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Passing through another stretch of level Fenland, wide and free, we reached the pretty village of Anwick, where, as we drove through, we noticed a charming thatched cottage with big dormer windows in the roof, and walls so ivy-grown that we could not tell whether they were of stone, or flint, or brick,-a picture by the way. Here also we noticed three curious round buildings, each with a conical roof of thatch, from the apex of which rose a circular chimney. One of these did duty as a blacksmith's shop. After Anwick the country gradually lost its fen-like character, hedges took the place of dykes as fences, the streams were no longer embanked, the land became mildly undulating, and suddenly we found ourselves back again in “sleepy Sleaford.” Here the gray-haired waiter recognised and welcomed us. While chatting with him as he laid our evening meal, he told us that he had come to the inn for a day, and had stayed on there for fifty years!
We left Sleaford early the next morning bound for Beckingham, and beyond to either Newark or Grantham. We went to Beckingham, as our antiquarian friend we had met at Horncastle had told us that the old hall there was full of the most beautiful and interesting art treasures, including some priceless tapestry. “I will write to the rector of the village,” said he in the kindness of his heart ; "he is a friend of mine, and I will tell him you are coming, and ask him to show you over the hall; you must not miss it. And if you go home through Grantham, as I expect you will, you really must
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see Staunton Hall near there; it is a house with a history. I will give you a letter of introduction to the owner in case you may be able to use it." And this he did thereupon! Such was an example of the many kindnesses pressed upon us in the course of our tour. And to be a little previous, I may here state that on arriving at Beckingham, the genial rector there would not hear of our proceeding farther that day, but good-naturedly insisted upon our staying with him for the night as his guests, stabling our horses besides ! Could kindness to utter strangers much farther go? “You're heartily welcome,” said the rector smiling, and most hospitably did he entertain us. But, as I have already remarked, I am a little previous.
Shortly after leaving Sleaford we entered upon a wild, open country, hilly and sparsely populated, a country that reminded us forcibly of the Cotswolds, and one as different as possible from the level lowlands we had traversed the previous day. Once more it was brought to our minds that Lincolnshire is a land of hills as well as of fens! We were upon a glorious stretch of uplands that rose and fell around us in mighty sweeps, chequered by great fields, and enlivened here and there by comfortablelooking stone-built farmsteads, each with its rambling colony of outbuildings and corn-ricks gathered around. These, with a stray cottage or two for farm - labourers, saved the prospect from being desolate. Here water seems as scarce as it is over - abundant in the Fens! Indeed, we were afterwards told that sometimes in dry summers
water in the district is a rarer article than beer! This may be a slight exaggeration, though one gentleman who had a house in the neighbourhood assured us, that owing to his having to fetch all the water used in his establishment, he reckoned that in the year water was a dearer commodity to him than ale!
It was a grand drive we had over those bracing uplands, and we were sorry when this portion of our stage came to an end, and we found ourselves descending from them through a deep rocky cutting, overhung with shady trees, into the very charming village of Leadenham, that struck us as being clean, neat, and picturesque, a dreamy spot yet not dull. The houses there are well built of stone, and most of them have pleasant gardens, and all of them look cheerful. In the church we noticed some rather curious stained glass, but nothing else of special interest.
Beyond Leadenham we entered upon a rich, level, and purely agricultural country, the most notable feature of which was the large size of the fields. A short drive brought us to Brant Broughton, another very charming village, with an old church remarkable for the beauty and richness of its interior decorations. In the porch of this we were attracted by some curious lettering that we could make nothing of, except two dates 1630 and 1636. The church is glorious with gilt and colour, stained glass, and carvings; it looks all very Catholic and artistic, and should please those who like an ornate place of worship. Not only is the church beautiful
here, but the churchyard is well kept. These two things should ever go together, but, alas! such is the rare exception.
Then we had an uneventful drive on to Beckingham, where, as already related, we received a hearty welcome. But the hall which we had been sent here to see was bare! This was a disappointment as we had been led to expect so much of it. The house itself was plain and of no architectural merit whatever, not worth crossing even a road to see. The rector informed us that the property was left by the late squire to the second son of his eldest son, failing him to the second son of his second son ; and there has never been a second son to either of them. The last squire but one was, according to report, somewhat of a character, for on winter evenings he used to go the round of the village at eight o'clock and act the part of the Curfew, calling out to the cottagers as he went by that it was time to go to bed and put the fires out! What the cottagers thought of this proceeding we did not learn.
The church of Beckingham is of no special interest, though, like most ancient churches, it possesses some curious features, and contains a quaint old Elizabethan clock in the tower, still keeping, more or less, faithful time. In 1810, the then rector, we were told, used to pay his workmen's wages on a Sunday morning, and the village shops were kept open on that day. Amongst the Entry of Marriages here, the following is perhaps worthy of a passing note :—“Under the Directory for the
Public Worship of God, 1645, Robert Parker and Anne Vicars were married on the 24th of May 1647, according to the Directory.” Amongst the Entry of Burials we made a note of the following: _" Thomas Parker was buried in his mother's garden, April 15, 1681." It seems to have been not a very uncommon thing at the period for persons to be buried in gardens, burial in a churchyard being considered by some as flavouring too much of Popery! This was the second record of such an interment we had come upon within a week. Beckingham, we learnt, was five miles from a railway; it looked a thousand to us, though when we came to think of it we had to confess that we had never been so far from a railway in our lives, except when on the mid-Atlantic! It used to be called “Beckingham-behind-the-Times,” the rector said. Well, it does not look as though it were much ahead of them now! It is a primitive place, without the virtue of being picturesque.
Next morning our kind host with thoughtful intent took us out to call on some of his oldest parishioners, the youngest of whom was eighty-two, in case we might gather something of interest from their conversation. One old man we visited was eighty-nine, and his wife was eighty-five. His father and grandfather had lived and died in Beckingham, he told us, and though close upon ninety he still managed to do all the work on a garden of over an acre. He had only travelled in a train once, and that was to London ; he had only smoked once, and then he smoked five ounces of tobacco right