28 May 2016

A practical guide to the pilgrim
route on the Two Saints Way

The countryside outside Lichfield along the Two Saints Way (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

When I am back in Lichfield, I often stay in the Hedgehog Vintage Inn, on the northern edges of the cathedral city. The Hedgehog stands on a hill, with sweeping views across the countryside, and across to the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral.

Below the bank on one side of the grounds of the Hedgehog is Cross in Hand Lane, a meandering country lane that leads out into open countryside, with fields and brooks, leading north to the villages of Farewell and Chorley.

The name of Cross in Hand is a link to the origins of the pilgrim route between Lichfield and Chester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But Cross in Hand Lane also marks the ancient pilgrim route between the shrine of Saint Chad in Lichfield and the shrine of Saint Werburgh in Chester. Both saints had Irish connections – Saint Chad is said to have been trained in an Irish monastery, and Saint Werburgh was a popular saint in mediaeval Dublin – but I have often thought this pilgrim route has the potential to be England’s very own camino.

Walking along the Two Saints Way between Lichfield and Farewell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Recently, I received a beautifully produced and well-researched guide to this English camino. The Two Saints Way by David Pott, published last year [2015], is a guide to this pilgrimage way.

David Pott is an experienced long-distance walker and the key person in developing the idea of the Two Saints Way.

When David and his wife Pam came to Stone in the autumn of 2007, he became interested in the foundational story of the town and the legend of the two princes Saint Wulfad and Saint Rufin. The story features both Saint Chad and St Werburgh.

Apart from various sites in Stone, however, he found connections with the legend in other places in the Trent Valley between Trentham and Salt, including a Saxon hill fort at Bury Bank (formerly called “Wulpherecestre”) and Saint Rufin’s Church in Burston.

Enjoying the countryside and the views along the Two Saints Way (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

David first thought of linking together these sites in a trail between Trentham and Stafford. But soon there was a suggestion of extending the story trail from Stafford to Lichfield over Cannock Chase along the Heart of England Way.

Then David was heard about the mediaeval pilgrim route between Chester Cathedral and Lichfield Cathedral. Many pilgrims on this route would have continued to Canterbury or even on to Rome or Jerusalem.

He began thinking about linking existing paths to create a revived pilgrimage route between the two cathedral cities.

At first, he called this the Saint Chad’s Way Project. But the idea grew and an early support group became a steering group.

With the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard in 2009, there was a new interest in the heritage of Mercia, and the name of Two Saints Way was adopted in June 2010.

The inaugural pilgrimage along the Two Saints Way took place in March 2012. Since then, work has continued on signing the setting up interpretation panels. This colourful and practical guidebook was published last year [November 2015].

A typical marker on the Two Saints Way (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Preparing the guidebook was a lengthy process that included assembling photographs and finalising maps.

Inevitably, changes took place along the route, such as kissing gates replacing stiles. And there has been in upsurge in interest in the pilgrim route.

The Two Saints Way now has a team of volunteer local co-ordinators to oversee each section of the route in their locality, making sure the footpaths are clear and the signs stay in place.

The maps and instructions in this book are clear and helpful, and the book is a beautifully presented and attractive invitation to set out on this pilgrim route. There is a wealth of practical detail and information, with interesting and inspiring content.

The Two Saints’ Way is part long-distance footpath, part-pilgrim trail (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In his cover endorsement of the book, the Dean of Liverpool, Pete Wilcox, a former Canon Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral, says: “The Two Saints’ Way is a remarkable achievement: part long-distance footpath, part-pilgrim trail; full of history and natural beauty. This superb new guidebook is as clear and colourful as it is full of detail. It will enable users to get the very best out of every section of the route, whetting the appetite of those planning a trip, and serving as a souvenir for those looking back on the experience.”

The book has a cover price of £12.99 (ISBN 9781910786215). I bought mine through the Lichfield Cathedral Shop at No 9, The Close, Lichfield.

Find out more about this interesting pilgrim route here.

The High Altar and reredos in Saint Chad’s Church, Stafford … one of the ancient sites on the Two Saints Way (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

An old monument in Tamworth with
links to Kilkenny and the Aran Islands

The monument to Sir John Ferrers in Tamworth gives a hint at links with the Butlers of Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

I was back in Tamworth recently to see the sorry state of the Moat House, the former Comberford family home on Lichfield Street, and to update my file of photographs of the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church.

I was writing yesterday [27 May 2016] about the Victorian restoration of Saint Editha’s by the Gothic revival architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, and the many Gothic Revival, Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts treasures in the church, including the reredos by Sir George Gilbert Scott, John Birnie Philip and Antonio Salviati, and windows by William Wailes, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, Henry Holiday, James Powell and the Whitefriars Studio and Ford Madox Ford.

There are two Comberford monuments in the parish church, but the church is filled with monuments and memorials connected with the Marmion, Freville and Ferrers families of Tamworth Castle.

Inside the west porch, a large, colourful and impressive monument reveals an interesting link between the Ferrers family of Tamworth Castle and the Butler family of Kilkenny Castle.

This extravagant monument once stood against the north wall of the chancel, close to the Altar, but was probably moved to the west porch when the church was being renovated and restored in the 1850s by the great Gothic revival architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott.

The monument is a memorial to Sir John Ferrers (1629-1680) of Tamworth Castle, MP for Derbyshire and later for Tamworth in the Restoration Parliament, who died in 1680, and to his son, Sir Humphrey Ferrers, who was drowned two years earlier in the River Trent.

Their memorial is an exuberant, garlanded riot of polished marble, complete with renaissance cherubs and colourful coats-of-arms. The elaborate Latin inscription is held up by two life-size statues of a man and a woman, dressed in the senatorial togas of imperial Rome and bedecked with the flowing wigs that were fashionable in Renaissance England.

The monument is the work of the sculptor and woodcarver Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) and the Flemish sculptor Arnold Quellin (1653-1686).

Gibbons was a master carver to kings and queens and was known primarily for his work in wood. His patrons included Charles II, James II, William III, Queen Mary, Queen Anne and George I. In Tamworth, he displays the depth, sharpness and intricacy of work that made him one of the outstanding craftsmen of his age. The statues are the work of the Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700), who also worked closely with the architect Sir Christopher Wren in London.

Heraldic decorations on the Ferrers monument in the west porch of Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The Latin inscription was composed by the historian and antiquarian Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686), who was born near Tamworth at Shustoke, near Coleshill, Warwickshire.

It is interesting to note that Dugdale’s inscription boasts of no particular qualities or achievements for John Ferrers. His political career was marked by fence-sitting, he was never diligent in attending Commons debates or parliamentary committees, and when he contributed he was often misogynist in his views. Instead, this epitaph lists the families he was related to by ancestry and marriage, as though they were glorious achievements worthy of praise.

Translated, the inscription translates:

Here lies Sir John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle, the only son of Sir Humphrey Ferrers, the male heir of the line of the ancient Ferrers (formerly Earls Ferrers and Earls of Derby) and notably the last of their branch of the family.

Which son John, through the female line, was linked to the de Frevill, Marmion, Mountford and Botetort families, once barons of the kingdom.

By his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Dudley Carleton, recently one of the advisers, from the innermost counsels, to the most illustrious King Charles, he reared only one son, Sir Humphrey, and a daughter Dorothy, who married Richard Earl of Arran (of the Irish peerage) the second son of the most noble James, Duke of Ormonde.

He died on 14 August 1680 aged 52.

Close by lies Sir Humphrey Ferrers, only son of the above mentioned John, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Gervase Pigot of Thrumpton in Nottinghamshire, by whom he had one surviving daughter, called Ann.

He died on 6 September 1678, while his father was still living, aged 25 years.

Heraldic decorations on the Ferrers monument in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Richard Butler (1639-1686), 1st Earl of Arran, who also held the title of Viscount Tullough and Baron Butler of Cloughgrenan, was an Irish peer, the fourth son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. But how did a Butler from Kilkenny, with family connections with Tamworth, come to own the Aran Islands in Galway Bay?

In 1651, at the height of the Cromwellian wars, the head of the Burke family, Lord Clanricarde, placed 200 musketeers on the Aran Islands, under the command of Sir Robert Lynch. The fort on Inishmore was rebuilt and fortified, and the Irish royalist forces held out against the Cromwellian parliamentary forces for almost 12 months after the surrender of Galway.

The islands eventually surrendered on condition that quarter should be given to all the soldiers who had garrisoned the fort, and that they would have six weeks to make their way to Spain.

Sir Robert Lynch was declared a traitor and the islands were granted to Erasmus Smith, the founder of charter schools in Ireland. Smith sold the Aran Islands to Richard Butler, a younger son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, and in 1662 Richard was given a number of titles, including Earl of Arran [sic], Viscount Tullogh and Baron Butler of Cloughgrennan.

Almost a decade later, as a reward for his role in naval battles against the Dutch, Richard was also given an English peerage with the title of Baron Butler of Weston.

Richard Butler was married twice. His first wife Mary (1651-1668) was a daughter of James Stewart, 1st Duke of Richmond, and a cousin of Charles II. They had no children, and when she died in 1668 he married his second wife, Dorothy Ferrers, daughter of John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Dudley Carleton.

Richard Butler from Kilkenny and Dorothy Ferrers from Tamworth were the parents of four children, including three sons who died in infancy, and who one after another had been given the courtesy title of Lord Tullogh: James Butler (1674-1676), Thomas Butler (1675-1681) and Thomas Butler (1681-1685). Their only surviving child, Lady Charlotte Butler (1679-1725), married Charles Cornwallis (1675-1722), 4th Baron Cornwallis.

Richard Butler died in 1686, six years after his father-in-law, John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle. Richard had no male heirs to inherit his titles, and so they died out. They were revived in 1693 for his nephew Charles Butler (1671-1758), who became Earl of Arran, Viscount Tullough and Baron Butler of Cloughgrenan.

Charles Butler was a brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde and the de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde. He too died without any male heirs to inherit the titles, and so they became extinct once again in 1758.

In 1762, the title of Earl of Arran was revived in favour of Sir Arthur Gore, whose descendants still hold the title, while the Aran Islands in Galway Bay eventually were bought by the Digby family.

Meanwhile, Lady Charlotte Butler’s eldest child, Charles Cornwallis (1700-1762), became the 1st Earl Cornwallis. One of her younger sons, Frederick Cornwallis (1713-1783), became Bishop of Lichfield in 1750 and ended his days as Archbishop of Canterbury (1768-1783).

Cornwallis rose quickly in the Church because of his political his aristocratic connections. In 1750, he became a canon at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and later that year he became Bishop of Lichfield (1750-1768). While he was Bishop of Lichfield, he was also Dean of Windsor (1765-1768) and Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (1766-1768).

As Archbishop of Canterbury, he supported the North administration and also supported Anglican clergy who were dispossessed in the colonies during the American Revolution. But while Cornwallis was a competent administrator, he was an uninspiring Church leader, and his lack of zeal paved the way for the emergence of both the Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement in the century that followed.

While Archbishop Cornwallis was still Archbishop of Canterbury, his nephew also became Bishop of Lichfield. James Cornwallis (1743-1824) was the third son of Charles Cornwallis, 1st Earl Cornwallis, and a grandson of Lady Charlotte Butler.

He was a Prebendary of Westminster Abbey (1770-1785) and the Dean of Canterbury (1775-1781) when he became Bishop of Lichfield (1781-1824). While he was Bishop of Lichfield, he was also Dean of Windsor (1791-1794) and Dean of Durham (1794-1824). Shortly before his death, he became 4th Earl Cornwallis at his nephew’s death in 9 August 1823, and held the title for about five months until he died on 20 January 1824.

As for the Ferrers estates in Tamworth, Sir John Ferrers left an estate valued at £2,000. Tamworth Castle and his other properties eventually passed from one daughter to another, through the Shirley, Compton and Townshend families. In 1767, when the Townshend family came to live at Tamworth Castle, they also bought the Moat House, the former Comberford family home on Lichfield Street.