The History of St Michael's Church

On 19th May, Dr Trevor James provided the Society with a fascinating insight into the history of St Michael's Church. What members thought would be a straightforward historical essay, turned into a detective story highlighting the importance of the church in the history not only of Lichfield but of a much wider area.

Although parts of the existing fabric date back to the thirteenth century, research shows that the this site has probably been occupied by religious buildings since romano-christian times, almost certainly prior to the founding of the cathedral. Since the site is slightly elevated (above any swampy land) and there's evidence to suggest that there are five springs , it would not be unreasonable to assume that perhaps St Chad occupied the site as the cathedral construction got underway. The size of the Parish also hints towards St Michael's importance. In the nineteenth century, no less than five daughter churches were linked to it, including Burntwood and Hammerwich to the west and Haslour and Statfold to the east. Some think that it was probably an important early minster church, rivalling those at Gloucester and Worcester.

Add to these snippets of information, the fact that St Michael's possesses the largest churchyard attached to a church in England, and a picture emerges of an important church founded on this site many centuries ago. Indeed, the nine acres of the churchyard hold many secrets. Closed now and managed as a nature reserve (not neglected as many think), it holds a number of vaults constructed, it is thought, in the eighteenth century.

So, look around you, for everywhere you will find history and mystery!

Roger Hockney
May 2005