30 March 2023

A charming Tudor-style
house on Beacon Street,
Lichfield, is for sale again

Ardmore Cottage (left) and Nether Beacon House (right) on Beacon Street … Ardmore Cottage is on the market again (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During my visits to Lichfield, I regularly enjoy the stroll along Beacon Street between the Hedgehog and Lichfield Cathedral and the heart of the city. In the light of early morning and in the late evening, with the birdsong in the trees and the lights of the winter sun, there is a semi-rural feeling in the air, enhanced by the rustic look of many of the houses along Beacon Street.

Beacon Street is a truly charming area, with some timber-framed houses and cottages dating back to the 18th century or earlier. Later houses, influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement, and Tudor-style pubs like the Feathers and the Fountain, add to the character of the area and give it an ambience that is a mixture of both rural setting and late Victorian suburb.

Some years ago, during December snows, when a Facebook friend posted photographs from this area, I told him if I was to live in any street in Lichfield, I would probably want to live on Beacon Street.

One of these charming, timber-framed, Tudor-style houses, Ardmore Cottage, a four-bedroom house, is back on the market through Newton Fallowell of Bore Street, Lichfield, who are selling the house through online bidding, inviting a starting bid of £380,000.

When it was on the market two years ago through Knight Frank of Birmingham, they were inviting offers in excess of £495,000.

Ardmore Cottage, Nether Beacon House and Ardmore House once formed one house, but they were later divided into three separate houses, and they have Grade II listing.

Ardmore Cottage in the sale brochure

Ardmore Cottage is a pretty, black and white cottage dating from the late 17th century or early 18th century, with a late 18th century addition and later alterations. It is timber-framed with brick infill and brick, tile roofs and brick stacks, and has an abundance of character and charm.

Ardmore Cottage and Nether Beacon House are a pair, built on a double-depth plan with a later range to the rear. Outside, from the Beacon Street frontage, there are two storeys, a symmetrical three-window range, and a 19th century single-storey wing at the end of each house.

There is a hipped roof with three gables, and the timber-frame was applied in the late 19th century to the partly plastered stone plinth.

The entrances to the two houses at the centre have porches recessed behind Tudor arches and Art Nouveau iron gates. The half-glazed doors have leaded glazing and side lights. Inside, the houses retain their beams, fireplaces and original features.

The three-light projecting windows have cornices, but the two central first-floor windows are narrow windows, and the windows on wings date from the 20th century. The left return has and an exposed square framing, three flat-roofed dormers and a tall stack.

Behind, this pair of houses has a three-storey, four-window range, with coped gables, end stacks, and a modillioned brick cornice. The windows have sills, and there are rubbed brick flat arches over the 12-pane sashes, with nine-pane sashes on the second floor.

The right return at Nether Beacon has 20th additions and entrance on the ground floor. The left return has a small, two-storey rear wing with an end stack and return, a 4:12:4-pane, tripartite sash window and is taller than the adjoining front range due to slope of ground.

Ardmore Cottage is entered through a timber-framed storm porch, and the hallway leads to the principal reception rooms, with a staircase rising to the first-floor landing.

The drawing room has a feature fireplace and a large bay window, and an intriguing trap door that leads down to the cellar. The dining room has quarry tiled floor and wooden beams and the kitchen also has feature brick and beams on the walls. There is an ornamental, courtyard-style terrace garden a parking area.

The principal bedroom is en suite, and there are two further double bedrooms and a family bathroom on the first floor. The fourth bedroom is at the top of the house on the second floor.

Did the stairs in Ardmore Cottage originally come from Fisherwick Hall? (Photograph: sale brochure)

In the past, I have wondered how Ardmore House and Ardmore Cottage in Lichfield came to have such distinctively Irish names. Some years ago, in her blog Lichfield Lore, the Lichfield historian Kate Gomez recalled the story that a staircase from Fisherwick Hall, the former home of the Marquesses of Donegall, was taken to a house on Beacon Street known as Ardmore.

I wonder whether these are the stairs in Ardmore Cottage, or whether they are stairs in Ardmore House on Nether Beacon, on the market some years ago through Downes and Daughters of Lichfield, with an asking price of £675,000.

The paired Nether Beacon House was once a house for boarders from the Friary School in the 1920s, and it has a curious sign at the front door: ‘Beware of the Cats.’ Each time I see it, it reminds me of how Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born lexicographer, and his cat, Hodge, who is remembered in a whimsical passage in James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (1799).

Boswell recalls that when he observed that Hodge was a fine cat, Johnson said, ‘Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this.’ And then, as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, added, ‘but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.’

Johnson, who was the focus of my morning reflections during much of this season of Lent, was known to go out of his way to buy oysters to feed Hodge, even to the point of annoying his servants by pampering his pets. After Hodge’s death, the poet Percival Stockdale wrote ‘An Elegy on the Death of Dr Johnson’s Favourite Cat’:

Who, by his master when caressed
Warmly his gratitude expressed;
And never failed his thanks to purr
Whene’er he stroked his sable fur.

A bronze statue to Hodge by the sculptor Jon Bickley stands facing Dr Johnson’s house in Gough Square, off Fleet Street, London. It was unveiled in 1997 and shows Hodge sitting on top of Johnson’s Dictionary, alongside some empty oyster shells. The monument is inscribed with the words ‘a very fine cat indeed.’

Ardmore Cottage is on sale through Newton Fallowell of Bore Street, Lichfield.

Ardmore Cottage (left) and Nether Beacon House (right) on Beacon Street … how did Ardmore Cottage get its Irish-sounding name? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying at the Stations of the Cross in
Lent 2023: 30 March 2023 (Station 5)

‘Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus’ … Station 5 in the Stations of the Cross in Saint Dunstan and All Saints’ Church, Stepney (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

These final weeks in Lent are often known as Passiontide, beginning with last Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent or Passion Sunday (26 March 2023).

We are now in the middle of what is often known as Passion Week. In these two weeks of Passiontide, Passion Week and Holy Week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on the Stations of the Cross, illustrated by images in Saint Dunstan’s and All Saints’ Church, the Church of England parish church in Stepney, in the East End of London, and the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Francis de Sales in Wolverton, which I visited for the first time last month;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Station 5, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus:

The Fifth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Simon of Cyrene helps carry the Cross.’ Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in three of the four Gospels as the man forced by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry his cross. He was from Cyrene in north Africa. But was he a black African, or was he like so many others there who were of Greek, Roman or Jewish descent?

Simon’s name is Jewish. But whether he was a Jew or a Gentile is perhaps irrelevant. His action reminds me of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations,’ an honour used to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

The term originates with the concept of righteous gentiles, a term used in rabbinic literature to describe non-Jews (ger toshav) who abide by the Seven Laws of Noah.

The Righteous are defined as non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Only a Jewish party can make a nomination. Helping a family member or a Jew convert to Christianity is not a criterion for recognition. Assistance has to be repeated and substantial, and it has to be given without any expected financial gain.

The largest number of Righteous is from Poland (6,706). Mary Elizabeth Elmes (1908-2002) from Cork was the first Irish person to be honoured among the Righteous by Yad Vashem. She saved at least 200 Jewish children under the age of 12 by smuggling them over the border between France and Spain in the boot of her car. There is also an application for another Irish person, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who rescued 6,500 Prisoners of War and Jews in Rome.

The Righteous are honoured with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the US (16 July), and a Righteous from Italy, Edward Focherini, was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2013.

In the Fifth Station in Stepney, one soldier at the front helps to balance the bar of the Cross on Christ’s shoulders, while the other behind helps the balance the shaft of the Cross with both hands as he instructs Simon how to take hold of the end of the Cross. Simon has a purse slung over his shoulder and a sickle tucked into his belt, indicating a working man. Two small children, a girl and a boy, have their hands clasped in prayer, while a bearded onlooker seems to be bowing his head in reverence.

The words beneath the scene read: ‘Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus.’

This scene is depicted in a simpler presentation in Station 5 in Wolverton, where Simon seems to take the whole burden and full weight of the Cross. There are no soldiers watching on, but there is a bearded man with a reverential gaze, and a child is carrying a spade, perhaps to dig the place in the ground where the Cross is going to be placed.

The words beneath read: ‘Helped by Simon.’

‘Helped by Simon’ … Station 5 in the Stations of the Cross in Saint Francis de Sales Church, Wolverton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John 8: 51-59 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 51 ‘Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ 52 The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.” 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ 54 Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ 57 Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ 58 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’ 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.’

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Good Neighbours: A View from Sri Lanka.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday morning with an adaptation from Father Rasika Abeysinghe’s contribution to USPG’s Lent Course ‘Who is our neighbour,’ which I have edited for USPG. Father Rasika Abeysinghe is a priest in the Diocese of Kurunagala in the Church of Ceylon.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (Thursday 30 March 2023) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for all who live in poverty and distress. May they experience the bonds of community and be carried by care and compassion.

The Collect:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
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.

Post Communion:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others
as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Stations of the Cross in Stepney, Wolverton and Stony Stratford (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

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