Charles and Sally Pinchbeck are well known in Heckington, with Charles being chairman of both the Heckington Show and Heckington Windmill Trust for a number of years.
Last autumn the couple acquired Heckington Manor, off Cowgate, from previous owners, Woodhouse and Tunstall Properties, who had shelved plans to redevelop the grounds and the house into a number of properties.
The Pinchbecks last week submitted a planning application to North Kesteven District Council to restore the manor to become their new home and develop the rear of the grounds as a minimal four housing plots to help fund the work, while protecting the setting of the house.
The building has been a regular target of thieves, vandals and anti-social behaviour since its last use as Ferdowse Clinic for recovering alcoholics, which closed in 2002. Prior to that it was a children’s home and a retirement home.
Charles said: “Like so many people in the village, Sally and I have watched the sad decline of Heckington Manor since it was abandoned almost 20 years ago. And we too were rather alarmed by the plans to ‘save’ it by splitting it in two and building no less than 13 houses in the gardens around it.
“Lockdown meant we spent a lot of time in our garden in Cowgate looking at it and we started talking to the then-owner, a property developer from Nottingham.”
In the end they made him an offer in August and he had accepted it. They began with shovels and wheelbarrows to reclaim the site on completion of the sale in October.
Mr Pinchbeck said: “The previous owners did some useful temporary works to the roof and guttering to keep it dry. The rest is really quite sound.
“We are going to demolish the modern extensions and restore the house as a family home and restore the farm buildings.
“Our garden backs onto it having lived in Cowgate for 30 years. The manor has decayed and been neglected - we wanted a bit more space and wanted to stay in the village.
“We have done the right thing by a really important part of the village’s heritage and it will be somewhere to keep my collection of farm wagons.
“My dream is to watch them being harnessed up in the yard ready to go down to the show.”
Over the years they have learned the manor has touched many people in the village - from working there when it was a care home, dancing the maypole on the sunken lawn as school children over 50 years ago, or even having relatives who were in service there before the war, when it was still a private house.
“It’s clear this is a special part of the village for so many people and we’re glad to be playing our part in the next chapter of its centuries-old history, and hopefully restore not just the building but its place in the heart of the village,” he said.
Charles and Sally have been spreading the word the property is no longer abandoned, with a sophisticated intruder alarm. “It even picked up a wren the other day,” he said.
Subject to planning approval they are hoping to start on site in late summer or early autumn with the demolition and then commence the building work later, with a view to moving in some time in 2022.
In the meantime, they have been working with Heritage Lincolnshire, which is based in the village, as well as having a lot of interest from local metal detectorists. They are keen to promote awareness of the history of the site and give youngsters a chance to experience it by holding a hands-on archaeology day on Saturday, June 26, from 10am to 4pm.
People can explore the heritage of the manor, excavating in two test pits with archaeologists, take part in a geophysical survey of the grounds and share any memories of the fascinating building.
You must register and book a timed slot to take part in the activities, with limited numbers due to Covid. Household ‘bubbbles’ of up to five people can book to join in an activity together.
None of the buildings on site will be open to the public. The manor house will be hosting an open day later in the year.