- The villages around Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -
Embroidered hassocks in the village church
THIS WAS ONCE known as Braceborough Spa, a secluded place of mineral springs visited by Victorian health addicts seeking a cure for their various illnesses, both real and imagined. Today, it would make a fortune. The village is tucked out of the way between the A15 and A6121, four miles south of Bourne, and you will miss it unless you keep your eyes open for the signpost. The famous Doctor Willis treated George III here for his madness and his royal patient used to stay in a wing of Shillingthorpe Hall nearby, now demolished but there is a tablet in Greatford church to his efforts.
A bathing house was built here in 1841 to take advantage of the springs which yielded 1½ million gallons of mineral water a day that gushed forth, according to one eye witness, at the rate of "seven hogsheads a minute" and he also noted: "The mineral water here is known for its remarkable purity and abundance of gaseous constituents, rendering it eminently suitable for drinking and dietetic purposes. It also exerts a beneficial action used externally in certain affections of the skin."
The spa prospered for many years but gradually declined, along with other British spas, because of the advent of new drugs such as the sulphonamides, in the early years of the last century. An attempt was made to revive the facility after the First World War when its waters were bottled and sold or given to drink on the premises but by 1939, it had finally closed down although the water still gushed out from the depth of its source into the River Glen as it meanders on its way to the sea. In view of this spa's recommendation for healthy living, it is perhaps fitting that the imposing and spacious Braceborough Hall has become a retirement home where the more affluent of our senior citizens can live out their final years. Few now know about Braceborough Spa although it once boasted its own railway station but only the station master's house survives as a private residence known as Spa Halt and the platform with its end ramp now forms the basis of the garage and its driveway.
The village is one of sequestered charm, enhanced by several thatched cottages and a mix of the old and the new, including a fine terrace of stone cottages where one occupant spent his life collecting a magnificent display of farm machinery that was displayed in his garden. The village also contains a number of well designed modern bungalows set in ample grounds.
St Margaret's Church has a fine porch from 1662 and a sturdy church tower with a soaring broach spire dating back to the 13th century and a wheelchair ramp inside the porch reminds us of the elderly residents who now live in this village. There are several items of antiquity inside, importantly the Norman font, its square bowl carved with arches, zigzag and diamond pattern, although the tiny apsidal chancel has largely been rebuilt. Yet another is a big stone with the impress of a brass to Thomas de Wasteneys who died here of the Black Death in 1349. The window in the south aisle contains figures of saints Luke, Paul and Mark, and is the work of the eminent Victorian stained glass artist C E Kempe whose output in Lincolnshire was impressive.
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