18 August 2019

Tamworth remembers
royal visit to Comberford
family 400 years ago

The Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth … the future Charles I was the guest of the Comberford family here 400 years ago on the night of 18 August 1619 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout this weekend, the Tamworth and District Civic Society has been marking the 400th anniversary of the visit by King James I to Tamworth. When James I made the first of his three known visits to Tamworth on 18 August 1619, the king stayed as Tamworth Castle, while his son, the future Charles I, stayed at the Moat House on Lichfield Street, the Tamworth townhouse of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall.

James I seemed to enjoy summer stays at Tamworth Castle, as he returned in August 1621 and again in August 1624, the year before his death.

At Tamworth Castle, his host was Sir Humphrey Ferrer, a loyal supporter of the crown, and the new Tudor buildings at Tamworth Castle would have comfortably accommodated the King in both privacy and grandeur.

During that first visit 400 years ago, the 18-year-old Prince Charles stayed at the nearby Moat House in Lichfield Street as a guest of William Comberford. King James is believed to have stayed in the suite of rooms at Tamworth Castle known today as the Day Parlour.

Years later, William Comberford of the Moat House raised a small royalist force and to garrison Tamworth Castle for King Charles I during the English Civil War.

The 400-year anniversary of the royal visit on 18 August 1619 was celebrated at the weekend with a special evening organised by Tamworth and District Civic Society at the Moat House on Friday (16 August 2019). The ticket-only event included a buffet reception and audience with ‘King Charles’ under the gold painted and heraldic ceiling in the Long Gallery in the Moat House depicting the Comberford tree.

As surprise treat at Friday’s reception, the Mayor of Tamworth, Councillor Richard Kingstone, brought the borough maces out of their secure vault in honour and explained them to the guests in the Moat House.

The two silver maces are adorned with royal and national emblems and with Tamworth’s symbols of the fleur-de-lys and the mermaid. They were presented by King Charles II – son and grandson of the 1619 royal visitors – with his charter to the borough in 1663. They have been carried before the Mayor and Bailiffs of Tamworth by the two Serjeants-at-Arms or macebearers at all formal civic occasions for the past 356 years.

One guest said afterwards: ‘Seeing the maces was the icing on the cake!’

A former Mayor of Tamworth Mayor, Lee Bates, later said: ‘Thank you to Tamworth and District Civic Society for an excellent evening at the Moat House tonight commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the visit to Tamworth by King Charles I.’

The guests welcomed by the chair of TDCS, Dr David Biggs, included the Deputy Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Richard Dyott, representing the Queen; Councillor Kath Perry, chairman of Staffordshire County Council, and her husband, Ray Perry; and the Mayor of Tamworth, Councillor Richard Kingstone.

A feature by John Harper marking the anniversary of the visit was published in the Tamworth Herald on Thursday: ‘The 1619 visit of Two Kings’ (15 August 2019).

Councillor Jeremy Oates, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said at the weekend: ‘Tamworth Castle has such a long and rich heritage and has played a significant part in the history of the country throughout the centuries. The visit of King James is one of those occasions that has built Tamworth’s fascinating and diverse heritage. To learn more about this, and other interesting facts, I’d encourage people to visit the castle and explore some of the Tamworth story.’

Tamworth and District Civic Society has been actively promoting and protecting the history and heritage of Tamworth and district since 1973. Three months ago, the society invited me to present a paper in Saint George’s Chapel, Saint Editha’s Church, on the Comberford Family and the Moat House [9 May 2019], followed by refreshments in the Comberford Chapel.

For castle opening and admission times, to book tickets online, and for more historical information, visit www.tamworthcastle.co.uk.

Tamworth Castle … James I was the guest of the Ferrers family here 400 years ago on the night of 18 August 1619 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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