Bonby: My Story


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I am Bonby and my home is the Ancholme valley. I want to tell you my story but my memory is clouded with the passage of long millennia. I can remember nothing earlier than the retreat of the last ice sheets, so there I will begin. The land was sculpted anew when the glaciers melted. The chalk was still frozen so the melt waters created rushing rivers. I remember the thunderous roar of a waterfall cascading into the lake that filled the valley. Today, the village church stands on the shoreline of that vast lake. Crammer Hill

More came and some began to settle here, keeping small herds that increased with the good grazing. They still used flint, sometimes knapped from a bigger piece and sometimes making an edge on one of the millions of pieces below their feet. They used stone axes too, imported from Cumbria. This is the time when people started growing crops. There were people all down the valley and they came to me at special times. Here they buried their dead with their precious green stone axes and sometimes arrowheads. They didn't always have arrowheads and I can't remember exactly when the shaping of the flint changed; it happened so slowly. When people learned to smelt metals, they didn't need to rely on flint so heavily and the workmanship of stone became both crude and sophisticated.

Roman CoinThere followed a time when the landscape was dotted with roundhouses, almost in every field. Some call this the Iron-age. I had never seen such huge ceramic pots as these people had and they were very well made too. But then there came such a thing as changed my world forever. Out of the drifting autumn mist came the clanging of metal on metal and the long line of soldiers came along Middlegate. Disciplined, armoured and efficient, they came to rule the land. The Romans spoke Latin and some of them were dark skinned and some came from a place we had already had contact with - Gaul. The very sight of these gleaming, red-cloaked foreigners was enough to frighten anyone into submission but the people on my land welcomed these strangers.

They didn't approve of our 'barbaric' ways so imposed their own culture. It was curious really; the houses changed from round to square. The one in my parish was built of limestone and had the most enormously heavy red roof tile. It didn't happen immediately but the military brought a different way of life. They used better pots by the hundred; they needed feeding and bought our surplus crops and wool to make clothes. The B1204 didn't exist then. They used a track lower down in the valley but the weather was much dryer and warmer than today when they first came.

The Romans were the first of many invaders. The next ones trickled in from all over the place, Denmark, Germany, North Holland and Gaul and they left little behind for the archaeologist to trace them with. A few bits of black pottery and some metal items such a brooches, horse fittings etc. Leaving even less evidence were the Vikings. They named the village but my boundary was established before the Vikings. I never took much notice of lines men drew on maps; it changed too often.

Then it changed in a different way. My people found themselves owning no land at all. Confiscated, it all went to the new king, William I, Duke of Normandy. My early church was given away to the Benedictine Monks who came all the way from Normandy to build the Priory of Saint Fromond. I can't remember where it was, no matter how hard I try but I think I recall them rebuilding the church and calling it Saint Andrew's. The Monks didn't seem to be here for that long. They disappeared again with the first war with France.

But I had a village by then. Oh, the dreadful Middle ages. I was ill for a long time, choked with sand brought in by the most ferocious storms and floods and rendered barren by the blown sand that still moves across the landscape today. Some of the Roman remains vanished under the sand, though I was not the worst hit. Whilst the weather reshaped the Lincolnshire coastline, the plague hit the people - twice in the space of about twenty years. The church fell into ruin (more than once), some of the land was no longer ploughed and many building were also ruinous. It was a bleak time in my existence but the malady passed. John de Hotham of Bonby was born at the manor. Just think of that - a gentleman born here.

It didn't seem to matter what people labelled the passing of the years, they all seemed to be quite clumsy with pottery. It broke so easily and ended up in pits or, by the Medieval period, was thrown onto the vast heap of manure in the village that was used to fertilise the fields. So that's why pottery from this period is found scattered around all the fields. If you think the people of the Middle ages were bad, you want to see how much blue and white pottery the Victorians disposed. I heard one gardener complain that there were enough bits to stick together and make an entire dinner service again - and the willow pattern is still being broken.

Things were changing fast now. I can't remember when the beaver disappeared from the valley - but they did. The land was 'enclosed' in about 1560 here because they couldn't stop bickering about who owned what. It was shortly before the Ancholme valley was drained properly. What a surprise that was. So much more arable land was reclaimed from the marsh and tide.

Frequently the church became in need of repair or the people that used it, reshaped it. In 1710 a new tower was built using bricks from my own brickyard and three bells were added in the 1720's. As if that wasnt enough, it underwent two major renovations in the 1800's and that is more or less how you see it today.

I'm not done for yet. My heart beats strongly, however clouded my memory of the last 10,000 years but then, what do you expect of an old, reputable Lady? Maybe there are more things to be discovered that will jog my memory but for now the secrets of the past remain hidden.