Go round the back of St Mary's church and you will see the excavated site of the earliest stone structure on this site. The stones are not in their original postions: they were laid out to mark the outline of the chapel.
Bertelin is supposed to have founded Stafford in the 700s. He was an Anglo-Saxon prince and hermit, and chose the site for his hermitage. Later he was sainted, and the chapel was dedicated to him.
The site was excavated in 1954. The wooden 'cross' which lay within ..thought to be St Bertelin's 'preaching cross'(a replica can be seen on top of the grass) ....is now thought not to be the remains of a cross at all, but a huge wooden coffin
The Colegiate Chruch of St Mary (sorry, I don't understand the complexities of the Church of England and cannot tell you why it is 'collegiate') is in the centre of the town, set within what I think was once a 'close': buildings which were, in the main, owned by the church and used for church personnel.
The 'close' is now mostly gone, and the numerous ancient gravestones and tombs which once filled the churchyard have been laid flat or moved to its sides. This provides a pleasant, grassy space for sitting and enjoying the sunshine (albeit in the presence of many hundreds of past souls).
St Mary's is a large church, built in the 1200s on the site of the very early chapel of St Bertelin (a Mercian prince of the 700s who is thought to have founded Stafford). You can see the remains of this chapel at the rear of the church (see tip below).
The octagonal tower was once topped by a spire which was said to have been the highest in England. But it blew down in 1593 and was never replaced. Do look up though: there are some rather good gargoyles near the roofline.
I couldn't go inside to explore. When I peeked through the door the church was absolutely packed with people and a service was in progress. It seems the church became so dilapidated in the late 1700s that it had to be closed and, although restorations works were carried out, it was again dilapidated by the mid-1800s. Further restoration then took place..so it may be that there is little to see of the original interior decoration. Or it may well be worth a visit.
I don't know. You'll have to visit yourself to decide (unless I make another trip to Stafford)!
The church is usually open 1100-1400 Monday to Saturday.
The remains of the town mill (for grain) lie near the river Sow (obviously, because Stafford's town mill was a watermill).
There has almost certainly been a mill on the site since 1086. The last mill finally stopped working in 1957, and the remains you see now are the remains of that mill.
The river is no longer diverted underneath the two waterwheels, so you can explore without getting your feet wet!
I was hugely frustrated by St Chad's not being open when I wanted to visit.
But is a church and, sadly, English churches are not open all the time.
This is a truly ancient structure, dating back to the 1200s. Inside there are numerous ancient carvings...column capitals in particular..and, of course, the pre-Christian 'Green Man' makes more than one appearance. The church website (below) has some good information pages.
I was limited to what I could see from the outside. There are some wonderful carvings in the archway of the main door: weird half-face, half-heraldic design.
Even if the church is closed it is worth seeking it out for the exterior carvings. But, if you are luckier than me, it will be open when you visit Stafford.
This rather wonderful (and huge!) timber-framed building lies on Greengate Street. It is the largest such building still standing in England.
The house dates from 1594 and was originally built for the Durrington family.
It now houses a museum, which has rooms furnished and decorated as they would have been at various times during the house's lifetime and a display (very interesting) about how the house was built and the materials used.
The museum is free to enter (apart from special events) which is excellent. It also has a rather good shop.
Open from Tuesday to Saturday, 1000-1600.
Victoria Park lies opposite Stafford railway station, just on the outskirts of the town centre. It was laid out in 1908.
It is a really lovely classic-English town park, and clearly very well-maintained.
The river Sow runs through it (there's a pretty white bridge erected in 1911 to commemorate the accession of George V) and a 'riverside walk' has been laid out.
There are flowerbeds for annual plantings, specimen trees and manicured lawns (including a bowling green). There's a bandstand too, and shelters to sit in..one dates from 1905, presented by the mayor at the time, and others are thatched.
Over the road (you can walk underneath the road on the 'riverside walk') is a large children's playground. And in the part opposite the station is..oddly..quite a large aviary, with pheasant and parrots, budgies, cockatoos and other birds.
This is a beautiful park and a real asset to the town. It made a super 'entrance' to Stafford on my arrival by train.
Built in 1596 by John Dorrington, Stafford's ancient high house is the largest remaining timber framed building in England and is well worth a visit.
The building houses an extensive collection of furnishings, retaining many of its original architectural features. Inside you can visit the Civil War Room, the Stuart Bedroom and the Wallpaper Room, amongst others. In the Stuart Bedroom, you will find the largest area of original flooring in the building; it is well worth viewing and creaks beautifully.
Entrance is free (excepting for some events). Donations are requested.
I visited on a Saturday during a local family history event. Whilst the event was very well attended with lots of stalls from local history societies, it made it almost impossible to appreciate the house itself. I had entered the previous Friday afternoon for a quick look and had appreciated the building more during that time.
The ancient high house museum and shop is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00am to 4:00pm.
Located on the attic floor of the Stafford Ancient High House, this small independent museum has displays of weapons, uniforms, coins, medals and general wartime paraphernalia.
The collection covers the history of the Staffordshire Yeomanry Cavalry Regiment from its foundation in 1794 to 1945. Walk from room to room and see displays that include the Regiment's efforts during the Boer War, Great War and World War II.
Admission is free with donations requested to support the museum.
The Ancient High House is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00am to 4:00pm.
I saw no assistance for less able-bodied persons to visit this museum.
St Mary's, formerly a royal free chapel and collegiate, with a dean and twelve canons, is a large, cruciform building of stone. It has a beautiful collection of stained glass windows from various ages.
The church, like so many in England, was built and added to over a number of centuries from 12th to 16th centuries.
Within the church there is a beautiful and extensive collection of kneelers - some reflecting local groups, military regiments and charitable organisations.
Victoria Park was originally laid out in 1908 and will celebrate its centenary in 2008. Approximately four acres of marshy land was bought and improved to create the original park which was named Victoria Pleasure Grounds. The design included the River Sow and many of the original paths and flower beds are still evident.
The park includes a bowling green, bandstand and casual areas. The Coronation Bridge was built to link the two parts of the park and in the 1930's more land was included to make room for tennis courts and a children's paddling pool.
Victoria Park is a great place to sit and watch the world go by - or enjoy a picnic lunch!
A beautiful little church, fronted by gardens, just of the modern high street. It dates back to the 12th century, based on an earlier Norman church. Visible to the front in the churchyard, are the remains of St Bertelin's chapel from the eighth century. So a sacred site for a very long time.
Not to be confused with the other St Mary's, which is the Castle church.
More text planned to follow.
Perhaps the most remarkable chapter in their history was World War 2. They were involved in two major actions: the North Africa Campaign, where the landed in Palestine and pushed all the way through to the final victory in Tunisia. This must have been an extraordinary trek, in often extreme conditions.
By the second action, they were folded into the Royal Armoured Corps, and after horses and camels; they now had a new means of transport for the push into Germany: swimming tanks. How do you get battle tanks across rivers when the bridges have been blown up, and you cannot make a pontoon and have no boats? That's right, you sail them. But...tanks are much too heavy to float? Not if you have a giant canvas structure round the outside which you fill with air, they're not. Although they do look like a giant bathtub on tracks.
Stafford Castle, as is, is a bit of an oddity. It was formerly the largest motte and bailey castle in England, but what is now left are much of the groundworks, and a crumbling reconstruction of a reconstruction. I had expected something a bit more substantial: a lot of imagination is needed (more than I have, actually) to imagine it in its heyday.
More info to follow when I have checked I am not spouting rubbish (historically speaking, that is).
This pub is one of the more striking features in the centre and dates back to the seventeenth century. It was built on the site of The Old Black Bear Inn on Greengate St and was a coaching inn. I wonder if anyone then was grumbling about the unsightly redevelopment of the main streets? In the eighteenth century it turned, puzzlingly, into the White Bear. The bear itself is a carving, related to the crest of the Beresford family. It used to be rampant, but apparently is safer from high winds on all fours.
The establishment next door was formerly the Jolly Bacchus public house: a fantastic name, but unfortunately no more.
What particularly drew my attention was all the spikes on the outside: I first noticed them on the bear, then saw they were all over the outside; on all the window ledges; even the tv aerial. And then I saw the chicken wire on the front. I was wondering what kind of debauched hellhole Stafford was, that a pub need such protection. I suspect, however, the truth is more prosiac: they are, I think, anti-pigeon spikes, to stop the feathered fiends from landing, nesting, and indeed, crapping everywhere. There must have been an awful lots of pigeons once.
I didn't go in for a drink. If had known it was quite so historic, I would have had a swift half, but it appeared to be a semi-modernised identi-beers establishment.
Historical info cribbed from Staffordshire Past Track which also has a couple of old pics from the 50s/60s of it, the sign showing Bank's brewery of Wolverhampton.
WIthout doubt, the loveliest part of Stafford that I saw. Not that there was a lot of competition. These gardens are an oasis, set between the town centre and the railway station: with riverside walks, fine trees, lovely floral displays, crown green bowling, pavilions, an aviary, and a small but enthusiastically stocked hothouse. All the more surprising, then, that the burghers of Stafford haven't covered it with offices or turned it into a car park.
Given that I had a somewhat vexed time in Stafford, I was very glad of somewhere with a bit of peace and harmony.