Branston Old Hall






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The History of W18

by Joanna Hughes of the Lincolnshire Archives

You’ve got two historical properties in Branston sharing the same gridsquare this week. In the top left hand corner there’s a bit of Branston Hall Hotel – (in fact most of this gridsquare covers the parkland belonging to the Hall). It's somewhere many of us have heard of, maybe even visited as it's a popular venue for fine dining and weddings...It's a grand Victorian pile in the “Tudor-esque” style, by the Victorian architect who went on to design Coutts Bank in London. It was built to be the home of the Leslie Melville family in 1886, and it’s described at the time as a ‘gentleman’s moderate-sized country house'.

It was after the Leslie Melvilles left Branston Hall that it became a sanatorium that treated patients of all ages for illnesses like tuberculosis, a real killer in the early years of the twentieth century. Plenty of rest and fresh air was an effective treatment for TB and you can imagine how beneficial the fresh heathland air and picturesque grounds would have been; this was a disease which was at its most virulent in close confined conditions. There are loads of memories shared online by some of the ex-patients who can remember convalescing at the Hall, along with some more spooky encounters with residents long gone.....After the hall was a hospital, it became a retirement home and then eventually transformed into the hotel we know today.

What's not so well know it that this Victorian Hall was predated by a much earlier hall. In the bottom right corner of the gridsquare there’s a building referred to as "Branston Old Hall". Confusingly, the present building here, was built after the Victorian Hall, when this original Old Hall burnt down in a fire in 1903 which even the new steam fire engine brought over from Blankney couldn't extinguish. But this was where the original Branston Hall used be. There’s the story of a mysterious inscribed stone in the grounds, close to a small brick reservoir through which water passed, controlled with sluice gates, possibly to provide fresh spring water for the residents of the Old Hall. The inscription on this stone has the title “Anne’s Spring” and reads:

“Clear may thy Waters ever flow,
Nor Gusts of Ruffling Tempest know,
Pure and unsullied as the fair
Whose Emblematic Name you bear” 

The mystery is who was this Anne? There are lots of wells and springs around the edges of the Lincoln Heath dedicated to female saints and deities - the origin for this one may be a little less spiritual but no less romantic. Local legend suggests various contenders including one of the Leslie Melville children, who sadly died aged only nine in India. But perhaps the most likely candidate is Anne Casey. She was the illegitimate daughter of Sir Cecil Wray, Lord of the Manor of Branston in the eighteenth century. In his will of 1735 he left his Branston estate to Anne who then married Lord Vere Bertie, the first son of the Duke of Ancaster of Grimesthorpe Castle. She became Lady Vere Bertie of Branston Hall and there's evidence to show that the couple were devoted to each other. It's quite nice to think that this mysterious hidden stone, which certainly seems to look eighteenth century in style, was inscribed by a man in memory of his wife.

Their daughters inherited the estate but sold it on, until it came to the Leslie Melvilles, who eventually had the new Hall built. Not far from the site of the old hall which was rebuilt after the 1903 fire, is a building on Hall Lane with a plaque which explains how it used to be the Bertie Arms public house. And so the Bertie name lives on in Branston. But don’t forget Anne, the woman who brought the Bertie name to Branston in the first place, commemorated by a spring and a few lines on a stone, hidden away in the private gardens of her old home.

To find out more about the Spires and Steeples Trail mentioned on the show, go here.

This week we schlep out to Branston to stare at big iron gates and high walls in the area around Branston Old Hall.  The discovery of an orchard in the grid prompts the first and probably last editions of Jonny’s new quiz A Question Of Apples.  Meanwhile, Paul ponders the preponderance of “No Dog Fouling” signs and we use all our considerable cunning to sneak into the off-limits part of the grid.

We also hear memories of yesteryear from some of the village’s old timers, as well as more history from Jo Hughes and Tref’s take on the area.  All this, plus another round of A Question of Lincoln.

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