Some Notable Citizens of Lichfield

In the 17th and early 18th century the education that was provided by Lichfield's free schools (the Minors' school and the Grammar School) resulted in an exceptional number of notable alumni, many of whom went on to hold senior positions in the Church, Literature, Science and even the Royal Court. The following list also includes several other notable citizens who were born elsewhere but were educated, or later made their home, in Lichfield.

Walter Langton (1243-1321)

Walter de Langton, the son of Simon Peverill, was born in Langton West, Leicestershire. He was appointed a clerk in the royal chancery and, from 1295, became Treasurer of England under King Edward I. The following year he was elected Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield (as the see was then known). He is buried in Lichfield Cathedral.

Bishop de Langton strengthened the wall surrounding the Close and crenellated it. He also built a 'Great Bridge' over the marsh land south of the Cathedral - the area now occupied by the Museum Gardens and Minster Pool. The remains of the bridge are buried beneath the pavement of Bird Street and the site is commemorated by a bronze plaque on the wall of the Memorial Gardens.

Thomas Minors (1609-1677)

Thomas Minors was born in Uttoxeter. He traded as a draper in Lichfield and, in 1642, held the office of Sheriff in the City. A staunch Presbyterian, he was elected to Parliament in 1654 and again in 1660 during the protectorate.

In 1670 Thomas founded a school for 30 poor boys to be "taught without charge" (Minors' school); giving his property in Bore Street and some land at Leomansley to support the charity which bears his name. He died in 1677 and is buried in St Mary's church.

Elias Ashmole (1617-1692)

Elias Ashmole, the founder of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, was born at No. 5 Breadmarket Street in Lichfield. His birthplace, also known as Priest's Hall and now a solicitor's office, is marked by a stone plaque. He attended the Lichfield Grammar School in St John's Street, which was rebuilt in the mid 19th century and adapted to be the Rural District Council Chamber.

After the Restoration of Charles II he was appointed to a number of honorary positions at court, ultimately becoming Accountant-General of Excise and, in 1660, Windsor Herald of Arms in Ordinary. He published a number of works on alchemy including "Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum" (1652) and "The Way to Bliss" (1658) which recommends a balanced diet and moderate exercise. He died in London and is buried in St Mary's church, Lambeth.

Gregory King (1648-1712)

Gregory King was born in the parish of St Chad, Lichfield and attended Lichfield Grammar School where he learnt Latin, Greek and Hebrew. After an early career as an engraver, surveyor and map maker, working in London and Staffordshire, he was appointed registrar of the College of Arms. He was created Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms in 1677 and Lancaster Herald of Arms in Ordinary in 1688; holding the latter post until his death. He is buried in the church of St Benet, Paul's Wharf, Lambeth.

After appointment as secretary to the Commission of Public Accounts in 1695 he compiled the work for which he is mainly remembered; "Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State of England" (1696), although this confidential government paper was not published in his lifetime. As a result of this and his other work for the government he is now sometimes described as the first great economic statistician.

Sir John Floyer (1649-1734)

John Floyer was born at Hints Hall near Lichfield and studied medicine at Queen's College Oxford. After graduating he settled in Lichfield where he developed new ways of caring for patients and published several books. Notably, he was the first to develop a system for pulse rate measurement using a specially designed watch.

His home at Culstubbe Hall on St Johns Street, was replaced in 1732 by St John's House, later known as Yeomanry House, the site of which is now the vacant plot opposite the railway station. Sir John Floyer is buried in The Close, Lichfield.

William Wollaston (1659-1724)

William Wollaston was born in Coton Clanford near Stafford and learnt Latin at Lichfield Grammar School, later taking a degree at at Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge. He was appointed second master at King Edward's school in Birmingham but settled in London after inheriting an estate from his cousin. Although he wrote extensively, his best known work is "The Religion of Nature Delimited" (1724). He is buried at Great Flinborough, Suffolk.

George Smalridge (1662-1719)

George Smalridge was born in Lichfield and attended Lichfield Grammar School. He later studied at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where for six years he acted as deputy for the Regius professor of divinity. He was appointed Dean of Carlisle in 1711 and subsequently Dean of Christ Church and Bishop of Bristol. A well known figure in London in Queen Anne's day, his sermons were highly regarded and many were published during his lifetime. He is buried in Oxford.

John Rowley (1670-1728)

John Rowley, the youngest son of William Rowley, was born in Lichfield. After serving an apprenticeship in London to Joseph Hone, a scientific instrument maker, he established his own business in Fleet Street. He was well known as a skilled instrument maker designing, in particular, an orrery for Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Corke and Orrery. In 1715 he was appointed master of mechanics to King George I, supplying many measuring devices to the Board of Ordnance. He died in London and was buried at St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Joseph Addison was born in Wiltshire but moved to Lichfield soon afterwards when his father was appointed Dean of Lichfield Cathedral. As a young man he attended Lichfield Grammar School, later achieving fame as an essayist, poet, playright and politician. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Gilbert Walmisley (1680-1651)

Gilbert Walmisley (or Walmesley) was born in Lichfield. In 1698 he matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford, but did not take a degree. In 1707 he was called to the bar at the Inner Temple. As registrar of the Diocesan court at Lichfield he resided in the Bishop's Palace for 30 years, where he sometimes entertained the young Samuel Johnson. He is buried in Lichfield Cathedral.

John Colson (1680-1760)

John Colson, the son of a vicar-choral, was educated at Lichfield Grammar School before matriculating at Christ Church, Oxford. After teaching at the new Mathematical School in Rochester he gained a position at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He was appointed to the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1739.

His published works include "A Short Account of Negativo-Affirmativo Arithmetik" (1726) and "The construction and use of the Spherical Maps" (1736). He also translated Sir Isaac Newton's "Method of Fluxions and Infinite Series" into English. John Colson FRS died at the age of 80 in Cambridge.

Thomas Newton (1704-1782)

Thomas Newton was born in Lichfield and attended Lichfield Grammar School. He later studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and was ordained in 1730. A scholar whose published works include a biography of John Milton (pub. 1749) he was appointed Bishop of Bristol in 1761 and Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in 1768, where he is buried. His birthplace in Bird Street, Lichfield is marked by a stone plaque.

Isaac Hawkins Browne (1705-1760)

Isaac Hawkins Browne was born in Burton-on-Trent and educated at Lichfield Grammar School and later Westminster School. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and was called to the bar from Lincoln's Inn. A notable poet and great wit, his known works include "A Pipe of Tobacco" (1736) and the Latin poem "De Animi Immortalitate" (1754). Isaac Hawkins Browne MA, FRS died in London.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Samuel Johnson, writer, critic, lexicographer, conversationalist, and famous for his Dictionary of English, was born in Lichfield in 1709 and attended Lichfield Grammar School. He later studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, but left without taking a degree. After failing to gain employment locally as a school teacher, he moved to London in 1737 to pursue a literary career. His birthplace in Breadmarket Street is now a museum reflecting his life and work. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Richard Greene (1716-1793)

Richard Greene was born in Lichfield and, after qualifying as an apothecary in Shropshire, he returned to practice in the City where he later held office as sheriff and became an alderman. A notable antiquary he assembled a large collection of fossils, coins, watches, armour and natural history specimens which the public were invited to view.

After his death the contents of his museum were dispersed and only a few items can now be traced. His house in Saddlers Street, known today as Market Street, later became a well known bakery but was demolished in 1963 to make way for the City Arcade. The location is now marked by a bronze plaque. Richard Greene is buried in The Close, Lichfield.

David Garrick (1717-1779)

David Garrick, actor, dramatist and theatre manager, was born in Hereford but spent most of his early life in Lichfield. He attended Lichfield Grammar School, the site of which is in St John's Street, and later studied Latin and Greek at the school run by Samuel Johnson. His former Lichfield home in Beacon Street was demolished in the 19th century and replaced by the new Probate Court, where there is a stone plaque. The modern theatre in Castle Dyke also bears his name. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Theophilus Buckeridge (1724-1803)

Theophilus Buckeridge was born in Lichfield and educated at Lichfield Grammar School. He matriculated in 1745 at St Mary Hall, Oxford. After graduation he obtained, in 1748, the curacy of Edingale. He returned to Lichfield in 1769 as master of St John's Hospital (now St John's without the Bars). A noted local antiquary, in 1820 he was one of the contributors to Sampson Erdeswicke's book "A survey of Staffordshire: Concerning the antiquities of that county". Theophilus Buckeridge MA is buried in Holy Trinity church, Edingale.

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)

Erasmus Darwin, physician, scientist, inventor and poet was born in Newark upon Trent but settled in Lichfield in 1756, where he lived until 1780. He was the grand-father of Charles Darwin. There is a stone plaque at the front of his house in Beacon Street, on the edge of the Cathedral Close, which is now a working museum and research centre dedicated to his life and work. He is buried in All Saint's church, Breadsall, Derby.

Anna Seward (1742-1809)

Anna Seward was born at Eyam in Derbyshire in 1742 where her father was the minister. The family moved to Lichfield seven years later when her father was appointed Canon Residentiary at Lichfield Cathedral. She is known as an 18th century English romantic poet, often called "the Swan of Lichfield". Despite having many admirers, she never married and lived in the Bishop's Palace for the rest of her life. She is buried in Lichfield Cathedral.

James Wyatt (1746-1813)

James Wyatt, the 6th son of Benjamin Wyatt, was born at Blackbrook Farm, Weeford, and went on to become the foremost architect of his age. Little is known about his education except that he studied architecture in Rome and Venice. Well known for his promotion of the Gothic style he was elected to the Royal Academy in 1770 and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities in 1797. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Amongst hundreds of other commissions James Wyatt designed the Broadway Tower in Worcestershire for Barbara, Countess of Coventry; Heaton House near Manchester for Sir Thomas Egerton and Ashridge Castle for the Earl of Bridgewater. His father, Benjamin (1709-1772) designed the Grade II* Swinfen Hall near Lichfield and his uncle, John Wyatt (1700-1766), is credited with inventing a spinning machine whilst working in the mill at New Forge Pool, Sutton Coldfield.

Henry Salt (1780-1827)

Henry Salt was born in the parish of St Mary, Lichfield. His education began at the Minors' school in Bore Street and continued at a boarding school in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire. He later returned to Lichfield where he took drawing lessons under the landscape painter John Glover. Following further training in London under Joseph Farrington he joined an expedition, led by Viscount Valentine, to survey the Red Sea coast of Africa. This work led to a further expedition to Abyssinia and his subsequent appointment in 1815 as British Vice-Consul in Egypt. His lifelong passion became the study of Egyptian antiquities and his large collections now grace both the British Museum and the Louvre in Paris.

He wrote several books including "A Geometrical Survey of the City of Alexandria" (1809) and "Account of a Voyage to Abyssinia" (1814) but is perhaps best remembered for the meticulous recording revealed in his landmark text on Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Henry Salt FRS died in Egypt and is buried in Alexandria.

James Thomas Law (1790-1876)

James Thomas Law was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge. He was made Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral in 1818 and, in 1821, appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield, a post he retained for the rest of his life. Further appointments, as Master of St John's Hospital and of Lichfield Theological College followed. He also sat as a judge on the Diocesan Consistory Court and in the local Probate Court.

In Lichfield, James Thomas Law is best known as a notable local benefactor. He commissioned Richard Cockle Lucas, one of England's finest sculptors, to make the statue of Dr Samuel Johnson, that stands in our Market Square, and later donated part of the land for the new Public Library in Beacon Street. He is buried in the graveyard of St Michael's church, Lichfield.

John Louis Petit (1801-1868)

Members of the Petit family lived in Redcourt House, Tamworth Street, for over 70 years from 1820 to 1898. The Rev. John Louis Petit was a notable architectural historian and watercolourist who campaigned against the imposition of neo-Gothic features on existing buildings throughout his life. He travelled widely in England, Europe and the Middle East, carefully recording the churches and other buildings that he saw.

The Rev. John Louis Petit's publications included "Remarks on Church Architecture" (1841) and "Architectural Studies in France" (1854) as well as numerous articles in the Archaeological Journal. He designed only two buildings; a summer house at Upper Longdon (since demolished) and the Caerdeon Chapel in Gwynedd which still stands and is now listed, Grade I. He was a founder member of the Institute for Architecture. John Louis Petit, M.A., F.S.A. is buried, together with several members of his family, in the graveyard of St Michael's church, Lichfield.

Richard Greene (1801-1875)

Richard Greene was born in Lichfield and followed his grandfather (see above) in becoming a prominent citizen. By his marriage to Mary Scott he inherited a share in the popular local bank that had been part-owned by her father, Robert Scott. Unfortunately the family fell on hard times in 1855 when Richard was declared bankrupt following the discovery that his former partner, James Palmer, and his Chief Cashier, William Lawton, had been embezzling the bank's funds for several years. The family home at Stowe House was sold and they all left Lichfield, eventually settling in Caernavonshire.

Richard was an early supporter of the Manchester and South Union Railway, which would have linked Lichfield to Stafford; but this scheme failed to gain the necessary Parliamentary assent. He later become a director of the South Staffordshire Railway, which reached Lichfield in April 1849, and was responsible for selecting the shields that can still be seen today on the Railway Bridge in St John's Street.

Sophia Lonsdale (1854-1936)

Sophia Lonsdale was the daughter of Canon John Gylby Lonsdale and grand-daughter of Bishop John Lonsdale. Although born in London she spent over 30 years of her adult life in Lichfield. In 1892 she founded the first High School for girls in Lichfield. The new school was popular and grew rapidly, moving to larger accommodation in Yeomanry House on St Johns Street in 1896 and later, following a third move in 1926, became the modern Friary School. She died in Weybridge, Surrey, and is buried in Lichfield Cathedral.

Sophia was a notable campaigner against women's suffrage and an early member of "The Women's Anti-Suffrage League". Amongst other work, three lectures that she gave to the University Settlement for Women were published in 1897 by King & Son. as "The English Poor Laws: Their History, Principles and Administration"

The information above has been collated from a number of sources, principally the Victoria County History (Vol. XIV), the Dictionary of National Biography and Wikipedia; sometimes supported by Parish and Census records.

Peter Cousins
August 2023