Lichfield, Staffordshire

St. Mary's Church, Lichfield, Staffordshire

Although historically ancient, St. Mary’s Church in Lichfield City Centre is the fourth version of the church to stand on this spot.

The first was built around 1150, but is first mentioned in reports of the fire which destroyed most of Lichfield, churches included in 1291. It was not rebuilt until the 14th Century and was a typical church of its time with an aisle chancel, aisle nave, a west tower and a spire. The tower is thought to have been added around 1356.

The church register dates to 1566 and includes the baptism of Samuel Johnson, Lichfield’s most famous son.

The spire seems to have been very badly built as it fell down in 1594, then again in 1626. Repairs took place after that but it fell again in 1716. This time the decision was made to rebuild the church entirely and Francis Smith was employed as architect. The new church was finished in 1721 and would have been observed by Samuel Johnson whose family home faces the church. The medieval tower was retained, but no spire was added this time.

It seems that the rebuild was done poorly once more as extensive repairs were undertaken in 1806 and again in 1820 before the church was demolished once more in 1868, leaving only the lowered tower. It took just two years to build the new church which once more had been given a spire, albeit a lower chunkier Gothic Revival version.

As the 20th Century progressed it became clear that Lichfield did not need a City Centre church with capacity for 900 people so it was decided to transform the church into a community and exhibition centre, keeping the Dyott Chapel for parochial use. This work was completed in 1981.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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