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Swinfen Broun Trail

Swinfen Broun Trail

Along the Swinfen Broun Trail are a eight brass rubbing posts, each highlighting a historal aspect of Beacon Park and its surroundings. On the map to the right is a marker indicating the location of each post; just click to view. Please scroll or zoom the map to see the whole trail. For an aerial view select the "Sat" opion; though this feature does not work on phones or tablets.

To do your own brass rubbings FOR FREE download and print the Swinfen Broun Trail map and information sheet. Don’t forget to bring a crayon or pencil with you.

A printed copy is also available from the Ranger Station, which is next to the crazy golf course, at a cost of 50p.

Please provide feedback via the Park Friends' Facebook page ( or to the Parks Team by email ( or call 01543 308 866.

Each brass rubbing post is a clue to a historical event that is described in more detail below.

Beacon Place

posted 2 Dec 2013, 03:41 by Unknown user   [ updated 2 Dec 2013, 03:42 ]

Beacon Place, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail

by Kate Gomez, author of the Lichfield Lore local history blog.

Much of the land that now forms Beacon Park once belonged to Beacon Place, a mansion built for George Hand in around 1800. After George died in 1806, his widow Ann lived there for another twenty years and on her death, the house and its contents were put up for auction. The sales catalogue describes, ‘a handsome staircase of Hopton Stone lit by a skylight, a kitchen garden with hothouses and orchards and good cellars under an excellent kitchen’.

Thomas Hinckley bought the house and lived there for a while with his brother and fellow attorney, Richard Hinckley. By 1837, the significantly extended and refurbished property renamed ‘Beacon House’, was home to Richard and his new wife Ellen Jane. In 1844, work began building a new church at the edge of the estate. Christ Church was completed in 1847 and the Hinckleys, who had financed the building, had their own private pew. Both Mr and Mrs Hinckley are buried in the chest tombs behind the church, together with Hugh Woodhouse Acland, Ellen Jane’s son from her second marriage. The two ‘Sleeping Children’ depicted in Sir Francis Chantrey’s sculpture in Lichfield Cathedral are Ellen Jane’s daughters from her first marriage.

Near to the Hinckley tombs is the family vault of the Seckham family. In 1880, Samuel Lipscomb Seckham bought the estate from Arthur Hinckley, who had inherited it from his uncle Richard. The Seckham family lived at the house, known as Beacon Place once more, for around ten years before moving to Whittington Old Hall. Beacon Place was rented out for a time until Samuel’s son Gerald sold the estate to the War Department in 1922.

During the First World War, it’s thought that Beacon Place was used as offices for the Army Pay Corps. A photograph taken outside in 1918 shows all of the members of staff employed at the office, including local women and injured soldiers. In 1937, the Tamworth Herald reported that it was ‘a great loss’ that the Army Pay and Record Office based at Beacon Place was to be shut down, with staff and records transferred to York and Shrewsbury. During the 1950s, Beacon Place was used by the Territorial Army and in 1951, the 158 Infantry Brigade held a children’s Christmas Party at the house with a Captain Howells dressing up as Father Christmas. In 1964, Beacon Place (then owned by Lichfield City Council) was demolished. New houses were built on the site of the house itself and what remained of the grounds was mostly incorporated into Beacon Park (Colonel Swinfen Broun had already purchased and donated 11.5 acres of the estate to extend the park back in 1943).

Hinkley Thombs, Chistchurch, Loemansley

Despite being demolished almost fifty years ago, traces of what was once described as, ‘one of the best houses in the neighbourhood’ still remain in and around the park.  Like many large houses, Beacon Place had its own ice house in the grounds and this is still visible in the form of a large mound a short distance away from the boating lake. During the winter months, servants would have broken up any ice that formed on the lake (originally fish ponds) and taken it back to this underground storage room where it would have been kept for use during the summer. The icehouse may also have been used as a cold store for food. However, once artificial refrigeration methods became widespread in the early twentieth century, ice houses fell out of use.

In addition, boundary walls can still be seen behind the play area, along Shaw Lane and facing onto Beacon Street and the lodges on Greenhough Road, Beacon Street and at the edge of Christ Church’s graveyard still exist, although a fourth lodge at the Sandford Street entrance has now disappeared. Some of the carriageways which ran from these buildings to the main house are still in use as paths today, and many of the trees in the park date back to the Beacon Place era.

Image to the right: Hinkley tombs, Christchurch, Leomansley. © with kind permission of Kate Gomez, Lichfield Lore.

Find out more:

  1. Lichfield Lore: Beacon Place Part One

  2. Lichfield Lore: Beacon Place Part Two

Ice House

posted 2 Dec 2013, 03:39 by Unknown user   [ updated 2 Dec 2013, 03:48 ]

Ice House, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail

What does this brass rubbing represent? Is it a joint of meat or a ham that could be hung from the roof of the ice house?

Ice houses were introduced to Britian in the 17th century, probably not for the first time. By the 19th century allmost every large country house had one. So an ice house could have been included when Beacon Place was originally built or during a later extention.

The Lichfield Lore local history blog, written by Kate Gomez, places the icehouse in Beacon Park between the Shaw lane car park and the scout hut. There is still a bump in the ground, which could be part of the structure. Putting an ice house here would make sense because it was reasonably close to the house and was alongside the carriage way that ran along the line of trees, crossing Leomansley brook and continuing towards Christchurch. So ice could be transported along the carriageway from the fish ponds to the ice house. The higher ground would also have allowed melt water to escape under gravity from the drain at the base of the ice well. See "Ice houses and how they work" below.

The Lichfield Lore blog includes an interesting map, dated 1921, showing the fishponds alongside Leomansley brook, rather than damming the stream. Two weirs are indicated on the map. The freezing of the fish ponds would have been encouraged by this arrangement as the warmer spring water in Leomansely brook could bypass the cooler water in the ponds. It is also reported that other ice houses deliberately flooded fields nearby to increase the supply of ice.

This store of ice could provide refrigeration for up to two years depending on the size and design of the ice house.

Ice House being filled. Eglinton Castle, Kilwinning, Scotland

Ice houses and how they work

Before modern fridges were invented, an ice houses were an effective way of preserving food. Like a vacuum flask, ice houses work because they have good thermal insulation to keep the cold in and the heat out. For this reason they were either fully or mainly underground, and are typically covered with a thick layer of soil and sited under trees. A domed roof helped control the circulation of air.

In winter ice would be harvested and placed in the well of the ice house, packed between layers of straw. A drain at the base of the well allowed melt water to escape. Water conducts heat twenty times more efficiently than air. So if the ice well filled with water it would quickly loose its cooling capacity to the surrounding earth. The drain removed the melt water while the straw encouraged the circulation of cold air within the ice house.

Ice houses varied considerably in size. At Petworth House the ice well was 8m (26ft) in diameter and 5m (16ft) deep. This space could store over 216 cubic meters (tonnes) of ice which would be able to provide the same amount of cooling as eight or nine large (300l) domestic chest freezers.

Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. Stocking the ice house, Eglinton Castle, Kilwinning, Scotland.

Find out more:

  1. Lichfield Lore : Beacon Place Part Two

  2. : Petworth House

  3. London footprints: Ice Houses and ice wells

  4. Wikipedia: Vacuum flasks

Ridge & Furrow

posted 2 Dec 2013, 03:37 by Unknown user   [ updated 18 Dec 2013, 02:33 ]

Ridge and Furrow, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail

Location: The ridge and furrow can be seen on the edge of the woodland, next to the A51 western bypass. It is said to be most visible on the downward sloping land when facing towards the woodland by Leomansley brook.

by the Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society

Ridge and furrow in the landscape denotes an old system of agriculture whereby open or common fields were divided into strips that were worked by individuals. There were usually three large fields that belonged to a village, sometimes four, and peasants would have a number of strips in each field. One person's holdings were scattered throughout a field so as to even out the allocation of good and poor land.

A strip could contain anything from two to five adjacent ridges and sometimes as many as ten. The familiar patterns were produced over a long period of time by tillers who used a heavy mould-board plough in a particular way. By ploughing just slightly to the left of the centre line of a ridge in one direction, the sod would be tipped to the right. Coming back the other way and ploughing slightly to the right of the previous row, the sod is tipped to the left, thus over time forming a marked ridge. The furrows between ridges enable flat, low-lying ground to drain.

A ridge was roughly 220 yards long, a furlong or 'furrow long', supposedly the distance an ox team could haul a plough without pausing for breath.

The old open field system was changed by a series of Enclosure Awards whereby the land was divided up into the small fields we know today, bounded by hedges or stone walls. This process was most common between 1760 and 1820 but some enclosures took place as early as the 16th century.

#Wikipedia: Ridge and Furrow

The illustration below shows the effect of ploughing in a sequence of rectangles from the top of the ridge moving outward to the edge. Over time the distinctive ridge and furrow pattern would be apparent in the field, as can be seen in the image to the right.

Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. Ridge & Furrow, Cold Newton, Leicestershire. Photo: © Matt Neil. Used under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Illustration below courtesy of Wikipedia. Tilt of sods during ploughing. Used under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Ridge and Furrow, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail

Martyrs’ Plaque

posted 2 Dec 2013, 03:29 by Unknown user   [ updated 2 Dec 2013, 03:34 ]

The Matyrs' Plaque, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail
Web page still under construction. We hope to be adding new material in the coming weeks

Captain Smith

posted 2 Dec 2013, 02:36 by Unknown user   [ updated 2 Dec 2013, 05:29 ]

Captain Smith, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail

by Brian Smith, a longstanding member of the Friends of Lichfield's Historic Parks.

The brass rubbing of a ship's helm and the statue of Captain Smith in the Museum garden mark the sinking of the transatlantic liner RMS Titanic in 1912. On the centenary of the sinking a ceremony was held at the foot of Captain Smith's statue.

The bronze statue is by Kathleen Scott, widow of the polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott. It was unveiled by Captain Smith’s daughter, Helen Melville Smith on 29th July 1914 - six days before the outbreak of the first world war and was given to the diocese of Lichfield although he was born in Hanley. It was thought the people of Hanley did not want to be associated with the perceived disgrace. However, a plaque was installed in the Town Hall, Hanley, in 1913 in commemoration.

The inscription on the plinth reads:

Capt. of R.M.S. Titanic

Commander Edward Smith R.D. R.N.R

Born January 27 1850 died April 15 1912

Bequeathing to his countrymen

The memory and example of a great heart

A brave life and a heroic death

“Be British”

These two words were reputed to be his last to the crew before the ship sank.

Captain Smith Statue, Beacon Park, Lichfield

Captain Edward J Smith

Born on January 27 1850 in Hanley, Staffordshire, Captain Edward J Smith played a role in one of the most famous disasters at sea in history, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

The son of a potter and later a grocer, he attended a school in Etruria, which was supported by the Wedgwood pottery works. He stopped attending school around the age of 12 and beginning his life on the sea as a teenager, signed on to the crew of the Senator Weber in 1867.

He rose up the ranks over the years and became a master in 1875. The first vessel he commanded was the Lizzie Fennell which transported goods to and from South America. He made the leap to passenger vessels in 1880 when he went to work for the White Star Line. By 1885 he was the first officer of the ship RMS Republic. Two years later he married Eleanor Pennington and they had their only child, Helen, in 1902.

Eight years later, Smith took his first command of a passenger ship, RMS Baltic, and went on to serve as the captain of several other vessels in the White Star Line from 1895 to 1904. He also served in the British Royal Navy during the Boer War in South Africa.

In 1902 the White Star Line was bought by the International Mercantile Marine Company in a deal financed by famed banker J P Morgan. A new Baltic was added to the White Star Line fleet in 1904 with Smith as its captain. At 23,000 tons the Baltic was one of the largest vessels at the time. His next ship, RMS Adriatic, was even larger. By this time, Smith was held in high esteem by his company and was well known and well regarded among travellers on the North Atlantic route between the United States and Europe.

The White Star Line announced it was building two new ocean liners in 1907 to compete with the Lusitania and Mauretania owned by Cunard. The first of the two vessels, the Olympic, was launched in 1910 with Smith in command. His ship was damaged in 1911 when a British Royal Navy cruiser crashed into its side.

In 1912, Smith became Captain of the Titanic. He was in Belfast on April 2, 1912 for the vessel’s first sea trials. Two days later the ship docked in Southampton and was prepared for its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic. It was heralded as one of the biggest and most luxurious ships of the time.

Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. Captain Smith statue, Beacon Park, Lichfield. Photo: © Bs0u10e01. Used under
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

RMS Titanic

The fateful voyage

On April 10, 1912,the Titanic left Southampton and stopped in Cherbourg, France, to pick up more passengers and mail. It made one stop in Queenstown, Ireland, the next day to take on more passengers and mail to be delivered to the United States, before setting out into the Atlantic. There were more than 2,200 people aboard the ship as it made its way across the ocean.

On April 14 Smith reportedly posted a message received from the Caronia, warning about ice, on the bridge. Another message about dangerous ice came from the Baltic in the early afternoon. Smith showed this message to Joseph Bruce Ismay, chairman of her White Star Line and president of International Mercantile Marine Company. Ismay held on to this note until later that evening.

The earlier warning from the Baltic was posted on the ship’s bridge about 7 p.m. Half an hour later whilst Smith attended a private party, another ice warning from the nearby Californian was sent to another ship in its fleet; this transmission was reportedly overheard by the Titanic crew. After the dinner party, Smith met with his second officer, Charles Lightoller on the bridge. Not long after this conversation, Smith turned in for the night. Swamped with telegraphic messages for passengers, the operators on the Titanic put aside a warning about icebergs from the Mesaba and a warning from the Californian to the Titanic was also cut off by operators.

Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912.

Titanic voyage map

The collision with the iceberg

Around 11.40 p.m. a crew member spotted an iceberg in the path of the Titanic, but the crew as unable to move away in time. The ship scraped against the iceberg and suffered damage to its forward area. Several holes were made in the ship’s side allowing sea water to begin rushing in. Soon after the collision, Smith went to the bridge and worked on assessing the situation. He soon learned that the ship was going down and ordered the crew to prepare the lifeboats. The first distress call went out after midnight.

Unprepared for such an event, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats to carry all of its passengers to safety. Smith tried to manage the situation the best he could, helping with the loading of the boats and managing the transmission of distress calls. He was last seen heading for the bridge.

After 2 a.m. the next morning, the Titanic slipped into the dark waters of the Atlantic, taking its captain with it. Several stories emerged about how his life ended but it is commonly held, however, that Smith followed the marine tradition of remaining aboard his doomed vessel. There were several investigations into the Titanic disaster in the United States and England. With all the warnings, many wondered why Smith chose not to slow down or turn south in response to the threat of icebergs. He was not found to be responsible for the disaster.

Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. Titanic Voyage Map. Photo: © Prioryman. Used under
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Swan Moggs

posted 2 Dec 2013, 02:27 by Unknown user   [ updated 2 Dec 2013, 02:28 ]

Swan Moggs, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail
Web page still under construction. We hope to be adding new material in the coming weeks

Erasmus Darwin

posted 2 Dec 2013, 02:20 by Unknown user   [ updated 13 Dec 2014, 02:22 ]

Exceptional Erasmus, Swinfen Broun brass rubbing trail

by June Perks, BSARA member and Darwin House volunteer.

The Lunar Society of Birmingham

In the 18th century, clubs were all the rage in England, clubs for politicians, drinkers, singers and pudding makers for example. The Lunar Society of Birmingham was a club made up of never any more than 14 men who had new ideas. The Lunar men met in each others houses on the Monday that fell nearest the full moon. This arrangement was so that they had the moonlight to travel by in the unlit English Countryside. So, they called themselves the Lunar Men.

They were gifted amateurs & manufacturers, interested in investigating, discovering & solving the problems of their day. They discovered new medicines, new minerals, planned canals and invented the steam engines among other inventions. They drank, and laughed and discussed old & new ways of doing things and proposed completely new ideas requiring Society to think differently.

One of the leading members of the Lunar Society was Erasmus Darwin, who lived in Darwin House on Beacon Street, Lichfield. A pioneer of evolution, poet & inventor, he was a doctor of medicine and successfully treated rich and poor patients in the area

Find out more:

  1. Wikipedia: Lunar Society of Birmingham
  2. Lunar Society :
  3. Erasmus Darwin House :

Erasmus Darwin in 1770. Portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby

Erasmus Darwin

Copyright © 2013 Erasmus Darwin House, reproduced with kind permission.

A fool you know, is a man who never tried an experiment in his life

Erasmus Darwin was one of the greatest polymaths of the 18th century. It has been said that no one since has ever rivalled him for achievements in such a wide range of fields.

Born at Elston Hall, near Newark, Nottinghamshire, on 12th December 1731, Darwin was the youngest of four sons who became one of the foremost physicians of his time; indeed King George III asked him to be his personal physician but Erasmus declined, preferring to stay where he had settled in Lichfield, Staffordshire. He is responsible for the enlargement of the original house and its noble Palladian frontage on Beacon Street. With his ability to make friends Erasmus soon built up a vast network of associates, men and women like himself who independently became known as the leading social and philosophical lights of their time. With contacts like Matthew Boulton, Josiah Wedgwood, and James Watt he set up the Lunar Society which became the main intellectual powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in England.

Among Darwin’s many talents was his extraordinary scientific insight in physics, chemistry, geology, meteorology and all aspects of biology. His theories of biological evolution by means of natural selection, although criticised by the church, were handed down from father to son and to grandson; but it was left to his grandson, Charles, to prove biological evolution. Towards the end of his life he gained recognition as the leading English poet of his day.

Find out more:

  1. Erasmus Darwin House :
  2. Wikipedia : Matthew Boulton : A manufacturer and business partner of James Watt.
  3. Wikipedia : Josiah Wedgwood : Industrialised the manufacture of pottery.
  4. Wikipedia : James Watt : An engineer who improved the efficiency of steam engines.

Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. Portrait of Erasmus Darwin, 1770, Joseph Wright of Derby.

Erasmus Darwin House

Erasmus Darwin House

Opening times

  • From 31st March to 31st October 2013:
  • Monday closed
  • Tuesday to Sunday: 11 to 5pm last admission to the House 4.15pm
  • Admission: £3 adult, £2 conc, £1 child, £6 family

Please be aware that, on occasion, the House may be closed to visitors when special functions are being held. If you are travelling from a distance please call beforehand to check opening times (Office manned Mon-Fri 9-5pm).

Contact Details

  • Erasmus Darwin House, Beacon Street, Lichfield, Staffs, WS13 7AD
  • Telephone: 01543 306 260

Getting here

  • Erasmus Darwin House is located in Beacon Street (see Google Maps), on the edge of Cathedral Close, and a few minutes walk from the centre of Lichfield. There are two visitor entrances. From Beacon Street, go through the green gates on the right-hand side of the House. Or from the Close, go through the passage way opposite the west end of the Cathedral and then through the herb garden. Both routes will bring you to a door at the rear of the House, where a member of our volunteer staff will welcome you.

Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. Erasmus Darwin House, Beacon street, Lichfield. Photo: © Bs0u10e01. Used under
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Minster Pool Ferry

posted 2 Dec 2013, 02:17 by Unknown user   [ updated 2 Dec 2013, 02:42 ]

Web page still under construction.

So far we have failed to find the brass rubbing, somewhere along Minster Pool Walk!

We hope to be adding new material in the coming weeks

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