Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Two houses on Bird Street
are reminders of elegant
Georgian living in Lichfield

Moat House and Langton House are a Georgian pair at the north end of Bird Street, Lichfield ... their names recall the story of the moat around the Cathedral Close (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Two Georgian houses at the north end of Bird Street, Lichfield, between the Garden of Remembrance and the entrance to the Cathedral Close, are reminders in their names alone of the moat that protected the cathedral in the Middle Ages and the bishops who constructed and maintained it.

The Cathedral Close in Lichfield is almost an island onto itself, covering 16 acres and surrounded by a ditch on three sides and Minister Pool on the south side.

According to a 14th century Lichfield chronicler, Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Lichfield (1129-1148), surrounded the Cathedral Close in the early 12th century with a ditch and he fortified the castle or castrum of Lichfield. His work may have included building a wall and gates, strengthening the Cathedral Close.

About a century later, a later episcopal successor, Walter Langton, Bishop of Lichfield (1296-1321), built a new palace in the north-east corner of the Cathedral Close, and he converted a canonical house in the north-west corner into a common residence for the vicars choral.

However, there is no evidence that the ditch around the Close was ever filled with water, and it was dry at the end of the 16th century.

The names of both the Moat House and Langton House, a pair of semi-detached houses on the east side at the north end of Bird Street, recall the work of these two bishops.

Moat House was built on Bird Street in the mid-18th century, probably around 1750, by Thomas Ames, a Lichfield-based builder, in the south-west part of the Close ditch.

Moat House is a Grade II listed building, along with the attached wall to the left and an outbuilding to the rear.

The house is built in the Georgian style in brick with, ashlar dressings, a hipped tile roof and brick stacks. It has a double-depth plan, two storeys with an attic, a four-window range, and a top cornice.

The segmental-headed entrance to the left of centre has a doorcase with an architrave and consoled pediment, with an enriched radial-bar fanlight over a six-panel door.

The windows have sills and rubbed brick flat arches with keys over 12-pane sashes, and there are hipped dormers with casements. The left return has two brick platt bands. There is a 20th century wing to the left of the segmental-headed window with a pegged cross-casement that has leaded glazing.

The rear of Moat House has two coped gables and an attached small gabled outbuilding to the right. There are varied window arrangements, including a 19th century canted bay window.

It is worth looking for the two 18th century rainwater heads with downspouts., and for the stone-coped wall to the left with its a segmental-headed entrance with a plank door.

In the early 19th century, this house was home to Henry Chinn, a lawyer who founded a long-lived legal practice in Lichfield. Henry Chinn was articled as a clerk to William Jackson, a proctor, in 1798. Later that year, he transferred to George Hand of Beacon Place. Hand died childless in 1806, and Chinn continued the practice, admitting his son Thomas in 1816.

The Chinns used Langton House, the house next door to Moat House in Beacon Street, as their offices. The practice survived in the family until the death of Alan Chinn in 1919.

Today, Moat House is divided into offices that are inter-connected with Langton House, on the south side. Like Moatd House, Langton House was built in the mid-18th century, probably around 1775, and is also a Grade II building. It was built in the Georgian style as a three-storey house, with a double-depth plan, a four-window range and a top cornice. It is built in brick with ashlar dressings, and it has a hipped tile roof with brick stacks.

There is a segmental-headed entrance to the right of the centre that has a doorcase with an architrave and a consoled pediment, and a radial-bar fanlight over paired three-panel doors. The windows have sills and rubbed brick flat arches over 12-pane sashes, and six-pane sashes on the second floor.

The three-window right return has similar windows over a single-storey wing, with a 12-pane sash window and a plastered return with an end stack. At the rear of the house there is an interesting round-headed stair window.

Although these neighbouring houses now form one block of inter-connected offices, they are a reminder of the once elegant Georgian townhouses that were built as family homes in Lichfield in the 18th century.

The single-storey wing on the south side of Langton House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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