As the centre of the historic kingdom of Mercia, Staffordshire boasts exceptional treasures of early English history, such as Lichfield Cathedral and Tamworth Castle. Indeed, in a field near Lichfield, one of the most important collections of early English objects, the Staffordshire Hoard, was discovered.
However Staffordshire is also home to stately medieval ruins and Elizabethan architecture, an iconic hilltop folly and Britain’s largest remaining colliery site. From the ancient Roman fortress then known as Letocetum to the outstanding country estate of Shugborough Hall, explore 10 of the best historic sites in Staffordshire.
1. Blore Heath
Blore Heath was the site of the second battle of what became known as the Wars of the Roses. Today the battle site at Blore Heath has been enclosed and preserved.
The Battle of Blore Heath was the second battle of the Wars of the Roses and at that point its bloodiest. Over 3,000 men died fighting in these fields on a cold, late September afternoon, 560 years ago. Local legend has it that the streams and watercourses around the area ran red with blood for three days following the battle.
2. Tutbury Castle
Tutbury Castle is an imposing medieval site in Staffordshire which had one very famous prisoner: Mary Queen of Scots. Though its history is said to date to the 11th century, most of the ruins of Tutbury Castle seen today originate from the 14th and 15th centuries, under the remit of the Lancastrian kings such as Henry IV and Henry VI.
Tutbury Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and open to visitors. Some of the castle’s indoor rooms are furnished with original 16th and 17th century furniture and a large fireplace. There is also a civil war ruin of towering ramparts.
3. Tamworth Castle
Tamworth Castle is a Grade I listed Norman castle in Staffordshire, England, which overlooks the mouth of the River Anker into the River Tame. Tamworth was once the main residence of the Mercian king Offa, who built a palace on the site of the castle in the 8th century.
The current motte-and-bailey castle dates from the 11th century. Over the succeeding centuries, a keep, gate tower and additional structures were built. The castle was captured by Parliament following a siege in the English Civil War. It was eventually bought at auction by Tamworth Corporation, and opened as a museum in 1899.
4. Wall Roman Site
The Wall Roman Site in Staffordshire houses the remains of what was a Roman military staging post, essentially an inn or “mansio” along the ancient route towards north Wales.
The Romans came to what was then known as Letocetum in 50 AD to establish a fortress during the early years of the Roman invasion of Britain. As the land could not support large numbers of soldiers, Letocetum’s position at an important cross-roads enabled it to become a convenient stop and large scale posting station along this important Roman military road.
The Wall Roman Site is one of only a small number of sites in the UK which are under the guardianship of both management by English Heritage and ownership by the National Trust. An on-site museum (Letocetum Roman Baths Site and Museum) displaying excavated finds from the Wall Roman Site and offering an insight into life here in Roman times.
5. Lichfield Cathedral
Lichfield Cathedral is located in Lichfield, Staffordshire and was originally founded by the Bishop Headda in 700 upon the shrine of St Chad, the former Bishop of Mercia. Lichfield Cathedral is the only medieval English cathedral with three spires.
The cathedral was used as a fortress between 1643-1646, during which time it was besieged three times by Royalist and Parliamentary forces. In 2021, it became the first place of worship in England to accommodate the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Lichfield Cathedral is home to the Lichfield Gospels, on display in the Chapter House, which date to around 730 AD, and a sculpted panel known as the Lichfield Angel.
6. Chatterley Whitfield Colliery
The disused coal mine of Chatterley Whitfield Colliery was once a significant source of coal in the United Kingdom, but is today a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The colliery is Britain’s largest remaining colliery site and is today accompanied by a Heritage Centre maintained by the Friends of Chatterley Whitfield. Heritage Open Days open to the general public usually take place in September.
7. Shugborough Hall
Shugborough Hall is a country house in Staffordshire owned by the National Trust. The estate was owned by the Bishops of Lichfield until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. By the late 18th century it was in the hands of brothers Thomas and George Anson, who expressed their fortune by developing the estate into an outstanding Rococo landscape, featuring an ornamental lake, bridges and various monuments.
They enrolled the talents of architect Thomas Wright, whose first creation was a Chinese house informed by sketches of garden architecture in Guangzhou. The hall, museum, garden and model farm at Shugborough Hall are open to the public. The Estate’s collection includes the 4th Early of Lichfield’s Rover 75, paintings of the Shugborough landscape by Nicholas Dall and the remains of the figure head of HMS Centurion, the ship on which George Anson sailed.
8. Mow Cop Castle
Rising above the Staffordshire moorlands and the Cheshire Plain are the remains of a grand, fortified tower. Or rather, that is what Randle Wilbraham tried to emulate when he built his elaborate summerhouse above the village of Mow Cop in 1754.
Although there is evidence of Iron Age occupation around Mow Cop, Wilbraham’s folly is a purely fantastical construction built for his own amusement. Visible for miles away, the tower is a landmark set upon the boundary between Cheshire and Staffordshire.
9. The Ancient High House
Located on Stafford’s main street, the Elizabethan town house known as the Ancient High House once dominated Staffordshire’s county town. Built in 1595 by the Dorrington family, the house is one of the finest Tudor buildings in the country, and the largest Elizabethan town house which is timber framed.
Shortly after raising the Royal Standard at Nottingham, calling his loyal subjects to arms at the beginning of the English Civil War, Charles I visited Stafford and stayed at the Ancient High House. The building functions as a historic house museum with a collection of period furnishings as well as exhibitions. It’s accompanied on Stafford’s main street by the originally Elizabethan Shaw’s House.
10. Stafford Castle
Two miles from stafford lie the ruins of the Norman Stafford Castle, formerly the seat of the powerful feudal barons of Stafford. During the English Civil War it served the Royalists as Lady Isabel Stafford’s stronghold, a role which resulted in the Parliament-ordered demolition of its 14th-century stone keep following the Royalist defeat.
A Gothic Revival remodel in the 19th century incorporated the castle’s original stonework, though the rebuilding was discontinued for lack of funds. Today the remains of Stafford Castle are a major landmark open to the public, while a visitor centre contains artefacts from archaeological excavations at the site.