St Michaels' Churchyard, Greenhill

The Church of St Michaels was first recorded in 1190, however due to the seven acre extent of the Churchyard there has been much speculation as to the origin of the site. It is believed that St Michaels may occupy the site of a late Roman/early Christian cemetery. It is possible that the extent of the Churchyard is explained by the fact that the other medieval Church – St Mary’s - did not possess a graveyard, necessitating a principal graveyard in the area. Evidence was however found of an Anglo Saxon crouched burial when excavations were made for a new vestry in 1978, suggesting an earlier history to the site.

The management of the Churchyard itself involved the letting of pasture, which was taking place by the 1530’s. By 1801 it was custom that only parishioners living in the Greenhill area had the right of pasture, though only 11 of the 40 recorded residents exercised this right. It was also decided by this time that only sheep should graze the site as cattle were causing damage and desecration of the Churchyard. However, in 1809 a child was killed by a cow at the Churchyard, suggesting that some parishioners continued to graze cattle on the site. In 1811 the order was repeated and the Churchyard let for the grazing sheep only on a 10 year lease for £30.

The Churchyard has several notable graves, including trumpeter John Brown who sounded the trumpet for the 17th Lancers at the Charge of the Light Brigade. The gravestone of John Neve, William Wightman and James Jackson is also in the Churchyard. These men were found guilty of forgery and were hanged at the gallows at the junction of Tamworth Road and London Road. This was to be the last public hanging in Lichfield. The gravestone denotes only the initials of the three men, with the date June 1 1810.

The Mausoleum of Thomas Law 1790-1876 is located at the northern edge of the Churchyard. Initially built for his wife who died in 1864, it resembles a canopied medieval tomb. The structure included a clock with two dials which were illuminated at night by gas. Built on the side of the Trent Valley Road, the clock served as a reminder of the time to travellers on their way to the station. The Mausoleum is Grade II listed.

Thomas Law was the Son of a Bishop of Carlisle, and upon graduating from Oxford he took Holy Orders. His first apartment, in 1834, was to the position of Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield. On arriving in Lichfield he soon developed a love for Lichfield and its history. Samuel Johnson was of particular interest to Chancellor Law, and three years after coming to the City he offered to erect the statue of Johnson in the Market Place that stands to this day.

Chancellor Laws' Mausoleum Chancellor Laws' Mausoleum