It contains about 14, 000 acres of very fertile, rich loam with a subsoil of clay. Ecclesiastlcally there are two parishes, St. Mary’s around the village of Pinchbeck East ( Invariably known as plain Plnchbeck ) and St. Bartholomew’s, around the village of West Pinchbeck, about two miles distant. St. Bartholomew’s pariah was created, on 2 March, 1851, from parts of the civil parishes of Pinchbeck and Spalding. Nowadays those from “Down the West” Iike it to be known that they are not quite the same as those from Pinchbeck itself.
There have been other changes in parish boundaries over the years. Early ln the nineteenth century the parish of Pinchbeck extended almost into Spalding to Include what was known at various times as the Union, the Workhouse and, finally, the Myntllng Home, which stood where now stands the Garth School.
Drains and ditches, better known locally as dykes, are a feature of this typically fenland parish. Without them modern farming would not be possible and even mere existence might have been difficult. Waterways provide convenient boundaries. For many miles. To the west the South Forty Foot drain separates Pinchbeck from Dunsby Fen, Morton Fen and Bourne North Fen. The Vernatts drain, from Pode Hole almost to Surfleet Seas End, is the boundary with Spalding, then the River Welland, with Weston on the other side, takes the division the last two miles to its most northerly point, where both the Vernatts and the Glen flow into it. Turning west the boundary follows the Glen for two miles or so. At Surfleet the parish church escapes being in Pinchbeck by less than a hundred yards.
Pode Hole was chosen for the site of a pumplng station because it is the lowest point ln the Forty-three square miles of Fen, from which it pumps water into the Vernatts drain. The drain was built especially to convey this water, nearly all of it from land to the south-west of, and outside, the parish of Pinchbeck, Into the River Welland and thence to the sea.
The Blue Gowt drain carries water from a large part of the parish between the Glen and the Vernatts to the Glen at Surfleet Seas End. It cannot do so without assistance and needs a pumping engine in Pinchbeck Marsh to raise the level in order to maintain a flow. Steam was introduced here by the installation of a beam engine, working on the James Watt principle, in 1833. This is no longer in use but preserved on its original site.
Pinchbeck changed only very slowly over many years until the late 1920s there were odd houses among the fields along the Turnpike, now the main road ( A16 ) through the village between Pinchbeck and Spalding. At that time there began to appear, slowly at first, houses on the east side and then on the west side It was in the 1960s, however, that the rapid growth in the village began Hundreds of houses were built on many acres of land and the whole character of Pinchbeck began to change. Indeed a stranger may well think he has not left Spalding until he is travelling along the Surfleet road.
The increase in the number of houses has brought a large influx of “immigrants” to the village. If one meets people from Pinchbeck today the chances are that they are not native to the parish but come from somewhere near or far. One tends to think of this incoming of people as a phenomenon of modern times and it may come as a surprise to learn that, ln 1881, something like half the population had originated outside the parish, although most of these came from places less than thirty miles away. Perhaps the biggest social change to have taken place in the last hundred years may be attributed to the motor car. Although no direct evidence can be produced, it seems likely that, in the nineteenth century, almost everyone both lived and worked in the parish or in neighbouring Spalding. Today even casual observation makes It clear that a very large proportion of the population spends the working day in other places, coming home in the evening or weekend to sleep and leaving again, refreshed, to earn a living. The late Walter Coward, who did so much for Pinchbeck and loved it dearly, once said that he could remember the Turnpike when it consisted of large stones and either mud or dust according to the weather. Our present lifestyle would hardly have been possible without roads like that.
Like some of the drains, which carried water from other parts through the parish and on towards the sea without much benefit to Pinchbeck, the first railway line to be laid was the Great Northern from Boston to Spalding, which passed through the parish with access neither for passengers nor goods between Spalding and Surfleet. Pinchbeck had to wait until the Great Eastern Railway Company opened its line from Spalding to Sleaford in 1882. What excitement that must have caused ln the neighbourhood ! It had a station conveniently, and unusually, near to the village and was surely the means of introducing many local people to the benefits of travel, making even the two mile journey to Spalding so much easier.
What was life in the area like in the nineteenth century? According to White’s Lincolnshire Directory for 1842 there were five academies, presumably private schools, and one school with a rood of land attached. Under the Spalding and Pinchbeck Enclosure Act the school had received an allotment of seven acres, providing an income of twenty-seven pounds per annum, for which the master and mistress taught sixteen boys and sixteen girls as free scholars. There was an evening class for adults beginning in November 1852, when the “Lincolnshire Free Press reported: We are glad to say that an evening free adult school has been opened at Pinchbeck. An advertisement in the same paper in 1881 confirmed that It was still running.
There seems to have always been a doctor in the village throughout the century. The practitioner of the time went bankrupt in 1881 and his furniture and effects were sold by auction. Whether this is evidence of the good health of the local people is not recorded. The advertisement of the sale named one of two trustees of Doctor Robert Hunt’s affairs as Mr A Wells of Pinchbeck, one, at least, of whose descendants is thought to live in the village today.
Some of the occupations of the 1880s sound strange to late twentieth century ears. Who knows the difference between a boot and shoe maker and a cordwainer? Both are given as occupations in the 1881 census, but none of several people recently asked knew what a cordwainer was! In fact he was also a boot and shoe maker.
Although there were two hundred and thirty-six Christian names recorded in the census, one hundred and twenty-one male and one hundred and fifteen female, six of them were enough for over a third of the population. In order of popularity these were John, William, Mary, Elizabeth, George and Thomas. Some names like Gowler and Elam for men, or Mahala and Tryphenia for ladies, are unfamiliar to modern ears. Fashions change in this respect as rapidly as in others and many names popular today get no mention at all.
This is an extract from Pieces of Pinchbeck No2. More to follow.