Wall, Staffordshire – St John

I had been to Kidderminster on Monday 20 August to talk trams with an expert. On the way home I stopped at the village of Wall in Staffordshire and picked up a walk leaflet in their car park.

The Romans constructed a marching camp here during AD 47-8, and soon a fort was built to defend the highway – this is the Watling Street, London to Chester. There would soon be a posting station, with an official hotel and fresh horses – one is mentioned as being here in the C3 Antonine Itinerary. A thriving settlement, the Vicus, grew up around the fort. We know the Roman name was Letocetum, Wall comes from the early English word Wealla, a wall or rampart. After the Romans left it remained a defended settlement – there is an early Welsh poem called ‘The Lament of Cynddian’ telling of a raid on the town by a C5 or early C6 chieftain called Moriael of Ercall. Then it fell into ruin, became a valuable source of stone for local builders. Trade eventually moved down the road to Lichfield. Details on the English Heritage website.

I walked past the fort and up to the church of St John – SK 098066 – website. It is a Grade II listed building, built in 1837 by Scott and Moffat – Scott being the young George Gilbert who went on to do the Albert Memorial.

There must have been early places of worship here, perhaps a church was built on the site of a Roman shrine. On top of the hill looking down over the fort is a good place to worship. It is a  simple Gothic church, and the knitters have been busy.

The glass on the south side is by Charles Kempe’s firm – rather a nice one of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

The Lectern looks as if it comes from Kempe’s catalogue, and I wonder if the font did too. For an extra few pounds you can have the shields engraved! I find the additional piece of marble under the war memorial rather poignant – I wonder if they could remember buying the original monument, then went back for a matching piece.

I like the pebble pool for prayers. Allestree has a large metal candle stand. It is never used – people don’t carry matches, and we don’t leave any out (for obvious reasons). Should we replace it with something like this? (Or will I just be told how much the stand cost?).

I continued my walk along Green Lane, Wall Lane, under the railway twice, and back into the Village. The leaflet was good and the route well signposted.

The Roman site was good, though it is now unstaffed and the museum is only open 30 days a year – website of the Friends. Once our country was proud of all its heritage, and even the little sites were staffed and cared for. But we can find money for one-off projects like a Milepost to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I had enjoyed my 3 mile walk, and I’m grateful to the village for the Walk Trail, the open church, and their custodianship of the site – but I still ponder the nature of heritage and community in the C21.

 

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