Why go there?
Lichfield is one of the smallest cities in England, situated only 10 miles north of Birmingham city centre as the crow flies, whilst being conveniently close to Cannock Chase, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Wedged between the urban and the rural, Lichfield is a unique gem in central West Midlands.
One of the most visited attractions in Lichfield is its stunning three-spired medieval cathedral. The cathedral often has displays by local artists and is tucked away in a beautiful corner of the city known as Cathedral Close. The city was altered heavily during the English Reformation, when Henry VIII, who had broken ties with the Catholic Church, destroyed relics associated with St. Chad and so economic through flow was disrupted as pilgrims stopped visiting the city. Some Tudor buildings can still be found dotted around the city.
Lichfield was once home to various famous historical figures. Perhaps the most well known was Dr Samuel Johnson, whose works included A Dictionary of the English Language, and is said to have had one of the biggest impacts on the modern English language to date. Today, a small independent museum details Johnson’s early life and works, and gives some amusing insights into his personality. The museum holds the occasional event and a compact but beautiful research library displays early works by Johnson.
Samuel Johnson (left) and Erasmus Darwin (right) are two of Lichfield’s most famous residents
Erasmus Darwin, one of the founding members of the Lunar Society and grandfather to infamous naturalist Charles Darwin and Victorian polymath Francis Galton, took residence in Lichfield between 1758 until 1781. His house is now a fantastic museum with plenty of child-friendly activities and events. The museum details the works and life of Erasmus Darwin and those close to him. Little do people know that Charles Darwin’s work on the theory of natural selection was greatly influenced by earlier scientific publications by his grandfather. Erasmus was considered extremely forward thinking in his day, advocating the education of women in schools, something that was very much discouraged in the 1700’s.
Another famous Lichfieldian, David Garrick, lends his name to the city’s theatre. Garrick was a famous Shakespearian actor in the late 1700’s, and was a star in his day.
Lichfield is very dog-friendly, hosting a few canine welcoming pubs within short walking distance of each other. Beacon park, located a short walk from the Erasmus Darwin House, has beautiful gardens, a generous playing field and very modern children’s play equipment, perfect for picnics, dog-walking and young families. Look out for the statue of Edward Smith, captain of RMS Titanic, born in nearby Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.
Where to stay?
There are a number of very high quality hotels and B&Bs close to the city centre.
Swinfen Hall Hotel conforms well with the rich architectural history of Lichfield. There has been a manor house on the site since the Medieval period, and records of the manor can be found in the Domesday book of 1086. The Hall that currently stands on site was built in 1757 for Samuel Swinfen and his wife. The south wing of the hotel boasts Edwardian architecture and was comissioned by Colonel Michael Swinfen Broun. The more recent history of the building follows the death of the Colonel, who left the entire estate to the Cathedral and city of Lichfield. Bought in 1987 by the current owners, the surrounding land has been restored in an environmentally responsible manner. Much of the food in the restaurant is sourced from the Victorian walled garden on site.
Historical evidence suggest that St John’s House was once an inn frequented by travellers using the Lichfield stage coach service. At around 1815, the building was extensively renovated, and the building had a complete face change. Columns and a façade were added along with decorative cornicing. The website for St John’s House describes its peppered history in great depth, much of which is still being researched. Currently it is a luxurious bed and breakfast, with high quality locally sourced food sure to excite your tastebuds.
Pipe Hill House is a beautiful Georgian building built by Randle Bradburne, an ironmonger from Birmingham. Thought to have once housed French officers who were prisoners during the Napoleonic wars, this bed and breakfast has its own share of the rich history of Lichfield City. Pipe Hill House was acquired in 2005 and plays host to wonderful of modern décor that remains sensitive to the building’s listed status.
For those who wish to bring their furry companions, there are more commercial hotels within short reach of the city that welcome pets.
Where to eat and drink?
During the daytime, a top-notch café situated in the centre of Lichfield is the choice of many a local and visitor. The Tudor of Lichfield, known locally as The Tudor caff is as stunning on the outside as it is on the in. The building, built over 500 years ago, has sat silently by as history played itself out around it. To read more of the building’s past, click here. A tea shop since 1935, The Tudor of Lichfield serves high quality traditional lunches, cream teas and cakes and is also home to Tudor Chocolates, an independent chocolate shop which prides itself in its expert craftsmanship, often showing fantastic chocolate sculptures in its window.
Another quaint café, situated conveniently close to the cathedral is the Chapters Restaurant and Coffee Shop. Whether you want tea and cake, a light snack or a proper meal, this restaurant will cater for you. For sunnier days, there is a beautiful garden with picnic benches, owners with dogs can access the garden from the side of the café, making this the perfect location for a cream tea with your pooch.
Come the evening time, a drink of fine ale may tickle your fancy. The Earl of Lichfield Arms, or just The Earl to locals, is a fantastic pub that has only recently changed hands. With exposed beams and a cosy feel, this is a country style pub tucked away in a city. Locals frequent the pub and occasionally bring guitars for a bit of a sing-song, the atmosphere always being friendly and relaxed. Of course, your dog is very much welcome and may even make friends with the pub’s resident scruffy Jack Russell
For a delicious evening meal, book yourself into the highly popular Pizza By Goli. All the pizzas are handmade from scratch, and you can even watch this fascinating process as the kitchen is visible from the dining area. Reasonably priced and consistently tasty, Pizza By Goli is the restaurant of choice for many.
Tell us a secret…
In the winter of 1651, the founder of the Quakers, George Fox, claimed to have been commanded by God to remove his shoes and “Cry woe unto the bloody city of Lichfield” in the market square. Later claiming that God had wished him to commemorate the thousand Christian martyrs that were killed under Roman rule in the city, many think this stunt was in protest of those burned in the market place for heresy, a crime which he had recently been detained for. Today, a plaque in the market square stands as a reminder of this unusual event.
Words by Lauren Duffield