Historic Lichfield on Film

Now for something completely different - an entrancing journey into the not so distant past via a selection of cinematic gems, courtesy of Councillor Ray Bradbury, Chairman of Burntwood and Chase Terrace Heritage Group. From cine-film converted to DVD the simple pleasures of 40 years ago delighted a good turn out, including a visitor, Michael Mullarkey, Chairman of the Bower Committee.

Beginning with the Johnson Celebration of 1959, it was curious how large the wreath was, encompassing one of the reliefs beneath the contemplative scholar (It was becoming smaller by 1962). Many councillors, the Mayor and choirboys were seen, also the long gone "Frisbys" shop and Bishop Reeve too.

Next came the inauguration of Clegg House at St. Matthew's Hospital (then one of Burntwood's major employers). The jollification included speeches, nurses, Scouts and Guides processing, and a go-cart demo. The highlight was obviously the Health and Strength League who gave fund raising county-wide displays. This earned some laughter at the ladies display of music and movement, rhythm ensured by Mrs. Poole, of Poole's Bakery, on the piano.

The Hammerwich Hospital Garden Fete included speeches, children in fancy dress and another League display. Run by a Latvian, Edgar, and Martin, this League is still going strong after forty years! The somewhat bizarre entertainment included a baby show, a tap dancer, the M.P. Julian Snow and Irma Ogden (of Coronation Street, daughter of Hilda), but it was Matron who received the bouquet! (note the `big hair' in these films).

These films were silent, but next came the Bower films of 1959 - 67, with music. In 1959 we saw the last Green Man, a bush with feet a'tapping. Now he only wears a mask, just another Morris Man. There were the big head masks of a policeman, 'Goofy' and others, and the Bower Committee in suits of Armour. Horse drawn floats paraded, children in fancy dress, girl bands and Scots bagpipes. Beefeaters paraded by the Mayor's entourage in their open top car. Themes included the then topical 'Ban the Bomb', 'Davy Jones Locker' and 'Folies Bergeres'. A most spectacular event in Beacon Park - steer riding - organised by the Young Farmers - was very popular, but it would hardly be allowed in today's Health and Safety dominated society. Only one chap managed to stay on longer than a few seconds.

Another film showed Cannock Chase with its conifers and the colliery. There was a glimpse of the Coop Youth Club in Burtons top floor room with jiving, playing darts and a smart youth in a red sweater with black reindeer. A little tour of Lichfield, the Cathedral, St. Chads, girls throwing coins into Chads Well, Stowe Croft, the Gazebo and the new high rise flats, just post construction. A children's Pancake Race near a Primary School (venue uncertain) completed this brief glimpse of a gentler, uncomplicated age. The films presented a poignant reminder of a past era when times seemed to be more sociable and dress sense in both men and women more sober. It is astonishing how much has changed in this respect over the last 40 years.

Lorna Bushell
May 2006