12 August 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (76) 12 August 2023

The former Peel School was housed at No 17 Lichfield Street, Tamworth, in 1837-1850 … was this originally the private chapel of the Moat House? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and tomorrow is the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (13 August 2023).

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

As I recently spent a number of days looking at the windows in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, I have been reflecting for the past week in these ways:

1, Looking at some other churches in Tamworth;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Did Sir Robert Peel pay to move the private chapel of the Moat House further east along Lichfield Street? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The supposed former chapel, The Moat House, Lichfield Street, Tamworth:

It is said locally, with humour that Tamworth once had as many churches as it had pubs. Over the past week I have been looking at a number of those churches, including Saint John’s Roman Catholic Church, the former Methodist, Congregational and Baptist churches, and the former Quaker meeting house in Tamworth.

My photographs this morning (12 August 2023) are part of my search for a family chapel in the Moat House on Lichfield Street, the Comberford family’s Tudor townhouse in Tamworth.

For many generations, my family continued to regard Comberford as our ancestral home, despite some of the complicated details in our family tree. My great-grandfather, James Comerford (1817-1902), had a very interesting visit to Comberford and Tamworth at the end of the 19th or in the early 20th century. His visits included Comberford Hall and the Comberford Chapel, Saint Editha’s Church and the Moat House.

I first visited the Moat House in 1969 or 1970 and I have often been shown the panelling that was said to have hidden more than one ‘priests’ hole’ that allowed Catholic priests to escape searches of the house in Elizabethan and early Jacobean times when the Comberford family was recalcitrant in its recusancy.

A ‘priests’ hole,’ said to have been used by the Jesuits harboured in the Moat House by Humphrey Comberford, led to the River Tame. The river may have provided safe routes down to Wednesbury Manor or north to the homes of other Catholics among the Staffordshire gentry.

Although I have often seen the location of the supposed ‘priests’ holes’ in the Moat House, I was not aware until some years ago that there may have been a private chapel in the grounds of the Moat House. Until the late 17th century, members of the Comberford family used Saint Catherine’s or the Comberford Chapel in the north aisle of Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, as the private family chapel, including for family burials and memorials. The Comberford family also had a chapel in Comberford Hall that continued in use until the mid-18th century, according to Staffordshire Church historian Michael Greenslade.

In a comment on a Tamworth Facebook page three years ago (2020), Andrew Hale suggested that the building at No 17 Lichfield Street that once served as the Peel School was originally a private chapel located in the original grounds of the Moat House.

He says the original bill for moving the building was paid not by the owners of the Moat House but by Sir Robert Peel, on condition that it was converted into a school.

Andrew Hale did his prize-winning history project on the Moat House and its history in 1978-1980 while he was at Wilnecote High School. His mother was the head chef at the Moat House for many years, and much his information came from the Peel trust and the owners of the Moat House at that time. His history project earned him the school history and research prize for 1980.

When Sir Robert Peel was moving his school from Church Street to Lichfield Street in 1837, Dr John Woody was living at the Moat House. The Woody family had been tenants of the Moat House, and they bought it in 1821 when parts of the Tamworth Castle estate were being sold off to clear the debts of the Townshend family.

If Sir Robert Peel moved the former chapel at the Moat House lock, stock and barrel to a new location a little further east along Lichfield Street for use as a school, was this the original chapel at the Moat House?

And does this explain some of its pre-Victorian details, including large the Gothic window in the gable and the lower Tudor-headed window and door?

The premises at No 17 Lichfield Street when it was a furniture shop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 17: 14-20 (NRSVA):

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15 and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ 17 Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ 20 He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’

It was whispered that the oak panelling inside the Moat House hid more than one ‘priests’ hole’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), has been ‘A reflection on the Exodus narrative (Exodus 1-13).’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Archbishop Linda Nicholls, who has been the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada since 2019.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (12 August 2023, International Youth Day) invites us to pray in these words:

We thank Lord for all youth workers and ministries within the worldwide Anglican Communion and all the young people in their care.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth … did it once have a private chapel? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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