Spalding’s past lives remembered

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John Perry was just a name on a memorial stone in Spalding’s parish church until very recently.

Now, the man and his extraordinary life has become real to some of the members of St Mary & St Nicolas Church.

Putting faces to names: from left ' Ann Howard, Christine van Egmond and Mary Bennett. SG120314-231NG

Putting faces to names: from left ' Ann Howard, Christine van Egmond and Mary Bennett. SG120314-231NG

Research has uncovered interesting information about the naval officer and civil engineer, one of the town’s ancestors responsible for installing the drainage system that protects the area from flooding.

As well as working on the old Vernatt’s Drain and being appointed engineer to the Deeping Fen Adventurers, John worked for the Tsar of Russia, lost an arm in a battle and spent ten years in prison – for losing a ship.

He died in 1733 and his memorial stone was recently renovated and moved to a more prominent position, thanks to the Friends of the church.

The Friends have more work in the pipeline and it was this, as well as the First World War centenary, that prompted the church flower festival organisers to choose In Memoriam as the theme of this year’s event.

Mary Bennett said: “We want to put faces to names. If there is enough of a story it will actually be part of the display during the festival.”

There will be 18 flower displays – from Tuesday, April 29 to Tuesday, May 6 – and each one will focus on the life story of the person behind the memorial.

However, the organisers need the help of people in the community in gathering information about some of them – as well as photographs, paintings or other memorabilia that might be used in the displays.

To help with that, a time has been set aside for gathering the social history and related props .

It is at the parish church on Tuesday, April 8 (10.30am to 11.30am).

Christine van Egmond said: “We’d like to engage with people with information and have a conversation. At the moment you just look around and pass on, but if you start talking about it you realise there is so much of a story there and a lot of it has been forgotten.”

For instance, one of the memorials, a brass plate near the door, is to another drainage engineer, John Grundy and his father John, who – if the research gathered so far is correct – created the first surveyed map of Spalding in 1732.

Local historians probably have much of this information already. One of them, Alastair Goodrum, is giving a talk in church on April 29 (7pm) at a ticketed event – from 01775 722772 or email festival@stmaryandstnicolas.org.uk