- The villages around Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -

Morton & Hanthorpe

Photographed in 2000

Photographed in 2000

UNTIL THE SUMMER of 2004, Morton and Hanthorpe were two villages on either side of the main A15 trunk road between Bourne and Lincoln, although regarded as one by local people in all but name.

Now they are one, the change having been approved by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Ordnance Survey and the Registrar General, and notices to this effect were posted around the village in September of that year and in future, its affairs are in the hands of Morton and Hanthorpe parish council. It is but a change in name because the two communities have for long shared many things, the church, post office, the village hall and not least, the public houses because all of these facilities existed at Morton although not at Hanthorpe.

Coincidentally, it was announced at the same time by the Lincolnshire Association of Local Councils that Morton and Hanthorpe Parish Council had been granted quality status, a prestige award for the council which is the first in South Lincolnshire to be so honoured. Morton and Hanthorpe, as it has been known for some time, was also named the best kept village in the 2,000-plus class, the judge making very favourable comments about the absence of litter and the community spirit that exists here.

The village inn, the Five Bells, has been a hostelry for at least two centuries but it has not been a business on its own account until recent years. In 1842, it was listed in local records as both a farm and a public house run by Edward Clarke and by 1900, his son William Clarke was described as a farmer, butcher and publican. The Five Bells stands next to the parish church and it is this association that gave the hostelry its name because it is within the sound of the bells of St John Baptist Church. Many English villages have an inn named the Bell, four, five, six in fact bells in all numbers up to twelve are numerous. The church did indeed have five bells when this inn was built but a sixth was added in 1892. Englishmen have always had a fondness for their bells and there are now some 40,000 men and women who are enthusiastic ringers. This explains why the Eight Bells, the usual number in a peal, is so popular. The name is also associated with one of the favourite hobbies practised in English villages in the past, that of handbell ringing, and this is also identified on many signs.

The village church of St John the Baptist stands next to the Five Bells and the tower is a prominent landmark in the fenland countryside, its tall pinnacles and hideous gargoyles rising from the heart of the cross-shaped church while the wide western porch faces the main street. The door is handsome with tracery and studded with nails and the interior is impressive, a grand vista of arches and pillars from the early 14th century, while beyond is the vaulted tower with arches into the nave, chancel and transepts. For five centuries, the tower has stood as a monument to Christianity in this part of Lincolnshire and now it is illuminated at night and can be seen from several miles away, a beacon of faith in a flat and sometimes featureless landscape.

The south and west facing walls of the tower were refurbished in 1999 at a cost of over 30,000. Scaffolding went up during the summer to enable stonemasons reach the highest points and the work was completed by the autumn. It included re-pointing and replacing windows and stone which had been eroded by 600 years of weather but as with all country churches, there is still much maintenance work required to keep the fabric of this building in good order for future generations.

Across the road at Hanthorpe, grey stone sits happily with red brick in this tiny community that has an air of permanent rural peace and there is even a village pond where farmers once washed their horses and carts but is now an environmental feature left to the toads and newts, insects, algae and other wildlife.

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