A place with important connections

Stephen Wade explores Welton and finds a village with a few surprises and a mystery
Lincolnshire has several Weltons: there is Welton-Le-Wold and Welton-in-the-Marsh but this Welton is just a few miles north of Lincoln. The steady flow of drivers on the A15 into Lincoln from the north will always notice the sign for ‘Welton and Dunholme’ but few will be aware of the place which has been there since the Domesday Book, where it was termed Welletone. This means ‘village with a well’ and the Saxon vocabulary evokes a quiet, rural history. That is largely true, but delving into the village’s past reveals some surprises. We naturally want to say ‘Welton by Lincoln’ to make it distinct, but that is slightly awkward. ‘Welton’ defines the difference very simply.

One of the first revelations of a fascinating past was when a Saxon burial ground was discovered in the 1960s. Six skeletons from the mid-sixth century AD were found under a building site. This always has a stunning, wonderful element to it, when the remains of the past are manifested in human forms, as in one of the drawings Thomas Hardy produced when he was a young architect, showing layer upon layer of human bones beneath a country church.

In the 1940s one writer described it as ‘a big village with a stream running through it on its way to the Langworth river.’ But although that gives a broad view, a closer look finds that it has been a settled place through the centuries, with Roman and Celtic habitation there. Finding the human history of a place demands a persistent investigation, and the writer HT Coe did exactly that for this magazine many years ago, when he or she, while metal detecting, found a piece of paper in a jug which had these words on it: ‘At the place where five men stand/Like the finger on the hand/lies my treasure in the land.’

The writer did some research and found that one Tom Cussitt, a local wise man (real name, Thomas Cusworth) died there in 1820, at the age of ninety; he was well known as an astrologer, and he used something called a ‘witch’s mirror.’ It appeared that Cussitt had left this mysterious message, and the writer found the ‘five men’ of Welton – a row of trees, it seems. That is the kind of local lore we find when going that bit closer to a place.

Welton has links with a number of interesting folk, as well as with Cussitt. The outstanding one is surely Dr Richard Smith, who died in the village in 1602. By a codicil to his will, Dr Smith bequeathed the lordship of Potterhanworth for the establishment of a hospital for the upkeep of twelve children of the poor, who were to be housed, fed and educated, then apprenticed to a trade. The building related to this was Christ’s Hospital, Lincoln. The fund grew and grew, and scholarships were provided for the grammar school which still stands, grand and strikingly attractive, on the Wragby Road.

In 1910, a memorial cross was placed over Dr Smith’s grave at Welton and unveiled by a Mr Wheatley, the Town Clerk of Cardiff, who was an ‘old boy’ of the Lincoln school. Smith, teaching in London, was inspired by the Bluecoats School, famous for many old boys over the years, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and set up his own version after returning to Welton in 1595. He was Lord of the Manor of Potterhanworth and there was a net cast very wide indeed when young scholars were recruited from the area around Lincoln. The memorial to Dr Smith was created in St Mary’s Church a considerable time after his death, but at least it confirmed his importance, not simply to the village, but to the whole county. Better late than never, we might comment.

The church of St Mary provides the next connection, because the church bells were cast by Henry Harrison, the nephew of John Harrison, the inventor of the marine chronometer. Henry was born in 1732, and he cast the Welton bells in 1770; he also did the third bell at Sibsey. His father, James, established the Harrison bell founders at Barrow, and it was he who made the sundial in Barrow churchyard and, more prominently, he was also commissioned to hang the bells at York Minster in 1733, along with making a new frame.

St Mary’s provides a great deal of interest too. Nikolaus Pevsner, in his 1960s guide, found the ‘pretty Gothic west doorway’ attractive, and he thought the ‘Victorianized’ windows worth a mention. The church was developed by Thomas Bell in the eighteenth century, though its origins stretch back to the early thirteenth century. After a fire in 1442, only the arcades remain from what was the medieval building. Some writers in the 1940s found aspects of the church to be a rare find for the antiquary, describing a ‘little museum of old relics’: ‘Here is a table made from the old canopy of the pulpit, coins dropped hereabouts by Romans, Roman tiles, an enamelled pendant 500 years old, and charred wood remnants from a fire which destroyed this church 500 years ago.’

It is hard to avoid RAF connections in Lincolnshire, of course, and just down the road from the village the 619 RAF Squadron were based at Dunholme Lodge between April and September 1944. A window at the church is a memorial to the ‘new generation of flying men’ who ‘go forth to save civilisation once more’ as Claude Scanlon wrote. This window dates from 1921, in honour of men from both Scampton and North and South Carlton who lost their lives in the war.

Dunholme Lodge was at first a country house, but in wartime, with the building of hangars and runways, there was a demand for billeting of personnel in the area, and in addition, there was a number of Leeds children evacuated to the locality. So for some time the houses around Welton and Dunholme were indeed crowded with guests. After the war, the Rev William Farr bought five acres of the RAF site, and this land eventually became the site of the school. His widow, Beatrice, laid the foundation stone of the future William Farr Comprehensive School.

Education in Welton in the years before that consisted of the same foundations which could be found in thousands of similar villages across Britain; the St Mary Elementary School, which was rebuilt in 1889, being the source of schooling, having over 200 pupils in the early years of the twentieth century.

There are always people of particularly local importance, in every place across the land, and Welton is no exception, because William Williamson was vicar there for no less than fifty-seven years.

There is a strange story connected with the Rev Williamson: He was about to give the Sunday afternoon service and was in his pulpit when the church was struck by lightning; one man died, and the vicar was knocked unconscious. Apparently he recovered, and set about helping his parishioners to get out of the danger area. For the remainder of his fifty-seven years in office, he was partly deaf after that shock.

These tales of celebrities and local characters confirm the view that Welton is a place with layers of intriguing history and much more – enough mysteries and stories to satisfy the most curious visitor. The cryptic message from Tom Cussitt is not the only reason to reflect on Welton’s story. In fact it would be no surprise if people reading this think it is still worth looking for Tom’s ‘treasure’ in the land. But the real treasure of any location is the important human stories behind the historical records.

Manor Lane Salon in Welton was founded in 2000 by Amanda Kirk. Amanda has been in the hairdressing industry for over twenty years, and still has loyal customers who keep returning. The salon prides itself on providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere to make you feel completely relaxed.

With a number of experienced stylists, Manor Lane Salon has an expanding professional team, trained in London and also Lincoln. The growing group of stylists work together as a team and have many years of experience specialising in all areas of hair care and styling. The salon offers a range of hairdressing options to clients, which are designed to pamper and create the ideal hairstyle for everybody. They offer a choice of three complementary ‘rituals’ when possible which include a hand massage, neck and shoulder massage or an Aveda comforting tea. Manor Lane Salon also offers customers a wide range of beauty treatments including manicures, pedicures, eyebrow reshape and tint and eyelash tints. The salon specialises in giving the best salon experience possible; it is very personal to the client so you will feel utterly pampered. The treatments are for everybody – men, women and also children.

The Ryland Centre at Ryland Bridge, Welton is the location of a variety of bustling businesses that serve both their local community and attract visitors into the village. As well as a convenience store there is Addisons Butchers, a family concern providing the best in quality and service; a hairdressers; a furniture store – Chesterfields of Lincoln – which stocks the finest ranges of leather Chesterfields and chairs to suit both contemporary and traditional tastes; and a takeaway to complete the lively mix at this popular centre.

Located just a short distance from the heart of the village, The Ryland Centre has free parking and easy access.

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