- The villages around Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -


Photographed in 2000

Photographed in 2000

Holywell House and the fishing temple

ACCORDING TO the Domesday Book, Earl Morcar, brother-in-law of King Harold, held land in Bredestorp in which was the famous well, later known as Helewell from its healing properties although the name Bredestorp seems to have been dropped in later years in favour of Holywell. Earl Morcar, whose name is still attached to Morkery Wood a few miles to the west, was deprived of his estates when he joined his uncle Hereward the Wake in the resistance against the Normans at Ely in 1070. In 1071, these lands were then given by William the Conqueror to his half-sister's Flemish husband Drogo de Brewere, builder of the castle at Castle Bytham, but he was forced to flee from England when he killed his wife and the estates were handed over to Stephen, son of the king's half-brother Odo, Earl of Albermarle and Bishop of Bayeux. 

This land in south west Lincolnshire was then famed for its fields of excellent wheat and Stephen, when he eventually succeeded to the title of the Earl of Albermarle, begged the king to grant him ownership on the birth of his son whom he tactfully named William. The wheat flour evidently agreed with the young earl who won fame, not only for his prowess in war and for his generosity, but also for his corpulence that earned him the name of Guillaume le Gros or Fat William.

Holywell today is a charming hamlet nestling in a hollow about six miles to the west of Bourne but is so small that it does not even earn itself a place in the gazetteer although it has all the beauty of steep winding lanes, a shimmering lake full of waterfowl with sheep and cattle browsing on its tranquil shores and the shade of immemorial trees. The village became a royal possession in the 13th century and, like Careby, was famous for its quarries which in 1363 provided stone for the building of St George's Chapel at Windsor. Later, we find the manor and houses owned by Lord John Hussey who subsequently disposed of them after which, in the 17th century, the property passed to the Goodhall family. In 1732, the estate was given to Samuel Reynardson, on the occasion of his marriage, by his sister who had bought it and it was probably he who laid out the gardens and built the temples in the London-Palladian style as a wedding present for his wife.

Holywell House dates from that time when it became home to several generations of the Reynardson family and has since become one of Lincolnshire's true beauty spots. The existing house has an elegant Regency front added to an earlier manor house, originally largish and L-shaped and typical of this part of the county, with period stables, temples, an orangery and dovecote. The core of the original house remains with one gable end but extensive additions were made in 1732, 1764 and in the early 19th century.

The most attractive feature of the grounds is the fishing temple by the lake with a pedimented Roman Doric portico and rusticated windows in the side bays. This building is identical to the menagerie designed by James Gibbs at Hackwood and published in his Book of Architecture in 1728. The hall remained in the possession of the Reynardsons until late in the 19th century when it was acquired by the Honourable J C W Mountjoy Fane. Another member of the family, John Birch Reynardson, was Rector of Careby and Holywell for 70 years. The hall, now a private residence, presents a scene of picturesque seclusion.

St Wilfred's Church stands on the lawn south of the house as though it were one of its garden ornaments, a tiny building dating from 1700 and built with stone from the mediaeval chapel at nearby Aunby and so parts may resemble styles circa 1300 although extensive alterations were carried out 1863-4. This was once the parish church but was taken out of the Diocese of Lincoln in 1985 and is now part of the hall property although anyone who wishes to use it for a funeral, a wedding or a baptism, may do so provided they find their own priest. It has a short bell turret and an interesting east window of stained glass, a mosaic of small fragments excavated elsewhere from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The gardens at Holywell are a sheer delight and interested members of the public are invited in each year to enjoy them.

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