The historic city of Lichfield can be found in the County of Staffordshire, situated to the North of Birmingham, and dates back to 669 following the arrival of Chad of Mercia. With many places of interest to visit, this charming city offers a wealth of fine architectural delights, with areas such as the Market Square and Cathedral Close the location of many. With attractions including the stunning Cathedral, Erasmus Darwin’s House and Samuel Johnson’s Birthplace Museum, Lichfield also offers plenty of open spaces to explore, with Beacon Park hosting a range of events throughout the year. With excellent shopping facilities set in beautiful surroundings, Lichfield makes an enjoyable and relaxing city break for all.
The origins of Lichfield can be traced back as early as Neolithic times, with evidence of settlements in the area also confirming the existence of a military fortress close by dating back to 50AD. Following the arrival of Chad of Mercia, an Anglo-Saxon churchman who would later become Bishop of the Mercian and Lindsey People, land donated by Wulfhere, the Christian King of Mercia, was used to build a monastery, and would become the official See of the Bishop in 669. Following the death of St Chad, in 700 a Cathedral was first built on the present site, which had become a place of pilgrimage.
The Danes would invade in the 9th Century, and as a result the Bishop’s See would be relocated to Chester and then Coventry until the See was returned to Lichfield in 1148. Throughout its history, Lichfield has remained an important ecclesiastical site, and it was during the time of Bishop Roger de Clinton, that Lichfield would take its present form. With the establishment of its various streets, as well as protecting the town through the building of a bank and ditch, the Bishop arranged for the fortification of the Cathedral area, a move which would prove vital in saving Cathedral during the 1291 fire of Lichfield, which had a devastating effect on the town.
Due to its location, Lichfield proved a popular location for coaches to stop, conveniently situated between London and Chester. This led to the growth of the town in the 1600’s, and this popularity would continue through to the 1800’s, until the time of the industrial revolution which would see the development of railways and the subsequent decline of coaches for transportation purposes. Lichfield would also be noted for the many famous individuals who were born or lived within the area including the likes of Erasmus Darwin and Samuel Johnson. Lichfield became a key military site, with the establishment of a British Army infantry regiment in 1705, which would later become the 1st Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment.
The National Memorial Arboretum is located just outside Lichfield, and is a place of remembrance operated by the Royal British Legion. The Arboretum was the work of David Childs and was created to provide a living tribute to those who have served their country, with over 50,000 trees and 250 memorials. Dedicated to military service men and women, in addition to marking significant events such as the Berlin Airlift Monument and the Burma Railway, the beautiful gardens feature many sculptures, and offer a unique opportunity for quiet reflection and celebration of those that have lost their lives.
Lichfield is a historic and cultural city, and has also been a focus in popular culture.
Films & TV
Cuckoo (2010) – the BBC Three Comedy drama starring Greg Davies, Andy Samberg and Helen Baxendale is set in Lichfield, and focusses on Rachel returning from her gap year together with her new husband “Cuckoo”, who proves to be an American Hippy, much to the concern and frustration of her parents.
Lichfield Stories (2013) is a collection of tales by Neil Coley which are set at various times in Lichfield’s history, and features fictional characters involved in real events which took place in the city.
Samuel Johnson (Dr Johnson) was born in Lichfield on 18th September 1709. The famous writer, poet and literary critic is recognised for the significant contributions he made to English literature during his lifetime. 1755 saw the release of Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, 150 years prior to the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Erasmus Darwin – born in Nottingham in 1731, Erasmus Darwin moved to Lichfield in 1757 where he worked as a physician. Recognised as an inventor, philosopher and poet, Darwin was also noted for his work in the field of natural history, and was Charles Darwin’s Grandfather. The house where he lived in Lichfield is now a museum where visitors can learn more about the great works of this man.
Anna Seward – was a poet and the daughter of Thomas Seward, a senior member of the clergy at Lichfield. Seward was a friend of many of the members of the Lunar Society, including Erasmus Darwin who encouraged her to write. Seward’s works included poems such as To Remembrance, Ode to the Sun, Louisa, a poetic novel, as well as Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Darwin. A plaque can be found at Lichfield Cathedral celebrating her work and connection to Lichfield.
The magnificent Lichfield Cathedral dates back to the 1100’s and was constructed using local sandstone. Recognised as the only example of a three spired cathedral constructed in England during medieval times, the Cathedral features gothic styling throughout its architectural design. One of Lichfield’s most noted landmarks, the cathedral welcomes thousands of visitors each year, and its Chapter House is home to such treasures as the Lichfield Angel, St Chad Gospels and a Pectoral Cross Replica.
Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum
Located in Breadmarket Street, the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum is a Grade I listed building, overlooking the Market Square in Lichfield. With Johnson having lived in the building for 27 years, today the Museum provides visitors with a chance to explore its collections and displays, including reconstructed rooms and learn more about the remarkable life of Samuel Johnson, and his many achievements. Admission is free to the historic attraction, with the museum open all year round.
Lichfield Heritage Centre
St Mary’s Church in the Market Square is the location for the Lichfield Heritage Centre, which was opened in 1981 following the conversion of the church into a building used to serve its community. The museum can be found on the second floor and provides the opportunity to learn about the history of Lichfield through memorabilia and photographs, as well as the treasury exhibition which includes goblets and chalices all of which are of local importance. A small fee is charged at the heritage centre, with an opportunity to visit the Spire viewing platform also on offer.