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The Battle for Bottesford - the border town of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire

08:33 31 July 2010

Dr Fleming Hospital

Dr Fleming Hospital

It has a Nottinghamshire address, but Bottesford lies within the boundaries of Leicestershire – so what makes the village worth fighting for?

Lying within walking distance to Belvoir Castle, the village of Bottesford has the honorary title as the capital of the Vale of Belvoir, as its largest village. But its ownership is hotly contested or at least confused. As Leicestershires mostly northerly village it shares a postcode with Nottinghamshire, while the proximity of Grantham often gets it moved to Lincolnshire.


As home to more than 3,000 people this beautiful English village has a thriving village centre, with shops, boutiques, restaurants and even its own art gallery, the Joanna Jones Gallery, selling original artwork. The village boasts an enviously high community spirit. This is evident in the number of clubs and societies listed in its Village Voice newsletter not least two cricket teams, four football teams and two badminton clubs and societies covering orchids, am-dram and quilting.

Theres also a Probus club, University of the Third Age and local history group who published their own book Not Forgetting Aspects of village life in Bottesford, Easthorpe, Muston and Normanton (still available for sale) and is currently building an archive of more than 2,000 donated photographs.


The villages most famous visitors are Laurel and Hardy. One of the village pubs, The Bull Inn, was once owned by Stan Laurels sister, Olgand Laurel and Hardy stayed at The Bull for Christmas, entertaining the locals and even helping behind the bar. A commemorative plaque notes: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy stayed at this 18th Century Inn whilst appearing at the Empire Theatre Nottingham during Christmas 1952.


Everybody talks about Laurel and Hardy, says Neil Forety, chairman of the Bottesford Community Heritage Project. But he says there are many interesting histories to be discovered in and around the village. In World War II an airfield was built to the north of the village which saw squadrons of Lancaster bombers take off and a lot didnt come back.


Bottesford is also reputedly the last place in Britain to be bombed by the Luftwaffer. Late in 1945, a plane came over and dropped its cannons at the church and was chased away and shot down. There are still marks in the church brickwork.


The church also survived being in the direct flight path of the Lancaster bombers which took off from the nearby Bottesford Airfield. When the runways of the airfield were marked out they realised they pointed directly at the church spire. The church had a red light put on the spire, with a switch on the side of the building. Someone would come down on their bike to switch the light on before the bombers took off and then switched off after they had safely cleared it.


The church owes much of its prosperity to the nearby Manners family. Better known as the Dukes of Rutland. The reason the church is as big as it is because of the patronage of the Dukes of Rutland, says Neil. Eight former Dukes from the 16th and 17th centuries are buried in the church. The church has sculptures of national importance, including one by
Grinling Gibbons.


At the time of the Second World War, the village was home to 1,200 people. The arrival of the Royal Air Force temporarily swelled the numbers by 2,500. The village only grew following the arrival of a mains sewage system and other modern amenities in the 1950s.


The village currently faces the possibility of eight wind turbines close by. The wind farm would feature turbines 400ft high. One similar plan was successfully opposed and a decision is due on the current plan in August.

What to see


Alongside its beautiful vistas and shops Bottesford has a huge range of architectural and historical buildings. On Rectory Lane, you will find the beautiful Providence Cottage, which dates back to 1723. Sitting opposite, vying for your attention is the Earl of Rutlands Hospital, founded c.1590.

Flemings Bridge crosses the River Devon, around which Bottesford was built. The bridge was named after Dr. Samuel Fleming, a local philanthropist and rector of St. Marys Church from 1581 -1620. Fleming reputedly fell off his horse while crossing the River Devon and pledged he would build a bridge.
The bridge is a two-ribbed segmental arched bridge. Fleming also gives
his name to the old Almhouse
(circa 1620).

The parish church is well worth a visit. St Marys is a large medieval church, which has the highest spire in Leicestershire (at more than 210 feet). It is also the burial place of the Dukes of Rutland whose home is nearby Belvoir Castle. Most of the church is 15th century but the chancel was rebuilt in the 17th century to accommodate the Rutland monuments. The monuments offer a fascinating view of changing aristocratic taste in the 16th and
17th centuries.

The church is open during the day, and is worth popping in to see amongst other things; the remarkable tombs of the Earls and Dukes of Rutland including the witches tomb, and the remains of a medieval Doom wall painting above the Chancel Arch.

There are many walks in the surrounding area the Bottesford Ramblers meet weekly for long and short walks in the village and its local area. The village has parish walks, which are the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon, exploring the village and its surrounding countryside. They provide insight into the history of the area, taking you past some of the above landmarks, its nobility and offering incredible views across the county.

The villages theatre group will be welcoming a rural touring show of Opera Dudes at the village hall on 27 November. Tickets will be available closer to the time on the village website www.bottesford.org.uk along with more information about things to see and do in the area.


Where to eat


Bottesford is blessed with a wide range of places to eat, including three pubs, two restaurants and two cafs. The Bull Inn, where Laurel and Hardy once visited, is believed to date from 1726 though the Bottesford History Project have evidence that there was an inn on the site dating back to the 16th century. Today it is a pilgrimage for lovers of real ale, as well as Laurel and Hardy fans.

Getting there


Bottesford lies about 16 miles north of Melton Mowbray. The village can be approached easily from the A52 or on the A607 then via the small villages of the Vale of Belvoir.

Factfile


Bottesford originates from old English ford by the house or building and features in the Domesday Book.


Bottesford has a population of 3,436. In addition to the village of Bottesford, the civil parish of Bottesford spans a wider area, and includes the outlying villages of Normanton and Muston, and borders parishes in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.


The village was built around the river Devon (pronounced Dee-von) and was named because of the ford at the centre of the village.


A memorial green was built in the village to commemorate the Queens golden jubilee in 2002


A new village hall was built in 2003, mainly funded by a grant from Awards for All (Lottery) and contributions from the local people totalling 38.000. it is run as a charity and is home to dozens of groups and clubs. The present village hall replaced the original Victory Commemoration Hall, a former army building. A time capsule has been placed in the fabric of the new hall to preserve the village memories, past and present.


The BBC once described the village as the school bus capital of the midlands, due to its large secondary school.


The village has a working train station which still goes to Leicestershires favourite seaside resort: Skegness.

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