The First Willow, c.1800 (© Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum)
One unusual – indeed, unique – part of Lichfield’s Johnsonian heritage, in which the Society takes a keen interest, is Johnson’s Willow. This famous tree, which stands beside Stowe Pool, owes its name to Samuel Johnson’s fondness for it. Near the tree was the parchment factory run by Johnson’s father; later in his life, Johnson often passed the Willow on his way to visit his friends the Aston sisters, who lived at the two large houses on Stowe Hill.
Although the original tree (shown above) blew down in 1829, its site has since been occupied by its descendants. Today, Johnson’s Willow is cared for by Lichfield District Council, in consultation with the Johnson Society. The current tree on the site, the Fourth Willow (shown below), is now suffering from severe decay, and will sadly have to be felled in October 2021. The Johnson Society has, however, been working closely with Lichfield District Council to safeguard the future of this most historic tree, and a new, Fifth Johnson’s Willow, grown from a cutting of its predecessor, will be planted on the same site beside Stowe Pool at a ceremony in November 2021.
A leaflet issued by the Society, giving more information about the tree and how to find it, can be viewed (and printed off) here.
The Fourth Willow, August 2017 (photo © Stephen Brierley)