22nd November:

Message from our Secretary - reporting on the 16th November talk:

For those of you who do your shopping at Aldi in Gainsborough, next time you go with your list think of the inmates who used to dwell on this site back in the 19th Century because this is where Gainsborough Workhouse was situated, on Lea Road almost opposite to B&Q. There is a brick pillar with a plaque put in place by the Gainsborough Delvers situated to the left of the entrance as you drive in, the only remains left of the workhouse complex.   Last Wednesday evening Nick Laurie of Beckingham presented an illustrated talk on the Workhouse which not only contained interesting facts, but also had a bit of gossip and mystery contained within it too. Initially Nick gave us a short run-down of his family and their working connections with the workhouse, having pored over hundred of documents and letters kept at the National Archives at Kew.

During the 19th Century the government amended the Poor Law legislation in order to cut the amount of outdoor relief given to the poor, for example helping the poor with their rent, or other goods such as clothes or food. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act made provision for a type of indoor relief which was known as the Workhouse and this was greatly feared by the poor. Families would be split up and living in the workhouse would be like living in a prison.  Nick's talk described very clearly what life was like for the poor and those who had to fall back onto the workhouse of their parish

So what did 'Workhouse' mean?  They were institutions where poor people who had no job or home lived. These people earned their keep by doing jobs in the workhouse.   Also in the workhouses were orphaned and abandoned children; the physically and mentally sick; the disabled; the elderly and unmarried mothers.  Work consisted of oakum-picking, stone-breaking, bone-crushing, sack-making or driving the corn mill. Oakum is old rope, sometimes tarred or knotted. These ropes had to be unpicked inch by inch and a day's work would be to unravel 3 lbs of rope. The corn mill was driven by inmates walking round on a tread-wheel.  Women had to do domestic work: scrubbing floors that were already clean, polishing brasses, scrubbing table tops, black-leading kitchen ranges etc.

On admission, an inmate's clothes were removed and stored. She/he was searched, washed, had his/her hair cropped and was given workhouse clothing. This consisted of for a woman: a shapeless, waist-less dress which reached the ankles made of striped (convict-style) fabric, a shapeless shift, long stockings and knee-length drawers. She also was given a poke-bonnet. A man was given a striped shirt, ill-fitting trousers (the length being adjusted at the knee with a piece of string), thick vest, woollen drawers and socks, a neckerchief and (in winter) a coarse jacket. Children were similarly dressed.  All the inmates were given hob-nailed boots.   Meals were dull, predictable and tasteless. Often the quantity, quality and lack of nutrition meant that workhouse inmates were on a slow starvation diet.  It certainly wasn't a holiday camp and by being incarcerated in this establishment you were made to pay for whatever reason you had fallen on bad times.  Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh, to deter the able-bodied poor and to ensure that only the truly destitute would apply.

The initial slide on Wednesday evening,  showing the Gainsborough building and dated 1730, was the actual forerunner of the workhouse which was called The Poor House and this  was situated in Church Street and it was built around a square and closed off from the street by a high wall.   The Master and Matron who ran the establishment lived in the first block which also housed a dining room and kitchen.   Several more slides  of other workhouse scenes were shown - workers in a laundry; a stone breaker and oakum picking. 

Then in 1837 the Poor Law Commissioners authorised expenditure of £3,500 for the construction of a new building on Lea Road which was intended to house up to 200 inmates.  This building was designed by George Wilkinson from Oxfordshire who was also the architect for other workhouses although only this one in Lincolnshire.  The design shown was certainly not as forbidding as past buildings.  The establishment was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians - 47 to represent the 45 parishes of which Sturton by Stow and Bransby were included.  The Clerk to the Gainsborough Workhouse kept excellent records which has helped put together a good picture of life for these inmates.  Among this information were details of the Masters and Matrons who kept order; names of he Schoolteachers; names of Porters and how often the Medical Officer visited and why.  Payments by ratepayers and relatives who could afford to contribute to the upkeep of an inmate were all recorded.

Food was obviously regarded more kindly at a later date because there is an entry of a food order dated 1861 - Beef without bone; Mutton - leg, neck and shoulder; Raw sugar; Treacle; Tea; Rice and then by 1886 items listed include - Golden Syrup, Mustard and Scotch Whiskey!!  

Initially inmates were allowed out one day a month but required to return by 7pm in the summer and 5pm in the winter.  After 1860 these rule were relaxed and inmates had more opportunities to attend outside events.  Included in these was the possibility of watching Gainsborough Trinity football matches and joining Marshall's of Gainsborough works day trip to Skegness.

In 1916 the 33rd Squadron of the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) was established in Gainsborough to help in the detection and destruction of zeppelins crossing the North Sea and the ground crews were billeted in the Workhouse.   Then in 1929 legislation was passed to allow local authorities to take over workhouse infirmaries as municipal hospitals and eventually workhouses were formally abolished by the same legislation in 1930.

After 1930, the workhouse became a Public Assistance Institution and later a residential home under the name of Oakdene. 

22nd October:

Message from our Secretary - reporting on the 19th October talk:

'Mike's military career began in 1974; at the age of 21 he enlisted in the RAF and has since served on operations in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. He concluded his operational flying career on 51 Squadron RAF Waddington flying the Nimrod R1 which was retired from service in June 2011 with Mike at the controls.   Having amassed over 450 hours as a pilot with the Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight during the 90's Mike continues to enjoy sitting at the controls of his favourite aircraft type because he is part of a small but dedicated team of people that keep NX611 – “Just Jane” in the public eye at East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre.   Passion for aviation has run through the Chatterton family for generations. Mike’s father John Chatterton served as a Lancaster pilot during WWII and flew during this period from the East Kirkby airfield and Mike will involve stories of his father's exploits with the Lancasters in his talk.'

   City of Lincoln - Lancaster    City of Lincoln - 747 meets City of Lincoln Lanc

Well the above was evident throughout Mike's talk but the enthusiasm, passion and family loyalty and devotion was also very much in evidence.  Through a superb selection of slides and thrilling videos we were taken into Mike's aviation world.  From daring flights - a little off the radar for the authorities sometimes, to 'lump in the throat' reminiscences of his father, here was a man who has made his long-term ambitions happen and was now imparting the expeditions and thrills with us. 

I am sure all of us love the sound of those Merlin engines of the Lancaster as she passes over the town and countryside and the evening opened with these deep reassuring beats reverberating around the village hall - a true passion of Mike's waiting for him to fulfill as he rose through the ranks of the RAF - starting with the love of aircraft taken from his father who flew Lancasters in the war, through the ATC, into Cranwell for officer training; taking on Shackletons, Nimrods; flying in the The Falklands War, Gulf War I and II.  His talk centred around his 'ambitions' and these were his steps throughout his working life.  An ambition held from a young age when he used to attend air shows with his father - for once the family harvest time was put on the back boiler to attend the long-awaited air show - and that was to fly an aircraft at a show.  A slightly less glamorous start was the first air show which was a static display but things got better and the icing on the cake was to take the BBMF Lancaster on its glorious trips around the UK for special events.

Our Lancaster's busy year begins in March with it being in the air every weekend until around the end of October, attending hundreds of venues.  We were entertained by films of the Lancaster in operation with Mike at the helm and  perhaps the most poignant, particularly as we approach Remembrance Sunday, was the VJ Day commemorative day in August 1995 when the Lancaster broke the 2 minute silence by flying down the Mall and dropping 1 million poppies through its bomb doors.  The background information we were given about how these poppies arrived in boxes from the  British Legion factory  and had to be transferred into plastic bags and then pushed through the inspection hatch and then into the bomb bay was actually very entertaining but not for the poor man who had to actually carry this out.  This feat had not been attempted before so when they hatch was opened for the poppies to fall silently to the ground the crew held their collective breath - but all was well as we saw on the film.

An officially approved fly past over his parents farm at Low Toynton for their 50th wedding anniversary was another achievement.  Then also replicating the piece from the 1960's film of the Dambusters and the approach to the Derwent reservoir in memory of a well respected friend and colleague was another exciting piece of film for us to appreciate.  Such wonderful memories of nine happy years flying with the Lancaster.  But this was not the end, Mike moved on to 'Just Jane' the Lancaster which is lovingly held at East Kirkby Heritage Centre by the Panton brothers in memory of their brother who was lost in the war on 31st March 1944 on the Nurembourg run. The heritage centre is definitely  somewhere well worth visiting - and coincidentally, or perhaps not, this is the airfield where Mike's father would take off in his Lancaster when flying during the war.

I am sure you all know that Just Jane performs taxi runs and another film showed Mike and his colleague managing to get the tail of the aircraft 'up' for a documentary film for the BBC.

There was so much more information within Mike's talk which I honestly haven't got time to impart but I shall end with Mike's last day of his service with the RAF where he marched down the steps at the Royal Albert Hall at the Festival of Remembrance in 2013, a very proud and happy man and made even happier by meeting at that time, the famous  Johnny Johnson the Dambuster pilot. However with flying being in his skin Mike cannot simply 'be' he now passes on his passion and enthusiasm for flight to air cadets and enjoys taking his 1933 Tiger Moth up at RAF Wickenby.            Thank you Mike for sharing parts of your life with us.

10th October:

Message from our Secretary - reporting on the 21st September talk:

Now looking back to Mavis and her usual informative and amusing content last month.  As promised, she regaled us with details of Lincolnshire farming supplemented with her own childhood experiences on the farm.  Her father was head stockman in North Carlton from 1946 and continued to live in the village until 2008.  Mavis said that although the work was hard and living conditions were very basic at that time, she has some very happy memories of growing up in North Carlton.  Even at that time most of the work was carried out by hand with only small pieces of machinery to help the men - horse drawn ploughs, chaff cutters and steam engines being the main items used.

In-between amusing farming anecdotes and stories, she slipped in really informative pieces - 1901 60,00 people were employed in Farming in Lincolnshire; 1971  this number had decreased to 35,000 and in 2002 it had dropped to 17,000 and now it is c. 15,000. Interestingly, something I didn't know - and there's lots I don't know and probably never will - In 1908 9 farmers from Lincolnshire started the NFU.

The Romans were given the credit of initially draining the land to commence food production.  They also brought in canalisation to transport goods including food around the county.  Sir Joseph Banks in the 18th Century encouraged the Dutch engineers to drain more land to increase food production. However the people of the Isle of Axholme in the north of the county were resentful of the Dutch for draining their land but the Dutch were around for a while as we see from their architectural legacy in some of the houses - Dutch Gables - particularly around the Fens.  And, as we all know, the county continues to be referred to as 'the Bread Basket of England'.

We were told that four animals are unique to our county - 

Lincoln Red Shorthorn (in 1926 this was the second largest breed in the UK and Arthur Dennett of Dennetts Ice Cream fame, started his business because the Lincoln Red produced so much milk!  The 'Shorthorn' part of the name was dropped in 1960

The Curly Coated Pig which sadly became extinct in 1972.

The Lincolnshire Buff - quite a complicated history of this specimen of poultry.

And, of course, the Lincolnshire Longwool - Initially these sheep would constantly fall over because they were so heavy with their fleece and dogs were trained to pick them up.  In the 18th Century there is a record of 29lbs of fleece from one sheep.  Amazing! 

Moving on to Spalding which is where we still think of as the Tulip and Daffodil area of the country although I heard on the news this week that Spalding is now claiming to be the pumpkin capital of Britain because it is the home of the country's biggest producer. David Bowman grows two million a year, starting over 30 years ago and now supplies all the major supermarkets. However back in 1932 Geest were producing 500 boxes of daffodils a day and a year later this had increased to a massive 2,500 boxes a day from 7,500 acres of flower-filled fields!  Most of us will remember the Tulip Parades but sadly these are now just memories as are the acres of flowers and I understand there is a Pumpkin Parade instead - nice and bright orange but ......... not a patch on flowers really. 

Mavis closed her talk with the details of our county's connection with The Archers - the world's longest running radio soap which has been aired since 1951 after a pilot programme in 1950.  Archers fans will tell you that the home of 'The Archers' is Inkberrow in Worcestershire, which over the years it has become, but where did it all start - where is the birthplace? Although well documented few people know that the original inspiration came from Rippingale in Lincolnshire.  After the Second World War the government was worried that farmers were not receiving the thanks they deserved after helping to keep everything running during the terrible times.  So the show was originally established to educate farmers and thus increase food production after the war, The Archers rapidly became a major source of entertainment for urban as well as rural audiences, attracting nine million listeners by 1953.  The pilot series was created by Godfrey Baseley and subsequently edited by him for 22 years. Godfrey Baseley got the idea for the radio show from a Rippingale farmer, Henry Burtt, who had given him an insight into rural life in the Lincolnshire village – which also has a pub named The Bull Inn.   After meeting Henry Burtt at the Nottingham County Show in 1946, Mr Baseley travelled to Rippingale and recorded an edition of the programme. Today although Rippingale advertise their village as being the start of the famous series their claim appears to have passed the BBC by as the corporation regularly uses Inkberrow and neighbouring Hanbury for its publicity shoots, with the BBC’s Countryfile magazine taking a tour of Worcestershire for the show’s 60th anniversary under the headline “Discovering Archers’ Country”.  A county war?   Perhaps not; the residents of Rippingale probably wouldn't want hordes of sightseers driving through the village anyway! 

There you are - a full and varied talk by Mavis interspersed with her usual humour, excellent artefacts to share as well as relevant photographs.  Many thanks to Mavis again.

7th September:   Stow Cemetery remembering Nurse Agatha Joan Credland..............

Reported by BBC Radio Lincolnshire, the Lincolnshire Echo, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, and WW2.

2nd September:

Press Release:

Nurse Agatha Joan Credland is listed on Sturton by Stow’s war memorial and also on a plaque in Stow Church.  She was killed during the Blitz in London in WW2 and her body lies in an unmarked grave in Stow cemetery.  The Chair of the local history group, Clive Thompson, decided almost two years ago, to look into this and see whether Nurse Agatha’s grave could be found. 

After long research by a history group member and members of Stow Parish Council, the grave was discovered and then plans were made to dedicate a headstone in memory of Nurse Agatha.

Dedication Ceremony:   Arrangements have been made to provide a headstone and this will be dedicated at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday the 7th September 2016, the 76th anniversary of her death.

The headstone will be laid in place by Draper Memorials during week commencing 29th August 2016, with positioning help from Stow Parish Councillor Charles Hewitt.

Rev Dr. Helen Hooley of Saxilby Methodist Church will take the dedication service and the service will be attended by Credland family descendants from around the country.  Mr Chris Turner, master bell ringer for Stow church, has arranged for a muffled peel of Stow Church bells at 11.00 a.m.

Following the ceremony family descendants will visit Stow Church to view the war memorial plaque.


In 2014 Historian Terry Marker of Sturton-by-Stow researched all those listed on our WW1 & WW2 memorials.   His work identified “one” unmarked resting place.

Consulting old parish plans Charles Hewitt and David Justham located the exact position of Nurse Credland’s grave.

The project is funded by the West Lindsey District Council’s “Councillor Initiative fund” supported by District Councillor Reg Shore.

Rev Dr. Helen Hooley and the Methodist Church waived service fees.

Stow Parish Council waived Stow grave-yard fees.

Mrs. Rita Willford, Nurse Agatha’s niece, helped choose and specify the headstone.

Chris Turner has waived any fees for ringing Stow Church Bells.

Stow Church Warden Alan Marshall has made chairs available on the day.

Draper Memorials have reduced their headstone price.

16th August:

It is with deepest regret we have to advise of the very sad death of our dear President, Linda Crust.  Linda was our society's president from the start of our group almost six years ago and was a most avid supporter but more importantly, our friend.  

We offer our condolences to Linda's family.

30th June

Message from our Secretary:

As has been the case for the past five years, Linda's summer talk was full of superb information, humour from the stories gathered from her friends and family which added colour to the characters she spoke about, as well as an indulgence in reminiscence.  Lincolnshire Poets could summon up the possibility of a dry and dull evening, however with Linda being the raconteur this was far from the truth.  You certainly didn't have to be a lover of poetry to enjoy the evening because with the added little anecdotes and snippets of 'gossip' supplied you were drawn into the lives of the people as if you had known them personally.

Linda's definition of a Lincolnshire Poet is to include anyone who was born in the county, died in the county, enjoyed a holiday here or went to school here.  She actually covered 17 poets, some well known nationally, others well known within the village and some who were totally unknown to most of us.

I won't write about all seventeen but I have picked out those personages I think will appeal to the majority of you.

Robert Manning - Born c.1264/died c.1338 was a Gilbertine monk from Lincolnshire whose early English verse writings make him a notable forerunner of Chaucer. Some people refer to him as the Father of English because he wrote in English when the language of the country at that time was Norman French.  He was the founder of the only English Order of Monks and Nuns (the Nuns were kept separate) - The ilbertines.  The Bourne Academy in the town of Bourne used to be known as the Robert Manning Technology College.

Muriel Andrew - A well known name for long-time residents in the village and surrounding area.   Linda described Miss Andrew as a very intelligent, 'proper' lady who was very involved with the community and also wrote copious poems during her lifetime.  She was captain of the Sturton Guides during the Second World War.  Three photographs accompanied Linda's reading of one of the poems - 'Sturton Ploughing Match and Show in 1931'.

Herbert Gurnhill (a relative of Linda's) - When Herbert was 13 he became a cook boy on a living van for the steam ploughs owned by his uncle, John Bradshaw. Apparently Herbert never learnt to cook and therefore never needed a recipe book because he decided there was plenty of food in the fields!  He would catch and kill a rabbit, cut it up and pop it into the pot on the fire.  However he didn't write romantic poems describing his days helping out in the fields until well into his 70's and only then because he became bored through not working.
 A booklet was published by Beltons who were at that time in Gainsborough which contained poems describing Herbert's exploits as a cook boy - not romantic by any means - ...'the table cloth was black and white, it was the Echo of last night!' 

Charles Wesley - We have all heard of the Wesleys from Epworth and Charles was the musical one being most widely known for writing more than 5,500 hymns - roughly 10 lines of verse every day for 50 years! He was also  known as the leader of the Methodist Movement.   His brother John later became the leader of the Methodist church although they had both been ordained into the Church of
England.  Linda told us/reminded us that one of Charles' best known hymns is 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing'- a Lincolnshire connection indeed!

Sir John Betjeman CBE -   an English poet, writer, and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack". He was Poet Laureate from 1972 until his death in 1984.   A man who was very knowledgeable, fond of architecture and  who was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture.  His statue stands in St. Pancras station to commemorate the stand he took to save the station from being demolished.  One of his poems was entitled -'A Lincolnshire Tale' –   Actual Lincolnshire village names not used but they could actually be those names we associate with our county's village because they have that 'sound' - a witty poem with touches of reality, painting a picture - 

Kirkby with Muckby-cum-Sparrowby-cum-Spinx

Is down a long lane in the county of Lincs,

And often on Wednesdays, well-harnessed and spruce,

I would drive into Wiss over Winderby Sluice. 

A whacking great sunset bathed level and drain

From Kirkby with Muckby to Beckby-on-Bain,

And I saw, as I journeyed, my marketing done

Old Caistorby tower take the last of the sun.


The night air grew nippy.  An autumn mist roll’d

(In a scent of dead cabbages) down from the wold,

In the ocean of silence that flooded me round

The crunch of the wheels was a comforting sound......./


'A Lincolnshire Church' - is a poem in which Betjeman describes a visit to St Margaret’s in Huttoft where he was surprised to meet its Indian vicar, the Reverend Theophilus Caleb:

Greyly tremendous the thunder

Hung over the width of the wold

But here the green marsh was alight

In a huge cloud cavern of gold,

And there, on a gentle eminence,

Topping some ash trees, a tower

Silver and brown in the sunlight,

Worn by sea-wind and shower,

Lincolnshire Middle Pointed.

And around it, turning their backs,

The usual sprinkle of villas;

The usual woman in slacks,

Cigarette in her mouth,

Regretting Americans, stands

As a wireless croons in the kitchen

Manicuring her hands.

Dear old, bloody old England

Of telegraph poles and tin,

Seemingly so indifferent

And with so little soul to win. ......................./


(As you can tell, I do enjoy Betjeman's poetry!)

We cannot miss out - 

Alfred Lord Tennyson - another household name throughout the county and country, in fact as Linda described him, the giant of Lincolnshire Poets, spanning the 19th Century - born 1809 and died in 1892.  Linda reminded us that Alfred was the product of a strange family.  His father, Reverend George Clayton Tennyson was as an alcoholic and drug addict and suffered with depression - the 'black dog 'which also affected Alfred and some of his siblings.  Although he left Lincolnshire whilst in his 20's he returned for regular holidays and wrote many poems with Lincolnshire connections - 'Come into the Garden Maud' being one. Linda then read out part of one of Tennyson's poems which he had written in the Lincolnshire dialect -  'The Spinsters Sweet Arts'

Milk for my sweet-arts, Bess! fur it mun be the time about now

When dolly cooms in fro’ the far-end close wi’ her paäils fro’ the cow.

Eh! tha be new to the plaäce—thou’rt gaäpin’—doesn’t tha see

I calls ’em arter the fellers es once was sweet upo’ me?


Naäy to be sewer it be past ’er time. What maäkes ’er sa laäte?

Goa to the laäne at the back, an’ looök thruf Maddison’s gaäte!

Have fun translating!

Jean Ingelow of Boston, a daughter of a banker and who has been called the Queen of Victorian verse.  She wrote children's books which immensely successful but she was best known locally for her poem 'High Tide 1571' - this is an imaginary high tide so that non-one could argue over the details contained within - 

THE OLD mayor climb’d the belfry tower,

  The ringers ran by two, by three;

“Pull, if ye never pull’d before;

  Good ringers, pull your best,” quoth he.

“Play uppe, play uppe, O Boston bells!        

Ply all your changes, all your swells,

  Play uppe, ‘The Brides of Enderby.’

Finally for my last poet I have chosen John Gillespie Magee - Jr. (9 June 1922 – 11 December 1941) who was an aviator and poet, made famous for his poem ' High Flight',his heartfelt description of the joys of flying an aeroplane.  Magee served in the Royal Canadian Air Force which he joined before the United States entered the war; he died in a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire in 1941.  John Magee is
buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Scopwick which I visited a few years ago before I knew anything about him or his poetry.

On carrying out a little research since Linda's talk I have found that High Flight is one of the world's best-known poems and loved  by aviators, astronauts and politicians.   President Ronald Reagan quoted from it in his broadcast to the nation following the Challenger shuttle disaster.   It has also been used as a recruiting tool by the US Air Force.

I shall sign off now with the poem by John Gillespie Magee -

 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - Wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there

I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark or even eagle flew --

And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Thank Linda for another wonderful evening. 


29th May

Our Secretary reports on 18th May talk:

Peter Robinson is by now familiar with our group having given a Talk last year on Grimsby and the Fishing Industry so he rapidly got into his stride on the night with - Lincoln's Engineering Industries during WW11, in particular referring to Ruston Bucyrus, a company well known amongst a lot of the audience of the evening.  Peter has written four books on this company, all still available for sale.

Ruston Bucyrus Limited or RB as it became known on later years, was the UK's premier Excavator manufacturer and a major employer of the city, having been established in 1930.  Initially the company was jointly owned by Ruston & Hornsby also based in Lincoln, and Bucyrus-Erie based in Bucyrus, Ohio, the latter of which had operational control and into which the excavator manufacturing operation of Ruston and Hornsby was transferred. The Bucyrus company proper, from which the Bucyrus component of the Ruston-Bucyrus name was created, was an American company founded in 1880, in Bucyrus, Ohio. 


As a speaker Peter has the ability to keep everyone entertained, not simply because he holds a mountain of information in his head about his specialist subjects but he cleverly brings in amusing stories, all connected with his talk but stories which give you something else to think about other than the topic under discussion.  Slides of excellent quality accompany the information as well, many of these slides having been saved by Peter from destruction when RB closed.

His first amusing ditty was about a lady called Margery, who is currently a member of the Lincoln Engineering Society, and back in her working days was an overhead crane driver for Ruston Bucyrus.  Now if you have seen these type of overhead cranes working you will know that the driver has a superior position of seeing everything on the factory floor and in this particular instance, also on thefloor of the manager's office which was a tall construction built so the manager could keep an eye on his workers down below but he was well away from the eyes of the workers on the floor.  Well apparently one day Margery saw quite a lot happening on the floor of the office - need I say more??

But on his first serious note, Peter looked at the importance of Lincoln's industries during WW11 and what was produced in the city during that time.   The difference between production during WW11 and that in WW1 was that peace-time products were abandoned and the whole of the engineering industry turned their attention to producing items specifically for the war effort.  To this end Peter made us aware that excavator tractors were in the forefront of the action.  Excellent photographs showed their presence on the front line.
 Photographs which I don't think many of the audience had seen before and I think it is safe to say that not many people realised the machines were used to such an extent.  They were also used to help clear ways through the rubble and destruction so troops could move through towns.

However prior to the war a quote from a report to the company of a then member of the Export Sales Department of Ruston Bucyrus who was visiting Germany was read out - 'Altogether it was the finest trip I ever had.  The English people seem extensively popular in Germany and although we saw thousands of Nazi uniforms we encountered no problems'.  I expect that person had hoped this particular report had been lost by the time September 1939 arrived!

In 1936 the Hindenburg airship flew over Lincoln and Bill Barnes, the then Export Sales Manager spotted it so he got into his car and drove to Newark Road and photographed it.  What he wouldn't realise at the time, was that the personnel on the Hindenburg were photographing him!  Germany was prepared for war and England was not.

Peter then moved on to various photographs of companies, names of which are all familiar but long since gone.  Ruston & Hornsby; a photo of the Pelham Road entrance on Sincil Drain taken in 1856.  The very interesting fact Peter pointed out was that the factory is still there but the building has been covered over in corrugated iron to 'modernise' its appearance.  Siemens, which had been Alstrom which had been Ruston Gas Turbines (RGT) had received the same kind of 'face-lift'; the factory is still there, as it was in 1856, underneath its outer shell.   The history of the industry is still all around us as long as you know where to look!

Robeys - Photographs to remind us about this company situated on Canwick Road.  Robeys was an important employer in Lincoln, employing 114 men by 1865.  By 1868 the firm was known as Robey & Co Ltd.  The Perseverance Ironworks was enlarged in 1871 and covered a total area along Canwick Road of seven acres.   Another company with an interesting and long history, the facade of the old factory is still in place, with Jacksons now situated in the area.  During the war Robeys essentially produced big guns, having huge shop floors to manufacturer these on.  The company was initially an agricultural implement and boiler maker.  In 1854 Robey & Scott had built the first iron framed threshing machine and in 1861 the firm produced its first portable steam engine, then moving on to traction engines. They also made steam engines for industry and railways and steam wagons for the road.

Boultham Works:  We have all seen the building off Tritton Road (see above) when driving to and from the various shopping centres situated along its length.  This building was specifically designed for aircraft production between 1915 & 1916.   However during WW11 small diesel locomotives were produced here significantly for haulage purposes but one particular role they were used for was working in deep mines.  When war came along all munitions were stored underground so flame-proof locomotives were required to work underground moving the munitions around.  You can see one of these engines in the Lincolnshire Life Museum on Burton Road.  This building is the only factory standing in its original format.

The unbelievable anecdote at this point of the talk was a reference to S Lyon & Sons the hauliers, still trading today under Geoff Lyon.   Geoff's grandfather, Spenny Lyon, used a horse and cart during the war and one of his jobs was to take some of the munitions away from the factory and hide it all over Lincoln in case of an invasion!  Let's hope Spenny kept notes as to where his hiding places were!

Gun tractors, to tow the heavy guns, were produced on Firth Road, the crawlers having been built by Ruston Bucyrus.

Over the past year or so we have heard a lot about the first Tank being built in Lincoln at Fosters, well the first tank for WW11, a 9-ton light Tank, was also built in Lincoln and these went with the Expeditionary Forces to France.  However they didn't perform that well and a lot of them were left stranded in France. The first heavy tank was called Matilda, a Mark I and these machines apparently performed much better in the desert terrain. The Mark II when it came along, known as  the Queen of the Desert supported the Australian Forces.

There was a company in Colchester called Paxmans and Ruston took over a lot of their Licences to produce Ruston-Paxman engines. These engines powered the landing craft for D Day.

A photograph of Army Forts came up (quite a famous photo which I hadn't associated with Lincoln) - four sets built in the Thames Estuary -with 7 towers weighing over 7 tonnes each and linked by walk-ways.  It was thought the Thames Estuary would be a weak point for enemy attacks either by air or sea so construction of these forts started in August 1942 and was completed by December 1943 and the amazing thing is that the majority of the project was constructed in Lincoln.

It was continuous snippets of information like this which I found fascinating throughout the talk. 

At the request of Winston Churchill Ruston Bucyrus  developed a trench cutting machine known by the code name Cultivator No. 6 and the idea was that this machine would dig itself into a trench, proceed across No-Mans’ Land with the infantry sheltered behind it. Churchill had seen the atrocities of WW1 and didn't want these replicating but didn't realise at the time that this war would not be fought in the trenches.

A 10 RB was built as a gun - photographs to prove it.

On the social side, Lincoln's Home guard during the war was made up by personnel from the factories but the men were still expected to continue with their normal day jobs.  All factories had their own air raid shelters and office windows were sandbagged. 

Peter had so much more information it was very hard for me to take more notes because I wanted to simply sit and listen and I know Peter could have told us more but sadly we had to let him finish so we could draw the raffle!!

However a final parting shot by Peter was that he told us the famous cartoonist/artist Heath Robinson was paid to visit Lincoln to create a series of cartoons for the company.  This he did and put them into book form, taking 13 days to complete the project.  If you know anyone who has a book or even one picture, tell them they are sitting on a valuable piece of historical art. The historical wealth of one of the city's engineering companies reproduced onto paper but most of it sadly lost unlike the factual history which people such as Peter are keeping alive for generations to come.

22nd April

Message from our Secretary:

In April we welcomed back Dr David Marcombe who delivered a fascinating talk on The Ostrich Inn at Spital in the Street.  Before you get into your car and rush out to first, find Spital in the Street - blink and you will miss it - and then hope to find The Ostrich, don't bother because the building in question now forms part of the farmhouse which sits close to the rush of traffic on the A15 north of Caenby Corner.  David however painted a most interesting picture again of this hamlet and accompanied his tales and information with descriptive slides.

The original inn known as The Swan, was on the western side of the road but by the middle of the 17th Century the building had become run down and then suffered a major fire so a  new inn was then built on the eastern side and this became known as The Ostrich.  We were shown a picture of the place dated 1840, showing a coach and horses outside.  Coaches left here to all parts of the country as this was a major transport hub.  It has been possible to trace the names of the various innkeepers from the 17th and 18th Centuries, these showing a definite family connection.  A recent exciting discovery was the Probate Inventory for a Richard Wood who died in 1695 - only discovered by David because it has been archived incorrectly!  This inventory shows the total value of Mr Wood's Estate as £182 5s 8d.

During the 18th and 19th Century the inn was run by a family called Shadford and a photograph of a Family Tree was discussed.  When St.. Edmund's Chapel was restored (David's previous talk), four skeletons were discovered  in front of the altar  and David feels they may be of the Shadford family.

Another name which has been recorded through the leaving of information about the business at the inn, is that of Rebecca Good, one time innkeeper at the Ostrich. She is buried in the chapel - 1807 - and from documents dated in 1800 we learn that the innkeeper was also listed as ostler and farmer.  It is documented that there was an Annual Fair, Hirings and Weekly Markets held at Spital so the hamlet would have looked and sounded a lot different to that which we see fleetingly as we drive through today.

To keep the business going, as with today, new ideas had to be thought of and the sale and use of spring water was jumped upon. Chalybeate spring water is a type of mineral spring that contains iron salts similar to that of Bath and apparently there was such a spring close to Spital. There was a suggestion that there may have been curative baths at the inn because in a recent exploration of the cellars of the building, a few bowls and a large brass tap have been found which could have formed part of the curative business.  More information is still be sought on this subject.

However a more important business came into being at Spital when the hamlet was put on the Royal Mail route between Lincoln and Hull.  This helped to relieve the difficulties felt with the closure of The sessions House in 1760 (previous talk) and now the impressive Mail Coaches in their red and black livery with the coachmen dressed in scarlet and gold uniforms would burst upon the scene each day.  These coaches carried passengers with the mail protected by Royal Mail guards who carried a Blunderbuss,  a  muzzle-loading firearm with a short, large calibre barrel, flared at the muzzle and used with shot and other projectiles, which apparently could cut a man in half if fired at close range!  David had one of these firearms to show us and it had a message etched around the barrel - 'In the valley of the shadow of death' - a lovely artefact!  Actually I did hold this to see how cumbersome it would have been to handle and fire if required but perhaps its intimidating presence was enough to scare most of those people who considered robbing the mail coach!  A more amusing artefact to look at was a Post Horn which David did manage to get a few discorded notes out of!

By 1797 there were forty-two coach routes throughout the country, linking most major cities and carrying both passengers and mail.   We all have a mental picture of a 'stage coach', so called because it travelled in segments or "stages" of 10 to 15 miles.  Apparently once the coach arrived at the inn, it didn't stop long, not always time for the passengers to take a meal in the inn so perhaps this was the first 'fast food' because pies, bread and oysters would be handed to the passengers to eat on the next stage of their journey. Thousands of oyster shells have been found in situ on the site of the inn at Spital.

The pin would be taken out of the shaft of the coach and then the four horses could be changed at one go.  We were shown an engraving dated around 1836 of horses being changed at Spital and it depicts the passengers alighting to visit the inn on that occasion. David had postcards of this for sale at 25p.

By 1827 there was a post office in The Ostrich serving the surrounding villages with post being brought in from all over the country. Buildings which served as post offices on these routes always had special large windows - a type of bay where someone could keep an eye out for the coach coming along the route so everyone would be ready to jump to action as soon as the horses galloped into the yard. 

David told us he had been looking for a Spital postmark for years yet he kept being told by stamp collectors that this did not exist. However, at a York Stamp Fair, he found one!  A gem of a find for him.  We were then shown a photograph of the letter dated 1838 addressed to someone in West Rasen with the post town being Spital.

In 1837 the economic climate changed again for Spital in three major ways - 

1.  Innkeepers could no longer be postmasters and in 1850 the post office at Spital closed.

2. The mail coaches were gradually phased out as the railway era began.

3.  There was not enough casual or local trade to keep the inn going. 

The busy rush and fervour of Spital had come to an end by the 1860's and the building reverted to its role as a farm and parts of it were pulled down. 

For the second part of his talk, David explained about the architecture and archaeology of the building, showing slides to add to his descriptions. The Ostrich was joined to Cromwell House.  So called because Oliver Cromwell stayed there??  Possibly, as he seemed to get about a bit!

The current farmyard is where the post office used to be.  The staircase inside has been dated to 1760 and there are double panel Queen Ann doors; sash windows with thick glazing from the 17th Century and a late Georgian fire surround.  A faded picture of what was obviously in its day, a grand dame of hostelry and entertainment; a place where, several times a week the metropolis of England came to Spital in the Street.

19th March

Message from our Secretary:

Last Wednesday evening 68 people turned out to hear Clive Thompson's talk about 'The Girl by the Pond' and they were not disappointed.  Clive had pulled out all of the stops and presented a fascinating and detailed story of 'Dora Banks, the girl from Subscription Mill.'

To add flavour to the evening Dora's daughter, Dorothea Fable, together with her own daughter, were in the audience.  In addition, Barbara Clay, wife of David Clay now of Saxilby, came forward to show photographs of the mill in the late 1940's/early 50's; her connection being that David was born at the mill in 1947.   History is and most certainly was last Wednesday, all around us and to welcome Dorothea, her daughter and Barbara was certainly an 'added' for the evening.

Clive's research into the Banks family has been full on and together with the information gained, a superb PowerPoint was the result. Wonderful photographs of yesteryear, courtesy of Dorothea, bringing the Banks family almost to life assailed us.  The well known photo of Dora at Sturton village pond was taken in 1906; she was born in 1900 at Potterhanworth.  Described in Dora's own words and included in Dorothea's book, 'Bransby Days',  Dora was considered a 'live wire' and absolutely mad about horses.  Today we would call her a Tom Boy but I expect eyebrows were raised more than once because of her 'unladylike' behaviour!  As many of you may know having read Dorothea's book, 'Bransby Days', this is written by Dorothea showing a tender love of her family home in the small hamlet of Bransby. The story is about Dora, a remarkable woman as we saw through Clive's portrayal.  She was the youngest of seven daughters, raised at Subscription Windmill.  A daredevil child with an over whelming zest for living.

The social history of both the villages of Sturton and Bransby, as well as Edwardian England, helped paint a colourful picture.  Clive added amusing but actual facts - in 1894 it was estimated that the streets of London would have been buried in 9' of horse manure; 50,000 horses were on the streets of London in 1900 working and transporting people and goods; this amounted to 560 tons of horse manure per day!  Good I think for the market gardeners but not when you were on 'Shank's Pony'!!!!!

Dora's father, William Banks, was a preacher as well as the local miller and this moved Clive to bring in the history and information of the Methodist church in the village.  Here we were also told about the Gilbert family connections with the Banks.  Peter Gilbert who still lives in the village, was in the audience and had brought along his family tree for Clive to take a look at together with other snippets of family history.   History all around us!

Clive the engineer came into force when he then went on to describe the workings of windmills.  We all know that a windmill is simply a mill that is powered by the wind using the energy that it derives from the wind to convert it into power to help produce such things as corn and water and now more recently electricity.  With Clive's excellent descriptions and photographs we were shown the difference between Tower Mills, Post Mills and Smock Mills.   I will not even try to give you descriptions of these mills and their workings because (a)  I do not want to be marked down by Clive!!!! and (b) I haven't got the time!  However, as we know, these wonderful pieces of engineering are now mostly seen as abandoned towers minus the sails and despite this they still retain a beauty of their own but no doubt the millers in their day did not get any time to appreciate 'beauty' because of the constant back-breaking hard work they had to carry out six or seven days a week.

Wonderful photographs of Dora kept popping up; a very attractive lady and certainly someone who did not conform to the expected conventions of the day.  At aged 18 Dora went to listen to the evangelist, Rodney (Gypsy) Smith -  1860-1947.  Smith was born in a tent, raised on a Gypsy camp, never attended a school and went on to influence the lives of millions of people for God through his powerful preaching. He was converted in 1876 and, the next year, was invited by General William Booth of The Salvation Army, to join him in evangelistic work. Smith served as an officer with the Salvation Army until 1882. He then began ministering as an itinerant evangelist working with a variety of organisations all over the world but mostly in Britain and America.  Later in life Dora became friends with Rodney Smith's second wife, Mary Alice Straw and Dora was instrumental in raising funds for Rodney's memorial which stands in Epping Forest, erected in 1947.  For the unveiling Dora was accompanied by Dennis and Margaret Gilbert.

In 1922 Dora married Henry Storr, she was 22 and he was 65!  Their marriage scandalised the locals and certainly gave the villagers plenty to talk about! I am sure, even with today's social standards, a marriage with such an age difference would still make tongues wag! Knowing of Dora's love for horses, Henry took her into Lincoln and had her attired in the best clothes for riding with the Hunt and Dora rode with the Burton Hunt on her horse Bess, from 1923 to 1934, gaining quite a reputation through this because of her mixing with a different social class to that of her family. Sadly this behaviour caused her to be shunned by a lot of the local village people.  This did not deter Dora from continuing to live life to the full and the last photograph we saw was of Dora at the age of 76 posing with her bicycle at a time when she cycled around all the local Methodist chapels raising money for the cause.

A woman before her time was Dora; one of the many wonderful legacies our village and surrounding area has.  Thank you Clive for a most entertaining evening.

20th February

Message from our Secretary:

Last Wednesday evening, after a very short AGM, a group of 59 people sat back and listened to Sue's personal view on the East Coast Floods of 1953 with special emphasis on Sutton on Sea, the town of her birth.  However before I regale you with her story I must say how delighted I was to see so many people turn up on quite a messy and cold evening - 59!  our best turn out yet, so thanks to all who could make it.

Back to Sue's story, on the day in question she was a guest at her friend Jen's 9th birthday party but unfortunately this special day was interrupted by flood water seeping into the house and Jen never did celebrate her 9th birthday.  On the 60th anniversary of these awful floods, Sue and Jen published their own account of the time, 'Black Saturday' which contains a collection of children's eyewitness accounts of the floods.  Sue discovered these accounts in a box which had lain in her parent's garage for almost 60 years and it was only when her father had died and Sue was passed items to search through that she came across this wonderful social history account told by 24 children.  The original stories have been deposited with the Lincolnshire Library Service and are kept at Mablethorpe.   Sue brought along copies of this book which she sold at £3.50.

Most of Lincolnshire people know that on 31st January, 1953, considerable areas along the coast of Lincolnshire were flooded. The Mablethorpe, Sutton-on-Sea and Skegness areas were the most seriously affected parts and forty-three people lost their lives.

It was soon after dusk when the first waves crashed through the sea defences at Mablethorpe and Sutton on Sea and within an hour virtually the whole town of Sutton, including the high street, lay underwater.  This was a terrifying time for everyone living there and for the people drafted in to help. Now sadly, we see floods occurring regularly in various parts of the country each winter but back in 1953 the event was unprecedented. An extremely high spring tide and NW/N gales of 90- 129 miles an hour resulted in the sea rising to over 6ft of its expected height.  The destruction didn't stop that night however and the following morning's high tide, combined with the continuing storm saw the flooding get worse and the flood waters eventually reached more than two miles inland. Help was needed urgently to shore up the defences and the military was brought in.  Of course it wasn't just humans that felt the effect of the flood either, the storm also took its toll elsewhere and around 200,000 acres of farmland was devastated and hundreds of animals died.

Sue emphasised more than once during the evening that her personal tale is very dear to her and she still has a great affinity with Sutton on Sea although she has not lived in the town for many years.  She reminded us that most families have major stories to tell and recall and these tales make up our kaleidoscopic life and, if possible, should be recorded one way or another so they do not disappear for ever. At the time of the floods Sue's paternal grandparents lived in Saxilby and she and her family came to live here whilst the house back in Sutton was dried out.  This is why when Sue has given her talk in the area, a lot of people have approached her to say they knew of her family during that time.

Sue proceeded to take us back to that awful night of 31st January 1953 and gave us first hand knowledge of what occurred so suddenly and swiftly that most people were taken totally unaware.  Water damage occurred to personal items in spite of most people escaping upstairs but again as we have seen lately on the TV, you can't take everything upstairs so a lot of items were lost and destroyed.

Although Sue did not want to give a talk simply of facts and figures, she did give us some interesting information - 

900,000 tons of sand was washed into the main streets of the town.

The police managed to keep a list of everyone who was evacuated.

5,000 people passed through Alford's rescue centre.

Alex Henshaw, test pilot for the Spitfire, was staying in Sutton and he rescued a lady who was on holiday from Leicestershire but she sadly died after the event.   -  A party of children who were at the cinema had to spend the night in the building up in the Projectionist's area.

Sue's father was a teacher at the Primary school in Sutton on Sea and he was a key player in getting the town back on its feet with the school being open and ready to accept the pupils within a few weeks. 

Back in the 50's not many households were covered by insurance so fundraising appeals such as the one launched by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, was most welcome.  No Government aid to households as there is today, albeit small compared to what you lose at such horrendous times.  The community pulled together and came out the other end.  Nine weeks after the momentous event, a Thanksgiving Service was held in the chapel on Sunday 5th April 1953; some of the pews still bearing the salt marks where the sea had come up to.   People who had helped to clear up came from Lincoln, Gainsborough and Skegness - everyone rallied to the cause.

A new sea wall was constructed and the Duke of Edinburgh visited this site once it had been completed to see how the town had fought back since his initial visit just after the flood in '53.

A new paddling pool was donated by a community in Canada and this is the one in use today.  I have seen it many times, used it too when my children were young but I failed to notice that it is in the shape of a Maple leaf!

So last Wednesday Sue gave us a snapshot of a chapter in the social history of Sutton on Sea, a turbulent start to the year for the town, softened slightly by the forthcoming celebrations for the Coronation of our Queen on 2 June, slightly preceded by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay who became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest; the residents of Sutton on Sea having reached their own personal summit of survival on the evening of 31st January that year. 

20th January - Notes from Graeme's talk:


  • Canalisation of the River Slea
  • 12.5 miles long (20.5km). The river changes its name to the Kyme Eau somewhere near South Kyme 
  • Navigation opened in 1794
  • Runs upstream from Chapel Hill on the River Witham to Sleaford via 7 locks, most of which were adjacent to mills. The total fall from Sleaford to Chapel Hill is 42 feet (13 meters)
  • William Cawley appointed as engineer
  • Enabling Act passed in 1792
  • Scheme supported by Sir Joseph Banks
  • Terminus was to be at Castle Causeway in Sleaford but shortage of money meant it stopped short at Carre Street instead.
  • The railway from Grantham to Sleaford opened in 1857 and the railway’s extension to Boston meant it was in direct competition with the Canal
  • An Act of Abandonment was passed in 1878 and the Canal closed in 1881.
  • The lower 6.5 miles (10.5 km) remained navigable until the 1940’s when Lower Kyme Lock was replaced by a sluice, itself being replaced by a lock in 1986.
  • In 1977 the Sleaford Navigation Society was formed with the aim of reopening the Canal to its whole length. Anglian Water supported the scheme and the restored Kyme Eau Lock was reopened in 1986, returning navigation to South Kyme, where regular boating events are now held.
  • The Slea Navigation Trust now own the bed of the Canal from Carre Street to Bone Mill, including the lock and its island at Cogglesford Mill. 
  • Much work has been carried out in Sleaford, with a lifting bridge and slipway on Eastgate Green for trailboats etc.
  • The car park at Cogglesford Mill is useful for walking the towpath - free car parking for 2 hours plus a pleasant cafe!
  • The Navigation falls through the countryside through a series of locks and through Haverholme Priory, bypassing Anwick and then through South Kyme via Cobblers Lock to Chapel Hill.
  • Route walkable throughout its length, with some difficulty in places

  • We left the Chesterfield Canal last year at the eastern end of Norwood Tunnel, a brick wall!
  • This year we look at the western section of the Canal, some 12 miles of it, part of which have been restored, but parts of it have still to be started!
  • The canal runs from Chesterfield in the valley of the River Rother, eastwards towards the other end of the Norwood Tunnel. At present, the Chesterfield Canal Basin forms part of a multi million pound redevelopment and is not really accessible to the public, so we start our journey at Tapton Lock, which is more or less under a roundabout off the A619.
  • There is a visitor centre at the Lock, but no car parking as the available space is all taken up by the local motor traders!
  • Running generally northwest, Hollingwood Hub is reached, where a trip boat runs up to Staveley Basin and Staveley Lock via Millers Green.
  • After this the canal is something of a building site as volunteers of the Waterways Recovery Group (an arm of the Inland Waterways Association) are recreating and renovating the canal infrastructure through Renishaw and Killamarsh. A lot of funding has been sourced from Heritage Lottery funds and the ongoing programme will last for years 
  • From Killamarsh the canal has to be diverted because of development over the years and the proposed HS2and a new route has to be found to link up with Norwood Tunnel, most of which will be above ground although it is intended that the old tunnel entrance will be used when the sections of the canal are finally linked up
  • There is also a suggestion that a new canal will be built to link up with the River Rother to provide a navigable circuit to the River Trent up the Trent and back via the Chesterfield Canal
  • In the meantime we will have to make do with the 5 mile section that has been restored and leave to the next generation the completion of the scheme Almost adjacent (half a mile) is the Barrow Hill Steam roundhouse which caters for those of a more railway oriented nature, so why not combine a trip on a narrowboat with a trip to the roundhouse

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