Some history on Tamworth in the County of Staffordshire


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The town's name is from the River Tame. A rival to Tutbury, the town has one of the finest castles in the county. It was occupied in for almost 700 years since the Normans built it on the hill overlooking the junction of the rivers Tame and Anker. Subsequently, it was purchased for £3,000 in 1897 as a memorial to Queen Victoria. However, the castle was not the first imposing fortress to be built in Tamworth. Although no trace of it remains, King Offa, the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia built a royal palace here in 757. This was a time when Tamworth was virtually the capital of England because Offa was overlord of the country.

Tamworth was also the site of a major battle in 913 between the Danes and Alfred the Great's daughter, Ethelflaeda. Following her victory, she ordered the construction of a wooden stockade to ensure the Danes thought twice before having another go. Following the Norman conquest, the fortress became the property of Robert le Despencer before his cousin, and another of William the Conqueror's barons, Robert de Marmion, opted to fortify the stockade further and eventually built a castle, plenty of which still remains. Succeeding rulers all added to the building so that today it is a mixture of Norman, Gothic, Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian architectural styles.

Tamworth : Castle [c.1914]

Measuring some 10 feet thick at the base, the walls of the keep, along with the tower, are the work of the Marmions. The walls have a unique herringbone pattern in places. Later Tudor work includes the warden's lodge and the grand banqueting hall, both of which have received Jacobean restyling. The list of visitors to the castle includes Henry I, Henry II, Thomas à Beckett, Edward II and James I. A tour of the castle includes The History of Tamworth and The Norman Exhibition.

Tamworth : Town Hall Arches [c.1935]

Leaving the castle via the old 13th century gatehouse one enters the old Market Place and Market Street. Originally called Castle Street, this was once lined with medieval buildings. Today's street has a few fine 18th and 19th century buildings but the centrepiece is the Town Hall. Tamworth used to have two town halls - one each for the Staffordshire and Warwickshire parts of the town. These were replaced in 1701 by this mellow red brick construction which was paid for by Thomas Guy who was then a Member of Parliament for the town. A bookseller and philanthropist, he started in business around 1668 when he imported English bibles from Holland. However, it was through the South Sea Bubble Scandal that he made his fortune. The building for which he is best remembered is Guy's Hospital in Southwark.

The Town Hall is supported by wide stone arches, above which is a two-bay brick-fronted hall with large windows, a pediment and a high-pitched roof topped with a cupola. The Butter Market was once held beneath the arches which, in addition, used to house the town's fire engine.

In front of the Town Hall is the 1852 bronze statue of Sir Robert Peel, former Member of Parliament for Tamworth and twice Prime Minister. Expounding his ideas of free trade, he once delivered his Tamworth Manifesto from the Town Hall in 1834, the same year he accepted office for Prime Minister. He is best remembered for his re-organisation of the London police force - hence 'Bobbies' and for repealing the corn laws in 1846. The latter split the Conservative party and forced his resignation.

Tamworth : St. Editha's Church [2006]

The parish church is dedicated to Saint Editha, sister of Athelstan, who became King of England in 924. Editha herself married Sitgtryg, the Danish King of Northumbria, but things didn not quite work out as planned so she took the celestial option of devoting herself to God and founded a convent at Tamworth. The earliest known church at Tamworth was built in the 8th century but St. Editha's dates from 963. However, much of that construction, modified by the Normans, was burnt down in 1345. Today's building is a much modified version of the rebuilt 14th century church. The building has a rare double spiral staircase which can be ascended with permission. One flight has 101 steps and the other 106 and they are arranged so that the roof of one is the floor of the other.

Tamworth : Guy's Almshouses [c.1907]

From the church one can head down either Little Church Lane or Church Street to arrive at Lower Gungate. The former will take you through a pretty thoroughfare where the shops have been restored to provide the visitor with a little flavour of yesteryear. Just past the junction of Lower Gungate and Little Church Lane is the Almshouses founded by Thomas Guy. Rebuilt in 1913, the almshouses are still linked with the London hospital established by Thomas Guy. The buildings incorporate a steep gable and cupola. Gungate, incidentally, is a Danish word. The original almshouses were built in the 17th century but when Thomas Guy failed to be re-elected in 1707 he accused the town of ingratitude and used his fortune to build his hospital in London rather than the Midlands.

Tamworth Industrial Co-operative Society

On the corner of Church Street there are two interesting old buildings - the Arts Centre and the Co-op. The Arts Centre was originally built as a theatre in 1821 but was later turned into a pig market before being used as Sir Robert Peel's Gungate Malthouse. In another bizarre twist, it was turned into the town's Baptist Tabernacle Chapel in 1870. One of its chaplains, Revd. Donald Fraser was killed when serving as an Army Chaplain in France during the First World War. In 1974, the building reverted back to its original role of a theatre and arts centre.

The Co-op building is a classic Victorian shop building. The institution formerly occupied a building constructed in 1884 for Alfred Sadler & Co. Ltd. Tamworth's Co-op was established by William McGregor, Vicar of Tamworth between 1878-1887. He lived further down Colehill in the old Co-op Milk Bar. I have read that, in 1919, the record dividend was £12,935 which was an incredible amount of money. The Co-op gradually expanded into surrounding buildings in the early part of the 20th century.

A short walk along Colehill will bring you to Victoria Road named, along with Albert Road, in honour of the royal visit by the royal couple to Tamworth's Drayton Manor in November 1843. A few yards along Victoria Road is the Unitarian Chapel. It was built in 1724 with what has been described as a 'severe two-story brick façade.' This was later stuccoed and a porch added. The notable aspect of the building is the Flemish bond brickwork on the end wall facing the former graveyard. The chapel was converted into an ex-servicemen's institution.

Tamworth : Former Municipal Offices [c.1899]

The walk back into the town centre along George Street and Market Street is rewarded with the sight of some splendid Victorian buildings including the old National Westminster Bank described by Nikolaus Pevsner as the finest 19th century building in Tamworth. In Corporation Street is the Assembly Rooms which were built between 1887-1889 in the style of a Nonconformist Chapel to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Note the coat-of-arms supported by two mermaids. This was not registered with the College of Heraldry so it cannot be incorporated within the modern coat-of-arms for Tamworth. Today, the Assembly Rooms are used for a wide variety of public events.

The Holloway leads down from the town, past the castle and over the bridge. It is lined with some fine and interesting buildings, not least the Castle Hotel which was once owned by William Tempest who later became an alderman and borough magistrate. The building was severely damaged in a fire during 1838 when six maidservants died.

Tamworth : Bank House [c.1999]

Facing The Castle Hotel is Bank House. Dating from 1845, this building was used as the Tamworth Savings Bank which was founded by Sir Robert Peel in 1823. Another building of interest, especially to beer devotees, is Brewery House on an elevated position in Ladybank. This was built as a workhouse in 1750 but was later used by a Mr. Morgan who established a brewery at the rear - hence the name.

Brewery House overlooks Holloway Lodge, the main entrance to the Castle's grounds. Featuring two twin-towers, the gatehouse was built by the 2nd Marquess Townshend in 1810 and originally featured two separate single-storey rooms joined by the archway. It was following its acquisition by the Borough Council that the roof was raised and an upper storey added. There are plenty of pleasant walks within the castle grounds which run below the castle's ramparts and along the banks of the river.

Just inside the gateway is the statue of Ethelflaeda. This was erected and unveiled in 1913 as part of Tamworth's Millenary Celebrations. The unveiling ceremony was conducted by the Earl and Countess Ferrers. The ceremonial opening of Tamworth Castle took place some fourteen years earlier when the Earl of Dartmouth represented the Borough Council in another celebration of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Close to the statue of Ethelflaeda another decorative feature has been created with the anchor of a ship.

Ladybridge was originally constructed in 1294 but was repaired and widened in 1839. There used to be a large building next to the bridge which housed three corn mills and a fulling mill. It was called, appropriately enough, Castle Mills. The corn mills were worked by three separate water-wheels. The Castle Mills were demolished in 1920 - what an attraction they would have made today.

It is only a small hike back towards Lichfield Street. The first building of note is a betting office which was originally a school founded by Sir Robert Peel in 1820. Further along on the same side of the road is The Moat House which dates from the 16th century. It was once the home of the Comberford family who once entertained Prince Charles, later Charles II here. The actual construction date is thought to be 1572. Featuring five stepped gables.

On the opposite side of Lichfield Street is The White House. Dating from the early 19th century, this features an elegant double bow window. Further up the road is The Manor House, formerly the home of Thomas Guy.

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Tamworth Photographs

Tamworth : Aerial View of Castle [c.1952]

Tamworth : Castle and River [c.1955]

Tamworth : Castle Entrance [c.1905]

Tamworth in Contemporary Photographs

Tamworth : Statue of Ethelflaeda and The Castle [2006]

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Trade Directories

1818 Parson and Bradshaw's
Bell Inn, William Weston
Black Bull, Thomas Withnall
Castle Inn, Urrum Lucas
Coffee Pot, Mary Dudley
[Old] Holly Bush, Samuel Jefcoate
Jolly Button Turner, Elizabeth Pike
King's Arms Inn, James Carter Barton
King's Head, M. T. Broster
[Old] Boot, Widow Thirlby
Old Swan, William Freeman
Old White Lion, James Hastilow
Recruiting Serjeant, James Lowe
Rose and Crown Inn, Thomas Coleman
Star, Sarah Allen
Tamworth Arms, John Shilcock
Three Crowns, John Worthington
Three Tuns, James Wallis
Three Tuns, Charles Hawkins
Waggon and Horses, William Johnson
White Horse Inn, Charles Bridgwood
White Lion Inn, James Wilcox
White Lion, Charles Nightingale

1828-9 Pigot's Directory
Bell Inn, Thomas Biddle
Castle, Urrum Lucas
Coffee Pot, Hobday
Dog, Elizabeth Beard
George, Jacob Clarke
[Old] Holly Bush, Samuel Jefcoate
Jolly Button Turner, James Hastilow
King's Arms, James Carter Barton
King's Head, Thomas Broster
[Old] Boot, Edward Pallett
[Old] Red Lion, Thomas Standley
Old White Lion, George Knight
Red Lion, John Weston
Rose and Crown, Richard Atkins
Star, Charles Goodwin
Tamworth Arms, John Shilock
Three Crowns, Edward Davis
Three Tuns, James Wallis
Three Tuns, Charles Hawkins
Townshend's Arms, William Weston
Wagon and Horses, Joseph Woodcock
Wheatsheaf, Samuel Wilcox
White Horse, William Deakin
White Lion, John Lucas
White Swan, Thomas Handley

1834 William White's Directory
Bell Inn, Thomas Biddle
Bull's Head, Richard Maddocks
Castle Inn, Urrum Lucas
Dog, Elizabeth Beard
George, Jacob Clarke
George IV, Henry Woodlands
Golden Cup, Thomas Orton
Hare and Hounds, James Webster
Holly Bush, Samuel Jefcoate
Jolly Button Turner, James Hastilow
King's Arms, James Carter Barton
Lamb, Thomas Barrett
Malt Shovel, Job Keen
[New] Swan, Thomas Handley
[Old] Boot, Samuel Mottram
[Old] Red Lion, Catherine Stanley
Old Star, John Gilliver
Old Swan, Joseph Hall
Old White Lion, George Knight
Park Inn, Richard Taylor
Red Lion, John Dutton
Red Lion, Alice Long
Rose and Crown, Mary Ann Coleman
Stag's Head, Richard Atkins
[New] Star, Charles Goodwin
Tamworth Arms, George Eaton
Three Tuns, James Wallis
Three Tuns, Ann Hawkins
Townshend's Arms, William Weston
Waggon and Horses, Joseph Woodcock
Waterloo, Joseph Farmer
Wheatsheaf, Samuel Wilcox
White Horse, William Deakin
White Lion, John Lucas

1845 Post Office Directory
Bell Inn, Thomas Wainwright
Castle Inn, Frederick Webb
Coffee Pot, William Beard
Dog, Thomas Beard
George Inn, Jacob Clarke
Globe Tavern, Richard Allum
Hare and Hounds, Henry Roberts
Horse and Jockey, Spencer Perry
Jolly Button Turner, James Hastilow
King's Arms Inn, Joseph Rhoades
Lamb Inn, James Godderidge
Malt Shovel, William Biddle
[Old] Boot Inn, Samuel Mottram
[Old] Red Lion, Samuel Wyatt
Old Star, James Poynton
Old Swan, Joseph Hall
Park Inn, Thomas Whitmore
Queen, John Boneham
Red Lion, John Dutton
Rose and Crown, Joel Harrison
Saracen's Head, William Jones
Staffordshire Yeoman, Thomas Kesterton
Star, Charles Goodwin
Swan With Two Necks, Francis Wilcox
Tamworth Arms, George Eaton
Three Tuns, James Wallis
Three Tuns, Mrs Ann Hawkins
Waggon and Horses, Joseph Woodcock
Waterloo, Joseph Farmer
Wheatsheaf, William Adcock
White Horse, Mrs Clementina Brooks
White Lion, William Wilcox
White Lion Inn, Mrs Elizabeth Lucas

Poster Advertisement for William Butler and Co. Ltd. of Springfield at Wolverhampton in Staffordshire

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Related Newspaper Articles

"At the borough police court, on Tuesday, before Mr. I. Bradbury, John Cusack [29], bricklayer, of 27 Snow Hill, Birmingham, was charged with being drunk in Gungate at five o'clock the previous evening. Defendant was seen by a gentleman in a drunken state, committing a nuisance against the wall of the Baptist Tabernacle. When spoken to, he became very abusive, and used threatening language. Cusack stated that he was on his way from Birmingham to Elford, where he was employed in repairs at the parish Church. The Magistrate : "You ought to be ashamed of yourself." Defendant [whining] : "I crave your honour's pardon. I won't do it any more." The bricklayer was fined 5s. and 6s. 2d. costs; in default, seven day's imprisonment with hard labour."
Tamworth Herald : December 25th 1875 Page 4

"Catherine Capewell was charged with being drunk in Lichfield Road, on the 3rd inst. Inspector Dodd said the defendant was so drunk that he, and Police Constable Willis had to take her to the station in a wheelbarrow. She did not, however, use any bad language. Defendant was ordered to pay costs."
Tamworth Herald : January 22nd 1887 Page 8

"John Passey, miner, 69, Mount Pleasant, was charged with being drunk and disorderly in George Street, on April 3rd. Defendant pleaded not guilty. Defendant was further charged with doing wilful damage to a cell window and black-out material at the Police Station to the amount of 5/-. He pleaded guilty to this charge. P.C. Atkins said at 3-15 p.m., defendant was drunk and waving his arms about. Defendant came towards him, saying he was not afraid of any policeman. He tried to coax him to go home, but he would not do so, and witness took him to the police station. Inspector J. C. Jones said he saw accused in custody at 5-40 p.m. the same day. Defendant was then beastly drunk and had smashed a small window in the cell and pulled down the black-out material. Asked why he had done it, defendant said he wanted to escape. Witness added that defendant was so drunk that he refused to allow him to be bailed until after the licensed premises closed at 10 p.m. Asked if he wished to say anything to the Bench, defendant said he might as well say he was guilty, it would perhaps be the best, but he liked the truth. Inspector Jones said defendant had rather a bad record for that kind of thing over a period of years, his last conviction being in 1941. Since then he had been in the Army, and they had been rather pleased seeing him over here and having pulled himself together. Now he had been discharged from the Army to go back to the pits, this was the result. Defendant was fined £2 for being drunk and disorderly and £2 with 5/- damage on the other charge, twenty-one days being allowed for the payment of each of the respective sums."
"Drunkenness and Damage"
Tamworth Herald : April 15th 1944 Page 3

Tamworth in the 1872 Post Office Directory

Tamworth is a municipal and parliamentary borough, railway station and union town, so situated that the boundary line of the counties of Warwick and Stafford passes through the middle of the town : it is 109½ miles from London, 13 from Nuneaton, 7 from Lichfield, 36¾ from Rugby, 14 from Rugeley, 17¼ from Birmingham, 23 from Stafford, 36 from Stoke, 24 from Derby, and 15 from Burton: it is in the Eastern division of the county, hundred of South Offlow and of Hemlingford, rural deanery of Tamworth, archdeaconry of Stafford, and diocese of Lichfield: it is situated in an undulating country, well watered by excellent springs, tributaries to the two rivers Tame and Anker, which unite at the foot of the old castle.

The Parliamentary borough consists of the old parish of Tamworth, and comprises all the townships round: of these Fazeley, Wilnecote and Wigginton are now ecclesiastical parishes, separated from Tamworth; it returns two members to Parliament.

The two lines of railway run direct through the east end of the town - the Liverpool, Chester and Manchester line, through the Trent Valley, and the Derby and Birmingham line of the Midland, intersecting and in close connection with those of the South and North Staffordshire lines - thus affording the greatest facility for travelling. The station is a handsome building- the lower part is used by the Trent Valley line, and the upper by the Derby and Birmingham Company; the latter line of railway crosses above the Trent Valley line at this point, and is then carried over a beautiful vale south-east of the town by a viaduct of nineteen lofty arches, on the route to Birmingham.

The church of St. Editha is a large and noble structure. A church existed on the site in the eighth century, which was destroyed by the Danes; Egbert rebuilt it, and gave it a college of canons, dissolved at the Reformation. Of the present fabric the oldest part is Early Norman, viz., the north and south walls of what was formerly the central tower, with bold arches opening into the transepts, a door and window on the south side of the chancel, and the wall eastward of them below the string course. The Norman church was burnt in 1345; it was rebuilt in the Decorated or Second Pointed style in the latter part of the fourteenth century, the windows on the north side of the chancel being in the earlier, and the adjacent chantry or north chancel in the later, style of that period : the high-pitched roof was taken off in the next century, and a clerestory added. The tower, containing a clock and 6 bells, is a remarkably fine one : it was intended to carry a spire, of which the base may be seen above the parapets : the staircase is a double spiral, having two distinct entrances, believed to be the only one of its kind. The church, having been much disfigured by modern repairs and alterations, was internally re-arranged, with some partial restoration of the fabric in 1870-2, at a cost of more than £4,000, but there is still a good deal of external dilapidation. Six of the windows have been handsomely restored and fitted with stained glass, the east window as a testimonial to the Rev. Dr. Miller, in whose incumbency the restoration was commenced.

The monuments in the chancel are of the Ferrers and Frerile families, lords of Tamworth Castle; and in the tower is a large monument of the last of the Ferrers, 1680, which has been removed from the chancel. The date of the earliest register is 1557, and contains several instances of longevity, and some account of the movements of princes and armies. The living is a vicarage, yearly value £200, with residence, in the sift of C. H. W. a'Court Repington, esq., and held by the Rev. Brooks Lambert, M.A., B.C.L., of Brasenose College, Oxford.

Sir Robert Peel's school, founded and endowed in 1820 with £6,000, was rebuilt in 1850 : it is free for 50 boys, who receive clothing : other boys are admitted on payment of 10s. per quarter for education.

The Free Grammar school, endowed by Queen Elizabeth, was rebuilt in 1867-8 on a commanding site on the Wigginton road, at a coat of about £3,100 : the present head master is the Rev. J. Westley Davis, M.A., of St. John's College, Cambridge.

There are Sunday, National and Dissenters' schools and Infant schools; the number of scholars at the schools is very considerable.

There are chapels for Presbyterians, Independents, Wesleyans, Baptists, and United Methodists; and also a Roman Catholic chapel, with a house belonging thereto.

Guy's almshouses were established by the celebrated Guy, founder of the hospital in London, and who was member for Tamworth when he built and endowed the almshouses: the income is about £217 : he also gave the old Town Hall, to which two rooms were added by the first Sir R. Peel. The general charities amount to £160 yearly, and £224 for apprenticing children.

The soil in the immediate neighbourhood of the town is exceedingly rich and fertile : there are very valuable mines of coal, fire clay, and blue and red brick clay, extensively worked. There are two manufactories for small wares, and two paper manufactories. Here is the extensive clothing and shirt factory of Messrs. Thomas Cooke and Co., giving employment to between 200 and 300 hands.

The chartered fairs, granted by Queen Elizabeth, are held on the 4th May, 26th July, and 24th October, besides monthly fairs of modern institution, the last Monday in each month; they are now chiefly for the sale of cattle and horses.

Tamworth has a considerable market for corn. The market is held on Saturday. Market gardening is carried on to a great extent, considerable supplies being sent to Birmingham. There is a farmers' Club and a Horticultural Society.

Petty Sessions are held here on alternate Wednesdays for the borough, and on alternate Fridays for the two counties, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

The following parishes and places comprise the county court district of Tamworth, and also the poor law union : Amington and Stonydelph, Austry, Bolehall and Glascote, Chilcote, Clifton Campville, Croxall, Canwell, Drayton Bassett, Edingale, Fazeley, Harlaston, Hints, Kingsbury, Middleton, Newton Regis, Scierscote, Seckington, Shuttington, Statfold, Tamworth, Tamworth Castle, Thorpe Constantine, Wigginton and Wilnecote; the population in 1871 was 16,809.

In Tamworth is a library and reading room, in connection with which is a Natural History Antiquarian Society. There is a flourishing savings bank.

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