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Alkborough is a small village in North Lincolnshire, surrounded by arable farmland on top of the scarp overlooking Trent Falls where the Trent joins the Ouse to form the Humber.


Possibly the only reason people may have heard the name is because it has one of only eight turf mazes, Julian's Bower, in England and this features on the village sign.


Alkborough is very much off the tourist radar with few visitors. There is little information about the village on the web. It is popular stop off for walkers on the South Humber trail between Burton Stather and Whitton.

Much of the village is now a Conservation Area, one of 17 within North Lincolnshire, and it is an attractive village to walk round. It is the equal of many of the Cotswold honeypot villages, but without the crowds and their tourist infra structure. The bus service is virtually no-existent. There are no shops left in the village, although there is a very good tea room. The main attractions are Julian’s Bower and the Church.




The area has been settled from the Neolithic times and a stone axe, flint arrow heads and bronze age pottery beaker have been found in the area. Roman pottery was found in Countess Close and there may have been a Roman settlement there.

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However, the ditch and banks still visible in the field are now thought to be the site of a fortified medieval manor house. Banks surround a rectangular area which was divided into the living area and an enclosure for the animals. In the 1960s, the southern bank of Countess Close was bulldozed and ploughed. Only the north bank and ditch survive.




The name Countess Close is thought to have come from a Saxon Heiress, Lucy, Countess of Leicester, Lincoln and Chester who was related by marriage to the owners of Alkborough and Walcot at the time of the Domesday survey. After her death, the land was left to her son who gave it to Spalding Priory in 1147.

In Domesday Alkborough is recorded as Alchebarge. Alche is an Old English personal name, although there is no record of who Alche was. Barge means hill or mound and Alkborough is on top of the cliff overloomking the river.Alkborough had a recorded population of 31 households in 1086 which made it one of the larger settlements listed in Domesday Book. It was an important settlement with a small haven and ship yard at the base of the scarp, although this was later moved to Burton Stather when the channel silted up.

The Church of St John the Baptist dates from 1052, when it belonged to the Abbey of Peterborough. It is at the highest part of the village and stands on a mound surrounded by a stone retaining wall. There is also evidence of a small Benedictine priory cell to the south of the village, attached to Spalding Abbey. This had three monks, a secular chaplain and a prior. The monks are thought to have been responsible for cutting Julian’s Bower around 1200. The priory cell was abandoned by the early C13th.

The Goulton Constables of nearby Walcot Hall were significant patrons in Alkborough. Not only did they refund the restoration of the church, they also provided a school in 1874, reading room in 1882 and land for a new burial ground in 1905.

During the English Civil War, there was a gun battery and small Royalist Fort on Alkborough Flats. In 1643, the Parliamentarian army defeated the Royalist troops stationed there. The church was badly damaged by cannon fire when Cromwell’s men attacked the Royalists who were barricaded inside. Holes from musket fire can still be seen in the walls of the church.

Alkborough Flats was also used as a bombing range during the Second World War by crews stationed at RAF Elsham who would drop smoke bombs on a chalk marker on the flats. There were two observation posts on the ridge overlooking the Flats. Observers took a bearing on the bombs landing site to calculate accuracy.

The biggest event in the village’s recent history was the breaching of the Humber in 2006 in order to flood Alkborough Flats as part of a £6,000,000 flood relief scheme, and to establish a wetland bird sanctuary with reed beds and ponds.


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Alkborough cont... A walk around the village

The village retains its original street plan with Front Street and Back Street with Cross Lane linking the two.

Rose cottage on Cross Lane is one of the oldest buildings in the village dating from 1724, but has been much changed since being built, especially the addition of a first floor.



Providence Cottage near the church dates from 1829.



Front Street is very wide with extensive grass verges in front of the buildings which are set back from the street. Buildings are mainly C18th/C19th. The single stone buildings are the oldest although by the late C19th brick was replacing stone as the main building material.




Some of the buildings would have been working farms. Until the 1970s, there were many small holdings with families keeping a pig that was killed in the autumn. Newer buildings now infill land which has been sold off.

Back Street had two brick workshops and a wheelwright. These have long gone and most of the buildings are modern although there are still some older buildings.


The Tower House opposite the Paddocks Tea Room looks really incongruous. It was built in 1770 by Captain Wilkinson, a sea captain whose ship had foundered in the River Humber, drowning his wife and daughters. He could sit at the top of the tower and overlook the scene of the tragedy.



The original post office was on Front Street, but is now a private house.


It then moved into to a small shop on Cross Lane but that is now closed.


There had been a general store and grocers on Front Street which sold everything as well as a butcher’s shop with a small abattoir. There used to be a clock repair workshop in the village and John Ablott looked after the church clockfor many years along with many others in the area.

A Primitive Methodist Chapel was built on Front Street in 1827 but closed in 1938 and became a storehouse for many years.


The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel opposite dates from 1840 but has recently been sold.


The Tower Mill on West Halton Lane on the edge of the village is mid C19th and replaced an earlier post mill. It is now a private house.

The Coronation Club at the junction Cross Street and Back Street is in an impressive early C19th brown brick building and is the social hub for the village. The sign also has an image of Julian’s Bower.



The Paddock’s Tea Room is in a converted workshop which had been part of College Farm. It does very good home made cakes - another good reason to visit the village!

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Julian's Bower

Julian’s Bower on the edge of the village overlooking Alkborough Flats and the confluence of the Rivers Trent and Humber, is not strictly speaking a maze, but a unicursal Labyrinth which follows a single route to the centre.



It is thought it might have been cut by Benedictine monks around 1200, although the earliest known reference is by a Yorkshire diarist in 1697. It is one of only 8 surviving turf mazes in the country and has been recut several times. It is in need of recutting again!

In the Middle Ages labyrinths were seen as a pilgrim’s progress and it may even have been used for acts of penance, with monks loading their sandals with stones. As time went on, however, it became more of a pleasure pursuit an a visitor in 1866 wrote of May-eve games being played on Julian’s Bower.

The name had been given to other turf mazes found in Britain, although this is the only one to surviver with the name. The name is thought to have come from is thought to have come from Julius, the son of Aeneas (a Trojan warrior in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid) who brought the idea of turf-cut mazes to Italy from Troy after it was destroyed by the Greeks.

The Church of St John the Baptist

The church is at the northern end of the village and stands on a raised round area.


It would originally have been surrounded by a graveyard but the tombstones have been removed and now stand against the sides of the Church.


The church dates from 1052 and the base of the tower is Saxon with the typical narrow Saxon windows and Saxon doorway.


The tower was later heightened by the Normans. and the top parapet added in theC14th when the side ailses were added. The chancel fell down in the mid C17th but it is not clear if this was storm damage, neglect or the result of damage during the Civil War. A wooden screen was built across the end of the nave to cut off the ruined chancel. The chancel was eventually rebuilt in the C18th. Although architecturally similar in design to the rest of the church, the stonework on the chancel is much better quality and it doesn’t line up with the nave and side aisles.



There was a further restoration in the C19th when the south porch and vestry were added. The flat roof inside the church dates from then.

The church clock was built by the James Harrison workshops at Barton upon Humber and cost £200. It was presented to the parish by Marmaduke Constable of Walcot Hall in 1825. The pendulum and part of the weights can be seen in the base of the tower.

In front of the church is the shaft of the Churchyard cross which was used as a sharpening stone for swords, arrow heads and agricultural tools.

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The inlaid stone copy of the turf maze in the floor of south porch was created by James Goulton-Constable, the local squire and keen local historian who was a major benefactor of the village. He wanted to preserve the plan should the turf labyrinth become overgrown. There are memorials to other family members on the chancel walls.



Inside the church, a smaller version of the same design appears at the top of the east window and is also embroidered onto altar frontal.



Inside it is a large but fairly simple church with a colonnade of fluted pillars separating nave and side aisles. The flat roof of the nave and side aisles feels incongruous compared with the more traditional wood beamed roof of the nave. At the back is a lovely Saxon doorway leading into the base of the tower which has a splendid spiral iron staircase leading up to the bell chamber.


Walls are whitewashed apart from the ancient stonework of the west wall which contrasts with the carefully shaped stones used to rebuilt the chancel.


The oak reredos was made by Robert Thompson of Kilburn in the early 1920s in memory of Mary Goulton Constable. His signature mouse can be seen on the right hand upright.


The east window in memory of her husband James dates from then. It portrays Christ as the Light of the world in the centre flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the baptist. They were the last of the Constable Goultons to live in Walcot Hall.

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The round tub font at the back of the nave is Norman at the back of the church is Norman but stands on a C19th column and medieval base.


The carved wooden pulpit is C19th.


On the north wall are the two boards with the Ten Commandments that would originally have been found above the altar.


Near them at the back of the nave is the village bier, which is still used occasionally for burials.


The church is kept locked but there are details of the keyholders in the porch. They still use the massive iron key.


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