Spires and Steeples: Art and Heritage

Washingborough to Branston

Artwork in Branston

As we enter Branston we come first to the colourful village sign and the restored sheep wash area by the beck where there is new landscaping, seats and display panels about the restoration and the village trail. The adjacent café was once the village library and the village trail begins here at a plaque marking the site of a former fire station.

All Saints Church and the Domesday Book

Branston has a lengthy entry in the Domesday Book as “Branztune” but had been settled since at least Saxon times, as evidenced by the Saxon masonry of All Saints tower, which occupies a commanding position overlooking the village. Like almost all old churches All Saints is very much a hybrid. The tower west door is largely Norman and the spire is in the Perpendicular style popular in the late C15th. The nave is earlier (C14th) and contains many lovely C15th benches carved with poppy heads and caricatures. And, much of the church was “restored” in 1876 by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

There is however one distinctly modern addition! On Christmas Day 1962 the chancel was very badly damaged by fire. It was rebuilt four years later in a sympathetic (but C20th) style with a striking east window, which Pevsner dismisses as “unhappily at odds” with the older church. Needless to say this opinion is hotly disputed by the locals and on the village website!

Branston’s Rectors and Hainton House

From 1680 to 1891, a continuous period of 211 years, Branston’s rectors were members of the Curtois family; there were six of them in all so that is about thirty-five years apiece! They are commemorated in a plaque adjacent to the lower entrance to the church, fixed to the wall. The panel also makes a reference to the story that the family were also responsible for cock fighting in Branston. Across the road from All Saints is the grand redbrick Hainton House built by one of them, Peregrine Curtois, in 1765. There are links too with “Mad” King George III. Doctor Francis Willis who treated and cured the king (who is now believed to have been suffering attacks of porphyria) was born in Lincoln where his father was a cathedral vicar and married a daughter of the Reverend John Curtois of Branston in 1749.

Branston Waterwheel and Branston Hall

A short detour is described in the ‘Stage 2 – Washingborough to Branston section’ on the website, to see Branston’s waterwheel. This was constructed in 1879 to supply water to the houses of the local gentry. The first wheel was a wooden one with the present restored metal one replacing it in the early C20th; this remained in use until the 1960s when Branston got a mains water supply. One of the first houses to benefit was the ‘old’ Branston Hall, then sited opposite the junction of Hall Lane and Waterwheel Lane. Branston seems to have been unlucky with fires for this too was burnt down in 1903. (There is a rebuilt house there now!) A ‘new’ hall had already been built in 1884 and is now a prestigious hotel. On the way to the waterwheel, we also pass the former Bertie Arms where a plaque records the meeting of the parish Enclosure Commissioners there in 1765.

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