ABBOT Clement Lichfield may have been a conservative chap when it comes to architecture; this was one of the fascinating messages that came across in the Historical Society’s latest talk, held on 27 April. Apparently thanks to its architectural style, the Victorians thought the Bell Tower had been constructed over 100 years before his time. Of course the evidence is overwhelming that it was indeed built under his abbacy during the 1520s – a status symbol signifying the Abbey’s importance and wealth.

Stan Brotherton and Carmel Langridge were talking about what they had found during the course of an extensive photographic survey of the Bell Tower which they carried out during its recent refurbishment. The architectural style is quite austere (did you know that it has no gargoyles – a feature it shares with Abbot Lichfield’s chapels in All Saints’ and St Lawrence churches?). What the tower does have in abundance however is a wealth of elaborate decoration much of which is invisible from the ground. There are 76 corbel ends at the top of the tower carved into faces, human and non-human, into flowers, fruit and abstract designs. There are also 804 such little carvings adorning the cusps of the trefoil and quatrefoil decoration in the panels on the outside of the tower. One can only be lost in admiration of the dedication and love with which these ornaments were carved, in the knowledge that once they were in place they would never be visible from the ground.

Given that it was customary for the human faces to represent people associated with the abbey and the building work, who knows but that Abbot Lichfield has been watching over the town for almost 500 years? Chris Povey, the current Ringing Master, has been awarded the honour of having his face immortalised in stone during the restoration. All in all it was a wonderfully interesting evening, with lively discussion throughout.

The Society’s next talk will be on the evening of Thursday 25 May and will be given by the Norwegian author Tore Fauske. It’s all about growing up in Norway during the German occupation of WWII.

For more information visit the Society’s website: or contact Gerry Harte, on 01386 870665.