Sign o’ the times


Sign recently erected on the A461, Lichfield Road, Sandhills, just before the Barracks Lane junction. 4:10pm Wednesday, 26th January 2011.

I see the childish posturing and infantile one-upmmanship over the Staffordshire Hoard still continues. I’ve made my feelings known about the saga of the Saxon loot before, but today, I noticed that somebody – and I assume it’s Staffordshire or Lichfield Council – have decided to spend a load of cash on new signs, the one above on the Lichfield Road at Sandhills. Pointlessly puffing the treasure’s discovery, apparently ‘…in the parish of Hammerwich’. I can see no particular justification for this ostentation. In this case, new posts have been erected and the superfluous signage has been added underneath the county boundary sign. I presume there must be other such notices at other locations, and to be honest, they’re causing me some confusion.

I could understand the waste of money on such a project if either council concerned had any to waste – but with ongoing reductions in public services, neither authority has much cash to play with. I’m puzzled as to the intention; any local knows where Hammerwich is and where the loot was found, and that the two aren’t the same place; anyone else would surely have to look up more information, as the sign isn’t informative enough to direct one to the location of the find. This particularly white elephantine erection seems just to be for civic willy waving – there has been long running friction over the location of the treasure and which civic authority can truly claim to be playing host. Found just a few metres over the border in Staffordshire, Brownhills folk often assert the gold to be their own, yet Hammerwich seem keen to claim their stake, too; in the early days Lichfield made a play, but the media soon settled on Staffordshire. This seems right to most people as Brownhills used to be in the venerable county before the creation of the West Midlands. Books, articles and other ephemera have now been produced proclaiming the Staffordshire Hoard, as well as a successful touring exhibition. There’s still some low-level protest, which would be more convincing if Staffordshire hadn’t have had to go cap in hand to Birmingham for a major portion of the funds to secure their golden egg.

When I first passed this sign this morning, something troubled me, but I couldn’t put my finger on just what. It wasn’t until researching the matter tonight that I found out just what: the sign is wrong. If one checks the parish maps on the Church of England website, the field where the Hoard was found isn’t in the parish of Hammerwich; it’s in the parish of Brownhills. You’d have thought they’d have checked before shelling out on signage…

Arguably, of course, the find was made in the ancient area of Ogley Hay, the existence of which predates both Hammerwich, Brownhills and the Domesday Book – but Japanese tourists would have a hard job finding Ogley Hay on a map and as the erector of this inflammatory, apparently incorrect sign demonstrates, we should never let the truth get in the way of a bit of  publicity.


Screenshot of the parish map of Brownhills. Click for a larger version - the pink shaded area is the parish, the red line it's boundary.

A similar screenshot showing the parish of Hammerwich. Click for a larger version.

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13 Responses to Sign o’ the times

  1. Matt F says:

    This is the biggest miscarriage of justice ever, not that it will be rectified. We know it was found in the Parish of Brownhills, but nobody else does, or probably cares. It’s sad. Walsall Council really dropped the ball on that! They could have ceded that tiny little field back into the borough!

  2. Graham Evans says:

    Hi Bob,
    The field where the hoard was discovered lies in the ecclesiastical parish of Brownhills but the civil parish of Hammerwich so the signs are valid and I suppose understandable. Its rather surprising that with the nation’s love of alliterative titles the hoard hasn’t been officially named the ‘Hammerwich Hoard’. However, there is a wonderful example of misleading signage along the by-pass where one of the new ‘hoard’ signs is immediately followed by a ‘Burial Ground’ sign which is bound to be misinterpreted by many as the site where the hoard was found.
    All the best,

    • After quite a bit of research, I’m unable to find a map of the civil parish boundaries locally, and the OS pathfinder 1:25000 isn’t clear. Since civil and ecclesiastical parishes underwent a split a century more ago, this seems to make the whole question more bizarre.

      I don’t understand what the sign is hoping to achieve – and if you have to do heaps of research to find out exactly which type of parish they’re referring to, it seems on very dodgy ground. I’d love to know who paid out good money for this vanity project.

      I don’t think it’s understandable, in straitened times I find it bizarre. The Hoard seems to work well as the Staffordshire Hoard and in my opinion, it should stay like that. Staffordshire is a place I love, and bigging up the county can’t be a bad thing. Lovely as Hammerwich is, I can’t see what the claim actually is or what it means.

      The ‘Burial Ground’ sign for the new graveyard site is an interesting observation – Pedro Cutler (Panoramio poster extraordinaire) recently asked a very similar question upon seeing my ‘Rainy night in Chasetown’ photo (search the blog for ‘Night ride home’.

      I’ve no objection to cashing in on the popularity of the hoard, but we could do without the civic childishness, I think.

      Best wishes


  3. Rob says:

    Hi Bob

    I myself saw one of the new signs for the fist time the other day on Hospital Road in Burntwood.
    I thought the same as you, “what a waste of money” even though i live in Staffordshire and think its a great County to live in, i still shuck my head when i drove past, thinking how embarrassing.

    Think it could be Staffordshire County Council who errected the signs, but even then they are trying to prosper from the hoard to boost the local economy.


  4. The signs do seem a little over the top, especially as there isn’t much, if anything, to see when you visit the site.

    I recently took an American friend (whom I almost had to physically restrain from going out to buy a metal detector after she saw the hoard) to the exhibition at Birmingham Museum. All the money we spent on taxis, fish ‘n’ chips, etc went to Brummies, so it looks like Birmingham will receive the main economic benefit from treasure-tourists.

    Anyway, as long as they stop referring to the discovery as the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ hoard, I will be reasonably happy with the situation as it stands.

    • Stuart Davies says:

      The hoard is referred to as the Staffordshire Hoard, not the “Anglo-Saxon Hoard” …or are you trying to suggest that the hoard isn’t actually anglo-saxon in origin? ( I hope not)

  5. Linda says:

    I saw this sign when on the bus into Lichfield on Saturday and wondered if you had seen it. You have now!

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  7. Pedro says:

    Hi **Bob**

    As a matter of interest your readers may like to see pictures of the hoard in great detail here…

    All the best Pedro

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  11. Baggins says:

    A bit late in finding this thread….but as I had some knowledge of the area I looked at an OS 1″ map of the mid 1960’s to confirm that the hoard find was indeed in the Parish of Hammerwich. Unlike the ecclesiastical parish of Hammerwich which goes no further south than the old A5, the civil parish does. A rough description of the boundary of interest has it coming south from the A5 junction with Chase rd/Ogley rd and then follows the canal south for some distance before going south east to a point which is at the junction of Barracks Lane and the A461(Lichfield / Shire Oak rd). From this junction it stays east of the A461, over to Hilton and then back north to Muckley Corner to cross over to the north side of the A5. The OS map that this shows in is “Sheet 120 (Burton upon Trent) dated 1962!

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