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For Love of the Land: Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth Mapleston of Woodhall Spa was inspired by our heritage series, ‘My Days’ and ‘Our Days’, to share her own memories of a Lincolnshire life.

“I have a very strong attachment to South Ormsby and the Lincolnshire Wolds,” said Elizabeth. “I was born in Lincoln, and I love the city for its night-life and hustle and bustle, but I also love the country life and my spiritual roots are in South Ormsby. My parents, Ann-Marie Mapleston and Ray Mapleston, are no longer with us. Ann-Marie was born in South Ormsby and Ray in Lincoln. The whole family moved from South Ormsby to Lincoln in 1963 and I was born in 1974. Dad worked as a FLT driver at Smith-Clayton Forge and mum was a housewife and mother.

“In 1985, mum died of a big heart attack at the age of 40. I was nearly 10-years old and my brother, James, was four. Both my gran and I had a feeling after a GP visited that mum was expecting something bad. She had a big, caring heart and always tried her best to care for us. She took us to gran’s house on a Wednesday and stayed the night as she was feeling unwell. She said goodnight to us and slept in my usual bedroom. The following morning, gran couldn’t wake her. I remember sitting cross-legged watching TV when the vicar turned up. I found out what had happened by listening in and I burst into tears.

E Mapleston family photos

Images above (left to right):

  1. John & Edith Ely with their Alsatian, Patience.
  2. John & Edith Ely with the spaniel, Mr Mackie, given to them by the estate gamekeeper.
  3. The wedding of Joan Ely to Edward Lowis.


“My mum and dad had divorced by this time. I remember him turning up and sobbing his heart out and gran comforting him. The marriage hadn’t worked out but he still had love for mum. I’m still dealing with the legacy of my mum’s sudden death in the form of anxiety and depression. Dad passed in 1998 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He didn’t help himself with smoking and drinking. I last saw him at mum’s wake.

“I was raised by my gran, Joan Elizabeth Lowis, and her brother, George Ainse Ely. George died in 2003 and Joan in 2013. I called my gran ‘mum-Jo’ and growing up with her and George was fantastic. She stepped in and tried to give me back the childhood I’d lost. I may have been a bit spoiled! I moved from Lincoln to Woodhall Spa and was taught about country life. I remember waking up at 5am then drifting off to the dawn chorus. The long summer days, the busy wheatfields at harvest-time, the grazing livestock, the rolling hills; it all made a lasting impression.

“George taught me how to clean my shoes and gran taught me how to bake. George was a gardener at Petwood from 1963 until the late 1970s. The garden there was magical, especially for a child. Those long, long grounds with different sections made you feel like a character in ‘The Secret Garden’.  George taught me about respecting nature and practical gardening, and I’ve been able to apply what he taught me in my own garden.

E Mapleston family photos

Images above (left to right):

  1. Edith Ely with one of her six children.
  2. Elizabeth’s great uncle, Leslie, with her great aunt, Connie.
  3. Elizabeth’s great uncle, Leslie.


“Joan’s and George’s parents were John George Ely and Edith Mary Ely (née Brocklebank). They died in the 1940s or 50s, before the family left South Ormsby. Joan and George had two brothers and two sisters: Leslie and Frank, and Iris and Connie. If you walk up the steps to St Leonard’s Church at South Ormsby, the first graves on the left belong to my great-grandparents, John and Edith.

“John and Edith lived at Calceby House as tenants of South Ormsby Estate. At 6’3”, John was very tall for his time, whereas Edith was tiny; she took a size-three shoe and could stand under his arm. Both John and George were bricklayers and builders for the estate. Gran often talked about her time there. I tried to get her to record things in a notebook, but she didn’t write much and that’s a shame. Her heart was in South Ormsby, wherever she lived. The old school was her school, the church her church. That was where she played and grew up.

E Mapleston family photos

Images above (left to right):

  1. Calceby House, South Ormsby, with John & Edith Ely and one of their six children.
  2. John Ely’s pre-war tool-kit.


“I’ve recently donated John Ely’s tools to South Ormsby Estate. They must be 100-years old and were used on the estate between the wars or earlier. They’re part of my family’s legacy and they’ve gone to the right place. If they can’t be used, they’ll be displayed. I feel a strong affinity for the Lincolnshire Wolds in general and South Ormsby in particular.

“I’m looking forward to exploring the Wolds again when Covid restrictions ease. In the meantime, I’m working on the house, I’m marrying my partner Peter this year, and I’m putting some of George’s lessons to good use in my garden, where I want to plant some apple trees and attract more wildlife. I’m also a volunteer DJ, doing my bit to lift people’s spirits with music, fun and games.

“My love for my family is tied up with my feelings for the landscape of the Wolds. It’s Lincolnshire’s jewel. When I’m there, I’m home.”


* Images and colourisation courtesy of Elizabeth Mapleston


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