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A Week on the Estate: History Uncovered, Fields Deluged & Cattle Bedded Down

Despite seemingly unending rain and waterlogged fields, South Ormsby enjoyed a week of industry, enterprise and discovery.


Keal Yard is showing its value as winter bears down on us. A pair of handsome young bulls fast approaching their second birthdays were pictured enjoying the amenities. In the meantime, the younger stock from the Massingberd-Mundy Lincoln Red herd moved into their winter quarters and gratefully received their bedding.


In the fields, yet more rain on saturated earth brought flooding to ours and our neighbours’ fields. All dykes around our fields have been cleaned out and are doing their job well. However, those areas maintained by the Environment Agency haven’t been maintained to the same standard. Consequently, the water can’t get away and backs up the field drains. On a positive note, unlike some farms in the county, the estate hasn’t had the serious issue of banks bursting.

In mercifully fine weather, young South Ormsby Estate volunteers Leah Furlong and Kaycie-May Coxon helped mark Remembrance Sunday in Horncastle. Damian Furlong’s daughter, Leah, paraded on for the Air Cadets, while Nicky Coxon’s daughters, Kaycie-May and Millie-Jae, represented the Scouts and the Beavers.


Richard Walters is an estate tenant and a voluntary archivist at South Ormsby Hall. Last week, with the help of laser clay-pigeon organiser and history buff Oliver Roberts, Richard made a striking discovery in the library – the 376-year old ‘Humble Remonstrance’ in which estate-founder Sir Drayner Massingberd, in his own hand, chose a side in the English Civil War.


Up to his retirement 14 years ago, Richard ran the café in the market hall in Louth. Hailing from a farming background in Partney near Spilsby, Richard has a lifelong passion for books. Spells of illness as a child made him a voracious reader; by the age of eight, he’d read Homer’s Iliad.

After two years of voluntary work, Richard has finally finished cataloguing the books in South Ormsby’s library. The approximately 10,000 books date from the 16th to the 19th centuries, with the majority dating from the 17th. Most are in surprisingly good condition, suggesting they’ve been stored safely and rarely handled.


Several intriguing finds stand out for Richard, including a 17th-century account of the Gunpowder Plot written 20 years after the event, and an 1836 set of rules for running Lincoln Prison. If a title can be found on Google Scholar, it may one day be made available on the estate’s own website; for now, the in-house, virtual library is a work-in-progress. Richard is about to start in the deeds room; there are, he says, ‘an awful lot of books in there’.


Richard came across Sir Drayner’s copy of the ‘Humble Remonstrance’ on his literary travels. The book is in surprisingly fine condition for its age. It can be handled freely, if carefully. Specialists advise that bare skin is better for old but robust books than latex gloves which can easily drag and tear.

A little background: In the 1630s, King Charles I laid the ground for his own undoing by levying taxes through his prerogative powers, that is, without Parliamentary approval. Such taxation was known as ‘ship money’ and by tradition was tolerated in times of war. After repeatedly levying ship money with no military pretext, Charles was plainly dispensing with precedent and asserting his own power over the landed gentry.


In 1641, the lawyer William Prynne publicly if politely rebuked the King for abusing his office in a book usually referred to as, ‘An Humble Remonstrance’; although its full title is, ‘An humble remonstrance to his His Maiesty, against the tax of ship-money imposed, laying open the illegalitie, abuse, and inconvenience thereof.’ The royal response was less restrained; for this and other polemics, Prynne was fined, imprisoned, had his degree revoked and lost his ears in the pillory.


When the ‘Humble Remonstrance’ was first published, Sir Drayner Massingberd was in the process of building the first hall at South Ormsby, having acquired the estate in 1638. These were volatile times – lines were being drawn and sides were being picked. The 1643 edition of Prynne’s book discovered by Richard in South Ormsby Hall bears Sir Drayner’s name, signature and the declaration, ‘his book’.


In October 1643, Sir Drayner is known to have fought on the winning Parliamentarian side at the Battle of Winceby, four miles east of Horncastle. History remains within touching distance at South Ormsby.