« PreviousContinue »
may be counted from almost any church tower near Sleaford -afford a fine field for the lover of broad effects. 'Amid such native scenes,' writes Sir Charles Anderson in his charming Pocket Guide—which, preceding the Handbook by ten years, afforded the first appreciative description of the county from the pen of one who knows and loves it as his birthplace and lifelong home-'did De Wint love to wander, watching the lights and shadows passing over the waving corn, studying the clouds, and perpetuating them in his drawings with a truth and power only surpassed by Copley Fielding.' De Wint, however, it should be said, though through the triumphs of his pencil his name is indelibly associated with the county, and especially with the city and minster of Lincoln, was not a 'native of Lincolnshire, but one of its adopted sons. He was a Staffordshire man, born at Stone. His connexion with Lincoln was through his wife, the sister of Hilton, the historical painter, and keeper of the Royal Academy, whose father, a sign-painter, lived in Lincoln, his celebrated son being born in the picturesque gate-house of the Vicar's-Court of the Minster-Close.
Although few counties can show so extensive a seaboard as Lincolnshire, there is not one where it is so entirely devoid of beauty or interest. Without a rock to enliven the dreary waste of sand or mud, where a sail is rarely seen, and a solitary gull is the only sign of life'; fringed with low sand-hills or 'dunes' recalling the featureless coasts of Holland ; with a tawny sea, retiring so far at low tide that day-visitors who unluckily hit upon the midday ebb often leave without having had more than a distant glimpse of it, with a 'hinter-land' of dreary, monotonous marsh traversed by long bare roads strangely intersecting at all kinds of angles, and traversed by broad, sluggish dykes, crossed by perilously narrow railless plank bridges, few spots are more depressing than the Lincolnshire coast. Almost the only attraction it offers lies in its connexion with the early days of the Poet Laureate. Lord Tennyson was born, as all the world knows, at no great distance off, at his father's rectory of Somersby, which, together with its pretty little village and low-browed, time-worn church and churchyard cross, bearing-a rare instance—unmutilated carvings of the Blessed Virgin and Child and of the Crucifixion, have happily escaped the vulgar hand of the so-called improver. Of this desolate shore, he writes in his Locksley Hall,
‘About the beach I wandered, nourishing a youth sublime With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time,'
watching the dreary gleams about the moorland flying,' and gazing on
'The sandy tracts And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.' But, inspiring as these associations are to some, we need hardly say that they are not the magnet that attracts the thousands who each year crowd the sands, then so solitary, but now become the great summer playground of the working classes of the midland manufacturing towns. “The sea is the sea,' and, however dreary its surroundings, its drawing power is irresistible to the hard-worked factory hands, who regard a year incomplete without spending at least the inside of a day, with their wives and children, at one of the watering-places competing for their boisterous patronage. The sands, it must be allowed, are generally firm and good ; hard and level enough for cricket and tennis; and there is an abundance of small pretty shells and sea-urchins to be picked up, and children find here a safe and healthful playground. But, with the exception of one or two retired spots not yet invaded by excursionists, such as Chapel St. Leonard and Trusthorpe, the Lincolnshire watering-places are to be avoided by all in search of quiet and repose. Farther south the seaboard of * the parts of Holland' is even more uninviting. It presents a wide stretch of almost inaccessible marshy flats, with islands of solid ground, clothed with coarse grass and dull-looking seaside plants, intersected with ramified channels running far up into the land, brimful at high tide, but at other times of the day exposing a slimy surface of nauseous mud, forming a trap for the incautious walker who, finding himself so near the sea, desires to get a sight of it.
The shores of the Trent and of the Humber are more inviting. The banks of the former rise in a high cliff, beautifully clothed with trees at Gate Burton and Knaith, above the busy but singularly unprepossessing town of Gainsborough, the 'St. Oggs' of George Eliot's Mill on the Floss, rich in historical associations as the place of Sweyn's death and Alfred's marriage, of the visit of Henry VIII. and his pretty but loose consort, the unhappy Catherine Howard, to Lord de Burgh, at the Old Hall, and of the skirmish between the Royalist and Parliamentary forces in July 1643 hard by at Lea, in which the gallant young Colonel Cavendish fell, driven with some of his men into a quagmire,' where, writes Cromwell in a letter announcing the 'notable victory' it had pleased the Lord' to give him,‘my captain-lieutenant slew him with a thrust under the short ribs. Farther down, the high ground about Burton Stather and Alkborough, overlooking the junction of the Trent and the Ouse, where the two rivers lose their names and unite their waters in the broad tide of the Humber, commands a scene of singular beauty, thus graphically described by Sir Charles Anderson :
Nor must we forget that very remarkable and, in our opinion, unique view from the bank at Burton Stather, broken by tussocks of rough grass, and interspersed with old elders and picturesque thorns and whins, among which the rabbits play, and springs trickle, lurking below the damp moss and tangled fern. There have we often stood and watched the steamers, the varied sails of billy-boys and keels on the broad streams which at this point join the broader Humber ; some winding their way to the markets of the West Riding, some dropping down, laden with potatoes from the warping grounds, bound for the great vorago of London ; others lying helplessly on the mud banks, waiting for the coming tide. Curlews and seagulls, and in the wintertime grey-backed crows, hover over the water. Over the trees rise the spire of Goole, the lofty tower of Howden, the Abbey of Selby, and beyond, rising in solemn majesty, the Minster of York.'
No visitor to North Lincolnshire, at the proper season, should omit a pilgrimage to Twigmoor, near Scawby, one of the few inland breeding-places of the black-headed gull (Larus rudibundus). The scene presented at breeding-time baffles description. The reedy mere with its broken banks overhung with Scotch firs and larches, and fringed with purple rhododendrons, is alive with thousands of gulls, whose noisy screams fill the air with deafening pertinacity. Nests, properly speaking, there are none. A shallow hollow in the earth suffices for the mother-bird to lay her eggs and rear her young. But with these the ground is so fully occupied that it requires the most wary walking to avoid trampling on the eggs or crushing the callow chicken.
Any sudden sound, such as clapping the hands, produces a momentary silence, followed by a simultaneous upward flight, filling the air with the whirring of wings, and darkening the sky with a countless multitude. But all this noisy, busy life is comprised within a few short weeks. As soon as the young birds are strong enough of wing to accompany their parents on their return journey, the whole tribe depart to their sea-home, and the mere and its banks are left to solitude and silence till another year.
We have said enough, we hope, to show that the despised county of Lincolnshire in its physical features is not altogether destitute of objects to attract the tourist and interest the intelligent visitor. But it must be allowed that these are not
its chief attractions, and that in natural beauty it is surpassed by not a few English counties. When, however, we turn to
. its historical associations, both civil and ecclesiastical, and the examples of architecture it presents, we shall find that very few English counties are its equals, and still fewer
To begin with its churches. For obvious reasons, we pass over the Minster, which would demand an article to itself, and speak only of the parish churches. The size and beauty of the Lincolnshire churches is proverbial; but the popular estimate, as with the county itself, contains an element of serious error, which, without such skilled guidance as the Handbook furnishes-its author has personally visited almost every church in the county-may lead to some considerable disappointment. Few counties, it is true, can show so many magnificent churches as Lincolnshire, but, at the same time, few, in some districts, can show poorer ones.
The same mistake has been made in the case of the churches as with its physical character. A part, and that the smallest part, has been taken as typical of the whole. The architectural riches of the three parts' already spoken of are in inverse ratio to their size. Holland, the smallest, being far the richest, and Lindsey, the largest, the poorest. As our author says,
'If Lindsey were a county by itself it would rank below several English counties, though it has one of the most beautiful spires in the world at Louth, and churches of great beauty and interest scattered over its wide area. But in the whole central Wold district the churches are either very small and mean, or else have been recently rebuilt, so that the average of this great division is not very high.
Rightly to estimate the architectural glories of Lincolnshire, the traveller must visit the southern districts of Kesteven and Holland. In the former there is a great wealth of spires, often of exquisite beauty of outline and admirable workmanship. In this respect it can only be rivalled by Northamptonshire and parts of Leicestershire. Among these the glorious spire of Grantham stands pre-eminent. This was regarded by the late Sir Gilbert Scott as only second to Salisbury. The preference, however, may be given to Louth (in Lindsey) for its finer pyramidal outline, the whole structure gathering in gradually from base-mould to capstone. But even if these two were absent the county would boast of some of the finest spires in England. Nor are spires absent in Holland. Long Sutton has a tower and spire of almost unique value as a perfect and unaltered example of an Early
English design, all of one date. In Holbeach we have another magnificent example of a church all of one design, and approximately of one date and style, the flowing Decorated of the middle of the fourteenth century. The spire is a fine one, but its proportions are not equal to those of some of its neighbours. We may instance Moulton, where the tower and spire, of Early Perpendicular date and d'un seul jet,' may be said to be almost faultless. The broach spires at Ewerby and St. Mary's, Stamford, of Early Decorated date, are among the very best examples of their kind in England. But space would fail us even barely to catalogue the wonderful succession of spires of all periods from Early English to Perpendicular which are the glory of the county. The exquisitely proportioned tower and spire recently added to the new Church of St. Swithin's at Lincoln, the gift of one of the leading manufacturers of the city and the work of a native architect, affords a happy proof that the power of design is still flourishing in its old field.
Of towers as distinct from spires there is an abundance of good examples, though none which call for special remark, with the exception of the 'Broad Tower' of Lincoln Minster, and the far-famed 'Boston Stump,' which, as the Handbook says, stand 'head and shoulders above any other Central and Western towers in England. The latter of these, with its lovely open-work octagonal lantern, copied not unsuccessfully in St. Dunstan's in Fleet Street, rises to the height of 288 feet, a little above Grantham spire and Lincoln central tower. Boston belongs to the parts of Holland,' and its glorious church, one of the finest examples of flowing Decorated in the kingdom, is typical of a district where each successive church is of a size and beauty rarely to be found in isolated specimens elsewhere. The series between Spalding-itself a noble building—and Sutton Bridge, embracing Pinchbeck, Weston, Moulton, Whaplode, Holbeach, Fleet, Gedney, Long Sutton, Lutton, and Tydd St. Mary, cannot be rivalled anywhere in England. Sleaford and the group of churches around it, almost every church rejoicing in a spire of exquisite proportions, in the Kesteven division, will also amply repay a lengthened visit.
Rich as Lincolnshire once was in monastic foundationsthere were upwards of a hundred in the county-the architectural remains of them are very scanty. The only relics of any magnitude are the splendid gate-house of Thornton Abbey and a fragment of its once lovely Decorated octagonal chapter-house; the western tower and sculptured