Lichfield: The cathedral

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1990.

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'Lichfield: The cathedral', A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield, (London, 1990), pp. 47-57. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "Lichfield: The cathedral", in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield, (London, 1990) 47-57. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

. "Lichfield: The cathedral", A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield, (London, 1990). 47-57. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,

In this section



The cathedral church of St. Mary and St. Chad, built of dark red sandstone, comprises a Lady Chapel of three bays with a three-sided east end, an aisled choir of eight bays, a central tower and spire, north and south transepts each of two bays, an aisled nave of eight bays, and two west towers with spires. (fn. 1) A two-storeyed building, formerly a chapel, stands in the angle of the south choir aisle and south transept. A chapter house with a library above stands beyond the north choir aisle, from which it is approached through a vestibule.

Figure 9:


1 Site of Dean Yotton's chapel. 2 Dean Heywood's monument. 3 St. Stephen's chapel. 4 Font. 5 Site of St. Chad's shrine. 6 Probable site of Basset monument. 7 Original site of Bishop Hacket's monument. 8 Effigy of medieval bishop. 9 Effigy of medieval bishop. 10 Bishop Hacket's monument. 11 Effigy of George Stanley. 12 Former St. Peter's chapel (St. Chad's chapel over). 13 Statue of Charles II. 14 Sundial.

The cathedral established by St. Chad, bishop 669–72, was presumably the church dedicated to St. Mary near which he was buried. In 700 his remains were transferred to a funerary church, apparently dedicated to St. Peter. (fn. 2) The two churches probably stood near each other. The cathedral may have been in the area later occupied by a side chapel on the north side of the presbytery of the Norman cathedral. The site of the chapel, which corresponds to part of the present north choir aisle, was believed in the 18th century to be the burial place of two Mercian kings. (fn. 3) The funerary church may have stood where there was later a side chapel on the the south side of the Norman presbytery; that chapel was replaced in the earlier 13th century by one with an altar dedicated to St. Peter, (fn. 4) a name possibly significant in view of the likely dedication of the Saxon funerary church. Nothing survives of either church apart from a decorated cross-shaft set into the foundations on the north side of the nave. (fn. 5) It is not known when the churches were incorporated into one cathedral building.

Bishop Limesey, 1085–1117, is reported to have used money obtained from Coventry priory for constructing 'great buildings' at Lichfield, perhaps even before he moved the see to Coventry in 1102. (fn. 6) His successor Robert Peche, 1121–6, was reportedly also the initiator of 'great buildings' at Lichfield. Their work was probably completed by Bishop Clinton, 1129–48. The Norman church was cruciform in plan and had an apsidal presbytery extending from the central crossing to about the middle of the fourth bay of the present choir. A shrine of St. Chad presumably stood near the high altar. A narrow ambulatory or processional way round the presbytery provided access to the two side chapels already noted and to an elongated apsidal chapel at the east end. In the later 12th century, possibly the 1160s, the eastern chapel was replaced by a three-bayed rectangular chapel which extended nearly as far as the first bay of the present choir. An altar stood in line with the second bay, and under it was buried a font apparently used as a relic container. The chapel was encased, possibly in the 1170s, in a large square-ended presbytery which had a row of four chapels at its east end. The new work was evidently intended to provide greater freedom of movement around an improved shrine of St. Chad. A new choir of seven bays was built to the west in the 1190s, totally encasing the presbytery. The outer wall of the choir was misaligned on the north. Possibly the fault occurred because work at the east end was commenced before the demolition of the side chapel. That chapel, as already noted, may have been a place of special religious significance because of royal burials and its removal postponed on that account until it was reached by the new work. The later stages of the work were probably completed by Bishop Muschamp, 1198–1208, who was the first post-Conquest bishop to be buried at Lichfield. (fn. 7) The chapel on the south side of the choir was replaced by a single-storeyed, three-bayed chapel with a doorway through the easternmost bay almost opposite the Norman high altar. The chapel was presumably intended for use as a sacristy. The Easter sepulchre recorded in Bishop Nonant's statutes of c. 1190 was probably a movable structure. (fn. 8)

The rebuilding of the Norman cathedral was begun in the early 13th century with the construction of a clerestory in the choir and of a central tower. The tower had a lantern with windows set above an arcade and later obscured by vaulting. Work on both transepts was under way in Bishop Cornhill's time, 1215–23, and continued in the 1230s: royal grants of timber and stone for the new work were made in 1221, 1231, 1235, and 1238. Henry III was at Lichfield in 1235, 1237, and 1241; he evidently admired the high wooden roof of the 'new work' there, carved and painted to resemble stonework, and in 1242 he ordered the construction of a similar roof for his chapel at Windsor. (fn. 9) The north transept was presumably completed, or nearing completion, in 1241 when Bishop Pattishall was buried there. (fn. 10) The north doorway was decorated externally with figures, including in the outer moulding on the east a tree of Jesse and on the west St. Chad and the apostles. (fn. 11) The south transept, finished about the same time, had a window designed to represent St. Catherine's wheel. (fn. 12)

The chapel off the south choir aisle was rebuilt in the 1230s or 1240s, presumably at the direction of Dean Mancetter who was buried there in 1254. It comprised two storeys and a crypt; on the ground floor there was an altar, dedicated to St. Peter, set on a dais along the east wall. (fn. 13) A south-west turret incorporated a deep pit which may have been a well, and stairs in a south-east turret led to a barrel-vaulted crypt. The upper storey may have accommodated relics of St. Chad. Access to it was presumably by a staircase from the south choir aisle and through what had formerly been a window in the aisle wall. There may also have been a balcony in front of the entrance, from which the relics could be displayed. Not long after the chapel was finished, a ground-floor chamber was added to the west; it was originally entered through a doorway near the south-west turret. Three large wall cupboards in the chamber were presumably used for storing either relics or muniments. In the mid 1250s and the 1340s St. Peter's chapel was used for transacting business, which probably included sittings of the consistory court. (fn. 14)

Figure 10:

Lichfield Cathedral before the Civil War

The long vestibule which leads off the north side of the choir predates the chapter house to which it provides access. Its original purpose is uncertain. The chapter may have met there, although one of the transepts was a more likely venue. A newel staircase at the vestibule's south-east corner gave access to an upper storey, later an annexe to a library over the chapter house. The chapter house was built in the 1240s and is an elongated octagon with a ten-celled roof vaulted from a central pillar. (fn. 15) It has an upper chamber, now the library, which in the early 14th century was given a tiled floor, still in existence. (fn. 16)

The rebuilding of the nave dates from the time of Bishop Meuland, 1257–95. It was presumably directed at least in part by Thomas le Waleys, recorded as the master of the fabric in 1268 and as master of the work in the 1270s. The work, which was probably completed by 1285, involved raising the pitch of the Norman roof so that the new roof covered or cut across the windows of the lantern tower. Work on the west front began shortly afterwards. (fn. 17) The front was designed as a screen with tiers of statues. The lowest order contained the twelve apostles, with the four evangelists and Moses and Aaron in the porch of the central doorway; a figure of the Virgin and Child was placed against the centre pillar of the doorway with one of Christ above. The second order of figures depicted kings of either Israel and Judah or of England, with St. Chad in the centre. Above, flanking the west window, were two rows apparently of prophets, prophetesses, and judges. In a niche over the window stood a statue of Christ. Figures of patriarchs covered the face of the north and south towers. (fn. 18) The two west spires and the central spire were finished probably by 1323. (fn. 19) Above the west doorway inside the cathedral a text praising Oswiu, king of Northumbria, traditionally regarded as the cathedral's founder, and later royal benefactors was written possibly to mark the completion of the west end; it was still visible in the early 18th century. (fn. 20)

Meanwhile, at the instigation of Bishop Langton, 1296–1321, work on the Lady Chapel at the east end of the cathedral had been started, probably c. 1315. (fn. 21) It was unfinished at Langton's death in 1321, when he left money for its completion. The design, a rectangle of three bays with a three-sided east end, is unusual in England but has French parallels. The architect may have been William Franceys, possibly a Frenchman, who was recorded as the bishop's mason at Lichfield in 1312–13. (fn. 22) He may otherwise have been known as William de Eyton, recorded as the cathedral's master mason in 1322. The chapel was evidently finished by 1336 when two keepers of its fabric were appointed. Figures of the ten wise and foolish virgins were placed on pillars in the chapel. (fn. 23) Three small chambers on its south side were probably designed as sacristies for chantry chaplains serving at the chapel altar. Vaults underneath the chambers were entered by a stair at the west end of the westernmost chamber. Externally there were recesses, presumably for tombs, against two of the chambers, and possibly also against the easternmost chamber, although in the early 18th century there was a doorway there into the Close. (fn. 24)

William de Eyton was possibly responsible for the first stages of the construction of a new choir. He died probably during the winter of 1336–7, and in 1337 the chapter engaged as consultant William of Ramsey, the king's master mason, (fn. 25) then working at St. Paul's, London. His appointment was probably recommended by Gilbert de Bruera, a canon of Lichfield who in 1335 became dean of St. Paul's. (fn. 26) In 1337 Philip de Turvill, a canon who had been Bishop Langton's commissary, left 300 marks for 'the new work between the choir and the Lady Chapel' and gave a statue of Our Lady for her altar. (fn. 27) Ramsey died in 1349, and the completion of the new choir was probably interrupted by the effects of the Black Death. Work had been resumed by 1352 and included the construction of a stone staircase and stone balcony to the upper storey of St. Peter's chapel. A stone screen, which formed the reredos behind the high altar and had niches for statues, may have been completed in the later 14th century. (fn. 28)

The south transept was apparently refurbished: in 1346 a vicar choral was given permission to be buried there before the cross which he had provided. (fn. 29) Historical notes on the kings of England and on Lichfield cathedral and its bishops were painted on folding panels at the doorway of the south transept. The panels may have been made during the time of Bishop Northburgh, 1321–58, the last bishop listed on them. (fn. 30) In 1378 his successor, Bishop Stretton, improved St. Chad's shrine, which had been given by Bishop Langton. (fn. 31)

Further work on the fabric took place in the 1380s. It included the decoration of the middle part of the choir with statues set against the pillars; on one side were figures of St. Peter, the Virgin Mary, and St. Mary Magdalene, and on the other St. James, St. Philip, and St. Christ pher. (fn. 32) At the beginning of the 15th century, when the rebuilding of the cathedral was finished, the duties of the keeper of the fabric were given statutory confirmation. (fn. 33) A scene showing the Trinity flanked by two censing angels was painted on the wall of the south choir aisle, probably in the mid 15th century; traces of it were restored in 1979. (fn. 34) Dean Heywood, 1457–92, paid for covering the walls and ceiling of the chapter house with frescoes, one of which partly survives over the doorway. He also gave money for the glazing of the chapter-house windows with pictures of the apostles and glazing the windows in the vestibule. (fn. 35) In 1543 the chapter arranged for the regilding of the reredos. (fn. 36)

The main impact of the Reformation on the fabric was the destruction of St. Chad's shrine in 1538. (fn. 37) Statues on the high altar and elsewhere inside the cathedral were removed in 1548. (fn. 38) It seems that in contrast the west front, which Leland in the earlier 1540s had described as 'the glory of the church', was not defaced. (fn. 39) Erdeswick in the 1590s remarked that it was 'exceedingly finely cut' with statues of prophets, apostles, and kings of Judah and of England. (fn. 40) The cathedral was severely damaged during the parliamentarian siege and occupation in 1643, and the siege of 1646 brought down the central spire. Lead and other materials were stripped away, and in 1649 it was reported that 'a great part of the roof is uncovered'. What lead remained was taken away by parliamentary order in 1651. (fn. 41) Many of the statues on the west front were badly damaged. (fn. 42)

In 1660 only the chapter house and the 'vestry' (probably St. Peter's chapel) were still roofed. The dean and chapter immediately set about restoring the fabric, and following the arrival of Bishop Hacket in August 1662 work proceeded energetically. Most of the cathedral had been reroofed by September 1665 and the central spire was complete by April 1666; glass was placed in the west window later the same year. The cathedral was rededicated on Christmas Eve 1669. (fn. 43) Choir stalls for the prebendaries and others were paid for by donors whose names were placed over the seats. (fn. 44) A pulpit was given in 1671 by Francis Bacon, prebendary of Ryton, (fn. 45) and an elaborate reredos, based on the design of one in the Chapel Royal at Whitehall, was installed c. 1678. The generosity of Catherine (d. 1674), wife of Sir Richard Leveson of Trentham, in restoring the cathedral fabric was recorded in an inscription over the south doorway. Henry Webb, the diocesan registrar, paid for the restoration of the entrance to the choir in 1680. (fn. 46) A statue of Charles II, attributed to Sir William Wilson, was placed in the central niche of the apex of the west front; it may have been covered with bronze. (fn. 47) The duke of York (later James II) paid for the glazing of the west window. (fn. 48)

In the 1770s the roofs were found to be in a dangerous state. (fn. 49) Their pitch was lowered and the lead covering replaced with slate. A restoration took place between 1788 and 1795 under the direction of James Wyatt. His principal object was to enlarge the choir, so that it could contain the whole congregation. The late 17th-century reredos and the medieval stone screen which separated the choir from the Lady Chapel were removed. The elongated choir was made easier to keep warm by blocking the arcades and by cutting off the nave east of the crossing with a high stone screen, the base of which was made with material from the redundant medieval screen. An altar was set up at the east end of the former Lady Chapel. The former high altar and possibly its rails were taken to St. Chad's church at Stowe, which was presented in 1812 with a copy of Rubens's Crucifixion, originally the centre piece of the reredos. (fn. 50) Wyatt had the pews removed from the nave, which ceased to be used for services, and the pulpit was taken to Elford church in 1789. (fn. 51) Two vestries, one for the vicars choral and the other for the choristers, were fitted out against the screen at the west end of the choir. Wyatt also replaced some of the stone vaulting in the nave with plaster, raised the roofs of the aisles, and rebuilt much of the central spire. The restoration was completed by the insertion of painted glass in the east window. That glass was removed in 1803, when the window and six others in the Lady Chapel were filled with panels of mid 16th-century stained glass from the dissolved Cistercian abbey of Herckenrode (Belgium). Some of the glass was also placed in the south window of the south transept and in windows in the south and north choir aisles. (fn. 52) Shortly after 1811 Dean Woodhouse had glass depicting the founders and patrons of the cathedral inserted in the north transept window. (fn. 53) The south transept window was given glass depicting Old and New Testament figures in 1813. (fn. 54) Dean Woodhouse was also responsible in 1814 for removing the 17th-century choir stalls and re-ordering the choir. (fn. 55) The font in the early 19th century was at the west end of the north nave aisle. (fn. 56)

Many of the medieval statues on the west front were removed in 1744 or 1749. Those of the second row were refashioned in 1820 and 1821 by Joseph Harris of Bath in the form of pre-and post-Conquest kings of England. (fn. 57)

Sydney Smirke restored the south aisle of the nave between 1842 and 1846. (fn. 58) The work of opening out the choir was begun by Smirke in 1856 and continued from 1857 by George Gilbert (later Sir Gilbert) Scott. New furnishings included a metal screen made by Skidmore of Coventry between the crossing and the choir, Minton pavement tiles inside the altar rails, an alabaster reredos, and oak stalls and a bishop's throne carved by William Evans of Ellastone, uncle of the novelist George Eliot. (fn. 59) A new pulpit and lectern were provided in the nave, as well as an alabaster font given by the wife of Dean Howard. The cathedral was reopened in 1861. Visitors were afterwards allowed free access to the nave and transepts, but admission to other parts was by leave of the verger on payment of a contribution to the fabric fund. (fn. 60)

During the remainder of the 19th century plaster work in various parts of the cathedral was replaced by stone. Between 1877 and 1884 the empty niches on the west front were given new statues and existing ones were remodelled. Most of them were carved by Robert Bridgeman of Lichfield, but that of Queen Victoria on the north side of the central window was carved by her daughter, Princess Louise. (fn. 61) The statue of Charles II in the apex was replaced by one of Christ and survived in the late 1980s near the south doorway of the cathedral. In 1893 the north transept window was replaced with glass depicting Christ's genealogy, donated by James Hardwick of Hints. New glass depicting bishops of the early Church was inserted in the south transept window in 1895; it was given by Bishop Lonsdale's nephew, A. P. Heywood-Lonsdale. (fn. 62) Also in 1895 ten statues of virgin saints were placed in the Lady Chapel. (fn. 63) A service of thanksgiving in 1901 marked the completion of the restoration.

St. Peter's chapel had been used as the canons' vestry in the early 18th century. (fn. 64) In 1797 it was fitted out as the bishop's consistory court, formerly in the north transept. (fn. 65) A triple seat for the judge's use with a later 17th-century canopy, which survives in the chapel, evidently comprises Bishop Hacket's throne and two other seats refashioned after the stalls were removed from the choir in 1814. The court continued to meet there until 1876, when the chapel became a vestry again. (fn. 66) It was used by the vergers in the late 1980s. The vault underneath the chapel was used as a charnel house in the early 18th century; it was reserved in 1797 as the burial place of the Paget family of Beaudesert in Longdon. (fn. 67) The upper chamber was dedicated in 1897 as St. Chad's chapel and in the late 1980s was a place for private prayer. (fn. 68)

The north-east corner of the south transept was used as a vestry by the vicars choral in the earlier 18th century and the south-east corner as the dean's consistory court. (fn. 69) The court continued to meet there until the abolition of the dean's probate jurisdiction in 1858. (fn. 70) In 1926 both parts were dedicated as St. Michael's chapel in memory of Staffordshire men who had died during the First World War. In 1960 it became the regimental chapel of the Staffordshire Regiment. (fn. 71) St. Stephen's chapel in the north transept on the east side was used as the bishop's consistory court in the late 17th century. (fn. 72) The court remained there until the chapel was opened out during restoration work c. 1790; it moved first to the chapter house and in 1797 to St. Peter's chapel. (fn. 73) The font given by Mrs. Howard was moved from the west end of the nave to the north transept in 1982. (fn. 74)

The space between the vestibule and the north transept was enclosed c. 1860 in order to create vestries for the vicars choral and the choristers, replacing those at the west end of the choir. (fn. 75) Two upper storeys were added as vestries in the early 1980s.

St. Chad's shrine.

Bede described the saint's shrine as a wooden coffin in the shape of a little house, with an aperture in its side through which pilgrims could put their hands to take out some of the dust. (fn. 76) In the Norman cathedral the shrine probably stood behind the high altar, in the apse of the presbytery. A light was maintained before it in the later 12th century. (fn. 77) In the early 14th century some of the relics were placed in a costly shrine commissioned in Paris by Bishop Langton. (fn. 78) It presumably stood in the space between the high altar and the Lady Chapel, then still under construction. In 1378 Bishop Stretton arranged for it to be moved to 'a marble place next to the Lady Chapel'. (fn. 79) The move probably entailed placing the shrine on a marble table. When its ornaments were listed in 1445, it was apparently in the form of an oblong chest with the narrower sides facing east and west. A gilt statue of St. Chad and other statues stood on the south side, and there was also a statue of the Virgin Mary and a silver-gilt statue of a man brandishing a sword, possibly a representation of St. Michael the Archangel. (fn. 80)

By 1345 there were also relics of the saint in a portable shrine. It was made in the form of a church with transepts and a bell tower and may have been a model of the cathedral itself. It too was adorned with statues in 1445. One of St. Chad stood on the face of one of the transepts, with a gold statue of St. Catherine above, and a statue of the Virgin Mary stood on the face of the other transept. The bell tower contained or was surmounted by an enamelled gilt crucifix.

The saint's head was kept in a painted wooden box in 1345. By 1445 it was encased in a gilt reliquary, possibly in the form of a mask or a complete head which could be opened up to reveal the skull, and a mitre was hung over it. The reliquary was kept in its own chapel, probably the chamber over St. Peter's chapel off the south choir aisle. The saint's right arm was by then kept in a separate silver-gilt reliquary, probably made in the form of an arm: at one end was the model of a hand in the act of giving a blessing. (fn. 81)

The reliquaries were destroyed in 1538 in the general attack on pilgrimage shrines. The statues, jewels, and other ornaments were seized by the Crown; the cathedral was granted for its own uses the shrine itself, presumably the marble fabric behind the high altar. (fn. 82) The saint's bones were smuggled away by Canon Arthur Dudley. Some were taken to Flanders in 1669, and by 1671 were in Liège; others remained in England and are now kept in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Birmingham. (fn. 83)

Side altars.

St. Mary's altar was recorded in the early 1220s. (fn. 84) Statutes of 1241 mention five chaplains serving the cathedral's principal altars. (fn. 85) Those altars probably included the four at the east end of the choir before the construction of the Lady Chapel; the fifth may have been the high altar, or else St. Chad's altar which is known to have been in the nave in 1325. (fn. 86) A list of chantries made in 1335 (fn. 87) records the altars of the Virgin Mary, St. Chad, St. John, St. Radegund, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, St. Peter (in the chapel off the south choir aisle), St. Stephen (in the north transept and in existence by 1241), (fn. 88) St. Andrew (probably in the north choir aisle), (fn. 89) and St. Nicholas (probably in the south choir aisle). (fn. 90) St. Kenelm's altar was recorded in 1466. (fn. 91) A chantry at the altar of St. Blaise, evidently in the choir, was founded by Dean Heywood, 1457–92. He adorned the altar with an alabaster 'table', probably a reredos, on which scenes of the saint's life were depicted. (fn. 92) In 1468 he founded a chantry at the altar of Jesus and St. Anne. The altar stood in its own chapel in a loft, which lay across the north choir aisle next to the choir screen. Its furnishings included statues of the Risen Christ and of St. Anne, a pair of organs, and choir stalls. (fn. 93) In 1499 there was an altar of St. George, (fn. 94) and there was presumably an altar in the chapel built on to the north side of the nave by Dean Yotton (d. 1512). (fn. 95) There may also have been a chapel in the chamber over the vestibule leading to the chapter house; in the early 18th century the chamber was known as St. Peter's chapel and had wall paintings which included one of the saint's crucifixion. (fn. 96)

Buriala and monuments.

Bishop Geoffrey Muschamp (d. 1208) was the first post-Conquest bishop to be buried in the cathedral. (fn. 97) The site is unknown. Of his successors William Cornhill (d. 1223) was buried in the south choir aisle (fn. 98) and Hugh Pattishall (d. 1241) in the north transept before the altar of St. Stephen. (fn. 99) Both Roger Weseham (d. 1257) and Roger Meuland (d. 1295) were buried in the cathedral. (fn. 100) Meuland's burial site may have been in the choir on the south side of the high altar: a tomb there drawn by William Dugdale before the Civil War may have been his. (fn. 101) Walter Langton (d. 1321) was first buried at the east end of the choir, presumably beyond St. Chad's shrine and near the Lady Chapel. In 1360 his body was moved by his successor Robert Northburgh to an elaborate canopied tomb of white stone on the south side of the high altar. (fn. 102) Northburgh himself was presumably buried in the cathedral, but there is no record of the site. Robert Stretton (d. 1385) was buried in St. Andrew's chapel. (fn. 103) John Burghill (d. 1414) directed that he should be buried in the Lady Chapel, (fn. 104) as did Reynold Boulers (d. 1459). (fn. 105) John Hales (d. 1490) chose to be buried near the west door, and Geoffrey Blythe (d. 1532) before the image of St. Chad, possibly a reference to the statue on the saint's shrine behind the high altar. (fn. 106) Blythe was the last bishop to be buried in the cathedral until 1670. Only two effigies of medieval bishops survived the Civil War; both are now in the south choir aisle. (fn. 107) One is of the 13th century; the other is 14th-century.

A monument to Dean Heywood (d. 1492) contained effigies of him in his vestments and as a cadaver; only the second survives. In the early 18th century it was in a wall in the south choir aisle; it was moved in 1877 to the north-west corner of the north transept. (fn. 108) Dean Boleyn (d. 1603) was buried at the entrance to the choir. (fn. 109) A monument to Ralph, Lord Basset (d. 1390), formerly stood at the east end of the south choir aisle, and one to George Stanley (d. 1509) of Hammerwich survives in the wall of the same aisle. (fn. 110) A medieval effigy survives in the wall of the south choir aisle (fn. 111) and two others in the wall of the south nave aisle. A monument to William, Lord Paget (d. 1563), his eldest son Henry (d. 1568), and their wives was erected in 1577 on the site of St. Chad's shrine. It was commissioned by Henry's brother Thomas, Lord Paget, from the Flemish sculptor Jan Carlier. Unusually for English monuments of that time the material used was marble and the figures were in a kneeling, not recumbent, position. It was destroyed during the Civil War. (fn. 112) Robert Master (d. 1625), chancellor of Lichfield diocese, and his wife Catherine were commemorated in a monument at the east end of the south choir aisle, also destroyed during the Civil War. (fn. 113)

Bishop John Hacket (d. 1670) was buried on the south side of the high altar. When the choir arches there were blocked in the late 18th century, his monument was set against the wall of the south choir aisle. It was moved in 1979 to a position under a choir arch near the west end of the aisle. (fn. 114) Of later bishops buried in the cathedral or its graveyard, Richard Smalbroke (d. 1749) and James Cornwallis (d. 1824) are commemorated by wall tablets in the south transept; Henry Ryder (d. 1836) by a life-size figure sculpted by Sir Francis Chantrey in the north choir aisle; George Selwyn (d. 1878) by an effigy in one of the chambers on the south side of the Lady Chapel decorated with scenes reflecting the bishop's work with Maoris in New Zealand and miners in Lichfield diocese; and Edward Woods (d. 1953) by a bronze bust of 1958 by Jacob Epstein, first placed in the north choir aisle and in 1989 at the north end of the vestibule leading to the chapter house. (fn. 115) Augustus Legge (d. 1913) has no memorial in the cathedral. In contrast, John Lonsdale (d. 1867), although buried at Eccleshall, has an effigy with medieval canopies in the north choir aisle.

There are wall tablets to Dean Lancelot Addison (d. 1703) at the west end of the south nave aisle and Dean John Woodhouse (d. 1833) in the north transept. Dean Henry Howard (d. 1868) is commemorated by an effigy with medieval canopies in the south choir aisle. A wall tablet in the south transept to John Saville (d. 1803), vicar choral, has verses by his friend Anna Seward. The young daughters of William Robinson, prebendary of Pipa Parva, are commemorated at the east end of the south choir aisle in a sculpture by Chantrey dated 1817. Other monuments include those to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (d. 1789), the writer, at the west end of the north nave aisle, Andrew Newton (d. 1806), founder of Newton's College in the Close, in the south transept, and Sir Charles Oakeley (d. 1826), governor of Madras, in the north transept. There are memorial busts of the actor David Garrick (d. 1779) and Dr. Samuel Johnson (d. 1784) in the south transept. Naval and military memorials are chiefly in the south transept. (fn. 116)


Inventories of 1345 and 1445 list the cathedral's plate, as well as vestments and other liturgical artefacts, often with a note of their donors. (fn. 117) In 1549 the dean and chapter divided surplus plate among themselves, and what remained was mostly seized by the Crown in 1553. Replacements were acquired during Mary I's reign and later, but their seizure was ordered by the Privy Council in 1579. (fn. 118) The earliest surviving plate comprises a chalice, two flagons, a paten, and a paten cover, all of 1662; a ciborium given in 1670 by Lucy, dowager countess of Huntingdon; a paten and almsdish of 1701; and a chalice and paten of 1702.


A scheme for ringing the cathedral bells was included in Bishop Nonant's statutes of c. 1190. It mentioned at least two great bells, as well as a 'sweet bell' and its 'companion', presumably bells with a light timbre. A reference to the smallest bell 'in the church' may suggest that the others were in an external bell tower. (fn. 119) There was a belfry 'in the close' by 1315, when it was burnt down. (fn. 120) A belfry mentioned in 1385 may have been the cathedral's south-west tower: a great bell called Jesus, made in London and given by Dean Heywood, was consecrated in a belfry 'on the south side of the cathedral' in 1477. (fn. 121) There were evidently bells in the central tower, which was presumably the 'great belfry' badly damaged in 1537. (fn. 122)

In 1553 the Crown allowed the cathedral to keep its 12 bells. (fn. 123) In the earlier 17th century a great bell (evidently the Jesus bell) hung in the south-west tower and there was a bell (or bells) in the central tower. (fn. 124) The Jesus bell was melted down in 1653, (fn. 125) and most of the other bells were presumably destroyed about the same time. One at least was saved: in 1661 the chapter clerk recovered 'a stolen bell' at Coventry. (fn. 126) It is possibly the small, medieval bell which survived in the central tower in the late 1980s. A peal of six was placed in the south-west tower in the 1670s. The bells proved unsuitable and were recast in 1688 as a peal of ten by Henry Bagley of Ecton (Northants.). Three of the new bells were recast by Bagley in the early 1690s. (fn. 127) No. 9 was recast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1758, and the treble and the tenor by Thomas Rudhall in 1764; the tenor was again recast in 1813 by Thomas Mears of London. All ten were recast in 1947 by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough. (fn. 128)


In 1482 Dean Heywood gave a 'great organ' to be placed on the choir screen. (fn. 129) In 1639 Robert Dallam agreed to build an organ, which, if built, was presumably destroyed or dismantled during the Civil War. (fn. 130) At the Restoration Bishop Hacket commissioned a new organ from Bernard Smith, evidently completed in 1669. It was known as 'the Ladies' Organ' because its cost was met by ten women, including Anne, duchess of York, and Frances, duchess of Somerset. (fn. 131) A small organ for use in the Lady Chapel was made probably in the 1660s. It fell into private hands and c. 1900 was presented to Lichfield museum by Bishop Selwyn's widow Harriet. It was restored to working order in 1954 and returned to the cathedral. (fn. 132) A 'great organ' was built by Thomas Schwarbrook (d. c. 1753). It was replaced in 1789 by one built by Samuel Green. The present organ, made by George Holdich, was given in 1860 by Josiah Spode of Hawkesyard Park in Armitage and was placed in the north transept aisle; it was enlarged in 1884. (fn. 133)

Clocks and sundial.

There was a cathedral clock in 1401 when a keeper was appointed by the chapter at 20s. a year. (fn. 134) A keeper was still employed in the late 16th century. (fn. 135) The clock may then have been in the south-west tower, where it evidently was in the earlier 17th century. (fn. 136) There was a clock on the west front of the south-west tower in the later 18th century. Its dial was removed in 1823. (fn. 137) A clock was installed in the south-west tower in 1891, with a dial at the west end of the south nave aisle. (fn. 138)

A sundial near the south doorway of the cathedral was removed in 1781 and re-erected in 1785 at the west end in order to regulate the clock on the tower. (fn. 139) It was removed in 1881 and passed into private hands. It was returned to the cathedral in 1929 and placed on a pedestal in its present position south of the nave. (fn. 140)

Books and archives.

A brick library was built beside the north transept in the late 15th century. (fn. 141) Its small manuscript collection was catalogued in 1622. (fn. 142) When the Close was surrendered to parliamentarian forces in 1646, the terms of surrender stipulated that the library's contents were to be preserved. (fn. 143) None the less they were dispersed, and in 1663 the chapter recovered books from Shrewsbury. (fn. 144) The library was restocked by Frances, duchess of Somerset (d. 1674), who left it nearly 1,000 books belonging to her late husband William Seymour, duke of Somerset, the recorder of Lichfield. (fn. 145) Between 1680 and 1682 Dean Smalwood had ten cases made for the books, each case bearing a wooden boss with the donor's arms, including his own. (fn. 146) The library was further augmented by Dean Addison (d. 1703). (fn. 147)

In 1757 the chapter ordered the demolition of the library in order to improve the aspect of the Close; the adjoining chapter clerk's house, which was timber-framed, was also demolished because it was a fire risk to the cathedral. (fn. 148) The books and the cases were moved in 1763 to the chamber over the chapter house. (fn. 149) The cases were replaced by smaller ones in the later 19th century. After a bequest by Frederick Martin, a canon of Lincoln cathedral, of over 2,000 books in 1865, the library was extended by opening a doorway into the adjoining room over the vestibule. (fn. 150)

The library's greatest possession is the 8th-century St. Chad's gospel book. It is periodically displayed in the chapter house, as a memorial to Bishop Stretton Reeve (d. 1981).

In the earlier 17th century the cathedral's archives were kept in the chamber over the chapter house. (fn. 151) A chest of drawers dated 1663 in the present library annexe was presumably made to store documents. The archives were moved to the upper storey of St. Peter's chapel, probably in 1763 to make room for the transfer of the library that year. They were moved in 1896 to the library annexe. (fn. 152) In 1973 most of the archives were deposited in the Lichfield Joint Record Office. (fn. 153)


  • 1. This section is concerned only with the history of the cathedral as a building. For an account of its institutional history see V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 140–99. Dr. Warwick Rodwell, consultant archaeologist to the dean and chapter, is thanked for his help.
  • 2. Above, general hist. (Anglo-Saxon eccl. centre).
  • 3. Ibid.; T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 61.
  • 4. Below (this section).
  • 5. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxii. 62 and pl. I.
  • 6. Para. based on V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 143; Arch. Jnl. lxix. 1–24; Friends of Lichfield Cath. 50th Ann. Rep. (1987), 10–14.
  • 7. Above, general hist. (the 12th century).
  • 8. Dugdale, Mon. vi (3), 1256.
  • 9. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 149.
  • 10. Below (burials and monuments).
  • 11. A. B. Clifton, Cathedral Church of Lichfield (Lichfield, 1898), 48–9.
  • 12. W.S.L., Staffs. Views, vi. 42; below, fig. 10.
  • 13. S.H.C. 1924, p. 19.
  • 14. Ibid.; Bodl. MS. Ashmole 794, f. 102v.
  • 15. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 149–50.
  • 16. Antiquity, lxiii. 292–3.
  • 17. S.R.O., D. (W.) 1734/J. 1636; V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 150; S.H.C. 1924, p. 265.
  • 18. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 57–8; [J. C. Woodhouse and J. Newling], Short Account of Lichfield Cathedral (Lichfield, 1823 edn.), 103–11. For a 1736 drawing of St. Chad's statue see Bodl. MS. Top. Eccl. d. 6, f. 13v.
  • 19. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 150, 157.
  • 20. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxxiii. 57.
  • 21. Para. based on V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 157.
  • 22. S.R.O., D. (W.) 1734/J. 2057, m. 5 (section relating to cost of ditch towards Gaia).
  • 23. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 61.
  • 24. Ibid. 61–2.
  • 25. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 158.
  • 26. J. Harvey, Eng. Medieval Architects (1984), 242; Le Neve, Fasti, 1300–1541, Coventry and Lichfield, 52; ibid. St. Paul's, London, 5.
  • 27. Sede Vacante Wills (Kent Arch. Soc. Records Branch, iii), 117; Cal. Pat. 1313–17, 616.
  • 28. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 61. Removed by Wyatt c. 1790, parts of the screen were later incorporated in the sedilia on either side of the high altar and in monuments to Bp. Lonsdale and Dean Howard: H. E. Savage, The Sedilia (Lichfield, 1914), 3–4.
  • 29. Bodl. MS. Ashmole 794, f. 95.
  • 30. B.L. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xvi, ff. 26, 34; T. Dingley, Hist. from Marble, ii (Camd. Soc. [1st ser.], xcvii), 327; V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 174 n.
  • 31. Below (St. Chad's shrine).
  • 32. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 63.
  • 33. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 165.
  • 34. Harwood, Lichfield, 112; Friends of Lichfield Cath. 42nd Ann. Rep. (1979), 8–9, 11.
  • 35. Lichfield Cath. Libr., MS. Lichfield 4, f. 32.
  • 36. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 168.
  • 37. Below (St. Chad's shrine).
  • 38. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. iv, f. 148.
  • 39. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, ii. 102.
  • 40. Erdeswick, Staffs. 281. For what is evidently a pre-Civil War view of the front see V.C.H. Staffs. iii, pl. facing p. 148.
  • 41. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 174.
  • 42. W.S.L., Staffs. Views, vi. 13; D. Defoe, Tour thro' the Whole Island of Gt. Brit. (1927), ii. 481.
  • 43. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 175–6.
  • 44. Shaw, Staffs. i. 258.
  • 45. Harwood, Lichfield, 67.
  • 46. Shaw, Staffs. i. 258; S.H.C. 1920 and 1922, 33.
  • 47. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 175–6; W.S.L., S. MS. 374, p. 355.
  • 48. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 176 n.
  • 49. Para. based on V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 186–9.
  • 50. Below, churches.
  • 51. Harwood, Lichfield, 67 n. It was removed from Elford in 1848 and placed in the later 19th cent. in Whittington church, where it remains: inf. from the Revd. Dr. E. C. C. Hill, cathedral librarian.
  • 52. Archaeologia, cviii. 189–226.
  • 53. [Woodhouse and Newling], Short Account of Lichfield Cathedral (1811 edn.), 55–9. It was removed to Lichfield guildhall in 1893.
  • 54. Ibid. (1823), 48.
  • 55. Ibid. 8; Erdeswick, Staffs. 290.
  • 56. Dugdale, Mon. vi (3), pl. facing p. 1238.
  • 57. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 58; Erdeswick, Staffs. 281 n.; [Woodhouse and Newling], Short Account of Lichfield Cathedral (1823), 105–11.
  • 58. Para. based on V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 194–5; J. Hewitt, Handbk. for Lichfield Cathedral (Lichfield, 1875), 54 9.
  • 59. Staffs. Advertiser, 4 June 1887, p. 6.
  • 60. Lich. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1881), 96.
  • 61. C. Harradine, Hand Guide to Lichfield Cathedral containing a detailed account of the sculpture on the West Front (Lichfield, 1891; copy in W.S.L.).
  • 62. Clifton, Cath. Church of Lichfield, 71, 74–5.
  • 63. Ibid. 101.
  • 64. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 61–2.
  • 65. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. ix, ff. 7v., 14; Gent. Mag. lxx (1), 17.
  • 66. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. xiv, p. 51; below, plate 5.
  • 67. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 61–2.
  • 68. Clifton, Cath. Church of Lichfield, 106–7.
  • 69. B. Willis, Survey of Cathedrals (1727), pl. before p. 371.
  • 70. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 74; J. G. Lonsdale, Recollections of the Internal Restoration of Lichfield Cathedral (Lichfield, 1884), 7 (copy in W.S.L.).
  • 71. Hist. of Naval and Military Monuments, Memorials, and Colours (1967), 18–19 (copy in W.S.L.).
  • 72. L.J.R.O., D. 30/plan of bishop's palace and the cathedral c. 1685.
  • 73. Ibid. D. 30/C.A. viii, f. 118.
  • 74. Lichfield Cath. Libr., chapter mins. 1979–82, p. 242.
  • 75. J.G. Lonsdale, Recollections of Work done in and upon Lichfield Cathedral 1856–94 (Lichfield, 1895), 7, 18 (copy in W.S.L.).
  • 76. Bede's Eccl. Hist. of the Eng. People, ed. B. Colgrave and R.A.B. Mynors, 346.
  • 77. S.H.C. 1924, p. 165.
  • 78. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 157.
  • 79. Bodl. MS. Ashmole 794, f. 173v.
  • 80. Shrewsbury Public Libr., MS. 2.
  • 81. Ibid.; S.H.C. vi (2), 207.
  • 82. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 168 (where the figure of £400 given as the income of the shrine at the Reformation in fact refers to the whole revenue of the cathedral).
  • 83. Staffs. Cath. Hist. ix. 12–15; H. Foley, Rec. of Eng. Province of Society of Jesus, ii. 232; M. Hodgetts, St. Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham (1987), 10–11, 18.
  • 84. S.H.C. 1924, p. 15.
  • 85. Below, churches (parochial organization to 1491).
  • 86. S.H.C. 1924, p. 331.
  • 87. Bodl. MS. Ashmole 794, ff. 48–9.
  • 88. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 62.
  • 89. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. ii, f. 5v.
  • 90. Lord Basset (d. 1390), whose tomb was in that aisle, left money to the altar: Cat. Anct. D. v, A 11372; below (burials and monuments).
  • 91. Lichfield Cath. Libr., MS. Lichfield 4, f. 21v.
  • 92. Ibid. ff. 21, 32; H. E. Savage, Thomas Heywode, Dean (Lichfield, 1925), 9–10.
  • 93. Savage, Heywode, 11–18; V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 165; Lichfield Cath. Libr., MS. Lichfield 4, ff. 22v., 31; MS. Lichfield 5, ff. 22v.–23.
  • 94. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. iii, f. 36v.
  • 95. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 58.
  • 96. Ibid. 62–3.
  • 97. Above, general hist. (the 12th century).
  • 98. Shaw, Staffs. i. 246.
  • 99. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 62.
  • 100. H. Wharton, Anglia Sacra (1691), i. 447; Annales de Wigornia (Rolls Ser.), 525.
  • 101. Willis, Survey of Cathedrals, 387; B.L. Loan MS. 38, f. 8.
  • 102. Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 449; B.L. Loan MS. 38, f. 6 (reproduced in Shaw, Staffs. i, pl. xxvi).
  • 103. Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 449; B.L. Loan MS. 38, f. 3 (reproduced in Shaw, Staffs. i, pl. xxiii).
  • 104. Willis, Survey of Cathedrals, 389.
  • 105. P.R.O., PROB 11/4, f. 122v.
  • 106. Willis, Survey of Cathedrals, 390–1. Blythe died on 19 January 1531/2: L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. iv, f. 93v.
  • 107. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 59.
  • 108. Ibid.
  • 109. Shaw, Staffs. i. 246.
  • 110. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 59–60.
  • 111. Ibid. 60.
  • 112. Trans. Anct. Mon. Soc. xxix. 124–36.
  • 113. Shaw, Staffs. i. 248; B.L. Loan MS. 38, f. 5.
  • 114. T.S.S.A.H.S. xxviii. 59–60.
  • 115. Lichfield Mercury, 27 June 1958, p. 1; 21 Apr. 1989, p. 47.
  • 116. Hist. of Naval and Military Monuments, Memorials and Colours (1967).
  • 117. S.H.C. vi (2), 207–13; Shrewsbury Public Libr., MS. 2.
  • 118. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 168–9.
  • 119. Dugdale, Mon. vi (3), 1256–7; V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 142. Mrs. Lucy Smith of Lichfield is thanked for her help with this section.
  • 120. Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 447.
  • 121. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. i, f. 2v.; Lichfield Cath. Libr., MS. Lichfield 4, ff. 28, 31v.–32.
  • 122. Bodl. MS. Ashmole 770, f. 66v.
  • 123. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 168.
  • 124. Above, fig. 10.
  • 125. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 174.
  • 126. L.J.R.O., D. 30/LXIV.
  • 127. W.S.L., S. MS. 24 (i) (modifying V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 176).
  • 128. Lynam, Church Bells, 18; Friends of Lichfield Cath. 47th Ann. Rep. (1984), 17–18.
  • 129. Lichfield Cath. Libr., MS. Lichfield 4, f. 31.
  • 130. L.J.R.O., D. 30/P 1.
  • 131. R. Greening, Organs of Lichfield Cathedral (Lichfield, 1974), 5 (copy in W.S.L.); V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 176; Shaw, Staffs. i. 249–50.
  • 132. Greening, Organs, 6–8; Lichfield Mercury, 23 Oct. 1953, p. 4; 2 July 1954, p. 2.
  • 133. Greening, Organs, 8–15.
  • 134. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. i, f. 58.
  • 135. Ibid. D. 30/bk. of miscellanea, f. 105.
  • 136. Above, fig. 10.
  • 137. W.S.L., Staffs. Views, vi. 81; W.S.L., transcr. diary of Anne Bagot, p. 33.
  • 138. Lichfield Mercury, 7 Aug. 1891, p. 8.
  • 139. L.J.R.O., D. 30/X, 1772–85, 31 Aug. 1781; D. 30/C.A. viii, f. 105; W.S.L. 196/42/77.
  • 140. L.J.R.O., D. 30 C.A. xix, p. 296.
  • 141. V.C.H. Staffs. iii. 166; B.L. Add. MS. 5829, f. 2v.
  • 142. Medreval and Renaissance Studies, ii (1950), 151–68.
  • 143. Clayton, Loyal and Ancient City, 124.
  • 144. L.J.R.O., D. 30/LXIV, s.a. 1663.
  • 145. Harwood, Lichfield, 109; below, town govt. (govt. from 1548: corporation officers).
  • 146. L.J.R.O., D. 30/Z 12, where the books are recorded as those of Frances's father Rob. Devereux, earl of Essex; Shaw, Staffs. i. 261, where the unrecorded donor of a book case is identifiable from his surviving boss as Sir Thos. Thynne, Bt., who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1680 and became Viscount Weymouth in 1682: G.E.C. Baronetage, ii. 103.
  • 147. Inf. from the Revd. Dr. E. C. C. Hill.
  • 148. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. viii, f. 35v.; Gent. Mag. xxix. 4.
  • 149. L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. viii, f. 47. For a view in 1812 see Bodl. G.A. Staffs. 4, 6, facing p. 107.
  • 150. Lonsdale, Recollections of Work, 20.
  • 151. Relation of a Short Survey of 26 Counties, 1634, ed. L. G. Wickham Legg (1904), 57.
  • 152. Harwood, Lichfield, 96; L.J.R.O., D. 30/C.A. xv, p. 365.
  • 153. Inf. from Mrs. Jane Hampartumian, archivist at L.J.R.O.