- The villages around Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -
TAKE THE A15 north out of Bourne and you drive into unwrecked Lincolnshire. Folkingham is eight miles along the road where the undulating countryside eventually gives way to a magnificent view of the village on the far hillside and dominated by the tower of the historic church and the magnificent façade of the Greyhound, a coaching inn in mellowed red brick from the time of Queen Anne. For over 1,000 years, this large village, or small town as it once was, became the meeting place of traders, farmers, hunstmen, robbers and pedlars. Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, Folkingham Manor had been the chief estate in this area of Ulf of Fenisc, a great landowner, but when the Normans arrived, the lands were handed over to Gilbert de Gant, a nephew of William the Conqueror's Queen Matilda.
A Norman castle once stood on the rising ground to the east of the town and was rebuilt in 1321 by the Baron de Beaumont whose family lived here for two centuries. King Edward II granted Folkingham a Thursday market and also seven annual fairs and Edward III stayed in the castle in 1331.
Although the name on many milestones is often spelt Falkingham, it was written Folchingeham in the Domesday Book and the first part of the name is said to derive from the word Folch or Falx meaning a sickle. Two streams from the north west curve in the shape of a sickle round the site of the old castle to join up into the handle in the south east. But before you reach the village, another tower looms on the skyline and one with a practical rather than a spiritual application. It has always been difficult to maintain water supplies, especially in times of drought, and a windmill built in the 19th century was originally used to ensure continuity but this was demolished before 1930.
Until the late 17th century, the present wide and attractive
market place was by no means delightful because here were stacks of timber
surrounded by a horse pond with a market cross and a dismal town hall, a
butchery and a foul-smelling open well in front of the Greyhound Inn. The market
place was also divided up with chains into areas for the sheep, cattle, horses
and poultry, and for the sale of farm produce and other wares. But in 1788, the
third Richard Wynne, who was then Lord of the Manor, was in financial
difficulties and so he sold off the estate to Sir Gilbert Heathcote whose
great-grandfather, the first baronet, was a Member of
Parliament, Lord Mayor of London and Governor of the Bank of England. When Sir
Gilbert took over, he did
much to transform Folkingham into a charming small market town and his changes
included clearing the
market place of its various encumbrances and equipped it to cater for the stage
coaches using the main London to Lincoln road which passed through.
There were numerous inns on this road catering for the coaches which stopped to change horses and soon the Greyhound was the most important in Lincolnshire. He also rejuvenated many of the town's other inns, including the Green Man, the Red Lion, the Five Bells, the Crown and the New Inn, but it was the Greyhound to which he paid the most attention and it was practically rebuilt in his enthusiasm to make it the perfect stopping place for stage coach visitors, spending £4,000, an enormous sum in those days, on giving it a new brick frontage and an arched stone entrance through which coaches would drive to the stables behind. The assembly room on the right was used as a courtroom for the Quarter Sessions, having stairs down to a prisoners' cell, and many distinguished travellers lodged here on their journeys and it soon earned a high reputation for its quality of food and service.
The Greyhound was not used as an inn for many years during the late 20th century when the business failed and this was followed by a short spell as an antiques and crafts centre but this too closed down and after standing empty for some years, the building has now been restored and converted into luxury flats. The spacious market square remains, surrounded by interesting buildings reflecting a mix of architectural styles, mostly well preserved but not all sympathetically, while dominating the scene is a fine tall-towered mediaeval church.
St Andrew's Church was built between 1350 and 1530 and although its 15th century tower can be seen as you approach the village, it is tucked away in a lane off the market place. The tower has niches in its buttresses, a panelled doorway with roses and foliage and a lofty vaulted ceiling. The porch is also vaulted and over it is a room with a fireplace. Among the most noteworthy features is the 15th century elaborately carved wood chancel screen, once brightly painted but now a rich dark oak, its panels adorned with 12 saints, while a collection of local memorabilia, including the old village whipping post and stocks capable of holding three miscreants at one time, can be seen at the back of the church. Shading the churchyard gate is a fine horse chestnut tree with a trunk that is about 14 feet round and a modern stone memorial commemorates the author Colin Watson.
See also The House of Correction