THE END OF TOWN LIFE
Roll of Honour, St Andrew’s Church.
FIRST WORLD WAR
The First World War had a significant impact on all levels of society, from the aristocratic land-owners to working families. In Folkingham alone eight young men died, including John Henry Heathcote Bradley, son of Cuthbert and Lucy Bradley. Of these, five served in the Lincolnshire Regiment, which had ten battalions - the unit won sixty-nine battle honours. Another sixty six men took part in the fighting, several of whom were wounded. St Andrew’s Church contains a Roll of Honour inside, while in the churchyard are two war graves. The absence of young men and war-time rationing and restriction on alcohol sales impacted businesses. One casualty was The Five Bells public house which shut in September 1914.
Map of the town from The Folkingham Estate sale catalogue, 1920, based on 1885 OS map.
SALE OF THE MANORIAL ESTATE
The manor of Folkingham, which had survived for centuries as a vestige of the original Anglo-Saxon soke, was finally broken up by the sale of much of its property and land in two auctions which took place in 1920. It was a significant moment in the evolution from aristocratic-owned town to modern village. The principal seat of the Heathcotes was now Grimsthorpe Castle, and along with other land-owning families in the post-war period, economic realities forced the sale of non-essential properties and estates. At the sale, the highest price of £7,200 was paid by Mr Miller, the tenant, for Greyhound Farm, including The Elms farmhouse - Castle Farm, with the Manor House, fetched £5,600, while Rectory Farm (with the Rectory which was later demolished and taken to America) raised £2,925. Washdyke Farm was withdrawn at £3,800, while the Greyhound Inn with ten acres was withdrawn at £1,450.
The Greyhound, 1920.
INNS & PUBLIC HOUSES
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, The Greyhound was owned or operated by the Belgian brothers, Frank and Jack Geivers. During the Second World War, the hostelry enjoyed the patronage of troops stationed at RAF Folkingham and the top floor was apparently used by troops for accommodation - by this period the hotel was tied to Ind Coope of Burton-on-Trent. After the war the hotel ran through a range of owners, the final incarnation being a combined antiques centre, restaurant and hotel run by John Strutt. After this venture failed, the building became dilapidated and its future looked uncertain after a fire, believed to have been caused by a squatter’s discarded candle, swept through the west part of the roof in April 2005. A quarter of the roof was destroyed. The Greyhound was bought in January 2007 for £300,000 by Taylor Developments who restored the building during a sensitive conversion into residential apartments. The stable block became a separate private home.
The Five Bells evolved into a restaurant and finally a care home, though still retaining the old pub name. The New Inn was purchased at the 1920 sale by Mowbray & Co. brewers of Grantham and was renamed The Heathcote Arms from the mid-1970s, before reverting to its original name in 1988. The Red Lion pub was renamed The Whipping Post in 1983, perhaps alluding to the old wooden stocks which formerly stood in Market Place.
Georgian-style brick extension added to the gatehouse of the former House of Correction.
HOUSE OF CORRECTION
In the 1930s the gatehouse was converted into a substantial house when a one-bay neo-Georgian brick addition was added at the rear. This displayed some architectural pretension and must have created a distinctive property. However, by the early 1960s both it, and the accommodation provided in the old prison buildings, were in a poor state. The housing was declared unfit for purpose and the old prison ranges were demolished - the residents were rehoused in new council properties on West Street. The gatehouse was also threatened, but Sir Arthur and Lady Petersen, intervened to rescue the building in 1965. It was they who passed it on to The Landmark Trust in 1982 to become what is today a unique holiday rental.
C-47 Dakota aircraft at RAF Folkingham.
American aircraft of the 313th Troop Carrier Group at the airfield preparing for Operation Market.
RAF FOLKINGHAM & THE SECOND WORLD WAR
The site of RAF Folkingham was surveyed and approved for the construction of a bomber airfield during war preparations in 1939. Construction began in 1943 and on completion the airfield was chosen for the United States 9th Army Air Force for the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, who also operated from RAF Fulbeck, RAF Barkston Heath and RAF Saltby. American personnel started to arrive in January 1944 to prepare for the 313th Troop Carrier Group to transfer in from Sicily. Supplies were brought in by train to Billingborough and transported up to the base, largely by black American GIs, who were responsible for day-to-day operations. By March, during the preparations for D-Day, there were seventy C-47 Dakota aircraft at the site, each capable of carrying twenty-seven troops, plus cargo. Folkingham was central to Operation Overlord which dropped paratroops near Picauville in France on 6th June 1944 and subsequently carried out a re-supply mission on the following day. During this activity many personnel were accommodated in tents around the site.
In 1947 the RAF relocated to RAF Catterick and the airfield was placed in care and maintenance. It was used as temporary accommodation for war brides, the homeless and poor families in the region and for around ten years it became a community of some fifty to sixty familes, until sufficient council property became available for rehousing. During the war there was a Prisoner of War camp at Horbling. This began as bell-tents, but developed into a permanent site with living quarters and recreational facilities. The camp accommodated around four hundred men and they were put to work on the local farms.
Forty four men from Folkingham served during the Second World War and the memory of their actions is preserved in St Andrew’s Church. In Aslackby churchyard there is a memorial, erected in 1994, to the troops who flew from the airfield.
Press launch of the BRM V16, December 1949, RAF Folkingham.
BRM, RAF FOLKINGHAM & THOR MISSILES
With the facility released from military control, the runway was leased to British Racing Motors (BRM), a Formula One racing team which had been set up by Raymond Mays in Bourne in 1945. The site was first used for testing the new BRM V16 cylinder 1.5 litre racing car, which was presented there to the press for the first time in December 1949. In 1952, Argentine world champion driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, drove the BRM V16 around the track at Folkingham, achieving a speed of 147mph.
In 1954 a new and larger body and chassis shop was erected. The main focus was now on the development of a new Formula 1 car - the P25 BRM, a 2.5 litre four cylinder machine, designed by Stewart Tresilian, which was first tested at Folkingham on 5th June 1955. The car was initially unsuccessful and development was slow - it didn’t win a race until the Dutch Grand Prix in 1959.
With the reactivation of the airfield by the RAF in late 1958, BRM relocated its testing site to RAF North Witham, while the manufacturing elements were removed to the Spalding Road site in Bourne, which was expanded in 1960 to cope. On the closure of the Thor site in 1963, BRM moved back to Folkingham, testing cars there until the mid-1960s - the firm continued until 1977.
In 1959 concrete bunkers were erected at RAF Folkingham for three Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs), which was part of a nuclear strike force associated with Project Emily and the cold war with Russia. Folkingham was one of four subsidiary sites linked to the main local Thor base at RAF North Luffenham. The missiles arrived in April 1960 and during the Cuban Missile Crisis in November 1962, the missiles at Folkingham were brought to operational readiness. Tensions eased the following year and the site was decommissioned and dismantled by August 1963. The final buildings were demolished in 1978. In latter years the site has been used for the storage of old agricultural vehicles owned by Nelson M. Green & Sons Ltd.
Kimes Bus Yard, Sleaford Road Folkingham.
This photograph shows three Kimes buses at the Folkingham depot
KIMES BUS COMPANY
The company was formed in 1946 when Richard ‘Dick’ Kime purchased the transport business of Alfred King, which had been operating from the 1920s from No. 35 Market Place, immediately west of The Greyhound. The company operated two Reo buses and original routes served the local markets in Sleaford, Bourne, Spalding, Boston, and Grantham. From September 1949 until December 1956 the routes were extended to include people accommodated at RAF Folkingham. The fleet remained small with only three buses operating from 1949 to 1964. The livery was green and cream.
In 1970, Richard’s son, John, became involved full time in the business and there was a significant expansion of services. A dedicated garage facility was erected on the site of a former estate farmhouse on the north side of Sleaford Road and the company purchased the services of Camplins of Donington, which were operated as Holme Delight. By 1988, Kimes Coaches had a fleet of twenty seven vehicles, nine of which were double-deckers. By this time, a significant part of its business was holiday coach tours.
In 1997, the family business was sold and transformed into a workers’ co-operative with eighteen member shareholders, with Paul Brown as manager. This co-operative ran the business until 2011, when, after the sudden death of Paul Brown, the company was sold to Centrebus. Inevitably, the viability of the Folkingham base was questioned and the depot was permanently closed at the end of August 2013. Various industrial buildings still survive on the site, including a former brick-built farm building dated 1845.
Descendants of Smith (1988) and Once (1990) by Roy Harper.
ROY HARPER - MUSICIAN
English singer/songwriter, Roy Harper, came to live in Folkingham in 1987. He bought No. 25 Market Place, now The White House, a three-storey five-bay late eighteenth-century stone house on the west side of Market Place. Presumably he came here attracted by the cheap property prices.
He converted the top floor into a recording studio which witnessed sessions from famous musician associates, such as Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Harper, whose output on the Harvest label remained both brilliant and eccentrically erratic, was on close terms with both Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, as well as Kate Bush. He was honoured in the song Hats Off to Roy Harper on Led Zeppelin III, and famously sang the lead vocal on Pink Floyd’s Have a Cigar. He also sang backing vocals on Kate Bush’s Breathing, and she covered Harper’s Another Day with Peter Gabriel.
During 1987, Harper recorded the album Descendants of Smith, at Stoic Studios, which presumably was the name of his Folkingham studio. The album, which was his last release on EMI, was a reference back to his second 1968 album, Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith. It was engineered by Jacqueline ‘Aqualine’ Turner, Harper’s then girlfriend, who also contributed emulator.
Harper sold the White House in 1990 to move to Rossmore, near Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland where he still lives. After the house sold, and prior to the move, he lived in accommodation at the rear of The Greyhound. Harper split from Jacquie in 1992 after she ran off with violinist Nigel Kennedy, with whom Harper was working on a version of Brahms’ Violin Concerto - the trauma caused contributed to the material on 1992’s Death or Glory? album. Jacquie Turner is credited as the producer/engineer on a number of Nigel Kennedy albums including Kafka in 1996 and Kreisler in 1998.
THE MODERN VILLAGE
FROM TOWN TO VILLAGE
The dawn of the twentieth century heralded a new era for Folkingham. The century witnessed its evolution from an estate-owned small town to a minor dormitory village. The roots of this transition lay in the decline of the town in nineteenth century. White’s 1872 Directory described ‘Falkingham’ as a ‘small but ancient and well-built market town’, but Kelly’s Directory of 1885 had relegated it to a ‘pleasant and healthy village’. It was this change which was to define Folkingham in the modern period.
The end of aristocratic control was precipitated by the crisis of the First World War, which initiated major changes in the social, economic and political structure of the country. The arrival of the motor car was the another catalyst for change. As car ownership increased, people found it easier to drive to larger towns to do their shopping, go to the bank, and attend entertainments. This meant that there was less demand for local shops and services. The car did help to revive the hotel trade, which had been hit hard by the end of the coaching era, and The Greyhound attempted to adapt, establishing garage facilities at the rear which evolved into Kimes bus company.
What the car did do was enable Folkingham to become a place to live in but not to work - a residential village. Although the current population is no higher than it was in the nineteenth century, most of the village’s residents now live in an area of new housing to the north of West Street.
The end result has created the the rather surreal experience, when driving along the A15, of suddenly arriving into the centre of a now defunct market area, lined by town-scale architecture, marooned in the middle of the countryside. It made enough impact to be among the thirty eight English towns deemed worthy of preservation in the wake of the 1967 Civic Amenities Act, which heralded the birth of conservation areas.
Today that historic core deserves investment to fulfil this early recognition of Folkingham’s importance. The Market Place is bisected by a busy trunk road, flanked by car parking areas, all laid with standard tarmac. Sympathetic and creative treatment of this space could dramatically enhance this historic setting, while increasing pedestrian and vehicle safety. Perhaps it could be achieved as part of a village Neighbourhood Plan.