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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the January 2014 issue

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The village of Nettleham, in the West Lindsey District of Lincolnshire, is often thought to be an extension of the neighbouring city of Lincoln – but nothing could be further from the truth.

It may be peaceful and picturesque, with many links to eras gone by, but it is certainly not just a place to live and it is far from stuck in the past.

Situated approximately four miles north of Lincoln, Nettleham is a scenic village with a beck running through it – attracting many types of wildlife, such as ducks and moorhens. It has a church of Saxon origin and the centre of the village has been designated as a Conservation Area because of its many old stone properties, dating back to the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Its history may be traced back to the Iron Age, but its early development may be attributed to the Romans. After establishing their garrison at Lincoln in 43AD, they discovered a spring on the outskirts of the village, from which they supplemented their supply of fresh water from the wells in the upper city.

Following their departure in the fifth century, the invading Anglo-Saxons initially claimed the manorial rights in Nettleham but the manor eventually became the property of Queen Edith of Wessex, wife of Edward the Confessor.

The manor was then passed on to the bishops of Lincoln when it was enlarged and became known as Bishop’s Palace.

Bishop John Dalderby was the first lord of the manor, way back in 1300; even earlier than that, the place had been given to the king in 1101, and the Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral was the scene of a parliament in 1301.

The future Edward II was named Prince of Wales there while his father was staying in the Bishop’s Palace but the manor house was badly damaged during the great Lincolnshire Rising of 1536, and by 1640 there wasn’t much left standing.

A lot of the stonework from the buildings was taken to create part of the housing and stone walls in the village. Present day amenities include several shops and a café located in the village centre, a health centre, four public houses, a village hall and a beautifully restored old stone village school used by numerous organisations and the location of the Parish Council offices.

Nettleham also boasts many sports and social clubs, a primary and junior school and playgroups.

The Bishop’s Palace site is now being developed by the parish council into a community amenity with a meadow and a discovery trail. Councillor John Evans, who is chairman of the Bishop’s Palace project steering committee and a parish councillor, said: “Nettleham is an olde worlde type village with an old church, stone cottages and new buildings that are not out of place. It still has a nice character in the sense of a village and is very forward thinking.

“We are very fortunate to have a population with thirty per cent retired people, a large proportion of whom come from professional backgrounds, so we have a good skills base among the residents.”

A parish plan survey done in 2007 showed Nettleham had the national average of people over the age of sixty. Around twenty-five per cent of the people who responded had lived in the village for more than thirty years.

Nettleham is well served by public transport, with a number of different bus companies providing regular services, both into Lincoln and further afield.

Despite its relatively large size, the village deservedly has a reputation for being a very friendly place – not only to live thanks to its strong community spirit, but also to visit.

The Gardeners’ Association has made a huge contribution to creating the picturesque look which adds charm to the village, so it is unsurprising that Nettleham has achieved a number of awards in the annual Best Kept Village Competition.

“Nettleham has won the competition more times than any other village. It was joint winner with Tealby two years ago and both have won it ten times. But Nettleham has just won it again which puts us in the lead now,” said Councillor Evans.

Parish Council clerk, Julia Finn said: “We are delighted that Nettleham has again won the Best Kept Village Competition.  It was the first year of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) taking over as organiser. 

“Many thanks go to all the pubs, shops and businesses for their wonderful flower displays; to residents for their tidy gardens and to the Parish Council staff for their considerable efforts in keeping the village a litter-free and attractive environment.”

The village was awarded a commemorative bench as joint first place winner in ‘The most successful communities from the past 50 years’ category of the 50th Anniversary Best Kept Village Competition in 2012, which was sponsored by Pennells Garden Centres.

Competition co-ordinator, Teresa Palmer said at the time: “2012 was the last year that I was personally involved with the competition. I was delighted to be asked to co-present the bench to representatives from Nettleham, on behalf of Community Lincs with Richard Pennell. 

“In the time that I have been involved with the competition, Nettleham was always ‘the one to watch’ in Class 3, so it was delightful to be involved in the 50th Anniversary presentation in a village that oozes community spirit.”

Consultations were held early last year with villagers and the Neighbourhood Plan Committee to establish what issues concerned residents the most. As a result, a number of objectives were formulated for improvements to the village.

They included siting new developments to reduce the need to access via the village centre, ensuring car parking supported the viability of the village centre, the provision of leisure facilities for teenagers and ensuring infrastructure is appropriate to village needs.

Ward Councillor, Malcolm Leaning said: “Nettleham is a living village and not the dormitory suburb of Lincoln a few would like to believe. New housing will be required under the emerging local plan and the parish council is asking residents where they would like them built under the Neighbourhood Plan. Firm answers are now coming back on both the position and size of each group of houses.”

Proposals to alleviate parking congestion in the centre of the village were discussed at the September Parish Council meeting. Plans to introduce restricted waiting times and more double yellow lines have been forwarded to LCC Highways Department, which is expected to implement the necessary Traffic Regulation Orders after a statutory consultation period. 

There were plans for a full skate park to be installed but the cost and size of site needed has meant they have had to be shelved.

However, investigations are underway to look into the possibility of a scaled down facility for early pre-teen children with the provision of a small number of skate-park type pieces of equipment (such as grind rails, quarter pipe, table top) which can be used for skateboarding, skating, push scooters and BMX bikes. It is likely to be sited on Mulsanne Park.

BISHOP’S PALACE FIELD
Moves to turn the 1,000-year-old historic Bishop’s Palace site in Nettleham into an amenity to benefit the whole of the community has not been an easy task, but the bulk of the work has been achieved and feedback from the village has been good.

After the lease was acquired by the parish council three years ago, it identified there was an overwhelming desire to see something done with the site, so the principal objective was to bring the heritage site into use as a public amenity and to inform and educate visitors about its remarkable history.

Chairman of the Bishop’s Palace steering group, Councillor John Evans said: “It was just an overgrown field with nettles and barbed wire all round three years ago. With the help of in the region of £32,000 worth of grants from Heritage Lottery, WREN and Corey Trust, we have created access to the six-acre site including that for disabled people.

“We have created some gateways to it, new pathways and – in the adjacent site which is the Bishop’s Meadow – we have planted some woodland, a heritage orchard, apple trees and other fruit trees and a wildflower meadow. The dry stone wall is also to be rebuilt.”

The area was the site of the Manor House belonging to the wife of Edward the Confessor. In 1301, King Edward I created the title of Prince of Wales at Nettleham at the Bishop’s Palace and most of the building was wrecked during the Lincolnshire uprising of 1536. By 1640 there weren’t many buildings left standing.

The Bishop’s Palace is a scheduled ancient monument site, which means it is protected and people aren’t allowed to plant anything with roots, such as trees, because they might disrupt ancient foundations. But the meadow isn’t.

“We have nearly finished the bulk of it and it is looking quite good now. It’s been a long job but well worth it. It is very gratifying to see it now, compared to what it looked like three years ago,” added Councillor Evans.

THE ARTISAN SKILL OF THE MASTER UPHOLSTERER
The county used to be full of people making things. Everything could be sourced and produced locally. Mass production and international importing weren’t issues and so a thriving specialist craft industry flourished. Upholstery was one of the key crafts at the heart of the Lincolnshire community.

A renewed interest in handmade, one-of-a-kind items, vintage styles, and environmentally conscious consumption is now driving a renewed interest in upholstery.

“People used to get furniture reupholstered all the time, but then it got cheaper and cheaper,” said Edward Crowther, founder and managing director of Lincoln master upholsterer, Crowther & Sons. “What looks like a Rolls Royce on the outside can be a cheap, poor quality product on the inside. Now, people are starting to realise that older pieces last longer.”

Built to last using traditional techniques, each piece of furniture produced at Crowther & Sons is lovingly crafted by an experienced workforce in their Nettleham workshops helping to preserve and nurture the future of Lincolnshire craftsmanship.

“Traditional upholstery is just quality – you know it will last thirty years or more. Working out from the frame and working out how to do everything, that’s the joy of it. I’ve always liked to build something up, take it from frame to finished job and see people appreciate my work,” said Edward, who now has a team of cabinet makers and upholsterers working alongside him, including eldest son Ed Junior a fellow master upholsterer and youngest son, Daniel at the start of his apprenticeship.

“When it comes to furniture, it’s what’s inside that really counts. In today’s market, that’s often cheap materials and a particleboard frame instead of real wood. You could have three chairs that look the same, but you take them apart and every one is different. That means that in addition to patience, the trade requires a lot of know-how, something that’s increasingly scarce,” said Edward.

At Crowther & Sons the fusion of both state-of-the-art modern and traditional fillings combines the best of both worlds with the overriding emphasis on quality of materials and construction.

“It’s nice to update the style, in light of that ethos of renewal and recycling, to give it a more modern feel,” added Edward’s eldest son, Ed Junior. “There’s a lot of older furniture that’s in fantastic shape. It has great bones, it’s perfectly strong, the frames are great but it looks old. Once it is reupholstered it can work for another fifteen to twenty years.”

Crowther & Sons represents the very best in Lincolnshire craftsmanship to a growing regional and national audience. The company is leading the way to train and produce the next generation of skilled master upholsterers, ensuring the skill flourishes in the county for many years to come. For further information please visit www.crowtherandsons.com Tel: 01522 510520.

NETTLEHAM’S FRENCH LINKS
2013 marked the 35th anniversary of Nettleham’s links with the French village of Mulsanne which is five miles south of Le Mans – famous for its 24 Hour race.

The links all began through a school exchange in the next village back in the 1970s and a charter was drawn up which saw the Nettleham-Mulsanne Twinning Association formed in 1978.

Originally a small village straddling the main road from Le Mans to Tours, the population in Mulsanne is now around 7,000.

Its claim to fame is the ‘la ligne droite de Mulsanne’ – the Mulsanne Strait, which is the fastest section of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race Circuit, when the village is closed off and the area receives some 250,000 racing enthusiasts.

Ward Councillor Malcolm Leaning said: “Nettleham has been twinned with Mulsanne in France for many years. The main village road of Mulsanne is the fastest stretch of the racetrack and twinning residents from Nettleham have a continual invitation to sit in their grandstand each year.”

Nettleham’s sports ground, Mulsanne Park, is named after its French twin village.

Mulsanne Park is an area comprising ten acres and is used for sporting and recreation facilities. The tennis club, cricket club and both Nettleham FC men’s and Nettleham Ladies women’s football teams all use Mulsanne Park as their base.

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