A Day of Two Halves – Ale and Memorial

A Day of Two Halves – Ale and Memorial

On Friday 27 January I attended two very contrasting events in Lichfield.


In the early afternoon I visited Lichfield Cathedral who had prepared a schedule of events to commemorate World Holocaust Memory Day 2017.

The day marks a world-wide commemoration of the people who suffered from atrocities carried out during World War Two, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia.

I attended the Eucharist service which included the holy communion at 12.30pm which was led by the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, the Very Reverend Adrian Dorber. Part of this service included the Jewish poem of loss, the Kaddish.

Then, in the main nave of the cathedral the Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revered Dr Michael Ipgrave, gave a very moving account of three experiences he had encountered during his life regarding the impact of the holocaust both on the people who had suffered and the effect it had on him personally.

The bishop is also the chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews and he provided a very balanced view of this very sensitive and emotive topic. He commented that the long held Christian, traditional views are now being challenged and are subject to change. These views were replicated in the address given by the Dean during the homily and there appears to be a very comprehensive attempt to ensure that all views, of all religions, are welcome at the cathedral.

The bishop referenced a photographic album of images taken by local photographer Robert Yardley on a visit to Auschwitz to view the infamous and horrific extermination camp. I was able to take some images of the Bishop, Robert (who is also Lichfield City Council’s Sheriff of Lichfield for this term) and Bernard Derrick who was representing St John the Baptist Hospital Without the Barrs, the chapel on St John’s Street while Robert displayed the album he had created.

The album, and other images, had been on display at St Johns in a small exhibition within the chapel and, later in the afternoon, I took some photos of the exhibition and the lovely chapel including a stained glass window created by artist John Piper, who also created the artwork for one of the windows in Coventry Cathedral.

I was the only person in the chapel, it was very quiet and peaceful and the images of Auschwitz, including the gas chambers and the piles of their discarded shoes of their victims were very thought provoking and moving.


In total contrast to the memorials at the cathedral and St Johns I then moved on to another historic Lichfield building – the Guildhall on Bore Street – for an entirely different experience – the Lichfield Arts Winter Real Ale Festival!

Over 30 real ales, ciders and perrys were on offer at this regular annual event which runs on the Friday and Saturday from 12pm to 11pm. I was there at about 3pm and there was a large crowd of people were already supping away, there is always a great atmosphere with friendly customers and serving staff, all of whom are volunteers.

I decided to sample a quick half (as I was driving later that day) of number 3 on the tasting sheets, Bristol Beer Factory’s Milk Stout, 4.5% ABV. It was an ideal choice for a cold winter afternoon, very comforting, a bit like having a bar of chocolate in a pint glass!

The festival included live bands in the evening and with the amazing architecture of the Guildhall building (dates back to medieval times), the real ale, the much appreciated and traditional slice of pork pie this is definitely one of the highlights of the Lichfield Festival season!

The next Real Ale Festival, also organised by Lichfield Arts, is on 20 and 21 October this year – check their website for details: www.lichfieldarts.org.uk


So, a very contrasting day of events, it does show you the breadth and range of what Lichfield has to offer, providing you with food for the stomach as well as nutrition for the mind – who would want to be anywhere else?

Talk by Tracy Borman on the Tudors at Lichfield Cathedral

Private Lives of the Tudors – Review of talk by Tracy Borman

Thursday 19 January 2017 – Lichfield Cathedral

On Thursday 19 January I went to a talk given by author, historian, curator and TV personality Tracy Borman at Lichfield Cathedral.

The talk was free of charge, not something you would expect these days, especially for a notable household name like Tracy so was especially good value for money!

Although I’m interested in all things history the Tudors are not particularly my time period (being a fan of all things Georgian!) but they are certainly history box office at the moment so it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as it was taking place in the fabulous setting of Lichfield Cathedral.

The event was very well attended and most of the seats were taken, some achievement in the cavernous nave of the cathedral, and for a Thursday afternoon (with a 3pm kick-off).

Tracy ran through a pen-portrait of the Tudors starting with the (perhaps) overlooked Henry VII, who undoubtedly suffered from the acclamation that his successor, Henry VIII achieved. After a surfeit of food and wives Henry VIII gave way to the boy-king Edward VII who never had the chance to get married let alone have six wives! With a brief interruption by the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey the Tudor line continued with Queen Mary, a devout Roman Catholic with the jolly moniker of ‘Bloody Mary’ who after her death was succeeded by her sister Elizabeth I. After her glorious reign (the time of Shakespeare and the defeat of the Spanish at the Armada) the Tudor line came to an end as Elizabeth never married and had no children – thus started the reign of the Stuarts beginning with James I who was also crowned as James VI of Scotland.

Tracy’s talk was very informed, knowledgeable and entertaining – anyone who has seen the relentless TV series about the Tudors will know that they were prone to murder, incest, double-crossing and torture at the drop of a hat!

So, we heard about the expansive diet of Henry VIII, with the inevitable outcome which made life very unpleasant for the Groom of the Stool (surprisingly a much valued role as it gave the occupant intimate access to the king…although at a price!), the gruelling regime of applying the make-up to the face of Elizabeth I (her facepack included vinegar mixed with lead – not exactly guaranteed to make the skin glow with health…) and the bloody fate that befell the Earl of Essex after he had made an unannounced entrance to Elizabeth I’s bedroom to find her sans makeup – it’s a good job that Michael Fagan did not commit his royal bedroom entrance in Tudor times!

The talk was accompanied by images on a projector screen, including a very interesting picture of a four poster bed which was rescued from outside a hotel where it had been discarded and was found to belong to Henry VII and his wife Catherine of Aragon – a truly remarkable find!

Tracy, very appropriately, gave several mentions to her fellow historian Dr Jonathan Foyle, whose book ‘Lichfield Cathedral – A Journey of Discovery’ provides a wonderful biography of the Three Ladies of the Vale.

After the talk Tracy answered several questions from members of the audience who faced the trauma of walking down the aisle to speak into the standing microphone and then faced the dangers of the microphone feedback howling – I daresay that the Tudors could have used it as an instrument of torture!  

Tracy then stayed aback to answer individual questions and also to sign copies of her book ‘Private Lives of the Tudors’ on which she based her talk.

The talk was just the right length, and pitched at the right level for the audience, with the pleasant balance of history, facts, fun and personal anecdotes, Tracy is clearly very relaxed when talking to a large audience and her natural warmth and friendliness came over very clearly.

Overall a great way to spend a chilly Thursday afternoon, it’s definitely inspired me to take a greater interest in the Tudor dynasty and to research their impact on Lichfield – other than Henry’s VIII’s closure of The Friary of course!