12 August 2011

Do I look big in Shortbutts Lane?

The quaint-looking and quaintly-named Quonian’s Lane, off Dam Street in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Al the rooms in Innkeeper's Lodge, the Hedgehog, in Lichfield, are named after prominent local personalities, including Saint Chad, Samuel Johnson and David Garrick. My room is named Thomas Milley after Milley's Hospital nearby in Beacon Street.

In a cathedral city, you could expect to find street names like The Close, Bishop’s Walk, Dean’s Croft, Cathedral Rise and Vicar’s Close, as well as names that recall former bishops, such as Reeve Lane.

Bishop’s Walk .. but did the bishop ever hop, skip or jump? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lichfield also has a clusters of streets named after apostles, evangelists and saints. Christchurch Lane and Christchurch Gardens, Saint Chad’s Road, Saint Michael’s Road, Saint Peter’s Court, Saint John Street (Upper and Lower), Saint John’s Close, are linked with the names of nearby churches.

In one tight cluster on the north side of the city, I have also come across Augustine Walk, Christopher Walk, Jude’s Walk, Luke’s Walk, Mark’s Walk, Matthew’s Walk, Paul’s Walk, Peter’s Walk, Stephen’s Walk, all close to Saint Anne’s Road, Saint Catherine’s Road, Saint Giles Road, Saint Helen’s Road, and Saint Mary’s Road.

A city with such an important ecclesiastical past also has The Friary, Friary Avenue and The Spires, and two cardinals from different periods of history come to mind at Wolsey Road and Heenan Grove. But has anyone who lives in Alpha Terrace ever done an Alpha Course?

Has anyone who lives in Alpha Terrace ever done an Alpha Course? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I suppose it was a clever idea too for someone to suggest naming one whole area after other cathedrals. Close to all those saints, I’ve found Canterbury Close, Chester Close, Gloucester Close, Lincoln Close, Norwich Close, Salisbury Close, Southwark Close, Truro Close, Winchester Close, Worcester Close and York Close.

Nearby, at least six composers are remembered in street names: Purcell Avenue runs from Curborough to Netherstowe. Off Purcell Avenue are both Elgar Close and Handel Walk. On the south side of Netherstowe, Sullivan Way and Gilbert Walk and Gilbert Road, and nearby is Verdi Court.

It seems appropriate that Britannia Way, Europa Way, Hermes Road, Titan Way and Vulcan Road are in industrial and business parks on the east of the city.

Perhaps pining for lost fields and farms, someone also decided to use the names Barn Close, Fallow Field, Field Road, Meadowbrook Road, Ploughman’s Walk and Shepherd Close.

And there are enough trees and shrubs to have a forest: Alder Close, Ash Grove, Aspen Close, Beech Gardens, Birchwood Road, Blackthorne Road, Cedar Close, Cherry Orchard, Copper Grove, Elm Gardens, Greenwood Drive, Hawthorn Close, Hazel Grove, Heather Close Larch Close, Lime Grove, Maple Grove, Mulberry Drive, Oakhurst, Rowan Close, The Sycamores, Walnut Grove, Willow Tree Road, Willowsmere Drive, Woodlands, Woods Croft and Yew Tree Avenue ... now if Lime Grove had been called Lime Green instead, that would have shown imagination.

All seasons are here too: there is Spring Road, Summer Grove, Autumn Drive and Winter Close. So too with the birds of the air: apart from Bird Street, and Swan Road which leads off it, there are Swallow Croft, near to Martin Croft, Drake Croft and Mallard Court are side-by-side, and there are Bluebird Close, Crane Field, Curlew Close, Partridge Close, Swallow Croft and Swan Court.

Market Street, leading to Samuel Johnson’s birthplace and Market Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

As you might expect local writers, literary figures and artists have their place too. Lichfield’s own Samuel Johnson gives his name – rather, gives his names – to Samuel Close and to Johnson Close, Elias Ashmole gives his names to both Elias Close and Ashmole Close, and Charles Darwin’s father, Erasmus Darwin, who lived in a fine house on Beacon Street, is recalled in both Erasmus Way and Darwin Close on either side of the street.

But there is also David Garrick Gardens, Garrick Close, Garrick Court and Garrick Road, remembering David Garrick the actor who was pupil and friend of Samuel Johnson. Siddons Close and Kean Close recall Sarah Siddons and Edmund Kean, who worked on the stage with David Garrick. There is Edgeworth House, after Maria Edgeworth’s father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth; Lomax Close, after Thomas George Lomax, a local printer, engraver and publisher; Seward Close, after the poet Anna Seward, known as the ‘Swan of Lichfield’; and Reynolds Close, after Joshua Reynolds, who painted many of the members of this influential circle.

Walter Scott, who edited Anna Seward’s work, has his own tributes too in Abbotsford Road, Ivanhoe Road, Kenilworth Road, Scott Close and Waverley Walk.

Writers who may have had little or no association with Lichfield are not forgotten either: Burns Close, Byron Avenue, Chaucer Close, Masefield Close, Shakespeare Avenue, Spencer Road, Stevenson Walk and Wordsworth Close,

Do Patrick Mews and Anson Avenue on either side of Beacon Street recall the local royal photographer Patrick Anson, Earl of Lichfield? Other local land-owning families are here too: there are Levetts Fields and Swinfen Broun Court; while the Pagets of Beaudesert who held the Anglesey title, gave their names to Anglesey Road and Paget Close.

Curious figures in local history are called too, but the most interesting puzzle is posed by Wightman Close. Does this place take its name from Edward Wightman, who claimed he was Elijah, the Promised Messiah the Saviour of the World and the Holy Spirit – all in one? He and was burned at the stake in the Market Square in Lichfield in 1612, and was the last man executed as a heretic in England. Or is Wightman Close named after William Wightman, who was executed with John Neve and James Jackson in 1810 for uttering false banknotes – they were last men to be executed in Lichfield.

Saint John’s Close ...but I wonder how close is he? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On a more cheerful note, racetracks also have their place in the landscape, with Ascot Close, Epsom Close and Goodwood Close, as well as The Paddocks, while royal palaces have bestowed their names on Balmoral Close, Buckingham Gardens, Richmond Drive, Windsor Court, all, appropriately, close to Eton Court Grosvenor Close and Henley Court.

I’m here this week to see the Staffordshire Hoard on exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral, so it is good to be reminded of the rich history of the city in names like Roman Way, Rynkild Street, Saxon Hill and Mercian Court.

But what inspired someone to call a place Thomas Greenway after a 19th century Premier of Manitoba?

Conduit Street, from Bore Street, looking towards Dam Street and the Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Lichfield also has its own unique placenames, which add colour and a sense of place to wandering the streets of this cathedral city: Borrowcrop Hill, Conduit Street, Cross in Hand Lane, The Dimbles, Dovehouse Fields, Friday Acre, Nether Beacon, Netherstowe, Quonian’s Lane, Rotten Row and Shortbutts Lane.

But then, all human life is here, I suppose

No comments: