Study Group for the Preservation of Buildings of Interest
Appendix - Central Area Street Analysis

The central shopping area with which this group has to deal is somewhat like an 'H' in shape and contains the heart of the historic, residential and commercial area of the City.
One must emphasize that the following general remarks are in no way a substitute for the detailed comments on individual buildings and vistas already submitted.
  1. Introduction

    Lichfield is essentially a place of individual buildings of distinction as opposed to towns where groups of buildings such as Terraces, Crescents or Quadrants are the main architectural feature. Lichfield has hardly any units of more than one building that can be considered a group, certainly not in our area.

    The chief geographical feature of the district with which we are concerned is, of course, the Market Square. This has a general picturesque charm to which the main contributory factors are the splendid Johnson House, the Statuary and the air of restful charm provided by St Mary's Church. At the same time it cannot be contended that Lichfield's Market Square is in the first rank of such squares.

    The reasons are very clear:

    a. The whole symmetry of the square is ruined by the clutter of buildings that have been allowed to gather across the south side of the Square. In particular the fact that under fifty years ago the Co-operative Society were allowed to pull down an old Inn and erect the present Edwardian Louis XV building is a sad reflexion of a complete lack of municipal foresight.

    The City Institute may well have a certain Betjemanesque charm but it should certainly have never been built where it was [1].

    b. It is very doubtful whether it was wise in 1870 in rebuilding St Mary's Church to desert the classic style of the 1720 building for the very typical Victorian Gothic style of the present building. The style is surely hardly in keeping with an entirely Georgian Square.

    May we now mention the all important subject of Fenestration. It is quite surprising to notice how many buildings of attractive architectural design have been largely ruined by the alteration of fine sets of windows or the addition of fresh windows of entirely unsuitable shape or style.

    In our area only two sets of original shop-fronts remain; i.e. Edyvean's and Innes Smith & Co. Ltd [2,3]. However, it is interesting to note the case of Winterton & Sons offices where one of a good set of early shop-fronts survive [4].

    One emphatically hopes that the planning authorities are fully alive to the ever present danger of even slight alterations to the window-plan wholly ruining a worthwhile facade.

    The same remarks apply to minor improvement and adaptation schemes which, although sometimes quite harmless in themselves, may have a most prejudicial effect on the harmony of the general street frontage (see a recent example of this danger in Dam Street).

    A word may be said about the policy or thesis that new buildings should be in good contemporary style and not in the sham suburban Tudor or stockbroker Georgian genre. The question of good neighbourliness in architecture is surely of especial importance in a place of such intensive 18th century and earlier development as Lichfield.

    Of complete replacements in our area over the past fifty years one may quote the Co-operative Society (to which we have already referred), the Midland Bank, Woolworths and the former Montague Burton building [5] - none of which will surely find many advocates on any grounds whatever. One feels, however, that, no doubt, when they were erected their architects felt they were good examples of vital contemporary work. Let us hope that they will act as warnings to developers anxious to demolish 18th and early 19th century buildings to make way for the contemporary and functional when the finance available is too often the only criterion.

    Lastly we should like to mention Lichfield's many good small buildings - unpretentious, simple, sometimes insignificant but having a sense of style, charm and a certain dignity.

    Lichfield is very rich in such buildings as opposed to the more grandiose type of large-scale Georgian or Regency development (of Bath or Leamington etc.). So often the argument of the developer is little more than an elaboration of "it's only a little one". Let us hope the authorities realise that it is these buildings that form the bulk of Lichfield's better domestic architecture and together form a heritage that should not lightly be allowed to disappear.

  2. Beacon Street

    An interesting street flanked by houses in a wide range of styles and conditions. There are many fine town houses and smaller terrace houses forming interesting groups. At the town end most properties are in very good condition but further away there is far too much that is grotesque, dilapidated or just grubby, particularly near Gaia Lane. This part of the street would look much better for a thorough clean. Perhaps, however, property owners near Beacon Place are waiting to see what is going to happen in their locality before spending money on maintenance. Something should be done soon because Beacon Street is the only entrance to the City for traffic from the Stafford area and provides the principal entrance to the Close.

  3. Bore Street

    This is a street in which the south side has many fine and interesting old houses in respect of which a real effort must be made to retain the existing buildings and to encourage sympathetic decoration. The north side is less attractive but more ripe for development and will shortly be developed. The buildings on the north side from the City Institute to the Co-operative Society might well be pulled down so as to create an important Central Square with St Mary's in the middle and fine views of the many very pleasant surrounding buildings.

    The Adelphi Cinema, although it has many associations, has in itself little architectural merit and spoils one end of the street [6].

  4. The Close

    The attractions of the Close are obvious to the least observant. It is far enough from the main road to be able to retain its serenity though there is an increasing tendency for it to serve as a short cut between Bore Street and Beacon Street to avoid traffic signals at Jones' Corner. Through traffic should be prohibited.

    Except for No. 12, the north side of the Close is bounded by large houses of considerable architectural merit. Other properties cover a vast range of expression, character and charm in varying degrees. Although of mixed architectural character, most of them are nevertheless vigourous creations bearing evidence of development over a long period. They all lend character to the Close and, by contrast, enhance the dignity of the buildings on the north side. Almost all properties are listed by the Ministry.

    The north-east side of the Cathedral is marred by coke stores, etc., but it is understood that in time they will be eliminated with the advent of electric heating.

    It is a great pity that the Theological Student's Hostel interrupts the view of the Cathedral from the east. Perhaps one day it can be dispensed with.

    Pavings, footpaths and lawns are not in first class condition. Since the City largely derives its tourist trade from the presence of the Cathedral, it seems that the Council's contribution to its upkeep might well be reviewed.

  5. Dam Street

    A most attractive street forming a charming and interesting approach to the Close, and possessing some very fine old town houses. Property owners, on the whole, seem to be aware of their heritage and their responsibilities and are obviously aiming at a good standard of maintenance, although a few buildings are in need of urgent attention. Over-indulgence in the indiscriminate use of colour should, however, be resisted.

    The Market Square end of the street is marred by signs and advertisements and an effort should be made to persuade the shop-owners to eliminate those which are superfluous.

    The Stoneyard looks rather unkempt [7]. Either the gates should be replaced and put into use again or they should be removed altogether and the yard tidied up.

  6. Gaia Lane

    A charming and secluded winding lane dotted with occasional tiny cottages originally built for servants of the Cathedral and its dignitaries, now mainly in private ownership.

    It seems only a matter of time before housing development will envelop the north-west side of the lane, but it should be possible to evolve an imaginative layout which could capture and perpetuate some of its character by retaining, as far as possible, existing cottages, trees, walls and verges, particularly the stretch of lane flanking the gardens of the Close.

    Cottages of interest are:
    Gaia Cottage, Rose Cottage and Nos. 73, 57, 49 & 47.

  7. Lombard Street

    An interesting jumble of trees, walls, undeveloped spaces and (mainly undistinguished) houses and cottages in an irregular formation. Most of its charm must stem from the trees in Lombard Gardens and in front of No. 14, coupled with the presence of a few lofty, dignified, though rather stolid, Georgian houses at key positions in the street. The condition of some properties is poor, particularly at the Stowe Street end. A patchy road surface does not improve the general appearance of the road, particularly when viewed from Tamworth Street.

    Lombard Gardens are bounded by a fine old wall which needs early and skilful attention in the way of pointing.

    The attention of other interested Study Groups is drawn to the trees and undeveloped spaces, if they are not already under review.

  8. Rotten Row

    A mixed street with two interesting groups mixed with a number of very interesting and derelict houses. None of the houses are individually worthy of comment but there are two groups which deserve mention.

    a. The group from the Bluebell Public House to No. 69 Rotten Row inclusive form a very attractive group, particularly of trees. These could be afforded sympathetic redecoration and the colour co-ordinated.

    b. The group from No. 16 to No. 22 Rotten Row is a pleasant 18th century group which would be very attractive if painted and 'snow-cemed'.

  9. Shaw Lane

    A short, narrow lane winding down into Beacon Park. Though flanked on both sides by buildings old and new, with little architectural character, there is at the end an attractive old rambling Georgian style house [*] in a pleasant setting which somehow contrives to impart an air of interest to the lane.

    It is a great pity that marginal land on the Beacon Street corner is used as a dump for old vehicles. Efforts should be made to encourage the owners to develop it decently or at least to conceal it from view with a solid fence of adequate height.

    [*] "Beacon Croft" is not listed by the Ministry; its condition is quite good but one wall needs attention.

  10. St John Street

    This is a fine street with many fine buildings but it needs urgently to be freed from traffic. The group from the traffic lights to Wade Street is not a particularly interesting group as such although it provides a pleasant approach to the centre from the south.

    On the other hand the west side contains a number of most interesting and attractive buildings and the Old Grammar School and St Johns Hospital are among the most interesting buildings in Lichfield. The garden to the Rural District Council is charming and beautifully kept.

  11. Stowe Street

    Much of the undoubted appeal of this street lies in its winding layout. When inspected individually, however, most of the property is in poor repair with structural decay and very sparing of any surface treatment. Such attractions as these houses have owe their appeal to their very pleasing proportions.

    These products of the early 19th century are characteristic of the attitude of the builder to artisan's dwellings; calling, in his view, for nothing to relieve the dull monotony of the line. We may be thankful that the instinct to design with simple yet well-balanced proportions was still sound.

  12. Tamworth Street

    This is a most attractive street, the main features of which should be preserved at all costs. In particular there is a very fine view of the Cathedral from the top of the hill with a splendid tree in the foreground. The street has a delightful curve coupled with a slope and interesting pattern of roofs with dormer windows and most interesting chimneys. The street should be treated as a whole and any plans for redevelopment must be considered in relation to the whole street.

    Of special interest is the group from J.S. Tayler's Old Shop, No. 49 (Now Alma Hunter, hairdressers) to Gordon Fosters, No. 59. The bow front of No. 53 is particularly fine. The development of the corner site now used as a fish & chip shop should be carefully watched and the building erected on the corner with Lombard Street (Baileys) is visually a tragedy [8].

    The group from Conduit Street as far as Hubballs is also a lovely group of buildings, each fitting in perfectly, and with a number of sympathetic shop-fronts [9]. Here again the roof line in splendid.

    There is a certain amount of clutter in Tamworth Street which is unfortunate and should go. In particular the oblique ABC sign on the front of the Cinema ought to be removed if possible and it would be highly desirable if the former Radiospeed premises, No. 10, could be cleared up and advertising matter restrained.

    Similarly the appearance of a number of the existing shops is spoiled by a clutter of advertisements and by unsuitable fascias etc., particularly Munns and Worseys; the shop sign of the latter premises being particularly unsuitable and badly executed [10,11].

    The group from Fellows shop to the Methodist Church is charming and should be treasured [12].

  13. Wade Street

    The Society should make a strong plea for the retention of some of the buildings in the middle and west ends of Wade Street. In particular the following groups, which have a very nice intimate atmosphere should be preserved:

    The group from Hines to the Police Station; Nos. 29 - 33, 34 - 36 & 39 - 43; Nos. 62 - 64 have possibilities if properly looked after and in Central London would be priceless.

    We suggest that the Society should suggest to the Council that creeping plants should be planted in the Guild Hall yard to relieve the severity created by the Asphalt.

    The Lichfield Society
    Buildings Study Group
    May, 1962

  • References

    [1] City Institute - upper floor of Corn Exchange
    [2] Robert Edyvean, Chemist - 17 Market Street
    [3] Innes, Smith & Co., Wine Merchant - 33 Market Street
    [4] Winterton & Sons, Estate Agents - 5 Breadmarket Street
    [5] Montague Burton, Menswear - 26 Market Street (1938)
    [6] Adelphi Cinema - 12 Bore Street
    [7] Entrance in Cross Keys
    [8] Baileys, Greengrocer - 33 Tamworth Street
    [9] John Hubball, Fancy Goods - 19 Tamworth Street
    [10] L & B Munn, Newsagent - 61 Tamworth Street
    [11] Arthur Worsey, Newsagent - 11 Tamworth Street
    [12] Charles Fellows, Butcher - 40 Tamworth Street