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Pipe Ridware, is only remarkable for its church, which is a very ancient structure, containing a curious old font, sculptured in an uncommon manner with circles interlaced.
Madesin Ridware, so called from the family of Malvoisin, Maudesin, or Madesin, a branch of the illustrious house of Roswy, in the Isle of France. The old manor house is en. tirely demolished, with the exception of the gatehouse, ir which is an old chamber, said to have been originally an oratory. The ancient church dedicated to St. Nicholas contains several antique monuments. The new church is a plain building. Some of the tombs, in honour of the Mauvesins, were opened at different periods during the last century. The stone coffin in which lay the corpse of Hugo, the founder of the priory of Blithsburgh, was raised in 1785, after it had remained undisturbed, for upwards of six hundred years. In this coffin were all the bones, in a tolerably entire state, but moist, and a quantity of mould, supposed to be the remains of a decayed wooden coffin, by which the body was first enveloped. The tomb of Sir Robert, who slew Sir William Handsacre,* lord of the
neighbouring tongue, preserves silence. There is a ring in the centre, through which a cord was put to lead the culprit to the churchyard, where she was obliged to remain till she promised reformation.
• This melancholy catastrophe was the consequence of the civil contentions which disturbed the kingdom, when Richard the second was depused, and Henry the fourth took possession of the throne. Sir Robert espoused the cause of the usurper, and Sir William, that of the unfortunate Richard. Each assembled bis vassals, and began their march to join the armies, then lying in view of each other near Shrewsbury ; but unfortunately meeting, a skirmisha ensued, in wbich Sir William was slain on the spot. Sir Robert proceeded to the royal army, and soon after met his fate, fighting against the gallant Percy. What a dreadful picture does this accident exhibit of the miseries of civil discord! What a tale is the following, of the sudden vicissitude of hatred to love, between contending families! Margaret, one of the daughters and co-beiress of Sir Robert Maveston, gave her hand to Sir William, son of the knight slain by her father ; and with her person and fortune, compensated the injury done by her house to that of Handsacre !! Pennant's Journey, p. 118, 119. ex Erdeswick.
neighbouring manor of Handsacre, in the reign of Henry the fourth, is a very handsome one in the shape of an altar. His figure armed and helmed, with a great sword on one side, and a dag. ger on the other, is engraven on the incumbent alabaster slab, with the following inscription :
Hic jacet Dns Robertus de Mauvesine, miles. Dns de Mauvesine Ridware qui occubuit juxta Salopiam, 1403 stans cum rege, diminicans ex parte sua usque ad mortem, cujus animæ propitietur Deus.
The priory of Benedictine monks, already mentioned, was situated in a sequestered valley, on the southern bank of the river Blythe, and probably on the site of an older cell of Saxon religieuse. It was early united to the monastery at Breewood, and was one of the number of those which were suppressed and seized by Cardinal Wolsey, in 1534, to endow his intended colleges at Oxford and Ipswich. A farm house now occupies the original foundation; but vestiges of the ancient building can still be discovered, and many bodies have been dug up here and in the adjacent grounds.
Armitage village and parish lies immediately south, from Mavesin Ridware. It was formerly called Hermitage, from a tradition that a hermit resided in a sequestered spot here between the river and the church, which is situated on a rocky eminence, and forms a most beautiful and picturesque object. The prin. cipal entrance to this edifice is curiously built, and adorned in the Saxon style. Some paintings on glass, and tabernacle work, embellish the windows; and the chancel is separated from the nave, by a handsome zig zag arch. At a little distance from the church, is a moated fragment of the rival house of Handsacre, a hamlet in this parish, founded by bishop Clinton; and not far from hence was lately discovered the foundation of some very ancient religious edifice. In the pleasure grounds of Mr. Lister, the grand trunk canal passes through a very noble subterraneous cavern, or tunnel.
Longdon, lying south from Armitage, is a village of great length. Hence the common saying in these parts :
The stoutest beggar that goes by the way,
It was formerly very much crowded with gentlemen's seats. The manor is of great extent, above thirty other manors, lordships, and villages, owing suit and service to the court leet which is held here every three weeks. The church stands apart from the village, and is dedicated to St. James.
The mansion house of Beaudesert,* the seat of the Earl of Uxbridge, constitutes the chief ornament of the parish. It is situated on the declivity of a lofty sloping eminence, sheltered above, by beautiful rising grounds, and wholly enveloped in trees of the finest and most luxuriant growth. The exterior appearance of the house is very magnificent, having been greatly improved, and embellished by the late noble owner. It is built of stone, in the form of a half H; the front entrance being under a neat and light old portico, which leads into a very handsome Gothic hall, 80 feet by 21, with a lofty arched ceiling, and adorned at the west end by a most splendid window, on which are painted the arms of the first Sir William Paget. and Preston, whose daughter he married. Proceeding from the house to the summit of the bill, are traces of an extensive encampment, called Castlehill, which Mr. Pennantt conceives to have been of British origin, in opposition to Dr. Plot, who considered it as the work of king Canute. It is surrounded by a vast rampart and two ditches; and is nearly circular, except on the south side where it is straight, so that it bears a strong resemblance in form to a theaire. The two entrances are opposite to each other, facing east and west ; and before the former are several advanced works. This was certainly a spot Ddd 3
• Pennant's Journey, p. 132.
+ Plot's Nat. Hist. Staff. p. 418. * This place was once the residence of the bishops of Lichfield. Gough's Camden, Vol II. p. 496.
well chosen for an encampment, as it commands a very noble and extensive view, over no less than nine counties in England and Wales.
Longdon parish produces a great supply of coal. A certain species of this mineral, termed cannel coal, is found in considerable abundance; and, on account of the fine polish it takes, is used in making a variety of articles both useful and ornamental,
Leaving Longdon on the road to Lichfield, the traveller passes Fairwell, a small village, remarkable only for the antique structure, and picturesque situation, of its church, which was formerly conventual, and belonged to a priory of Benedictine Nuns. In taking down the old nunnery chapel here in 1747 three rows of coarse earthen vessels of various dimensions, and placed on their sides, were discovered about six feet beneath the surface of the ground. The mouths of these vessels were laid towards the church, and covered with a thin coat of plaster.
This city is supposed to owe its origin to the Saxons, and to have risen on the ruins of the Roman Etocetum or Wall. Respecting the etymology and signification of its name different opinions are entertained by antiquaries. It is called by Bede, Licidfeld; by Ingulphus and Huntingdon Lichfeld ; Licethfield by Simon Dunelm; Lichesfelde by Brompton; Lichesfeld by Gervase; and Lychefeld by Knighton; which Ross of Warwick and some others translate Campus cadaverum, i. e. the field of dead bodies,t from a tradition that upwards of a thousand Chris
tians • Shaw's Hist. Vol. I. p. 221. + The memorial of the church of Lichfield says, it derived its name of Liches from war. Anglia Sacra, Vol. I. p. 459. Mr. Jackson, who says it was anciently called Lichenfield, upon what authority he does not mention, 7
tians were massacred here in the reign of Dioclesian.* Dr. Stukely, however, justly considering this legend as fabulous, tells us, it certainly derived its name from its marshy situation, the words lich, lece, lec, or lace, in Saxon, signifying a bog or morass.t '. The condition of this town, prior to the time of its being erected into a bishopric by Oswy, the conqueror of Mercia, about the year 665, is totally unknown. It does not even appear to what causes it owed the distinction, which it then acquired, of being made the seat of the cathedral church of one of the finest, if not the most powerful, of the Saxon kingdoms. That it was not a place of much importance, we may reasonably conclude from the fact, that several centuries posterior to this event, it was only a mean village, and on that account deemed unworthy to retain the honour of forming an episcopal see. Bishop Clinton, however, restored to it its lost dignity. He also environed the town with a ditch, and fortified the castle, furnishing the same with sufficient maintenance for a garrison of soldiers. At this period three large pools of water intersected the town of Lichfield. Bishop Langton built a large bridge over the principal one in the time of Edward the first. In the thirty-third year of this reign, representatives were first sent by this town to Parliament; it was then governed by a Guild and Guildmaster, words of Saxon origin, signifying a fraternity, which “unites and flings its effects into a common stock, and is derived from Gildan, to pay.”'Richard the first invested it with the right of purchasing lands to the value of
Ddd 4 gives it the same translation with Ross, asserting that Lichen, in Saxon, sig, nifies a dead body. Dr. Johnson calls Lichfield, the " field of the dead,'' and adds, Lichgate signifies the gate through which the dead are carried to the grave. Jackson's Hist. p. 1. Johnson's Eng. Dict.
* There is a spot within the precincts of the city still called Christian field, as it is said, in memory of this event. Harwood's Lichfield, p. 2. + This was actually the situation of Lichfield in ancient times.
# Vide ante, p. 727.