Rescued - but where is it now?

On the 28th April 1971 the Mercury proclaimed "Civic Society rescues' history!" The rescue referred to a Georgian balustrade from the house at No. 13 St John Street, then being demolished. These premises were formerly occupied by F.R.Gray and Sons' China Shop who had relocated in the Precinct. The old building was believed to date back to the !7th century and had contained roof timbers and Jacobean doors which had been taken to the Avoncroft Museum.

Mrs D.M. Marston, who many will remember as Civic Society Secretary at that time was reported as saying that the balustrade "is in store at the moment, but we shall be looking around for somewhere to display it". This tasty blend of history and mystery provokes the question "Was somewhere found?"

In pursuit, the Director of Avoncroft Museum has been interviewed and has undertaken to search the records. It not dignified by exhibition within this Museum of Historic Buildings, where can it be? Perhaps it is a much admired feature in some carefully restored listed dwelling within the City, or a cherished relic in a modern house. A cause for sorrow would be its discovery damp and mouldering as a temporary repair to a back garden fence, embraced by many summers' rotting growth and winters' ravishment. It may even have fuelled its own funeral pyre and filled the air with evocative scents of autumn past.

Let us not regard this lost example of the wood-carver's craft as a cause for sentimental longing for the past. Rather it should be a symbol of the debt we owe to those who, following the 'destructive sixties', preceded us in endeavouring to rescue and conserve that which made Lichfield unlike any other town.

Each time you pass "the banana" try to think of ways in which we can prevent Lichfield from becoming "Erehwyna".

[With thanks to Maureen Piper for drawing our attention to the Mercury cutting and apologies to Samuel Butler for borrowing from his idea in the title of his Utopian romance].

Ivor Mitchell
January, 2002