26 January 2023

Walking in the mist and fog
in Tamworth and Comberford

Visiting Comberford Road and Comberford sites in Tamworth earlier this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

I was back in Tamworth and Comberford earlier this week to revisit a number of places associated with the Comberford family, including the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church; the Moat House, the Comberford family’s Tudor townhouse on Lichfield Street; Comberford Road; Comberford village; and Comberford Hall.

Despite the cold mist and fog that enveloped most of the Midlands earlier this week, Tuesday was market day, and the town was colourful and lively. Staffordshire’s first poet laureate Mal Dewhirst writes in his poem ‘We are Tamworth’:

Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays,
for the purveyors of:
fleeces and fruit, cakes and clothes, trainers and towels,
books and batteries, rugs and rollers,
cheese and chutney, shoes and socks, games and gifts.

The mutilated effigy of William Comberford in the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

These days, the Comberford Chapel in the north transept of Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church is filled with the stock of the church shop as extensive work is carried out at the west end of the church to provide a new coffee shop, book shop and toilets.

As usual, there was a warm welcome in the church, but the temporary layout and arrangements made it difficult to take the photographs I wanted in the Comberford Chapel to update pages on my Comerford Family History site.

A newly-published history of Saint Editha’s, compiled and edited by Stan T Parry, devotes three pages to the Comberford Chapel, and including a photograph and a full transcription and translation of the Comberford monument, erected by Irish members of the Comerford family almost 300 years ago in 1725 – including the misspelling of Anglure as Anglunia.

The booklet also draws attention to the monument on the floor of the chapel which is ‘the mutilated figure of a knight in chain armour, with surcoat and hauberk, and sword belt carrying a cross-handled sword. The head rests upon a visor and the figure wears a collar. The legs and arms, with hands formerly in prayer, have gone. It has been suggested that it represents William de Comberford, one of the predecessors of the family who owned Comberford Hall and the Moat House in Tamworth.’

These details are very difficult to make out today, even for the keenest of eyes, and there is no explanation in the booklet that the monument may have been mutilated by Parliamentarians during the Civil War in the mid-17th century, in revenge for the Royalist activities of the Comberford family of the Moat House.

The old Peel School on Lichfield Street, Tamworth, looks sad and neglected (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

As I walked along Lichfield Street to the Moat House, it was sad to see that the old Peel School on Lichfield Street is still in a shabby and dilapidated state of neglect.

But this building still looks like a Victorian chapel. It was built as a school in 1837 for Sir Robert Peel, and some local historians suggest it may have been built reusing the materials of the private chapel of the Moat House, further west on the same side of Lichfield Street.

The Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth … once the townhouse of the Comberford family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Moat House is closed during the week, opening only at weekends. So, although the fog and mist made for low visibility I decided to head out to Comberford village, about 3 or 4 km north of Tamworth.

Here too, poor visibility made it difficult to take any good photographs, and the winter weather made it difficult to go for an afternoon walk through the fields. Instead, I took a stroll up the drive to Comberford Hall.

I have always found it difficult to get a taxi in Tamworth. When I called, I was told by two taxi firms that I would have to wait for 45 minutes. It took me less time than that to walk along Comberford Road and back into the centre of Tamworth.

The Tuesday market stallholders were packing up beneath Sir Robert Peel’s statue and in the arcades of the town hall. In that poem, Mal Dewhirst Tamworth repeats a popular one-liner about Tamworth ‘where the town hall is like an orange, it has Peel on the outside.’

As darkness closed in on Tamworth, still covered in mist and fog, there was time to catch a coffee before getting the train back to Milton Keynes.

Freezing fog and mist created poor visibility in the fields in Comberford earlier this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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