A Treasure Store of Local History

On a bitterly cold evening on Tuesday 23rd January, more than 50 brave souls assembled at the Friary for a talk on the work of the County Archives Service and a guided tour of the Library building. We were welcomed by Lynne Stanley, the District Librarian, and Mark Dorrington, the archivist-in-charge of the Lichfield Record Office.

In an introductory talk Mark Dorrington told us that the Lichfield record office was opened in 1959 and is the repository of records for the City and Diocese. The role of the County Archives Service is to locate and preserve records of the county - the maps, reports, official documents, photographs and letters which comprise the "raw materials of history". The Archives Service makes these available for public scrutiny; it provides a research facility, publicises its work and mounts exhibitions.

The records were brought to life by a display, prepared by Mark Dorrington, of some of the items sorted within the archives. They ranged from a charter from King John in 1199, complete with impressive seal, conveying Bakewell Church to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield; through the City Charter of 1553 to a log book from Beacon Street school. Each of us would have been taken with something in particular. The variety was a revelation. Ivor Mitchell was last seen memorising election addresses of 1799. For my part I found it difficult to tear myself away from Crompton's map of Lichfield of 1857; a cartographical work of art.

The guided tour of the Friary must have brought back memories for some members of the Society. We walked the old school corridors, the needlework room, physics and chemistry laboratories and the kitchens. We paused briefly by the headmistress' study and went to admire the old Tudor fireplace. My abiding impression was one of the sheer scale of the rooms, a feature masked by the partitions and bookshelves.

This was, by general consent, a wonderful evening; warm, informative and relaxed. A considerable debt of gratitude is owed to Lynne Staley and Mark Dorrington for taking the time and trouble to look after us in such a helpful and friendly manner.

Mike Tole
January 1996