Monday, 30 April 2018

We are counted in when
others would count us out

Saint Philip (left) in a stained glass window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Monday, 30 April 2018,

Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway.

3.30 p.m.:
The Eucharist,

Readings: Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 22: 25-31; I John 4: 7-21; John 15: 1-8.

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

We have come to the end of our road trip as priests and readers in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, visiting the three working, functioning, cathedrals in the diocese.

It has been a long road trip, we have learned a lot on the journey, and now it seems appropriate to celebrate the Eucharist together at the end of our journey together.

The readings we have shared are those for yesterday [29 April 2018], the Fifth Sunday of Easter, and in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8: 26-40) we are reminded of two other great Biblical journeys:

The journey the unnamed Ethiopian eunuch is making from Jerusalem back through Gaza and Egypt to his home in Ethiopia; and the journey the Apostle Philip (tomorrow is the feast of Saint Philip and Saint James) is told to make from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is out of his way, quite a diversion on the road to Caesarea.

If you have used your ‘sat navs’ to get to Limerick, then to Killaloe, and finally here to Clonfert, you have probably been told a few times that your ‘sat nav’ needs to ‘recalculate’ or ‘recalibrate.’ Image how confused ‘sat navs’ would have been trying to make sense of the journeys these two men were making!

If there is a lesson in this reading that has meaning this afternoon, it is not to travel like either of these two men. Nor is it to drive like the Ethiopian, reading and leaving the work to some modern-day horses, automatic drivers, without keeping our eyes on the road (see verse 28).

But the Ethiopian is an important figure in the New Testament story of the mission of the Apostolic Church.

There is no reason to assume that he was a Gentile. He may well have been a Jew. There was a group of black Ethiopian Jews, the Falasha or Beta Israel, who migrated en masse to Israel from 1979 on.

But he could not worship fully in Jerusalem, despite his best intentions (see verse 27), because he was eunuch. He could never have been what some people describe as a ‘muscular Christian.’

In addition, he may have been discriminated against because he was black and because he was a court official – in an occupied country, the people could see any foreign courtier as a collaborator with the occupying power.

We are not told what happened to the Ethiopian court official afterwards. We are not even told his name.

What is important is not his present, nor his past. What is important is what happens now: he is baptised, he is grafted onto the vine that is Christ, he is counted in.

We matter to Christ not because of who we are or how others see us, but because we abide in Christ and because he abides in us.

Christ is Risen!

John 15: 1-8

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter V):

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
in word and sacrament
we proclaim your truth in Jesus Christ and share his life.
In his strength may we ever walk in his way,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Hymns:

This reflection was prepared for Monday 30 April 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Ascension-tide and
May in the Rathkeale
Group of Parishes

The Ascension ... a modern icon by Aidan Hart

The Easter Season, with its celebrations and liturgical greetings, continues until the Day of Pentecost, Whit Sunday (20 May). Throughout May, there is a number of special celebrations: Rogation Sunday (6 May), Ascension Day (10 May), the Day of Pentecost or Whit Sunday (20 May) and Trinity Sunday (27 May).

Sunday 6 May (Easter 6, Rogation Sunday):

9.30, the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton;

11.30, Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert.

Readings: Acts 10: 44-48; Psalm 98; I John 5: 1-6; John 15: 9-17.

Hymns: 299, 39, 231.

Thursday 10 May (Ascension Day):

General Synod of the Church of Ireland is meeting in Armagh from 10 to 12 May; there will be no Ascension Day celebration in this group of parishes this week.

Sunday 13 May (Easter 7):

9.30, the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church;

11.30, Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: Acts 1: 15-17; 21-26; Psalm 1; I John 5: 9-13; John 17: 6-19.

Hymns: 461, 518, 438 (Castletown), 527 (Rathkeale).

Sunday 20 May (The Day of Pentecost, Whit Sunday):

9.30, the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton;

11.30, the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert.

Readings: Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; Romans 8: 22-27; John 15: 26-27; 16: 4b-15.

Hymns: 386, 294, 293.

Sunday 27 May (Trinity Sunday):

9.30, the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church;

11.30, the Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: Isaiah 6: 1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8: 12-17; John 3: 1-17.

Hymns: 321, 323, 468.

The Ascension depicted in frescoes in the dome inside the Daniel Pantanassa Church in the Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday, 29 April 2018

‘I am the true vine …
Abide in me as I abide in you’

The True Vine ... an icon in the parish church in Piskopianó in the mountains east of Iraklion in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 29 April 2018,

The Fifth Sunday of Easter.

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

11 a.m.:
Group Parish Eucharist,

Readings: Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 22: 25-31; I John 4: 7-21; John 15: 1-8.

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower’ (John 15: 1) ... a small vineyard in Platanes, near Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

I have here two bunches of grace.

Now, who is going to offer each person here one grape each?

[Children distribute one grape each to everyone.]

Now, one grape in your hand looks fine, but the stem of the vine that is left looks dishevelled and grotty – a sign of things once promised, but no good on its own.

Grapes on their own as individuals are small fruit. A vine on its own without a weed looks forlorn and wilting, if not dead.

A few years ago, a friend in Greece was very excited when he realised we were returning to his village in Crete that summer for our holidays.

He rang us with gushing enthusiasm and delight. We must come and see what he had done with the ‘graveyard’ in his village, Piskopianó.

‘The graveyard?’

Now, I am interested in visiting churches and churchyards, and graveyards and gravestones provide rich material for social, local and family history.

But a graveyard is not the first place you think your friends want you to visit on a holiday in the Mediterranean.

So, I asked again: ‘The graveyard?’

‘Yes, you’re going to be delighted to see how the vines are growing with new life. You remember how I trimmed back the vines and the branches and how I built new trellises. Now there is a rich crop in the grapeyard this year.’

The grapeyard! Of course. Now it makes sense.

I had shown an interest in his grapes, his vineyard … and a healthy interest in wine.

Now a new lesson awaited me on how to grow grapes, how to trim the vines, and how vines, like people, only make sense in clusters.

The grapes on the bunch, and the clusters on the vine, produce better fruit and better wine when they are together, working together, abiding in and with each other.

‘Fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink’ … grapes ripening on a vine in Platanes, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the Gospel story this morning, Christ talks about himself as the true vine, and he invites us to abide in him as he abides in us. The Prayer of Humble Access prays ‘that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.’

In our Gospel reading this morning (John 15: 1-8), he tells us: ‘I am the true vine.’

This is the seventh and last of the seven ‘I AM’ (ἐγώ εἰμι, ego eimi) sayings in Saint John’s Gospel. They begin with ‘I am the bread of life’ (John 6: 35) and end with ‘I am the true vine’ (John 15: 1). It is as though our experience of meeting Christ together in the Eucharist, in sharing the bread and wine together, collectively, encloses our experiences of Christ as the light of the world (John 8:12), the gate for the sheep (John 10: 7), the good shepherd (John 10: 11), the resurrection and the life (John 11: 25), and the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14: 6).

Poetically, the bread and the vine open and close these seven ‘I AM’ sayings.

At the celebration of the Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and I noticed again at a mid-week celebration of the in some of the Eucharistic in the Lichfield Cathedral, how traditional Jewish table-blessings, drawn in turn from the Bible, are adapted at the Taking of the Bread and Wine:

Priest: Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this bread to offer,
which earth has given and human hands have made (Ecclesiastes 3: 13-14).
It will become for us the bread of life (John 6: 35).
All: Blessed be God forever (Psalm 68: 36).

Priest: Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
It will become our spiritual drink (Luke 22: 17-18).

All: Blessed be God forever (Psalm 68: 36).

[See also Common Worship (Church of England), p 291.]

Our openness to Christ present in the bread and the wine of the Eucharist is at the beginning and the end of our acceptance of who Christ is for us.

The image in our reading this morning is of God the vine grower and the gardener. Christ is the vine and we are branches bearing fruit.

The vine is trimmed so that it can grow new fruit. But this is not the heart of the teaching here. Instead, the image offered here is one of abiding and remaining. The image of vine grower, the vineyard, the vine and the branches is one about the living Word existing as the life blood of those who belong to Christ.

The Johannine scholar Raymond Brown says this passage is about the disciples remaining in Christ. Many people in the Church talk about following Jesus and leading a virtuous life. But here, the image of abiding is about being, not about becoming. If we are abiding in Christ, then God is central, not the desires of our egos.

The Prayer of Humble Access prays ‘that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us’

And so, when we are invited to the Holy Table, to the Holy Communion, the Eucharist, it is not because we lead a virtuous life, and we should not be afraid to come to the Eucharist, fretting that others think we live lives that are not virtuous.

Instead, the words of the Prayer of Humble Access remind us:

We do not presume to come to this your table,
merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness
but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you are the same Lord,
whose nature is always to have mercy.
Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ,
and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body,
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us. Amen.

Christ is Risen!

‘I am the vine, you are the branches’ … late autumn grapes and branches clinging to vines in November at the Hedgehog on the northern edge of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 1-8

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’

‘I am the true vine, and my father is the vine-grower (John 15: 1) ... vineyards on the slopes of the hills in Tuscany (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter V):

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
in word and sacrament
we proclaim your truth in Jesus Christ and share his life.
In his strength may we ever walk in his way,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Hymns:

39, For the fruits of his creation

634, Love divine, all loves excelling

468, How shall I sing that majesty

A Mediterranean village vineyard … grapes ripening in Tsesmes, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This sermon was prepared for Sunday 29 April 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Corn Exchange remains a
landmark building in Lichfield

The Corn Exchange, on the corner of Conduit Street and Bore Street, is one of the landmark buildings in the centre of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

The Corn Exchange on the corner of Conduit Street and Bore Street, which is one of the landmark buildings in the centre of Lichfield, was first built as market hall and savings bank, and now accommodates shops, a restaurant and office.

It was built as the Lichfield Corn Exchange and a combined Market Hall in 1849-1850. It was designed in the Tudor Gothic style by the Lichfield architect Thomas Johnson and Son of Saint John Street.

Thomas Johnson trained as a pupil of the Lichfield architect Joseph Potter (1756–1842), who had a large practice in Staffordshire and the neighbouring counties in the late 18th and early 19th century. Potter lived in Pipehill, south-west of Lichfield, but had his office in Saint John Street. Apart from restorations to Lichfield Cathedral, his work includes Newton’s College (1800-1802), the Causeway Bridge, Bird Street (1816), Freeford Hall, which he enlarged for William Dyott (1826-1827), and Holy Cross Church, Upper John Street (1835).

By 1814, the Potter practice was run from a house on the north side of Saint John’s Hospital. Later it was continued by his son, Joseph Potter, who designed the Guildhall (1846-1848) and who died in 1875.

Meanwhile, Thomas Johnson went on to work as a junior partner with the prolific Staffordshire architect James Trubshaw (1777-1853) of Little Haywood, near Colwich. Soon, Johnson married Trubshaw’s eldest daughter, Mary.

In 1828, Johnson and Potter worked on the nave of Saint Mary’s Church (Church of England) in Uttoxeter. But a year later, in 1829, Johnson set up his own practice as an architect in Tamworth Street, Lichfield, and he continued to design churches, including the very large Saint James’s in Longton (1832-1834). By 1834, he was living in the house that later became Davidson House in Upper Saint John Street.

Around this time, Johnson fell under the influence of the Cambridge Camden Society, which was strongly influenced by AWN Pugin. The early members included Canon James Law, a prebendary and chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral and a former Master of Saint John’s Hospital (1821-1826).

Both Law and Johnson were founding members of the Lichfield Society for the Encouragement of Ecclesiastical Architecture in 1841, and both were active committee members. Canon William Gresley (1801-1876) of Saint Mary’s, a leading Tractarian and former curate of Saint Chad’s, was the first chairman, and the committee met in Canon Law’s house in Market Street. Other committee members included the antiquarian and lawyer, William Salt of Stafford, and the Revd Richard Rawle of Cheadle.

In 1841, Thomas Johnson also began working on the restoration of Saint Chad’s Church, Lichfield, and he did further work there in 1848-1849.

In 1842-1843, he worked with the London-born architect Sydney Smirke – who also designed the Hinkley family home at Beacon Place – in the controversial restoration of Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield. During that work, the original memorial stone commissioned by Samuel Johnson for his family was removed as Saint Michael’s was repaved, and much of the mediaeval fabric of the church was lost. But Johnson’s restoration work is a remarkable example of the strong influence of Pugin’s ideas on his work, and the historian of Staffordshire Gothic architecture, the Revd Michael J Fisher, says it is a surprisingly good example of Gothic for its time.

In 1846, Johnson completed his rebuilding of All Saints’ Church, Leigh, two miles off the A522 between Cheadle and Uttoxeter. Michael J Fisher, in his Staffordshire and the Gothic Revival describes this as ‘one of the most remarkable of Staffordshire’s Victorian churches’ and he laments that the importance of this church has not been fully recognised. This work was funded mainly by Richard Bagot of Blithfield, Bishop of Oxford and later Bishop of Bath and Wells, and a former rector of All Saints’. The bishop’s son, the Revd Lewis Bagot family, was the incumbent at the time of Johnson’s rebuilding, while the bishop’s nephew, the Revd Hervey Bagot, was Rector of Blithfield and an active member of the Lichfield Society with Johnson. The chancel furnishings and floor tiles at Leigh have been attributed to Pugin and were donated by Herbert Minton, who also donated the reredos.

Johnson was also the architect of Christ Church, Lichfield, which was built in 1846-1847 on Christchurch Lane, just off Walsall Road. The church was designed in the Victorian Gothic Revival style and was built of sandstone quarried in Lichfield. It was consecrated on 26 October 1847 by the Bishop of Lichfield, John Lonsdale.

Johnson’s other works in Lichfield include a wing, school room and front wall built ca 1849 at the former Lichfield Grammar School on Saint John Street.

At the same time, he designed the railway bridge crossing Upper Saint John Street which leads trains to and from Lichfield City Station, and which I described in the Lichfield Gazette in 2013. The bridge, close to Davidson House, was built in 1849 for the South Staffordshire Railway Company. In his design, Johnson tried to evoke a city gate, with battlements, heraldic decoration, and side towers containing multi-arched pedestrian ways. Bishop Lonsdale, who consecrated Christ Church a few years earlier, and the Bagot family are among the Lichfield notables he singled out for commemoration in the heraldic images on the bridge next to his home in Upper John Street.

When Thomas Johnson died in 1853, he was succeeded by his son, also Thomas Johnson, who died in 1865, and the work of the two sons is sometimes confused.

Before Johnson built the combined Corn Exchange and Market Hall in the mid-19th century, a number of businesses with houses stood on the site, as well as a market for the poor.

In the late Middle Ages, the Market Cross of Lichfield stood to the north of Saint Mary’s Church. In 1522-1533, the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, James Denton, surrounded the Market Cross with eight arches and roofed it, making a structure ‘for poor market folks to stand dry in.’ This building was topped with eight statues of apostles, two brass crucifixes on the east and west sides, and a bell.

During the Civil War, Dean Denton’s market arcade was destroyed by the Parliamentarians in 1643. A new market house was built in the 1650s, and part of the cost was met with £41 10s ‘British money’ that had been collected in Lichfield in the mid-1640s.

This money was intended for the relief of the army in Ireland, but it was held onto by the collectors, and in 1652 they gave it to Lichfield Corporation towards building a market house. The building evidently consisted of an upper storey on an open arcade. In 1668, the trustees of the Conduit Lands paid for repairs to it, including repairs to 15 piers and four windows. In 1701, the corporation leased rooms ‘over the Market Cross.’

The building also had a market bell. A renewal of the lease in 1716 reserved to the corporation the right to ring the bell.

The market house was rebuilt at the trustees' expense in the early 1730s. The new building was single-storey with two arched openings on each of its four sides. The corporation provided a market bell in 1756-1757.

This market house was pulled down in 1789, and in the early 1790s the Roundabout House to the east and the former fire engine house beside it were demolished too.

A subscription for a new market house opened in the mid-1790s, with the corporation contributing £10, the Marquess of Stafford contributed £50, and the Conduit Lands trustees gave £100.

The new building, completed in 1797, stood on the site of the Roundabout House and was designed apparently by an architect named Statham. This was a stone building with arched openings and was surmounted by a balustrade.

The Market Place was enlarged in 1835 with the demolition of a range of houses at the north-east corner. Lichfield Corporation paid £200 towards the cost, and the Conduit Lands trustees contributed £550.

However, a decision was taken in 1848 to build a combined market hall and corn exchange, and the market house was pulled down in 1849.

Thomas Johnson’s new Corn Exchange opened in 1850. It is built of brick with ashlar dressings and has a fish-scale tile roof with brick stacks.

This is a two-storey, seven-window range, with a recessed two-window range to the left. There is a seven-bay arcade with four-centre arches with keys. The first floor has a sill course. At the top, there is a stone-coped parapet with round projections – the left end has a shaped gable, the right end has an octagonal pavilion with a parapet with shaped gablets and round pinnacles and a pyramidal roof.

The arcade has a brick groin vault with transverse arches, inner four-centred arched openings with late 20th century shop fronts, and an entrance at the left end.

The first floor has double-chamfered-mullioned windows with leaded glazing, most of two lights though the window that to left end has three lights with a round-headed upper light, the second last window to the right has four lights with transom and two round-headed upper lights, and the octagon has windows of two round-headed lights to the angled faces.

There are square panels with raised black letters reading ‘The Corn Exchange.’

The recessed range has a window that was originally of three lights, and a mid-20th century shop front at the corner. The first floor has canted a oriel with 1:3:1 lights with round-headed lights, and a three-light window to the left, all ovolo-mullioned. This is dated 1849, and there is shaped gable and cross-axial stack.

The right return has similar details and a 20th century, single-storey addition. The lettering reads: ‘Market Hall.’

The left return has a shop front with an entrance to the left with a four-centred head with a cornice, overlight and glazed door. The first floor has a single light and a three-light window. Here the lettering reads ‘Savings Bank.’ There is a parapet and a 20th century dormer.

Inside the building, there are jack arches to the shops and a hammer-beam roof in the first floor hall.

The arcaded ground floor was a market hall, and the upper floor, with an octagonal north end, housed the corn exchange, and was also used as an assembly hall. A savings bank in the same style was built at the Bore Street end of the building. The market hall was let to the corporation and was used as a butter and poultry market. The doors and glazing were added around 1889.

The whole building was bought by Lichfield Corporation on 15 February 1902. The ground floor continued in use as a market hall, and the upper floor, after being occupied by the War Office from 1916, became the Lichfield City Institute in 1920.

In the mid-1970s, shops were built on the ground floor and the upper floor was converted into a restaurant. Today McKenzie’s is one of the best-known restaurants in Lichfield, and the Corn Exchange with its arcade remains one of the landmark buildings in Lichfield.

The arcade at the Conduit Street side of the Corn Exchange, has a brick groin vault with transverse arches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Bringing back rich pickings from
the bookshops in Lichfield

The fruits of browsing in the bookshops of Lichfield this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

When I was speaking at Lichfield Civic Society on Tuesday evening, I mentioned in an aside how missed the former Staffs Bookshop, which was my favourite second-hand bookshop in Lichfield until its demise a few years ago.

But before I left Lichfield, I spent time in the second-hand book sections in the Oxfam shop in Market Street, the antiquarian bookshelves in the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum on the corner of Market Street and Breadmarket Street, opposite the Market Square, and in the new and second-hand book sections in the Cathedral Shop in the Cathedral Close.

If there is a downside to travelling on Ryanair between Birmingham and Dublin, it is not being able to bring back as many books as my eyes covet in my cabin baggage. But some of the books I brought back this week include the Staffordshire volume of the Domesday Book series published by Phillimore in the 1970s, an eccentric but delectable book on architecture by John Betjeman, a collection of poems by Odysseus Elytis, and a new book by Keith Ward challenging fundamentalist readings of the Gospels.

In the 1970s, Phillimore of Chichester published a series of books on the Domesday Book arranged by the ancient counties or shires, which had changed little until 1974. The series, edited by John Morris, aimed to make these fundamental sources for local history more widely available, giving the original text and a new translation.

The Domesday Book was a statistical survey of England in 1086, including a census of the population and productive resources, their value and who held them. It was unmatched in Europe for centuries. The Staffordshire volume, published in 1976, was edited from a draft translation prepared by Alison Hawkins and Alex Rumble.

Although Comberford is not recorded in the Domesday Book, there are interesting entries for Wigginton, the manor that then included Comberford, and, of course for Lichfield and Tamworth, as well as other places I have written about in recent years or that are linked to the Comberford family, including Wolseley, Weeford, Rugeley, Penkridge and Wednesbury.

Centuries later, the Comberford family would claim the lordship of the Staffordshire half of Tamworth, and I see that at the time of the Domesday Book the Manor of Wigetone or Wigginton included two hides, land for six ploughs, eight villagers, one slave, one smallholder and ‘4 burgesses in Tamworth.’ They had six ploughs between them, and a meadow six furlongs in length and two furlongs long.

The value of Wigginton before 1066 was 30 shillings, but at time of the Domesday Book it had risen to £4.

As I referred on Tuesday evening to John Betjeman’s assessment of the Wyatts of Weeford, it was interesting to pick up a a rare copy of his exotically titled Ghastly Good Taste, or, a depressing story of the Rise and Fall of English Architecture (London: Chapman and Hall, 1933).

Betjeman was passionate about architecture, ‘preferring all centuries to my own.’ This was his first prose work, and in it he vigorously defends his love of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, considered deeply unfashionable at the time. With savage humour, he attacks both notions of Modernism and unthinking antiquarianism.

A type of family tree of architecture drafted by Betjeman presents his chart of the growth of ‘Good Taste’, descending from Victorian Architecture through the ‘Mainly Domestic’ and the ‘Mainly Public’ to ‘the Deep Pit of Speculative Building.’ A quick glance gives an immediate impression of Betjeman’s contempt of ‘Sham Tudor Revival,’ Maida Vale, Garden Cities such as Bournville, Welwyn and Port Sunlight, Baptist churches and ‘large pseudo-classical offices’ and ‘pseudo-modern factories with Egyptian motives.’

Still in place at the back of the copy I bought is its one illustration, a 40-inch long drawing by Peter Fleetwood-Hesketh, an exquisite work of draughtsmanship depicting ‘The Street of Taste or the March of English art down the ages.’ A note adds with almost schoolboy-humour: ‘A close and comparative study of lamp posts, traffic and advertisements in this chart will enlighten the reader still further.’

I should not have been surprised in Lichfield to come across Odysseus Elytis, Selected Poems, chosen and introduced by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard (Penguin 1981).

Two years before this edition was published, Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996) received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1979, and this collection is drawn from all periods of his long and distinguished career, marked by his concerns for freedom and creativeness.

Odysseus Elytis was born in Iraklion in Crete and lived in exile in Paris during the colonels’ regime in Greece. His landmark work, Axion Esti (Το Άξιον Εστί, 1959), inspired by the Greek Orthodox liturgy, was set to music by Mikis Theodorakis as an oratorio, and became an anthem against injustice and for resistance sung by all Greeks. He died in Athens in 1996.

The Revd Keith Ward is an Anglican priest, a former Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge (1975-1983), a former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford (1991-2004) and now a Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London. He has 40 or more books to his name, and Love is His Meaning: understanding the teaching of Jesus (London: SPCK) was published last year (2017).

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said that Keith Ward ‘makes complex matters readily accessible.’

In this book, he explores the different figures of speech and images used by Jesus and finds they are all ways of expressing and evoking the self-giving love of God, manifested supremely in the life of Christ.

Putting aside what he regards as literalist, authoritarian, legalistic, judgmental and divisive presentations of Jesus’ teaching, Keith Ward argues that what remains is the Gospel of a divine love – a love stronger than death and the only power he believes can and will redeem our disordered world.

And of course, in the bookshops in Lichfield, I also picked up the current edition of the colourful monthly magazine CityLife In Lichfield, edited by Joss Musgrove Knibb.

The latest edition includes reports on ‘Consequence of War,’ the current exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral, a glimpse inside the ‘hidden spaces’ of the Tudor of Lichfield, and a photo-feature on ‘A Window on the Past’ and the local history and Facebook group, ‘You’re probably from Lichfield, Staffs if …’ – as well as mentioning my lecture last Tuesday on the Wyatts of Weeford.

Friday, 27 April 2018

A window that links
Lichfield Cathedral with
a church in Cambridge

The window in the north aisle of Lichfield Cathedral commemorating Herbert Mortimer Luckock (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

As I was walking around Lichfield Cathedral this week, a colourful, three-light window in the north aisle reminded me of an interesting link between Lichfield and one of my favourite churches in Cambridge.

The window, showing Saint Peter in chains preaching, commemorates the Very Revd Herbert Mortimer Luckock (1833-1909), who was instrumental in building All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane, Cambridge, and later was Dean of Lichfield (18-19).

Herbert Luckock was born at Great Barr, Staffordshire, on 11 July 1833, the second son of the Revd Thomas George Mortimer Luckock (1797-1880) and his wife Harriet, daughter of George Chune of Madeley, Shropshire.

The future Dean of Lichfield was educated at Marlborough College (1848-1850) and Shrewsbury School (1850-1853), and was elected to a scholarship at Jesus College, Cambridge. He graduated BA with a second class in the classical tripos in 1858, and proceeded MA (1862) and BD and DD (1879).

In 1859, 1861, and again in 1862, Luckock won the members’ prize for an essay. In 1860, he was placed in the first class of the theological examination (middle bachelors) and won the Carus and Scholefield prizes for proficiency in the Greek Testament and the Septuagint. He also received the Crosse scholarship (1861) and the Tyrwhitt Hebrew scholarship (1862).

Luckock was ordained deacon in 1860 by Samuel Wilbeforce, Bishop of Oxford. For a time, he worked at Clewer with Canon Thomas Thellusson Carter (1808-1901) and Mother Harriet Monsell from Limerick, and then as a private tutor at Eton.

He was elected to a fellowship at Jesus College in 1862, and was ordained priest by Thomas Turton, Bishop of Ely, that year, when he was appointed to a college living as Vicar of All Saints’ Church, Cambridge.

He was the Rector of Gayhurst with Stoke-Goldington, Buckinghamshire, in 1863-1865, but returned to All Saints as Vicar in 1865. He remained at this parish in Cambridge for 10 years, and built a new church for the parish in Jesus Lane. Although Gilbert Scott was the first choice as architect, All Saints’ Church was designed by George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), who was one of the most important architects of the Tractarian Movement.

All Saints’ Church is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England, with some of the finest interior decorations of the period. Although this was Bodley’s first church in the Decorated Gothic style of the early 14th century (1300-1320), it was one of his most successful and would become his favourite.

The church stands opposite Jesus College, beside Westcott House and just a few steps away from the Jesus Lane Gate which is below the rooms where I have stayed in Cloister Court, Sidney Sussex College.

The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 27 May 1863, the church was consecrated on 30 November 1864, and the new church, with its tower and spire, was completed between 1869 and 1871. When the spire was completed, All Saints was the tallest building in Cambridge.

Luckock was the select preacher at Cambridge on seven occasions: 1866, 1874, 1875, 1883, 1884, 1892, and 1901.

James Woodford, Bishop of Ely, appointed Luckock one of his examining chaplains in 1873, made him an honorary canon of Ely Cathedral in 1874, and entrusted him with the organisation of Ely Theological College, which had a strong Anglo-Catholic tradition. Luckock was the first principal of Ely Theological College from 1876 to 1887, and remained a canon of Ely until 1892, when he was appointed Dean of Lichfield.

At Lichfield Cathedral, he advanced the character of the cathedral services, and promoted the restoration of the fabric, and he rebuilt Saint Chad’s Chapel at his own cost.

He died at the Deanery in Lichfield on 24 March 1909 and was buried in the Cathedral Close. Dean Luckock and his wife Margaret Emma (Thompson) were the parents of eight children, of whom six survived them, including Canon Arthur Mortimer Luckock (1880-1968), Major-General Russell Mortimer Luckock (1877-1950), and Alice Pease, wife of the politician Herbert Pike Pease (1867-1949), Baron Daryngton of Witley.

A plaque under his memorial window in Lichfield Cathedral reads: ‘In grateful memory of the life and example of Herbert Mortimer Luckock, DD, Dean of Lichfield 18 December 1892 to 24 March 1909. This window was dedicated 31 May 1911, the united gift of many in honour of one to whose loving care and generosity this cathedral church bears witness.’

The monument to Dean Luckock in the West Wall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Dean Luckock is also commemorated in All Saints’ Church, Cambridge, in a Carrara marble memorial on the West Wall that shows him vested in choir robes and kneeling at prayer, and with an inscription in Latin that recalls his links with Jesus College, Ely Cathedral, All Saints’ Churc and Lichfield Cathedral, as well as his many publications, and records that he died on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation.

In his theological outlook, Luckock was a High Church Anglican, but he stood aloof from party organisations. Beyond Cambridge and Lichfield, he had a wide influence, largely through his many books, including books on liturgy, preaching and Biblical studies. He edited studies of both TT Carter (1902) and Samuel Johnson (1902) James Woodford, Bishop of Ely, edited three volumes of his sermons.

When the memorial window to Dean Luckock was being unveiled in 1911, the anthem I believe verily was written to mark the occasion by the composer and organist Sir William Henry Harris (1883-1973), three years before he became the Assistant Organist at Lichfield Cathedral (1914-1919).

This work was largely forgotten and unknown until it was found recently in a pile of music in the cathedral library and was recorded by Lichfield Cathedral Choir for the CD Inservi Deo as Track 8.

The CD features exclusively music that was either written for the Cathedral Choir or by musicians closely associated with Lichfield Cathedral and was a celebration of the 700th anniversary of the Choral Foundation at Lichfield Cathedral.

Harris also wrote the setting for Almighty and most merciful Father (Track 13) for Richard Greening while he was the Organist (1959-1977) at Lichfield Cathedral:

Almighty and most merciful Father,
Grant that my hope and confidence
may be in Jesu’s merits and thy mercy;
confirm my faith, stablish my hope,
enlarge my charity; pardon my offences, and receive me at my death to everlasting happiness,
for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.


This is a contraction by Harris of the final prayer of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), who was the subject of a biographical study by Dean Luckock. He was born in Lichfield within sight of the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral. He compiled the first Dictionary in the English language, became one of the most important writers of the 18th century, and is often commemorated among the saints of the Anglican Communion.

In his last prayer, on 5 December 1784, before receiving Holy Communion and eight days before he died, Samuel Johnson prayed:

Almighty and most merciful Father,
I am now, as to human eyes it seems,
about to commemorate for the last time,
the death of thy Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer.
Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be in his merits,
and thy mercy; enforce and accept my imperfect repentance;
make this commemoration available to the confirmation of my faith,
the establishment of my hope, and the enlargement of my charity;
and make the death of thy Son Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption.
Have mercy on me, and pardon the multitude of my offences.
Bless my friends; have mercy upon all men.
Support me, by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, in the days of weakness,
and at the hour of death;
and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness,
for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Samuel Johnson’s statue in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

When Tolkien and his
friends put war aside
and met in Lichfield

The story of JRR Tolkien and the ‘Council of Lichfield’ is told at the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

When Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin set off from the Shire together as a band of friends into ‘lands wholly strange to them’ to fight the forces of evil, they may not have known what truly lay ahead of them.

The Fellowship of the Ring is probably the best-known and most famous of JRR Tolkien’s books in The Lord of the Rings epics. But were the four friends inspired by a pre-war reunion organised by Tolkien and his friends in Lichfield before they set off for World War I?

This is one of the many questions posed in the literary themes that are part of the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral, marking the centenary of the end of World War in 1918.

Other literary aspects of the exhibition include the poetry of Wilfred Owen, who was born in the Diocese of Lichfield, and the works of Rupert Brooke.

The story of JRR Tolkien’s visit to Lichfield adds an interesting dimension to this part of the exhibition.

On 25 and 26 September 1915, four young men – John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien, and his friends Robert Quilter Gilson, Geoffrey Bache Smith and Christopher Luke Wiseman – met in Lichfield before they were separated by war.

For Tolkien, this group was significant in shaping his future as a writer. They met at school at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, then located on New Street. The group was known as ‘TCBS,’ an acronym for Tea Club, Barrovian Society, because they once met regularly at the Barrow Stores in Birmingham, a department store with a café on the corner of Bull Street and Corporation Street.

The four friends shared the ideal that they could change the world for the better through art and writing. When they met in Lichfield on 25 and 26 September 1915, Gilson and Smith visited the Samuel Johnson Birthplace, where their signatures in the visitors’ book remain as evidence of this gathering. Gilson and Smith appended the initials TCBS to their names, although they incorrectly give the date as 24 September.

Smith’s and Gilson’s signatures were found three years ago in 2015 by Joanne Wilson of the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum after an inquiry from Marty Smith of the Ridware History Society, who had heard about the ‘Council of Lichfield.’ The visitors’ book is part of the current exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral.

Tolkien was going through his military training nearby at Whittington Barracks, and Gilson, Smith and Wiseman travelled to Lichfield to meet in the George Hotel for what they called the ‘Council of Lichfield’ on 25 September.

This was the last meeting of these four intellectual and aspiring young friends before they were sent to the front. But they continued to stay in contact with each other and to correspond about their literary work until 1916.

Gilson was the first to be killed. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, he was killed by a shell. Tolkien’s shock and grief infuses one of the first items in The Letters of JRR Tolkien: ‘His greatness is … a personal matter with us – of a kind to make us keep July 1st as a special day for all the years God may grant to any of us …’

Smith never returned from the Somme either. He joined the 19th Service Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, the ‘3rd Salford Pals,’ and too part in the Battle of the Somme. He was hit by shrapnel on 29 November 1916, and died four days later, on 3 December. A collection of Smith’s poetry, A Spring Harvest, was published in 1918, with a preface by Tolkien.

Tolkien writes in his Foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings: ‘One has personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.’

Only Tolkien and Wiseman, a naval officer, had survived the war. Later, Tolkien named his son Christopher Tolkien after Wiseman.

In a panel nearby is the poem Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen:

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Tolkien died on 2 September 1973 at the age of 81, and was buried in Oxford. Wiseman survived until 25 July 1987, when he died in Milford-on-Sea.

There is no proof that these four young men inspired specific characters in Tolkien’s work, and Tolkien never confirmed that Middle Earth was analogous to the world he confronted at war. But there are reflections of their last meeting at the ‘Council of Lichfield’ in the George Hotel in that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin set off from the Shire together to fight the forces of evil, not knowing what lay ahead of them.

Signatures in the visitors’ book from the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum in the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Lichfield Cathedral exhibition
highlights the pain and
futility of war after 100 years

Yarn Front, an installation at the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition by Lichfield Cathedral’s artist in residence Peter Walker (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

After the mid-day Eucharist in Lichfield Cathedral yesterday, I spent some time at ‘Consequence of War,’ an exhibition that is part of the cathedral seasonal programme of services and events throughout 2018 to mark the centenary of the 1918 Armistice and the end of World War I.

This is a poignant, moving and revealing exhibition that draws attention to the effects of World War I. It explores the immediate aftermath of the conflict and the quest and failure of the search for peace over the subsequent century.

World War I was supposed to be the ‘war to end all wars.’ But the exhibition points out that the world is wracked by war today – the wars being waged internationally include:

● War in Afghanistan (2001-present): civilian casualties 2017, 23,065; as of March 2018, 2,185.

● Mexican War on Drugs (2006-present): civilian casualties 2017, 14,771; as of March 2018, 24.

● Iraq conflict (2013-present): civilian casualties 2017, 13,187; as of March 2018, 881.

● Syrian Civil War (2011-present): civilian casualties 2017, 39,000; as of March 2018, 2,791.

‘Humanity’s Contempt for Humanity’ by Peter Walker in the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The year 1918 marked not only the end of World War I, but also marked the year legislation was passed on women’s vote. But the exhibition points out that 100 years later gender pay remains a significant issue in 2018. It shows:

● A leading bank has a 29% pay gap between male and female employees and a 61% gap for bonuses.

● A national supermarket shows that its female hourly rate is 11.5% lower than for male counterparts.

● An example of a small-medium company shows that its female hourly rate is 22.9% lower than for male counterparts.

World War I created a major refugee crisis in Europe. But the exhibition points out that 100 years later the total number of refugees in the world in 2018 is 21.3 million people.

The regions with significant refugee populations are:

● Africa, 4.413 million;

● Europe, 4.391 million;

● Asia and Pacific, 3.830 million;

● Middle East and North Africa, 2.739 million;

● The Americas, 0.7 million.

World War I was supposed to bring greater quality. But the exhibition points out that 100 years later that the statistics for poverty are startling in 2018:

● Around the world, 569 million children and young people live on less than £1 a day.

● 5.9 million children die each year, most in the world’s poorest communities and from preventable diseases.

● 78% of the poorest people live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

● At least 2,000 food banks are operating in the United Kingdom.

The exhibition combines reflections of conflict from a local and national perspective and includes the work of some of Britain’s most significant post-war artists, which questions our notions of peace and war.

Sir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of Edward Sydney Wood, Bishop of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Internationally renowned artists included in the exhibition include the sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986), the landscape painter Paul Nash (1889-1946), the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915), Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) and Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959).

For a long time, the cathedral has displayed Sir Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of Edward Sydney Wood, Bishop of Lichfield (1937-1953).

The works by Graham Sutherland include some of his studies for his massive central tapestry in the new Coventry Cathedral.

Helmet Head No 6 by Henry Moore in the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Other exhibits include original work by the Cathedral’s Artist-in-Residence, Peter Walker, items from the Staffordshire Regiment Museum, military valour awards and trench art.

To mark this special exhibition, Lichfield Cathedral has also organised a series of lectures throughout May on the consequences of World War I on music, art, society and religion.

In his introduction to the exhibition, the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, writes: ‘1918 witnessed a time of hope that war itself could be abolished. That hasn’t come to pass, but it is the Christian conviction that Christ’s own sacrifice points a way through death to life, and the path to God’s peaceable Kingdom lies in truth-telling and hope. In the Bible we see the olive branch and the cross as two symbols of peace and reconciliation “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22: 2). This exhibition brings many perspectives and insights to bear on our act of remembrance. I hope it jolts us away from clichés into fresh understanding and appreciation.’

Memories of war ... old regimental flags in a row above the south porch in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

As I left the cathedral by the south porch there was yet another reminder of how war has been with us for so long. A group of old regimental flags that have been laid up are lined alongside each other in a row above the porch in the south transept. If only we could lay aside the ability to rush to war in the same way as easily as we lay aside the symbols of war.

● ‘Consequence of War’ opened last week [16 April 2018] and continues until 24 June 2018. It is open from 10.00 to 16.30 Monday to Saturday, and 12.30 to 14.30 on Sunday.

‘Study for the Calf of Saint Luke’ by Graham Sutherland in the ‘Consequence of War’ exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

An invitation to spend
time in two hidden
corners of Lichfield

The Cathedral Close in Lichfield … an invitation into two hidden corners of England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

During these two all too short days in Lichfield, I visited the cathedral and the Cathedral Close a few times.

The daily round of services in the cathedral, including the mid-day Eucharist and Choral Evensong, make each visit a mini-retreat or pilgrimage.

Tucked in behind the row of houses facing the west end of the cathedral, two smaller closes are seldom noticed by visitors. But they are quiet places for contemplation and thinking.

Entering the hidden world behind Erasmus Darwin House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The first close on the south side forms a square between the Cathedral Bookshop and Erasmus Darwin House, which faces onto Beacon Street. Here many of the herbs and shrubs were planted by Charles Darwin’s grandfather.

The entrance to Vicars Close on the north side (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The second close, Vicars Close, on the north side is tucked away behind a tiny corner close to the Cathedral School and forms a square with Vicars’ Hall, which faces onto Beacon Street, next to Erasmus Darwin House.

Despite the exceptional rains we have had in recent weeks, the spring flowers are brining fresh colours to both enclosed places.

The colours are enhanced by the timber frames and brickwork of the 15th-16th century houses that form the squares and that once provided housing for the priests and vicars choral of the cathedral.

These photographs, without captions, offer a reflective way of entering in the peace and calm of these hidden corners of England:













(Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

A rainy afternoon
thinking about
Moses and the Moggs

Watching the waters of Minster Pool in the rain in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

It was raining heavily in Lichfield yesterday, and I sat indoors in Ego Restaurant, looking at the rain pouring down on Minster Pool, with the cathedral as a beautiful backdrop to this scene that seemed would have been more season in winter.

As people scurried by, soaked in the rain, and the swans and ducks swam up and down the waters of Minster Pool, and I though of how the mediaeval inhabitants must have been happy with the formation of the pool, and the supply of fresh, clean, drinking water.

Minster Pool was created in the 12th century when a dam was built across an area of marshland then known as ‘The Moggs.’

This pool was a very useful mediaeval asset as it powered a mill, provided a fish pond and created a defence for the cathedral.

At the same time, Stowe Pool was created, providing power for the mills and supporting the tanneries along its banks.

A fountain close to the original site of the Crucifix Conduit was installed near the Friary in 2001 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

During the Middle Ages, very few towns in England had easy access to water that was safe for drinking. But from the 12th century on, Lichfield had a supply of clean piped water, supplied through a conduit located in the Cathedral Close

The provision of a clean water supply to Lichfield expanded, and by the 14th century there were three conduits that accessed the water that came from springs at Aldershaw.

The Crucifix Conduit was installed by the Franciscan Friars in the 14th century. This was the first public supply of clean, piped water in Lichfield.

Traces of the conduit known as ‘Moses’ can still be seen in the Cathedral Close (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Crucifix Conduit at the Friary was taken over by the Conduit Lands Trust in 1545, and the trust extended the supply of clean water to the two other conduits in Lichfield, the Cross and the Stone Cross. A fourth conduit, first called ‘Moses’ Head’ and later known ‘Moses,’ stood at the western end of the Cathedral Close, where traces of it can still be seen today.

However, by the early 1800s, the Crucifix Conduit was the only one of the original conduits that had had still survived in Lichfield. In the 19th century, the water from Stowe Pool was piped to the Black Country, where thousands of people had been dying from drinking contaminated local water.

The Conduit Lands Trust continued to supply the city with water until the 20th century, and the Crucifix Conduit remained in use until 1927.

A fountain was installed close to the original site of the Crucifix Conduit, by the Friary, in 2001.

A rainy afternoon at Minster Pool in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A musical note on links
between a house in Lichfield
and a house in Waterville

Iveragh Lodge in Waterville, Co Kerry, built by John Clementi in 1858, is on the market for €310,000 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I have been staying overnight at Saint John’s House in Lichfield, following last night’s lecture at the Lichfield Civic Society on the Wyatt Family of Weeford and the family’s contribution to the architectural legacy of Britain and Ireland.

However, in January, on my previous visit to Lichfield – like so many others – I stayed at the Hedgehog Premier Inn on Stafford Road. And during my visit to Ballinkelligs last week I came across an unusual connection that links Lichfield with Kerry and the house once known as Lyncroft House with a house in Waterville known as Iveragh Lodge.

Iveragh Lodge is a detached, L-plan, four-bay, two-storey former fishing lodge. It was built in 1858 by John Clementi in 1858 as a shooting lodge. It was bought in 1884 by the original Commercial Cable Company as its Waterville offices and as the superintendent’s residence.

The Transatlantic Telegraph Company ran the first undersea cable connecting Europe to America. New office buildings were completed in 1899, but Iveragh Lodge remained the superintendent’s residence until the company sold its Waterville properties in 1964.

The house, sometimes known as the Cable Station Manor House, then became a private residence. It is now on the market with an asking price of €310,000. This is a beautiful four-bedroom period house on mature grounds on a large plot with a terraced viewing area. The house includes a porch, hallway, two reception rooms, a kitchen, dining room, utility room, sun lounge and four bedrooms. There are large lawned areas and mature grounds.

The house includes a two-bay, single-storey range with a half-dormer attic, a single-bay, single-storey projecting porch at the front, a single-bay, two-storey recessed end bay to right and a single-bay, two-storey gabled projecting end bay at the left, with a single-storey canted bay window to ground floor.

There is a two-bay, two-storey double-gable-fronted side elevation at the east, with a single-storey canted bay window on the ground floor. There is a single-bay two-storey return at the back rear on the south side.

There is a pitched slate roof with clay ridge tiles, tall coupled chimney-stacks, a group of four diagonal chimney-stacks and curvilinear bargeboards. There are sandstone rubble walls with ashlar quoins and a limestone datestone above the entrance, 1858. There are sandstone lintels and reveals, but the windows are uPVC replacements. There is a bay window with a slate roof at ground-floor level.

The house was renovated internally in the mid-20th century to provide residential use. I understand the house retains many of its interior features.

The plaque at the entrance to Iveragh Lodge misspells John Clementi’s name (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A plaque at the entrance reads:

Iveragh Lodge. Built in 1858 as a shooting lodge by J Clemanti.

The Commercial Cable Company purchased the lodge in 1884 for the superintendent’s residence and as the company’s first office.

The office was later enlarged by an extension to the south of the lodge. It was used until 1889, when the new office building was constructed.

The bachelor quarters were built along the northern boundary of the site.

The building continued as the superintendent’s residence until 1962 when the company closed the Waterville Station.


However, the name of the original builder of the house is misspelled on the plaque on the gate pier. Iveragh Lodge was first built in 1858 by John Muzio Clementi, a son of the composer Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) and his third wife Emma (née Gisborne).

Muzio Clementi was a composer, pianist, teacher, conductor, music publisher, editor and piano maker. He was known as ‘the father of the pianoforte,’ the ‘father of modern piano technique,’ and the ‘father of Romantic pianistic virtuosity.’

He was born Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clementi in Rome on 24 January 1752, the son of Nicolo Clementi and Magdalena Kaiser. The child Clementi was a prodigy and was brought to England at the age of 14 by George Pitt’s son-in-law, Peter Beckford (1740-1811), who promised the boy’s father to have the boy provide music at his estate.

But Beckford was more interested in hunting than music, and left the youth to his own ways. Clementi practiced for hours on end each day, building up an unrivalled technique. He was soon touring Europe, and on one of those concert tours, he took part in a piano-playing contest with Mozart – who found Clementi’s playing impressive but devoid of emotion).

It is said he had a notable influence on Beethoven. In pre-revolutionary Paris, he played with great success for Marie Antoinette, and later played for the Habsburg Emperor Joseph II in Vienna. He also wrote four symphonies.

Back in England, Clementi’s celebrity as a performer was not matched by business acumen. He invested in a London company, Longman and Broderip, that soon went bankrupt. Eventually, Clementi & Co prospered as publishers. But Clementi’s large corpus of educational music, including piano-lesson staples such as his Gradus ad Parnassum and Sonatinas, diluted his reputation as a composer, even though they sold handsomely.

Clementi also developed a reputation as a piano manufacturer. He preferred a light, transparent action on his pianos, but his firm’s most noteworthy innovation was a ‘harmonic swell,’ developed by Clementi’s partner, William Frederick Collard.

Clementi’s pianos embody both the era’s musical evolution and the highly developed technique and taste of Clementi himself, squaring a tendency towards bigger, louder instruments with the older Classical virtues of clarity and clean articulation.

Clementi married his first wife Caroline Lehmann in 1804, and his second wife, Emma Gisborne, John Clementi’s mother, in 1811 at the Old Church, St Pancras, London.

Muzio Clementi moved to Lichfield in 1830, and made his home at Lyncroft House, which was built in 1797. However, he never performed publicly in Lichfield. He died on 10 March 1832 at Evesham in Worcestershire. When he was buried in Westminster Abbey on 29 March 1832, his coffin was carried by three former pupils, Johann Baptist Cramer, Ignaz Moscheles and the Dublin-born pianist and composer John Field (1782-1837). Field died five years later in Moscow.

Some years later, John Clementi married Charlotte Grace, daughter of George Grace, on 28 January 1849 at Saint James’s Church in Piccadilly, London.

John Clementi built his house in Waterville in 1858. I have been unable to trace his life story after he sold Iveragh Lodge, or whether he ever returned to Lichfield after his father’s death. His brother, the Revd Vincent Clementi (1814-1899), was ordained in the Diocese of Canterbury and later lived in Canada. A nephew, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (1840-1916), was Governor of Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and later generations of the Clementi family included diplomats, bankers, sculptors and Anglican priests.

Today, Muzio Clementi’s former home in LIchfield, Lyncroft House, is the Hedgehog Vintage Inn.

Today, Lyncroft House in Lichfield is known as the Hedgehog Vintage Inn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)