Saturday, 23 May 2020

A lockdown ‘virtual tour’
of a dozen buildings
in Tamworth (Part 2)

The coat-of-arms of Tamworth above the Tamworth Arms on Lichfield Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The lockdown introduced as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic continues to grip most of Europe, and the latest discussions indicate there may be no travel from Ireland or Britain to other parts of Europe for the next few months.

But I can still travel in my mind’s eye. And, so, in recent months I have been posting a number of ‘virtual tours,’ inviting you to join me in ‘virtual tours’ of churches, monasteries, synagogues, historic sites, and even pubs and restaurants across these islands and across Europe.

Over the past half century or more, the historic heart was torn out of Tamworth, by planners eager to modernise an old market town. In the process, much of the legacy of the narrow streets and Tudor shops was lost.

Along the banks of the River Tame, near the Moat House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When people decry the destruction of Tamworth’s architectural legacy, they often cite the loss of the old Paregoric Shop and a row of 14th century timber-framed houses opposite Saint Editha’s Church in Church Street that were demolished in the 1960s.

Although Tamworth lost much of its architectural heritage in this wave of urban vandalism in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it still retains some earlier Tudor buildings many interesting Georgian and Victorian buildings that should not be overlooked and in places it is still possible to find surprising legacies from the town’s once-elegant architectural past.

So, following last night’s ‘virtual tour’ (22 May 2020), I invite you this evening to join me on a second ‘virtual tour’ in Tamworth, visiting a dozen buildings this evening that are part of Tamworth’s architectural legacy.

Last night’s ‘virtual tour’ included Tamworth Castle, Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church, the Moat House, the Town Hall, Guy’s Almshouses, the Assembly Rooms and some interesting buildings on Church Street and Lichfield Street.

It is said, with humour, that Tamworth once had as many churches as it had pubs.However, this evening’s ‘virtual tour’ has a particular interest in the churches and pubs of Tamworth, where

13, Victoria Mews, Victoria Street:

The former Wesleyan Temple, later Victoria Street Methodist Church, has been converted into apartments as Victoria Mews (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John Wesley (1703-1791) was the first Methodist to visit Tamworth. Following disturbances in the Black Country in 1743, Wesley rode over to Tamworth to take legal advice from a Counsellor Littleton who lived there. However, the first visit of Methodist preachers to the town is not recorded until 1771.

The early Methodists in Tamworth first met in the home of Samuel and Ann Watton and later in a room in Bolebridge Street. In 1787 John Wesley met the first Sir Robert Peel, who gave the Methodists a site for a permanent chapel in Bolebridge Street. He told them: ‘My lads, do not build your chapel too large. People would like to go to a little chapel well filled better than a large one half full.’

The chapel was opened on 15 July 1794. But the chapel was clearly not built ‘too large,’ for by 1815 it was proving to be too small. In 1816, a new and larger chapel that could seat a congregation of 300 was built at a cost of £1,000.

But just as the first Wesleyan chapel in Bolebridge Street had proved too small, the second one also became inadequate, and in the 1870s it was decided to build a new one.

In 1877, Thomas Argyle, a Methodist solicitor, donated a plot of land for a new chapel on the corner of Victoria Road and Back Lane, now Mill Lane.

The foundation stones for what would become the Wesleyan Temple were laid on 21 May 1877 and ‘topping out ceremony was held on 28 November 1877. The Wesleyan Temple, was built at a cost of £4307 2s 6d and opened on 9 April 1878. The Wesleyan Temple had an inspiring façade, and could seat a congregation of 650 people.

The Sunday School continued to use Bolebridge Street Chapel until new schoolrooms were built in 1898. The old chapel was sold to Woodcocks’ Printers, who used it for many years. Later, in the 1960s the congregation at Victoria Road was joined by families from the Bolebridge Street Mission when it closed.

However, serious defects were detected at Victoria Road Methodist Church, as it had become known, and the costs of remedying them were beyond the resources of the church. In early 1972, a decision was taken to close the church on Victoria Road and to amalgamate with the Methodist Church in Aldergate.

The magnificent Victorian edifice of the church was preserved and at first accommodated squash courts. However, the inside was stripped out in 1974 to accommodate a squash club. The old Wesleyan Temple has since been converted into residential apartments, but the façade remains part of the architectural legacy of Tamworth’s church history.

14, Central Methodist Church, Aldergate:

The Central Methodist Church on Aldergate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Methodist Church in Aldergate dates from a split that divided Tamworth’s Methodists in the mid-19th century. A new group was formed calling itself the Wesleyan Reformers and later the Free Methodists. When they left the Bolebridge Street Chapel, they met in a room nearby before acquiring a room in Aldergate that was known as ‘The Hut.’

In the late 19th century, the Free Methodists found the Hut did not meet the needs of a growing congregation. They bought a plot of land in Aldergate for £250. The memorial stones were laid at Easter 1886, and the building was completed late that summer, with a fine spire. The fine, Gothic-style building cost £2,250 and opened for worship on 29 September 1886.

In 1907, the Free Methodists became United Methodists. In 1933, the United, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Churches became one Methodist Church, but it was many years before this became a reality in Tamworth. Meanwhile, the original spire was removed in the 1950s.

When they were joined by the Victoria Street Methodists in 1972, the new congregation in Aldergate became known as the Central Methodist Church.

But the premises in Aldergate were inadequate for the needs of the new congregation. It was impossible to extend laterally so it was decided to extend vertically, and a large part of the cost was met by grants from the Joseph Rank Benevolent Trust.

The church reopened on 16 September 1978. In 2005, a further upgrade was undertaken to improve access, toilet facilities and the kitchen. The Aldergate church is now known as the Central Methodist Church.

15, The Unitarian Chapel, Colehill (now Victoria Street):

The Unitarian Chapel on Colehill, now Victoria Road, was built in 1724, but was rooted in the story of the 17th century Puritans (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The story of the Congregationalists, Unitarians and Baptists in Tamworth dates back to the presence of the Puritans in the early 17th century. While the Revd Samuel Hodgkinson was Vicar of Tamworth (1610-1629), the Revd Thomas Blake (ca 1597-1657) first arrived in Tamworth. Blake was a native of Staffordshire and graduated BA in Oxford in 1620. On Christmas Eve 1620, he was ordained priest by Thomas Morton, Bishop of Lichfield, at Eccleshall.

Bishop Morton was sympathetic to the Puritans, and in 1627 he licensed Blake as preacher in Tamworth. In 1629, he succeeded Hodgkinson as the Vicar of Tamworth and master of the Grammar School.

As Vicar of Tamworth, Blake preached his brand of Presbyterian Puritanism with its dislike of bishops and catholic doctrines

However, William Comberford of Comberford Hall and the Moat House claimed the right of patronage in the parish, and between 1639 and 1642, he pursued legal actions to secure his claim to the patronage of Saint Editha’s and the college house. Comberford was unsuccessful in his action, and he and Blake then found themselves on opposite sides in the First English Civil War.

Blake was a strong supporter of Parliament and probably did not remain in Tamworth during the royalist occupation. His parish work was disrupted and it was in these years that he first earned a reputation for being controversial. His publications focussed on questions about infant baptism, and he debated publicly with other Puritans, including Presbyterians and Baptists, publishing pamphlets and sermons. One of the children he baptised was John Rawlett (1642-1686), later an Anglican cleric, preacher and writer with close sympathy with the Presbyterians.

Despite Comberford’s failure to eject him in 1642, Blake appears to have left the parish immediately after the case. There is a blank of two years in the Parish Registers during the Civil War from 1642 to 1644, for which Theophilus Lord wrote in 1644: “For some short time service there was not any.”

In 1643, Tamworth Castle was was captured by a detachment of Parliamentarian forces under the regicide Colonel William Purefoy. William Comberford, who was High Sheriff of Staffordshire escaped to Lichfield, and in his absence the Comberford home at the Moat House was ransacked by Cromwell’s forces, who mutilated the Comberford monument in Saint Editha’s Church, the Comberford Chapel was defaced, and sacked Comberford Hall.

However, Blake did not return to Tamworth, and in 1644 Cromwell’s Committee of Safety appointed Theophilus Lord as the Minister of Tamworth. Blake had moved from Tamworth to Shrewsbury, and there he became a Puritan minister in 1645. A year later he was replaced as Vicar of Tamworth by Revd Ralph Hodges, who was appointed Vicar of Tamworth with Glascote and Hopwas in 1646. He was also appointed Rector of Birmingham, a position he held until the end of 1661.

Meanwhile, Blake was back in Tamworth by 1651, when he was writing and publishing Puritan tracts and pamphlets once again, and where he remained until his death. He was nominated by Cromwell to be an assistant to the commissioners of Staffordshire for ejecting ignorant and scandalous ministers and schoolmasters.

In later publications, Blake advocated a more open and inclusive approach to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, This position brought him into conflict with one of the leading Puritans of the day, Richard Baxter, and the controversy continued until Blake’s death.

Blake made his will in 1656, and one of the witnesses was Thomas Fox, a Puritan and Parliamentarian officer who would soon move into the Moat House, the former Comberford family townhouse on Lichfield Street. When Blake died in 1657, he was buried in Saint Editha’s Church.

What happened to the Puritan circle around Blake and their successors in Tamworth after the civil war, the Restoration and the ejection of Puritan ministers?

Samuel Shaw, who gave the oration at Blake’s funeral, was ordained by the Wirksworth Classis or Presbyterian assembly in Derbyshire on 12 January 1658 and became the Schoolmaster or Puritan minister in Tamworth. He was one of the Puritan ministers who were ejected from their parishes at the Restoration and he later became Master of the grammar school in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire.

Anthony Burgess, who preached Blake’s funeral sermon, had been the Vicar of Sutton Coldfield from 1635 until he was forced to take refuge in Coventry in 1642, and was replaced by the royalist Revd James Fleetwood. Burgess was a member of the Westminster Assembly in 1643, and returned to Sutton Coldfield. After the after the Great Ejection in 1662, he moved to Tamworth.

The parish of Tamworth remained vacant until 1662 when the Revd Samuel Langley was appointed Vicar of Tamworth.

The Puritans’ successors in Tamworth were the Presbyterians, who built their own meeting house. They had become Unitarians by 1690, and the former Presbyterian meeting house was replaced in 1724 by the Unitarian Chapel built on Colehill, now Victoria Road.

With its Georgian windows, the Unitarian Chapel is still a well-maintained building. But the Unitarians in Tamworth dwindled in numbers in the 20th century, and their chapel was later used by the Royal Naval Association.

16, The former Baptist Church:

The former Baptist Church beside the Old Stone Cross on Church Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The former Baptist Church beside the Old Stone Cross on Church Street, on the corner of Lower Gungate, was built as a theatre around 1770. Long before the Victorian Assembly Rooms were built on Corporation Street, this building was Tamworth’s main theatre, with actors taking to the stage lit by reflected candles, playing to a pit as well as a gallery.

Outside, it looks like many other Georgian theatres of its time, particularly with its tall pitched roof, and it has been compared with similar theatres in Ashby, Loughborough and Wisbech. The exterior windows and the entrance date from the time when this was a Baptist chapel. But, after many changes during its life, little if anything remain of the original interior aside from the raised plaster ceiling over the stage with an elaborate plaster rose.

The celebrated actress Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) is said to have performed here in 1770s. The eldest of 12 children, Sarah Kemble was still in her early teens when she became infatuated with William Siddons (1744-1808), a handsome 22-year-old actor. When she was 18, Sarah and William were married in Trinity Church, Coventry, in 1773.

She returned to the stage as Mrs Siddons, and the theatrical producer David Garrick (1717-1779), who spent his childhood in Lichfield, brought her to Drury Lane in London in 1775, when she appeared as Portia in The Merchant of Venice.

She failed on the London stage, and in 1777 she went on the provincial circuit for six years. It was during this period that she came to Tamworth and Lichfield. Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) brought her back to Drury Lane in 1782, and her most famous role became that of Lady Macbeth.

Her other acclaimed roles included Desdemona, Rosalind, Ophelia and Volumnia, and she once told Samuel Johnson that Catherine was her favourite role was as Queen Catherine in Henry VIII.

She mixed with the literary and social elite of London society, and her acquaintances included Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Hester Thrale Piozzi, and William Windham. Her portrait was painted by Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence and Joshua Reynolds. and Queen Catherine in Henry VIII.

With the decline of the great families in the Tamworth area, the theatre went into decline too, and eventually it was turned into a four-storeyed malt house by the Peel family in the early 19th century. In 1869, Sir Robert Peel gave the building to the Baptists, and in 1870, the new Tabernacle was solemnly dedicated for public worship. The preacher on that occasion was the Revd JA Spurgeon, a brother of the famous Charles Spurgeon.

The church was enlarged in 1908 with the addition of an imposing porch, and an organ was installed at the same time.

This building, which has changed hands and been altered much over the past two and a half centuries, was bought by Tamworth Borough Council in 1972 for a and a new Baptist church opened in Belgrave in 1973.

However, the road widening plan was abandoned, and the chapel was converted back to a theatre with the opening of Tamworth Arts Centre in 1975. However, spending cuts forced the arts centre to close in 2001. The building was sold, was renovated by Staffordshire County Council, and since 1999 it has been used as a registry office.

The Old Stone Cross public house next door to the former Baptist Tabernacle was built in the early 18th century, but it may have been a public house for much longer for the cellars date from at least the early 16th century. The façade was rebuilt in 1974 in brick with timber framing and concrete dressings.

17, The former Congregationalist Church:

The former Congregationalist Church on Aldergate, now Jalali Indian restaurant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A Congregational Church on the corner of Aldergate and Saint John Street was built in 1827. Some Congregationalists preferred to be called Independents.

A side extension was added to the church in 1925 to provide space for a Sunday school and for social activities. However, attendance had fallen to an all-time low by 1974. The church closed, the pulpit was moved to the neighbouring Methodist Church, and the former Congregational Church and the building was converted into the Victoria Shopping Arcade. Today, it is the Jalali Indian restaurant.

The Roman Catholic Church of Saint John the Baptist was built in 1830 in the street that was named after it. In 1956, the church was completely renovated and enlarged to serve a congregation that, unlike many other churches in Tamworth, experienced growth.

Many other traditions are part of Tamworth’s church history, including the Quakers, the Bolebridge Street Mission and the Salvation Army. The presence of the Society of Friends or Quakers in Tamworth dates from the mid-17th century, and the early Quakers in Tamworth included Francis Comberford of Comberford Hall and his family. From the 1750s, a Quaker Meeting House stood for almost a century behind No 101 Lichfield Street, and about 20 Quakers were buried in the burial ground there.

In addition, there have been Spiritualists and the Mormons or Church of Latter Day Saints. They are interwoven with the heritage of Tamworth and although many are now forgotten they have influenced the welfare of the town.

18, Old Peel School, Lichfield Street:

The Peel School was housed at No 17 Lichfield Street from 1837 to 1850 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

What looks like a former Victorian chapel at 17 Lichfield Street was built as a school in 1837 for Sir Robert Peel. No 17, which was a furniture shop until recently, is whitewashed and has a large Gothic window in the gable, flanked by a lower Tudor-headed window and door.

The former Peel School looks like a Victorian chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Peel School founded in Church Street, beside the Churchyard, in 1820, and moved to Lichfield Street in 1837. Sir Robert Peel also built its replacement across the street in 1850 to a building designed by Sydney Smirke.

The building had been turned into church rooms by 1907, and after the 1930s it was used as the Civic restaurant.

The building later became a small factory for Hart and Levy Tailoring and then part of the Shannon’s Mill sheltered housing complex .

19, No 18, Lichfield Street:

No 18 Lichfield Street … an early 18th century house has become a 21st century café (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The building beside the former Peel School, Nos 18-19 Lichfield Street, was sold recently and is now the Number Eighteen Coffee House, This café and restaurant plans to reopen on 3 June, with take-out food and drinks available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday throughout June.

This two-storey building with an attic is an early 18th century house with a symmetrical five-window range, built in chequer brick with vitrified headers on a stone plinth, and a tile roof with brick end stacks. It has a central staircase plan, a wooden architrave at the entrance, paired doors, segmental-headed windows and three gabled dormers in the attic.

20, Former electricity showrooms on Church Street:

The former electricity showrooms on Church Street were built on the site of a pub and later became a pub once again (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The greatest piece of town planning vandalism in Tamworth in the 1960s was the destruction and loss of the Tudor and timber-framed buildings that once lined much of Church Street, many dating back to the 15th century. But, while the loss of this heritage continues to be mourned, questions must also be asked about the future facing what was once of the finest art deco-style buildings in Tamworth.

The magnificent art deco building at No 59 Church Street, facing Corporation Street, was built in 1932-1936 as an electricity showroom for the Tamworth and District Electricity Supply Company. Previously, the site was occupied by the Rose and Crown, a public house that opened in 1864-1868.

Colonel D’Arcy Chaytor, a colliery owner who had restored Pooley Hall in Polesworth, was largely responsible for bringing electricity to Tamworth in 1924.

During World War II, the 45-ft high landmark tower at the centre of the building was used as an air-raid siren for Tamworth. It sounded on 138 occasions during the war, and bombs were dropped on the town on four occasions.

The building and its tower survived the war and survived much of the demolition of Church Street and the neighbouring streets. But in 1976 the electricity board was allowed to reduce the height of the tower by two-thirds, with the excuse of reducing maintenance costs. At the same time, the clock at the top of the tower was moved, and was reinstalled lower down on the building.

The former showroom on the ground floor was converted into the Chicago Rock Café in 2002. Later it became the Silk Kite Public House, so that the site returned to its original use a century and a half earlier.

But the name of the Silk Kite was a clever devise to keep alive the memory of the former electricity showrooms. It recalls a famous experiment by Benjamin Franklin in 1752, when he used a silk kite. The experiment became a milestone in understanding how electricity works.

Today, this building is locally listed, but is vacant again and available to rent as ‘a free of tie public house.’ Even modern listed buildings of architectural interest face a difficult future in Tamworth.

21, Bank House, Ladybank:

The Tudor Gothic house at the end of Ladybank was built for Sir Robert Peel’s bank (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bank House at No 9 Ladybank is a striking Victorian, Tudor Gothic-revival building in the centre of Tamworth, facing the Castle Hotel and almost opposite the Holloway Lodge entrance to Tamworth Castle.

It is one of the few buildings – if not the only building – in Tamworth to boast a blue plaque.

This Tudor Gothic style Grade II listed building was formerly the Tamworth Savings Bank. It bears the date AD 1845, and was built in 1845-1846 to house the bank founded by Sir Robert Peel in 1823.

The former bank, now in offices, has a buff brick façade with ashlar dressings, a tile roof with ashlar end stacks. It was built in an L-plan in the domestic Tudor style. It is a two-storey building, with a three-window range, an ashlar base, a top cornice and a parapet.

The Tudor-headed entrance has a label mould and cusped spandrels, and a four-panel door. There are two-storey canted oriels at the forward breaks under the gables, moulded bases and ribs to 1:2:1-light windows, with panels between the floors, and brattished cornices. There is a narrow central window on the first floor above the door.

The former bank is at the end of a delightful Victorian terrace (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The gables have relief display of the former coat-of-arms with a fleur-de-lys on a shield supported by a pair of mermaids.

The neighbouring houses that continue the terrace along Ladybank are splendid examples of Victorian domestic architecture with their own pathway and railings that separate them from Holloway which runs below from the end of Silver Street to Lady Bridge.

22, Some Tamworth pubs:

Street art on the New Street side of the Three Tuns on Lichfield Street … this probably the site of the Town Hall for the Staffordshire part of Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tamworth has lost many of its original pubs in the 20th century.

The first Three Tuns Inn stood on the corners of Lichfield Street, Brewery Lane and New Street. It was probably built on the site of the town’s Staffordshire Town Hall and was demolished in 1937. The second Three Tuns Inn was built on the original pub’s foundations and opened at the end of 1937.

The Tamworth Arms at 71-72 Lichfield Street is known locally as ‘The Bottom House’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Tamworth Arms, at 71-72 Lichfield Street, almost directly across the street from the Moat House is known with affection locally as ‘The Bottom House’ because it is at ‘bottom end’ of the town, or on the western fringe of Tamworth, on the road out to Lichfield.

This is one of Tamworth’s old public houses, and it traces its history back to a time when it was a coaching inn in the 19th century. It is a traditional English pub with a popular restaurant and selection of real ales. It has a picturesque façade that is partly red-brick, with hanging baskets and a sunny beer terrace at the front. The front is wonderfully old-fashioned, with etched and stained glass and an ancient but still functioning post box built into the wall.

The present White Lion dates from 1935 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The White Lion and the White Horse Inn stood opposite each other where Lichfield Street meets Church Street. The White Horse was demolished in the late 1960s, and the White Lion which stands today was built in 1935. The Queen’s Head closed in 1967 before demolition.

The Sir Robert Peel at 13-15 Lower Gungate predates Sir Robert Peel’s political career (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Nos 13 and 15 Gungate may have been built originally as a shop but is now a well-known public house, the Sir Robert Peel.

This building probably dates from the 17th century, with additions in the early 18th century and in the mid-19th century. It is built of painted brick with an L-plan, and has a tile roof with a brick cross-axial stack. It is a two-window range, single storey building with an attic.

The entrance is between two large 20th century small-paned bow windows. The attic has two gabled dormers. There is a rear gable wing, and a 19th century, two-storey, two-window range to right. Inside, the chamfered beams are an indication of the earlier date of this building, despite its exterior.

It became Hamlet’s Wine Bar in 1976, and later became O’Neill’s Irish bar, before the name was changed to Sir Robert Peel.

No 13-14 Aldergate, home to the Peel Hotel and Christopher’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Around the corner, on the north side of Aldergate, the Peel Hotel at 13-14 Aldergate offers four-star guest accommodation, and there is a modern bistro restaurant and bar at Christopher’s.

No 14 Aldergate and the attached outbuilding is a Grade II listed building. This was built as a Georgian house ca 1800 with recent alterations in the 20th century. It is built of brick, with a slate roof with brick end stacks.

The building has a double-depth plan, is three-storeys, and has a symmetrical three-window range, and at the top there is a modillioned brick cornice.

The ground floor has a 20th century projecting shop front extending the entire width of the building. The windows have sills, and there are rubbed brick flat arches over 16-pane sashes, although some glazing bars are missing. The second floor windows have eight-pane sashes.

The rear of the building has two gabled wings, including a mid-19th century workshop, with an L-plan with segmental arches over the small-paned iron casements and extends to rear of grounds to No 15.

Christopher’s Restaurant stands on the site of the former offices and printing works of the Tamworth Herald. The journalists and office staff moved here from Silver Street in 1965, and in early 1970s I began my career in journalism contributing freelance features to both the Tamworth Herald and the Lichfield Mercury. The Tamworth Herald moved to Ventura Park in 1996.

No 15 Aldergate is a classical Georgian house in the heart of Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Beside Christopher’s, the three-storey house at No 15 Aldergate, which was converted into flats in the 20th century, was built ca 1770. It was built in the Georgian style in an L-plan in brick and has a tile roof with brick end stacks.

This Georgian house is symmetrical, with a three-window range and at the top there is a modillioned wooden cornice.

The entrance has a door-case with pilasters, frieze and pediment, and a narrow over-light over the 20th century fielded-panel door. The windows have sills, those to the ground and the first floor have rusticated wedge lintels over 12-pane top-hung casements, although the window the ground floor right has lost its lintel and there has been rebuilding to the left.

The second floor has six-pane top-hung casements. The rear of No 15 has a gabled wing, with two elliptical-headed carriage arches and a 20th century canted oriel.

23, The Castle Hotel, Holloway and Market Street:

The former bank stands opposite the Castle Hotel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Castle Hotel at the corner of Holloway and Market Street, dates back to the early 18th century, with additions dating from the mid-19th century and the 1900s.

The entrance is known to many people in Tamworth because of its Tuscan porch with a scrolled wrought-iron balcony, and the blind overlight to the paired half-glazed doors.

The oldest section of the hotel is on the corner of Market Street, the centre section was built next, and the ornate gabled block was added ca 1900. The entrance on Holloway became important after 1810, when a new gatehouse for Tamworth Castle was built at the foot of the Holloway, where the road ran south along the Lady Bridge.

The Market Street frontage, now the Bow Street Runner bar was once a grocer’s shop. A major fire swept through the hotel on 2 November 1838, and six maids who were trapped in rooms on the top floor died. Tamworth’s first fire brigade was formed in response to this tragedy.

The hotel is a significant element in Holloway and also contributes to the setting of the castle.

24, Tamworth train station:

‘Art is where the heart is’ … modern images, including this one of Saint Editha’s Church, seek to counter the stark appearances of the station and to recall Tamworth’s past (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The fine Victorian railway station in Tamworth was built in 1847 with Tudor and Jacobean themes in its design. But this beautiful station was demolished in 1961, and it was replaced by a modern building in 1962.

Many efforts have been made in recent decades to reverse the impact of this demolition and to beautify the stark appearances of the station, including the installation of art works around the building.

Leaving the station to walk into Tamworth, the most impressive modern addition is a reminder of Tamworth’s past: a modern statue of Aethelflaed by sculptor Luke Perry was installed on the roundabout by Tamworth Railway Station two years ago, on 20 May 2018.

It was unveiled the following day in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Tamworth and the Chief Executive of Tamworth Borough Council, in advance of the Aethelflaed 1100 celebrations that June and July.

Luke Perry’s statue of Aethelflaed on the roundabout by Tamworth Railway Station (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Some recent ‘virtual tours’:

A dozen buildings in Tamworth (Part 1);

More than a dozen Comberford family homes;

More than a dozen Comerford and Quemerford family homes;

A dozen Wren churches in London;

Ten former Wren churches in London;

More than a dozen churches in Lichfield;

More than a dozen pubs in Lichfield;

A dozen former pubs in Lichfield;

A dozen churches in Rethymnon;

A dozen restaurants in Rethymnon;

A dozen churches in other parts of Crete;

A dozen monasteries in Crete;

A dozen sites on Mount Athos;

A dozen historic sites in Athens;

A dozen historic sites in Thessaloniki;

A dozen churches in Thessaloniki;

A dozen Jewish sites in Thessaloniki.

A dozen churches in Cambridge;

A dozen college chapels in Cambridge;

A dozen Irish islands;

A dozen churches in Corfu;

A dozen churches in Venice.

A dozen churches in Rome.

A dozen churches in Bologna;

A dozen churches in Tuscany.

A monument to Henry Charles Mitchell (1873-1947), Tamworth’s historian, in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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