August Revels at Beacon Place

No doubt most members will have attended events in Beacon Park over the years and, hopefully, will be able to do so again soon. However, long before the park as we know it was created the area was used for large-scale entertainment. Here is a report from the "Lichfield Mercury" of 14th August 1891:

"Yesterday the beautiful grounds of Beacon Place, Lichfield, were visited by a very large party consisting of the employees of the Northampton Brewery Company, an invitation having been given by the popular and esteemed Chairman, Mr Samuel Lipscomb Seckham, who had made arrangements for the thorough enjoyment of the visitors on a very large scale. The result was that all those who constituted the party, which numbered over 500, spent, in spite of the downfall of rain which for some time put an end to the sports, a very merry time."

"The visitors were conveyed by train from Northampton to the Trent Valley Junction and thence they proceeded to Beacon Place, there being at the entrance to the grounds a pretty arch on which there was an inscription welcoming the party. On the green slope some distance from the house, but commanding a full view of it, a very spacious marquee, supplied by Messrs. Hawley & Co., Walsall, had been erected, and in this marquee a very substantial repast had been laid out, the catering arrangements, which were admirable in every respect, being made by Mr Trevor, of the Swan Hotel, Lichfield. The chair was taken by Mr Samuel Lipscomb Seckham, who was accompanied by Mrs Lipscomb Seckham, Mr Guy Seckham, Miss Violet Seckham, Mr & Mrs Gerald Seckham, Mr Arthur Chetwynd etc. The band of the 3rd North Staffordshire Regiment was in attendance, and during the dinner and the remainder of the day, contributed greatly to the enjoyment of the visitors by playing selections of music. At the close of the repast, Mr Samuel Lipscomb Seckham, who was greeted with much enthusiasm, in a few words warmly welcomed those present, observing that Mrs Seckham and himself were very pleased to see them and hoped they would have a fine afternoon and thoroughly enjoy themselves, and that the day would be one which they would have cause to remember with pleasure - an expression of good wishes which drew forth a very hearty outburst of applause."

"The party then left the marquee and the greater number gathered around the stand on which a variety entertainment was given by a troupe of French clowns, acrobats and Japanese jugglers. The performances, which were continued at intervals during the day, were not only remarkably clever, but at times were exceedingly diverting, and caused roars of laughter. The band played plenty of dance music, and those who felt so inclined had the opportunity of enjoying a dance. As the afternoon, however, advanced the rain fell, and the sward became too damp for those who felt inclined to trip it. Some of the visitors played at cricket and at quoits and other games, and there were a few disciples of Izaak Walton who fished patiently but without success, in the piece of water at the bottom of the gentle slope in front of Beacon Place."

"Athletic sports formed a feature in the day's proceedings, and a great deal of interest was taken in them by old and young. Mr Orton acted as starter, and also with Mr Facer as handicapper. The events generally were well contested [120 yards handicap, 80 yards sack race, 130 yards hurdle handicap, three-legged race, 220 yards handicap, 100 yards wheelbarrow race, and single ladies' race]. The progress of the sports was interfered with by a downfall of rain, but as the evening advanced, the weather improved considerably, and the final heats were run. The visitors, during the cessation of the sports, sat down in the marquee, the cheering cup and the edibles being greatly enjoyed. When the evening shades had fallen there was a brilliant display of fireworks, which was witnessed by a great number of persons, the pyrotechnists being Messrs Wilder of Birmingham. At the close, rounds of cheers were given for Mr Lipscomb Seckham and the members of his family."

From relatively humble origins in Oxford, Samuel Seckham (1827-1901) was the archetypal Victorian 'self-made man'. He rose to be Oxford's City Surveyor and after a successful property development there, and some time in London, he made a fortune as manager and then owner of the Northampton Brewery. He moved to Staffordshire as a 'gentleman' in the 1870s; living first at Hanch Hall, then at Beacon Place in Lichfield and finally at Whittington Old Hall. He and his wife Kinbarra (1835-1900) are buried in a family vault by the east wall of Christ Church, Leomansley. Beacon Place was located at the top of the steps from Beacon Park up to Seckham Road. It was demolished in 1964.

William Henwood
August 2020