Mr Lomax on Bird Street
Occasionally you find a postcard that really gives you a vivid view of a familiar scene, and for me, this shot looking up Bird Street somewhere around 1902-4 has so many great qualities. Of chief interest is the shop of Lichfield printer, Lomax & Sons, which you can see on the corner of Bird Street and Market Street, with three gentlemen (possibly the staff?) crowded into the doorway.
The original Mr Lomax (Thomas George Lomax) set up his printing and bookselling business in a shop on Tamworth Street in 1809. However, he soon moved to the corner of Bird and Market Streets and – as a way of distinguishing his business – placed a bust of Dr Samuel Johnson above the door, which is still clearly visible in this postcard. In the parlance of an earlier century, Mr Lomax would refer to his shop as ‘at the sign of the Johnson’s head’. But he was doing more than just capitalising on Lichfield’s greatest literary asset – he was setting out his stall as an avid collector of Johnsonia and an authority on the great man’s works. If you go into Bird Street today, the bust has gone, but you can still see the mark on the wall where it used to hang (this post from Beacon Street Blog includes some photos of the spot in question).
Bird Street was, of course, always an important stopping-off place in Lichfield, where the coaching inns were located. It was therefore the perfect place for tourists to discover Mr Lomax’s shop, which, aside from books, sold guide books and woodcuts of the cathedral. Later, Mr Lomax diversified into engravings by London pulishers such as Rock & Co. and Cadell & Edwards. I’ve got a little 19th-century Rock & Co. booklet of views – The Queen’s Album of Lichfield – in my collection (see images below) which most probably came from Lomax’s shop on Bird Street (though it was bought in London!)
After his death in 1873, the shop was taken over by his youngest son, Alfred Charles Lomax. Gradually, prints were overtaken by photography – and photography’s greatest popular manifestation, the picture postcard – which found its place in Lomax’s shop. In June 1901, Alfred retired and moved from above the shop in Bird Street to No.14 Bore Street, and the business was taken over by Francis Henry Bull and Edward Wiseman, who traded as “Lomax’s Successors”. As this postcard seems to date from around this time of the takeover of the Lomax business, it’s a good bet that it was printed in-house and stocked on the premises.
Clayton, Howard, Mr Lomax’s Lichfield, Howard Clayton, Lichfield, 1991.
Hewitt, John, Handbook for the City of Lichfield and its Neighbourhood; Comprising A Sketch of the History, Antiquities and Present Aspect of the Locality; Illustrated by Engravings, Alfred Charles Lomax, Lichfield, 1874.