Friday, 7 August 2015


Memorial window to Letitia Fillingham
 There were around 10 freemen, four villagers and five smallholders living in Sirestune in 1086 according to the Domesday Book.  Assuming these were all heads of families this would indicate a population of about 80 people.  The name means 'the farm belonging to Sigehere'.

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.

William's son, George Fillingham (1774 - 1850) completed the building of Syerston Hall, enclosed the land and gained the friendship of the local gentry so leaving a bright future for his own son, George Fillingham.  Sadly he only survived his father by six years so his son ..... George Henry  Fillingham took over in 1856.

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
The tower of All Saints Church dates back to the 13th century, some of the 14th century building survives and a restoration took place in 1896.  Inside the font dates back to the 14th century while the octagonal pulpit is dated 1636.  It is beautifully carved.  Around the building are various memorials to the Fillingham family between 1796 and 1877.  The stained glass window in memory of Letitia Fillingham was made by C E Kempe, a well known stained glass artist of the period.

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
Outside the 18th century graffiti artists left their mark ...very neatly of course!

Graffiti on church door post
Montague House
Syerston sits on either side of the old Fosse Way. The church and village on one side with Syerston Hall on the other. This old road has recently been dualled, and redirected slightly near the village,  so there are now two roads between the heart of the village and Syerston Hall.  The Hall is a private residential property but it has been converted into apartments. There was a function in the grounds on the day we visited so we couldn't get near for a photograph.

Next to the Hall is the RAF Syerston Airbase.

RAF Syerston: home  of 644 Squadron - a Volunteer Gliding School
Today the RAF 644 Volunteer Gliding Squadron is based there but it was a Lancaster bomber base during the Second World War. 

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.

We came across yet another village Pinfold where, in olden times, the Pinder would keep stray animals to prevent them damaging crops.  The animal owners had to pay for them to be released.  At least one village resident today has another way of dealing with creatures he views as 'pests'.

Fillingham memorial

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.

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