Date: Thursday 2nd April 2020

Time: 8am from Verulamium Museum car park

 

In April we plan to head for The Midlands to visit two national landmarks – one which has been welcoming pilgrims for centuries, and the other which was only opened to the public in 2001. It will be a long but rewarding day, and a great opportunity to explore together what for many may be new territory.

The coach journey should take just over two hours, and our first stop will be Lichfield Cathedral, where we will enjoy coffee/tea in the Chapters Café, before a guided tour of the church itself.

The history of Lichfield Cathedral goes back almost as far as that of St Albans, and has been every bit as turbulent.  About 1300 years ago St Chad was baptising the Anglo-Saxon people of Mercia in the Stowe Pool there, and after his death a church was built to house his shrine chapel, which became a place of pilgrimage.  The subsequent Norman cathedral was rebuilt and then enlarged later in the Middle Ages, in the Gothic style. Surviving terrible destruction in the Civil War, and neglect in the eighteenth century, Victorian restoration ensured the flourishing cathedral we visit today.

Unusually amongst British cathedrals, Lichfield has three spires – the ‘Ladies of the Vale’ – which can be seen from a distance in all directions.  The church is surrounded by a peaceful Close of houses built to accommodate the Cathedral clergy. Among the highlights of the beautiful interior are the full-height Lady Chapel added in the fourteenth century, with three tall traceried windows now displaying colourful Flemish glasswork from the sixteenth century; and the elegant octagonal chapter house, rib vaulted and dating from the thirteenth century.  In addition to a number of interesting monuments (including to local men Dr Samuel Johnson and actor David Garrick), there are two extraordinary survivals from the Anglo-Saxon eighth century on display – the St Chad’s Gospels, and the Lichfield Angel, a carving only discovered in 2003 which may have been part of the original shrine of St Chad.

Our own links with Lichfield can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon King Offa of Mercia, who founded the monastery at St Albans.  But it’s not all past history.  As here in St Albans, Lichfield is very much a cathedral for today.  And the most recent link between our two churches has been the stunning son-et-lumière productions by Luxmuralis – Poppy Fields and Space Voyage – both of which were shown at Lichfield before moving on to St Albans.

Our second stop is the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, just up the road from Lichfield.  Set in more than 150 acres of garden and maturing woodland, it is the UK’s year-round centre for Remembrance.  It contains more than 350 memorials to military and civilian organisations and associations, together with tributes to individuals. 

After a well-earned lunch, we will have an introductory talk, and then board the covered Land Train to enjoy a 50-minute tour of the site with audio commentary about the stories and symbolism behind the memorials.  The Land Train pauses at intervals to allow passengers off, if they wish to visit memorials of particular interest to them and then make their own way back to the Remembrance Centre.

There is certain amount of walking necessary around the Close and Cathedral at Lichfield, but the only steep steps are those into the upstairs St Chad’s Head Chapel.  At Alrewas, the modern Remembrance Centre and the Arboretum are all on one level.

N.B. In order to get the most from this busy day, we will have to make an unusually early start (apologies!).  Our coach will pick us up at 8.00am at the Verulamium Museum car park, St Michaels, and we should return by 6.30pm. 

 

Tickets: 

£56 (includes coach travel, morning tea/coffee, guided cathedral tour, one course served lunch with hot drink, introductory arboretum talk and land train tour). 

Non-members are asked to make an additional voluntary donation to the Cathedral of £5.

 

Booking opens October 1st 2019.  Please apply before Friday March 20th 2020.

Any queries, please email [email protected]