- The villages around Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -


Photographed in 2000
Irnham Hall

A VISIT TO the village of Irnham, six miles north west of Bourne, is a step back in time because it has been unchanged for a hundred years making it one of the most visually pleasing villages in Lincolnshire. This was one of the 15 manors given by William the Conqueror to Ralph Pagnell and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Today, four roads meet here yet there is little through traffic to disturb the peace of this self-contained grey stone village set among tall trees in a fold of the hills. It consists of friendly cottages, a spacious old church dating back to the 12th century, a Tudor hall on the edge of a woodland park and an attractive inn, the Griffin, which stands at the crossroads and is mostly Georgian.

Even as you approach Irnham along narrow country roads, there is an anticipation of something special ahead because the roadside verges have been trimmed and the hedgerows cut back and the countryside around looks neat and well kept as though part of some grand plan. If you take the turning off from the A151 before reaching Corby Glen, you will espy a large neo-Tudor gatehouse on the edge of the park, a taste of the architectural pleasures to come.

Once in the village, it is difficult to take in so much of our English heritage at one stop and you may miss sight of the fishponds, the first of which can be seen by climbing a slight incline off the main street. These were probably used to raise carp for the table at Irnham Hall when the estate was self-sufficient in mediaeval times. 

Irnham has always revolved around the grand mansion that passed to the Luttrell family in 1220. The present Irnham Hall, with its mellow creepered walls of grey stone, mullioned windows, battlements and tall chimneys, was built more than four centuries ago and was a Roman Catholic house with mass being said in the attic in penal times. A crucifix and palliasse bed were discovered in the priest's hiding hole in 1858, the year the house was sold, and two18th century Roman Catholic priests lie buried in the churchyard. St Andrews is a grand building with Norman, early English, Decorated and Perpendicular work. It is a large church hidden by trees close to the grounds of the hall and visitors are drawn here by an exceptional Easter sepulchre and a vivid Victorian east window of 1859. Brass rubbers also come to copy two mediaeval brasses.

The family who once held the manor here also owned the Luttrell Psalter, bought by Pierpont Morgan for 30,000 and now in the British Museum. Sir Andrew Luttrell, fifth Baron of Irnham, has not only a canopied tomb in the church but also an enormous brass from 1390. A smaller brass of a knight nearby is thought to have been intended for Sir Geoffrey Hilton who died about 1440 after his family had succeeded the Luttrells. The Irnham estate passed by marriage to Sir Richard de Thimelby who built the present
L-shaped hall in 1510. All owners of Irnham were Roman Catholic until the estate was sold in 1854 to William Hervey Woodhouse, a Liverpool wine merchant, and half a century later to Sir Frederick Benton Jones whose descendants still live there. This continuity of family ownership has resulted in the survival of the original mansion almost intact although the interior of the north wing was gutted by fire in 1887 and has since been well restored. 

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