John Atkin on the left with Graham StringerTHE VILLAGE SIGN -

Standing on an oak post with a patio brick surround in the grounds of the Community Centre is the Village Sign. The sign was given to the Parish by Skellingthorpe Women's Institute to mark their Diamond Jubilee in 1982 and to serve the Community as a permanent reminder of that occasion.

At the outset, there appears to have been some scepticism as to whether the Parish had sufficient history to enable a meaningful sign to be designed but the Queen's Silver Jubilee Research Committee, led by Mr. Len Stevens, a teacher at that time at the Holt School, had unravelled a wealth of knowledge about the village history, far more than was needed for local resident John Atkin to set about putting this knowledge into pictorial form.

The WI Committee had been advised of a man named Graham Stringer of Radcliffe on Trent, who was an expert on wood carving, and so both John and Graham were commissioned to produce a Village Sign but not without hours of further research and discussion by the Committee as to what was to be depicted.

The end product is a sign Skellingthorpe can be proud of and which serves as the Village Logo.

PAST HISTORY -

The centre piece of the historical side features a Scandinavian warrior complete with battleaxe, shield, helmet, etc., apparently on the warpath, and believed to be one of our ancestors. Over the top of the sign is the word Scheldinchope from the Doomsday Book, derived possibly from Scheld's people which may have given rise to Skellingthorpe. The lettering is loosely based on a form of medieval script.

The Lincoln Cathedral is depicted as building work commenced in 1072. The corn stook, relates to the importance of food cultivation and the need to feed the local population who lived just above the flood levels of the Trent and Witham valleys. Rabbit warrens and duck decoys were prevalent in the 18th century when Skellingthorpe duck caught in the decoys was considered a delicacy in London society.

In 1693, Henry Stone, whose Arms are shown above the warrior, was Lord of the Manor and died without heir bequeathing the estate to Christ's Hospital in London (See "Skellingthorpe Sell-Off"). These Arms also appear on the Stones Arms Inn which, in around 1796 was flooded to a depth of 6 feet when the Trent bank at Spalford burst, and as there were no flood control embankments, flooded the low lying land up to Lincoln. An account by Mrs. Mary Milns describes the water coming through the wood with a roaring noise, and for three successive Fridays went to Lincoln market over hedge and ditch by boat. Ten calves were isolated in Skellingthorpe ox pasture on a small hill. The sign clearly shows the flood water up to the top of the windows in the Stones Arms.

The Bible is illustrated as a reminder that the Church was instrumental in setting up early schools, both weekday and on Sundays. The building on the right hand side is the Old Village Hall, now being renovated by the Scouts for their use. This Hall was erected by the WI in 1928 as a Village Hall, and served in this capacity until 1973 when the new Community Centre was opened by the Parish Council. The leaves over the top of the Hall are from the Maple tree which the WI planted when the Centre was opened and which stands near the Village Sign and the RAF Memorial.

THE MORE RECENT SIDE -

Dominating the more recent side of the sign is the Lancaster Bomber coming out of the blue, and a perpetual reminder of the sacrifice made by over 200 airmen who lost their lives whilst serving the nation from Skellingthorpe RAF Station 1941 to 1945. The Veterans of 50 Squadron and 61 Squadron were given the freedom of Skellingthorpe in June, 1996.

The modern spelling of Skellingthorpe is in printing type based on the Roman Alphabet, and between the letters of the Lancaster is the crest of Christ's Hospital, London, copies of which can beseen on some of the older buildings in the village including St. Lawrence's School.

The mature tree is symbolic of the Old Wood area, which has now become a recreational area under the auspices of the Woodland Trust, and the tower of the Parish Church of St. Lawrence can be seen peeping out from behind the tree.

The railway which ran through the village is shown with the letters G.C. on the wagon standing for Great Central which was built for both passenger and freight, commencing operating in 1896. It was intended to form part of a grand scheme connecting the Manchester Ship Canal at Warrington to a new dock at Sutton on Sea, but the venture was never fulfilled. The principal goods traffic was coal and fish, and the two wagons shown are of the type formerly used by the railways for this traffic. Passenger traffic closed in 1955, and the line finally closed in 1980, and motor traffic was no longer held up at the level crossing. Shortly afterwards, the signal box was pulled down, and the only remaining old railway building is the Heritage Centre, which was a former lamp room and weighbridge.

Up to 1958 Skellingthorpe was one of the largest Parishes in the country, having over 6000 acres but the transfer of the old airfield to Lincoln where it came Birchwood and Doddington Park estates reduced the Parish to less than half its previous acreage. However, some of the original area in the Station Road part of North Hykeham remained in Skellingthorpe, and is depicted by the factory on the right hand side of the design. Dairy farming, flora and fauna complete the design.

THE MAKING OF THE SIGN -

The original sign was carved from English oak especially selected for its durability, and comprises two pieces of timber profession-ally tongued and grooved and joined vertically. Not only were the two pieces glued together, they were also screwed using concealed metal joining plates at each end.

To reduce the darkening of the oak as it weathered it was decided that the main picture panels should be painted. After carving, the timber was sealed with aluminium primer, followed by six coats of exterior grade paint and varnish, but the original spandrels beneath the sign were just varnished which highlighted the colour-ing of the English oak. All this was done to protect the sign from our variable climate.

The sign was formally handed over to the Chairman of the Parish Council at that time, Mrs. Eileen Pritchard, by Mrs. Julie Hickinbottom, President of Skellingthorpe WI on Sunday 26th September 1982, after the Parish Council had arranged for a suitable base to be provided.

AFTERMATH -

From the time of handing over, the Parish Council has been responsible for the upkeep of the sign. It was serviced, stripped and painted on more than one occasion by Mr. Harold Small of the High Street, but in spite of the lavish protective treatment given at the outset, the wood could not cope with the climatic conditions and gradually splits appeared which could not be contained.

In these circumstances, the Council had little choice but to reposition the original oak sign inside the main hall of the Community Centre, where it is not subjected to extreme changes. There it hangs to this day, in excellent unchanging conditions after refurbishment.

Outside, on the original post, the Council erected a new sign made by Mr. Small and assisted by his son Peter, cast in metal and painted exactly as the original. Mr. Small improved the seating of the sign on the post by adding decorative ironwork which has enhanced its appearance.

The up to date side of the sign is used by many village organisations as their logo, and the design has been reproduced as part of the insignia of the Parish Council Chairman's Chain of Office.

 

 

Mrs. Eileen Pritchard, Chairman of the Parish Council, receiving the Village Sign from Mrs. Julie Hickinbottom, President of the Women's Institute. Skellingthorpe.