|Memorial window to Letitia Fillingham|
By the early 1700s Syerston became the property of John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland. His son, Lord George Sutton, sold it to Lewis Disney Ffytche of Flintham in 1775. At that time William Fillingham (1734 - 95) was employed by the Duke of Rutland so would have known the area well. As enclosure commissioner he was earning 2 guineas a day. By 1791, after investing money in the canals and property in Newark, Fillingham was in a position to buy the land without a mortgage. It cost £12,375 .... a huge sum for a humble yeoman.
Plans were drawn up for a large house and the enclosure of the land. Unfortunately William only enjoyed his success for a few years ... he died in 1795.
George Henry died suddenly in 1895 at the age of 53. Apparently this was caused by heart disease aggravated by an accident ... he had suffered a broken thigh bone while out hunting with the South Notts Hunt some six weeks previously. One story has it that he shot himself: this was "deemed to be an accident". He had been married for only four years but they had a son ... George Fillingham!
Now, rather like the Earl of Emsworth in Wodehouse's Blandings Castle, the latter George Fillingham was a dedicated pig breeder. According to the Berkshire Pig-breeders Club the Sally Lunn can be traced back to the 1934 breeding programme of George Fillingham of Syerston Hall. He also bred the Syerston Royal Lustre with which he won first prize at the prestigious Royal Agricultural Show.
|All Saints Church Syerston|
|Glass by Kempe|
|Kempe glass detail|
|Kempe glass detail|
Inside the church: the beautiful Royal Arms of King George III.
|Arms of King George III|
|Graffiti on church door post|
Next to the Hall is the RAF Syerston Airbase.
|RAF Syerston: home of 644 Squadron - a Volunteer Gliding School|
In 1943 Flight Lieutenant William Reid of 61 Squadron took off from Syerston on a mission to bomb Dusseldorf. On the way there his plane was attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf 110. The cockpit and gun turret of Reid's plane were damaged and Reid was wounded in the head, chest and shoulders. He said nothing of his injuries to his crew and continued with the mission. A little later they were attacked again by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190. The gunner in the damaged turret was so cold he could barely move his hands and so took some minutes to return fire on the enemy. Reid's navigator was killed in the attack and the wireless operator was fatally wounded; the flight engineer was hit and the tail of the Lancaster was seriously damaged. Turning back was an option but Reid decided to continue on to Dussedorf. They dropped the bombs on target and turned for home. He passed out over the Chanel but regained consciousness as the searchlights of RAF Shipdham in Norfolk came into view. He successfully landed the plane although the undercarriage collapsed as they hit the runway. Reid was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. He was 21 years old.
Just two weeks later the operational crews left Syerston and the base became known as the Lancaster Finishing School as it became a training base.
Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC was based at Syerston before moving to RAF Scampton in 1943 where he formed 617 Squadron ... The Dam Busters. He was killed while returning from another raid in September 1944 (possibly as a result of 'friendly fire'). He had flown 107 raids. He was 26 years old.
The Lancaster involved in a mid-air collision over Screveton took off from here in April 1944.
Map of Syerston; click here.
Up date: 14th August 2015
In 1942 the large conservatory at the side of Eden Hall Spa (or Elston Towers) just outside Elston was badly damaged when a Lancaster bomber exploded at RAF Syerston:
The only reference to a bomber actually exploding there that I have come across involved a colleague of Wing Commander Guy Gibson (of Dam Buster fame). He was on duty with Group Captain Gus Walker on 8th December 1942. Walker noticed some incendiaries had fallen out of the bomb bay of a Lancaster which was situated near the main bomb dump. Walker drove over and tried to move the devices using a rake. The 4000 lb "cookie" bomb ignited inside the plane's bomb bay and Walker lost an arm in the explosion. I have not found any evidence that this particular explosion caused the damage though.