09:00 Tuesday 03 September 2013

Lovely Lichfield

Written byKaren Cox

ALTHOUGH it has long held city status, Lichfield seems to have none of the frantic hustle and bustle associated with the much larger Birmingham which is just 18 miles north.

Instead Lichfield has its own, very distinctive identity, something which is much more unspoilt, with an old world appeal created by distinctive black and white Tudor buildings, the odd cobbled passageway and an open friendliness exhibited by those you pass by in the street.
   
Taking the time to stroll around Lichfield is a rewarding exercise any time of the year, with a wide variety of places to discover, ranging from places of historic interest to cultural experiences, open spaces to enjoy and a myriad of shops, coffee shops, tea rooms, restaurants and pubs to slope into when you feel like taking a break.
   
One of the most prominent features of the city are the three spires belonging to the 800 year-old cathedral, often referred to as the Ladies of the Vale, which dominate the landscape for miles around. The cathedral has a fascinating history which includes being under siege three times during the civil war.
   
Today it is a central part of the city, attracting visitors from near and far.
   
The Very Revd Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield, said: “Lichfield Cathedral, plays an integral part in the life of the surrounding community and within the Diocese. The Cathedral itself has a rich history, reflected in its architecture and treasures, and, as a place of great beauty, it continues to inspire and encourage all who visit it as tourists, pilgrims or worshippers.
   
“When visiting the Cathedral you will be able to see treasures such as; The St Chad Gospels, an eighth century Gospel Book housed in Lichfield Cathedral and also the Lichfield Angel, a remarkable survival of early medieval sculpture, discovered in 2003. The carved limestone panel, which is dated to around 800 A.D., comprises of three separate fragments which are thought to have formed the corner of a shrine chest, possibly that of St Chad (d.672).
   
“The Herkenrode Glass of the Lady Chapel in the East End of the Cathedral is one of Europe's greatest artistic treasuresconservation work is continuing to bring the glass back to its former glory and will be returned to the Cathedral where it belongs in 2015.
   
“Lichfield Cathedral’s Chapter House is also now home to a sparkling new display of items from the Staffordshire Hoard and, thanks to funding from the Arts Council England, along with new interactive exhibits, replicas, information panels and a craft table.” The three spires of Lichfield Cathedral also inspired the name of the small shopping centre in Lichfield, which attracts many to browse, while the surrounding medieval streets are now home to a range of individual boutiques, jewellers, antiquarian book sellers, music shops and delicatessens and independent gift shops to explore — as well as the chance to pick up some handmade chocolates — making it the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a special treat for friends or loved one.
   
A short walk from the town centre will take you to Beacon Park, where you can find a little peace and quiet, or alternatively, any number of distractions to keep you busy. If you have little ones to entertain the children's play area is a must, or you can take a leisurely walk exploring the local habitat as you go.
   
There is also the opportunity to play tennis, bowls, crazy golf and basketball, as well as visit the museum garden. A range of activities are also held there throughout the year, including pond dipping and wildlife watching for those interested in the natural world.
   
After a redevelopment of the park, Princess Anne paid it a visit on April 24 this year to rededicate a statue of King VII, her great great grandfather. The Princess Royal was also shown around the sights of the recentlyrestored park, including the statue of Erasmus Darwin and the sports facilities and the Martyrs' Plaque.
   
Princess Anne also met the team who worked on the restoration of the park’s original features and representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund.
The city has much to please history buffs, with a number of historic places to visit which give a real sense of the city's importance over the years.
   
The Heritage Centre, based in the market square is a great place to start, giving an overview of the city and taking visitors through 2,000 years of history. As well as views of the city there are also a number of interesting exhibitions, including the unique Millennium embroideries and examples of regimental and church silver.
   
Erasmus Darwin House was the Georgian home of the leading doctor, scientist, botanist, inventor and poet who was the grandfather of Charles Darwin. Now a museum dedicated to preserving his memory and his achievements.
   
The building is located in Cathedral Close, near to the Cathedral, and has interactive features as well as a herb garden.
   
Lichfield is the birthplace of Samuel Johnson, the writer and journalist best known for compiling the English Dictionary. Samuel Johnson spent the first 27 years of his life in the house which is in the centre of the city and is now a birthplace museum and bookshop.
   
110 | June 2013 Shopping in Lichfield top:, Tudor Row, an alleyway leading to a cobbled shopping street and above, an old fashioned clock The Grade I listed building contains displays, reconstructed rooms and audio visual media to take visitors through his colourful life and major achievements.
   
For those interested in arts, entertainment and culture Lichfield has the Garrick theatre and the Lichfield Festival.
   
The Garrick houses Lichfield's tourist information centre and has a 523 seat auditorium, a 140 seat studio theatre and a diverse programme of events which range from theatre to dance and music to visual arts — so there is always something happening to suit different tastes.
   
Taking place at the beginning of July each year, the Lichfield Festival is a ten-day extravaganza of music, comedy, dance, workshops, family events, exhibitions, literary events and drama, all taking place throughout the day and into the evening.
   
Peter Bacon, festival manager, said: “We’re very excited about our programme for the 2013 Lichfield Festival.
   
“We have comedians Alan Davies and Chris Addison appearing in the Lichfield Garrick, and the Philharmonia Orchestra playing the final night concert in Lichfield Cathedral.
   
“We also have the soul singing sensation Laura Mvula performing in the Cathedral — this is a bit of a coup for us, as she is very much in demand.
   
“The Festival has a wider range than ever this year with loads of author talks in the George Hotel, a marvellous series of young classical artists playing at 11am each morning in the Cathedral’s exquisite and intimate Lady Chapel, and some other hugely entertaining performers, from the folk duo Spiers & Boden to The Swingle Singers, from the hilarious Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain to the sexy Latin rhythms of Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca.
  
“Lichfield really does come alive at Festival time as musicians and artists from around the world descend on the city. And the people of Lichfield and Staffordshire are very supportive.
   
“We do hope readers will join us.” For more information visit www.lichfieldfestival.org or call 01543 306270.
   
Councillor Val Richards, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Tourism and Communications said: "Lichfield is Staffordshire's premier heritage city. As the birthplace of Samuel Johnson, the historic home of Erasmus Darwin, the St Chad Gospels and the Lichfield Angel, if you enjoy exploring history and heritage you'll be spoiled for choice.
   
“A visit to St John's Hospital to see the stunning John Piper stained glass window is also a must for history lovers.
   
"The city and district host hundreds of events each year, from the world famous Lichfield Festival and the delicious Lichfield Food Festival, through to the much loved Heritage Weekend celebrations in September when all the heritage attractions throw open their doors for free.
   
"The district is also home to the National Memorial Arboretum, and the stunning Armed Forces Memorial, where the names of people lost in battle or conflict since World War II are still hand-carved into its stone walls. And, if you are interested in the sights, sounds and history of wartime, the Staffordshire Regiment Museum, on the way out towards Whittington, is an absolute must-see.
   
"Head for Drayton Manor if you love spills and thrills — from Ben 10 to Thomas Land, there's something for the whole family, including Thomas themed rooms in their fantastic on-site hotel!"
   
"To find out more about what Lichfield has to offer pick up a copy of What's On or the Visit Lichfield Guide at the tourist information centre in the Lichfield Garrick, or visit www.visitlichfield.co.uk"
   
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