- The villages around Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -
A QUIET AND SCATTERED farming village called Aslackby can be found seven miles north of Bourne on the A15 although its own people call it Azelby. It may be connected with another settlement in North Yorkshire that was also spelt Aislaby in the Domesday Book but is now written as Azleby
This village lies where the high land begins to drop down to the fens and on a fine autumn afternoon, the sun is in the right position in the heavens to bathe the countryside with mellow light and create a colourful landscape portrait of the village from afar with the parish church of St James the Great as the centrepiece. There is also a quaint-looking public house, memories of monastic buildings, a castle site and abundant shady trees.
There is also a ford in the village where one of the back roads crosses a tributary of the South Forty Foot drain and it is from this point that the visitor will get the best view of the church with its handsome panelled parapets and 15th century tower.
On the left is the red Maltese cross of the Knights Templar, on the right the white on black Maltese cross of the Knights of St John and in the centre is the scallop shell, the badge of pilgrims to the shrine of St James at Compostella in Spain. The simple walls are unadorned except for a tablet here and there to a soul long departed while in the chancel are more up-to-date insignia in two kneelers: one to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the other the Royal Wedding of 1981. There are lofty and graceful arcades with moulded arches and tall clustered piers, a narrow tower arch reaching almost to the roof timbers, an old font enriched with tracery, shields and Tudor roses, and a piscina and an aumbry in each of the wide aisles while the south aisle has a doorway to the former rood loft.
On the west wall of the nave are three drawings
of a building which was demolished in 1892. In 1843, the gazetter William
White described it as "a square embattled tower of two storeys. The lower
storey is vaulted and at the meeting of eight groins in the centre are eight
shields of arms, one charged with a cross". He was referring to the 14th
century gatehouse tower of the Preceptory of the Knights Templar, founded here
about 1154 by Hubert of Rye who gave them their chapel ten years later. Like
other Templar buildings, this was taken by the Crown in 1312 and subsequently
passed on to the Knights of St John in 1338. The preceptory church was dedicated
to St John and was still being served in 1514 and part of this church survived
into the last century. There is a feeling of spaciousness inside the church because there are no pews, only chairs. There have never been pews here and this allows a more flexible use of space. Near to the door is an old stove, a reminder of the way the church was heated in earlier times.
One of the most interesting manor houses in South Lincolnshire can be found at Aslackby, to the west of the village church (pictured top). This is a very attractive property of ancient origin, the rear stone wing surviving from an earlier mediaeval manor house while the other shorter east wing was added circa 1650 and is finished in the wildest artisan mannerism decoration with Dutch gables, pilasters and hood-moulds, changing into crenellation and shields, all in crudely cut red brick. The term "artisan mannerism" was coined by the English architectural historian Sir John Summerson (1904-92) whose study Architecture in Britain 1530-1830 is still regarded as the definitive work on the subject.
During the mid-17th century, the appearance of many major country houses departed radically from the vernacular of preceding centuries in this way and the style soon spread throughout the fens and surrounding area as builders of lesser houses followed the fashion for adding pediments and other uncoordinated details, such as brick quoins and string courses, often on the slightest excuse and with little regard for their propriety.
The gardens here are an added delight and the public now has a chance to take a close look at this manor house in all of its glory and to learn something of its past as part of the Lincolnshire Heritage Open Days held annually to give visitors the chance to see places of cultural and historic interest in the county.