Legsby St Thomas: Beef Rolls and Busy Farmers

In the Domesday book, the village of Legsby is recorded as ‘Lagesbi’ and was a tiny speck of a place, consisting of 6 villagers, 1  smallholder, 2 ploughlands (a medieval measurement of land), a meadow, some woodland and a mill. Today, the village isn’t a great deal bigger, with the 2011 census recording a population of 193. 

Found in the West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, Legsby is a beautiful little village holding only houses, a primary school, and lots of open fields and farmland. The church is an unobtrusive, modest structure nestled on the edge of the village, but is a charming and sweet little church with some beautiful headstones in its churchyard.

My personal visit was during the West Lindsey Churches Festival, where rural, redundant, (usually) inaccessible and regular local churches open their doors to visitors for two weekends in May. In true rock ‘n’ roll style, I try to visit as many as possible in the allotted time, however many of these photos will feature temporary and questionable decorations; from banners to jam sales and, in the case of Legsby, hi-vis signs for beef rolls. And, although I don’t personally eat meat, I met their tiny signage with wholly unnecessary enthusiasm.

Legsby St Thomas is a Grade II listed Anglican church, originally of 13thcentury construction, but heavily altered in the 18thcentury when the chancel was shortened. The building is of early English and Tudor styles but, according to J. Cox, writing in 1916, only the Norman font and chalice and paten cover from 1569 are of particular significance within the church. 

Structurally speaking, the church includes a chancel, nave and ‘obelisk style pinnacle tower containing one bell.’

In more recent years, the church enjoyed a resolution of mystery when a safe was re-opened having not been accessed since the 1980s, due to the loss of a key. All manner of suggestions were offered as to the safe’s contents – Gold! Literature! Jewels!

Not quite. What met the church community was a stack of letters. These included 1950s letters from the Cathedral concerning repair work, and several letters that included information on the font and sundial.

Firstly, it is now known that the sundial by the front door was repaired (for ten shillings) using stones from the Clerestory of the Angel Choir, circa 1280.

As for the font, papers explain that it is from the 12thcentury and was most probably found in two pieces in a nearby field, repaired and returned to the church.

Within the churchyard are many beautiful headstones and stories waiting to be unearthed.

While I am no professional genealogist, I always like to have a go at finding out a little more about the lives of the people who lived and worshipped nearby.

Catherine and Thomas Neave

Catherine Emily Atkinson was born in 1837 in the nearby village of Snelland. She married Thomas Neave on 17thMarch 1857 when she was 20 and he was 25 and they moved in together at Bleasby House. 

Thomas, born 1833, was from farming stock and was to continue his family’s vocation, seeing the farm go from strength to strength. Although no longer under the Neave name, Bleasby House Farm is still in operation today and Neave farmers are still working in the Market Rasen area.

By 1881, the couple had three sons (Henry, Thomas and Walter) and one daughter (Catharine). They also employed a cook, housemaid, indoor servant, and three farm labourers to manage their 360 acres.

Their eldest son, Henry would emigrate to Australia and marry in 1890, but died at the age of 33.

When Catherine died on the 28thNovember 1900 aged 63, the farm was as lucrative as ever, with £195 9s 5d noted in her probate.

The Fawcetts

The gravestone of William and Mary Fawcett is so split and cracked that you could be forgiven for thinking it was wood. Yet despite the damage, sunlight peaks through the fractures of the stone, casting the most amazing shadows.

Due to the birth years of the Fawcetts – approx. 1763 and 1774 respectively, finding information on their upbringing and life experiences has been tricky. Considering that by 1851, William and Mary were 88 and 77, usual avenues of research were unavailable, as census records prior to 1851 are few and far between.

Like most people within St Thomas’ grounds, William Fawcett was in farming, first working the land, then becoming a landlord, still actively earning aged 88. Mary was born in Bridlington, Yorkshire, which was known far more for its fishing and seaside industries, but found herself in Lincolnshire in the intervening years.

1841 Census – William is listed as a ‘Proprietor of Houses’

In 1841, aged 75 and 65, William and Mary were living in in Dear Street, Market Rase; a nearby market town. They were living by ‘independent means’, but with no servants to their name. However, in their old age, they lived relatively modestly, having only one servant – 25-year-old Mary Rasbin – listed as residing with them. William is recorded as being a ‘Proprietor of Houses’, which sounds rather like an estate agent, however this ‘occupation’ was more like that of a small-time landlord, most likely owning properties and earning his money via rents.

And, dying at 99 and 91 respectively, they certainly weren’t too exhausted by their lifestyle!

Annie Gertrude Adams

Finally, one of the last striking headstones in the churchyard was that of Annie Gertrude Adams, the daughter of John and Mary Adams, who died in 1876 aged only 15 weeks.

Child graves are always poignant to uncover, but beauty can still be found in its headstone, and the record of love that it leaves. 

Sources/Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legsby

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1166208

https://www.churchesfestival.info/2015/03/legsby-st-thomas.html

Census information via Ancestry.com

All photos my own.

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