A BIT OF HISTORY
The earliest reference we know to the Manor of Digby , originally spelt Diebi and then Diggeby, is the gift of its land to Geoffrey Anselin by William after the conquest (1066 and all that). Of the many who held and lost the manor after this there are only two widely recognised names. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, (thanked for fixing Henry's first divorce) who held it jointly with the Bishop of Exeter in 1463, and Thomas Lord Howard, High Admiral of England, who was granted it when he was created Earl of Surrey in 1514 for his service to the State (defeating the Spanish Armada).
When the parish was enclosed in 1720 it was possessed, together with the neighbouring parish of Bloxholm, by a Mr Thornton. This worthy Gentleman was 'ruined' by speculating in the South Sea Scheme (the South Sea Bubble). It was then sold to Sir Dudley Rider from whom it descended into the Earl of Harrowby's estate.
The buildings and land were sold out of the Harrowby estate at the end of the 19th century from which time we hold deeds but, sadly, the Lordship, which carries the title Lord of the Manor, was not passed on with it.
We cannot accurately, as yet, date the present building. The previous owner gave a date of 1760 but there is a reference in a survey of Lincolnshire of 1801 which refers to the Manor as being 'down'. This normally implies that there was no roof and it was, therefore, semi derelict at best. The land was certainly being worked from here as evidenced by the barn to the rear which has a date stone of 1781 however that is no guide to the house.
The facade is Georgian and of a frontage built to
impress but the rear of the building tells a more interesting story. The
central portion up to first floor level is stone built and arguably the
remains of the south wall of an earlier structure. This theory is
supported by the presence of another stone wall which runs through
the centre of the outbuildings and could well be the earlier north wall.
The east wing which houses the present main kitchen is also a stone
structure and may, at least in part, predate the Georgian front.
The building is shown on plans from the early 1900s as being E shaped rather than the present C. Another anomaly is that a house of this stature would definitely have separate servants stairs of which there is no trace from inside. Examination of the back however shows clear evidence of where a rear staircase would have risen from the centre to land in the west wing.
From digging into the memories of older local people we are sure that the original kitchen was in the central wing and that at some time, probably between the world wars, there was a significant fire at the manor. The likelihood is that it was an uninsured loss and the owners of the day demolished the damaged part and just bricked up the holes.
Inevitably with a house of this age and character there are 'stories' attached to it. We have two ghost stories starting with the resident ghosts who are purported to be a girl and a black cat, neither of whom have formally introduced themselves. Out in the paddock on chestnut corner, meanwhile, an ancient knight and his retinue are rumoured to be waiting to rise from their graves if the nation is in danger; we haven't met them yet either.
The other classic tale is of the secret passage that ran from here to Catley Abbey, a mile and a half to the east, disestablished by Henry VIII and long, long gone. Given the local water table users would have had to be amazingly good swimmers!
We have only scratched the surface of our history and one day, we keep promising ourselves, we will dig a little deeper. In the meantime we are happy to enjoy it as it is.
Copyright(c) 2002 C J Town. All rights reserved.