06 December 2017

Two surviving timber-framed
buildings on Bore Street are
part of Lichfield’s heritage

Lichfield House or the Tudor café on Bore Street … one of the timber framed buildings on Bore Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The timber-framed houses in Vicars’ Close and the Cathedral Close in Lichfield are one of the hidden gems in the cathedral city, often unnoticed by tourists, and sometimes even unknown to people who have lived in Lichfield for decades.

But Lichfield has about 50 other houses that are still standing and that still have part of their timber-framed structure. Generally, these are two-storey buildings or of two storey buildings with attics.

Many of the street fronts in the centre of Lichfield, such as those in Market Street, Bore Street, Lombard Street and Greenhill, are jettied at each floor, and the roof lines are of continuous gables with ridges at the same level as that of the main roof.

Most of the box-framed buildings probably date from the late 16th and early 17th century. The few houses with close studding, such as those in Vicars’ Close and 11 Lombard Street, or with cruck framing, such as 11 Greenhill, may be earlier than most of the box-framed buildings.

In the past, there were two main types of timber buildings in England – the box frame construction, and cruck buildings.

Box frame was a construction of mainly pre-fabricated sections that were made up, and then erected on the site to form the shell of the building, with the roof supported on beams carried on to the top plates – or wall plates on the upper frames, thus transmitting the roof load down to the ground through the framework below.

Cruck buildings were mainly made up in-situ. The roof load was carried directly from the apex to the ground via pairs of arching beams such as those at the exposed end of the Cruck House. This building is what is known as jointed cruck, since the main beams are jointed instead of being in one piece.

The distribution of timber-framed buildings suggests that timber remained the usual walling material in Lichfield until the late 17th century, when it was displaced by brick.

In many of the surviving houses in Lichfield, the gables either rise from just above the jetty, as at 11 and 13 Market Street, or the gables rest on a section of wall, as at 16 Market Street. Where the framing is exposed, the gables are usually the area of most elaborate decoration, in square panels with shaped braces.

Several of these houses have herring-bone studding to the first floor, including Lichfield House, or the Tudor Café, and the building long known as Five Gables, both on Bore Street. The original framing on the ground floor has not survived in many of these houses, and where it has it is not decorated.

The fittings on the door at the Tudor Café (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

During my latest visit to Lichfield within the past fortnight, as I walked along Bore Street on a clear winter’s night, both the Tudor Café and Five Gables looked resplendent in the glow of the evening lights.

The Tudor of Lichfield at Lichfield House, 32 Bore Street – a ‘tea house with a history’ – is one of the places to which I enjoy bringing new visitors.

But, although Lichfield House is dated 1510, the year after Henry VIII succeeded as king, it probably dates from the late 16th century, with 18th century alterations and a 20th century connecting block.

It is a timber-framed building with a brick rear range and wing. The tile roofs have enriched cresting and brick stacks. It is a three-storey, three-window range with and three gables, and it is jettied at the first and second floors. There is a bracketed upper jetty and enriched finials and end pendants to the gables.

The entrance is to the left of the centre and has moulded posts to the jetty and a small-paned and fielded-panel half-glazed door. The passageway to Tudor Row is at the left end.

The ground floor has two canted oriels; the oriel on the left has a four-pane sash, while the oriel to the right has 1:4:1 fixed lights with leaded glazing above the transom. The window to the right of the entrance has plate glass and leaded glazing above the transom.

The first floor has three-light transomed windows with upper leaded glazing. The second floor has two-light casements with moulded frames. There is a large brick stack.

The timber-framing has close studding on the ground floor, herring-bone bracing on the first floor and curved cusped braces below the second floor windows and at the gables.

The rear of the house has brick platt bands and modillioned brick cornices, segmental-headed windows, some with pegged cross-casements.

The rear wing, attached by a 20th century block, has a brick cornice and varied casement windows.

Inside, the house has chamfered beams and joists. The ground floor has 17th century and early 18th century panelling, the open-well stair has turned balusters, square newels and a moulded handrail, and two lions to the landing. The rear wing has chamfered beams and joists.

When the old glass houses were demolished, nine shops were built in 1980 as Tudor Row on the lines of the Shambles of York or the Lanes of Brighton. Later, the old coach house was developed into two further shops.

This black-and-white, timber-framed building served as a prison during the English Civil War in the 1650s. It has been a family business since 1935, when the founders Wilfred and Evelyn Burns-Mace opened it as a tea shop.

Today, as the Tudor, Lichfield House continues to offer morning coffees, lunches and afternoon teas, along with a range of specialty dairy ice creams.

Some of the timber-framing features survive on the Five Gables on Bore Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Further east along Bore Street, past Donegal House and the Guildhall, the Five Gables is a collection of late Tudor or early Jacobean houses, and now houses shops and a restaurant. It was built in late 16th century the early 17th century as a herringbone, timber-framed residence, with herringbone timber-framing, and Jacobean relief decoration to the wall post to the right of the central gable.

This row of timber-framed buildings once included Hindley’s café and shop in Bore Street. Sadly, much of this old building was destroyed in extensive restorations and alterations the 1960s, when the bottom floor was cut away to form an arcaded walkway. Only the gables survive, now stuck to the front of a modern building, and the rear of the building has extensive 20th century additions.

This is a timber-frame, two-storey building with a five-cross gable range with concrete and brick additions, and a renewed tile roof with five cross gables. The 20th century shop windows are recessed behind 20th concrete posts and beams. The windows on the first floor have three-light leaded casements.

Cruck House … a rescued and restored mediaeval house in Stowe Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

In the mid-1950s, many of the old timber-framed buildings were pulled down along Stowe Street, which is a continuation of Lombard Street and close to south side of Stowe Pool. But Cruck House is a restored Grade II* timber-framed mediaeval cottage at 71 Stowe Street, and an impressive sight on Stowe Street in the midst of modern residential and commercial buildings.

This jointed cruck and part-box-framed house fell into disrepair before it was rescued from demolition in 1971. It was discovered during the redevelopment of Stowe Street and was restored to its original state.

There were other examples of cruck-style buildings in Lichfield in the past. For example, when an old pub was being demolished on the corner of Frog Lane and Saint John Street, cruck beams were visible in the party wall between the old pub and the building immediately to the north of it. It was swiftly demolished and removed, although not before the pieces were photographed before they were removed.

Timber framing on houses in Vicars’ Close in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Saint Nicholas, a bishop
who gave freely out of the
treasures of God’s grace

Christmas or Chocolate? … is the real Santa Claus worth rescuing from the supermarket shelves? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick,

6 December, Lesser Festival, Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (White)

11 a.m.: Mid-Week Advent Eucharist.

Readings: Isaiah 61: 1-3; Psalm 68; I Timothy 6: 6-11; Mark 10: 13-16.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

I have decided to break up my sermons during Advent into three short parts, reflecting on the theme of the candles on the Advent Wreath; reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day; and reflecting on the true significance of the real Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, as we prepare for Christmas.

So, this morning, I am not going to repeat anything I said last Sunday about Saint Nicholas, or read over my column in diocesan magazines; nor am I going to steal my thunder when it comes to my reflections on him over the remaining Sundays in Advent.

But I should point out that Saint Nicholas is celebrated today, 6 December, and not on Christmas Eve, and not on Christmas Day either.

Nor is he celebrated or commemorated in the calendar of the Church of Ireland, which is surprising considering he was such a popular saint in mediaeval Ireland.

So, the liturgical provisions we are using this morning – the readings, collect, post-communion prayer and so on – come from the Church of England’s Common Worship and a companion volume, Exciting Holiness.

In Exciting Holiness, it is recalled that Saint Nicholas was a 4th century Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, now southern Turkey. His reputation as a worker of wonders was enhanced by a 9th century author of his hagiography or his biography as a saint, and it is through these stories that he became best known.

Many of these stories concern his love and care for children, how he fed the hungry, healed the sick and cared for the oppressed. He saved three girls from a life of prostitution by providing them with dowries – and so developed the tradition of bearing gifts to children on his feast day, a practice that we have since moved to the Christmas celebrations.

But, why should a bishop who makes free giving to children a priority in his ministry be worth rescuing from Coca Cola, marketing and merchandising?

Because, as Christ tells us in our Gospel reading this morning, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’

Because Christ first himself comes to us as a little child with nothing at all, and yet is the most precious gift of all, given freely.

And so, let us continue in our childish efforts to rescue Saint Nicholas, the real Santa Claus, for the Church.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.


Almighty Father, lover of souls,
who chose your servant Nicholas
to be a bishop in the Church,
that he might give freely out of the treasures of your grace:
make us mindful of the needs of others
and, as we have received, so teach us also to give;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

God, shepherd of your people,
whose servant Nicholas revealed the loving service of Christ
in his ministry as a pastor of your people:
by this Eucharist in which we share
awaken within us the love of Christ
and keep us faithful to our Christian calling;
through him who laid down his life for us,
but is alive and reigns with you,
now and for ever.

This reflection was prepared for the mid-week Advent Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, on 6 December 2017.

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(4): 6 December 2017

USPG asks us to pray for the people living with HIV in Tanzania

Patrick Comerford

Advent began on Sunday and today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra in Patristic times who has been transformed into Santa Claus. Later this morning, I am celebrating a mid-week Eucharist for Advent in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

Throughout the season of Advent this year, I am spending a short time of Prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

Introducing this week’s prayers, the Prayer Diary says: ‘Throughout Advent, as we remember the Nativity, we’re looking at how the world is reaching out to mothers and babies.’

This week, the diary follows the theme of the story told yesterday from the USPG-supported PMTCT (Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission) HIV programme run by the Church of Tanzania.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Wednesday 6 December 2017:

Give thanks for the health workers of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, which has 37 health facilities countrywide, providing over 30 per cent of the health services in some remote areas.

Santa in the front window of a cafe in Bird Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today’s suggested reading is Matthew 18: 12-14.

The reflection for today suggests:

Give thanks that God is merciful and generous. Like St Nicholas of old, make a donation to a cause supporting the desperately poor.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 25: 6-10a; Psalm 23; and Matthew 15: 29-37.

Collect, Saint Nicholas (Common Worship):

Almighty Father, lover of souls,
who chose your servant Nicholas
to be a bishop in the Church,
that he might give freely out of the treasures of your grace:
make us mindful of the needs of others
and, as we have received, so teach us also to give;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.