakin, master of Rugeley grammar school (d. 1727), to establish a lending library in Lichfield. He wished his books to be kept by members of his family resident in the city, or otherwise by someone chosen by the vicar of St. Mary's church, and to be loaned to anyone living in Lichfield or within fives miles of it. His wishes, however, seem not to have been followed. (fn. 216) In 1810 the Birmingham booksellers Thomson & Wrightson, who had opened a branch in Bird Street, announced their intention of setting up a circulating library with a stock of 1,000 books. (fn. 217) There was a circulating library in Frog Lane in 1818, run by a Mrs. Shaw, (fn. 218) and Henrietta Shaw managed one in St. John Street in 1834, when there was another in Bird Street run by Sarah Goodwin. (fn. 219) There were parochial lending libraries from the earlier 19th century. (fn. 220)
The Lichfield permanent subscription library was established in 1817 or 1818, in a building at the corner of Beacon Street and the road into the Close. (fn. 221) It was in debt by 1832 when the Revd. J. T. Law, the diocesan chancellor, rescued it, providing new premises in his house in Market Street. (fn. 222) In 1847 the library, which was open on working days from 12 noon until 4 p.m., had a stock of c. 2,000 books and periodicals; by 1851 it had a further 250 titles. (fn. 223) In 1882 it was moved to an upper room in the newly built art school in Dam Street. (fn. 224) It was probably closed in 1896, when the city council took over the art school. (fn. 225)
Lichfield council adopted the Free Libraries and Museums Act in 1857, and opened a library in Bird Street in 1859. Built of yellow brick in an Italianate style, it was designed by Bidlake & Lovatt of Wolverhampton. (fn. 226) The figure of an armed sailor on the building by the entrance was given c. 1905 by Robert Bridgeman, after it had been rejected by York city council which had commissioned it for a Boer War memorial. (fn. 227) The library was extended north in 1974 over the stack room of the Lichfield Joint Record Office. (fn. 228)
The record office had been established in 1959 under an agreement between the diocese, the city, and the county council, in the basement of the former probate court adjacent to the library, and the stack room was built in 1968 to house the diocesan and city records. Documents were read by the public in the library until 1981 when the ground floor of the probate court became the search room. In 1989 part of the former Friary school building was being converted into new premises for the library and the record office. (fn. 229)
Natural and historical artefacts were collected from the 1740s by Richard Greene, an apothecary, in his house in Market Street. He allowed inspection by the public and in 1773 printed a catalogue. The museum became one of the city's principal attractions for visitors. The collection was sold in parts after his death in 1793. (fn. 230) Some items were bought by his grandson, Richard Wright, who from 1803 displayed them in the former diocesan registry in the Close. In 1806 they were moved to premises next to Wright's house at the north end of Dam Street. He died in 1821, and the items were sold. (fn. 231)
A museum was established in the Bird Street library in 1859. In 1958 it was moved to the former probate court on the north side of the library. It was closed in 1970 and its contents put into store. (fn. 232)
The Samuel Johnson Birthplace museum in the market square occupies a house built apparently in 1707 by Johnson's father, Michael. (fn. 233) The premises were bought in 1887 by James Johnson of Southport (Lancs.) in order to preserve the house in which Dr. Johnson was born. Under James Johnson's will the house was sold to the city in 1900, the money being given by John Gilbert, and in 1901 a museum devoted to the life and works of Samuel Johnson was opened. (fn. 234) The museum contains an extensive library of manuscripts and books, including over 1,000 books collected by the Revd. Dr. Peter Hay Hunter of Edinburgh and given by his widow in 1911. (fn. 235) The museum was run by the city council until 1974, when its management was transferred to a trust. In 1982 the restored city council regained control. (fn. 236) The museum is the headquarters of the Johnson Society, founded in 1910. (fn. 237)
Davidson House in Upper St. John Street was opened in 1938 as a museum for the South Staffordshire Regiment and is named after the donor, Brig.-Gen. C. S. Davidson. In 1963 the museum was moved to Whittington barracks, where there was already a North Staffordshire regimental museum. A combined museum for the Staffordshire Regiment was opened there in 1969. (fn. 238)
St. Mary's Centre was opened by a trust in 1981 in part of the redundant church of St. Mary. (fn. 239) It includes an exhibition of items relating to Lichfield's history.
SOCIETIES AND ANTIQUARIAN PURSUITS.
The Friendly Society of Florists and Gardeners held an auricula and polyanthus show at the Chequers inn in Lombard Street in 1769, when one of the stewards was the nurseryman John Bramall. (fn. 240) Autumn shows were held in the late 18th and early 19th century. (fn. 241) The society was reorganized in 1816 as the Lichfield Florist Society, and its early members included John Hewitt, precentor of the cathedral, and William Buck, head gardener at Elford Hall. There were twice-yearly shows, and exhibits included melons and gooseberries. Dahlias were shown for the first time in 1835. By the mid 1850s the autumn show was normally held out of doors, with a band providing music. (fn. 242) Known as the Floral and Horticultural Society by 1868, it still existed in 1920. (fn. 243) There may have been a connexion with the Lichfield Floral and Horticultural Reading Society, established in 1841 with the purpose of circulating relevant publications among members. (fn. 244) In 1875 John Graham, rector of St. Chad's, established a cottagers' flower show to encourage gardening by the working classes; it was still held in 1877. (fn. 245)
The Lichfield Botanical Society was formed in 1778 by Erasmus Darwin to promote a translation of the botanical works of Linnaeus. In the late 1770s Darwin created a botanic garden at Abnalls in Burntwood, which was maintained after he left Lichfield in 1781 by a fellow member of the society. (fn. 246)
The Lichfield Society for the Encouragement of Ecclesiastical Architecture was formed by 1841, and until 1852 it met in a room in J. T. Law's house in the Market Street. (fn. 247) Nothing further is known of it.
Richard Greene, besides forming a museum from the 1740s, collected manuscripts of local interest and made notes on the city's history from corporation archives, parish records, cathedral muniments, and elsewhere. He contributed articles on Lichfield's history and antiquities to the Gentleman's Magazine. (fn. 248) He was also responsible for placing a plaque on a house in Dam Street to mark the spot where the parliamentary commander Lord Brooke had been killed in 1643 while preparing to mount an assault on the royalist garrison in the Close. (fn. 249) A plaque on Brooke House in Dam Street in the late 1980s is probably the original, although the facade of the house has been changed. In 1795 John Jackson, a Lichfield bookseller and printer, published anonymously his History of the City and County of Lichfield and History and Antiquities of the Cathedral Church of Lichfield, both based on original research. They were revised and reprinted under his own name in 1805 as a single volume, History of the City and Cathedral of Lichfield. His intention in writing was partly to meet the need for a guide book for visitors to the cathedral and the city. In 1806 Thomas Harwood, headmaster of Lichfield grammar school 1791–1813, published The History and Antiquities of the Church and City of Lichfield, also based on considerable original research. (fn. 250) Charles Stringer, a house painter, (fn. 251) published anonymously his Short Account of the Ancient and Modern State of the City and Close of Lichfield in 1819. It included several woodcuts by the author, who from the 1780s made numerous sketches of buildings and street scenes in the city and the Close. (fn. 252)
Samuel Pegge, who became a prebendary of Lichfield in 1757, made notes on the history of the cathedral as part of his collection of Staffordshire material. (fn. 253) In 1811 the dean, John Chappell Woodhouse, and Canon John Newling published anonymously their Short Account of Lichfield Cathedral; more particularly of the Painted Glass with which its Windows are adorned. (fn. 254)
The South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society was formed (as the Lichfield Archaeological and Historical Society) in 1957. (fn. 255) It is a publishing society and also arranges lectures, given in the late 1980s in St. Mary's Centre and in Tamworth. The Lichfield Civic Society, established in 1961, monitors the city's architectural heritage and its natural environment. (fn. 256) It still existed in the late 1980s.
The Lichfield Mercury and Midland Chronicle was first published in July 1815 by James Amphlett. (fn. 257) Until then Amphlett had published the newspaper at Stafford as the Staffordshire Mercury, which he had established in 1814. (fn. 258) He sold the Lichfield Mercury in 1821 to John Woolrich of Lichfield, and in 1825 it was acquired by a consortium of local gentlemen, who described themselves as moderate Liberals. The paper, which came out on Fridays, was edited by George Hinde, who later became its proprietor. It was discontinued in 1833. (fn. 259)
The Lichfield Advertiser was started in 1865 but apparently ceased publication the following year. (fn. 260) The Lichfield Chronicle was being published in 1877, when one of its proprietors, Frederic Brown, a printer, severed his links with it. (fn. 261) He established a rival Friday paper, the Lichfield Mercury, first printed in September 1877 from premises at nos. 36–8 Bird Street. (fn. 262) Brown died in 1901 and the paper's ownership passed to his brother Edward, who sold it to W. H. Smith & Son in 1905. (fn. 263) The paper was later acquired by Allison & Bowen, owners of the Staffordshire Chronicle. On Richard Bowen's death in 1933 it was bought by a syndicate. The Bird Street premises were demolished in 1972, and a new office was opened at no. 17 Bird Street. (fn. 264)
Frederic Brown was a Conservative, (fn. 265) and between 1883 and 1897 there was a rival Liberal paper, the Lichfield Herald. (fn. 266) A Saturday paper, the Lichfield Times and South Staffordshire Advertiser, was started in 1926 and was still published in 1954. (fn. 267)