Ancient find provides insight into Lichfield life nearly 400 years ago

Posted on 02/12/2019 in Press Coverage

A ‘fascinating’ ancient pamphlet relating to Lichfield’s battles during the English Civil War in the 1600s has been uncovered.

The rare item, printed for the House of Commons on July 18, 1646, records the Royalist surrender of Lichfield Cathedral Close together with ‘a list of commanders, officers and gentleman of quality that were in the close at surrender thereof’.

Also found is a centuries-old letter written on behalf of former civil war soldier Thomas Lightwood whose efforts to become a doctor serving the people of Lichfield were jeopardised by the war.

In July 1677, a letter was sent to Thomas Wood, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, asking for Mr Lightwood to be granted a licence to practice medicine as the conflict had prevented him completing his university studies.

The letter, written on the soldier’s behalf by Godrey Meynell, said: 'Mr Thomas Lightwood of Bradley in ye County of Derby, Batchelour of Arts & six years resident in ye University of Cambridge, but by reason of ye late unhappy wars (wherein he took up armes for his late Majesty King Charles ye first) being disappointed of taking any further desire a licence to practise in physick', Lichfield’.

The items are among a collection of six ancient works on paper uncovered by Hansons Auctioneers’ associate director Jim Spencer. They’re due to be sold on December 12 at Hansons’ Fine Art and Library Auction at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire, with a guide price of £300-£500.

Mr Spencer, head of books and works on paper at Hansons, said: “It’s astonishing to think these manuscripts and pamphlets are still intact nearly four centuries after they were produced. They have come to light thanks to a Midlands vendor.

“Anyone interested in Lichfield’s history will be fascinated. These papers sweep us back through the centuries. They provide an insight into a war which affected the area more than 370 years ago and reveal the personal impact on one man wishing to serve the people of the city.”

The English Civil War (1642-1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians, the Roundheads, and Royalists, the Cavaliers. They clashed over the way England was governed.

Mr Spencer said: “Lichfield inevitably became embroiled in the conflict. A Siege of Lichfield, which ran from April 8-21, 1643 resulted in a victory for a Royalist force which defeated the Parliamentary garrison of Lichfield.Earlier in the war the Royalists had occupied the Close at Lichfield.

“The Parliamentarians eventually won the war, gaining victory at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651. This had major implications for the country as a whole.

“It led to the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649, the exile of his son, Charles II, and the replacement of English monarchy with, initially, the Commonwealth of England and then the Protectorate under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Constitutionally, the wars established the precedent that an English monarch cannot govern without Parliament’s consent.”

Auction details

The manuscripts and pamphlets will be auctioned on December 12 at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffs, ST17 0XN. They can be viewed at the venue on Sunday December 8, noon-4pm, Tuesday December 10, 10am-7pm, and Wednesday December 11, 10am-4pm. To find out more or to arrange a free valuation of books or works on paper, email [email protected]

Hansons holds free valuations every Monday from 10.30am-12.30pm at The Hedgehog Inn, Stafford Road, Lichfield, WS13 8JB. To find out more, or to arrange a free valuation at your home, downsizing or house clearance quote, email: [email protected]