Conington Village

Conington (pop approx200.) found south of Holme off the Great North Road, formerly Ermine Street. The village sign depicts a B17 Flying Fortress and All Saints Church.

Driving direct through the village along Conington Lane, past a large pasture field, turn right into Church Lane to reach the church and former site of Conington Castle.

Conington Castle, also owned by the Cotton family, fell into disrepair at least twice during their occupation. The Cotton family, were renowned in the village and set up a charity for the pensioners in the parish of Holme and are recognised in the church in various memorials. The Manor House was rebuilt in the early 19th century by Mr John Heathcote. All of the houses in the village were owned by the estate and a majority of the villagers worked either in the house as servants or on the estate.

The first Manor House of importance in Conington was situated in Cooks Lane on the Conington/Sawtry border. It was once inherited through King David the First of Scotland and King William the First’s great niece Maud by the De Bruce family and then by the Cotton family when they inherited Conington

Sir Thomas Cotton, in the mid 17th century was responsible for the systematic drainage of the fens to allow the land to be used for agriculture, and the first pumping station was erected. The farms were mostly pasture land until John Heathcote turned a great deal of the land to arable.

The Heathcote family owned the estate from 1752 to 2008 and had strong ties with Scotland as can be seen on the memorials in the Church. Memories from some locals tell that if a senior member of the Heathcote family happened to be in the village, the young boys would have to bow and the girls to bob into a curtsy, if it got back to their parents that this did not happen a sure punishment would be handed out.

Conington Castle was demolished in November 1955, but a former stable block and Butlers accommodation remain and have been turned into a family home called Conington House, this is now owed by the Rochester Bridge Trust Foundation, but part of the Heathcote family crest remains on the house. One of the two round towers which were part of a garden wall were said to contain stones brought from the Picts Wall and were used in the steps of the Library at Trinity College Cambridge.

All Saints church is now in the care of the Redundant Churches Fund, a splendid building, built by the Cotton family, it now holds 6 bells, at one time only 4 bells were in the tower but 3 were sold to buy the clock. The central flag stone in the entrance of the church is the most ancient stone in the church and may have come from the original church of Conington which was St Marys. As you enter through the main door turn left to find a corner that has been dedicated to the American Airmen, from Glatton Airfield, who failed to return from their missions in World War II, there is also a Book of Remembrance.

Outside, near the entrance is the War Memorial, which was erected in 1920 from money raised by the villagers. Many of the graves in the churchyard are believed to be workers of the Heathcote family. Round the north side of the churchyard, overlooking the Airfield is a memorial to the 457th Bombardment group killed during the war, the Airman’s helmeted head faces the Airfield. This is the second ‘head’ to be installed, the original ‘head’, which was made at the Airfield, was removed and taken back to the Chapel of the Fallen Eagles in Savannah U.S.A. The Chapel also has a stained glass window in it depicting a picture of Conington Church, as a red light was installed on one of the pinnacles of the Church tower to help guide the planes back from their missions during World War II

Turning left back along Church Lane and left again into Conington Lane, return back towards the village. A large Ivy covered house called ‘Virginia Cottage’ stands on the right in its own grounds, this house, was occupied by the Head Gardener of the Castle, two flag poles erected in the front garden display the Union Jack and the American Stars and Stripes when appropriate and is where visiting Ex Servicemen are entertained.

The once small village school has now been converted into a private residence, overlooks the large pasture field where horses and cows can sometimes be seen grazing. Again further on the right is Bruces Close, this being named after the (De Bruce connections), and the road continues sweeping to the right, leading to a row of houses in Cotton Close. On the left hand side of the road, just before the brook is Brookside, the first of these houses was once a small shop, following over the brook a little further on the left stands a row of pretty houses on The Green. Here the road sweeps left towards the Great North Road, but before reaching the entrance to Conington Lane, on the right stands a very formidable house which was the former Rectory, once home to Reverend George Heathcote.

Reaching the entrance to Conington Lane there stands a large water tower, this tower supplied the whole of Glatton Airfield with water and is believed to be the only one left in existence, and because of this a preservation order has been placed on it.

In front of the water tower is a lovely marble memorial, unveiled in 2004, dedicated to the memory of the 457 Bombardment Group.

Turning left along the Great North Road for a few hundred yards stands the old Porters Lodge, which still displays the Heathcote family crest, this entrance was once the only road into Conington prior to Conington Lane being constructed.