Our August visit was to the historic town of Tamworth, courtesy of the Tamworth and District Civic Society. We gathered in the 18th Century Town Hall and were officially greeted by the Mayor, Cllr Richard Kingstone who told us about the town, the building, the Council and the mayoral regalia. We were then shown the Mayor’s Chamber before a tour of the town led by Chairman of the Society and Green Badge Guide David Biggs.
The Town Hall was built in 1700 and paid for by Thomas Guy, famous for Guy’s Hospital in London. It stands on pillars above the historic butter market. In front of it is a statue of the town’s most famous citizen, Sir Robert Peel, who lived in nearby Drayton Manor. The statue stands in front of the window from which tradition holds that he recited his Tamworth manifesto which created the modern Conservative Party.
The town itself is much older than Coventry and was the capital of the realm in the Anglo Saxon period. The town was founded at the confluence of the Rivers Tame and Anker, which link to the River Trent, the Humber and the North Sea which were navigable by early settlers.
Tamworth became famous courtesy of King Offa (he of the dyke fame) who was King of Mercia. He built a palace here and made it the capital of Mercia. However it was burnt to the ground by the Vikings in 874. It was rebuilt in 913 by the Aethelflaeda the daughter of King Alfred the Great. She is held in high esteem in the town even today and last year they celebrated the 1100th anniversary of her death in 918.
Over much of its life Tamworth was divided between Staffordshire and Warwickshire, with the boundary running right through the town and consequently the town having two of everything – magistrate, town hall etc. The town only became firmly part of Staffordshire in 1888.
The castle dates from the Norman invasion and stands on its original motte, being the second highest in the country after Windsor. It is believed that it was built on the site of a previous Saxon fortification. In the Civil War the castle was besieged by Parliamentary forces in 1643 and its destruction was ordered but never carried out, unlike Kenilworth and our own city walls. It stands today as a wonderful example of a mediaeval castle.
In 1345 Tamworth suffered a disastrous fire and much of the town was destroyed, but it was soon re-built, with new buildings being built on the foundations of the previous ones.
Tamworth suffered the fate of many towns and cities in the 20th Century, with the Council allowing the large scale destruction of historic buildings to create a “modern” town centre that is now looking rather sad. The town became an overspill area for Birmingham in the 1960s and several tower blocks were built to destroy the historic profile of the town.
We had a really interesting visit and tour of the town and we give our grateful thanks to the Tamworth and District Civic Society for this. We will be hosting a return visit in 2020.
There are more photos on our Flickr site