- The villages around Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -

Deeping St James

 Photographed in 2004

MANY VISITORS to South Lincolnshire miss Deeping St James, which straddles the road alongside the River Welland south of Bourne, because it lies off the main A16 road between Stamford and Spalding. But a diversion can be rewarding for this village has one of the most beautiful riverside walks in the county.

The High Locks provide a picturesque setting along this stretch of the river which is also a favourite haunt for anglers. There has been a footbridge at this point for centuries and the present iron structure was built in 1905 and strengthened in 1949 because it was showing signs of wear. But that too is rusting and fast becoming unsafe and is also considered to be unsuitable because it is not wide enough for wheelchairs and may be a road hazard for cyclists and pedestrians who encounter the main road on leaving at the far end. A new bridge which would be twice as wide with a design that would eliminate any road safety hazards is currently being planned.

The river runs alongside the main street and both banks are accessible for much of its length with a pavement on one side and a footpath on the other. The date on the stonework of the pack horse bridge is 1651, and it was built in an age when transport was far slower and usually horse-drawn, both on and off the river. The three segmental arches are all nearly semi-circular in shape and the bridge carries a roadway only 13 feet wide but there are recesses or alcoves where, as the name implies, mules loaded with goods could wait to enable carts and carriages pass by.

The bridge links the village with the main A15 Peterborough to Lincoln road and is still in use by modern traffic and although there is insufficient room for two cars to pass, it carries an increasing number of vehicles each day which has necessitated strengthening the stonework in recent years although a weight restriction now operates to protect it from damage by heavy vans and lorries. The river, whose banks were once filled with wharves, landing stages and jetties to handle cargoes brought in by a busy fleet of barges, now rarely even sees a rowing boat and the towpath where horses once plodded to and fro has become an attractive walk for visitors on sunny days.

The ancient lockup at Deeping St James has recently been refurbished at a cost of almost 20,000. The money, which has come from South Kesteven District Council, local charities and various grants, is well spent because it will not only ensure the survival of this historic curiosity but also attract more visitors to the village that already has a goodly share of heritage sites.

Photographed in 2006

The lockup, situated on the corner of Eastgate and Church Street, was originally the market cross, erected when Deeping St James held regular markets, probably during the reign of Edward III in the 14th century and a focal point where crowds would gather and so it also became a popular place for the sale of poultry and produce, butter and cheese, hence the more familiar name of the butter cross. But in 1819, the market cross was converted for use as the village round house or lock up because there was sufficient space within the base for its new use.

The renovation scheme required approval from the Department of the Environment because the lockup is a listed structure. It was badly needed, not least the removal of an unsightly electric lamp that defaced the top of the monument for so many years. The stonework was cleaned and re-pointed, cobbled setts laid around it and floodlighting installed to provide illumination at night, a seat installed and a line of black metal bollards to protect the lockup from passing vehicles. 

A history of the Deeping lock-up and other buildings in the village can be found
on the CD-ROM A Portrait of Bourne

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