A Page on Haverholme Priory
Haverholme Priory in Lincolnshire, England, was the site of a monastery as early as 1139, first occupied by the Cistercians and then the Gilbertines. A gothic-style house was built in the 1780s. It's last owners were the Finch Hatton family. It was demolished in the late 1920s as no buyer could be found for it. A lot has already been written about the history of the priory and there are hundreds of photos of it, so this page just shows some pics and links that I personally like. An excellent history of the priory is on the "It's About Lincoln and Lincolnshire" Blogspot. Click on this link to read it. The Wikipedia page is at this link  

The priory in 1826. It had been improved and enlarged by Sir Jenison William Gordan in 1788. 

Here are a few postcards showing the priory after rebuilding and enlargement by George William Finch Hatton in 1835. The top one is undated but was posted in 1903. I really wonder if the two lads shown were Toby and Denys Finch Hatton. 

On January 24, 1903, Country Life magazine published an article on the priory. This article has been scanned and is available on Google books at this link. Here are four photos from the article. 

Some members of the Finch Hatton family were politicians. Murray Edward Gordon Finch Hatton entered Parliament for Lincolnshire South in an 1884 by-election, a seat he held until the following year when the constituency was abolished. He then represented Spalding from 1885 until 1887, after which he succeeded his half-brother in two earldoms and entered the House of Lords. The card below is in my personal collection.

The Finch Hatton family contracted with Densham & Lembert to sell the priory as shown in this 1926 magazine clipping. They in turn used a local firm Earl and Laurence to auction it off on Monday 9th August 1926. Note that the estate was 665 acres at this time. The only bidder at the auction was a Mr. Caley of Manchester, who planned to demolish the building. He used RUDD of Grantham to do the work. The second clipping below is for sale of architectural stonework.


One story from the demolition is an American heiress bought all the stone with plans to ship it and reassemble the priory in the New World. Supposedly all the stone was waiting for a ship in Liverpool when the heiress was killed in a train crash. The stone was left in Liverpool and eventually used to build or repair docks. Alas, there is no evidence that this happened.  

So what's left of the priory today? Not much but some. A small part of the house was not demolished but is in poor shape and dangerous to go into. Here is a video taken of the ruins. Part of the stone balustrade can be seen from the aerial view below. The Haverholme Priory gate house and dower house both still stand in good shape and have people living in them. The stone bridge over the Slea Navigation stands as it did when the priory existed. Ninety-five percent of the park is now in agricultural use for growing field crops.  

The Sleaford Navigation canal runs at the northern edge of the park. It opened in 1784 to link the city of Sleaford with the navigable River Witham. It was commercially successful until the arrival of the railways, after which it declined and was abandoned in 1878. The remains of the Haverholme Lock are shown below. Efforts are being made by the Sleaford Navigation Trust to restore the canal. Here is their page on the Haverholme lock. Here's a link to the Wikipedia article on the Sleaford Navigation.  

The remains of the priory have generated many evocative photos, like the one below, taken by Simon Marsden. It is said that Charles Dickens used Haverholme as his model for Chesney Wold in Bleak House.  

For more information about life of the Finch Hatton family at Haverholme Priory I highly recommend Sara Wheeler's book "Too Close to the Sun".  

One inhabitant of Haverholme Priory who has not been caught in a surviving photo was Paddy the lion, a pet that the Finch Hatton family had in the early part of the twentieth century. He was presumably brought back from East Africa by Denys Finch Hatton. Apparently Paddy had free rein of the house and grounds!  

Send any comments you have to jeremyw@haverholme.net

27 March, 2023