A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES
An episcopal estate covering much of south-east Staffordshire was entered in Domesday Book under the heading LICHFIELD. It may have been given to St. Wilfrid by King Wulfhere in the late 660s as an endowment for the new diocese. (fn. 1) The town of Lichfield, created in the mid 12th century, became known as the manor of Lichfield, and the remaining part of the Domesday estate was by the mid 13th century called the manor of Longdon. (fn. 2) Lichfield manor was held by the bishop until 1548 when Bishop Sampson was forced to grant his lordship in the town, but not in the Close, to the corporation established by Edward VI earlier that year. (fn. 3) In 1582 Bishop Overton tried to reclaim the lordship. (fn. 4) He was evidently unsuccessful, and in 1598 he quitclaimed his rights to Elizabeth I, who later the same year confirmed the corporation as lord of the manor. Elizabeth's grant was made at the request of Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, as part of an arrangement whereby the corporation was to grant Essex a lease of the manor for life. Essex died in 1601 before the lease could be made, but his son, also Robert (d. 1646), became lessee in 1604. (fn. 5) A fee farm of £50 payable to the bishop under the 1548 grant was vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1867. It was redeemed by Lichfield city council for £400 in 1971. (fn. 6)
ESTATES OF THE CATHEDRAL CLERGY.
Land in the Gaia Lane area of Lichfield was included in the endowment of the cathedral prebend of Gaia, in existence probably by the mid 12th century; the prebend was divided into two prebends, Gaia Major and Gaia Minor, before 1279. (fn. 7) In 1498 the prebend of Freeford's property in Lichfield included the Angel in Beacon Street on the south side of the later Angel Croft hotel. (fn. 8) It was rebuilt in the early 16th century, but was destroyed in the Civil War. (fn. 9) In the later 1270s a house outside the Close was annexed to Wolvey prebend. (fn. 10) Known as Pool Hall by 1438, it stood in Beacon Street on the site of Westgate House. (fn. 11) Evidently destroyed during the Civil War, it was rebuilt by 1670 and again in the later 18th century, possibly by the lessee, Peter Garrick. (fn. 12) The prebend of Hansacre had a tenement in Beacon Street by 1393, as did Weeford prebend in 1548. (fn. 13)
An estate called Bispells south of the Tamworth road on the boundary with Freeford originated as land belonging to the prebend of Bishopshull in Lichfield cathedral. It was acquired, evidently on lease, by Anthony Dyott of Freeford in 1610. (fn. 14) It covered 43 a. in 1847 when it was sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to William Dyott of Freeford. (fn. 15) It remained part of the Dyott estate in the late 1980s.
By 1176, and apparently before 1135, the dean had an estate at Deanslade on the city's southwestern boundary with Wall. (fn. 16) There was a house there by 1560, and in 1649 the estate comprised 60 a. (fn. 17) When sold by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1920 it comprised 85 a. (fn. 18) In the late 1980s most of the land was part of the estate of Aldershawe Hall in Wall. The farm buildings date from the later 19th century.
A house on the corner of Beacon Street and Shaw Lane was annexed to the archdeaconry of Chester, evidently in 1272. (fn. 19) It may have been the stone house recorded in that area in the late 13th century; (fn. 20) in the later 16th century the archdeacon's stone-built house was described as 'magnificent'. (fn. 21)
The vicars choral received grants of houses, land, and rent charges from the early 13th century and became the largest clerical landowners in the town. (fn. 22) A rental of 1497–8 (fn. 23) shows the extent of their property, which included the Swan in Bird Street (acquired in 1362), (fn. 24) two inns in Beacon Street, the Talbot on the site of the later Angel Croft hotel (fn. 25) and the Cock, and a house in Beacon Street called White Hall on the north side of Dr. Milley's hospital. By 1592 the vicars also had in Beacon Street an inn called the Lamb, on the site of the later Westgate Cottage opposite the entrance to the Close. (fn. 26) The house to the north was built c. 1790 for George Addams, a wine merchant; (fn. 27) it became the Angel Croft hotel c. 1930. (fn. 28) White Hall was rebuilt in the earlier 18th century as the Coach and Horses inn but was again a private house in 1806 when it was occupied by a wine merchant, John Fern; in 1848 another wine merchant, Henry Hewitt, was living there. (fn. 29) Either Fern or Hewitt built the present house. The house at Stowe with an orchard which Bishop Meuland in 1261 assigned for the use of aged or infirm vicars may have been the house at Stowe given to the vicars by the dean and chapter in the 1240s. It was apparently destroyed during the Civil War. (fn. 30) In the early 19th century the vicars held nearly 320 a. of land in Lichfield; it was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1872. (fn. 31)
Grants were made to the cathedral's common fund of a house in Lichfield by Bishop Peche in 1176 and of land at Femley Pits on the city's southern boundary by Ernulf, a canon, in the early 13th century. (fn. 32) In the late 1840s, besides their property in the Close, the dean and chapter owned 11 a. in Lichfield, with a further 79 a. assigned to the cathedral's fabric fund. (fn. 33)
Several chantries and obits in the cathedral were endowed with houses and land in Lichfield. (fn. 34) It is not known what happened to the property at the Dissolution.
Tithe in Lichfield was included in Bishop Peche's re-endowment of the deanery in 1176. When the endowments were reorganized in 1192, the tithe, evidently from the cathedral parochia, was assigned to the prebends of Freeford, Hansacre, Gaia Major, Stotfold, and Weeford. (fn. 35) The prebendaries shared among themselves the great tithe from certain fields in Lichfield and in the out-townships. In the late 1640s the grain was divided by the drawing of lots, the resulting portions being called pound parts and mark parts. (fn. 36) The precise manner of the distribution is obscure. The prebendaries of Freeford and Gaia Major also took great tithe from other land in Lichfield, and the prebendary of Weeford took tithe from the produce of gardens in Beacon Street and Wade Street. (fn. 37) Other prebendaries who took tithe from land or gardens in Lichfield in the late 1640s were those of Bishopshull, Bishops Itchington, Gaia Minor, and Prees or Pipa Minor. (fn. 38) No tithe of wool or lambs was taken, (fn. 39) apparently because it was a custom by the 1620s that such tithe could be demanded only if the sheep had been kept for 28 days or more on the land which owned the tithe: prebendal land was so intermingled that graziers could easily avoid payment by moving their flocks about. (fn. 40) In 1694 small tithes were assigned to the vicar of St. Mary's, Lichfield. (fn. 41)
The great tithes were commuted in the late 1840s. In respect of the 739 a. from which the pound and mark parts were drawn, a rent charge of £143 13s. 9d. was awarded to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (Freeford £26 10s. 2d., Hansacre £29 16s. 9d., and Weeford £86 6s. 10d.) and one of £40 4s. 1d. to the dean and chapter as appropriators of Stotfold prebend. A further £449 7s. 10d. was awarded to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in respect of the following prebends: Bishopshull £90 from 34 a., Bishops Itchington £11 5s. from 36 a., Curborough £1 2s. 6d. from 8½ a., Freeford £211 2s. 10d. from 954 a., Gaia Major £62 8s. from 272½ a., Gaia Minor £5 0s. 8d. from 96½ a., Hansacre £2 10s. from 26 a., Prees £21 from 83 a., and Weeford £54 18s. 10d. from 263 a. The dean and chapter as appropriators of Stotfold prebend were awarded a rent charge of £20 10s. from 76 a. The vicar of St. Mary's was awarded a rent charge of £275 7s. 9d. for small tithes. (fn. 42)
OTHER ECCLESIASTICAL ESTATES.
The endowments of the medieval almshouse of St. John the Baptist, Lichfield, included land and houses in the town. (fn. 43) A survey made in the early 1720s listed 149 a. west of the almshouse bounded by Trunkfield brook and the Walsall and Birmingham roads, 21½ a. in Dovehouse field and adjacent fields, 40 a. on the south side of Ryknild Street opposite Knowle Farm, 17 a. between Borrowcop Hill and the Tamworth road, 19½ a. along the north side of the Tamworth road at a place called the Quarry in the angle of Quarryhills Lane and Gorse Lane, and 17 a. on the east side of Gorse Lane stretching down to Darnford brook. (fn. 44) The almshouse retained much of the land until 1921, when it was sold together with houses to various buyers. (fn. 45)
At its re-endowment in 1502–4 the almshouse for women in Beacon Street later called Dr. Milley's hospital had property in Lichfield comprising a house in Bird Street, one in Wade Street, two in Sandford Street, 7 cottages and 2 crofts also in Sandford Street, 2 a. at Borrowcop, and land called Godcroft near Beacon Street. (fn. 46) By 1821 the Borrowcop land had been lost, but more houses had been built in Sandford Street and the hospital also had 4 houses in Stowe Street. All the land was sold in 1921 and 1923. (fn. 47)
Bishop Peche, 1161–82, gave a messuage in Lichfield to Bordesley abbey (Worcs.) (fn. 48) and two houses to St. Thomas's priory near Stafford. (fn. 49) Bishop Nonant, 1188–98, gave a house in Lichfield as a lodging for the abbot of Buildwas (Salop.), and before c. 1200 the abbey apparently had a messuage in the Close. (fn. 50) The nuns of Henwood priory (Warws.) held land called Mary ridding in Lichfield in the later 13th century. (fn. 51) By 1283 the nuns of Farewell priory had a house in Quonians Lane; in 1399 they also had five tenements and other parcels of land elsewhere in the town. (fn. 52) The priory was dissolved in 1527, and its estates were given to the dean and chapter, who in 1550 let them at fee farm to William, Lord Paget, lord of Longdon. (fn. 53) Canwell priory was given land in Lichfield by Ralph, Lord Basset, of Drayton (d. 1390). (fn. 54)
In 1467 Bevis Hampton gave land called Pownes fields to Halesowen abbey (Worcs.) as the endowment of a chantry in the abbey church. The land was presumably part of the Pones Mill estate, divided in 1302. (fn. 55) At the Dissolution the property passed, under the style of 'the manor of Lichfield', to Sir John Dudley, who transferred it to his brother Andrew. In 1546 Andrew conveyed the so called manor to Hugh Lee, a clerk of the royal armoury at Greenwich. (fn. 56) Lee was succeeded in 1576 by his grandson Hugh (later Sir Hugh) Wrottesley, who held the estate at his death in 1633. (fn. 57) Nothing further is known about it.
The guild of St. Mary and St. John the Baptist owned extensive property in the city until the Reformation. (fn. 58)
BEACON PLACE on the west side of Beacon Street was built in the late 18th century by George Hand, a proctor of the consistory court, who was living in the Close in 1781. (fn. 59) He died at Beacon Place in 1806, and his widow Ann lived there until her death in 1826. The house, standing in grounds of 15 a., was sold by trustees in 1827 to Thomas Hinckley, a Lichfield attorney. (fn. 60) By 1828 the property had been divided between him and his brother Richard, also an attorney, and both lived at Beacon Place. In his will of that year Thomas left his half share to Richard. By 1836 Thomas had gone mad and was in confinement; he died in 1837. (fn. 61) In 1835 Richard married, as her third husband, Ellen Jane, daughter of J. C. Woodhouse, dean of Lichfield 1807–33. She was living with her sister at Maple Hayes, in Burntwood, and she and Richard made their home there while Beacon Place was being extended and refurbished. They had moved to Beacon Place by April 1837. General William Dyott of Freeford noted their sumptuous style of living and commented that they had made Beacon Place into 'a superb residence' and 'one of the best houses in the neighbourhood'; he attributed the improvements to Mrs. Hinckley's taste and money. (fn. 62) The work was designed by Sydney Smirke and included the addition of two wings. (fn. 63) The house was renamed Beacon House. (fn. 64) In 1848 the grounds covered 36 a. (fn. 65)
Richard Hinckley died in 1865 and his wife in 1870. The Beacon House estate passed to Richard's nephew, Arthur Hinckley, who continued to live at Stowe Hill. In 1881 he sold Beacon House to S. L. Seckham, who moved there from Hanch Hall in Longdon. The house became known as Beacon Place again. (fn. 66) At the end of the century the gardens and park covered nearly 100 a.; there were three drives, with lodges in Beacon Street, Sandford Street, and Walsall Road. (fn. 67) Seckham moved to Whittington Old Hall c. 1897, and Beacon Place was let. (fn. 68) He died in 1901, and Beacon Place passed, subject to his widow's life interest, to their son Gerald. (fn. 69) In 1922 he sold it with 10 a. to the War Department, which had taken it over as offices during the First World War. (fn. 70) During the Second World War it was used by the Royal Army Service Corps. It stood empty from the later 1950s, and after being bought by the city council it was demolished in 1964. The site was let to a private developer, and houses were built over it in the later 1960s. (fn. 71) Much of the land formerly attached to the house has been incorporated in Beacon Park.
THE FRIARY originated as a house of Franciscan friars, established c. 1237. (fn. 72) In 1309 the friars occupied 3½ burgages, (fn. 73) presumably along St. John Street and Bird Street and bounded on the north by Friars Alley. The original precinct probably extended on the west as far as the town ditch, beyond which an area of land was later added. The friary was dissolved in 1538 and its site granted in 1544 to Gregory Stonyng, master of St. Mary's guild in 1536–7 and one of the first two bailiffs of the corporation in 1548–9. (fn. 74) In 1580–1 the estate was held by his son Edward (d. 1611). Edward's son Henry sold the estate to Thomas Clayton, who was succeeded in 1613 by his infant daughter Ursula. (fn. 75) In 1636 she married John Hill of Little Pipe in Farewell, a barrister of Gray's Inn. (fn. 76) The estate covered 10½ a. in 1638. (fn. 77) Hill, town clerk by 1660, (fn. 78) was succeeded in 1667 by his son John, who sold the estate to Zachary Johnson (d. 1669), rector of Seal (Leics., later Derb.). Zachary was succeeded by his nephew Richard Johnson (d. probably in the late 1690s), who left the estate in trust as the endowment for an almshouse at Seal. (fn. 79) Tenants in the 18th century included Michael Rawlins (d. 1754), son of a former town clerk, John Rawlins; (fn. 80) Thomas Cobb, political agent for Lord Anson and Lord Gower, from 1754; (fn. 81) and William Inge of Thorpe Constantine (d. 1785), a magistrate for both Lichfield and Staffordshire. (fn. 82)
In 1891 the trustees of Richard Johnson's charity sold the estate, then 11½ a., to the tenant John Godfrey-Fausett (d. 1893). In 1894 it was sold to Harry Tichborne Hinckes of Tettenhall (d. 1895), whose nephew and heir Ralph Tichborne Davenport (later Hinckes) sold it in 1907 to Col. Henry Williams, the tenant. In 1920 Williams sold it to Sir Richard Cooper, Bt., M.P. for Walsall, who gave it to the city later the same year for the purpose of laying out a new road and developing the area. (fn. 83)
The friary church, cloisters, refectory, and most of the domestic buildings were destroyed at the Dissolution. (fn. 84) The site of the church was excavated in 1933, and the foundations were left exposed. (fn. 85) A four-column portico was set up by the council in 1937 as an entrance to the site. (fn. 86) The only domestic buildings which survived were the west range and a house at its southern end. The northern end of the range was demolished when a new road was cut across the site in the later 1920s. The house was presumably 'the inn called le Bishop's Lodging or le Great Chamber', used as a guest house by the friars and included in the 1544 sale to Stonyng. (fn. 87) Built of sandstone probably in the early 16th century, the house together with the south end of the west range is L-shaped with a wing on the west. (fn. 88) The house was remodelled by Stonyng and further improved in the late 18th century by William Inge. (fn. 89) It was taken over by the girls' high school in 1921 and incorporated in new buildings opened in 1928. (fn. 90)
A rent of £3 from a house and 1 a. in Lichfield was part of the PENDEREL GRANT settled on trustees by Charles II in 1675. The grant provided pensions for members of the Penderel family and their descendants as a reward for helping him to escape after the battle of Worcester in 1651. (fn. 91) The rent was redeemed in 1914. (fn. 92)
A mill at Nether Stowe was held c. 1180 by Gilbert Poun, a chamberlain of Bishop Peche, (fn. 93) and in 1242–3 Robert Poun held an estate there called PONES MILL as 1/6 knight's fee. (fn. 94) Robert's heir may have been Geoffrey, son of Gilbert Poun, who held land in the area in the later 13th century. (fn. 95) By 1285 Ralph Poun held the estate, recorded in 1298 as 1 / 15; knight's fee, and in 1299 it comprised the mill, a messuage, and 39 a. (fn. 96) In 1302 Ralph's son Robert granted the mill to Robert, lord of Pipe in Burntwood. (fn. 97) The rest of the estate is probably identifiable as the land called Pownes fields given to Halesowen abbey in 1467. (fn. 98)
Two houses at Stowe, STOWE HOUSE and STOWE HILL, were built in the 1750s by Elizabeth Aston, daughter of Sir Thomas Aston of Aston, in Runcorn (Ches.). (fn. 99) In 1752, while living in the Close, she bought 9 a. on Stowe Hill from her sister Magdalen, who had inherited the land from her husband Gilbert Walmisley, the diocesan registrar (d. 1751). (fn. 100) Elizabeth had built three houses there by 1756. (fn. 101) She herself lived in the house later known as Stowe Hill. (fn. 102) The house to the south-west later known as Stowe House appears to have been occupied by Thomas Hinton, perpetual curate of the nearby St. Chad's (d. 1757). (fn. 103) In 1770 and 1771 it was occupied by Thomas Day, author of Sandford and Merton. (fn. 104) It became the home of Elizabeth's sister Jane, who probably moved there on the death of her husband Francis Gastrell, vicar of Frodsham (Ches.), in 1772. In 1776 Samuel Johnson, a friend of both sisters, described her as living 'at the lower house on Stow Hill'. (fn. 105) The third house was standing empty in 1777, (fn. 106) and only two were mentioned by Anna Seward in 'Lichfield: an elegy' written in 1781: (fn. 107)
We mark the villa, rising near the lake,
And fairer she, that 'midst the verdant brake,
From sultry gleams, and wintry tempest shrill,
Stands softly curtained on the eastern hill.
When Elizabeth died in 1785, Stowe Hill passed to Magdalen Walmisley, then living in Bath, and Stowe House to Jane Gastrell. Magdalen at once moved to Stowe Hill, and when she died in 1786, that too passed to Jane. (fn. 108) She let it to Lady Carhampton, presumably Judith, widow of the 1st earl of Carhampton, but in 1788 it stood empty. (fn. 109) Jane died in 1791, and in 1792, under the terms of her will, both houses were sold. (fn. 110)
Stowe House, so called by then, was bought by John Walker Wilson, who sold it to Fairfax Moresby in 1793. Moresby went to live there, but it was let by 1817. (fn. 111) That year Moresby sold it to Richard Gresley, who moved there from Kenilworth (Warws.). (fn. 112) In 1830 he sold it with 10 a. to William Gresley, assistant curate at St. Chad's from 1829 and prebendary of Wolvey in the cathedral from 1840. He was still living at Stowe House in 1843. (fn. 113) By 1848 the 40-a. estate was owned and occupied by Richard Greene, a Lichfield banker. His bank collapsed in 1855, and in 1856 the house and 24 a. were offered for sale. (fn. 114) The estate was bought by Charles Holland, M.D., who changed the name of the house to St. Chad's House and lived there until his death in 1876. (fn. 115) As Stowe House it was sold that year to W. F. Gordon, who moved there from Stoke upon Trent and was still living there in 1900. (fn. 116)
In 1902 Stowe House was bought by Nelly Thorpe, the widowed daughter of A. J. Mundella, the Liberal politician. Soon after settling there she fell ill, and her daughter Dorothea moved there with her husband G. R. Benson. (fn. 117) A Liberal politician and a man of letters, Benson (1864–1945) was created Baron Charnwood in 1911. He was elected to Lichfield city council in 1904 and was mayor 1910–11; he also served on Staffordshire county council and was chairman of Staffordshire quarter sessions from 1929. A pillar of the Johnson Society, he was its president 1934–5. (fn. 118) Mrs. Thorpe died in 1919, but Lord and Lady Charnwood remained at Stowe House until 1933. Their son John, who married in 1933 and was sheriff of Lichfield 1933–4, remained at the house until c. 1937. (fn. 119) It was taken over by the army at the beginning of the Second World War, but from 1940 until 1944 it was occupied by Belmont School, evacuated there from Hassocks (Suss.). (fn. 120) In 1945 it was bought with 14 a. by the city council, which sold the house to the county council in 1948 but retained most of the land. In 1951 work began on the conversion of the house into a home for nurses at Victoria and St. Michael's hospitals. It remained a nurses' home until 1969 when it was bought by Birmingham Regional Hospital Board and turned into a management training centre. (fn. 121)
The house is of brick with white-painted dressing. Alterations have obscured the plan of the original house. The main front is on the west and has five bays. The wide central bay breaks forward and contains a pedimented entrance. The south-east corner of the house was altered early in the 19th century when a large drawing room was built there; it projects south from the main block and ends in a canted bay. A ballroom, which has been divided into bedrooms, was built against the north-east corner early in the 20th century, and much of the elaborate 18th-century style decoration of the older rooms probably dates from that time. The original service wing was to the north; it was demolished when the house was made into a nurses' home and new kitchens were built on the site. (fn. 122)
Stowe Hill was bought in 1792 by Phoebe Simpson, who had moved there from Wickersley (Yorks. W.R.) by 1798. A member of the Rider family of Lichfield, she was the widow of Stephen Simpson, a younger son of Stephen Simpson, a Lichfield attorney. (fn. 123) She died in 1816 at what was then known as Stowe Hill House, which passed to William Harding of Breck House near Liverpool. (fn. 124) At first he let the house, (fn. 125) but in 1821 he sold it to Frances Dorothy Furnivall, who was still living there in 1854. (fn. 126) The estate covered 17 a. in 1848. (fn. 127) The next owner was Arthur Hinckley, who moved there in 1859 and died in 1889. (fn. 128) The estate was bought by F. H. Lloyd, a South Staffordshire iron and steel master, who moved to Stowe Hill from Wood Green, Wednesbury, and remained there until his death in 1916. (fn. 129) A Birmingham firm bought the estate in 1955. In 1956 the house and 7 a. were put up for sale, while a further 12 a. between Netherstowe and Brownsfield Road were advertised as building land. (fn. 130) The house was bought in 1978 by Mr. and Mrs. P. L. Rule. (fn. 131)
The house is also of brick with white-painted dressings. The entrance front, which is on the north, is of five bays, and the garden front has a large central semicircular bow. On the west there is a lower service wing, while on the east a 19th-century conservatory with a segmented front extends across the width of the house. (fn. 132) There are many mid 18th-century fittings, including the main staircase. The grounds include a grotto, built partly from medieval stonework, and a sunken fernery. The 18th-century stables backing on Netherstowe were converted into a house in 1959. (fn. 133) Part of the brick boundary wall survives in the same road.