Skellingthorpe shown within Lincolnshire
|OS grid reference|
|– London||125 mi (201 km) S|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
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Skellingthorpe is a village and civil parish in the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. The population of the civil parish at the 2011 census was 3,465. It is situated 3 miles (5 km) west from Lincoln city centre, and just outside the A46 Lincoln ring road.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Ancient
- 1.2 The Domesday Survey
- 1.3 13th century
- 1.4 14th century
- 1.5 15th century
- 1.6 16th century
- 1.7 17th century
- 1.8 18th century
- 1.9 19th century
- 1.9.1 Skellingthorpe's roads
- 1.9.2 Newsworthy accidents
- 1.9.3 Attempts to establish Methodism
- 1.9.4 Errant spouses
- 1.9.5 'Excellent farm houses' but a high mortality rate
- 1.9.6 A village character
- 1.9.7 Escaped criminals in Old Wood
- 1.9.8 Two suspected murders
- 1.9.9 The parish drainage initiative
- 1.9.10 The church rebuilt
- 1.9.11 Coroner's inquests
- 1.9.12 When Skellingthorpe was a lot larger
- 1.9.13 Skellingthorpe poachers
- 1.9.14 Establishment of the railway line
- 1.10 20th century
- 1.11 21st century
- 2 Today's community
- 3 References
- 4 External links
A small paleolith was found in gravel at Skellingthorpe by Randall Davies and presented to the British Museum in 1922, hinting at some ancient tribe in the area. The earliest origins of the village are unknown. The area was probably marshland and woodland in the time of the Romans, and there is no evidence of any permanent settlement by the ancient Britons, although it is possible that nomadic forest or swamp dwellers occasionally passed through. Roman engineers building the canal now called the Foss Dyke would have been in the vicinity c. 120 AD. This is evidenced by the discovery of a Roman bowl in the parish, an image of which now features on the village sign. Other Roman-era discoveries have been made: a copper alloy bell was found to the east of the village in Main Drain, and thirteen coins (dated to the third or fourth century) were unearthed in 1978.
The Reverend G. S. Streathfeild suggests that Skellingthorpe itself may have originated with Danish occupiers. The earliest known spelling of the manor's name (Scheldinchope) suggests an enclosure in marsh associated with a man named Sceld. Around 1953 a blue and white ring (dated by the British Museum to c. 875 AD was found in Stoney Yard. This, together with the fact that the Danes are known to have established themselves elsewhere in Lincolnshire by the year 876, reinforced the supposition that Skellingthorpe became a settlement in the late 9th century. Assessing the matter in 1974, the Local History Group of the Skellingthorpe Evening Institute concurred with Streathfeild in their belief that the first inhabitants were a family called the Skellings, or Scheldings.
The Domesday Survey
The Domesday Book (1086) records Skellingthorpe as "Scheldinchope", observing that it contained 12 carucates of land, worked by 18 villeins, two sokemen and four bordars. The suggestion is that Skellingthorpe consisted of 960 acres of plough land, plus common pasture, common land, woodland and wasteland. A meadow one mile long and two furlongs and a half broad is also mentioned here. The Domesday Survey also noted that the ‘Soke’ (i.e. jurisdiction) of the manor of Skellingthorpe was claimed by one Balwin the Fleming, along with the manor of Doddington. His claim was disallowed, however, the jury finding that the manor belonged ‘rightfully’ to the Abbot of Westminster.
Patent Rolls for the year 1258 (dated 1 October) refer to the ‘Presentation of Master Raymond, the Queen’s physician, to the church of Skeldinghop in the king’s gift’. (Raymond’s appointment appears to have been a clerical one, at the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Diocese of Lincoln being historically linked to the Ecclesiastical Province of Canterbury.) 
In the Middle Ages the manor of Skellingthorpe was held by the Norman Wak, or Wake, family. During the Wake's time, the Lincoln Assize of 29 April 1263 recorded a bitter dispute between ‘Henry, prior of St Katherine’s-without-Lincoln’ and ‘Brian, son of John’. The argument stemmed from the prior apparently being bound to ‘the service which Baldwin Wak demanded of him’ respecting his ‘free tenement’ of land granted (by Baldwin) to the aforementioned Brian at Whisby. This Brian and Baldwin Wake seem to have been partisans, for Wake (being the lord of the manor) confiscated the prior’s property and ordered him ‘to do suit’ at his court of Scheldingope every three weeks. The squabble appears to have ended with the assizes taking the side of the prior, however, forcing ‘Brian’ to accept the Whisby lands were the property of the former. What Baldwin Wake thought about his authority being over-ruled was not recorded. Following the Second Barons' War in England, Baldwin's lands – Skellingthorpe, Hykeham, Waddington and elsewhere – were seized by Antony Bek and Alexander de Montfort, two men entrusted by King Henry III with confiscating property owned by rebel supporters. Baldwin was in further trouble during the reign of King Edward I, Henry’s successor, for he was charged with unjustly taking ‘consuetudines’ (customary tolls) from persons passing along the king's highway in the manor of Skellingthorpe, beyond the limits of his ownership. He seems to have been deceased by 1283, for we learn that on 4 January that year the ‘manor of Skeldingho’ (and all Baldwin’s other lands) were granted to Edmund, Earl of Cornwall; although Hawisia – Baldwin’s wife – and others were allowed ‘their right in the said manor as adjudged in the king’s court’.
Queen Eleanor's funeral cortege
One event that was likely to have caused profound excitement in the parish was the death in 1290 of Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I. Queen Eleanor died at Harby, Nottinghamshire (about three-and-a-half miles west), and her body was borne first to Lincoln and subsequently to London during a solemn 12-day-journey. Famously, ‘Eleanor Crosses’ were subsequently erected at each stopping point to mark the stages of her return to the capital. The exact route that Eleanor’s body would have initially taken from Harby to Lincoln is unclear, although the cortege must have passed round the manor of Skellingthorpe, if not actually through it. (Jean Powrie’s Eleanor of Castile (1990) suggests the most likely route might have been via the Priory of Broadholme, before crossing the Canal near Saxilby and heading east. This priory was a little to the north of Magtree Hill (part of Old Wood), on the site of the present Manor Farm.)
Around this time, Walter de Stirchele and his wife Alice were granted a warren here, in which parties hunted hares and partridges. (On the grant ‘to the said Walter and Alice and to his heirs male’, the manor bequeathed to them is written Skeldynghoppe.) 
Philip de Kyme seems to have obtained the manor of Skellingthorpe by the end of the 13th century, as well as many others in Lincolnshire. He is said to have been a 'Keeper of the Peace' in the county between 1308 and 1317, and heavily involved in the national politics and military campaigns of the era. He died in 1323.
In 1313, Philip's son, William de Kyme, the holder of the manor of Skeldinghope, was robbed by brazen thieves who broke open his chests and carried away his goods along with valuable documents. Initially, two suspects – ‘John de Bouynton and Alan Hak of Scorburgh’ – were outlawed for ‘trespasses committed against him (de Kyme) by them at Skeldynghope’. However, they were pardoned in 1315.
Skellingthorpe, A View Through History (Mr L Stevens, 1974) picturesquely describes the parish in the intervening years between the Domesday Book and the late Tudor era: "It may not be any real exaggeration to say that for many of those 600 years time stood still; seed time and harvest; master and servant; and very little change. The villagers would watch the city of Lincoln grow to great importance and wealth, and then decline. The skyline would alter as the woods were cut to the west and south…The armies of Stephen, Matilda and various Dukes and Princes would pass by on their way to the city and the castle on the hill, and after a flurry of immediate interest, life in the village would go on as it had always done. Occasionally something may happen to bring variety to the monotony of everyday life. In 1317, for instance, the Rector of Skellingthorpe exchanged with the Rector of Thorpe. The old rector was John de Dardesby, and the incoming incumbent was one Roger Picot."
A raid upon Skellingthorpe
By the 1360s the lordship of Skellingthorpe had passed to Gilbert de Umfraville, 3rd Earl of Angus and Kyme. In 1368, while Gilbert was away from Lincolnshire upon political business in Scotland, his park at 'Skeldynghop' was violently attacked by a large party of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire gentlemen, led by members of the Everingham family (of Laxton), who forcibly occupied it for illegal hunting. The gang stayed there for above three days ‘by armed force’ before leaving with a great deal of poached deer. According to a complaint heard at Westminster on 8 February 1368 they also ‘perpetrated other enormities’.
In 1377, one of the Sisters of Bullington Priory, north-east of Lincoln, is listed as ‘Margery of Skeldinghop’.
Squabbles over ownership
Throughout these centuries, much of Skellingthorpe’s history concerned the contested ownership of the parish, which was often argued far away from Lincolnshire itself. For instance, in 1382 a plea was heard before the king at Westminster asking him to adjudicate whether Elizabeth, wife of Edward le Despenser, had actually received a dowry consisting in part ‘of a hall and one carucate of land in Shelyngthorp’. Apparently, Elizabeth’s brother-in-law had bequeathed this to her, and (her husband being dead) she had requested ‘an inquisition’. It is not clear what the outcome was, nor whether her plea was successful. Around this time, the manor itself was held by Walter Tailboys, Knt., of Sotby and Skellingthorpe, who was Sheriff of Lincolnshire between 1389–90. He died in 1417. (The properties of the de Kymes had passed via female heirs to the Tailboys family, who subsequently styled themselves 'Lords of Kyme'.)
An early murder
In 1392 it was reported that one John Robyn, of Skeldynghope, lately imprisoned in the gaol of Lincoln Castle on a charge of murdering John de Ounesby of Aubourn, had been released. This followed testimony that Robyn had killed his enemy in self-defence.
By February 1399 it was recorded during an inquisition at Lincoln that the manor of Skellingthorpe had become all but deserted, with much of the land remaining uncultivated through a lack of tenants. Therefore, that May the Rectory of Skellingthorpe was appropriated to the Hospital of Spital in the Street (the Spital Charity) by one Thomas de Aston (Canon of Lincoln), and they farmed out the rectorial tithes to laymen. The vicar was paid £5 a year by the charity.
In 1401, Thomas de Aston donated the Pars Oculi – a manual for poorly-educated parish priests – to the vicarage of Skellingthorpe, with the strict instruction that it was to remain in the church for the usage of all those who filled the position of vicar in the parish.
The Burgh Family
Upon the attainder of Sir William Tailboys, Knight, his estates were escheated to the crown, and a portion of them, including Skellingthorpe, were granted by King Edward IV to Thomas Burgh 'and his heirs male' in 1460.
Walter Tailboys and Elizabeth Blount
Following the death of one Gilbert, Lord Tailboys, on 15 April 1530, the manor and lands of Skellingthorpe were still referenced in connection with that family, suggesting that there was a great deal of legal complexity over the inter-twining of the various properties among the Tailboys and the Burgh lines due to the 1460 Escheatment Act. (Tailboys was married to Elizabeth Blount, a former mistress of King Henry VIII. A village tradition insists that 'Bessie' Blount was exiled to Lincolnshire and imprisoned in 'Skellingthorpe Castle' for a time. However, Skellingthorpe has never had a castle - so perhaps the priory at adjacent Broadholme is suggested; or, more feasibly, Kyme Tower.)
An interesting will
A will dated 21 April 1531 expressed a parish resident’s desire to be buried in St Lawrence’s Church (spelling modernised): I Edmund Knyght of Skellynghope being in whole mind and (to) save dreading death make my last will and testament. My body to be buried in the St Laurence of Skellynghope. Therefore I bequeath this. For forgotten tithes (£ amount). To our Lady warke of Lincoln (£ amount). To Hugh my son. To Howes my daughter. To Jenet my daughter. To Humphrey my son. To every one of my son’s children. To the vicar. The residue of my goods I give to my wife Jenet, and she to be my executrix, and Hugh my son with her, to dispose for the health of my soul. Witnesses thereof, Sir Robert Kyppas; James Langton; Bartholomew Tuffin. 
Deeds drafted c.1540 during the reign of King Henry VIII refer to the ownership of ‘two pastures called Loundesyke and Freer Typpett in Stelyngthorp’. (The former may mean a field called The Lound, west of Lound Farm, Saxilby Road.) 
In the 1560s the manor was the property of Lord William and Lady Katherine Burgh; but by the death in 1597 of one Thomas Burgh the manor of Skellingthorpe had changed hands once again. It appears to have come into the possession of Thomas Vavasour (knight marshal), an Elizabethan politician and soldier, who died in 1620. He in turn seems to have willed his land here to the Ferrers line, although the suggestion is that his descendants continued to live in the parish, which was often misspelt ‘Killingthorpe’ around this time. This is particularly so in the case of ‘Charles Vavasour, esq. of Killingthorpe, in the county of Lincoln’, who inherited the baronetcy in 1631.
There is a suggestion that the parish had a windmill during the Tudor era. An inquisition at Westminster, held on 9 June 1585, following the death of William, Lord Burgh, gave an account of his family’s possessions in the neighbourhood. This refers to ‘the manor of Skellinthorpe, otherwise Skeldingthorpe, with appurtenances, and a windmill, 20 messuages, 12 cottages, 300 acres of land, 200 acres of meadow, 40 acres of pasture, 100 acres of wood, 500 acres of furze and heath in Skellingthorpe, Hartesholme, Bowltham (Boultham) and Bracebridge, co. Linc.’ The windmill is mentioned again in 1598, in conjunction with the alienation – or legal transference – of certain manor lands. However, it is unclear where it may have stood.
There appears to have been a general decline in the administration of the parish as the 16th century drew out. For instance, of Robert Vaughan, curate of Skellingthorpe, it is recorded that he 'serveth ye cure but (it is) not known by what authority; he is gardener to one Mr. Adames, unable to read divine service, and liveth very basely to ye scandall of his function'.
The parish plundered
In March 1610 the Court of the Star Chamber adjudicated on the case of a marauding clan said to have committed outrages in Lincolnshire. Thomas Clokes, Edmund Clapham, Mary Clapham (his wife), Ann Clapham, Elizabeth Clapham and Mary Clapham (their three daughters), Roger Tonge, John Daye, and others were accused of burglaries at Scothern; while in Skellingthorpe they were accused of forcibly entering the property of one Roger Fulshaw. Here, they allegedly seized bales of hay and plundered cattle from his land. The victim in this case seems to have been the same Roger Fulshaw who found himself in trouble around this time following an unseemly and very violent brawl with a fellow called Rands in Skellingthorpe’s churchyard over an argument they had entered into.
The Ferrers line
We learn that one Robert Farrar was made a Freeman of Lincoln on 3 November 1552, and he may have resided in Skellingthorpe, where a family of that name was settled at the beginning of the following century. This was the Ferrers line, and they held the manor during the early 1600s. We learn that by 1625 one William Ferrers was providing £20 annually from the parish revenue to pay for the employment of a schoolmaster in Tewkesbury. William was buried in Skellingthorpe itself on 4 August 1646. He was succeeded by Sir Henry Ferrers of Skellingthorpe, who had been created a baronet in 1628. Henry was married to Anne Scudamore, and died in 1663. (The baronetcy became extinct upon the death of their son Henry Jnr in 1675.) John Stone purchased the manor from Sir Henry in 1630, and upon John's death it passed to his widow, Katherine. However, since Sir Henry Ferrers had been a royalist during the English civil wars, whose lands were afterwards sequestered for his part in forming the King's garrison at Newark, Mrs. Katharine Stone and her son Henry underwent much trouble between 1650 and 1656 in saving the estate from being involved in this act of sequestration.
On 2 December 1670 occurred the marriage of Paul Bellamye, of Gainsborough, and Ellenor Dove, ‘spinster’ of Skellingthorpe. He was 22 years old and she 21. Apparently: ‘His parents consent; hers are dead.’ 
The manor was in turn inherited by Henry Stone. In 1681, he began a suit against Lincoln's mayor and others for hindering the drainage of water into the Trent, thereby resulting in the flooding of several of his grounds in the parish. Despite this conflict, a county guide book observes that Henry Stone was ‘a munificent benefactor to the charitable institutions of Lincoln and other places’. He died aged 62 on 26 June 1693, and the following year the governors of 'Christ Hospitall' in London arranged for a tomb to be erected in his memory. This can now be seen in the grounds of the village church, with the wording on it still clearly visible. (Sadly, Henry’s two wives, two children and brother had all predeceased him, and because of this he had, in life, willed the estate of Skellingthorpe to Christ’s Hospital. His will also benefitted numerous neighbours and tenants, as well as local schools and the village church. In fact, his will was so broad that it necessitated an extensive survey of the parish’s acreage and worth in 1694 by bailiffs for Christ’s, as well as other surveys up until 1700 by Stone’s trustees.) Henry's family were buried with him, for the tomb says on its south side:"Here lye the bodies of Mary Stone, late wife of Henry Stone, Esq. and of their two sons who dyed very young."
The 1694 survey, carried out by one Robert Hopkins, the bailiff for Christ's Hospital, established that the parish consisted of 3,670 acres and that there were 31 tenants on Manor lands. Two pastures (south of Ferry Lane, between Lincoln Road and the Catchwater Drain) are denominated Little Ferry Wong and Great Ferry Wong – names that do not appear on modern maps.
Throughout the latter 1600s and 1700s much of the parish economy stemmed from duck decoys, although this practice began to decline with the drainage and enclosure of the land. However, the earthwork remains of one old Decoy Pond can still be found, although on private land to the east of the village. This particular Decoy Pond was established in 1693, when it was leased to one Humphrey Wilkinson for 21 years, at the end of which he was to ‘reasonably and quietly leaver, surrender and yield upp (the Decoy) so well and sufficiently repaired… together with twenty drakes and fourscore tame ducks'. It was a square pool with 4 pipes and was worked until about 1840. (In 2010 it was announced the surviving Decoy Pond was one of 79 historic sites to be protected under an environmental stewardship scheme, run by the Government adviser Natural England.) Rabbit warrens also continued to be granted: the warrener’s house stood on ‘the Lord’s Moor’, Skellingthorpe, from at least 1694. However, deer-hunting seems to have become obsolete by this time, with the park becoming the responsibility of a forester whose house was on the site of Old Wood House.
Surveys by Christ's
In 1703 Christ’s sent inspectors to the village, to hear the villager’s complaints that Henry Stone’s tomb had been allowed to fall into a state of terrible neglect, while the new occupier of the Manor House – John Atkins – proved so inept that by 1723 the building was in a state of near ruination.
In 1710, and due to these surveys, it was observed that the Skellingthorpe estate consisted of 2’872 acres let to fourteen different tenant farmers. Of this, 900 acres was ‘newly planted ground’, 600 was uncultivated and the rest was wooded land.
A Skellingthorpe miracle?
A religious periodical, the Christian Amusement, reported in 1740 how, two years earlier at Easter, one Frances Wright, of ‘Skellingthorp, three miles from the city of Lincoln’, had fallen into a 48-hour trance during which she experienced a vision of both paradise and Hell, culminating in her transcendence to Heaven’s gates where she met ‘an old grave man’ with a bunch of keys and a book in his hand. Frances experienced another vision at Christmas 1738, in which she went to her niece’s house in Saxilby before taking her also to Heaven’s gates. The child is reported to have died ‘about this time’. In 1740, following a third vision over Whitsun, Frances took herself to Lincoln to receive the holy sacrament. (Upon each occasion Frances found herself transported initially to a riverside, and sceptics suggested she had been sleep-walking to the Foss Dyke.) 
The parish of Skellingthorpe was extensively flooded in 1770, when entire stacks of hay were seen drifting between the village and Boultham. But an even worse flood occurred in 1795 when the Trent burst its banks. For three weeks the village (including the Stone Arms inn) was under 6 feet of water. An interesting eye-witness account of this event was recorded in 1858, taken from Mary Millins, a village resident then aged 93: ‘The water came through the wood with a roaring noise, like the report of thunder. It came up to the Rundle Corner, in the village near the Maypole. A boat took people to market for three successive Fridays before the water subsided; I remember going to market in the boat…Ten calves were trapped on a small hill in the ox-pasture, a mile north of the village, and they had to be rescued by boat. They gave no trouble as expected, but rather clambered into the boat easily like good Christians, pleased to be rescued.’
Up until the second half of the 18th century Skellingthorpe was pronounced and written ‘Skeldingthorpe’. A periodical in 1785 refers to the presentation of the Rev George Hare to the 'vicarage of Skellen-thorpe otherwise Skeldingthorpe, in the diocese of Lincoln’.
It seems there was some excitement in the parish in June 1795, upon the announcement of the wedding of Mr Charles Allison (a Lincoln merchant) and one Miss Ashling, of Skellingthorpe. The Gentleman's Magazine observed their union in its column 'Domestic Occurrences: Marriages of Remarkable Persons.'
The development of designated roads in Skellingthorpe was announced in 1805, when plans were made for ‘inclosing lands in the said parish of Skellingthorpe’. An Act of Parliament allowed for well-maintained, forty-foot-wide public roads to become routed ‘over the lands and grounds intended to be divided and inclosed’. This appears to have officially established ‘Lincoln Lane’ (now Lincoln Road).
In March 1804 the grim discovery was made of a hanged man in the parish. The unfortunate person proved to be William Tagg, servant to Mr Morton, a village farmer. This was one of only a handful of reports concerning Skellingthorpe considered ‘newsworthy’ enough to appear in the papers of the era. In April 1807 the Gentleman’s Magazine reported another death in the village, that of ‘a strong young man’ named James Harrison. This person had been observed thrashing corn in a barn belonging to his master, Mr Michael Danby; not long afterwards he appeared in his master’s kitchen covered in blood and badly wounded, although he professed ignorance as to how he came by his injury. He died on the 26th in Lincoln County Hospital, and a coroner’s inquest judged he had somehow struck his own head with a flail he held.
Attempts to establish Methodism
Initially-unsuccessful attempts were made to preach Methodism in Skellingthorpe. An early 19th century attempt by Wesleyans to establish a foothold ended in failure, and another attempt in 1817 ended equally unceremoniously at the first house they entered. Here, the steward of the manor ejected them, saying, 'The Governors of Christ's Hospital would have no Methodism upon any of their estates.' However, despite these setbacks 'a neat little chapel was soon erected in the village'.
In 1811, one Henry Normal, of Skellingthorpe, publicly announced in the columns of the Stamford Mercury that he would not be answerable for any debts incurred by his errant wife Elizabeth from 11 February onwards. Conversely, on 9 July 1819 a description of one William Thorpe was issued, following his desertion of his family in the parish. Rewards were issued for his capture and imprisonment, since Thorpe’s flight had left his wife and three children destitute, and dependent upon the overseers of the parish of Skellingthorpe. Thorpe was described thus: '29 years of age, about 5 feet 5 inches in height, broad and good looking, and about 11 and-a-half stone in weight, dark hair, a little bald at the top of the head, whiskers reddish or sandy, has lost one of his upper foreteeth; had on when he left his home, a large round frock and half-boots.’
'Excellent farm houses' but a high mortality rate
Thomas Allen's gazetteer of Lincolnshire describes the village in 1834: 'The village of Skellingthorpe, on the borders of Nottinghamshire, is distant about 7 miles westward from Lincoln. The church, dedicated to St Lawrence, is a discharged vicarage rated at £6 18 shillings and nine pence, endowed with 200 royal bounty, and £400 parliamentary grant. Here is also a place of worship belonging to the Wesleyan Methodists. In 1821, this parish contained 70 houses, and 370 inhabitants. Skellingthorpe is chiefly the property of Christ Church School in London. There are in this parish some excellent farm houses and buildings, as well as extensive plantations.' This encouraging report should be contrasted with the parish's high mortality rate, however. The precarity of life in the village during the early 19th century can be gleaned from the parish register, which recorded 13 deaths in Skellingthorpe of children under ten throughout 1835.
A village character
Thomas Miller's Pictures of Country Life (1847) observes the antics of a village character in his story 'Saint Saxby, of Skellingthorpe'. Saxby was an unpopular busybody, and Miller tells us that the villagers eased their boredom by playing tricks on him: on one occasion they placed a scarecrow in a man-trap Saxby had purchased to deter thieves from raiding his property. On another they led him to believe a murder had been committed, and he roused the whole village – only for the interred 'corpse' to turn out to be a buried sack of wood shavings. Apparently, Saxby exiled himself from the village not long after, in humiliation. These events, according to Miller, were said to have occurred some 50 years earlier; but it is unclear whether the narrative is a true one, or a fabrication merely situated in Skellingthorpe.
Escaped criminals in Old Wood
The 19th century newspapers recorded a number of other noteworthy events in the parish. The hideaway of two robbers who had lately escaped from Lincoln Gaol was discovered ‘in the dense plantation of Skellingthorpe’ in June 1833. Fox-hunters discovered the pair, named Freeman and Coupland, who had been living for six months in a bower formed of branches from trees, which was so well hidden as to defy detection until one was actually on the spot. It appeared the men had survived by poaching, and when the hideout was located ‘the shadows of two men were perceived flitting rapidly by some secret path from the wood’. In 1847 a labourer suspected of horse-stealing and other crimes was apprehended in ‘Skellingthorpe woods’ after leaping (handcuffed) from a moving train ‘somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Thorpe station’. The station-master managed to run the man, John Dean, to ground after a chase of more than two miles, and place him under arrest again.
Two suspected murders
A terrible murder was suspected on 24 June 1845 when a young man called William Parks was found fatally wounded in the stable of his master, Mr Ealand, farmer of Skellingthorpe. Before he died Parks claimed he had been dashed on the head with a hoe by a fellow employee named William Graham. Parks claimed the assault had been unprovoked, and although initially charged with murder, ‘the magistrate thought the case only amounted to manslaughter, and committed him (Graham) on that charge’. In May 1869 it was reported that Mary Hollingsworth, a ‘servant with a farmer named Gask, of Skellingthorpe’, had been held on suspicion of murdering a newborn infant found dead in a privy. Mary confessed to her mistress that she had been pregnant, and (there being signs the infant had been born alive) she was arrested. A curious feature of the case is that ‘a piece of burnt wood had been placed under the tongue’ of the victim, a circumstance that greatly mystified all. Mary - who was just 14 years old - had been observed to be in great pain just before the grim discovery, and her situation was viewed leniently: she was acquitted of murder at Lincoln Assizes.
The parish drainage initiative
By the beginning of the 19th century large parts of the parish were still little more than a morass, and the risk of flood was a constant one: in June 1816, for example, the parish was once again completely deluged following a period of heavy rain that caused several local rivers to overflow their banks. Critical to controlling events like this was the establishment of the Catchwater Drain. Plans for making the drain were implemented in 1805, an intention being announced to cut and embank ‘the intended Catch-water Drain from or near to Skellingthorpe Wood, in the parish of Skellingthorpe, through the said parish, in an Eastwardly direction’. By the middle of the 19th century, Skellingthorpe had been well-drained for some time. Two small steam engines were even erected by this time near the Decoy Farm to pump out water in times of flooding. The drains brought with them their own problems, however. The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported in 1865 that ‘within the last two or three years several houses had been erected on the outskirts of the village of Skellingthorpe, and owing to an obnoxious ditch in front of the tenements much fever and sickness had prevailed. Several deaths had taken place from fever, the last two being an old man and a child’.
The church rebuilt
The Church of St Lawrence was rebuilt mid-century, except the tower and chancel arches, at a cost of £2,800. Its new design was described in an 1865 gazetteer as being ‘in the Early English style, consisting of a nave with clerestory over, aisles, chancel, south porch and a tower crowned by a spire and containing a peal of five bells… The East Window is filled with stained glass, in memory of Richard Carline, Esq., and Mrs. Carline’. When the new church was officially opened it rained heavily, but this did not deter the crowds that arrived from great distances to participate in the ceremony.
According to newspaper reports in January 1867, the Fossdyke was so frozen it allowed people to skate between Lincoln and Saxilby; tragically, two young Lincoln men were found frozen to death by Robert Hale, a PC stationed at Skellingthorpe. The discovery was made beside the Fossdyke in the vicinity of the end of Ferry Lane. Around this time the Stone Arms Inn was used to hold coroner’s inquests. One such investigation was undertaken in December 1874 upon the body of 75-year-old man that had been found partially-submerged in a drainage ditch in the parish. Dr Mitchinson, the coroner, recorded a simple verdict of ‘Found Dead’.
When Skellingthorpe was a lot larger
An 1872 gazetteer of Skellingthorpe records that it is ‘a scattered, but well-built and pleasant village’. Skellingthorpe Hall was at the time the well-established resident property of Richard Coupland Berge-Coupland, Esq., J.P, while the parish itself consisted of ‘726 souls, and 6220 acres of land, extending to the Fossdyke… including 600 acres cleared of plantations, and some fertile and well-drained marshes’. The Spital Charity still owned some property in the parish. More importantly, however, the gazetteer (by William White, of Sheffield) makes it clear that Skellingthorpe’s parish boundary was at that time considerably greater, encompassing 150 acres owned by Joseph Shuttleworth of Hartsholme Hall, as well as Swallow Beck and a 25-acre ‘storage reservoir’ supplying Lincoln Water Works that was situated in ‘Skellingthorpe Valley’ a mile from Boultham. (All of these places are now outside of the parish boundary, and classed as Lincoln.) North Hykeham’s Railway Station also fell within the Skellingthorpe parish boundary.
On 30 September 1887 PC Williams (who had been stationed at Skellingthorpe for 16 years) was violently assaulted by a gang of poachers he encountered ‘near the Manor House’ early in the morning. The constable was viciously attacked and lucky not to have been killed. However, since he had recognised his assailants, it proved possible to arrest them, and they were subsequently brought to trial. The poachers were sentenced to eight months gaol but one among those convicted, named Melachi Devannah, appears to have been incorrigible: for he was among four people caught poaching two years later near Skellingthorpe’s ferry. One PC Sandars was brutally assaulted by the gang, and in trying to escape Devannah waded into the water until just his head and shoulders were visible – he then threatened to shoot other police officers dead if they didn’t back away. The gang escaped, but were quickly caught. Devannah – who had been howling like a wild dog during the clash, perhaps as a warning to other poachers in the area – was jailed for nine months, while two of his comrades got two months each.
Establishment of the railway line
In 1914 Christ's Hospital sold off all their properties in the parish, effectively ending a connection between Skellingthorpe and the capital that had existed for over 200 years. To this day, a small number of buildings (including St Lawrence's School) still bear Christ's coat of arms on their gables or wall.
The rebuilt St Lawrence’s Church suffered a disastrous fire on Sunday 2 April 1916 that destroyed the interior, two of the bells, the organ, the pulpit, the font, cassocks and prayer books. Most significantly, the blaze destroyed ‘a list of vicars from the year 1297 up to the present time’. The fire was believed to have started in the heating apparatus under the organ chamber. Flames were first spotted leaping from its roof at five in the morning by the occupants of Skellingthorpe Hall, who dispatched a messenger on a bicycle to alert the Lincoln fire brigade. Afterwards, hundreds of people came to see the smoking shell of the church, which the Echo described as having been a ‘beautiful’ building, ‘so conspicuous an object amid the charming surrounding woodland scenery’. It is an interesting fact that the local philanthropist Henry Stone had initially decreed in his will that he wished to be buried near the altar inside the church, 'like my brothers', and had this been the case his last resting place would inevitably have been consumed in the fire. As it is, his tomb was erected by Christ's in the church grounds – sparing it from the blaze and allowing it to present the local landmark it still does.
A royal stopover
In 1916 King George V and Queen Mary slept in the Royal Train at Skellingthorpe Sidings while visiting Lincoln during the Great War. The children of St Lawrence’s School were brought one morning by the headmaster, Mr Brooks, to sing the National Anthem to the royal visitors. (It is said the king requested the second verse, but since the children did not know it they were compelled to sing the first verse again!) Had there been an air-raid during these sleepovers there was a contingency to drive the Royal Train into Bolsover Tunnel, Derbyshire.
During the 1915–1918 aerial bombardment of Britain by German Zeppelins, the parishes of Skellingthorpe and Doddington came under attack. During one sortie an L64 Zeppelin flew over Lincoln, which (being in darkness) escaped notice; at Skellingthorpe and Doddington, however, lights were still showing because the Lincoln sirens, from which these places received their warning of air raids, had not been heard. The lights attracted 14 bombs, which were dropped from 20’000 feet. These damaged an engine shed and a railway track at Skellingthorpe, but inflicted no damage beyond breaking glass at Doddington. The attack occurred on the night of 12/13 April 1918.
It was reported in 1925 that 'great surprise' had been caused in the village by the unexplained jilting of a 24-year-old village girl on the eve of her wedding day. Her future spouse had made arrangements with her to meet in Lincoln with a view to buying furniture for their new home; however, he never kept the appointment, and on the day of the wedding he was still absent. The young woman was at a loss to explain why he had deserted her.
In the Spring of 1934 the Lincolnshire Echo reported on how a terrific thunderstorm broke over the county; a bolt of lightning set a bungalow in Skellingthorpe – owned by Mr and Mrs Brown – on fire, causing severe damage.
Youth killed by an escaped cow
On 8 November 1934 a teenage cyclist, Clarence Tinker, was cycling home towards Saxilby from a dance in Skellingthorpe at two in the morning, when, about half a mile outside the village, he collided with a stray beast that had escaped its paddock. Clarence was fatally injured, dying later that day, and the only witness – a motorcyclist coming from the same dance - stated the animal appeared in the road, and following the collision had wandered in the field opposite, whereupon he lost sight of it in the darkness. A verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ was returned.
The parish during the war
A war memorial in the church grounds shows that the village lost 19 men during the Great War, and a further five during the Second World War. There was great solidarity between parishioners and those stationed at the nearby RAF base during the war, particularly when serious incidents occurred. (Two disastrous accidents involving bombers and their payloads occurred in 1945, each time accompanied by a tremendous explosion.) The endurance of this solidarity can be evidenced by the fact that, following the war, all those who served on the base were granted the Freedom of Skellingthorpe, and a copy of this declaration can now be seen within the village’s Heritage Room (dated 2 June 1996). A plaque was also subsequently erected near the current Community Centre and Youth Hall by the people of the parish; this was dedicated to the memory of ‘the airmen and women’ of 50 and 61 Squadrons who served at RAF Skellingthorpe during 1941–1945. The plaque can be found opposite the Heritage Room and bears a poignant poem by RW Gilbert: My brief sweet life is over; My eyes no longer see; No Christmas Tree, No Summer walks, No pretty girls for me; I’ve got the chop, I’ve had it: My nightly ops are done; Yet in another hundred years, I’ll still be twenty one.
In 1948 there was a proposal to develop RAF Skellingthorpe into a civil airport, but it came to naught.
The area was the scene of a major accident on Friday 15 July 1949. An RAF Bomber that had taken off from Waddington came down 15 minutes later, crashing in flames near Skellingthorpe. Seven people were killed: Pilot Officer RG Ratcliffe (pilot); Flt-Lt RH Knight (navigator); G McCarthy (navigator); MG Waterfall (navigator); JW Adamson (signaller); CS Brett (gunner) and FG Searle (gunner). The crash occurred in a field a quarter of a mile away from an RAF bomb dump. (The site of the bomb storage area was at Skellingthorpe Moor Plantation, to the south of the village.)
The first telephone in Skellingthorpe was installed in 1925, in ‘Sturdy’s shop’ (a local tailor). Electricity and running water came in the 1930s, with the first lot of street lights being erected in 1956–57. Main drainage came in 1964.
In 1961 St Lawrence's Church was presented with its East Window by the Bergne-Coupland family. The window was designed by Edward Payne, of Box, Gloucestershire, and depicts the Ascending Christ and his disciples. A plaque nearby explains that the disciples' faces were based on Mr Payne's friends and neighbours: "Recently, a (now elderly) man visited this church to see a picture of himself representing the disciple, Peter."
Railway accident, and closure of the line
Skellingthorpe railway station closed in 1955, although it continued to carry freight until 1979. A 1975 report on railway accidents by the Department of Transport observed that there had recently been a serious derailment 'at Skellingthorpe'. A loaded mineral wagon in a fully fitted freight train derailed at 40 mph, dragging nineteen other wagons into derailment and causing extensive damage to the single track. A 35 mph speed limit existed on the branch, but the driver was adamant he had not been speeding; on examination a fault was found in the speedometer, caused by water in the cable, which led to its reading 10 mph slow at 40 mph. The signal box used to stand beside Lincoln Road (near the Heritage Room) before it was pulled down. The route of the line is now a cycle path on a National Cycle Route.
The distinctive village sign was presented to the parish by the Skellingthorpe Women's Institute in 1982 to celebrate their Diamond Jubilee. The sign was designed by resident John Atkin and carved by Graham Stringer, and can be seen on Lincoln Road. Its double-faced design reflects numerous important points in the parish's history, from its likely Viking origins to the establishment of RAF Skellingthorpe.
In 2005 the village made national headlines when church concerns about a planned 'Harry Potter day' for local schoolchildren forced the cancellation of the event. It had been intended that the children would dress up as wizards and witches, and learn pretend spells and potions, in an event designed to coincide with the launch of the latest book in the series.
In April 2006 a marked police vehicle chasing a suspect vehicle (following an incident near the A46 Doddington roundabout) left the road and crashed into the front of a house in Skellingthorpe. The occupants were inside at the time, although luckily they were unhurt during the incident. The two officers received minor injuries.
Jerusalem Road was closed for five days between 11 and 16 April 2008 following an incident in which a lorry spilled animal waste onto the road's surface. Following reports of cars skidding on the offal and fat, the county council used absorbent material to clear the route. A similar accident some years before had resulted in the entire road being resurfaced.
On 26 July 2010 a bone-meal factory in the parish was rocked by a ‘massive’ explosion and fire that forced ten night-shift workers to flee for their own safety. The blast – believed to have been caused by an accidental ‘dust explosion’ – literally shook the village, according to the Lincolnshire Echo. Flames leapt 50 ft high and it took ten fire crews from Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire to bring the major incident under control. A second fire at the same plant occurred in the early hours of 16 August 2011, preceded by two ‘large bangs’. This time, six fire crews took about four hours to quell the blaze.
Pet owners in the village were alarmed by a spate of deliberate attacks on cats in 2011. Reports were logged of pets being poisoned, trapped in cages and doused in freezing water, and in at least one instance shot dead with an air-rifle. Lincolnshire police said it was taking the incidents very seriously.
The first cash point machine was installed in the village in 2013, at the Co-op.
Unique connection with La Chapelle-Thecle
In 2015 an event was held in the village to commemorate an incident in 1944 when a Lancaster Bomber that had taken off from RAF Skellingthorpe was shot down over the French village of La Chapelle-Thecle. Six crewmembers died in the incident, and the villagers of La Chapelle-Thecle defied Nazi occupation to lay flowers on the bodies of the airmen. In July 2015 (71 years on) a special service and buffet was held at Skellingthorpe’s 50 and 61 Squadron Association memorial to commemorate this unique bond, which was attended by local villagers, French visitors, RAF veterans and (as guest of honour) 93-year-old Mrs Betty Bascombe, who had been the wife of one of those who died, Flight Engineer Ronald Jones.
Ram raid upon Co-Operative store
At around 02:30 in the morning on 12 February 2016 an attempt was made to steal the Co-operative’s cash machine, by smashing a JCB into the building. Part of the store’s wall was demolished in the attack, although the noise led to a quick police response. The raiders failed to secure any money, reportedly escaping in waiting vehicles and ramming a police car in the process.
According to the 2001 Census, Skellingthorpe had at the time a population of 3,444 people. Parishioners are served by a popular magazine, Skellingthorpe Chatterbox (est. 1987), and also News NK, a newspaper that caters for all North Kesteven residents.
There are still numerous farms in the parish. According to the plaque in Skellingthorpe's Heritage Room: "Dairy farming is prevalent, and by still stopping traffic while crossing Lincoln Road for milking, cows help to maintain the local scene."
Skellingthorpe Hall is to the east of the village. Pevsner describes the hall as, 'A Greekly august house of the early C.19. The porch is particularly good, with pilasters at the angles and fluted Greek Doric columns in antis with a finely carved frieze behind them above the entrance'. The hall is a Grade II Listed Building. The Manor House is also a Grade II Listed Building, dating from around 1811, which formerly went by the name of ‘West Manor’. (This is not the original Manor House building referred to above as having fallen into near-ruination by 1723.) On Church Road can be found the Grove Care Centre: this building was formerly ‘Skellingthorpe Farm’ and (according to a plaque on its western wall) was built in 1813. Off Lower Church Road, Jessup Cottage is believed to be the oldest house in the village; an 1840 Commissioner’s Report observes one ‘John Jessop’ lived there in 1837. The house (which is a private residence) has a well upon the premises that taps an underground spring; the well also dates to the late 18th or early 19th century. The cottage is a Grade II Listed Building and may have originated as a school. Numerous early-to-mid Victorian houses, such as the Manor Cottages, have the date they were built etched in stone upon their walls beneath the roof. The very distinctive St Lawrence's School building, near the churchyard, was completed in 1856 and initially supported by grants from Christ's and Spittal Hospitals. The Vicarage dates to 1857, and the old village blacksmiths was located in Stoney Yard: both properties are now private residences.
Old Wood is to the west. Old Wood is (as its name would suggest) an ancient woodland forming part of the Witham Valley Country Park. In the Middle Ages it was used as a deer park (see above). An 1847 county guidebook observed of the bird-life in the parish: ‘The extensive wood is frequented by the fork-tailed kite, and used to possess a heronry.’  In 1933 the wood was the home of a large brown, or 'white-tailed', eagle with a seven-foot wingspan. Unfortunately, it migrated south and was shot near Sleaford following a series of attacks on farmer's livestock there. The woodland is now owned and managed by the Woodland Trust. It is a varied site with a mixture of ancient oak, lime woodland and conifers. The woodland also has a high conservation value which will develop further as the conifer areas, which were planted during the 1950s and 1960s, are replaced by native species. To the west of the village, Old Wood merges with the smaller Old Hag Wood, and there is an Woodland Trust information board here (beside the old railway line) that says: "In the spring the woodland floor is carpeted with wildflowers such as bluebell, yellow orchid and lily-of-the-valley, while summer months are highlighted with displays of dog's mercury and enchanter nightshade." A wide variety of wildlife still exists within the wood: sizable buzzards are seen in the daytime, owls can often be heard hooting at dusk and deer have also been spotted among the trees. Snake-like slow worms are sometimes found at the bottom of resident's gardens, and sightings of grass snakes are not uncommon. One trail through the woodland is called the Odin Trail, in honour of Skellingthorpe's likely Viking origins.
Amenities and activities
There are two village public houses: the Stone Arms (named after Henry Stone) and the Plough Inn, both on High Street. Every Wednesday a fish and chip van visits the community centre. There are three football teams in the village, FVA Jerusalem, Skellingthorpe Plough (adult team) and St. Helens (child team). On Lincoln Road can be found the Daisy Made real dairy ice cream and coffee shop. The Village Hall is on High Street and is now used by the local scouts as their HQ, and a small Heritage Room at the Community Centre houses a collection of photographs showing the development of RAF Skellingthorpe. There is a library on Church Road. The village also has two schools: St Lawrence’s Primary School (established 1855) and the Holt Primary School, which dates to 1970. There are a number of Neighbourhood Watch coordinators in the village.
The land south of Church Road is a Recreation Ground called Monson Field, where there are slides, swings and a bowling green. In June 2014 this playing field was the setting for Skellingthorpe's annual Village Gala. The gala, which has been a feature of the village for the past few years, comprises numerous attractions: stalls, a lorry pull, live music and a flypast by a Spitfire featured at the 2014 event. The 2008 gala saw a charity race between pantomime animals that included six pantomime horses, a camel, a reindeer and a cow. With two people inside each costume, the event proved a comical hit with those attending.
The volume of traffic through the village during rush hour is a developing cause for concern, and the matter became one of the issues raised during the 2015 District Council election. In particular, there are concerns about heavy lorries using village roads to and from the A46 rather than just for access to premises within the parish. Serious accidents, including fatalities, on the stretches of road either side of the A46 Skellingthorpe roundabout are not unknown, which sometimes have the effect to trammeling bypass traffic through the village and blocking the roads.
The road south-west of the village is called Jerusalem Road. This leads to Lincoln Road via a distinct hamlet called Jerusalem. It is unclear how the hamlet came by this unusual name, although an early 19th-century Ordnance Survey map shows there was at one time a small Victorian-era Methodist chapel sited between two bends in the road. One theory is that there was no particular reason for the name 'Jerusalem'; it was simply agreed upon during a council held in a local alehouse, when it became apparent that the hamlet was developing without a name. This was the story heard in the mid-1900s, by a village resident helping to clear out the chapel before it was pulled down. (The chapel that stood here should not be confused with the Methodist church that can be found on High Street in the village itself, which only dates to 1894. Nor should it be confused with the one referred to in Thomas Allen’s gazetteer (see above), since this stood on Wood Bank.)
According to a village tradition, the local farmer Henry Stone was working the fields here when he was forced to take shelter beneath a great oak tree during a thunderstorm in 1690. Two times his pet dog attempted to drag him away from the oak, succeeding upon the third attempt: at that exact moment a flash of lightning hit the tree, killing a pheasant that had sought shelter in its branches. To commemorate his curious deliverance, Henry Stone had a picture painted of the tree, the pheasant and his dog. This picture, dated 1693, survives in the Drawing Room of nearby Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire. It is possible the painting inspired the story, rather than the other way round, but it is now sometimes said that the faithful dog's ghost can be seen near the railings that enclose Henry's tomb. (Another version of the story claims Henry was out shooting in the woods when a storm overtook him: his pet dragged him from beneath the tree while he was in the act of levelling his gun at the pheasant in its branches – whereupon the lightning struck it.) Latterly, other kinds of folklore have occasionally become village talking points. These include a ghost supposedly seen on Old Chapel Road and a large cat-like animal seen in 1997. Daniel Codd's Mysterious Lincolnshire contains another account of a village ghost, this time seen within a house in 2002. In 2009, a village resident glimpsed an unidentified aerial phenomenon, or 'UFO'.
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