Wednesday 8 September 2021

Barefoot Fox

 There are several plaques on the wall of St Mary's church in Lichfield, overlooking the market place. They commemorate various unfortunates burnt at the stake in that place under Mary and Elizabeth, and the last man to be burnt alive for heresy in England (1612). And then there's this one, commemorating George Fox's denunciation of Lichfield.
It's a curious tale, and seems to suggest that Fox, recently released from a spell in Derby jail (punishment for blasphemy), was somewhat out of his mind at the time. He and a band of followers, heading south from Derby, came upon Lichfield. Fox had to ask his friends what city this was, and, on hearing it was Lichfield, he immediately experienced a visitation from the Lord, who told him to remove his shoes. Even though it was a bitter cold day, Fox complied, handing his shoes to some bemused bystanders. Striding barefoot into the city, Fox was then instructed by the Lord to cry out, 'Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield!' And so he passed through the streets and the market place, vehemently denouncing this city of which he knew nothing. Fortunately the locals took it in good part, finding the spectacle more comic than threatening. 
Fox went on to found the Religious Society of Friends, and Lichfield experienced no particular woe as a result of his visit. 


  1. And Samuel Johnson stood bare-headed in the Lichfield marketplace as penance for the way he had treated his father. Is there a Lady Godiva connection also?

  2. Actually it was Uttoxeter market place, George, but it's commemorated with a relief on the base of Johnson's statue in Lichfield market place. An extraordinary act of penance either way, especially as he did it in the rain.