Since 1963, I have lived in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, about 16 miles due south of Lincoln, where the A15 and the A17 cross. However, my wife, Eva, and I were born in the nursing-home near the top of Knight’s Hill, and we grew up in Norwood. Both of us lived a few hundred yards from Park House, the home of Mrs. Nesbitt, now in the grounds of Virgo Fidelis School, Central Hill, Eva in Gibbs Close, I in Bradley Road.
The colourful career of Mary Nesbitt is described by John Coulter in Norwood Past and by Alan Warwick in The Phoenix Suburb. One of Mrs. Nesbitt’s ‘close acquaintances’ was Augustus Harvey, 3rd Earl of Bristol.
I was appointed to the teaching staff of Carre’s Grammar School, Sleaford in 1963, where I remained until my retirement in 2000. The Carre family, originally from Northumberland, acquired the manor of Sleaford, and many others locally as well, in the early 16th Century, and many members of the family lived in the town, Robert II founding the grammar school in 1604 and Robert III founding the bede or almshouses in 1636.
The first male heir to the estates, Edward Carre, died on 28th December, 1683, aged 17. His sister, Isabella, married John Hervey, Earl of Bristol in 1688, and thus the Carre estates passed into the hands of the Bristols.
The seat of the Bristols was Ickworth House, near Bury St. Edmunds (now a National Trust property). Sleaford’s connection with the family is remembered in three street-names – Hervey Road, Ickworth Road and St Edmunds Road and in the Bristol Arcade, on the site of the former Bristol Arms Hotel, Market Place. The Bristol Bowls Club continues the link. In Sleaford’s coat-of-arms, the three Trefoils Vert on a field Argent of Bristol are placed above the arms of Carre.
How does Mary Nesbitt fit in? Alan Warwick writes that Augustus Hervey, on his death in 1779 ‘left her an estate in Lincolnshire’. The Inclosure Award in the Parish of new Sleaford 1794 has the following entry: ‘Nisbit (sic) Mary: Unto and for the said Mary Nesbit ONE PLOT or Parcel of Land lying in the said Great Moor’, i.e. in open country just north-north-east of the town bordering on the River Slea. About half a mile north of Sleaford running eastwards from the A153 is a road to this land, called on the ‘Mary Nesbit’s Mill Road’.
As I have said, little did I know! Chance? Fate? Divine intervention?
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