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Lichfield in 1839

LICHFIELD is a city and county of itself, although locally situated within the county of Stafford, 118 miles north-west by north from London. The limits, of the parliamentary borough comprehend the whole of the town, together with the surrounding country, to the distance of rather more than a mile ; but within this boundary, and a little to the north-west of the city, there is a small space called the ‘close’ which possesses a separate jurisdiction, distinct not merely from that of Lichfield, but also from that of Staffordshire. The corporation had its origin in the year 1387, when Richard II granted to the guild a licence to purchase lands to the amount of £10 a year. This guild was dissolved by Edward VI, who granted a charter of incorporation to the city, and Queen Mary, in the first year of her reign, erected the city and suburbs into a distinct county independent of the county of Stafford. The next charter was that of 20 James I, which authorizes the establishment of two weekly markets, and empowers the bailiffs to receive the tolls and customs thereof. To this succeeded the charter of 16 Charles II. In 1686 James II obliged the corporation to surrender their charters, which however were restored to them the following year, when all their former privileges and immunities were acknowledged confirmed.

By the Municipal Corporation Act Lichfield is divided into two wards, with six aldermen and eighteen councillors. Neither the property nor the expenditure of the corporation is known in consequence of the municipal authorities refusing to communicate with the parliamentary commissioners appointed in the year 1835, but the revenue is supposed not to exceed £300 per annum, and arises chiefly from landed property. The tolls of the markets were compounded for in 1741 by Sir Lister Holt, one of the members for the city, who paid the corporation £400, in consideration of which it was agreed that the city should thenceforward be ‘discharged from all tolls whatever upon a market-day except picking’ The fairs are held January 10, Shrove Tuesday, Ash-Wednesday. and the first Tuesday in November. The market days are Tuesday and Friday. The borough has returned two members to parliament continuously from the reign of Edward I. The incorporated companies are seven in number, namely, the tailors, bakers, saddlers, butchers, smiths, cordwainers, and weavers, in each of which are included several subordinate trades.

The name ‘Lichfield’ is of Saxon etymology, and, according to Dr. Harwood, refers to the marshy nature of the surrounding country. The houses in the principal streets are handsome and well built, and the whole city is supplied with excellent water, and paved and lighted. The gaol and house of correction are well constructed, and admit of classification of the prisoners.

Lichfield, in union with Coventry, is an episcopal see. The cathedral sustained considerable injury during the civil wars, but was restored by Dr. Hacket in 1661 ; and more recently very extensive repairs and alterations have been effected under the superintendence of Mr. Wyatt. Its total length from east to west is 410 feet, and the width along the transepts measures 153 feet. There are three spires, of which the central rises to the height of 280 feet, the whole being ornamented with a profusion of very elaborate workmanship. In the interior are numerous monuments, and among them is one of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who was born in this city, and to whose memory a statue has been recently erected. (See Harwood’s History and Antiquities of the Church and City of Lichfield, 4to., 1806 ; and also Dugdale’s Monasticon Anglicanum.) The other churches are respectively dedicated to St. Chad, St. Michael, and St. Mary. The livings attached to the first two are paid curacies, valued at £901. and £137 per annum ; the last is a vicarage in the patronage of the dean and chapter of Lichfield, and possesses an average net income of £458. The population of the borough in 1831 was 6,252, which includes the population of the ‘close.’

The free-school of Lichfield is stated, but upon very doubtful authority, to have been founded by Edward VI. As early as the reign of Henry III the bishops of the diocese founded a religious establishment, which subsequently went under the appellation of the ‘Hospital School,’ but. near the close of the seventeenth century, in consequence of previous mismanagement, the affairs of this institution became subject to the superintendence of the master of the free grammar-school, and in 1740 the chief part of its funds were transferred to the last-mentioned establishment, since which time the two foundations are considered to have merged into one.

In 1835 there were 21 scholars upon the foundation, besides boarders, and at that time the school was described as being in a flourishing condition. For particular information relative to the management and state of the funds of this school and the other benevolent foundations of Lichfield the reader is referred to the Seventh Report of the Parliamentary Commissioners on Charities. (Boundary Reports &c.. ; and the several authorities mentioned above.)