The Borrowcop Gazebo

Standing on the City's highest point, the Borrowcop Gazebo is one of Lichfield's little know gems. From it "may be seen on a clear day many delightful and extensive prospects of the circum-adjacent countryside" (Jackson, History of Lichfield, 1805).

The current building was erected in 1805 and paid for by public subscription. Former buildings on this site included the 'Temple' of 1694, a summer-house, an arbour in the 1720s, an 'observation turret' and a gun store. Beacons were lit in times of invasion. But, by 1963, the Gazebo was in poor condition. John Sanders, then Principal of the School of Art and Chairman of a Lichfield Study Group for the preservation of buildings of interest, announced the group's intention to enter a Civic Trust 'improvement competition', hoping for a grant of £ 450.

In 1981 the condition of the Gazebo was again causing concern, with Councillor Derrick Duval investigating a possible restoration (Lichfield Mercury, 26th June 1981) - which was eventually achieved four years later through the Government's Community Programme.

Legend has it that three British Kings were slain by the Romans in A.D. 288 and buried in a 'barrow' on the hilltop - although excavations have yet to confirm this. Nevertheless, the story provided inspiration for the City Seal of 1549. You can see a version of this on the railway bridge in St Johns Street and it is also featured as a large relief in the former Guildhall façade. (The remains of this lay in the Museum Gardens rockery until it was conserved as part of the Heritage Lottery funded parks restoration project and re-erected in the herbaceous borders of nearby Beacon Park).

The legend of the three Kings was brought up to date in the 19th century for day trippers. The City Seal, with its dead and dismembered Kings, featured on some 1st Class railway carriages and an imaginative tour operator even suggested that the Kings were the victims of a railway accident.

The hill on which the Gazebo stands formerly provided a venue for Good Friday festivities. Citizens made a pilgrimage to Borrowcop, after a service in the Cathedral, to enjoy a fair and merrymaking. Children played oranges and lemons, and rolled fruit down the hill. Mrs Winder, in her book "Daisy's Lichfield", remembers Good Friday outings as a child. She thought that the Kings were called 'Borrow', 'Cop' and 'Hill'! Their crowns have since been incorporated into the emblems of Saxon Hill school.

Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to enjoy the old walk across the fields from Cherry Orchard to Borrowcop. Children in the late 20th century enjoyed tobogganing and skiing down the snowy slopes below the Gazebo. Now high railings have enclosed the school field and access to the Gazebo is only possible from Kings Hill Road or from Minors Hill, along an enclosed footpath. However, it is still well worth a visit, in any season, to enjoy the views towards the Black Country, Charnwood Forest and, of course, the City of Lichfield.

The Gazebo is now owned and maintained by Lichfield City Council.

Adapted from an article in the 2004 Bower programme.

Lorna Bushell
April 2020

The Borrowcop Gazebo in Spring

Photo - Lesley Bushell, 2020