Lichfield Grammar School & the School Master’s House
Lichfield District Council's Council Chamber and Chief Executive’s office are housed in two of Lichfield’s most historic buildings – Lichfield Grammar School and the School Master’s House. The two buildings date back to 1682.
History of the school
Lichfield’s Grammar School, which in its day ranked with Eton and Winchester, was on this site for more than 400 years.
In that time it provided an education to many famous faces that later went on to be influential men of their age.
The first school was built in 1495. However, little is know about this period. This school probably stood nearer the road, but it must have been demolished before 1577, for in a deed dated 27 April 1577, the ‘New School’ was described.
It was this second school built in 1682 that produced many famous scholars. Three of its pupils have been buried at Westminster Abbey.
- Samuel Johnson, author
- David Garrick, actor
- Joseph Eddison, Essayist
The antiquarian Elias Ashmole also attended Lichfield Grammar School.
It is believed the school is unique in having five boys attending at the same time that later all became judges.
- Mr Justice Knowle
- Lord Chief Byron Parker
- Lord Justice Willis
- Lord Chief Justice Wilmot
- Sir Richard Lloyd, Barron of the Exchequer
The School Master’s House was built in the Jacobean style in 1682. It fronts St John Street.
The building was used as Lichfield Grammar School and the land at the front was the scholars’ playground until 1903.
Life after the school
Lichfield Rural District Council bought the property in 1917. It was immediately taken over the army who used it as a pay office for Lincolnshire Regiment during the First World War, from July 1917 to December 1919.
It has been used by Lichfield Rural District Council and subsequently by Lichfield District Council ever since.
The School House is now the Council Chamber. The attic dormitories are now store cupboards.
In 1903 Lichfield Grammar School was moved from St John Street to Upper St John Street. To cater for the growing population, in 1971, the Grammar School merged with Kings Hill secondary modern school to become known as the current King Edward VI School.
The signatures on the doors
The building was home to 14 successive headmasters of the Grammar School (until 1903) and the attics were used as dormitories for the boarders. Some of their initials can still be seen on the oak doors.
The names etched into the doors include William Holl the Younger:
- William Holl the Younger (February 1807 Plaistow, Essex – 30 January 1871) was an English portrait and figure engraver, noted for his book illustrations.
- The eldest of four sons of William Holl the Elder (c1771-1838), he was taught engraving by his father – at first stipple and later line on steel.
- He was a founder member of the Chalcographic Society started by several notable engravers in 1830.
- Holl also produced portraits for William Jerdan's National Portrait Gallery (1830–34) and for the 1834 Chambers's Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen.
- Working with his brother Francis Holl (1815–84), he provided engraved illustrations to Finden's 1837 Tableaux of National Character and Gallery of Beauty of 1841 and to the 1840 edition of The Land of Burns.
- The third brother Charles Holl (c1810-1882) aided William throughout his career. The youngest brother Benjamin (1808–1884) also achieved notable success as a portrait and figure engraver and later emigrated to the USA.
- In the 1840s his major works were engravings after William Powell Frith, illustrating the poems of Thomas Moore ‘Beauties of Moore’ (1840) and scriptural engravings after various artists such as Raphael, Rembrandt, Benjamin West and James Northcote for inclusion in Blackie & Sons' Imperial Family Bible (1844) and John Kitto's Gallery of Scripture Engravings (1846–49).
- He also produced portraits for the Imperial Dictionary (1861) and Thomas Baines's Yorkshire Past and Present (1871–77).
- One of the carvings (Watkins) is dated Feb 1714/5.
There are also many signatures (graffiti) carved into the stone wall on the outside of the Council Chamber.
Getting here and parking
- No dedicated parking
The building is not open to the public, however you can stroll through the gardens and look at the signatures etched into the council chamber walls.
Access, lifts and ramps
- There is level access to the main public areas