05 March 2024

Samuel Johnson Hospital in
Lichfield is one of the early
works of George Gilbert Scott

The former Master’s House in the Samuel Johnson Community Hospital on Trent Valley Road, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I was discussing Sir John Betjeman’s statue by Martin Jennings in St Pancras Station yesterday. It is a tribute to the poet’s success in saving both St Pancras Station and the hotel next-door from destruction and demolition in the 1960s.

Both the station and the hotel were designed by the Victorian Gothic Revival architect Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878). In Lichfield, Scott is remembered as the architect of Lichfield Cathedral from 1855 to 1878. During my visit to Lichfield last week, I was reminded that one of Scott’s earliest works and his first in Lichfield is the Samuel Johnson Community Hospital on Trent Valley Road.

Today, the hospital offers a range of inpatient and outpatient services in Lichfield. It is named after Samuel Johnson, who was born in Lichfield and compiled the first English language dictionary. The two wards are named after two other key figures in the cultural history of Lichfield: the Anna Ward after the writer Anna Seward and the Darwin Ward after Erasmus Darwin.

The hospital, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1838-1840, was known to people in Lichfield for generations as Saint Michael’s Hospital, reflecting its earlier connections with Saint Michael’s Parish and its proximity to Saint Michael’s Church. But it was built as a Victorian workhouse, and its origins go back even earlier to the parish workhouses established in the 18th century, as shown by research by Bob Houghton, Mary Hutchinson, Ingrid Croot, Anna Sadowski and others and by the Burntwood Family History Group.

Lichfield Corporation let a house on the south side of Sanford Street from 1691 to 1696 as a linen manufactory to provide employment for the city’s poor. The house was refurbished in 1724 and part of it was adapted for use as a ‘House of Correction’ or type of prison. Poor people from Saint Mary’s Parish occupied the upper part of the building until 1728, while the poor from Saint Michael’s Parish occupied the lower part of the building.

The Lichfield parishes of Saint Chad’s, Saint Michael’s and Saint Mary’s agreed to set up a joint workhouse at Greenhill in 1740, and Saint Chad’s set up its own workhouse in Stowe Street in 1781.

After the Poor Law Act was passed in 1834, a national system of Poor Law Unions was set up in 1836. The unions were groups of parishes that together provided for the poor within an area. Each union had to provide a Poor Law institution, more commonly known as a workhouse, to house people who were too poor to provide for themselves, They included infirm, old and mentally unfit people, and even pregnant women who had been abandoned by their families.

The Lichfield Poor Law Union was formed on 21 December 1836. The Board of Guardians had 40 elected members representing parishes in the area: six parishes in Lichfield – Christ Church, Saint Chad, Saint Mary, Saint Michael, the Close, and the Friary – and the neighbouring parishes of Alrewas, Alrewas Hayes, Armitage, Brereton, Burton, Colton, Elford, Farewell, Freeford, Fulfen, Hammerwich, Hamstall Ridware, Haselour, King’s Bromley, King’s Hayes Bromley, Longdon, Mavesyn Ridware, Ogley Hay, Pipe Ridware, Rugeley, Shenstone, Stonnall, Tamhorn, Wall, Weeford, Whittington and Yoxall.

Edward Grove (1769-1845) of Shenstone was the chairman, Canon William Gresley (1801-1876), a canon of Lichfield Cathedral and curate of Saint Chad’s and Saint Mary’s, was the vice chairman, John Philip Dyott of Freeford, six times Mayor of Lichfield (1814, 1824, 1835, 1848, 1849,1859) was Clerk to the Board of Governors, John Hewitt was the medical relief officer with an annual salary of £50 and two relieving officers had an annual salary of £100 each. Gresley, who was born at Stowe House, was a High Church Tractarian and historian, and the author of The Siege of Lichfield – a tale illustrative of the Great Rebellion.

The Board of Guardians agreed on 9 March 1837 to build a workhouse like those designed by the architect Sampson Kempthorne (1809-1873). A site on Trent Valley Road and Burton Road was bought from Lichfield Corporation and the Earl of Lichfield, and advertisements in local newspapers invited architects to submit plans.

George Gilbert Scott had been Kempthorne’s assistant on a number of workhouses in 1834-1835, and Scott and his partner, William Bonython Moffatt (1812-1887), were then specialising in workhouses. They were selected as the architects, and William Sissons from Hull was the builder.

Scott’s first work was a vicarage for his father in the village of Wappenham, Northamptonshire, in 1833, and he went on to design several other buildings in the village. He soon formed a partnership with Moffatt, his former assistant, and over 10 years or so Scott and Moffatt designed more than 40 workhouses.

Scott and Moffat designed their workhouse in Lichfield in the Tudor Gothic style with a battlemented gatehouse and a Georgian cupola (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Scott and Moffat designed the workhouse in Lichfield in the Tudor Gothic style. It is built in red brick, made from clay dug out of the foundations, with a black diaper pattern. It is symmetrical with a battlemented gatehouse and a Georgian cupola. It was to hold 200 residents or ‘inmates’, and was built at a cost £2,939.

Building work began on 24 May 1838. The foundation stone was laid by Edward Grove, chair of the Board of Guardians and able-bodied paupers were used in the construction work. The main red bricks used were made from the clay dug out from the workhouse foundations and the front and sides of the building were embellished with blue bricks.

Scott and Moffatt designed the gatehouse range, which would later become part of the hospital, in red brick with blue brick diapering, stone dressings, and tile roofs with brick stacks. The range has a symmetrical front with a central two-storey gatehouse, and flanking single-storey wings, with projecting two-storey gabled bays towards the ends. The gatehouse has a carriage entrance with a four-centred arch, diagonal buttresses, a top cornice, and an embattled parapet. Two doorways in the left part of the range have architraves and four-centred heads, and the windows have double-chamfered mullions and transoms.

The Master and Matron would live in the Master’s House, a three-storey house flanked on either side by two-storey wings, one for men and one for women. The house was built of red brick with blue brick diapering. It had a central crenelated, Tudor arched stone porch, a tiled roof, three central bays with gables and a central ogee-roofed cupola. When the Board of Guardians advertised the position of Master and Matron, who had to be a married couple, there were over 60 applications.

The workhouse was officially opened on 8 May 1840, and the first inmates or residents moved in on 24 May 1840. They came from the former Saint Mary’s parish workhouse in Sanford Street, and from the Rugeley Workhouse, built about 1780.

Men were placed in the male wing, women in the female wing, and children were separated from their parents. The accommodation and food was basic, inmates were provided with a change of clothes only once a week, and sanitary arrangements were very basic.

The inmates rose at 5.45 am and their workday began at 7 am. They had an hour’s break from 12 noon to 1 pm, and then worked through until 6 pm. It was a harsh regime, with many of the men breaking large rocks and the women often scrubbing floors and washing. There were five wells on the site, and animals kept on the site and vegetable growing made the workhouse self-sufficient to some degree.

Casual wards were added to the workhouse in 1874, an infirmary was added in 1892, a refectory and kitchens in 1893, infirm wards in 1901, and a nursery in 1908. From the 1930s, it was officially as the Lichfield Public Assistance Institution, although many people in Lichfield continued to remember it as the workhouse.

With the introduction of the National Health Service, the workhouse became Saint Michael’s Hospital. It catered for about 140 patients, most of them being elderly. The former Master’s House in the rear range of the workhouse was registered as a listed building in 1998. The building became part of the Samuel Johnson Community Hospital in 2007.

Saint John’s Church, Wall, near Lichfield, was designed by Scott and Moffat while they were working on the workhouse in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Meanwhile, Scott and Moffat were working on one of their first churches, Saint John’s Church, Wall, near Lichfield (1839), at the same time as they were working on the workhouse in Lichfield. Their other early churches at this time included Saint Mary Magdalene, Flaunden, Hertfordshire (1838), Saint Nicholas, Newport, Lincoln (1839), and Saint Peter’s Church, Norbiton, Surrey (1841).

After completing their workhouse in Lichfield, Scott and Moffat built Reading Gaol (1841-1842) in a picturesque, castellated style. Around this time, Scott was inspired by Augustus Pugin to participate in the Gothic Revival, and while he was still in partnership with Moffat he designed the Martyrs’ Memorial on Saint Giles, Oxford (1841), and Saint Giles Church, Camberwell (1844).

Scott and Moffat had designed about 40 workhouses, including the Lichfield Workshop, when they parted company in 1845. It is said Scott’s wife Caroline (Oldrid) believed Moffat had become unreliable – indeed, Moffat was jailed as a debtor in 1860.

After their partnership ended, Scott carried on with his two sons as his assistants. His many notable buildings include the Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, the main building of the University of Glasgow, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, and King’s College Chapel, London. His other works include Saint Mary the Virgin Church, London Road, Stony Stratford (1863-1865), now the Greek Orthodox Church, and the former vicarage, Stony House (1865).

In Lichfield, Scott is best remembered as the architect of Lichfield Cathedral from 1855 to 1878. He first restored the interior of the cathedral and then worked on the exterior, including the majestic West Front.

Scott died on 27 March 1878 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. His younger son, John Oldrid Scott (1841-1913), took over the practice and was the architect overseeing the restoration of the spire of Lichfield Cathedral.

The gatehouse designed by Scott and Moffat has a carriage entrance with a four-centred arch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
21, 5 March 2024,
The Venerable Bede

An icon of the Venerable Bede written in 2010 by Brother Kenneth Hosley OPC for Saint Bede’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia

Patrick Comerford

The Season of Lent began on Ash Wednesday (14 February 2024), and this week began with the Third Sunday in Lent (Lent III, 3 March 2024).

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in Common Worship.

I have another medical appointment later today, the fourth in the past two weeks, as I continue to ponder what I think are symptoms of my pulmonary sarcoidosis and Vitamin B12 deficiency. Before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

An icon of Saint Bede in the Parish of Saint Bede the Venerable in Mentor, Ohio, by Christine Uveges of Eikona Studios, Cleveland, Ohio

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 21, The Venerable Bede

The Venerable Bede (735), monk at Jarrow, scholar and historian, is commemorated in the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship on 25 May.

Bede was born in Northumbria around the year 670. When he was seven years old, his family gave him to the monastery of Saint Peter and Saint Paul at Wearmouth. He then moved to Jarrow, where he lived as a monk for the rest of his life.

Although it seems he never travelled further than York, his monastery – first under Abbot Benedict Biscop and then Abbot Ceolfrith – was a centre of learning, and Bede studied extensively. He used all the resources available to write the most complete history of Christian England up to the year 729, as well as commentaries on books of the Bible.

He was renowned for his monastic fidelity and his love of teaching, and was fondly remembered by his pupils, including his biographer. He died peacefully on the eve of Ascension Day in the year 735.

The Venerable Bede depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

Matthew 18: 21-35 (NRSVA):

21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22 Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23 ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” 29 Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

Saint Bede’s Catholic Church on the High Street in Newport Pagnell (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayers (Tuesday 5 March 2024):

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), is ‘International Women’s Day Reflection.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Right Revd Beverley A Mason, Bishop of Warrington.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (5 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for our faithful witness. Pray for all Christian communities that we will be slow to judge and quick to welcome, to show hospitality, mercy and generosity.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life 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:

Merciful Lord,
grant your people grace to withstand the temptations
of the world, the flesh and the devil,
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Eternal God,
give us insight
to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday: Saint Wilfrid of Ripon

Tomorrow: Saint Willibrord of York

Saint Bede’s Church in Newport Pagnell was a mission hall before it was converted into a Catholic church in 1953 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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