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Beacon Place

posted 2 Dec 2013, 03:41 by Andre Hefer   [ 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