25 January 2021

Pipe Hill House, a Georgian
house owned by only eight
families over three centuries

Pipe Hill House was built in 1725 and is on the market with a guide price of £2.5 million

Patrick Comerford

I was writing last week about Wall House, south of Lichfield, which is on the market with an asking price of £4.25 million. But Pipe Hill House is another house of historical and architectural interest on the outskirts of Lichfield that is also on the market.

Pipe Hill House at Pipehill, Lichfield, is a three-storey, five-bedroom, Georgian, brick farmhouse. It was originally built in 1725 and is on the market with a guide price of £2.5 million.

An added point of interest is that Over the last 300 years, Pipe Hill House has been owned by only eight families over the last three centuries. It set in about 6.75 acres and is less than 3 km from the centre of Lichfield.

Pipehill is at the point where the Lichfield-Walsall road crosses the road from Burntwood to Lichfield and Wall. This was once a waste area known known as Pipe Marsh. The hamlet was known in the 14th century as Hardwick or Pipe Hardwick, a name still used in the early 17th century and meaning a livestock farm.
The site of Pipehill Farm on the south-west edge of the waste was occupied in the mid-14th century and the present farmhouse is partly mediaeval. Pipe Hill House to the south dates from the mid-18th century, when it replaced a house that was on the site from the late 17th century.

Nicholas Bull acquired land in Pipehill in 1588 and 1593, and this became the estate later centred on Pipe Hill House. He died in 1627 and the estate passed Richard Bull, who had died by 1655. His son, also Richard Bull, held land at Pipehill, and died in 1660.

Richard Bull who lived at Pipehill and was assessed for tax on five hearths in 1666, died in 1671. He was succeeded by his son, Thomas Bull, who had died by 1689, with a son Thomas Bull as his heir.

In the early 18th century, the estate belonged to another Richard Bull, who sold it to Harvey Green of Lichfield. Harvey Green was succeeded in 1721 by his nephew, John Hartwell, a Lichfield cloth manufacturer. He sold the estate in 1725 to Randle Bradburne, a Birmingham ironmonger and one of the first trustees of Smethwick church, and the Hartwell family seems to have moved to Elford.

Randle Bradburne probably built Pipe Hill House in 1725. His heir was John Bradburne, who in 1751 advertised 200 acres at Pipehill for letting. Most of the estate comprised farmland south of Pipe Hill House and later centred on Pipe Place Farm, built in 1764.

When John Bradburne died in 1779, he was succeeded by his illegitimate son, Samuel Hamson, who changed his name to Samuel Bradburne. He married Ann Fern (1764-1838) from Pipe Ridware in Saint Michael’s Parish, Lichfield, in 1781. He had died by 1834, when his widow Ann was living at Fosseway Court in Pipehill until she died in 1838.

Samuel Bradburne’s son, John Bradburne (1782-1834), married Mary Hanbury (1793-1858) of in Norton Canes, near Cannock, in 1816. When he died in 1834, their son, also John Hanbury Bradburne (1824-1879), was a minor. Pipe Hill House may have been separated from the estate after John Bradburne’s death in 1834. The house was owned by his widow Mary (Hanbury) Bradburne in 1845, and their daughter, Eliza Bradburne, was living there in 1871.

John Hanbury Bradburne married Sophia Fudgeon in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, in 1847. When he died in 1879, he was succeeded at Pipe Hill House by his son, Henry Bradburne, who died around 1893. A year later, in 1894, an estate of 226 acres centred on Pipe Place Farm was put up for sale.

Eliza Bradburne was still at Pipe Hill House in 1900; but she was no longer there by 1904, which indicates she may have died by then. The land was farmed in the 1920s by Walter Ryman of Manor Farm.

Pipe Hill House was owned by Mrs Winifred Elmy in 1986, and the land and Pipe Place Farm were still in the hands of the Ryman family.

An interesting descendant of the Bradburne family was John Randal Bradburne (1921-1979), ‘the Vagabond of God,’ who was a lay English Franciscan missionary, hermit and poet. He was the warden of the Mutemwa leper colony in Mutoko, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) when he was kidnapped and murdered. He is a candidate for canonisation in the Catholic Church.

Pipe Hill House has been a boutique Bed and Breakfast for many years

Pipe Hill House has been a 5 Gold Star (AA Highly Commended) boutique Bed and Breakfast for many years.

Pipe Hill House combines a wealth of architectural history and story. This early 18th century house is built of red brick with stone quoins and a flush stone band at first floor level and a plinth. It has a hipped tile roof, massive side stacks with two and three diagonally set shafts above eaves level.

The house is built on an almost square plan, with a two-storey and attic five window front, with two flat-headed dormers over segmental-headed, mullioned and transomed casements.

The central entrance has a moulded surround and consoles to a low pediment, with an over-light and a door with six flush panels. The garden front is similarly complete and the side elevation to the road is blind but is dominated by the massive projecting stack.

The house has a floor area of over 6000 sq ft, and in recent years it has been restored to splendour, with up five generous double bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms.

Each room of the original house retains all period window frames and window fixings, with wooden shutters in the ground floor front rooms.

The dining room, garden room and kitchen flood with light from the south-facing lawn. The first-floor rooms have spectacular views. There are two more bedrooms are on the top floor. The house also has a cellar and a courtyard.

The grounds include a semi-formal garden, lower lawn, mature woodland, a vegetable garden and a paddock that is currently a wild meadow but could be ideal for three or four horses.

Pipe Hill House is on the market through Fine & Country of Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield.

Pipe Hill House is on the market through Fine & Country of Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield

Further reading: ‘Townships: Wall with Pipehill’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14, Lichfield, ed MW Greenslade (London, 1990), pp 283-294. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol14/pp283-294 [accessed 25 January 2021].

Inspiration for Church
unity on the feast of the
conversion of Saint Paul

The Conversion of Saint Paul … a modern icon

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul [25 January]. Because I was born a day later, my mother wanted to call me Paul. Those who brought me to baptised had other ideas, but my mother often continued to call me Paul, and while I am more than comfortable with the name Patrick, there is a way in these two days come together for me as one celebration.

The Apostle Paul’s entire life is explained in terms of one experience – his meeting with Christ on the road to Damascus. Although he had a zealot’s hatred for Christ, who was just a few years older than him, Saint Paul probably never saw Jesus before the Ascension. Yet he was determined in chasing down the followers of Christ: ‘entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment’ (Acts 8: 3b).

But, on the road to Damascus, Christ enters Saint Paul’s own inner home, seizes possession of him, takes command of all his energy, and harnesses it so that Paul becomes a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation as a consequence of that one simple sentence: ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ (Acts 9: 5b).

Saint Paul, who was blind in his prejudice, is blinded so that he can have a new vision. He is imprisoned so that he can bring his great message to the world. And the magnitude of his sins, including his attempts to wipe out Christianity completely, show us clearly that no matter how terrible the sin may be any sinner may be forgiven.

In the same way, the Apostle Peter’s denial of Christ – three times during his Passion – did not put him beyond the forgiveness and love of Christ. Saint Peter too, in an effort to save his own skin, denied he knew the prisoner, but became a prisoner himself and a martyr for Christ.

No matter what our failings and our weaknesses, no matter where our blind spots may be, Christ calls us – not once but constantly – to turn around, to turn towards him, to turn our lives around, to turn them over to him.

Instead of his persecution, Saint Paul is remembered as the first and greatest missionary.

Instead of his three denials, Saint Peter is remembered for his confession of faith, his acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah or the Christ, recorded in the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 16: 13-20; Mark 8: 13-20; Luke 9: 18-20). That Confession of Saint Peter was marked many Church calendars last Monday [18 January 2021].

Today, the Conversion of Saint Paul is celebrated throughout the Church – in the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox traditions. This day also marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – or rather, the Octave of Christian Unity – from 18 to 25 January, linking those two feasts, was first suggested in 1908 by an American Episcopalian or Anglican monk, Father Paul Wattson, who was the superior of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, and who reintroduced Franciscan life to the Anglican Communion.

Appropriately, the icon of Christian Unity in the Eastern Orthodox tradition shows Peter and Paul embracing – almost wrestling – arms around each other, beards so close they are almost inter-twining. Every time I see this icon, I think of Psalm 133:

How very good and pleasant it is
when [brothers] live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

So, despite many readings of the New Testament, especially the Acts of the Apostles, that see Saint Peter and Saint Paul in conflict with each other rather than complementing each other, they can be models for Church Unity.

Without that unity in the Early Church, its mission would have been hamstrung and hampered. For without unity there can be no effective mission, as the great Edinburgh Missionary Conference realised in 1910. And so the modern ecumenical movement has real roots in the mission of the Church.

As we come to the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I pray that we may rejoice in the fact that differences can complement each other, and that we will see the diversity and unity that Saint Peter and Saint Paul wrestled with but eventually rejoiced in as models for our own unity today and in times to come.

The Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul holding the church in unity … an early 18th century icon in the Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Readings: Jeremiah 1: 4-10; Psalm 67; Acts 9: 1-22; Matthew 19: 27-30.


O God,
who caused the light of the Gospel
to shine throughout the world
through the preaching of tour servant Saint Paul:
Grant that we who celebrate his wonderful conversion
may follow him in bearing witness to your truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Gracious God,
you filled your apostle Paul with love for all the churches.
May this sacrament which we have received
foster love and unity among your people.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saint Paul in a stained glass window in Saint Martin within Ludgate, London … the church is in the patronage of the Chapter of Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)