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 decay, but plans are in hand to plant a new tree when the time comes, and so maintain the line of Johnson’s Willow.
A leaflet issued by the Society, giving more information about the tree and how to find it, can be viewed (and printed off) here; copies are also available at the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum.
The Fourth Willow, August 2017 (photo © Stephen Brierley)