19. Lichfield Cathedral, December 2008


4th December 2008. I can’t remember how many gigs I have played in Lichfield. Dozens, scores, going back over 40 years. It is of course an enormously ancient and historic place. There even used to be an Archbishop of Lichfield once, besides the regular Archbishops of Canterbury and York. His name was Higbert; or Hygberht or Hygeberht – (thank you, Wikipedia). Mind you, that was quite a while ago: from 787 – 799, when there were all sorts of problems that King Offa of Mercia had to contend with – including a threat from Charlemagne, no less – and as Offa didn’t get on with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he… but I digress. The one thing I have never done, is to simply visit Lichfield just because it was there! Today, this regrettable lapse was remedied.



Ahh – the idyllic whatsit! Since writing the last of these diary entries I have acquired a free travel pass. Anyone who lives here and is aged 60 or more can get one, which lets you ride on all the ’buses in the Birmingham area FREE – after 9:30 a.m. that is. Fortunately, I have all my life been… er, reluctant, shall we say? to rise early in the morning. Indeed, in recent years, 9: 30 a.m. is about the time I begin thinking: ‘I really ought to get up!’, so the pass has been extremely useful. You see, it applies not just to Birmingham, but to a large surrounding area; and it is valid on trains as well as ’buses. It doesn’t quite extend as far as Lichfield: but it extends jolly near there, so all you have to do is pay for a return ticket from a couple of stations before Lichfield, and bingo. It was a cold day; after all, it was December. But the freshness & brightness of everything added a zest to the late morning. Here you see the majestic cathedral in the background. It is a relatively small Cathedral, and apparently the only early English Cathedral with three spires – and this has given rise to Lichfield being called ‘The Three Spires City’.




At this point, I must have lost my presence of mind, because waiting just a few seconds longer, would have resulted in a shot without a car in it. I suppose cars are almost ‘subliminal’ to us these days. But as I try to be punctilious in such matters, I apologise for the car.



Of course, you cannot take a photo. of a very tall building indeed without some distortion of the shape. I understand the ancient Greeks were perfectly aware of this, and the columns of their temples were larger in diameter at the top, presumably in order to assist future photographers. To some extent, they needn’t have bothered, as early in the history of photography, there were ‘Rising Front’ cameras (I think that’s what they were called) which would skew the image so that it turned out OK on the plate. Mind you, this facility is certainly not present on my digital camera. I must complain to Yamamoto of Kodak. There is of course an abundance of information on Lichfield Cathedral available on line, which you will enjoy reading. Let us supply you with a link…



http://lichfield-cathedral.org/history.html will give you a thumbnail history of this splendid Cathedral. And from that link you can work backwards into the entire Lichfield Cathedral website, and read about many other fascinating aspects of its history, not to mention its current mission. In fact, there is even a very distant connection between your humble scribe and this sacred and noble edifice. When I was young, my grandfather told me that when he was a young man, the noted Wolverhampton cornet player, Joseph Gold, played a solo on ‘Star Of Bethlehem’ in Lichfield Cathedral. Presumably in a Christmas Service? And this was the first time that a secular instrument had been played in the Cathedral for a very long time… possibly several hundred years! It remains as a tantalising Family Legend, probably never to be resolved. However, my grandfather’s memories, when it has been possible to put them to the test, have always proved correct! Who knows? Joseph ‘Joey’ Gold married into the family of Henry James Metcalfe, my grandfather’s grandfather. There is a web-page devoted to H J Metcalfe (1835-1906) elsewhere on this site: metcalfe.htm




All too soon, we had to take our leave, only pausing to photograph the stern old Kings of England looking down from above the main doorway. We did see the Chad Gospels though, which are on display in the Chapter House. This is a truly stunning artefact, a book dating from the 700s, and if you are in any way interested in the history of the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ in England, we can only urge you to learn more about it by visiting the following page and indeed all the others to be found on the Cathedral web site:







Page written 1st January 2009.