Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Masonry from St Michael's

This amazing bit of masonry was discovered on site in backfill. It is well made so we wondered where it would have come from. Then an eagle eyed archaeologist thought they had seen it before and went back to have a look at one of the photos used in the preparation for the dig, and realised that it came from St Michael's, or is suspiciously similar. However the spot where it was uncovered was on the other side of the Lich St and a little way up, and this masonry had been on the College St side, so it had obviously travelled, after the church was demolished.

St Michael's was just to the south east of the excavation area under the road. This is the second St Michael's, the first having stood next to the cathedral. The main body of the church, which fronted College Street, lies under the road so we don't expect to uncover the church itself, although we have come up against an adjoining cellar wall.

This church replaced the medieval St Michael's in the 1840s. We have a poster from 1839 which invited people to donate towards the rebuilding, which is said was necessary due to the dilapidated state of the present church. The closeness to the cathedral is because it served as parish church to the immediate area and was the cemetery chapel, but it was decided to relocate the site in order to provide a better view of the Cathedral. We also have some specifications for the workmen involved in building the new church, such as carpenters, smiths and plasterers.

It was always a small parish as it only served the immediate vicinity of the cathedral, with other churches serving the rest of the city centre. In fact the northern side of the street was part of St Helen's. The 1851 Religious census, which compiled attendance figures from all places of worship, gave the population of the parish as 564, much smaller than the other city parishes, and attendance was under 100 for morning and evening services, much smaller than St Helen's and other nearby churches. A comment in the census stated that there was no Sunday School as there were only five or six poor families in the parish. The Church closed and became the Diocesan Registry in 1910, and was later demolished with the rest of Lich St in the 1960s. Some of the memorials went to St Helen's on the High Street, now part of All Saints parish.

Like many churches, St Michael's would have played an important part in the lives of the residents of Lich Street, not just on Sundays, but baptisms, marriages, burials, poor law administration, communal activities and charitable giving. The accounts of the St Michael's Charity are also in the archives, and it is noticeable that one of the trustees was Mr Arthur O. Mainwaring, who was also a grocer at No.1 & 3 (later renumbered 5) Lich St.

Parish records for St Michael's can be accessed through Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service in The Hive.

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