Monday, 28 October 2019

A report on Lichfield
lecture on the Comberfords
of Lichfield and Tamworth

With Mike Pearson (right) of Lichfield Civic Society and Dr David Biggs, chair of Tamworth and District Civic Society in Lichfield last month

Patrick Comerford

I was in Lichfield last month [17 September 2019], at the invitation of Lichfield Civic Society, to speak to speak about the Comberford family and its roots in the Lichfield and Tamworth area.

The website of Lichfield Civic Society in recent days has posted this report by Roger Hockney of that meeting and lecture:

Many of us have dabbled in ancestry research. Perhaps skeletons have emerged from the cupboard? Patrick Comerford had no skeletons to reveal when he made a return visit for our September meeting to talk about his family history but, nonetheless, he gave us a fascinating insight into the lives of a well-established local Staffordshire family. Comberford Hall, close to the Tamworth-Elford road and the River Tame is a Grade II listed Georgian house. The Moat House in Lichfield Street, Tamworth is much older; its roots may go back as far as the thirteenth century. Both properties were closely associated with the history of the Comberfords (not Comerfords – read on for an explanation!).

The Comberfords can trace their roots back to Alan de Comberford who was in possession of the Moat House around the mid-1300s. A family of growing influence, they diligently assembled land and property to become significant landowners in the area. Their wealth was reflected in bequests at this time to St Editha’s Church in Tamworth and to the Franciscan Friary in Lichfield. Land and property was also acquired in nearby Chesterfield and Wiggington. So, by the sixteenth century, the family were sufficiently influential for John Comberford to be elected both as an MP and as a member of the Guild in Lichfield. The Guild, Patrick explained, comprised the wealthy city merchants and was effectively the ‘local government’ of the City of Lichfield. In 1530 Humphrey Comberford was the Master of the Guild – in effect the City Mayor.

The Comberfords were also involved with Lichfield Cathedral. Henry Comberford was a precentor there in 1555. His Catholic views never left him and as a ‘recusant’ (a secret Roman Catholic) he was eventually dismissed for ‘lewd preaching’. For ‘lewd’, we need to understand that his sermons were seen to incline too much towards the Catholic faith. During the Civil War the Comberfords sided with the Royalists; and Col William Comberford and his nephew, another William, were present during the siege of Lichfield Cathedral. Indeed, Col William was very active in skirmishes around both Lichfield and Tamworth. Patrick told us that, cannily, William transferred his properties to a Trust to ensure that they were not forfeit upon the defeat of the Royalist cause. A member of the Trust was John Dyott; a name familiar to us all.

The family continued to live quietly with their lands and property during the Restoration period but, by the eighteenth century, their fortunes declined and their properties (including Comberford Hall and The Moat House) were sold. So, how does Patrick relate to this history? He comes from Ireland, not from Staffordshire. Why did he become interested in a Lichfield family? Perhaps the ‘skeleton in the cupboard’ is that his Irish branch of the family (without the ‘b’ in the name) is distantly related through the connections that Patrick is only now uncovering. From his work so far there is certainly a crossover in heraldic history between both sides of the family; and members of both sides of the family view themselves as related. Perhaps Patrick will uncover yet more information to corroborate his theories.

Patrick’s research adds another piece to the interlocking jigsaw of relationships between Lichfield families, many of whom we have learned about from previous presentations.

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