In the Market Square, at the very heart of the city of Lichfield, is St Mary`s Church – home of the Lichfield Heritage Centre. This church is in fact the fifth one on this site since the first was built in 1260, with the present building dating from 1868.
With the gradual decline of the city centre population from the 1930s onwards, this large church, built for a congregation of some 900 people, began to experience problems, and by the late 1970s it was obvious something had to be done urgently to save this ancient church from redundancy and possible demolition.
So, in 1978, a committee was formed to examine ways and means to save this historic building. This initiative resulted in an imaginative plan envisaging a Community Centre, run mainly by volunteers, which would be an independent Registered Charity and financially self-supporting. It would have five sections: a Social Centre for Senior Citizens; a Heritage Exhibition and Treasury; a Gift Shop; a Coffee Shop; and the original Dyott Chapel and Chancel retained in a smaller area of the building. It was thought to maintain the Chapel of Ease as the Parish Church of St Mary, to ensure continuing worship here for the future. This ambitious plan caught the imagination of the city, £333,000 was raised and the Centre was opened by The Earl of Lichfield in 1981.
It has since grown from strength to strength in all sections, with the Parish Church of St Mary still functioning as it has done for centuries. The Lichfield Heritage Centre has become a major Lichfield and Staffordshire tourist attraction, being visited by people from all over the world. In addition, the excellent teaching and educational facilities have proved to be of great appeal and benefit to local schools and children.
The most recent refurbishment, opened in November 2002 by our Patron Mr James Hawley TD, HM Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, made it better than ever and increased visitor numbers. The addition of the Staffordshire Millennium Embroidery Gallery, proved to be a major significance in the increased number of satisfied and complimentary visitors. Together with the exhibition and collections, made a visit to our unique and inspiring centre a most memorable and rewarding experience for all ages.
In 2013, we joined forces with the local Tourist Information Centre to develop the centre as a city wide Visitor Centre, creating a dynamic and exciting venue for visitors and residents alike. As we continue to grow as a Visitor Centre and focal city centre location, we look forward to a new era as we bid for a £1.2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We plan to transform the 1970s interior into a 21st century hub, creating a welcoming space for visitors and residents to use the modern facilities and opening up the historic features of the old church.