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A History of Horncastle Part 22

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This parish is contiguous to Horncastle, but the village and church are distant about 1 miles from the town, in a north-westerly direction.

Letters arrive at 8.30 a.m., from Horncastle, where are the nearest money order and telegraph office and railway station.

As to the name Thimbleby, given in _Domesday Book_ as Stimbelbi, it doubtless meant originally the Bye (scotice "Byre"), or farmstead, of a thane, or owner, in pre-Norman times named stimel. {165} In the survey made by the Conqueror, A.D. 1085, there are two mentions of this parish, (1) It is included among the 1,442 lords.h.i.+ps, or manors, of which King William took possession on his own behalf, ejecting the previous owners; none of whom, in this instance, are named. Under him it was occupied by 22 soc-men, or free tenants, and 18 villeins, or bondsmen, who cultivated 4 carucates (540 acres), with 240 acres of meadow. This, however, did not comprise the whole parish, for (2) another mention gives Thimbleby among the lands granted by the Conqueror to Odo, Bishop of Baieux, who was half brother to King William, on his mother's side, and was created by him Earl of Kent. His brother was Earl of Moretaine, and his sister Adeliza was Countess of Albermarle. He had been consecrated Bishop of Baieux before William's conquest of England, in 1049. He was subsequently made Count Palatine and Justiciary of England. The old historian, Ordericus Vitalis, says "he was reputed to be the wisest man in England, and 'totius Angliae Vice-comes sub Rege, et . . . Regi secundus'"; and this was hardly an exaggeration, since he was granted by William 76 manors in Lincolns.h.i.+re, besides 363 in other counties. But we have observed in several other instances how insecure was the tenure of property in those unsettled times, when might was deemed right, and this ambitious Prelate was no exception. He aspired to the Papacy, the highest ecclesiastical office in Christendom, and was about to start for Rome, with the view of securing it through his wealth, when he was arrested and imprisoned by his royal kinsman, and his estates confiscated.

The portion of Thimbleby granted to this Odo comprised 250 acres of cultivated land, with 12 acres of meadow and 30 acres of underwood. This was worked for him by three free tenants and five bondmen. {166a} On the attainder of Odo, this land pa.s.sed again into the King's hands, to be bestowed doubtless upon some other favourite follower. Accordingly we find that, shortly after this, the powerful Flemish n.o.ble, Drogo de Bevere, who had distinguished himself greatly at the battle of Hastings, along with many other manors in Lincolns.h.i.+re, held that of Thimbleby. He was, by Royal Charter, Lord of all Holderness, and took his t.i.tle de Bevere from Beverley, the chief town in that division. As is also related elsewhere, {166b} the Conqueror gave him his niece in marriage; but, being of a violent temperament, Drogo got rid of her by poison, and then, having thus incurred the anger of William, he fled the country.

His estates, in turn, were probably confiscated, for we find that a few years later Stephen, Earl of Ambemarle, {166c} had five carucates (_i.e._ 600 acres) of land between Thimbleby, Langton and Coningsby.

This n.o.ble was distinguished for his piety, as well as his other great qualities. The chronicler describes him as "praeclarus comes, et eximius monasteriorum fundator," an ill.u.s.trious earl and distinguished founder of monasteries. Among other such inst.i.tutions he founded, on the feast of St. Hilary, A.D. 1139, the Priory of Thornton, in North Lincolns.h.i.+re.

This Stephen also received the lords.h.i.+p of Holderness, which had been held by Drogo. He was succeeded by his son William, who was surnamed Cra.s.sus, or "The Gross," from his unwieldy frame. His great-granddaughter, Avelin, succeeding to the property in her turn, married Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, surnamed Gibbosus, or humpback. But they had no issue, and so, as the "Book of Meux Abbey" says, "for want of heirs the Earldom of Albemarle and the Honour of Holderness were seized (once again) into the King's hands." What became of the demesne of Thimbleby is not specified; but we find from the survey, already quoted, that in the same century Walter de Gaunt, son of Gilbert de Gaunt, {166d} held Thimbleby and other neighbouring parishes 24 carucates, or in all 2,880 acres of land. We have traced elsewhere {166e} the descent of the Willoughby family from the Gaunts, and about 100 years later (circa 1213, Survey, as before) William de Willoughby succeeded to these estates, including the demesne of Thimbleby. He was ancestor of the present Earl of Ancaster, and Lord Willoughby de Eresby, who now represents this division in Parliament. How long the estates, in whole or in part, remained with the Willoughbys is not clear; but we have evidence of their connection with Thimbleby nearly 100 years later, in a doc.u.ment dated 1302, {167a} concerning a dispute as to lands in Thimbleby, Langton, Woodhall, and several other parishes, between John de Bec and Robert Wylgherby, the two families being related; in which the said Robert surrenders to the said John all property in dispute, for his lifetime, on condition that, after his decease, the whole shall revert to the said John Willoughby, and his heirs, for ever. {167b}

From this time we find other names connected with the parish. Indeed prior to this, in a charter of Bardney Abbey, dated "at the Chapter of the Convent, on Sunday next after the Ascension of our Lord" (22nd May) 1281; we have among the witnesses, along with others belonging to Edlington, Wispington, and Baumber, "Master Bartholomew of Thimbleby,"

and John Crayck of the same, the former being probably the Rector. {167c} This charter refers to certain lands and tenements, the gift to the abbey of "Walter, son of Gilbert, de Bolingbrog," _i.e._ Walter, the son of Gilbert de Gaunt, already named. In another Bardney charter, dated four years later (30th Sept., 1285), we find again the same Thimbleby witnesses, with Alured of Woodhall, and others. {167d}

Three years later than this, in an official inquiry, held at Lincoln, as to certain knights' fees, which belonged to Elyas de Rabayn and his wife Matilda (12th Nov., 1288), the jurors declare that "Robert de Rothwell holds in Thymelby and Horncastre," certain "rents of a.s.size, to be paid at the Feast of St. Michael, the Nativity of the Lord, Easter, and St.

Botulph" (June 17), amounting to 12s.

A more interesting record is the following. We may premise that the Norman n.o.ble, St. Quintin (so named from a town of France, in the department of Aisne, the Augusta Veromanduorum of the Romans), came over among the followers of William the Conqueror, and his name appears in the famous "Battle Roll" of 1066. A Final Concord, of date A.D. 1293, states that on the Quindene of the purification of the Blessed Mary (_i.e._ the 5th day after), a dispute having arisen between Herbert de St. Quintin on the one part, and Ascelina de Waterville and Matilda de Diva on the other part, the two latter being tenants of 3 carucates of land (_i.e._ 420 acres) in Thymeleby; it was settled that the said Ascelina and Matilda should acknowledge the said land to be the right of Herbert; and for this Herbert granted them, as his tenants, all the said lands, except six oxgangs (_i.e._ 90 acres) which were occupied in separate parcels, by Baldrick, Hogge, Alfsi, G.o.dric, Walfric, and others; and for this the said Ascelina and Matilda gave him, in acknowledgment, 40 marks.

A few years after this date it would appear that the Bishop of Carlisle exercised a kind of ecclesiastical lords.h.i.+p over this parish. Thimbleby was in the soke of Horncastle, and Ralph de Rhodes, the former Lord of the demesne of Horncastle, with its appurtenances, West Ashby, High Toynton, &c., had granted these (by charter confirmed by Henry III., A.D.

1230) to Walter Mauclerk, Bishop of Carlisle, and his successors.

Accordingly in an old doc.u.ment of the early 14th century, we find that John de Halghton, Bishop of Carlisle, gave consent for William de Foletby to convey certain lands in Thimelby, Langton, and Horncastle, to the Abbot and Convent of Kirkstead, to provide two monks, to celebrate daily services for the souls of the faithful deceased. The witnesses were Richard de Wodehall, William de Polam (Poolham), and others. "Dated at Horncastre, on this day of St. Barnabas, 5 Ed. II., 11 June, A.D. 1312"

{168a} This shows a connection with the monastery of Kirkstead, to which we shall refer hereafter.

We next come to a record of special interest, of rather later date. The family of Thimbleby, Thymelby, Thimoldby, &c., doubtless took their name from this parish, at a period lost in h.o.a.r antiquity. They acquired in course of time extensive property in various parts of the county. The chief branch of the family resided at Irnham Park, near Grantham, which was acquired (about 1510) by Richard Thimbleby, through his marriage with the heiress of G.o.dfrey Hilton, whose ancestor, Sir Geoffrey Hilton, Knight, had obtained it by marriage with the heiress of the Luterels, a very ancient family, several members of which were summoned to Parliament as Barons, in the 12th century.

The earlier members of the Thimbleby family are called, expressly, Thomas de Thymelby, Nicholas de Thymbylby, and so forth, shewing their connection with this parish. The family name of Thimelby still survives in the neighbourhood of Spilsby.

The first mention of a Thimbleby, as an owner in Thimbleby, occurs in a Post Mortem Inquisition, held at Holtham (Haltham), on Friday next after the Feast of St. Matthew (Sept. 21), A.D. 1333; where the jurors say that Nicholas de Thymelby held, with certain other lands in the neighbourhood, two messuages and four acres of land in Thymelby, of the Bishop of Carlisle, and that the said Nicholas died on the Feast of the Purification (Feb. 2nd); and that his son Thomas, aged 19, was heir.

{168b}

Then follow a grant of land and other privileges, by the Bishop of Carlisle, in Horncastle and Upper Toynton, to Thomas, son of Nicholas de Thymelby. Thomas presented to the Benefice of Ruckland in 1381. His son John married Joan, daughter of Sir Walter Taillebois; whose mother was daughter and heir of Gilbert Burdon (or Barradon), whose wife was sister and heir of Gilbert Umfraville, Earl of Angus. Thus the family kept growing in importance. {168c}

Our last mention of this family, in connection with Thimbleby, shows a still greater expansion. An Inquisition taken 12th August, 4 Ed. VI.

(1550), after the death of Matthew Thimbleby, of Polam, Esq., shows that he married Anne, daughter of Sir John Hussey, and that he was seised of six manors besides that of Thimelby; also of lands in eight other parishes, with the advowsons of the churches of Tetforde, Farrafford, Ruckland, and Somersby. {168d} His widow married Sir Robert Savile, Knt.

Soon after the first mention of a Thymelby of Thimbleby, we find another family of some note connected with this parish. In an agreement made at "Langton near Horncaster, 8 August, A.D. 1370, Peter Skynner of Ely, and Alice his wife, for some consideration not named, surrender to William de Atherby and his heirs, all their rights in certain lands and tenements in Woodhall, Langton, Thymelby, Horncastre, Thornton," &c. {169a} These lands had evidently been held by the said Peter Skynner and his wife.

The Skynners were a family of wealth and position. In 1315 Robert and Richard Skynner held the manor of Pinchbeck, near Spalding. {169b} They were also land owners in Hareby and Bolingbroke. Henry Skynner, by will, dated 29th May, 1612, leaves to his daughter Judith, all his copyhold in Harebie, to his brother, Sir Vincent Skynner, Knight, lands in Hareby and other places, with the advowson of the Benefice. Sir Vincent Skynner was Lord of the Manor of Thornton Curtis; he was in 1604 appointed by the crown Keeper of East Kirkby Park, as part of the Royal manor, or "Honour," of Bolingbroke. His son William married a daughter of Sir Edward c.o.ke, Knight, and was buried at Thornton Curtis, August 17th, A.D.

1626.

We find mention of another owner of land in Thimbleby, in the 15th century, whose apparent love of pelf would seem to have tempted him to defraud the king of his dues. A certain Thomas Knyght, of the City of Lincoln, Esquire, died in the 10th year of the reign of Henry VII. (A D 1495), seized of lands and tenements "in Thembleby," and other places.

At the Inquisition then held, the jurors found that he had alienated certain parts of the property, "the Royal license therefor not being obtained, to the prejudice and deception of the lord the King," and the property pa.s.sed to his son and heir William, who took possession, with "a like evasion of dues, to the King's prejudice." What penalty was imposed is not stated; but it was a somewhat remarkable coincidence, that, as shewn in another Inquisition made the following year (A.D. 1496), certain witnesses deposed that on the 20th day of June, A.D. 1476 (_i.e._ 19 years before his decease), the said Thomas Knyght, and his servants, about the middle of the night "broke and dug the soil of the parlour of his house, and found 1,000, and more, of the coinage of the Treasury . .

. there placed and hidden," which as "tresour-trove, by reason of the prerogative of the lord the King, ought to come to his use, &c." This has all a very suspicious look, Knyght would not have ordered this search for the money if he had not himself known of its being there. It looks like a previous attempt at concealment, in some way to defraud the revenue, which Knyght himself afterwards felt was a failure, and that it was safer to exhume the h.o.a.rd himself, rather than that public officials should do it. Altogether it would seem that "Thomas Knyght, of the City of Lincoln, Esquire," was somewhat of a sordid character, and not a proprietor for Thimbleby to be proud of.

We now proceed to records more ecclesiastical. We have already noted that, with the consent of the Bishop of Carlisle, William de Foletby, in the 14th century conveyed lands in Thimbleby to the Abbot of Kirkstead.

This would seem to imply a previous connection of this parish with that monastery, to attract the Thimbleby proprietor to it. Accordingly we find that, among the various properties of the Abbey, granted by Hugh Brito, its founder (A.D. 1139), and other benefactors, were 90 acres of land in Thimbleby, with the advowson of the Benefice. In those days there was only a very limited number of resident clergy in the country parishes, {170a} the churches being served largely by the monks of the monasteries. In some cases these were "itinerant clerks," in other cases there was a "grange," or dependency, of the monastery in the parish, having a "cell," or "hermitage," for a priest.

Thimbleby was not among the number of parishes which had a church before the conquest, as Edlington and several other neighbouring parishes had; but there is no doubt that a church was erected here soon after that period, which, like the neighbouring Woodhall, was connected with Kirkstead, and here, as at Woodhall, there are traces of a moated enclosure eastward of the church, which doubtless was the site of the grange.

The Abbot of Kirkstead exercised the powers of a superior lord here in a somewhat arbitrary fas.h.i.+on; it being complained against him before Royal Commissioners as early as the reign of Edward I., that he had erected here "furc," or a gallows, on which various criminals had been executed; and that he had appropriated to himself the a.s.size of bread and beer here, and at Horncastle. {170b} But "blessed are the peacemakers," and the abbots, with wholesome influence, were able, when occasion served, to produce harmony out of discordant elements; as the following records show (quoted from Final Concords): "In three weeks from the day of the Nativity of the Blessed Mary, 10 Henry III. (28th Sept., A.D. 1226)," a dispute arising between Reginald, Rector of Thymelby, and Peter, son of John, tenant of a certain messuage and toft in Thymelby. Peter was induced to give up his claim, in favour of Reginald and his successors; and for this the said Reginald gave him one mark, in recognition of the concession. Which agreement was made in the presence of Henry, Abbot of Kirkstead, who himself gave to the church of Thymelby all right which he had in rent, which he was wont to receive; not however without an equivalent, which-being wise in his generation-he was careful to secure; for Reginald, in return, gave him a certain sum "to buy a rent in another place."

The worldly wisdom of the same abbot appears again in the following Concord: On the morrow of St. Michael, 10 Henry III. (30th Sept. A.D.

1226); a dispute between Sarah, the wife of Alan de Tymelby, and Henry, Abbot of Kirkstead, about a certain meadow in Tymelby, was happily settled (it being to the soul's peril to incur an abbot's anathema!) by the said Sarah giving up all claim to the meadow in favour of the said Abbot, and his successors; in recognition of which he gave her one mark.

A gap now occurs in our history, which can only be filled in, for a time, by conjecture. On the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII., the possessions of Kirkstead Abbey were granted by him to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk; on whose death without issue, they reverted to the sovereign, and were re-granted to the Earl of Lincoln, of the Fiennes Clinton family, subsequently Dukes of Newcastle. The Abbey lands in Thimbleby are not, so far as we know, specially named in this grant, and therefore we are unable to say positively whether that family acquired property in Thimbleby or not; but they had undoubtedly property in Horncastle and neighbourhood. For instance the manor of Baumber remained in their hands, and Baumber Church continued to be the family burial place, until the 3rd Duke of Newcastle, late in the 18th century, sold that estate to T. Livesey, Esq.

A few years later, however, we have official evidence that the manor and advowson of Thimbleby were vested in the sovereign. By a deed (a copy of which is in the Rector's possession) dated 10th April, 7 Edward VI. (A.D.

1553), of the Court of Augmentations, a toft and messuage in Thimbleby were granted by the King to John Welcome; also "the lords.h.i.+p and manor of Thimblebye, with all its rights, &c., lately belonging to the monastery of Kirkstead;" also "the advowson and right of patronage of the Rectory and Church of Thymmelbie, aforesaid." In the next reign, of Mary, the benefice was presented, by the Queen herself, to William Brantinghame, being admitted on her nomination 19th Sept., 1554. {171a}

A deed of that reign, dated 6th Feb., 1 and 2 Philip and Mary (1554), grants certain lands belonging to the manor of Thimblebie, to Anthony Kyme, for 21 years, at 10s. per annum

[Picture: St. Margaret's Church, Thimbleby]

Next, in the reign of Elizabeth, a deed dated 9th March, 4 Elizabeth (1562), grants certain tofts and lands to John Porter, for 21 years, at a rent of 18s. per annum; and finally, by deed dated June 30th, 1564, Elizabeth in consideration of the sum of 609 5s. 2d., confirms the above grants and leases to William Conyers and William Haber, both of the Middle Temple, the patronage of the Rectory, "to be held with the manor of Est Grenwich, in the countie of Kent, free of all duty or military service."

After a further hiatus in the parish history, we find another link in the records. The former property of the Thimblebys, of Poolham, and elsewhere, had been sold to a member of the Bolles family, in 1600; and Mr. Weir {171b} tells us that in the reign of Charles II. the manor of Thimbleby belonged to Sir Robert Bolles, of Scampton. From Liber Regis we find that Sir John Bolles presented to the benefice of Thimbleby in 1697, and doubtless was Lord of the Manor. This Sir John sold his property, and according to the antiquarian, Browne Willis (Ecton's Thesaurus), in the reign of Queen Anne, the patronage of the benefice belonged to "Mr. Kercheval"

In 1719 and 1725 John Hockin, Clerk, presented.

In 1720 the manor and advowson were bought by John Hotchkin, Esq., of Tixover; and a Thimbleby record, preserved with the registers, shows that the Hotchkins have presented from about that time till recently. In 1767 (Sept. 10th), Allen Corrance was admitted on the cession of John Kercheval, by Thomas Hotchkin, Esq., of Alexton, Co. Leicester. In 1778 William Holmes, M.A., was admitted to the rectory by John Hotchkin, Esq., of South Luffenham, on the death of Allen Corrance. In 1831 (Sept. 21st) Robert Charles Herbert Hotchkin, B.A., was inst.i.tuted at the rectory, on the death of William Holmes, on the nomination of Thomas Hotchkin, Esq., of Tixover. The late T. J. Stafford Hotchkin, Esq., of Woodhall Manor, sold his property in Thimbleby and some other parishes in 1872; and the advowson of this benefice, then in his gift, was subsequently sold to the father of the present Rector, the Rev. C. A. Potter.

There is another name on record, connected with Thimbleby, which we have not yet mentioned. Among a list of the gentry of Lincolns.h.i.+re, made on the Royal Herald's Visitation of the County, in 1634, which is still preserved at the Heralds' office, is the name of "Robert Frieston, of Thimbleby." What position he held, or whether he was a land owner, in the parish, is not stated, but he ranked with Thomas Cressy (of a very old family), of Kirkby-on-Bain; the Dymokes of Scrivelsby, Haltham, and Kime; Heneage of Hainton, &c. {172a}

There is a smaller manor in this parish called the Hall-garth, the residence attached to which is a picturesque old thatched mansion, with an old-time garden, enclosed within high and thick hedges of yew, trimmed in Dutch fas.h.i.+on. It has also a large "stew," or fish-pond, from which, doubtless, in Roman Catholic times, the owners drew their supply of carp and tench, for the numerous fast-days then observed. Old t.i.tle deeds show that this was at one time crown property. {172b} At a later date it was owned by a family named Boulton, who also held land in Stixwould, where there is still the slab of a Boulton tomb in the pavement of the aisle of the church.

A slab, on the south side of Thimbleby Church, bears the inscription: "Here lyeth the body of Michael, the son of Mr. Michael and Elizabeth Boulton, buried the 7th of Septemr, 1692, aetatis suae 7. His mother the 28th of May, Anno Dom. 1725, aetat suae 61." The Register has the following entries, "1725, Mrs. Boulton, ye wife of Mr. Mich. Boulton, buried May 28th." "1738, Michael Boulton buried May 8th." The last entry connected with this family is that of "Michael, son of Michael and Mary Boulton," who was baptized in 1726 and buried in 1767.

These were the ancestors of the late Mr. Henry Boulton, of St. Mary's Square, Horncastle. Michael Boulton, in 1719, left 40s. a year, from the Hall estate, at Bransby near Stow, for the education of poor children at Thimbleby; leaving also a bequest for the poor at Bransby.

At the beginning of the 19th century this manor was held jointly by Richard Elmhirst, Esq., of Usselby, and Mr. Thomas Kemp, the latter of whom resided at the Old Hall. {173a} There is a field at the west end of the village, now the property of H. N. Coates, Esq., traversed by mounds and ditches, which was formerly divided into three separate plots, belonging to Elmhirst, Kemp, and Hotchkin. The Kemps were of an old stock. In the Thimbleby Registers the first mention of them is in 1723, {173b} but their name implies a much greater antiquity. One theory has been that they were a Huguenot family, who came over to England at the time of the French ma.s.sacre of Protestants, on St. Bartholomew's day, 1572. Those refugees, in their enforced poverty, prosecuted various kinds of useful industries; and the Kemps, it is suggested, acquired their name from being kempsters, or comb makers.

But it is probable that the name had a much earlier origin. Kemp (Saxon Cempa) meant a soldier {173c} being connected with the Norman-French and modern English "Champion;" and although we might look back with pride to forefathers who suffered for their religion, it is pleasanter, if only in imagination, to regard them as having been a race of doughty warriors, sufficiently distinguished to win a name by their deeds. {173d}

Mr. Thomas Kemp, in the first half of the 19th century, was a wealthy bachelor, and added to the Hall-garth estate by the purchase, from time to time, of adjacent property. He lived in some style, with two maiden sisters to keep house for him. By his will the land at Thimbleby pa.s.sed into the possession of his great nephew, Robert Edwin Kemp; another nephew, Samuel Harrison Kemp, inheriting most of the personal estate.

But alas! liveried servants, crests and arms, and other emblems of wealth have become things of the past; for when this Robert died the property pa.s.sed to his son, Thomas Kemp, in whose hands the patrimony speedily evaporated; and other members of the family are now dispersed, "their places knowing them no more," save as a lingering memory, which will soon be gone.

The interesting old hall and the manor were then bought by Reuben Roberts, Esq., of Linden House, Horncastle, who resides there in the summer. He also owns other land in the parish. Other owners are E.

Ha.s.sard, Esq., of Edlington Park; H. N. Coates, Esq., of Langton Manor; the trustees of the late Mr. Samuel Goe, and several smaller proprietors.

Mrs. Tebb.u.t.t, of Horncastle, a relict of an old Thimbleby family, whose name appears frequently in the parish books, is now Lady of the Manor.

Some 200 yards east of the church and on the south side of the main road is a large field, the property of Mr. Henry N. Coates of Langton, which is known as "The b.u.t.ts." It has some fine trees, apparently the remains of an extensive avenue, which have been more numerous even within living memory. It has been sometimes called "The Park Close," but the t.i.tle "The b.u.t.ts" is interesting, as probably indicating that it was formerly the site on which (in the words of a rhymer, it may be said):

England's archers of old, Village wights true and bold, Unerring in hand and in eye, Learned skill in their craft With yew-bow and shaft, Wand to splinter, or pierce the bull's-eye.

And while the youth gay, Rough rivals, essay To rive and riddle each b.u.t.t, Sage sires stand by, And coy maidens cry, To welcome the winning shot.

Full many such scene Has been witnessed, I ween, In that whilome time-honoured spot, 'Neath the wide-spreading shade Of the green wood glade Which is still named the "Thimbleby b.u.t.t."

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