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The development of the city was consolidated in the 12th century under Bishop Clinton who fortified the Cathedral Close, and also laid out the town with the ladder-shaped street pattern that survives to this day. Lichfield’s heyday was in the 18th century when it developed into a thriving coaching city.
Today, the city still retains its old importance as an ecclesiastical centre, and its industrial and commercial development has been limited. The centre of the city retains an unspoilt charm with over 230 listed buildings in its historic streets, fine Georgian architecture and old cultural traditions.
The early history of Lichfield is obscure. The first authentic record of Lichfield occurs in Bede’s history, where it is called Licidfelth and mentioned as the place where St Chad fixed the episcopal see of the Mercians in 669. The first Christian king of Mercia, King Wulfhere donated land at Lichfield for Chad to build a monastery. It was because of this that the ecclesiastical centre of the Diocese of Mercia became settled at Lichfield, which was approximately 7 miles (11 km) north-west of the seat of the Mercian kings at Tamworth.
Henry VIII had a dramatic effect on Lichfield. The Reformation brought the disappearance of pilgrim traffic following the destruction of St Chad’s shrine in 1538 which was a major loss to the city’s economic prosperity. That year too the Franciscan Friary was dissolved, the site becoming a private estate. Further economic decline followed the outbreak of plague in 1593, which resulted in the death of over a third of the entire population.
The arrival of the Industrial Revolution and the railways in 1837 signalled the end of Lichfield’s position as an important staging post for coaching traffic. Whilst the industrial development at nearby Birmingham exploded, along with its population, Lichfield remained largely unchanged in character.