I remember the visit to Old Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire to this day for many reasons, it was early January 2011, a bright sunny day when we found ourselves entering the village after what appeared to be heading the car in the direction of infinity and beyond for a long, long time, although Old Bolingbroke sits only a few miles west of Spilsby.
Bolingbroke is steeped in history with its ancient monument Bolingbroke Castle the birth place of John O Gaunt’s son Henry Bolingbroke the future King Henry IV. It also played its part in the First English Civil War. In 1652 the towers and walls where destroyed by dumping them into the moat to stop it being used in any further military conflicts.
While wandering around the church of St Peter and St Pauls which was built by John O Gaunt in or around 1363 and which had unfortunately suffered at the hands of Oliver Cromwell and his friends in 1643.
We happened to meet a gentleman passing our way, entering into a conversation as you do when strangers pass the time of day,
”what a lovely day it was for the time of year, your accent is not from this part of the world, where are you from, Edinburgh or Glasgow? is it not really sad to hear of the death of Gerry Rafferty“
Its moments like those that turn a pleasant visit into a memorable one.
Early Years of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lincolnshire Wolds
As far as I can recall from this distance in time, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott were the backbone of my early poetical education, Lord Alfred Tennyson played a very minor role in the form of The Charge of The Light Brigade but Scots Wha Hae, To A Moose, Tam O ‘Shanter and Lochinvar where written into the psyche by those who wrote the educational syllabus.
It was only later that the appreciation for Mariana, In Memoriam, Maud and The Lady of Shalott to mention just a few was developed.
There have been countless words written on Tennyson’s early years, his relationship with his father and The Lincolnshire Wolds he grew up in.
I have no desire to add to the tally, only to say if the opportunity presents itself it is well worth a visit to Somersby, Bag Enderby and beyond, I am sure you will find The Lincolnshire Wolds a delight.
I hope you enjoy the photographs below which may inspire you to visit.
George Clayton Tennyson, Alfred’s Father was rector of the parish,
from 1802 until his death in 1831
He lies at rest in the churchyard.
The eldest son who went into the Church and the second son who inherited the title.
St Margaret’s Church, Somersby, Lincolnshire.
Born in 1781. Died on 18 March 1831 at the age of 52
Build for the Burton Family,
Sits next door to Somerby Rectory and opposite the Church St Margaret’s
Lies a 15 minute walk to the east of Somersby
Alfred’s Father was also rector here from 1806 until his death in 1831
Harrington Hall, a 50 minute walk to the south east of Somersby.
It appears in Tennyson’s poems over the years along with its rose garden,
the Church of St Marys next door with its cross legged knight
and Rosa Baring a resident of Harrington Hall
“Yonder in that chapel, slowly sinking now into the ground, Lies the warrior, my forefather, with his feet upon the hound.”
From Locksley Hall Sixty Years After by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
“She came to the village church, And sat by a pillar alone; An angel watching an urn Wept over her, carved in stone; And once, but once, she lifted her eyes, And suddenly, sweetly, strangely blush’d To find they were met by my own; And suddenly, sweetly, my heart beat stronger And thicker, until I heard no longer The snowy-banded, dilettante, Delicate-handed priest intone; And thought, is it pride, and mused and sigh’d ‘No surely, now it cannot be pride.’”
From Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Gunby Hall is a 4 hours 30 minute walk south east of Somerby
on the way to the seaside town of Skegness, it is today under the care
of The Nation Trust. In Tennyson’s day the owners were still the Massingberd Family,
Tennyson described it as “A haunt of ancient Peace”
“Early in 1764 Dr Samuel Johnson paid a visit to the Langton Family, at their seat of Langton, in Lincolnshire, where he passed some time, much to his satisfaction.”
Quoted from The Life Of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
Although Langton Hall in Langton by Spilsby in Lincolnshire no longer stands the church of St Peter and St Paul and its environs are a delight to explore and if you feel energetic you can emulate the good doctor and roll down the sheep walks.
Dr Johnson is said to have visited The church of St Peter and St Paul while visiting his good friend Bennet Langton a founder member of the literary club.
The present church was erected by Bennett’s grandfather George in 1725, when the great man of letters visited the roof would have been covered in lead unlike today, it is said that the lead was removed to be turned into bulletts for use in the Napoleonic Wars.
“War involves in its progress such a train of unforeseen circumstances that no human wisdom can calculate the end; it has but one thing certain, and that is to increase taxes.”
The setting and the exterior of the church building is extremely charming but it is when you enter that you experience the full impact and appreciate why it has gained its reputation with the great and good.
The year was 1607, Mary Queen of Scotts only son was king of England, Scotland and Ireland and on the north bank of The Haven Boston Lincolnshire the Scrooby Separatists later to be known as The Pilgrim Fathers made their first attempt to escape and seek religious freedom.
Also the first English settlement in the New World in Jamestown Virginia North America had just been established. Among the hundred and five men who set sail from London a year earlier was a Lincolnshire son named John Smith of Willoughby, he was responsible for establishing trading links with the American Indians.
It was during this time that he was captured by a group of Indians who murdered some of his companions and threatened to execute him but according to the story John Smith told he was rescued from this fate by the intervention of the eleven year old Pocahontas who pleaded for his life.
John Smith became president of Virginia in 1608 returning to England in 1609.
Boston Lincolnshire as far as I can remember has always been a challenge to navigate, it seems to be constantly full of cars making their way either into Tennyson country, The Lincolnshire Wolds or the seaside resort of Skegness. Our destination is not so far afield but is the village of Fishtoft on the outskirts of the town then from there onto the banks of The Haven.
The River Witham arrives in Boston Lincolnshire where it flows into The Haven which is a tidal inlet of The Wash.
It is on the north bank of The Haven that you will find a monument to The Pilgrim Fathers, it was here in 1607 that the Scrooby Separatists later to be known as The Pilgrim Fathers made their first attempt to escape and seek religious freedom abroad as they had been refused leave to legitimately emigrate. They planned to sail to Holland but the captain betrayed them and they were return to Boston.
St Andrews Church and The monument to Gwenllian of Wales both sit isolated at the end of a narrow track.
St Andrews Parish Church and Sempringham Abbey Church
The current church of St Andrews sits to the north of the site where St Mary’s Priory once stood and where Gwenllian of Wales was held captive after being abducted by King Edward I in 1283 until her death .
The priory of St Mary’s was founded by St Gilbert around 1139 and was an order of both Gilbertian monks and nuns, it was destroyed in 1158. The present church once was larger than it is today due to the fact that in 1788 the Norman chancel and transept were taken down because it had become dilapidated.St Andrews Church and The monument to Gwenllian of Wales both sit isolated at the end of a narrow track.
The monument you pass on the way to the church commemorates Gwenllian of Wales, daughter of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last true Prince of Wales.
Monument Commemorates Gwenllian of Wales
Gwenllian was abducted by King Edward I in 1283 after the defeat of her father, because she was a threat to King Edward’s hold on power in Wales, rather than kill the infant Gwenllian was taken to Sempringham Priory and kept a captive in order that she remained childless. She spent the rest of her life at St Mary’s Priory Sempringham in Lincolnshire as a nun of The Gilbertian order where she died at 54 in 1337.
St Lawrence Church, Snarford, Lincolnshire, England
The small Medieval church of St Lawrence sits to all appearances in the middle of nowhere in the Lincolnshire countryside, it is a classic case for the metaphor, never judge a book by its cover.
Sir Thomas St Paul and Wife
Sir Thomas was born in 1582 he was an MP, and twice served as Sheriff of Lincolnshire. His wife Lady Faith had connections to many of the most powerful families in the county.
The Son and Daughter in law.
Sir George St Paul and his wife Frances who was the daughter of Sir Christopher Wray, The Lord Chief Justice to Elizabeth I, Sir George was the builder of Snarford Hall and was described by Lord Burghley as “one of the best men in the country”.
Lord Rich, 1st Earl of Warwick
He divorced his 1st wife on November 1605 and married the widow of Sir George St Paul, Frances Wray on 14 December 1616.
Lord Rich was described as being of a foul and vindictive disposition and of nasty temper.