Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield in 1709 and was to become England's "greatest man of letters" of that time. Educated in Lichfield and for a short period in Oxford (he couldn't finance his studies any longer, so he had to quit), he unsuccessfully tried to work as a teacher and later even to set up his own school. Continuously struggling with financial difficulties as a journalist and translator, he eventually found work compiling a giant English dictionary. Despite the fact that he didn't earn a lot of money with that, he is still remembered for it, and his work is comparable to that of the Brothers Grimm in Germany.
The museum in Lichfield gives an overview about Johnson's life and work. The rooms are full with paraphernalia of Johnson, there are his witticisms written on boards in basically every room, and the little bookshop in the basement sells volumes and volumes of works about him. But what I liked most was the giant "Dictionary of the English Language" which is on display in one of the rooms and which you can browse for long died-out words from the 18th century. Fancy a little taste?
"Huggermugger (noun) - a hug in the dark"
"Monsieur (noun) - a term of reproach for a Frenchman"
"Rebellow (verb) - to bellow in return"
I wonder what he would have made of *lol*...
England's only medieval cathedral with three spires is the main attraction in the beautiful city of Lichfield. Symbolizing the holy Trinity, i.e. God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the spires are widely visible. Yet, when you reach the cathedral itself you find it is actually quite small.
Completed in 1340 on the remains of former churches, the cathedral has a beautiful interior with a curiosity, the so-called Pedilavium. The part between the nave and the chapter house was (and apparently still is) used for the ritual practice of foot-washing, a tradition that is said to have been established by Jesus himself. Nonetheless, I preferred the outside of the cathedral. Its west front is full of statues of former kings and clergymen and a wonderful sight in the wintry afternoon sunshine. The tranquil Cathedral Close is also a beautiful sight and sitting on one of the benches gives you a good full sight of the cathedral.
Lichfield Cathedral is not, perhaps, as large and impressive as many in England but it nevertheless has its own charm and sense of peace.
Chad, made Bishop Of Mercia in 669, was soon sainted and his shrine became a focus for pilgrims. The first cathedral was a wooden structure, replaced by a Saxon stone structure in 1085 and the present building was begun in 1195. It is particularly interesting as it has three spires, and survived three seiges during the English Civil War (although one of the spires was destroyed). The cathedral had three major restorations before the 20th century!
There is a lovely Chapter House to see, and some interesting Medieval wall-paintings, as well as tombs and chapels (see tips below). Well worth visiting if you are nearby.
No entrance fee for this cathedral, though donations towards upkeep are appreciated.
The cathedral's history (and therefore the town itself) starts with one man - Chad. When he was appointed Bishop of Murcia in 669 he moved the See from Repton to Lichfield, believed to be the site of the martyrdom of thousands of christians during the reign of the Roman Emperor Dioclecian in 300AD.
Chad died within 3 years of his appointment, but a church was built to house his remains, and by 700AD Lichfield had become a place of pilgrimage.
In spite of losing the See in the 11th century to Chester (and then Coventry) a stone cathedral was begun at the end of the 11th century, but within 100 years it was replaced by the Gothic cathedral (and the one we see, moreorless, today). It took approximately 150 years to build, so there were major changes as it went along, but Lichfield is seen as a classic example of Gothic church architecture (in spite of many modifications in later years). It also survived Henry VIII's reformation (where much of the interior was destroyed and the pilgrimages to see the remains of St Chad stopped) and three major attacks during the Civil War in the 17th century when the town changed hands between Royalists, Parliamentarians, Royalists and then Cromwell's men again all in the space of 3 years.
But the next 300 years saw gradual restoration and a recent overhaul has restored the cathedral to its Gothic glory.
Shortly after the Norman conquest, Robert le Despenser built the first castle on this site. A simple moat-and-bailey fort, it was replaced in the 12th century by the present stone castle, built by Robert Marmion. The Castle changed hands many times, with numerous modifications. It was twice threatened with destruction, once by King John I as revenge against Marmion, and once by Oliver Cromwell in the Civil War. So we're very lucky that it's still here.
Inside is a wonderful museum of medieval life, with exhibits on more recent times. This is a great way to learn about how people lived in the old days. The top offers a great view of the nearby town of Tamworth.
Lichfield retains some of its original Medieval street-plan, and there are still some interesting buildings (and alleyways) dotted about. It's worth keeping your eyes open as you wander; remember to look up, as shop/house frontages have often been modernised whereas the upper floors give away the building's origins.
The main picture was taken in Cathedral Close (the area surrounding a cathedral, where clergy traditionally lived), the other one in a side-street. The cream paint and brown wood is historically correct; it was the Victorians who decided that such buildings should be painted white with black beams!
Lichfield has rather a lot of green spaces. Many of these were created in the late Victorian era, when the benefits of greenery, fresh air and gentle exercise were being realised (especially for the poor).
Some of the spaces are classic English parks; fountain, tightly-mown lawns, flowerbeds sown with annuals in formal patterns (see main photo), some are simply expanses of grass and trees where one can sit awhile (see other photo).
Samuel Johnson, the author of the first English dictionary, was born in Lichfield in 1709 and lived there until he was 27. His family home in the city centre is now a museum, with displays and memorabilia.
Entrance is free. Open daily, 10:30 - 4:30 April to September, 12 - 4:40 October to March.
The photo was taken during the 288th birthday celebrations. The man in the grey wig on the house steps is not the real Dr Johnson!
Like most British cities and towns, LIchfield has its share of parks. Here, one can relieve stress and boredom. When the weather turns nice, just take a walk.
One point of interest is a statue to Captain John Edward Smith, who was the captain of the Titanic, and a Lichfield native.
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was a scientist, inventor, poet, and a doctor. King George III asked him to be his personal physician, but he declined; he preferred to stay in Lichfield. He published a book titled Zoonomia or the Laws of Organic Life, in 1794. In it, he laid out what later became known as the theory of evolution.
He lived here in this house. His grandson was Charles Darwin, who carried his work much farther. Of course, we all know about him.
Dr Johnson wrote the first true English dictionary. He was probably the most important man of letters in the English language, because he defined the proper use of that language--grammar, spelling, word definitions, and the rest.
He was born here in 1709, and educated in local schools. Dr Johnson spent the first 27 years of his life living in this house. He spent years as a journalist in London and Birmingham. He worked hard, but never became wealthy despite his towering reputation. His dictionary won him fame but not much forturne. He is now buried in Westminster Abbey.
This house has been a museum since 1901. Built by his father, it is a rather unassuming, unpretentious place. It is said that Johnson himself was the same way.
This museum was once St Mary's Church. It was a parish church, completed in 1868, with a congregation of close to 900. But with the decline in local population, and attendance, it began to decline as well.
In 1978, a local committee was formed to discuss the issue. The decision was made to convert this church into a museum, educational facility, and senior center. Today, it houses many historic documents, exhibits, and memorabilia. It's one of Lichfield's major attractions.
This cathedral is the very heart of the town. Its most unusual feature is the three huge spires, with the tallest being in the middle.
Bishop Chad moved his diocese here during the 7th century, and founded a church. He made many converts. Upon his death in 700 CE, his body was laid to rest in the original church.
After the Norman conquest, a the present cathedral was built. This took place over a period from the 11th to the 14th centuries. During the bloody English Civil War of the 17th century, the cathedral sustained serious damage, but was restored. Since then, its greatest enemy has been industrial pollution, especially from nearby Birmingham. So the facade has been permanently darkened.
Staffordshire University is one of the good universities in midlands. It is situated on three main campuses, Stoke, Stafford and Lichfield. It has over 12000 full-time students.
It has few affilated colleges in the area as well.
Dr Samuel Johnson
In the Market Square we have another statue of Dr Samuel Johnson, the essayist, letter writer, and dictionary compiler, facing the building on the right above which is his birthplace.