Discover something you didn’t know before

Published on: Tue, 18/01/2022 - 15:08

Discover something you didn’t know before

New Year’s Resolutions never really turn out the way we want them to, do they? So if you’ve already faltered on your resolution to eat less sugar, exercise more or stop smoking you’re definitely not alone. It’s hard to make big life changes. So, why not make a new resolution now to get out and discover something you didn’t know before?

Lichfield District is packed full of history, heritage and frankly fascinating stories. Resolving to spend 2022 uncovering as many of these stories as possible is not only easy, it’s also fun and incredibly affordable.

Here is some inspiration to get you started on your journey of discovery. Please remember to follow the latest Covid-19 guidance when exploring and check directly with venues listed for opening times and any specific booking requirements.

Samuel Johnson’s Birthplace Museum

Samuel Johnson is probably one of the most well-known historical figures from Lichfield, and you probably know all about his work compiling the Dictionary of the English Language (which took over eight years to compile and listed 40,000 words). However, do you know about Johnson’s relationship with Francis Barber?

Francis Barber, born into slavery in Jamaica, went on to become something of a surrogate son to Johnson and was ultimately named as his heir. This is just one of the many stories waiting for you to discover in the birthplace museum – which also still has a bookshop in the very spot where Johnson’s own parents sold books.

There is currently no need to book to visit the museum, although you can make a booking if you want to by contacting the museum directly, and it’s free to visit. Want a sneak peek? Then check out the virtual tour.  

Erasmus Darwin HouseErasmus Darwin House

Dr Erasmus Darwin was another national powerhouse of the 1700s with a home base in Lichfield. Grandfather to one Charles Darwin, Erasmus was such a well-regarded physician that King George III invited him to become Physician to the King – but Dr Darwin turned him down.

Instead, he spent his life becoming one of the key thinkers of the Midlands Enlightenment, being a founding member of the Lunar Society. He was also a natural philosopher, physiologist, slave-trade abolitionist, inventor and a poet. His work covered a variety of subjects, from science and inventions to medicine and the education of women, and the collections in Erasmus Darwin House reflect this.

One of the most notable pieces in the museum’s collections is the Common Place Book, which contains Darwin’s own notes on his medical cases, his thoughts on such things as meteorology and botany, and some fantastic drawings of his inventions. 

There’s a small fee of £4 for adults and £2 for children over 11 to visit the museum and booking in advance is encouraged to avoid disappointment, but you can also just arrive on the day you’d like to visit. If you’d like to delve a little deeper, you can book a guided tour of the museum.

Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral is the only medieval three-spired Cathedral in the UK, we all know this. But, did you know that stories awaiting you at the cathedral are more than just history? New stories unfold at the cathedral everyday as it maintains its active role in Lichfield.

Not only can you learn about the building’s heritage when you visit, you can also plan a year full of great events with a programme of exhibitions and shows that span art, culture and science. The cathedral’s current exhibition is called Far Horizons- Early map-books from Lichfield Cathedral.

Free to visit during normal opening hours until February 27, the exhibition opens with a world map published in 1493 and also displays Lichfield Cathedral Library’s collection of map-books from the 15th and 16th centuries, a time when European explorers looked beyond the horizon and journeyed to faraway places.

As well as exploring the cathedral for a small donation towards the upkeep of the historic building, you can also book tours of the cathedral’s library at certain points during the year. Keep an eye on what’s on throughout the year so you don’t miss out.

NMANational Memorial Arboretum

The National Memorial Arboretum has nearly 400 memorials, and each has its own story to be discovered.

The memorials are diverse and represent a broad population of society, from military associations and charities to the emergency services, fraternity groups and individuals. So, as well as the most well-known Armed Forces Memorial, which was created to remember and recognise those who have given their lives in the service of the country since the end of the Second World War, there are many other spaces and stories to find.

There are also regular events and exhibitions at the Arboretum, such as the current art exhibit, Wild Arboretum. Through the artworks displayed in this exhibition, artist Gerard Hobson has captured the essence of many animals, trees and fungi that can be found at the Arboretum. So you can explore the displays, then step outside to see for yourself just how much life is flourishing amongst the memorials. 

While it is free to visit the Arboretum, it’s currently important to book your visit before you arrive and there is a small parking fee to be paid at time of booking. Not only is it a great place to explore for the whole family, you can also visit with your dog.

Staffordshire Regiment Museum

The museum dedicated to the history of both the Staffordshire and Mercian regiments is so bursting with stories that they’ve had to build out into the grounds with a series of outdoor installations, including the amazing Coltman Trench.

The trench is a reconstruction of a 100 metre section of British front line trench from the First World War. It is named after Lance Corporal William Coltman VC and serves as a memorial to him and all of the soldiers of Staffordshire who served in that war. In the trench you can also see an example of the tunnels those Peaky Blinders were famed for digging.

As well as interactive installations like this, you can uncover the stories of Staffordshire and Mercian regiment men and women who served, such as Lance Corporal Coltman himself. He was a stretcher bearer in the 1st/6th North Staffordshire Regiment and was the most highly decorated soldier of the First World War winning, in addition to his Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar and the Military Medal and Bar.

It’s a great place to spend a few hours, not to mention somewhere with great period events throughout the year. There is a small cost of £5 for adults and £4 for children and concessions to enter. However, if you visit this February half term, children can enter for free.

Guided TourTake a guided tour

The Visit Lichfield tour guides are an absolute wealth of information about the people and places of Lichfield. While you can discover some of Lichfield’s heritage by enjoying the Visit Lichfield self-guided Heritage Trail, which features a series of information-packed boards around the city, a guided tour offers so much more insight.

There are a series of themed tours scheduled throughout the year, so whether you want to take in a broad history of Lichfield with a Discover Lichfield tour, or delve into a topic in more detail, such as the Civil War or Notable Lichfield Women, you’ll find a tour for you.

Alternatively, you can arrange a bespoke tour for your group by booking a private ‘bubble’ tour. This gives your group the undivided attention of the guide to ask as many questions as you like and discover the Lichfield stories you want to find.

Tours take 90 minutes, starting from Visitor Information at St. Mary’s in the Market Square, and cost £6 per person. There are £20 family friendly tickets available on selected tours (2 adults, one of which must be over 18 and responsible for the group, up to 3 under 12yrs), and private tours are priced depending on requirements but are usually around £30. See the scheduled tours and find out how to book here.

 

Discover all of the attractions in Lichfield District for further exploration.

 

Photo credits: Chris Day Design & The National Memorial Arboretum