Discover the Extraordinary Life Of Elias Ashmole at Lichfield Cathedral

Wednesday October 11 2017

An exhibition exploring the fascinating life and times of Elias Ashmole, one of Lichfield’s most celebrated sons, is set to take place at Lichfield Cathedral.

From Thursday 19th October to Thursday 23rd November, the cathedral will host ‘Discovering Elias Ashmole’, an exciting event marking the 400th birthday of the remarkable 17th century figure, who rose from a relatively humble background in Staffordshire to an important and respected position at the court of Charles II.

Born in Breadmarket Street on 23rd May 1617, Ashmole left for London at the age of 16 but returned to Lichfield regularly and became a generous benefactor to both the city and the cathedral.

A royalist supporter throughout the turbulent time of the English Civil War, he bridged the gap between traditional and contemporary methods of thought and drew influence from the fields of alchemy, astronomy and botany.

While Ashmole was one of the founding members of the Royal Society in 1660, he is perhaps best remembered today as the founder of the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. The museum, which is believed to have been the first truly public museum in Europe, opened in 1683 and first displayed antiquities and specimens of natural history collected by Ashmole himself.

A statue of Ashmole clasping a model of the museum buildings in his hands can still be seen on the exterior of Lichfield Cathedral.    

A former Lichfield chorister, Ashmole is responsible for the cathedral’s large collection of Barnard Part Books, a significant set of 17th century volumes on the history of choral music. In addition to the exhibition, the cathedral’s musicians will be giving a talk exploring the importance of these books, entitled ‘In Service High and Anthems Clear’, on the evening of Friday 17th November.

Simon Warburton, Executive Director of Lichfield Cathedral, says: “Our amazing, free Ashmole exhibition will include a host of exhibits kindly lent by the City of Lichfield and items from Lichfield Cathedral’s library that document Ashmole’s life and provide a unique insight into his vast and wonderful mind.

“This is simply an unmissable opportunity for anyone hoping to learn more about this important figure who stands at the forefront of Lichfield’s long and rich history.” 

The cathedral’s famed and ancient St Chad Gospels are shortly due to be loaned to the Ashmolean Museum, which is preparing for its ‘Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of World Religions’ exhibition, running from Thursday 19th October to Sunday 18th February 2018. More information on the event is available at  www.ashmolean.org/imaginingthedivine. Tickets for the ‘In Service High and Anthems Clear’ talk are £5.87 per person and can be purchased from The Shop at No 9 or online at www.lichfield-cathedral.org.

Further details about the Ashmole exhibition can be found at www.lichfield-cathedral-org.