Located in the heart of the city, the Guildhall is a charming historic Grade ll listed building. This was the setting for the LDTA networking meeting on Tuesday 14th March 2017. On arrival members had the opportunity to network while enjoying refreshments including an array of delicious cakes, provided by Sue Khan proprietor of Comfortin’ Food Café. We were pleased to welcome some new faces to the Association. Marie Garnett from The Lodge @ Cannock Chase B&B along with husband Lee, have recently joined the Association. Jane Pallister from Blue Orchid, offers business coaching, consultancy, advice and training. Jane, came along to the meeting to discover more about LDTA. Finally, Jonathan Oates from Jono’s Tourism. Jonathan is a new member but an old face! Many of you may know him from his time working at Visit Lichfield. Jonathan has now set-up his own business providing independent tourism services.
Lichfield has had a Mayor since 1686 and the present Mayor of Lichfield is Cllr Mrs. Sheelagh James. We felt extremely privileged when Cllr James offered to show us the Mayor’s parlour. Located next door in Donegal House and reached through connecting doors, the room is elegant and cosy with many artifacts depicting the traditions of the City. The Mayor described her many important roles and duties and the interesting guests she has received in the lovely parlour. LDTA partners were then invited to sign the visitor’s book for posterity!
Everyone was then sent down to the old prison cells! Surprisingly, there were several people who said they had never visited this part of the Guildhall. This was the perfect opportunity to discover the stories about debtors and felons and the history of law and order, from the martyrs burned on Lichfield Market Square in the 17th century to the fates of John Neve, William Wightman and James Jackson who were found guilty of forgery and were the last lawbreakers to be publicly hanged at Lichfield gallows in 1810.
It was then back up to the main hall on the first floor for another welcome cup of tea and cake. This room has a beamed roof and is perfect for displaying the banners of the various old wards of the city, made in 1975 by students of the Lichfield School of Art. The Hall is exceptionally versatile, frequently used for civic events, it can also be hired for meetings, wedding receptions, dances and craft fairs.
I was fortunate that this was the second time I had heard Ken’s talk about life as a Town Crier and there were still plenty of new anecdotes I hadn’t heard. The wealth of stories relating to this position and the history of the role is presented in an interesting and amusing way. If you haven’t already heard the talk, I would recommend doing so – you won’t be disappointed!
Ken was born in Aston and is very proud of his roots, something he refers to regularly in his talk. One of his ancestors was a rag and bone man, which may explain his commanding voice. After a successful teaching career Ken took over the role of Town Crier, Sword Bearer and Master of Ceremonies from Lonzo Atkin in 2009. He is employed by Lichfield City Council for 13 days per year -this does not include holidays!
The historic post of Town Crier goes back centuries to the first town crier, Thomas Roberts who came from Cirencester, which was an elected post. Town Criers ring a hand-bell before making a public announcement then shout the words Oyez, Oyez, Oyez which means ‘listen to this’. Dressed in a red coat, black breaches and a tricorne hat Ken explained that not many Town Criers wear leggings. Having to do up 11 buttons could be the reason. His consort Marilyn has the job of doing up buttons 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11!
Ken, a regular competitor around the world has many prizes under his belt. Competition rules are stringent and a shout has to begin with three oyez’s, and ending with God Save the Queen. Competitors are judged on volume, clarity, diction, confidence and accuracy. In 2015 Ken came out top in the World Town Crier competition in New Zealand and this year he is competing in Bermuda and Nova Scotia. For the third time in a row, he has won the Competition at Haslemere and taken the Tennyson Trophy home to Lichfield. The trophy is a bronze statue of a 17th Lancer of the Light Brigade, immortalized in the poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’.
If you would like Ken to speak at one of your events, he can be contacted on 07760523406 of via email firstname.lastname@example.org
The next LDTA networking meeting will be held on:
Tuesday 11th May at 11am
Claymills Pumping Station