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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.
A small paleolith found in gravel was presented to the British Museum in 1922, hinting at the presence of some ancient tribe. An ancient hand-axe was reported as being discovered in gravel ballast during the construction of the railway line in 1897. The origins of the village are unknown. The area was marsh and woodland at the time of the Romans and there is no evidence of a permanent settlement by ancient Britons, although it is possible that nomadic forest or swamp dwellers occasionally passed through. Roman engineers excavating what is now the Foss Dyke were in the vicinity c. 120 AD as evidenced by a Roman bowl found in the parish, an image of which now features on the village sign. Other Roman-era discoveries include a copper alloy bell found in Main Drain, and 13 coins (dated to the third or fourth century) unearthed in 1978.
Skellingthorpe may have originated with Danish occupiers. The earliest-known spelling of its 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 and the fact that the Danes established themselves elsewhere in Lincolnshire by the year 876 reinforce the supposition that Skellingthorpe became a settlement in the late 9th century.
Domesday Book (1086) records that "Scheldinchope" contained 12 carucates of land worked by 18 villeins, two sokemen and four bordars. Skellingthorpe would have consisted of 960 acres of ploughland plus common pasture, common land, woodland and wasteland. A meadow a mile long and two and a half furlongs broad is also mentioned. The survey noted that the soke of the manor and the manor of Doddington were claimed by Balwin the Fleming but his claim was disallowed, the jury finding that it belonged to the Abbot of Westminster.
Patent Rolls for 1258 (dated 1 October) refer to the "Presentation of Master Raymond, the Queen's physician, to the church of Skeldinghop in the kings gift". (Raymond’s appointment appears to have been clerical, at the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Diocese of Lincoln was historically linked to the Ecclesiastical Province of Canterbury.)
In the Middle Ages the manor was held by the Norman Wak, or Wake, family. At Lincoln Assizes on 29 April 1263, Henry, prior of St Katherine’s-without-Lincoln, complained about Baldwin Wake. He said that Baldwin had confiscated his property at Whisby and demanded he "do suit" at his court of Scheldingope every three weeks. Baldwin’s favoured tenant at Whisby was Brian, son of John, and as lord of the manors of Skellingthorpe and Whisby he resented the prior's free tenement of the land. The assizes judged in favour of the prior. Following the Second Barons' War in England, Baldwin's lands – Skellingthorpe, Hykeham, Waddington – were seized by Antony Bek and Alexander de Montfort, who were entrusted by Henry III with confiscating property owned by rebel supporters. In the reign of King Edward I, he was charged with unjustly taking "consuetudines" (customary tolls) from persons passing along the king's highway in Skellingthorpe beyond the limits of his ownership. On 4 January 1283 the manor of Skeldingho and all Baldwin's other lands were granted to Edmund, Earl of Cornwall; although Baldwin's widow, Hawisia, and others were allowed their rights as adjudged in the king’s court’.
In 1290 Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, died at Harby, Nottinghamshire, about three and a half miles west, and her body was borne first to Lincoln and then to London during a solemn 12-day journey. Eleanor Crosses were erected at each stopping point to mark the stages of her return to the capital. The exact route that her body would have been taken from Harby to Lincoln is unclear but the cortege must have passed round Skellingthorpe, if not through it. (Jean Powrie’s Eleanor of Castile (1990) suggests the most likely route may have been via the Broadholme Priory before crossing the canal near Saxilby and heading east. The priory was a little to the north of Magtree Hill (part of Old Wood), on the site of the present Manor Farm.)
Philip de Kyme obtained the manor by the end of the 13th century, as well as many others in Lincolnshire. He was a "Keeper of the Peace" in the county between 1308 and 1317 and involved in the national politics and military campaigns of the era. He died in 1323.
In 1313, Philip de Kyme's son, William was robbed by thieves who stole his goods and valuable documents. Two suspects, John de Bouynton and Alan Hak of Scorburgh, were outlawed for trespasses committed against de Kyme at Skeldynghope but were pardoned in 1315.
Skellingthorpe, A View Through History (Mr L Stevens, 1974) describes the parish in the 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."
By the 1360s the manor had passed to Gilbert de Umfraville, 3rd Earl of Angus and Kyme. In 1368, while he was away on political business in Scotland, his park at Skeldynghop was attacked by a party of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire gentlemen, led by members of the Everingham family (of Laxton), who occupied it for illegal hunting. The gang stayed there for three days before leaving with poached deer. According to a complaint heard at Westminster on 8 February 1368 they also "perpetrated other enormities".
In 1369 the parson was beaten in St Lawrence’s Church on All Saints Eve and was lucky to escape with his life. A religious disagreement was perhaps the reason for the assault which was carried out by two chaplains and four laymen from Lincoln.
In 1377, one of the Sisters of Bullington Priory, north-east of Lincoln, is listed as ‘Margery of Skeldinghop’.
Much of Skellingthorpe’s history was concerned with ownership of the parish, which was often argued far away from Lincolnshire. In 1382 a plea was heard before the king at Westminster asking him to adjudicate as to whether Elizabeth, wife of Edward le Despenser, had received a dowry consisting of a hall and one carucate of land in Shelyngthorp at bequest of her brother in law. As her husband was dead, she had requested an inquisition. It is not clear whether her plea was successful. Around this time, the manor was held by Walter Tailboys, Knt., of Sotby, 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 styled themselves 'Lords of Kyme'.)
In 1392, John Robyn of Skeldynghope, who had been charged with murdering John de Ounesby of Aubourn, was released from the gaol of Lincoln Castle after testimony that he had killed his enemy in self-defence.
By February 1399 the manor of Skellingthorpe was all but deserted, with much land left uncultivated through a lack of tenants. In the May the Rectory was appropriated to the Hospital of Spital in the Street (the Spital Charity) by 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 a copy of the Pars Oculi, a manual for poorly-educated parish priests, to the church, with the strict instruction that it was to remain there for the usage of all those who filled the position of vicar in the parish.
On the attainder of Sir William Tailboys, his estates were escheated to the crown and a portion , including Skellingthorpe, were granted to Thomas Burgh and his male heirs by King Edward IV in 1460.
The medieval settlement was in the vicinity of Lower Church Road, to the north of the church and most of the present village. There were three sub-rectangular fishponds, orientated north-south, near Manor Farm. It is unknown at what point that settlement became fully deserted. (In 1981, it was reported that the remains of the fishponds, water channels, ridges and furrows were in excellent condition but by 1987 they had been largely obliterated. The site is now largely given over to livestock.)
In 1509 David Cecil, a Yeoman of the Guard, held the position of bailiff, which he did for several parishes in Rutland and elsewhere. The position entitled him to a 21-year lease of a parcel of land in the parish at an annual rent of 18 pounds in 1517. Since the land was fit for pasture, taking the lease would have accumulated Cecil’s wealth. He died around 1536.
Following the death of Gilbert, Lord Tailboys, on 15 April 1530, the manor and lands were still connected with his family, suggesting that there was legal complexity regarding the various properties owned by the Tailboys and the Burghs due to the 1460 Escheatment Act. (Tailboys married Elizabeth Blount, a former mistress of King Henry VIII. A village tradition relates 'Bessie' Blount was exiled to Lincolnshire and imprisoned in 'Skellingthorpe Castle' but more likely at Broadholme Priory or Kyme Tower.)
A will dated 21 April 1531 expressed his desire to be buried in St Lawrence’s Church: "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." 
In 1563, a Record of Marriages was begun for the parish.
In the 1560s the manor was the property of Lord William and Lady Katherine Burgh; but by the death in 1597 of Thomas Burgh the manor changed hands. It came into the possession of Thomas Vavasour (knight marshal), an Elizabethan politician and soldier, who died in 1620. He willed his land here to the Ferrers line, although his descendants continued to live in the parish, which was often misspelt 'Killingthorpe' as in the case of 'Charles Vavasour, esq. of Killingthorpe, in the county of Lincoln', who inherited the baronetcy in 1631.
An inquisition at Westminster on 9 June 1585, following the death of Lord Burgh, described his family’s possessions in '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 in 1598, in conjunction with the alienation of certain manor lands.
Robert Vaughan, curate, "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".
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 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 Roger Fulshaw and seized bales of hay and plundered cattle from his land. Roger Fulshaw had found himself in trouble following a violent brawl with a fellow called Rands in the churchyard.
Robert Farrar who was made a Freeman of Lincoln on 3 November 1552 may have resided in the village, where a family of that name was settled at the beginning of the following century. The Ferrers held the manor during the early 1600s. By 1625 William Ferrers provided £20 annually from the parish revenue to employ a schoolmaster in Tewkesbury. He was buried in Skellingthorpe on 4 August 1646. He was succeeded by Sir Henry Ferrers who had been created a baronet in 1628. Henry married Anne Scudamore, hedied in 1663. (The baronetcy became extinct on the death of their son Henry in 1675.) John Stone purchased the manor from Ferrers in 1630, and on his death it passed to his widow, Katherine. Sir Henry Ferrers wasn a royalist during the English Civil Wars, and his lands were sequestered for his part in forming the King's garrison at Newark, Katharine Stone and her son Henry underwent much trouble between 1650 and 1656 in saving the estate from being involved in the sequestration.
The manor was inherited by Henry Stone. In 1681, he began a suit against Lincoln's mayor and others for preventing water draining into the Trent causing flooding to his grounds in the parish. 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 is now in the grounds of the church, with the wording on it still clearly visible. (Henry’s two wives, two children and brother all predeceased him, and so he willed his estate to Christ’s Hospital. His will also benefitted neighbours and tenants, local schools and the church. His will was so broad that an extensive survey of the parish’s acreage and worth in 1694 was made by bailiffs for Christ’s, and other surveys until 1700 by Stone’s trustees.) His family was 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." It is unclear what he died of, but there is a record of his nurse, Bridgett Mapletoft, being paid £8 "for looking after Mr Stone in his sickness and for mourning."
The 1694 survey, carried out by 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. The 1694 map shows that several roads existed at the time, under different names. Saxilby Road was called Ox Pasture Lane; Jerusalem Road was called Doddington Road, with a Wood Lane at Hughes's corner; and Waterloo Lane was called Witham Lane. (Witham Lane changed its name to Coldholme Lane in 1830 before becoming Waterloo Lane in 1914.)
Throughout the late 1600s and early 1700s the village economy stemmed from duck decoys, but began to decline with the drainage and enclosure of the land. The earthwork remains of an old decoy pond can be found on private land to the east of the village. This pond was established in 1693, when it was leased to 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 Natural England.) Rabbit warrens continued to be granted: the warrener’s house stood on "the Lord’s Moor" from at least 1694. Deer-hunting was obsolete by this time and the park became the responsibility of a forester whose house was on the site of Old Wood House.
In 1710, surveys by Christ's indicated that Skellingthorpe estate consisted of 2,872 acres let to fourteen tenant farmers, 900 acres was newly planted ground, 600 was uncultivated and the rest was wooded. In 1703 Christ's sent inspectors to hear complaints that Henry Stone’s tomb had fallen into a state of terrible neglect and by 1723 the new occupier of the Manor House – John Atkins – proved so inept that the building was in a state of near ruination.
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.)
Findings from a 1749 survey
A 1749 survey reveals that the fields between Old Hag Wood, Ash Lound and Skellingthorpe Old Wood/Big Wood went by a variety of odd names: Little and Great Butcher's Close, Wither Nab, Lamb's Tongue, Little, and Sloppy Ings - the last perhaps references to their then-state as livestock pastures before they were made arable. The survey also recorded that there was a hop garden in the vicinity of Old Hag Wood and Carr Farm, which was said to be the only one of its kind in Lincolnshire. (This was worked until 1869, when the land was ploughed up and the hop-kiln pulled down. Part of the land last cultivated with hops was called the Lady's Acre.)
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.’
In 1783 Christ’s Hospital were forced to adjudicate in a land dispute between one William Morton, who tenanted unenclosed land that bordered common land belonging to the parish of Skellingthorpe, and the parishioners. Because the parishioners were in the habit of overstocking their common land – called ‘the common moor and deep fen’ - with livestock, it meant that Morton’s land was constantly invaded by wandering animals. When he attempted to impose an annual fee of four shillings per head, the people objected; therefore, Morton impounded 30 cattle that had strayed onto his land. We are told that Skellingthorpe residents were ‘immediately in arms, almost vowing vengeance for this declaration of hostilities.’ Christ’s judged that the four shillings fee was adequate, because the parishioners were deliberately overstocking their common land with animals. However, Morton was also penalised and forced to agree to no more than 60 head of his own cattle on his land, to ensure the parishioner’s animals could graze adequately. He immediately flaunted this order, however, and in the end it became necessary to fence off his land to keep the boundaries – and the herds - separate. By 1792 Morton was employing a herdsman to drive off Skellingthorpe cattle that came too near his boundary. (Where this dividing line was isn’t clear, although it may have been in the vicinity of Boultham, Skellingthorpe’s parish boundary being considerably bigger around this time.)
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’.
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 about 1795; but it is unclear whether the narrative is a true one, or a fabrication merely situated in Skellingthorpe.
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.
In September 1812 it was reported that ‘the woods and holts’ of Skellingthorpe had been greatly damaged by large groups of trespassers illegally collecting nuts: the woodkeeper was ordered to be vigilant in his apprehension of offenders, who, it was warned, would be ‘prosecuted as the law directs’.
Fox-hunting was long a feature of life in the parish. Sometimes, fox-hunts passed through Skellingthorpe. For example, the Sporting Magazine descriptively reported one chase late in 1816: ‘(The fox) crossed the turnpike from Newark to Lincoln, bearing obliquely for Skellingthorpe; the hounds now "snuffed the tainted gale"; and, closely pressed, Reynard (i.e. the quarry) made play for Hykeham.’ On this occasion the fox escaped after a five-hour chase. Such hunts were major fixtures, and some actually started in the parish itself, as per a notice in the Stamford Mercury (20 March 1812): ‘Mr Osbaldeston’s hounds will meet on Monday 23d March at Skellingthorpe Wood.’
Attempts to establish Methodism
Although a small number of 'Independents' - possibly Congregationalists or Baptists - had been resident in Skellingthorpe since 1796, efforts to preach Methodism in Skellingthorpe were initially unsuccessful. An early 19th-century attempt by local 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, this seems to have been only a temporary setback for the Methodists, for that same year Richard Coupland, farmer, granted them a place of worship in the parish: this was an outbuilding of his called the Chaff House, adjoining one of his barns. The Chaff House was also used by the Independents, but in time they appear to have become absorbed into the Methodists. (This small chapel - which seems to have stood on the junction of Wood Bank and Old Chapel Road - gradually became unfit for purpose, and in 1894 the present Methodist Church was established on High Street.)
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.’
A brazen robbery
Early on the morning of 1 April 1828 two robbers attacked ‘a rather lonely cottage near the "decoy" in the parish of Skellingthorpe’, after closing the house’s exterior window shutters to shut out the moonlight. They then forced their way in and threatened the occupants – an aged couple called Hinds – until they handed over their hoard of savings and valuables. In escaping, it was reported the bandits blocked up the inmates in their house using heavy stones against the door. It was believed the culprits were two men who had knocked on the door asking for directions earlier.
'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.
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.
In 1835 a travelling hawker called Gideon Smedley, passing on an ass between Lincoln and Harby, was held up and robbed by two foot-pads in the parish of Skellingthorpe. However, during a violent scuffle he managed to secure one of them with the assistance of a fellow traveller called Kirk. The apprehended man turned out to be a former soldier reduced to beggary called Samuel Taylor, and on 24 July it was reported that he had been sentenced to death; however, on account of his remorse and good behavior following his arrest, Taylor was told he would be leniently dealt with.
The earliest railway line
By now a Great Northern Railway line had been established between Lincoln and Saxilby, which skirted the parish of Skellingthorpe and followed the route of the Fossdyke. (This should not be confused with the later divert that went through the village itself.) In 1849 a boatman named Butler was jailed for a week for ‘obstructing a train on the line of the Great Northern Railway at Skellingthorpe, on 1 September, by using it as a hauling path, in towing a boat up the Foss’.
Establishment of St Lawrence's School
In the 1850s there was a reorganisation of the Spital Charity, which had for years faced accusations of mismanagement and embezzlement. Skellingthorpe benefited from a distribution of some of its funds through the erection of a new school. There had been a school in the village for some time, run by Mrs Jessop, who was unceremoniously told by Christ’s that her services were no longer needed and the £10 she received for teaching would stop. An ‘ancient cottage’ belonging to one William Andrews was apparently torn down to make way for the new building. The new school was a National Society School, which brought cheap education to the children of the ‘labouring, manufacturing and other poorer classes'. The school – called St Lawrence’s after the adjacent church – was established in 1855. The school log books of the 1860s provide a fascinating picture of spotty attendance, corporal punishment, petty thieving among the children, stone-throwing and outbreaks of Whooping Cough and Scarlet Fever. Compulsory attendance was not enforced until 1870. However, this did not stop frequent absences. In November 1887 the-then headmaster, Joseph Allison, complained about the number of children avoiding school to work on the potato harvest. School attendance averaged about 60% through children being sent by their parents to work wherever there was work available. (The original schoolhouse is now a private dwelling, although the original school building, which has been heavily extended, continues to sit adjacent.) The school's original Trust Deed is lodged with Lincoln Diocese and a transcription and scan can be seen on the school's website.
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 in 1855 it rained heavily, but this did not deter the crowds that arrived from great distances to participate in the ceremony.
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. In January 1841 it was reported how Joseph Booth, a labourer employed to attend the draining engine on a Skellingthorpe farm, had slipped ‘on the step of the fly-wheel’ and become entangled in the machinery of the engine. Mr Booth had been literally smashed to pieces, but even worse, this horrifying spectacle was discovered by his young son. An inquest at Skellingthorpe recorded a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’. The drains also brought with them their own problems. 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’.
Richard Carline, the last steward of Christ's Hospital
Richard Carline was the resident steward for Christ’s Hospital. He was appointed in 1837 to manage the Skellingthorpe estate on their behalf, and during his tenure it appears to have been well run and orderly, with considerate landlords who were prepared to pay for repairs and improvements. When Mr Carline died in 1863, his position was not replaced, largely because the estate could function without an on-site manager due to the easy access to Lincoln afforded by the railway, the ferry and Lincoln Lane. There is a memorial to Richard Carline set in the wall of St Lawrence’s Church.
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. Gask's farm was nearer Hartsholme than Skellingthorpe, Hartsholme then falling within the parish boundary.
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 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.
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’. As late as 1878 conditions in the parish could still be very unhealthy: the Stamford Mercury reported that three children had lately died from diphtheria in Skellingthorpe, two after drinking water 'said to smell disagreeably'.
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
The east-west Lancashire, Derbyshire and East Coast Railway used to pass through the village, heading west through Ollerton in Nottinghamshire. The line was built in 1897. A proposed ‘coal-line’ through the parish had, in fact, been discussed as early as 1861.
In 1905 an epidemic of typhoid swept Lincoln, making over 1,000 ill and killing at least 110 persons in the city. The longevity of the outbreak, due to polluted drinking water, caused great concern, not least when it was alleged that Skellingthorpe’s Catchwater Drain was heavily adding to the pollution. The drain flowed into Lincoln, joining the Witham and the Sincil Dyke, from where many city and western fenland inhabitants collected their drinking water. In April 1905 it was reported that a Skellingthorpe resident had been questioned by authorities because of a nuisance overflow from his premises into the drain. His response was that he was completely unaware that the water from the drain was used for drinking in Lincoln, three miles away; moreover, he described it as one long dirty puddle the whole year round, in which cows and horses stood during summer. On one occasion he had seen a rabbit, two weasels and three snakes all lying dead in the water. One periodical, The Surveyor and Municipal and County Engineer, stated of this: ‘We await confirmation of this news before commenting upon what seems an almost impossible state of affairs.’
White hedgehog curiosity
On 12 July 1908 a remarkable white hedgehog was killed in Skellingthorpe and put on display for the curious. According to The Naturalist: ‘It is a very large female, and, with the exception of a few bands of a darker shade across the spines, is absolutely greyish-white.’
The Portuguese affair
An affair that caused great interest in Lincoln occurred on 18 May 1912 when a Portuguese man called D’Joao de Camara Leme (20) tried to kill himself in a boat on the Fossdyke at Skellingthorpe. Leme shot himself in the left collar bone and then attempted to shoot himself in the temple, but the weapon jammed. He was tried at Lincoln on a charge of attempted suicide, but discharged by the court into his family’s custody. At the hearing, it transpired that Leme had come to England after his family – who were Royalists – had fled the Portuguese Revolution. His landlady at Portland Street, Lincoln, provided testimony that her lodger had of late become extremely depressed, and had left her a suicide note.
On 16 June 1913 there was great excitement in Lincoln at the appearance of a balloon, piloted by a Frenchman and South American lady, that was taking part in a race from Paris to Scotland. The balloon became becalmed and was forced to set down at 6:50 p.m.: this it did beside a 'field close to Mr Green's farm at Skellingthorpe'. The lady, using a megaphone, called for assistance from some farmhands below, who managed to grasp ropes hanging from the balloon's basket and bring it down in a lane near the field. Mrs Neville, of Skellingthorpe Manor, conversed with the occupants of the vessel in French, while her husband, a county magistrate, procured a motor car to take them to a hotel in Lincoln. The balloon followed them later in a farmer's cart.
End of Christ's Hospital's involvement with the parish
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.
An army march through Skellingthorpe
On Sunday 26 November 1916, as part of a wartime training exercise, members of the Lincoln Volunteer Training Corps marched from Lincoln to Skellingthorpe (via Bracebridge) where the Reverend T Hamilton had arranged his school for their reception at midday. It was reported ‘seldom has the capacity of the school buildings been so heavily taxed’, although food was provided for the troops, before a sermon, hymns and prayers concluded with the national anthem. A collection was made for the fire-damaged church, it being said, ‘The Skellingthorpe people hope to see this splendid corps on many future occasions in their village, and will always accord them a hearty welcome.’
A royal stopover
Between 9 and 11 April 1918 King George V and Queen Mary slept in the Royal Train at Skellingthorpe Sidings while visiting places in Lincolnshire 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!) The school's 1902-1925 Logbook states "April 11th 1918: This morning, the King and Queen, who have spent the last three nights here, ordered the children to appear at the station. After talking to them, His Majesty gave them holiday tomorrow." 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.
This lane is so-called because, until about 1920, Skellingthorpe's District Nurse was housed there. (After that, they lived at various places in the parish, with the position of District Nurse becoming defunct in 1972.)
A Skellingthorpe gourmet
In 1926 Mrs Edward Nevile, of Skellingthorpe Manor, contributed greatly to a popular book on cooking, Dorothy Allhusen’s A Book of Scents and Dishes. Her recipes – Roe Deer Venison, French Raised Rabbit Pie, Yorkshire Curd Cheese Cakes, etc. – illustrate the love of sophisticated food at the manor house during the inter-war years, with a particular liking for French-inspired cuisine.
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 airfield 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.)
Sturdy's Grocers and the Co-op
The first telephone in Skellingthorpe was installed in 1925, in ‘Sturdy’s shop’ (a local tailor). This family business developed into a grocery, drapery and boot-shop. Following Mr Edwin Sturdy's death in 1934 the business was sold to the Co-operative Society in 1948. In 1955-1956 the little old shop was pulled down and the Co-op had another built on the site.
Modernization of the village
Electricity and running water came in the 1930s. Before this, houses shared pumps that tapped underground wells. One well on High Street was 24 feet deep, while another on Jerusalem Road was 12 feet under ground. When the bungalow opposite the Co-op was being built, and the well being prepared, they had to dig well below the rock face before striking cold water. The first lot of street lights were 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."
The Mary Gordon
From the 1940s to the 1960s a familiar sight from Ferry Lane would have been a pleasure boat on the Fossdyke called the Mary Gordon, which took parties of passengers between Gainsborough, Lincoln and Boston. The Mary Gordon is currently exhibited in the grounds of the Pyewipe Inn, beside the Fossdyke on the edge of the parish of Skellingthorpe, and is remarkable for being the oldest electric powered riverboat still in existence. It was built in 1898 in London.
By 1971, Skellingthorpe’s population had risen steadily to 2’593. This was more than three times what had been just forty years earlier, and thirteen times what it had been in 1801. The Community Centre and Youth Hall were built in 1973 on the site of the railway station, to address the need for a larger venue for the growing number of village events and organisations. These included the Women's Institute, the Wives Group, children's parties, proms, weddings and fund-raising events. Previously, the venue had been the Village Hall, established in 1928, although this had grown too small for its purpose by the 1970s.
Railway accident, and closure of the line
Skellingthorpe railway station closed to passengers in 1955, although the line 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). A report by North Kesteven District Council in 1979 argued that 'the signal box is a prominent unspoilt reminder of the early days of railway construction, and should be preserved if at all possible... British Rail will be urged to repaint the woodwork of the unspoilt signal box in an authentic Victorian colour scheme.' The signal box became obsolete shortly afterwards, along with the cessation of freight transport, and it was subsequently pulled down.
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.
Establishment of the Lincoln Relief Road
In 1985 the Lincoln Relief Road (A46 Bypass) opened. Part of this route skirts the Skellingthorpe Moor Plantation, although this is obscured by trees. There is a roundabout connecting Lincoln Road with Skellingthorpe Road, Birchwood. Further north, the Relief Road briefly enters the parish of Skellingthorpe, west of the Decoy Farm and the Duck Decoy.
BBC Domesday Reloaded project
In 1986 the BBC Domesday Reloaded project captured a snapshot of the village, and made some interesting observations. These included the information that: ‘There is one garage owned by Mr Dixon who has lived in the village all his life. He started his garage business in 1958 and at one time employed six people but now only employs one. The garage sells second hand cars, petrol, carries out servicing, maintenance and M.O.T. testing.’ Other interesting snippets included that there was a cheese wholesalers in the village selling 280 different types of cheese; that Ferry Farm, at the end of Ferry Lane, had become a licensed slaughterhouse; and that at St Lawrence’s School ‘there is a school uniform but children do not have to wear it.’ Among the village curiosities was an antiquated post-box that still bore the initials of King George VI, despite that monarch having been dead 34 years by that time.
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. In 2017, Lincoln Proteins Ltd (who operated the site) outlined plans to replace the rendering plant at Skellingthorpe (situated near Jerusalem Farm) with one at Norton Disney. Concerned Norton Disney residents pointed out that having the plant had caused Skellingthorpe to be nicknamed ‘Smelly Skelly’, prompting a Lincoln Proteins spokesman to state, ‘We feel that these views are based on perceptions of the old Skellingthorpe plant of some years ago and not on the very latest, state-of-the-art plant…’ The plant developed in the early 1950s, when A Hughes – ‘Horse-slaughterers, Meat and Bone Meal Manufacturers, Jerusalem Farm’ – offered other local farmers ready money for fallen stock and thin cattle.
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 02:30am 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. There had been another dramatic robbery attempt in Skellingthorpe the previous December. Following an attempted burglary in the village, the perpetrators crashed a stolen car at speed into a ditch at Jerusalem, injuring two inside the vehicle. Two others fled the scene, leading to a search for them utilising a police helicopter and searchlight, which circled the village and surrounding area numerous times. A third suspect was apprehended shortly after on 20 December 2015.
Lincoln Road development project
In September 2016 North Kesteven District Council announced that plans had been approved for 280 new homes on Lincoln Road, a development that was expected to bring more than £1 million in investment to the area. A café, heritage centre and other amenities were also proposed for Skellingthorpe’s newest expansion. The site was identified for development as far back as 1951; planning permission was granted for over 200 dwellings in 1953, and again in 1966. Nonetheless, the land remained vacant for decades. However, the construction of a site access from Lincoln Road and on-site drainage met terms that allowed for the revival of the project, and facilitated the approval granted by the Eastgate Planning Sub-Committee on 30 August 2016. It was reported that there was very strong opposition to the development locally, particularly as a second, smaller estate was simultaneously proposed elsewhere in the village. The issue of facilities for a growing community – the café, library, heritage centre, etc. to be situated at a location on the current Children’s Play Area – in particular caused great division. This proposal, called The Hub, was so objected to that it prompted an unofficial vote to take place at the Community Centre on 8 February 2018, in which hundreds of villagers turned out to register their disapproval with the Hub development. The objections centred around an unapproved decision by the Parish Council to borrow one million pounds to fund the Hub, which, it was argued by opponents, would not make a profit and would force parish taxes to climb. In the run-up to the vote, a number of Councillors supporting the Hub resigned, with one later citing local harassment and abuse as the reason. The future of the Hub at present remains uncertain.
A slaughterhouse in Skellingthorpe has been the site of a number of small, and peaceful, demonstrations against the treatment of cattle being transported to the premises. The vigils - called ‘Cow Save’ - were organised by the Boston and Skegness Vegans and Vegetarians Group, and occurred in 2016 and 2017, aiming to highlight what they perceived as the animals’ distress before being slaughtered. Some of the demonstrators requested that the transporting lorries be allowed to stop for three minutes so that the animals could be wished a dignified ‘goodbye’.
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. A number of old houses on Waterloo Lane and Woodbank also bear this motif. 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 old vicarage off Waterloo Lane dates to 1870 (although there was an earlier one next to the church), and the old village blacksmith's was in Stoney Yard: both properties are now private residences. Just outside the village, on Saxilby Road, is a private house called 'The Cottage', of which it was written in 1974: '(The house) was only "one up and one down" and was at least 400 years old and has been the village bake-house. This has been greatly improved in later years.'
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 slowworms 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 used to be a library on Church Road, at a point known as 'Library Corner', which was opened in 1964. In 2018 it was closed to make way for new houses. The village also has two schools: St Lawrence’s Primary School (the original 1850s school building is now a private dwelling, however) 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 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. The hamlet seems to have developed in the early 1890s when tenements with gardens and pig sties 'suitable for working men' were offered for rent. These may have originally sprung up to serve Jerusalem Farm, which appears to have developed around the same time. The area was not entirely devoid of habitation prior to this; about 100 years earlier, a meadow appertaining to Carr Farm was used for making bricks. (This presumably accounts for the name of Brick Kiln Holt, which is immediately north of Jerusalem Farm.) It is unclear how Jerusalem came by its 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. Despite this, 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.) The piece of woodland called 'Gilbert's Plot' takes its name from a man so called who built himself a cottage at the wood corner on Skellingthorpe Moor, according to a 1749 survey.
According to a village tradition, 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. Twice 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.) The dog is said to have been buried near Henry's tomb outside consecrated ground underneath (what is now) the entrance to the St Lawrence School playground. It is further said that his miraculous escape was the reason why Henry Stone became such a philanthropist, his provision for education and the welfare of others being a form of thank-offering.
Latterly, other kinds of folklore have occasionally become village talking points. These include a green ghost supposedly seen on Old Chapel Road. Daniel Codd's Mysterious Lincolnshire contains another account of a village ghost, this time seen within a house in 2002. An article in the Lincolnshire Poacher magazine on the subject of Skellingthorpe's traditions also mentions a phantom bomber that supposedly flies over the village, and a house on Jerusalem Road where the imprint of a lady's feet were discovered in dry concrete following the sighting of a ghost walking up to that very spot.
In 2016 it was reported that some kind of large cat-like animal might be on the prowl in Skellingthorpe, following the discovery of two mutilated hares on the lawn of a 'remote home' in the parish. The smudges of two large paw-prints, slightly smaller than an adult's hand, were also discovered on the window of an outbuilding at the same premises. Rumours of such a visitor to Skellingthorpe date back to 1997, when a large unidentified feline was allegedly sighted.
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