The Sieges of Lichfield

At the outbreak of war the Royalists took control of Lichfield, or rather they occupied The Close - the medieval fortified Cathedral precinct surrounded by a moat and defensive walls. Lichfield's population generally sided with the Parliamentarian cause, but the Cathedral staff with the King.

The First Siege
In March 1643 Lord Brooke led the Parliamentarian assault upon The Close, famously being shot at long range by John Dyott (a deaf mute game keeper, in position on the Cathedral's central spire). This is most probably the first recorded death due to sniper fire. Sir John Gell took over command and The Close fell to Parliament after two days.

Brooke's Memorial
The Second Siege
In April 1643 Prince Rupert led a considerable Royalist force from Oxford to retake the town and Cathedral. Rupert's engineers drained the moat, undermined the walls of The Close and detonated a mine - possibly the first example of a mine being used in England to breach a wall. The Parliamentarian defenders surrendered on terms after nearly two weeks; the garrison being allowed to march out of The Close and sent under convoy to Coventry (Rupert's men missed the church silver being smuggled out with the garrison's baggage).

The Third Sege
In March 1646, following the capture of the city by Sir William Brereton, the Cathedral Close was again besieged. This siege lasted four months and ended with the Royalist surrender on 10 July. During this time Brereton constructed a series of fortifications around the town, including four `mounts' or mounds. One just to the north of The Close was adapted to form a small fort for cannons and was known as Gloucester Mount after the Gloucestershire men who manned it.

The Cathedral would later be used as barracks for Parliament's men and horses.

What's There Now?
Lichfield Cathedral suffered considerable damage during the Sieges, and considerable damage by the soldiers who occupied the Cathedral after the third siege - for some reason they baptised a cow in the Cathedral. It's famed medieval windows were destroyed and one of the spires collapsed; the Cathedral would be restored during the Restoration.

As the country is slowly reopening from the coronavirus lockdown visitors can now explore the Cathedral but have to prebook tickets (admission is normally free).

Inside the Cathedral, at the far eastern end in the Lady Chapel are nine medieval windows; two were recovered from the devastation and destruction of the Civil War, the seven others were rescued from a Belgian Monastery. Many of the statutes and gargoyle faces inside the cathedral bear sword marks, outside there is a statue of Charles II in recognition of his support of the restoration of the building.  


Charles II who used to reside high up on the roof of the Cathedral until the C19th
Also inside the Cathedral is the tomb of Colonel Richard Bagot who was mortally wounded at Naseby. South aisle of the choir - located next to the window commemorating the restoration of the Cathedral, and the Lichfield Angel.



Bagot's Memorial is just to the left of this window
The remains of The Close's fortifications are most noticeable at:



The West Gate - Beacon Street end of The Close



The Bishop's Tower - on the NE corner of the Bishop's Palace, now the home of the Cathedral School on Gaia Lane



St Mary's House- incorporates part of a tower and the wall



The Eastern Tower of the South East Gate - the footprint/foundation courses of the tower are visible.

Both St Mary's House and the South East Gate Tower are located on Reeve Lane which connects Dam Street to Cross Keys


Information board close to 'speaker's corner', which is just opposite Brooke House and Brooke's plaque
Dam Street has a memorial to the site where Lord Brooke fell. The plaque is badly weathered and quite difficult to read in parts.

Richard Greene (of Lichfield’s Museum of Curiosities) commissioned the plaque in the 1700s, and it reads as follows:

‘MARCH 2ND 1643 LORD BROOKE A GENERAL
OF THE PARLIAMENT FORCES, PREPARING TO
BESIEGE THE CLOSE OF LICHFIELD, THEN GARRISONED
FOR KING CHARLES THE FIRST, RECEIVED HIS DEATH WOUND
ON THE SPOT BENEATH THIS INSCRIPTION BY A SHOT IN THE
FOREHEAD, FROM MR DYOTT. A GENTLEMAN WHO HAD
PLACED HIMSELF ON THE BATTLEMENTS OF THE
GREAT STEEPLE TO ANNOY THE BESIEGERS’

This account of events is based upon Sir William Dugdale’s commentary in his 1681 book ‘The Late Troubles in England’. There are a number of differing accounts of exactly how Brooke was killed - in an alleyway off Dam Street, on Dam Street, or in an upstairs room of a house on Dam Street. All accounts (there are four variations) all agree on the date of his death, and that the fatal shot was fired from the Cathedral.




On Beacon Street there are the remains of a Royalist gun emplacement: Rupert's Mound is the only surviving earthwork connected to the sieges.  While Prince Rupert's Mound is traditionally associated with the second siege, the possibility exists that this gun battery was built or modified at the time of the third siege and should be more properly called Gloucester Mount. Located behind the George and Dragon, it also serves as part of the pub's beer garden. Best accessed through the pub's car park off Gaia Lane.


View from Rupert's Mound towards the Cathedral

Close to the entrance to the Close (by the remains of the west gate) is a C15th women's hospital.




Postcodes for SatNavs
Lichfield Cathedral WS13 7LD
Rupert's Mound, off Beacon Street WS13 7AJ
Dam Street WS13 6AE

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