The Church and Village
Welcome to St. Mary's Church, Hundleby. We are part of the Spilsby Group of parishes which consists of eight churches, with the vicar resident at the vicarage in Spilsby.
It may come as a surprise to you that St. Mary's is only about 150 years old, for the greenstone external walls and tower look older. There was a 1 5~' century church on the same site, but it had relapsed into such a bad state of repair by the mid 19th1 century that it had to be pulled down. A much earlier church is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The present church was built in 1854- 55, using some of the old sandstone blocks from the previous church. It cost £1,300 which was raised in the village by public subscription. An important contribution was raised by Mrs. Edward Rawnsley of Raithby Hall, who embroidered and sold exquisite needlework for the cause. The building is Perpendicular in style, as can be seen from the pointed arches of the doors and windows.
St. Mary's consists of a nave, aisle, chance! and a tower with four ancient bells, saved from the previous building. One of the bells is a sanctus bell, and all three can still be rung on special occasions.
In 1 81 8 the tenor bell was cracked so it was decided to take it down and recast it. This was no small undertaking, for the bell was immensely heavy. A local worker called Ingenuity Jones undertook "to make the bell as good as it ever was" for a fee of £10, to be paid only if he was successful. He went to the trouble of erecting a forge in the churchyard, but poor Ingenuity never received his £10 as the attempt ended in failure.
The tenor bell was subsequently re-cast by James Harrison of Boston, and bears his inscription. This was in 1819. The tenor bell is 36.5 inches in diameter, the first bell 30 inches and the second, cast in 1675, 33inches. The much smaller sanctus bell is 13.5 inches.
The embattled tower on the west side of the church with its pinnacles and gargoyles can be seen from many points in the parish, particularly when the churchyard trees are not in leaf. In the latter part of the 19th century a man fell from the top of the tower. Incredibly he picked himself up and walked away!
The chancel was restored through a donation from the 19th Lord Willoughby de Eresby of Eresby Hall, a residence which has since been demolished. He was patron of the living. The stone pulpit was presented by The Rev'd. John Lonsdale, and the stained glass windows in the nave by various Victorian parishioners. In the east window over the altar can be seen two old fragments of glass, showing a bishop in red and a saint in blue. On the south side there is a window in memory of The Rev'd. Henry Hansell, a former curate. The seven sided font dates from the 17th century.
Inside the church very little remains from the previous structure, although at the entrance to the chance! on the lefthand side you will notice the start of an incongruous stairway which seems to lead to nowhere. This is an old rood stairway which was preserved by the Victorian restorers. There are three examples of medieval work which have also survived. These are the labelstops, the Perpendicular tower arch and a Perpendicular three-bay arcade with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches.
The registers of births, marriages and deaths were also preserved, and date from 1707. In the early years these were known as Vestry Books, although the church then had no vestry. They are almost perfectly preserved from 1754 and contain many amusing items. An interesting Christian name recorded at a baptism in 1715 was that of Thornicine!
In 1874 the new choir stalls were added and the organ chamber was built. In 1880 the church was lit by gas, at a cost of £53. Eleven years later an ancient Italian altar cloth was presented to St. Mary's by Mrs. Hutchinson, a Hundleby resident at that time.
In the late 19th century there was great excitement when it was announced that a special display for Harvest Festival would include several new innovations. There were to be some most unusual exhibits, some of them permanent, with the highlight being a new reredos.
One parishioner, who could not wait for the service, entered the church beforehand and searched frantically behind pillars, in the vestry, even under the pew seats. Later he was heard to say to his friend, "I never did find this wonderful red ‘oss. Where WAS the red ‘oss?"
In the churchyard is a stone shaft surmounted by a crucifix, in memory of the seven villagers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
We have a service at St. Mary's on most Sundays in the month, and it is our policy to keep the church unlocked on every day of the year.
Although Hundleby is only a mile from the small town of Spilsby, and indeed it is difficult today to determine where Hundleby ends and Spilsby begins, it has always had a strong village identity of its own. There was a time when Hundleby was the town and Spilsby its adjoining hamlet. The A16 is to all intents and purposes the dividing line between the two places.
Like so many places in Lincolnshire, Hundleby is predominantly an agricultural community which has prospered and declined through the years according to the state of that activity. But it has boasted its own industries in the past, notably a flourishing brickworks and a brewery.
The population has remained fairly constant over the past century and a half, rises and falls mainly being dependant upon the number of inmates in the Spilsby Union Workhouse which was situated in the parish. A glance back at the old records shows the following population figures:
1841: 612 (including 162 workhouse inmates).
1851: 824 ( 262 " " )
1871: 735 ( 137 )
1881: 631 ( 148 )
1891: 562 ( 131 )
1901: 528 ( 58 )
1911: 498 ( 95 ‘‘ )
The Lord of the Manor in 1856 was Lord Willoughby de Eresby from Eresby Hall. The next most important landowner was James Hairby of North Beck House. The vicar at that time was The Rev'd. Edward Rawnsley of Raithby Hall. His family was closely associated with the Tennysons at Somersby Rectory, Alfred spending the first 28 years of his life there until he left for the
south in 1837.
Although so close to Spilsby, Hundleby had five shops of its own in 1856, including a shoemaker, a tailor and a baker. There were also three joiners, a builder, a wheelwright and a nurseryman working in the village, along with a surgeon and a law clerk. No less than eight farmers lived within the parish.
No doubt most of these would frequent one orother of the two inns, the Fox and Hounds and the Maltster's Arms (now the Hundleby Inn). The beer was supplied by a brewery in the village, which also delivered by horse and cart to pubs in Spilsby and the local villages.
The main manufacturer in the mid 19th century was the brickworks in Brickhouse Lane. Many of the workers lived in Spring Terrace, at the entrance to Brickhouse Lane, and a glance at the brickwork used in the terrace shows the diversity of the local bricks. The chimneys were particularly ornate, but these were demolished in 1999. They were intended as a subtle form of advertising. Builders even to this day know that it is virtually impossible to split a Hundleby brick in half. The bricks were transported by horse and cart to the station at Spilsby. The brick-works also manufactured chimney pots and tiles.
There were two schools in the village in 1856. One was the village school in Church Lane which was enlarged in 1884 to accommodate 120 children. It is now the Parish Rooms. The other was a private boarding and day school at Hundleby House.
The Spilsby Union Workhouse took inmates from as far afield as Alford, Wainfleet and Friskney. It was situated in the building known as The Gables which still stands at the time of writing (2000), although it is currently the subject of a housing development. It was built in 1837 at a cost of £4,400 - over three times more than the church cost to build - and was designed for 250 inmates. Seventeen architects submitted designs, the successful plans coming from Giles Gilbery Scott of Boston.
Although Britain was probably the most influential country in the world in the mid 19th century, there were many who through no fault of their own had no homes. This was particularly true in the large new towns of the Industrial Revolution and the rural areas such as Lincolnshire. It was common for adults to die in their 40s or even earlier, which resulted in a huge population of orphans.
With no social benefit system, the workhouses were the only provision for the down-and-outs in society. Unfortunately, many had a reputation for ill-treating their inmates, as Oliver Twist found to his cost. Parishes resented spending money on people who provided no economic return, although there is no suggestion that the Hundleby establishment was notorious in this respect.
In 1871 the Wesleyan Chapel was built almost opposite the tiny village green, where the notice boards are today. It replaced a much older building. John Wesley, himself a Lincolnshire man from Epworth, is known to have preached at Raithby, and it is interesting to speculate whether he ever ventured the extra two miles to Hundleby.
By this time the farmers had increased to eleven, and a corn miller, a butcher, two dressmakers, two cattle dealers, a hairdresser and a coal merchant had supplemented the list of local traders.
The Grace Swan Memorial Cottage Hospital and Nurses' Home was built in 1902 as a memorial to Mrs. C.T. Swan of Sausthorpe Hall. It had fourteen beds and a cot, and accommodation for the matron and nurses. It still operates as a health clinic to this day, providing physiotherapy treatment and the like.
By 1930 the Lordship of the Manor had passed to the Earl of Ancaster. The number of farmers had dwindled to five, which was indicative of the depression in agriculture. But there were still two grocers and a butcher in the village, as well as a shoemaker, two boot repairers, a plumber, a builder and a wheelwright. There was also a motor mechanic and, somewhat incongruously, an aeronautical engineer.
Older residents in the village can remember a shop in the terrace opposite Church Lane, run by a lady in her front room. A loud bell behind the door clanged when anyone entered. She weighed up sugar in blue paper bags and had big jars of loose, brightly coloured sweets which she sold to the schoolchildren. A tailor had his premises in the same row, and opposite was a baker's who produced a popular line in pork pies.
Sadley the post office and a general store at the Spilsby end of the village street has been the latest to close, leaving a carpet and furnishings store, a garage and a funeral director's premises. There is also a highly specialised firm of geologists who search for oil-bearing rocks by means of computer technology. The Spilsby and District Tennis Club have their courts and clubhouse off the main street, and the Hundleby Inn plays an important part in the social life of the village.
It is well worth taking a walk along the main street, which straddles the B1195, to look at the diverse array of architecture provided by the houses. There are many very handsome older buildings in mellow red brick, and some examples of former mud and stud construction which have been attractively restored.
Towards the western end of the main street, past the Hundleby Inn, North Beck Lane leads off to the right, coming from Spilsby. The lane is an old packhorse route to Partney, and on the right is the thatched Hundleby Grange, said to have been built at the time of John of Gaunt. After the tarmac finishes, the cart-track contains some of the oldest hedgerows in Lincolnshire. Sumpter Farm at the end of the tarmac is now a turkey farm, but it is built on the site of an ancient monastery. Behind it there are some ponds which used to be the monks' fish ponds, for fish was a compulsory dish on Fridays.
The track is part of the Franklin Way footpath, a two mile triangular walk. It heads north across pleasant fields towards the River Lymn, with the steeple of Sausthorpe Church prominent in the distance. Then it turns south-east, crosses North Beck by a footbridge and wanders gently uphill towards the
On the left there used to be a racecourse, where the bankside provided a natural grandstand. Not far away was the old brewery, which provided racegoers with their local refreshment. It also provided a horse which would pull carriages from the field, if they were stuck when conditions underfoot were muddy. The brewery charged a small fee for this service, but as this was sometimes not forthcoming, a further horse was attached to the other side of the carriage. If the fee was not paid, this horse would pull the carriage back again into the mire!
The third and final leg of the Franklin Way heads north-west roughly parallel to Hundleby main street, until it reaches Hundleby churchyard. Just past the church, the path re-joins the top end of North Beck Lane.
NORTH BECK LANE. This was an old carriers' route between Old Bolingbroke and Partney, when both had the status of a Market town.