Wednesday, 25 March 2020

A ‘virtual tour’ of
a dozen former
pubs in Lichfield

The former Prince of Wales on Bore Street, Lichfield … closed and abandoned for many years (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

After offering a virtual tour of a dozen or more pubs in Lichfield on Monday evening [23 March 2020], in the hope that they might open soon when we have put the present pandemic crisis behind us, I am offering a virtual pub crawl or tour this evening of a dozen pubs in Lichfield that are never going to open again.

With the cancellation of my planned visit to Myanmar this week, I had booked myself into the Hedgehog Vintage Inn in Lichfield this week, for my own mini-retreat, beginning tomorrow [26 March 2020]. I was planning to spend time in Lichfield Cathedral and in the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, which have been my spiritual home since I was in my late teens 50 years ago.

However, this evening I can dream of being in Lichfield – this visit has not been cancelled, it has been postponed.

Samuel Johnson obviously loved the inns and taverns of Lichfield, for he wrote on 21 March 1776: ‘There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.’

In the early 20th century, there were so many pubs in the heart of Lichfield, that magistrates regularly considered reducing their numbers and cancelling their licences. So, this evening I invite you to join me on a virtual tour of some closed pubs in Lichfield that are not going to reopen, even when the Covid-19 pandemic comes to its inevitable end.

The Prince of Wales on Bore Street in the 1960s (Photograph found on Pinterest, source unknown)

1, The Prince of Wales, Bore Street:

When I was still in my late teens, in the the early 1970s, the first pub in Lichfield I ever had a drink in was the Prince of Wales on Bore Street. It was then a well-loved community pub, close to the corner of Bore Street and Saint John Street.

Today, this former public house is in a sad state, its doors are closed, and its windows are boarded up. But appearances can be deceptive, and this is a Grade II listed building.

Although this is an early 19th century public house, it has an earlier timber-frame structure that indicates this building may date back to the mid- or late 16th century.

The building as it is seen on Bore Street today displays late 19th alterations. This is a three-storey, three-window-range building, with a stucco façade, a tile roof and a brick end-stack. There is a plinth, a first-floor sill band and a top frieze.

The entrance has a doorcase with a cornice and paired two-fielded-panel doors. The ground floor windows have sills, and rusticated wedge lintels over three-light and four-light transomed casements with stained glass panels, although the boarding makes it difficult to known how much of this stained-glass has survived in recent years. There was rere access from a laneway that opened onto Saint John Street.

There are similar three-light windows on the first floor. The second-floor windows have sills and three-light casements. An early 20th century scrolled iron sign bracket once hung over the door with a traditional sign displaying the feathers that are part of the symbol of the Prince of Wales, but it has been missing for many years.

The pub was known as the Queen’s Head 200 years ago in 1818, when Thomas Whitehouse was the licensee. Later, George Sharman was running the pub from 1830 to 1834.

The queen who gave the pub its original name must have been Queen Caroline, who was queen from 1820, when her husband succeeded as King George IV on 29 January 1820, until her death on 7 August 1821.

George IV tried to divorce Caroline, but she refused and returned to Britain to assert her position as queen. She was widely popular among the public, who sympathised with her and despised the new king’s lifestyle. Her husband barred Caroline from his coronation in July 1821, she fell ill in London and died three weeks later. There were popular public showings of grief at her funeral procession as it passed through the streets of London.

Perhaps there is some historic humour in the fact that the Queen’s Head and the George IV once stood at opposite ends of Bore Street, and that the couple had married when he was Prince of Wales.

When the road from the Walsall Road into Lichfield was straightened out in the 1830s, a new street was laid out and a new pub was built on the north side. As both street and pub were completed in Queen Victoria’s coronation year, they were named Queen Street and the Queen’s Head, with the new pub taking away the name of the Queen’s Head on Bore Street.

Meanwhile, under the management of William and Thomas Riley, the old Queen’s Head on Bore Street became the Turf Tavern in the 1840s, and it kept this name until the 1860s.

The Turf Tavern then became the Prince of Wales in 1868, when it was taken over by the ffrench family, who managed the pub for about 30 years. The Prince of Wales at the time was the future Edward VII.

In 1890, the Prince of Wales Inn on Bore Street was on a list of tied houses in the Lichfield and Tamworth area bought by the Lichfield Brewery Co Ltd from the Old Lichfield Brewery Co Ltd.

Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the Prince of Wales remained a traditional local pub, and it was a meeting place for a variety of local organisations, including football clubs, darts teams and ex-service groups, and with Christmas parties.

But in recent years these premises have suffered a series of non-traditional name changes and it lost its reputation as a traditional ‘local.’ It was renamed Piper’s when it became a piano bar in the 1990s. Other names included Chameleon until 2005, and then San Sero, when it was a tapas bar. The last name before finally closing was the Feria – a name that has remained on the façade since the doors closed for the last time.

Three years ago [August 2017], a photograph of the Prince of Wales and Bore Street taken around 1900 featured in CityLife in Lichfield in ‘A Window on the Past, Wish You Were Here …’ in a collection of nine photographs and old postcards.

Sadly, this once bustling pub has been derelict and boarded up for a number of years, many of the features that resulted in its listing as a Grade II building are in danger of being lost, and memories of the community life once celebrated at its bar are fading.

The Swan ... was it the oldest pub in Lichfield? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

2, The Swan, Bird Street:

The former Swan at No 27 Bird Street was an on old coaching said to date back to 1392, and it claimed to be the oldest pub in Lichfield, a claim now made on behalf of the King’s Head on Bird Street and the Duke of York on Greenhill.

It was a galleried inn by 1535, when it was known as the Lily White Swan. It was rebuilt in its present format in the second half of the 18th century. The ‘Butcher’ Duke of Cumberland dined at the Swan in 1745 on his way to fight the Jacobites and at the Battle of Culloden. Other visitors to the Swan included Erasmus Darwin, the American writer Nathanial Hawthorne, George Eliot.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the Swan was staunchly Tory, while the George, further south on the opposite side of Bird Street, was always associated with the Whigs, while. The two inns were the headquarters for their respective parties at election times and the post-boys always wore jackets of the appropriate colour: blue for the Swan and buff for the George.

The commercial and political rivalries were expressed forcibly, blows were frequently exchanged, and during the 1826 election all the front windows of The George were smashed in.

Later in the 19th century, Joseph Trevor, who managed the Swan became Mayor and Sheriff of Lichfield. Earlier, he had been the landlord of the Old Crown on Bore Street.

A plaque on the wall of the former Swan recalls the Road and Path Cycling Association.

When Philip Larkin returned to Lichfield from Oxford for a Christmas holiday in 1940-1941, he regularly walked from Cherry Orchard into the centre of Lichfield to drink in the George and the Swan. During this time in Lichfield, he wrote three poems, Christmas 1940, Out in the lane I pause and Ghosts.

In Out in the lane I pause, the poet is standing alone under a starless sky beside a railway bridge. From his invisible vantage point, he contemplates the futures of the ‘Girls and their soldiers from the town’ whose steps he can hear on the steep road towards the shops, and the war-time disappointments to come.

Larkin wrote this poem on the nights of 18 and 19 December 1940, and included it in a letter to his school friend, James Ballard Sutton (1921-1997), on 20 December, along with the two other poems written in Lichfield on the night of 19 December 1940.

Peter Young has suggested that in Ghosts Larkin is referring to the ghost story of the White Lady at the Swan on Bird Street. This poem was first published in 1992 in Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940-1985, edited by Anthony Thwaite (p 8). It was included in 2005 by AT Tolley in Philip Larkin: Early Poems and Juvenalia (p 135), and more recently it is included by Archie Burnett in Philip Larkin: The Complete Poems (p 171).

The former Swan closed in the 1980s and has since been divided into the restaurant Ask, the Wine House bar and restaurant, and apartments, including two named after the Duke of Cumberland and George Eliot. The development by Oakmoor Estates was opened by the Mayor of Lichfield, Councillor Norma Bacon, in 2005.

A plaque on the site of the former Three Crowns on Breadmarket Street remembers Samuel Johnson’s return visits to Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

3, The Three Crowns, Breadmarket:

One of the places where Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) often stayed on his return visits to Lichfield was the former Three Crown Inns, one of Lichfield’s lost pubs. It once stood at 7-9 Breadmarket Street, next door to the birthplace of the man who is, perhaps, Lichfield’s greatest literary figures.

Johnson described the Three Crowns in 1763 as ‘not one of the great inns, but a good old fashioned one.’

A plaque on the wall recalls:

Dr Johnson frequently stayed here during his many visits to Lichfield. In 1776 he was accompanied by Boswell, who described him as ‘now monarchising with no fewer than three crowns over his royal brow’.

This three-storey Georgian building dates from the early 18th century, although there are many later alterations. Indeed, there may have been an earlier inn on this site, as the name Three Crowns refers not to the papal tiara but to the three crowns of England, Ireland and Scotland, brought together in the early 17th century when James VI of Scotland was crowned James I in 1603.

The Three Crowns appears on Snape’s map of Lichfield in 1781, three years before Johnson died. The earliest known masonic lodge in Lichfield was formed around the corner at the Scales Inn in Market Street on 10 March 1784 and it became a ‘Moderns Lodge’ when it was constituted as Lodge of Unity on 24 July 1787 at the Three Crowns Inn on Breadmarket Street. The lodge had closed by 1811.

Meanwhile, the Three Crowns continued to be run by members of the Cato family for almost 80 years: Joseph Cato from 1793 to 1834, and his son John Joseph Cato from 1834 to 1859.

This has been a Grade II listed building since 1952. The notable features include the central carriageway, the paired doors, and the 20th century shop front in traditional style.

The last landlord was probably John Barber, and the Three Crowns closed for the last time in the 1960s.

The former inn is now divided into shops and offices, including the Coffee House – until recently a shopfront for the Lichfield Mercury – and Devot-Tea. A coffee shop and a tea shop, in their own ways, I suppose, continue the hospitality traditions of the original Three Crowns, and Samuel Johnson, of all people, knew the importance of a coffee shop.

The premises featured in City Life in Lichfield in October 2016 in a feature ‘A window on the past: the lost locals of Lichfield’ with a collection of photographs from the local history group ‘You’re probably from Lichfield Staffs if …’

The former Castle Inn on Market Street … now an Oxfam shop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

4, The Castle Inn, Market Street:

The Oxfam shop at Nos 16 and 16A Market Street was once the Castle Inn. This is a Grade II listed building, and is a Tudor-era, timber-frame building that dates from the late 16th century.

This is a three-storey building with a two-window range, jettied upper floors and two gables. Building has moulded bressumers – the one on the first floor is on joist ends, while the one on the second floor is on end corbel heads.

The first floor has 1:3:1-light canted oriels on shaped brackets with leaded glazing and iron opening casements. The second floor has three-light windows with wooden-ovolo-mullioned windows that have leaded glazing. The square framing has herring-bone bracing on the first floor, and decorative bracing on the second floor.

The rear of the building is almost as interesting, but with plainer framing, a gabled wing and a smaller gabled wing to the left.

The Castle Inn was managed by David Cox in 1793, and later it was run by his son David Cox from 1818 to 1850. The last landlord was William Norman Gallimore, and the Castle Inn closed as a pub in 1962.

Today, the former Castle Inn is divided into offices and a shop for Oxfam, with a late 20th century timber shopfront on a brick plinth with an entry to the right.

St John’s House on Saint John Street … originally a 17th century inn known as The Bear (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

5, The Bear, Saint John Street:

Although I generally stay at the Hedgehog Vintage Inn on the corner of Stafford Road and Cross in Hand Lane, I have stayed in many places in Lichfield since I first arrived in 1969 in 1970, including a house now long-gone on Birmingham Road, the Duke of York on Greenhill, the Cathedral Hotel on Beacon Street, previously the Little Barrow and the Cathedral Lodge, the Bogey Hole on Dam Street, the Premier Inn on Swan Road, around the corner from Beacon Park, and St John’s House on Saint John Street, close to Saint John’s Hospital and its chapel.

Part or all of St Johns House incorporates the former Bear Inn. During renovations by Johann Popp some years ago, hundreds of oyster shells were found in the garden, indicating the house was an inn at a time when oysters were eaten in large quantities in public houses.

The Bear Inn first appears in records in Lichfield in 1698 and it is marked on maps of Lichfield since at least 1766. It stood opposite the entrance to Throgmorton Street, now Frog Lane.

The Bear Inn was once served by one of three Lichfield stage coach services. Giles Tottingham ran the Lichfield Flying Wagon from Anglesey in North Wales to London, using the Bear Inn as a staging post. The journey took only four days, and so the Bear Inn was once an important stage on the journey between Dublin and London in the 18th century.

Neighbouring inns and public houses in Saint John Street included the Lord Nelson and the Robin Hood, which stood on either corner of Frog Lane, opposite the Bear Inn. The Lord Nelson was incorporated into Lichfield Grammar School as part of the living accommodation in the mid-19th century, and later passed to Lichfield District Council; the Robin Hood was levelled in 2000.

When the Bear Inn ceased being a pub around 1815, the house was renovated extensively in the Regency style. The portico, with its columns and pillared cove, dates from this time. The four-bay colonnade on the ground floor has columns modelled on those of the Tower of the Winds in Athens, with three pairs and a single column to the ends, a frieze with wreaths over the columns and a cornice with a blocking course.

Other features from this time include the decorative stucco façade, the pedimented windows on the first floor, and much of the cornicing and plaster-work. The south wing was added in Victorian times, along with the stables, and some fireplaces upstairs were replaced.

William East Holmes, who owned St Johns House in 1849, probably built the stables and one of the rooms in the stables is named after him. Later, the house was owned by Frederick Simmonds, an iron merchant, and then by Archdeacon John Allen, the Master of Saint John’s Hospital. He was followed by Mrs Susan Coyney, a Mrs Young, a Major Matthews, and Mrs Louisa Dawson, a haberdasher.

Henry Copson Peake, a local colliery proprietor, owned St John’s House in 1902. It was renamed Peake House and the Peake family lived here for over 50 years with their daughters. Saint John’s Preparatory School was housed here from about 1958, but the school moved to Longdon Green in the early 21st century.

Dan and Elly Ralley bought St Johns House in August 2012 and set about bringing the building back to life. This includes a rear extension, which is now the Pavilion Room, acting as the main function room of the house. Many of the Victorian features have been restored, including the fireplaces and the encaustic tiles, perhaps by Craven Dunnill.

The names of the rooms reflect the history of the house, including Francis, Coyney, Tottingham, Holmes, Peake, Simmonds and St John’s Suite, as well as the Terrace, and the Victoria, Peacock, Cottage and Garden rooms.

The former Angel Croft Hotel on Beacon Street stands on the site of the former Talbot Inn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

6, The Talbot, Beacon Street:

During my most recent return visit to Lichfield, it was heartening to see how the former Angel Croft Hotel, Westgate House and Westgate Cottage on Beacon Street are being saved for future generations.

The Angel Croft once epitomised elegant hotel accommodation in Lichfield. But in recent years the building had fallen into such a sad state of disrepair and neglect that I had wondered on many occasions whether it was beyond saving and restoring.

However, Friel Construction, based in Great Wyrley, recently acquired the former Angel Croft Hotel, Westgate House and Westgate Cottage, along with the surrounding land on Beacon Street, including the hotel car park. They are developing the 3.5-acre site into what is described as ‘luxury city centre living while harmonising with the Georgian architecture of the surrounding area.’

The Angel Croft is a Grade 2* listed building, and Westgate House and Westgate Cottage are Grade 2 listed buildings. The surrounding land is also of historic interest, and an archaeologist was involved in the project from an early stage.

Although both the Angel Croft Hotel and Westgate House date from ca 1750, their stories date back to the mid-12th century and the prebendal lands that provided stipends or incomes for the prebendaries or canons of Lichfield Cathedral.

Land in the Gaia Lane area was included in the endowment of the Prebend of Gaia, which was divided into two prebends, Gaia Major and Gaia Minor, before 1279.

The property in Lichfield attached to the Prebend of Freeford in 1498 included the Angel in Beacon Street on the south side of the later Angel Croft hotel. It was rebuilt in the early 16th century but was destroyed in the Civil War.

A rental from this time (1497-1498) also shows that the property of the Vicars Choral included two inns in Beacon Street: the Talbot on the site of the later Angel Croft hotel and the Cock, as well as the Swan on Bird Street, acquired in 1362, and a house called White Hall in Beacon Street on the north side of Dr Milley’s Hospital.

By 1592, the vicars also had an inn in Beacon Street known as the Lamb, on the site of Westgate Cottage and opposite the entrance to the Cathedral Close.

A house was built on the site of the Talbot ca 1790 for George Addams, a wine merchant. It became the Angel Croft hotel around 1930. However, by the 1980s its reputation was slipping, and one reviewer described it as Lichfield’s ‘very own Fawlty Towers.’ Yet it was still being advertised as recently as 2008, although by then its AA rating had slipped to one star.

New owners began refurbishing the hotel around 2008, but the property was broken into soon after, the pipes were stolen and the building was flooded. Although renovation work resumed, it then lay empty again for years. Some window panes – over the main front door and at the rear – were broken, the rear gate was left open, and the Angel Croft became a sad sight. English Heritage put the building on its ‘at risk’ list.

Friel Homes acquired the 3.5 acre site, including the former Angel Croft Hotel, Westgate House and Westgate Cottage, and are developing it as 1 Beacon Street. Their plans includes 28 luxury apartments, including five 2-to-3-bedroom apartments in the former Angel Croft, five houses, a boutique spa hotel and a café.

The proposals include a new pedestrian route linking Beacon Park with Cathedral Close and Erasmus Darwin House Museum. The Angel Croft Stable has also been renovated and was sold recently as a two-bedroom home.

Following the recent repairs and restoration, the former hotel it has been removed from the at Risk Register. This work included replacing lead stripped off the building, repairing windows and coving and restoring gates and railings. Interesting finds in the building included hand-painted wallpaper dating to 1750-1775, some of the oldest examples in England.

The next phase includes the restoration of Westgate House, Westgate Cottage and some derelict buildings that date back to the early 18th century. The name of the former Talbot is to be retained in one of the apartment complexes, to be known as Talbot House.

The Talbot once stood on the corner of Bore Street and Bird Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

7, The Talbot, corner of Bird Street Bore Street

A later pub also known as the Talbot stood further, at the corner of Bird Street and Bore Street. Originally a private house, it was converted into a public house ca 1760-1772, and the first publican was Henry Jackson.

According to the historians John Shaw and Neil Coley, this Talbot took its name from the Talbot family of Alton Towers, Earls of Shrewsbury and patrons of Pugin’s architectural career.

But the romantic part of my personality wonders whether, perhaps, it stood on the site of the 17th century Lichfield townhouse of the Comberford family of nearby Comberford Hall, between Lichfield and Tamworth, who used a talbot as their heraldic emblem.

This was a coaching inn in the 18th century, with the Amity stagecoach running from the Talbot in Lichfield to Leeds and Sheffield every morning.

The local historian Kate Gomez points out that records now held at Stafford Record Office show that at one point the Talbot on Beacon Street was known as the Three Crowns.

The Talbot did not survive the decline in the coaching business, and closed in the 1860s. Today the site is occupied by an arcade of modern shops and cafés.

‘Little George’ on Beacon Street … the name is a reminder of a pub that survived for about a century (Photograph courtesy Bill Tandy, Lichfield)

8, Little George, Beacon Street:

On my regular walks along Beacon Street, between the Hedgehog and the centre of Lichfield, I have often wondered about the name of a house known as Little George at 60 Beacon Street. It stands on the south side of the corner with Anson Avenue, with the Cathedral Hotel on the north side of the corner.

Who was Little George? Was there ever a Big George? George Major and George Minor could create images of brothers or cousins at a public school.

‘Little George’ was a pub on Beacon Street from about 1860, and was run by Henry Charles until 1880. When it closed in 1956, the licence was transferred to a new pub, the Windmill on Wheel Lane.

The Little George on Beacon Street has been a family home for many years, and has been altered and extended. Today it is a three-bedroom house on the market through Bill Tandy Estate Agents of Bore Street, Lichfield, with an asking price of £475,000.

The former Old Crown once stood to the left of the Five Gables (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

9, The Old Crown, Bore Street

The Old Crown Hotel stood to the east of the Five Gables on the south side of Bore Street. This was one of the great coaching inns in Lichfield, along with the George, the Swan, the Coach and Horses and the Talbot, and was in existence by 1722.

By the end of the 18th century, local notables at meetings here included Erasmus Darwin, General William Dyott, and Canon Thomas Seward, father of the poet Anna Seward, ‘the Swan of Lichfield,’ and the Market Room was once a venue for meetings of farmers and market traders.

Joseph Trevor, who was the landlord of the Old Crown in the 1860s, later managed the Swan on Bird Street. He became Sheriff of Lichfield in 1867, and Mayor in 1881.

In the 1960s the bottom floor of the Old Crown was cut away to form an arcaded walkway, but the pub continued and was a popular venue for a weekly folk club in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Old Crown closed in 1983, and despite being a listed building was demolished before the end of the year. The site on the corner of the Three Spires Shopping Centre was the premises of Dolland and Aitchison Opticians in 2003, and later became Boots Opticians.

A discreet plaque recalls the Beehive on Beacon Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

10, The Beehive, Beacon Street:

The Beehive is one of the short-lived pubs on Beacon Street that had disappeared by the early 20th century.

It is now a private house, but a discreet yet intriguing plaque on the wall quotes John Nicholls, the landlord in 1848:

Within these walls we’re all alive,
good liquor makes us funny,
if you’re dry then step inside,
and taste the flavour of our honey.


The Dolphin once stood on the former Burtons site on the corner of Bore Street and Breadmarket Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

11, The Dolphin, 43 Bore Street

The building on the corner of Bore Street and Breadmarket Street occupies a highly visible location, and for many generations of people living in Lichfield it has been known as the Co-op until the 1980s, and then as Burtons up to ten years ago.

This prominent retail site at No 43 Bore Street, opposite the Guildhall, is known as ‘The Cloisters,’ perhaps because it is it beneath tower of Saint Mary’s Church, or perhaps because this was once the site of the earliest Roman Catholic Church in Lichfield, albeit for a brief few years at the beginning of the 19th century.

Thomas Clifford of Tixal bought the corner house when it was the premises of a Roman Catholic baker. The house provided lodgings for a priest, and a chapel was formed by throwing two rooms together. Father John Kirk (1760-1851), who had been the priest at Pipe Hall from 1788 to 1792, was appointed to Lichfield in 1801 by Bishop Gregory Stapleton, the Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District.

But Father Kirk found the house was inconvenient and ‘meanly situated.’ He complained that the sanctuary of his chapel was directly over the baker’s oven, and that the heat was almost unbearable. In 1802, he bought land in Upper Saint John Street and there he built a chapel and house that were completed in 1803, later replaced by Holy Cross.

Meanwhile, what happened to the baker’s shop on the corner of Bore Street and Breadmarket Street, and the chapel above it?

In The Old Pubs of Lichfield, John Shaw says the Dolphin is first listed on these premises in 1818. However, Kate Gomez on her local history blog, Lichfield Lore, has pointed out that the original building on this corner site was timber framed, dating back to the 16th century, and she wonders whether parts of the original building survived in the changes over the centuries.

In 1818, the Dolphin was run by Henry Genders, who later ran the Board, a pub on Birmingham Road. Standing opposite, on the other corner of Bore Street and Breadmarket Street, was the Goat’s Head, which survived until 1970.

By 1896, the place was known as the Dolphin Hotel. The last known licensee was Percy Woodfield, who later moved to the Lemon Tree at 125 Beacon Street, which closed in 1915.

The Dolphin Inn was demolished in 1912 and was replaced by the current building in 1913. It was built by local builders JR Deacon as the Walsall and District Co-operative Society Ltd Branch No 13. Kate Gomez suggests the possibility that the previous building not fully demolished, and may just have been significantly altered and incorporated into the present building.

In my imagination, I wonder whether it was similar in building style to the 16th century timber framed building next door to Thomas Cook’s that is now Caffe Nero.

In her blog Lichfield Lore, Kate Gomez reported seven years ago [11 May 2013] that Frank Clarke, a regular contributor to the Facebook group ‘You’re probably from Lichfield, Staffs if …,’ had uncovered a dolphin mosaic under rotting floorboards while carrying out work there in the 1970s.

More recently, Burtons, who had a branch on Market Street since the 1930s, moved to this prominent corner site the late 1980s. But Burtons shut up shop in March 2013, and the premises have changed hands since then.

The Winehouse on Bird Street, between the King’s Head and the former Swan … the site of the former Wheatsheaf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

12, The Wheatsheaf, Bird Street:

The Wheatsheaf stood beside the Swan on Bird Street, just a few doors north of the King’s Head, from 1771 until 1912.

Neil Coley records that as the Baker’s Arms this was the venue for the last known slave auction in Britain on 30 November 1771, when a 10 or 11-year-old black African boy sold by John Heeley of Walsall.

The Baker’s Arms changed its name soon after to the Wheatsheaf. Later, the Wheatsheaf was incorporated into the Swan, and because the magistrates regarded them as the one premises, they lost one of their two separate licences in 1913. The Winehouse is now part of a wider cluster of bars and restaurants in these premises, redeveloped in recent decades.

The former offices of the Lichfield Brewery on Saint John Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There are many more former pubs that I pass by regularly, including the Lemon Tree on Beacon Street. But both John Shaw and Neil Coley provide far more comprehensive accounts of them in their books than I could ever offer in a single blog posting.

Indeed, there are many more former pubs that have been closed so long that I imagine they are never going to open again – although I still hold out hopes for the former Prince of Wales on Bore Street.

Hopefully, this crisis passes soon, and all the pubs included in my virtual tour on Monday evening are going to reopen soon again.

Additional reading:

John Shaw, The Old Pubs of Lichfield (Lichfield: George Lane Publishing, 2001/2007).

Neil Coley, Lichfield Pubs (Stroud: Amberley, 2016).

(Sir) Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974).

‘Lichfield: Roman Catholicism and Protestant nonconformity,’ in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield, ed MW Greenslade (London, 1990), pp 155-159. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol14/pp155-159 [accessed 24 March 2020].

‘Burntwood: Manors, local government and public services,’ in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield, ed MW Greenslade (London, 1990), pp 205-220. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol14/pp205-220 [accessed 24 March 2020].

MR Greenslade, Catholic Staffordshire 1500-1850 (Leominster: Gracewing, 2006).


Kate Gomez, ‘Co-operation,’ Lichfield Lore, 11 May 2013.

Continuing a tradition of welcome and hospitality … the site of the former Three Crowns Inn on Breadmarket Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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