A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.
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The large number of Lichfield cathedral clergy deprived along with the bishop in 1559 or soon afterwards included the dean, the precentor, and the chancellor. (fn. 1) Although the treasurer took the Oath of Supremacy, he resigned in 1560. In 1582 Bishop Overton complained of the lax administration of the dean's peculiar jurisdiction in Lichfield, where there were evidently many Roman Catholics. (fn. 2) A puritan survey of 1604 found 'many popish' there. One of the Roman Catholic martyrs of the Elizabethan period, St. Edmund Gennings, was born at Lichfield in 1567 of a protestant family. Having been converted, he was ordained abroad in 1590 and returned to Lichfield. He was captured in London and executed in 1591.
Four papists were listed in St. Mary's parish in 1705, all 'of a mean condition', and a 'very poor' widow in the Close was also recorded as a papist. In 1706 there were two papists in the Close, a German and a Frenchman who were servants of Lord Stanhope; a charwoman in Stowe Street was a reputed papist. The bailiffs and justices certified in the earlier 1740s that there were no papists in the city 'save only two or three women'. (fn. 3) In 1767 four women in St. Mary's parish were returned as papists and two in St. Chad's. There were 19 in St. Michael's parish, which included the Roman Catholic centre at Pipe Hall in Burntwood. All 19 were farmers and servants except Miss Teresa Wakeman, described as a young lady of fortune and therefore probably living in the city; she had a resident priest, the Franciscan Thomas Hall, also known as Laurence Loraine. Thirteen Roman Catholics took the oath of allegiance at Lichfield quarter sessions in 1778 under the terms of the Catholic Relief Act of that year; six appear to have been among those listed in St. Michael's in 1767. (fn. 4) About a dozen people from Lichfield attended the chapel at Pipe Hall in the early 1790s.
The chapel was closed when Thomas Weld sold the hall in 1800. He gave the vestments and other items belonging to the chapel and £200 to Thomas Clifford of Tixall. Clifford raised a further £400 and bought a house on the corner of Bore Street and Breadmarket Street occupied by a Roman Catholic baker. It provided lodgings for a priest, and a chapel was formed by throwing two rooms together. John Kirk, who had been the priest at Pipe Hall from 1788 to 1792, was appointed to Lichfield by the vicar apostolic of the Midland District in 1801 with a stipend of £60 a year. (fn. 5)
Kirk considered the house inconvenient and meanly situated. In particular the sanctuary of the chapel was directly over the baker's oven, and the heat was almost unbearable. In 1802 he bought land in Upper St. John Street and built a chapel and house there, completed in 1803. Subscriptions were raised from the Catholic nobility, gentry, and clergy. (fn. 6) The chapel was originally dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, but when it was enlarged in 1834 the dedication was changed to Holy Cross. At the time of the founding of the Lichfield mission there were 60 adult communicants. (fn. 7) By 1810 there 75 communicants. The numbers included Catholics of the Tamworth area, for whom Kirk was responsible until the later 1820s, and also French émigrés and prisoners of war. (fn. 8) By 1841 the Lichfield congregation averaged c. 90, some of them people travelling from Liverpool to London; in summer numbers were increased by 'hundreds of Irish'. Most of the congregation were very poor. On Census Sunday 1851 attendances at Holy Cross were 70 in the morning and 20 in the afternoon; it was claimed that the average morning attendance was 100 with 20 Sunday school children in addition, while the evening attendance averaged 50. (fn. 9) There was by then an Irish community in Sandford Street, still in existence in 1888 when the poor attended by the superintendent of the Lichfield nursing association included 'the lowest Irish in Sandford Street'. (fn. 10) Kirk died in 1851, aged 91, and was buried in the chapel. Joseph Parkes, his assistant for 10 years, succeeded him.
The size of the congregation was greatly increased by the Irish who settled in the mining area around Chasetown, in Burntwood, in the later 19th century; Chasetown became a separate mission in 1883. (fn. 11) The priest at Holy Cross was appointed chaplain to Roman Catholics at Whittington barracks, opened in 1880; the Whittington salary and offertories brought in nearly £96 in 1892 out of the Lichfield mission's total income of just under £216. In 1894 the Holy Cross congregation numbered 210, with another 19 Catholics in the workhouse and 8 in the Truant school; at Whittington barracks there were a further 267.
In 1967 a church dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul was opened on the corner of Dimbles Lane and Dimbles Hill to serve the growing residential area in the north of the city. It has continued to be served from Holy Cross. The Roman Catholics attached to the two churches numbered 1,800 in the mid 1980s, with another 100 at Whittington barracks. A parish hall, built in the garden of the Holy Cross presbytery, was opened in 1955. (fn. 12) In 1987 Holly Cottage in Chapel Lane near Holy Cross became the presbytery. The other house remained in use for meetings and office purposes. (fn. 13)
The church of Holy Cross is a brick building in a Gothic style with an entrance front and turret of Tixall stone in a mixed Romanesque and Gothic style. (fn. 14) Fearing possible hostility in a cathedral city, Kirk originally built the chapel and the house under the same roof to give the overall impression simply of a dwelling house. In 1834, however, the entrance front was added, giving the building the appearance of a chapel; it was designed by Joseph Potter of Lichfield (probably Joseph the younger). (fn. 15) The sanctuary was built at the same time. An organ and gallery had been installed in 1823. A transept (liturgically north, in fact south-west) was added in 1895, and it was evidently then that the altarpiece, a painting of the Crucifixion by the Flemish artist Nicolaes de Bruyn (d. 1656), was removed. It had probably come from the Pipe Hall chapel. (fn. 16) In 1922 a new altar was consecrated in memory of Kirk and of Hugh McCarten, the priest in charge of the mission 1882–1911. (fn. 17)
The church of SS. Peter and Paul was designed in a modern style by Gwilliam & Armstrong of Sutton Coldfield (Warws.). It is built of blue brick and has seating for the congregation on three sides of a centrally placed altar. (fn. 18)
Dissent from the established Church developed in Lichfield in the 1650s. In 1669 Bishop Hacket complained that Dean Wood, 1664–71, was 'a professed favourer of nonconformists' and that 'puritanism has spread excessively in our city, not only by his sufferance but by his furtherance'. (fn. 19) Dean Addison, 1683–1703, in contrast was a vigorous upholder of the established Church, and in 1684 he reported to Archbishop Sancroft that he had 'so thoroughly practised the nonconformist dissenters as to bring them all to holy communion except three or four Anabaptists and one Quaker'. (fn. 20) Presbyterians, however, retained a meeting house, which was still open in 1743 when the corporation claimed that there was not 'any Quaker or above two dissenters from the established Church of England, under any denomination whatsoever'. (fn. 21) Congregationalists were active at the beginning of the 19th century, and their meetings caused Anna Seward in 1809 to deplore the end of Lichfield's 'happy exemption from the ravings of religious enthusiasm'. (fn. 22) Besides chapels for Wesleyan, New Connexion, and Primitive Methodists and for Congregationalists, there were also in the 1820s and 1830s several meeting places registered for unidentified congregations. (fn. 23) The challenge to the Church of England was met notably by Henry Lonsdale, vicar of St. Mary's 1830–51, who according to his daughter found 14 'flourishing dissenting chapels firmly established in Lichfield and fairly emptied the lot'. (fn. 24) The claim was exaggerated, but the number of nonconformists attending evening services on Census Sunday in 1851 was only 263, compared with 1,957 worshippers at the afternoon and evening Church of England services in the city. (fn. 25)
Francis Silvester and Robert Prittie of Lichfield were among the signatories of a letter of advice sent to Oliver Cromwell by Baptist churches in the Midlands in 1651. By 1654 there was a Baptist minister in the city, Thomas Pollard, but apparently only three or four Anabaptists were living there in the mid 1680s. (fn. 26) They probably attended meetings led by Lawrence Spooner, a Baptist who held a conventicle at his house in Curborough in 1683. (fn. 27) It was almost certainly Spooner who gave hospitality to two Baptists visiting Lichfield in 1690. The city congregation then included Particular Baptists. (fn. 28) An Anabaptist named Thomas Fullelove or Fullelowe was living in St. Mary's parish in the mid 1720s; he joined the saddlers' trade company in 1726. (fn. 29) There was probably a Baptist congregation in Lichfield in 1861 when a Baptist minister was living in Gresley Row. (fn. 30)
In 1870 the recently appointed headmistress of St. Chad's school was forced to resign because of her Christadelphian beliefs. Thomas Sykes, who had formed a small Christadelphian community at Bourton on the Water (Glos.), moved to Lichfield in 1874. By 1885 eight Christadelphians were meeting in each other's houses, and in 1890 a meeting room was opened above Sykes's shop in Tamworth Street. In 1902 the vicar of St. Mary's, C. N. Bolton, denounced the sect as heretical, and a public meeting followed at which the members defended their beliefs. Their numbers increased, and from 1903 meetings were held in St. James's Hall in Bore Street. After the hall was converted into a cinema in 1912, the society of over 40 members built its own hall in Station Road; it was opened in 1914 and extended in 1959. (fn. 31) The society still met there in the late 1980s.
CONGREGATIONALISTS, LATER UNITED REFORMED CHURCH.
In 1790 Congregationalists met in Tunstalls Yard at the west end of Sandford Street, using a barn owned by Bradbury Tunstall, a sailcloth manufacturer and a sympathizer. Meetings ceased in 1796 but were restarted in 1802, and by 1808 there were sufficient numbers to constitute a church. (fn. 32) A brick chapel was opened in Wade Street in 1812, and a house for the minister, paid for mostly by a Miss Newnham of Birmingham, was added behind it in 1813. A gallery was added at the north end of the chapel in 1815, and side galleries were erected in 1824 and 1837. (fn. 33) There was a Sunday school by 1837. (fn. 34) On Census Sunday 1851 there were attendances of 115 in the morning and 120 in the evening, with 26 Sunday school children in the morning. (fn. 35) A hall was built in Frog Lane behind the chapel in 1932. (fn. 36) The chapel remained in use in the late 1980s.
The Quaker George Fox visited Lichfield after his release from Derby gaol in 1651. (fn. 37) As the result of a vision he walked barefoot through the streets and the market place crying 'Woe unto the bloody city of Lichfield'. No one hindered him, and he afterwards concluded that he had been sent by God to 'raise up' the blood of the 999 Christian martyrs who had, according to legend, been slain in the Lichfield area under the emperor Diocletian. (fn. 38) In 1655 two Quakers, Alexander Parker and Thomas Taylor, held a meeting in a house belonging to Humphrey Beeland. Many of their hearers were 'rude and brutish people', but others were 'very tender and much convinced'. A disputation between a Quaker and the Muggletonian Thomas Tomkinson took place at a Lichfield inn, apparently in the late 1670s. (fn. 39)
The Lichfield converts probably met at the house of William Reading of Lynn in Shenstone. He became a Quaker in 1654 and held meetings at his house by the early 1670s. The meeting place was moved to Chesterfield, also in Shenstone, in the early 1680s. The opposition of the Church of England prevented the Quakers from meeting in the city, and in 1684 Dean Addison reported that there was only one Quaker there. An unsuccessful attempt was made in 1703–4 to secure a meeting place in the city, evidently in a building occupied by a Friend, Richard Palmer. His son William was also a Friend, and when chosen constable of Lichfield manor in 1716 he refused to take the oath of office. William attended the Chesterfield meeting until it failed through lack of support in the 1720s.
Although John Wesley passed through or near Lichfield in 1755, 1756, and 1777, he did not preach there. (fn. 42) A house at Gallows wharf, where the London road crossed the Wyrley and Essington Canal, was registered for worship by protestant dissenters in 1811. It was almost certainly for Wesleyan Methodists: the registration was witnessed by Joshua Kidger, presumably the J. Kedger who in 1813 registered a Wesleyan chapel in Lombard Street. (fn. 43) That chapel, on the south side of the street, was actually built in 1814 or 1815 (fn. 44) and was presumably used by the Methodist John Kidger of Belton (Leics.) who ministered in Lichfield between 1815 and 1818. (fn. 45) A Sunday school had been established by 1823. (fn. 46) In 1826 the congregation was served by ministers from neighbouring circuits, still the practice in the earlier 1840s. (fn. 47) On Census Sunday 1851 there were attendances of 22 in the morning and 41 in the evening, with 51 Sunday school children in the morning. It was claimed that during the winter months the evening congregation numbered up to 130 people. (fn. 48) A new chapel, built to the design of Thomas Guest of Birmingham, was opened in Tamworth Street in 1892. (fn. 49) It remained in use in the late 1980s. The former chapel was used as the Sunday school until 1902 when a school was built behind the Tamworth Street chapel. (fn. 50) From 1921 to 1979 it was used by the Lichfield Afternoon Women's Institute, which in 1980 sold it to the Jehovah's Witnesses. (fn. 51)
A Wesleyan chapel was established in Wade Street in or shortly before 1815. It was still in use in 1837. (fn. 52)
In 1826 Bradbury Tunstall registered as a chapel for worship by New Connexion Methodists the Sandford Street barn formerly used by the Congregationalists. (fn. 53) It was replaced by a chapel built on the south side of Queen Street in 1833. (fn. 54) On Census Sunday 1851 there were attendances of 32 in the morning and 45 in the evening, with 16 Sunday school children in the morning. (fn. 55) The chapel was sold in 1859, the congregation having disbanded. (fn. 56)
A Primitive Methodist missionary preached at Greenhill on Whit Monday 1820, and possibly as a consequence a blacksmith's outhouse in St. Chad's parish was registered for worship in November that year. It was presumably replaced by a schoolroom in St. Mary's parish registered for worship in 1831. In 1836 the Darlaston and Birmingham circuits provided two missionaries for the Lichfield area, and a chapel was opened in George Lane in 1848. (fn. 57) The attendance there on Census Sunday 1851 was 23 in the afternoon and 57 in the evening; no morning service was held that day, but it was stated that normally there was an attendance of 60, with 51 Sunday school children. (fn. 58) The chapel was closed in 1934 and reopened the following year as a Salvation Army hall. (fn. 59) It was later bought by Frank Halfpenny, a city councillor, and in 1958 given by him to the Lichfield and Tamworth Constituency Labour Party, which named it Frank Halfpenny Hall. It was sold in 1984 to the Swinfen Broun Charitable Trust, which later let it to the Pre-School Playgroup Association. (fn. 60)
Thomas Minors (d. 1677), a mercer who was M.P. for Lichfield 1654–60 and a prominent member of the corporation at that time, was also a leading Presbyterrian. Among his proteges were John Butler, minister at St. Chad's in 1651 and minister at St. Mary's by 1656, and Thomas Miles, Butler's successor at St. Chad's. (fn. 61) Both Butler and Miles were ejected in 1662, and Miles evidently formed a Presbyterian congregation, holding services in a Curborough farmhouse; some 40 people presented for non-attendance at St. Chad's in 1665 were possibly members of that meeting. Miles was licensed as a Presbyterian teacher in 1672, but nothing further is known of him. (fn. 62)
The Presbyterians remained powerful in the city after the Restoration. Bishop Hacket complained that 'the Presbyterians of the city do what they list, come not to the holy communion, baptize in hugger-mugger, are presented for their faults but no order taken with them', and Dean Wood allotted prominent seats in the cathedral to Thomas Minors and his brother-inlaw William Jesson. (fn. 63) Presbyterian influence extended in 1667 to the election as M.P. of Richard Dyott, who Hacket believed was completely under their control. (fn. 64) In July 1669 Minors and Jesson were summoned before the Privy Council for holding a conventicle in Minors's house. They moved the meeting to a farmhouse at Elmhurst, where a conventicle later the same month lasted most of the day. According to Hacket it was attended by some 80 people, of whom the ringleader was a Lichfield carrier named James Rixam (or Rixom), a man 'no way fit for that trust, being a transcendent schismatic'. Minors and Jesson subsequently appeared before the Council but were discharged. (fn. 65)
Five houses in Lichfield were licensed for Presbyterian worship in 1672; they included Minors's house and that of John Barker, another mercer who was later one of the trustees of the English school in Bore Street established under Minors's will. (fn. 66) By 1695 a Presbyterian minister, Robert Travers, was working in the area, with a chapel at Longdon Green. He baptized at Lichfield in 1700, and there was a meeting house in the city by 1707. (fn. 67) It was burnt down during riots in 1715 but had been rebuilt by 1718. (fn. 68) In 1720 Travers was living in the house of Elizabeth Jesson, possibly in Saddler Street. (fn. 69) In 1738 his own house in Lichfield was licensed for worship. (fn. 70) He may still have been active in 1747, but by April 1748 the congregation was served by Samuel Stubbs. (fn. 71) The Lichfield chapel was closed in 1753, (fn. 72) but the congregation continued to meet at Longdon Green.
There was a meeting room for Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in Sandford Street in 1861. (fn. 73) Nothing further is known about it. The present Mormon church in Purcell Avenue was registered in 1972. (fn. 74) Between 1972 and 1977 the headquarters of the Mormons' English church was in Lichfield. (fn. 75)
In 1887 the Salvation Army took a year's lease of part of the Corn Exchange in which to hold services. In 1935 the former Primitive Methodist chapel in George Lane was acquired for the same purpose. (fn. 76)
A group of Open Brethren was established in Lichfield shortly before or during the First World War. The members met in a room in the former militia barracks in Victoria Square, and there was a Sunday school. The group ceased to meet in the late 1930s. (fn. 77)
Jehovah's Witnesses have met in Lichfield at least from 1956. Their Kingdom Hall in Lombard Street, registered in 1980, occupies the former Wesleyan chapel. (fn. 78) A Pentecostalist church was formed in 1961 and met in Frank Halfpenny Hall in George Lane until 1969, when the Emmanuel Pentecostal church in Nether Stowe was opened. Its name was later changed to the Emmanuel Christian Centre, and the congregation still met there in the late 1980s. (fn. 79) A Spiritualist church was formed in Lichfield in 1986; members at first met in the Friary school and later in Cruck House in Stowe Street. (fn. 80) A group of Brethren formed the Lichfield Christian Centre in 1986; they met first in rooms in Bore Street and later in Cruck House. (fn. 81)