The Characters

1701, Sessions House – Henry Pickworth (Age: Unknown)

Henry Pickworth was a Quaker, a member of a religious order with comparatively new origins. On the day that we meet him, he has just seen his religious texts being burned in the town market place on the order of the Town Magistrates after they deemed the tenets of the Quaker religion heretical. This was despite the Tolerance Act having been passed a decade before which outlawed discrimination and malicious acts towards Quakers.

1871, Lafford Terrace – Miss Elizabeth Delacour (Age: 53)

Around the time that we meet Elizabeth, the nation was undergoing a revolution of sorts. It had been realised that education was a good thing and that every child should be entitled to one. Acts of Parliament were being passed, schools were being established at a furious rate and standards rose accordingly. Miss Delacour was the mistress of a small school that she had established after spending a life in education, one of several such in the area at the time, probably to cater to the sons and daughters of the wealthier members of Sleaford society.

1834, The Sleaford Playhouse – James Smedley (Age: 41)

James Smedley was a bookbinder, stationer and printer as well as being a comedian. He owned a string of theatres from King’s Lynn to Sleaford. He purchased the land upon which the Playhouse was built, along with the surrounding tenements for £700 which roughly equates to £50,000 in modern currency. The theatre was built and opened in 1826.

1871, The Carre Gallery – Mrs. Hannah Wood (Age: 33)

It is somewhat unclear when Joseph Wood opened his bakery. We do know that the building was originally constructed as an outbuilding to the George Hotel in the early 1800s and, at a later date, the shop front was put into what was the rear of the building, effectively turning it around and giving it a frontage on to what was the newly-created Carre Street. We meet Mrs. Wood in a time of change for Sleaford; closed sewers were in the pipeline for the tenements of Westgate, the railway was growing and as a result the Navigation was in decline. Large companies were coming to Sleaford, including international seed merchants, and the town’s prosperity was growing.

1901, The White Hart Hotel – George Ranyard Lee (Age: 50)

There has been a White Hart in Sleaford for centuries with the current structure having been rebuilt in the 1840s, with George as the proprietor. Although successful in itself, and having the advantage of housing the Sleaford wool market in its covered yard, it appears that this was only a part of his success. In partnership with the Green family he was the “Lee” in Lee and Green’s Aerated waters, a large Lincolnshire-based company that had several factories in the county. The closeness of these families was such that George married his business partner’s daughter and record show that members of both families resided and worked in the White Hart.

1883, The Temple – Edward Samuel (Age : 71)

Edward Samuel led a fascinating life, which is documented in the book entitled “Samuel of Sleaford, the Converted Jew.” A Polish Jew, he was forced into exile at an early age. After finding his way to England, he converted to Christianity and eventually moved to Sleaford. He preached at the Providence Chapel prior to having the Temple built for his congregation. It is thought that they moved into the Temple in 1881.

1901, Mansion House – Mrs. Julia Kirk (Age: 50)

Julia Kirk was the wife of Charles Kirk of Kirk and Parry. Kirk and Parry were architects of the highest order who designed and built the Whitehaven Docks and Liverpool Central Station. Their influence on Sleaford cannot be overstated – Sleaford Corn Exchange, the Northgate Almshouses, Alvey’s School, Lafford Terrace, the Sleaford Vicarage and many, many more buildings were their works. The Mansion House itself was originally built as a home for the Kirks but, when they moved out of the town itself, the building was converted to a school – the Sleaford and Kesteven High School.

1793, Navigation Yard – The Reverend Edward Waterson (Age: Unknown)

The Reverend Waterson was a man with his finger in many pies. He was the master of Carre’s Grammar School, an agent for Lord Bristol, sat on the Board of the Sleaford Navigation Company and a broker along with his duties as the Vicar of Sleaford. Described as “the largest man in town, possibly the whole of Lincolnshire,” it is easy to portray him as some Dickensian caricature of the manipulative schemer who ran things from behind the scenes.
The truth, however, may be some way away from this; history shows that the lives of clergymen were often remarkably hard, working long hours for little reward with poor living conditions and poor diets.
What we know with some degree of certainty is that it was the Reverend Waterson who brokered the deals for the land on which the offices and warehouses of the Sleaford Navigation Company sat, and it was he who placed the order for the first warehouse.