Hammerwich is a pleasant village, situated on a hill about three miles south-west of Lichfield and to the north of Watling Street (the A5). The village was once served by both canal and railway. It has a windmill, Speedwell’s Mill, which is now converted into a private house.
The name ‘Hammerwich’ means a place by a hill from the Anglo-Saxon words ‘wic’ meaning ‘place’ and hammer meaning ‘hill’. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it was called Humeruuich. At that time there may have been two settlements in the area since two Hammerwiches are recorded, both owned by the Bishop of Lichfield. These two settlements consisted of two carucates ( a carucate is approximately 120 acres) and were described as waste. Later on in the Middle Ages, it appears that there were three centres of population, Overton, Middleton and Netherton. Each of these still had a village green in the 19th century.
In 1380, 28 people were assessed for the payment of the poll tax in Hammerwich. By 1666 when the Hearth Tax was assessed, 24 households were recorded there. At the time of the first census in 1801, a population of 209 was recorded. The opening of the Hammerwich No 1 Pit, however, encouraged immigration to the area, some of it coming from Ireland. The pit closed in 1865 but by 1871 the population stood at 1,373. In 1981, some 100 years later, the population was 4,252. An important 19th century development as a result of the increase in population was the building of Hammerwich Hospital in 1882. This was originally a cottage hospital with two five bed wards but in the 20th century became a general hospital. During the First World War, it also served as a military hospital.
The present parish church is dedicated to St John the Baptist. It was built between 1873 and 1883 at a cost of just under £3,000 and was designed by Newman and Belling, architects of London. However there was a chapel at Hammerwich from as early as the 12th century and this was also used by people from neighbouring areas such as Edial. In 1851 the ‘Religious Census’ recorded a congregation of 47 and 17 Sunday School children. The village also had a Primitive Methodist chapel, Mount Pleasant, which was situated on Watling Street. It closed in 1965 and the building was demolished in 1968.
Hammerwich House was built originally at the centre of an estate which was gradually built up in the 16th century by the Biddulph family. It was originally a farmhouse. It was rebuilt in the 1630s and again in the 1780s. In the later 19th century the house was owned by manufacturers, firstly by Arthur Hills who had a chemical works in Ogley Hay and later by Job Evans, a manufacturer of gavanised iron from Wolverhampton. In the 20th century, the house had many uses as a hospital annexe, a girls’ remand home, children’s home and eventually as a home for the elderly, renamed as Hammerwich Hall.
There was no provision for education in the village until about 1857 when a small church day school was established. A schoolroom then was built at Triangle for infants in 1863. In 1871 a new school building was built by subscription in Hall Lane, which provided accommodation for 70 children. This school provided relatively limited education for the village children until it became a public elementary school in 1876 with a certificated teacher. In 1907 the school was passed into the control of the new local education authority, the County Council. In 1932 it became a junior mixed and infants’ school and then a first school in 1980. The school was eventually closed in 1982.
A dance called the Vandals of Hammerwich forms part of the Lichfield Morris Men’s repertoire. This is thought to refer to an incident in the early middle Ages when some of the Hammerwich inhabitants set fire to woods in Cannock Forest.
In July 2009 the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered on farmland in the civil parish of Hammerwich. The find is unique because no hoard of gold and silver objects has ever been found previously from this period. The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard, which consists mainly of weapons, is an outstanding event in Staffordshire’s history and will do much to inform our understanding of Anglo- Saxon England and in particular the Midland kingdom of Mercia.
Hammerwich used to have a very busy rail service but this was reduced, first to freight only services and the line was closed completely in the 80’s.
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