The lives of Georgian women inspire Storytelling Event

...and other recent press releases

On Saturday 11 March at 7pm the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum will be holding an unforgettable event, ‘Love & Duty: the Lives of Georgian women’. Professional storyteller Cath Edwards will weave a vivid cast of characters into this one-woman show, inspired by real stories and archives from the time.

Cath Edwards performs nationally and is co-host of Lichfield Storytellers. The storytelling performance will give a warm and sympathetic glimpse into the interlinked lives of gentlewomen and working women in the 18th century, drawing on contemporary letters, diaries, account books, folk tales and songs. It follows the fortunes, secret longings and strivings for success of displaced farm girl Betty and Sarah, her employer. Finding their place, the two women pick their way through the social expectations of the time.

Jo Wilson, curator of the Birthplace Museum said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Cath to the Birthplace to perform ‘Love & Duty’ in the week of International Women’s Day. The fictional life of her characters echoes the stories of many women who were significant to Samuel Johnson’s story and to the history of Birthplace, such as Sarah Johnson, Kitty Chambers and Lucy Porter. The house provides the perfect setting to become immersed in a story”

Tickets cost £8.50 including a glass of wine and can be booked at the Birthplace Museum reception (open 11am-3.30pm daily), by calling 01543 264 972 or email to sjmuseum@lichfield.gov.uk..

Celebrating David Garrick’s 300th Birthday
2017 marks the 300th Birthday of David Garrick, superstar of the Georgian Stage and one of the most famous celebrities of his day. Garrick was born at an Inn in Hereford while his recruiting officer father was working in the city, but his mother’s family were Lichfield folk and he grew up on Beacon Street. He called Lichfield his ‘native place’. He was a pupil and great friend of Samuel Johnson, and the Johnson Birthplace Museum has teamed up with Lichfield Garrick, Erasmus Darwin House and partners across the city to throw a party fit for the flamboyant figure. Beginning in February and continuing throughout the year, events in the coming month include drinks, talks and family activities.

The programme begins with a wine tasting evening at Erasmus Darwin House on Saturday 11th at 7pm, hosted by Hourlier Wines. Just down the street from the spot where Garrick’s brother, Peter, ran the family wine merchant business, the event includes wine, cheese and nibbles and an appearance from Garrick himself! (£18, call 01543 306260 to book). Drinks-lovers should also look out for a new tipple ‘David Garrick Golden Ale’ from locally-based Blythe Brewery. The ale “with a bold theatrical finish”, just like its namesake, will be popping up at pubs across the city and available to buy in gift-packs from the Johnson Birthplace Bookshop.

On Saturday 18th, the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum will be exploring celebrations and commemorations from Lichfield’s past in their popular series of History Workshops. ‘City of Celebration’ is an informal and friendly talk and chance to delve in the archives behind-the-scenes at the Museum, looking at how the people of Lichfield have celebrated the Bower, Jubilees, anniversaries and other city-wide parties of the past (Tickets £3.50, call 01543 264 972 to book).

For families during the half-term holidays, the Birthplace will be celebrating ‘Glorious Garrick!’ with hands-on craft activities including pop-up theatre making to keep aspiring actors busy on Thursday 23rd February at 11am & 12pm (just £2, drop-in or call 01543 264 972 to book). Events continue in early March at the Birthplace with original drama ‘The Golden Moment’ performed by Intimate Theatre on Friday 3rd March (7pm & 8.30pm, £9 including wine, 01543 264 972 to book), a moving play set on the morning of 2nd March 1737, the day that Sam and David set out for London to find their fortunes together – but is everybody happy about them leaving?

The year will continue with performances at Lichfield Garrick, talks, drama and exhibitions at the Birthplace and a city-wide Staffordshire Day event in May. Visit www.visitlichfield/garrick300 for more information on the year ahead, and look out for David and Johnson popping up on the streets of Lichfield too!

Explore travel in Lichfield’s past at Birthplace Museum Workshop

We will be delving into the archives this week for the next in the Museum’s popular history workshop series. Following fascinating sessions on daily life and leisure in the city, on Saturday November 5th at 2.00pm, Sue Bray will be giving insight into the paths, roads and rails of the city’s past in ‘The Routes of Lichfield’

Using some original maps and records, Sue will give a glimpse into the development of travel to the city, and how it helped to shape Lichfield’s development – from the early pilgrims, to an important coaching city, to the birth of the railway and the industry and leisure that they supported locally. There will also be a chance to visit ‘behind the scenes’ at the Museum and see rarely seen items from the Birthplace archive spanning 18th and 19th century Lichfield including some beautiful original maps. Museum curator Jo Wilson said “The relaxed and friendly sessions are a great opportunity to use parts of our collection that don’t often get displayed. Sue’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the city’s past ensures our workshop sessions are as enjoyable as they are fascinating”.

Places cost £4.00 and booking is advisable. For more information call 01543 264 972, email sjmuseum@lichfield.gov.uk or pop into the Museum reception on the corner of the market square from 11am-3.30pm daily.

‘Soaring Curiosity’: James Sadler, pastry cook & first English aeronaut, and some Lichfield connections

Samuel Johnson may not have had the chance to take to the sky himself, but the Lichfield-born writer lived in an age of invention and was fascinated by flight. Find out more about the fascinating early experiments in flight in a free talk at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum at 2pm on Saturday 29th October by author Mark J. Davies. Oxford local historian and writer of the recent biography “King of all Balloons", Mark will tell the story of James Sadler (1753–1828): pioneer of flight, engineer, designer of guns and cannons, and naval chemist and…. cook!

Samuel Johnson and Erasmus Darwin were both fascinated by the new invention of the air balloon in 1780s, and Johnson's close friend, the statesman William Windham, was a key ally of James Sadler in enabling him to overcome the constraints of his upbringing as a pastry cook to become the first Englishman to build and fly a hot-air balloon in Oxford in 1784. Sadler and his son Windham set many records while ascending from some 40 towns and cities across the British Isles, and they also enabled the first ascent by any English woman and that of the first woman in Ireland. Sadler’s adventurous life brought him into contact with some of the most significant names in British science, politics, art, literature, and the aristocracy, yet he ended his days back in Oxford in impoverished obscurity. To find out more about this amazing story, call 01543 264 972 or call in to the reception of the Museum from 11am-3.30pm to book your free place.

Brilliant Balloons at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum this half term

Thursday 27th October 11am & 12pm

The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum will be taking to the skies with special hands-on art and craft sessions this half-term holiday. Young visitors can make their own brilliant balloon and even their own ‘top balloonist’ medal! The theme is all because the Museum is celebrating ‘the King of all Balloons’ this half-term, and visitors can also find out all about James Sadler, who travelled by balloon over 230 years ago – and he even took his pet cat into the sky with him!

The workshop costs just £2 per participating child, and entrance to the Museum is free of charge. Jo Wilson from the Birthplace Museum said: “The atmosphere in the house is fantastic over the school holidays, and our activity sessions are a popular choice for a great value morning visit, we are looking forward to seeing all of your brilliant balloons”. In addition to the activity there are trails, hands-on displays and dressing up activities to enjoy every day over the holidays from 11.00am – 3.30pm. For more information or to book a place call 01543 264 972, pop in to the Museum on the corner of the Market Square, or email sjmuseum@lichfield.gov.uk

July 2016
Sonnets in the City
When William Shakespeare died in Stratford 400 years ago this year, nobody knew that he would go on to change the history of our language. So why is the Midlands lad so celebrated? Well, on Saturday July 9 you will have a chance to find out! If you happen to be in Lichfield quaffing ale or supping tea or just doing the grocery shop, you might stumble across an innovative and intriguing project. Intimate Theatre and the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum have joined forces to bring Will’s words to the street with sonnets performed in surprising places across the city. A team of fantastic readers will be gracing the streets of Lichfield with poetry. Look out for them across the city between 10.30 and 3.30 throughout the day, and then back at the Birthplace at 3.30pm. Venues taking part include Tesco, Erasmus Darwin House, the George Hotel, the Scales, the Whippet, Lichfield Library, Fuse Festival, Devo-tea, the Lounge, the Little Nook and many, many more!! To find out more call 01543 264 972 or follow the event on the Birthplace Facebook page here

February 2016
Get involved with Lichfield’s history in the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum’s ‘Team Clean’!
Are you interested in getting hands-on with Lichfield’s history and experiencing life behind the scenes at a Museum? The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum on Lichfield’s Market Square is seeking volunteers to help with the Museum’s big collection clean in weekday sessions starting on Wednesday 24th February. Jo Wilson from the Museum said: “The museum has over 8,000 objects in the collection so caring for them all is a big job for a small team! A ‘team clean’ is a great way for people who may be interested in volunteering but not have time to commit to a regular role to get involved, and a rare opportunity to experience Lichfield’s past up close”. Tasks at the sessions might range from waxing wood to dusting rare books and cleaning display cabinets. No previous experience is necessary as all training and support will be provided, but a friendly, hands-on attitude and a passion for Lichfield’s history is essential! If you would like to get involved then please contact Jo Wilson, Museums and Heritage Officer on 01543 264 972, or email to sjmuseum@lichfield.gov.uk to register your interest.

March 2016
Celebrating the women in Johnson’s world

The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum is marking International Women’s Day and an exciting new addition to the collection with a special History Workshop this March. Many people know the story of Lichfield’s most famous son, but visitors to his family home on the Market Square may not know that the archives also contain fascinating items that give insight into the lives of the women in Johnson’s family, and his literary and local acquaintances. On Saturday March 5th at 2.00pm, Sue Bray will be sharing some of these stories and giving a glimpse into the life of women in Georgian Lichfield.

Using original documents and records as a starting point, Sue will lead the informal session, drawing on the lives of Tetty and Sarah Johnson, Catherine Chambers, Anna Seward and particularly Lucy Porter. The Birthplace Museum has recently been loaned a beautiful portrait of Lucy, Johnson’s step-daughter, as a child. The painting will go on display this Spring, but workshop attendees will have a chance to see Lucy during a behind-the-scenes visit. Museum curator Jo Wilson said “We’ve chosen to focus on the women in Johnson’s world for this workshop as the start of a series of events to celebrate this painting’s arrival. We are thrilled to be able to include more on Lucy in the displays - she was very close to Johnson, but also an interesting figure in Lichfield’s history as she often helped in the Breadmarket Street shop, and had Redcourt House built later in her life. Sue’s knowledge and enthusiasm for our local history will make this an unmissable session”
To book or for more information please Contact Us

News from 2015

Christmas 2015
Christmas Light Night Sunday November 29th
Step in from the cold and step back in time this festive season at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum. The historic house on the Market Square will be starting its Christmas celebrations on Sunday 29th November from 3.30pm – 6pm, providing activities and festive refreshments to help the crowds warm up while waiting for Santa and the big Christmas Light switch-on at 5pm. The Museum will again be holding a late night opening with family activities and a great view of the City being illuminated from the Market Square. Festive refreshments will be available with all proceeds supporting the Museum and there’s also a chance to win a fantastic Christmas hamper. Entrance and activities are free to everyone, so just drop-in!

The Johnson Family Christmas, Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th December
The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum will be joining the Lichfield Christmas Festival weekend with ‘The Johnson Family Christmas’ on Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th December, 11am – 3.30pm. With free entry and activities for all ages, join a big Christmas party with children’s trails, craft activities and mulled wine. Be transported back in time with the glamorous costume of Johnson’s age and beautiful decorations around the historic building, provided by local florists ‘Flowers by Design’. On Saturday 5th the stunning Regency Assembly will entertain and inspire with Georgian dances from 11.30-1.30pm, then from 2.30pm the Lichfield Singers will be setting the festive scene with a concert of carols. Kids young and old can enjoy fun automated machines that tell the history of Lichfield over the whole weekend too.

Jo Wilson from the Birthplace Museum said: “we are delighted to welcome the Regency Assembly and Lichfield Singers back for our Christmas weekend. The atmosphere in our wonderful house is transformed by dance, music and festive cheer, and we invite everybody to join us”. For more information please Contact Us

September 2015
Everybody is invited to Samuel Johnson’s 306th Birthday Party

The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum is celebrating the birthday of Lichfield’s most famous son with a free slice of cake for all visitors and activities throughout the day on Saturday 19th September as part of Lichfield’s city-wide Heritage Weekend.

The Museum on Breadmarket Street will be open from 10.30am – 4.30pm and admission, as always, is free of charge. A slice of Birthday cake supplied by local bakery Hindleys will be available for all visitors, while stocks last! The beautiful historic house will be decorated by Flower Design of Lichfield. Everyone is invited to ensemble on the Market Square for 12 noon when the civic party and Johnson Society members will gather to watch the Mayor lay a wreath on the statue of Johnson, accompanied by traditional hymns. The ceremony will be followed by an afternoon of entertainment on the Market Square including performances from Intimate Theatre and the City of Lichfield Concert Band, and the annual Young Town Crier Competition.

This year’s Heritage Weekend theme is ‘Making History’, and visitors to the Museum can explore the Johnson family craft of bookbinding with demonstrations from local members of the Society of Bookbinders at 10.30am and 2.00pm, and activities and trails all day. Elsewhere in the city, the Old Prison Cells at Lichfield Guildhall will be open on Saturday 10am – 4pm and Sunday 20th 11am – 3pm. Look out for the ‘Black Country Players’ around the streets on Saturday who will be keeping the peace and finding some new inmates!

The Johnson Society will also be marking Johnson’s Birthday with their traditional supper at Lichfield Guildhall in the evening, where current President Professor Jock Murray will hand over his badge to President elect and author of ‘Wit and wives: Dr Johnson in the company of women’, Kate Chisholm.

For more information please Contact Us

August 2015
Bookworms Unite! Birthplace seeks new members for children's reading club

Saturday mornings at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum have been fun-filled and lively since the ‘Bookworms United!’ reading and activity club launched in 2013. The club offers children aged seven to ten years the chance to discover fantastic fiction from popular current and classic children’s authors, with the colourful characters and stories they encounter on the page bought to life through occasional activities and games. The Museum is recruiting new members this summer holiday and inviting aspiring bookworms to try out the next session on Saturday 1st August at 10.30am.

A team of chief bookworms led by Janet Hill-Gibbs provide a friendly and supportive group to help members enjoy reading, develop their skills, make new friends, build their confidence and, of course, have fun! Books over the last two years have included a wide variety such as Michael Murpurgo, C.S. Lewis, Cressida Cowell and Roald Dahl. The club is run on a ‘stay-and-play’ basis and lasts an hour, so provides an ideal opportunity for parents and carers to enjoy an hour of Saturday morning errands in the city centre too!

Jo Wilson at the Birthplace Museum said: “We are very proud of our ‘Bookworms United’ club. It’s a wonderful opportunity to help children explore the pleasure of reading in a relaxed and inspiring environment, and we hope that some new bookworms will come and join us”

Bookworms United is held on Saturdays at 10.30am fortnightly with sessions coming up on the 1st, 15th and 29th of August and continuing throughout the year. The cost is £4 per child, including books and refreshments, and discounts are available for family groups. You can come along on the day but booking in advance is advised to assure your place. For more information or bookings Contact Us

July 2015
Art for all Ages at the Johnson Birthplace
Visitors to the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum are in for a colourful treat this Saturday (11th July) with a free ‘Art for all Ages’ event as part of the Lichfield Festival ‘City Saturday’. Young visitors can ‘Jazz-up James’ in a wacky college activity to brighten up Johnson’s friend Boswell, while everybody will enjoy summer exhibition ‘A Splash of Inspiration’. The display showcases some of the pieces created by members of the Museum’s popular monthly Art Workshop sessions, led by local artist and Museum Attendant Carole Collier. Carole will also be on hand all day to give tips and inspiration and demonstrate her techniques

Displaying throughout the Birthplace building, the striking pieces cover a range of subjects from animals, nature and portraiture through to abstract colour-play and objects from the Museum’s collection. The mixed-media works have been created using a style developed by Carole adapted from the Indonesian ‘batik’ style, which traditionally uses wax and dyes to create patterns on fabrics. The style is perfect to create immediate effects for both complete beginners and experienced artists to try something new. The artists on display reflect this diversity, with the youngest artist only twelve years old!

The activities run all day from 10.30am – 4.30pm, and ‘ A Splash of Inspiration’ continues until August. For more information Contact Us .

May 2015
Tours to give new light on Johnson’s home
The Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum is launching a new series of guided tours this month. Beginning on Saturday 2nd May at 2pm, the Museum will be offering tours of the beautiful Grade I listed building on the first Saturday of every month over the summer. Hundreds of visitors to the city enjoy guided tours of the house in organised groups every year, and the feedback has been so positive that the museum is now offering the visits to all. Anybody can just turn up to join the tours – though numbers on each tour are limited so you may book in advance if you wish to secure your place. The friendly and entertaining tours provide a great way to see the fascinating five storey house, built for Samuel’s parents Michael and Sarah in 1707, giving insight into Johnson’s life and some favourite objects in the collection. The character and family background of Lichfield’s great lexicographer will be brought to life as visitors climb the stairs in the company of talented tour guides Sue Bray and David Titley. Places on the tours cost £2.50. For more information or to book Contact Us

April 2015
Celebrating 260 years of Johnson’s Dictionary
April 15th 1755 saw the publication of a book that would put Lichfield firmly on the literary map: Samuel Johnson’s ‘A Dictionary of the English Language’. Now 260 years on from its appearance, the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum will be marking the anniversary this month with a History Workshop dedicated to the how, when and why of the great work. Jo Wilson and Sue Bray will be delving into the Dictionary in a relaxed and friendly discussion-based session on Saturday 25th April at 2pm. The session will cover quirky questions about the book such as: “Why was a pretty much unknown writer chosen for the task?”; “What Dictionaries came before it and why was it different?” as well as looking at how Johnson went about putting it together, the people that helped him with the task and some of the wild and wonderful words it contains. There will also be a behind-the-scenes look at some other dictionaries from the museum collection in the library.

Jo Wilson said: “Johnson’s ‘Dictionary’ is always a talking point for our visitors - the scale of the task was enormous, and it is remarkable that it took only nine years. Our workshop will give some insight into the great book, but also consider its legacy for language and how we record the world around us”. Whether you are a language lover or merely curious about Johnson’s work, this session is not to be missed. Places cost £2.50. For more information or to book Contact Us

Calling all Easter Explorers and Bookworms!
April is shaping up to be an ‘egg-citing’ month at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum with trails and competitions during the school holidays. Visitors can join Sam’s Easter Explorers trail and enter a special competition from Friday 4th to Sunday 12th of April. Young visitors are invited follow a trail and join activities throughout the house, and can also get creative and enter a competition to design an amazing Easter cake decorated with an array of spring-time themed treats to win a Fair Trade Easter Egg and goody bag. The Easter trail is available throughout the holiday, and a trail pack costs just £1. Standard entrance to the Museum and entry into the competition is free. There is no need to book – just drop in!

The Museum is also seeking new book lovers to join its lively reading and activity club ‘Bookworms United!’ on Saturday mornings at 10.30am. The next session will be during the holidays on 11th April, and then every fortnight until the summer. Young readers are currently enjoying Roald Dahl’s writings and there are plenty of exciting books to come. The club is perfect for developing reading skills and making friends in a small and friendly group, and sessions cost just £4 including books with discounts available for families, and are ‘pay as you go’. For more details or to book a place to try out the club Contact Us

March 2015
Explore the leisure time of Lichfield’s past
Following the popularity of two History Workshops last year, the Samuel Johnson Birthplace will be delving into the archives again this spring. Many people know the story of Lichfield’s most famous son, but visitors to his family home on the Market Square often ask about how Lichfieldians used to live. Expanding on a session on daily life last November, on Saturday March 7th at 2.00pm, Sue Bray will be giving insight into the playtime of the city’s past in ‘Lichfield at Leisure’

Using some original documents and records, Sue will give a glimpse into these often forgotten histories of the city and how our spare time has changed, from gardening and theatre to special events and celebrations. There will also be a chance to visit ‘behind the scenes’ at the Museum and see some surprising items from the Birthplace archive spanning 18th to 20th century Lichfield. Museum curator Jo Wilson said “our workshop sessions last year were a great success and brought up more questions about how people lived in Georgian Lichfield. Sue’s knowledge and enthusiasm will bring the history of our fascinating city to life, making this an un-missable session”.

The workshop sessions continue with ‘Delving into the Dictionary’ on April 25th, celebrating 260 years since the publication of Johnson’s most famous work, and a session on Lichfield Charities in the autumn. Places cost £2.50 and numbers are limited, so please book in advance. For more information Contact Us

February 2015
Half-term fun with Hodge the Cat!
Young visitors to the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum are invited to join a hands-on art and craft session this half-term holiday. Many families enjoy the Museum’s trail with Hodge the cat throughout the year, and this February there will be some new cats to find and a whole activity dedicated to Johnson’s favourite feline friend. ‘Colourful Cats’ gives visitors a chance to make their own fabulous cat costume and takes place from 11am – 1.30pm on Thursday 19th February.

The workshop is drop-in and costs £2 per participating child, with standard entrance to the Museum free of charge. Jo Wilson from the Birthplace Museum said: “The atmosphere in the house is fantastic over the school holidays, and our activity sessions are a popular choice for a great value morning visit”. In addition to the activity there are free of charge trails, hands-on displays and dressing up activities to enjoy every day from 11am – 3.30pm.

"It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather...”