Shooting at Greatford Hall

Excerpt from the Times 01 September 1977

Shot valet wants to stay with employer

Harry Lyttelon Dowsett, an industrialist, was so befuddled by drink that be mistook his valet-ohauffeur for an intruder and shot him in rbe leg with a shotgun, it was stated at Lincoln Crown Court yesterday.

Nevertheless, Philip Wymer, who might never fully recover after his leg was shattered, wants to continue to work for Mr Dowsett, counsel said. 

Mr Dowsett, aged 70. of Greatford Hall, near Stamford, who built up the Dowsett Group of companies, was given a two-year jail sentence, suspended 
for a year, after pleading guilty to unlawful wounding. He was also fined £1,000 and ordered to pay up to £500 prosecution costs. Judge Whitehead ordered his firearms licences to be cancelled. 

Mr Igor Judge, for the prosecution, accepted Mr Dowsett's plea of not guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily barm. He said chat on the evening of April 26 Mr Wymer went to Greatford Hall to see Mr Dowsett. He found him in bed. He was about to go home when Mr Dowsett, who was in a rage, demanded a drink. When Mr Wymer went into an adjoining room Mr Dowsett shot him, saying: “I have got you, you bastard." 

Mr Brian Smedky, QC. for die defence, said: “The last person in the world Mr Dowsett would ever normally want to injure was the man who had been more than just a chauffeur-valet but who was his friend for the past 25 years. 

Barholm, Greatford and Braceborough #RunMyAge

During January 2021, I am participating in Age UK’s ‘Run Your Age’ event by running a total of 51km. It would be great if you would SPONSOR ME to raise funds to support older people in Lincolnshire and across the UK!

On 7th Jan, I ran from Greatford to Barholm then back to Greatford, then on to Braceborough and then back to Greatford. This was a total distance of just over 5km bringing my ‘running total’ to 23km.

I arrived in Greatford at about 8am on a cold and frosty morning. I was barely out of the car before two people jogged past me (very socially distanced from me and each other) adorned in hi-vis and flashing lights which made me less self-concious about the high-vis beanie hat I had bought for just this type of occasion.

I set off along the straight-line footpath South towards Barholm. Almost immediately I was at the edge of the village and young rabbits were chasing each other across the frozen ground (It would  have been more poetic if they were hares heading toward the Hare and Hounds PH but I’m pretty sure they were rabbits). A large bird was coasting on the thermals overhead and the whole scene gave me some idea why so many runners choose to exercise in the early morning. I am not usually one of them.

A couple of stiles and a footbridge brought me to Barholm church whereupon I turned round and headed back to Greatford where I ran through and past the church which lies between two sections of the River West Glen. You must understand that this place used to be a ‘great ford’.

On one of my previous visits, I had noticed two prominent gravestones close to the door of the church, one of which had a latin motto. Intrigued, I did a little research and discovered it was the grave of Harry Dowsett who was one of the former residents of Greatford Hall which is adjacent to the church. To say Mr Dowse was a ‘character’ is an understatement. He made his early fortune during WW2 supplying motor launches and landing craft to the Royal Navy.

In 1944 he registered a patent for pre-stressed concrete which was first manufactured in Tallington where concrete products are still made today.

In later life he was celebrated as a captain of industry but in 1977 was caught in a controversy that sounds like the plot of a PG Wodehouse story. He was at home in bed when his faithful chauffeur-valet of 25 years popped in. Mr Dowsett demanded a drink and, when the valet entered an adjoining room, Dowsett shot him shouting “I’ve got you, you bastard!”.

In court, Dowsett’s QC claimed that the chauffeur-valet was “the last person in the world Mr Dowsett would ever normally want to injure” but, despite this defence, Mr Dowsett was found guilty of unlawful wounding and paid a fine of £1,500 which was apparently the going rate for shooting one’s chauffeur in the 1970s.

The last house to the North of the village is the Old Rectory which is a surprising distance from the church. Beyond lay the frosty footpaths that took me to Braceborough which I entered via a farmgate. I heeded the sign which explained that the gate needed to remain closed to keep the local deer from entering people’s gardens.

A few hundred yards further on brought me to St Margaret of Antioch church in Braceborough which overlooks a picture postcard village green.

According to the Golden Legend, St Margaret was a native of Antioch and the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Her mother died soon after her birth, so Margaret was nursed by a Christian woman five or six leagues (6.9–8.3 miles) from Antioch. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, Margaret was disowned by her father, adopted by her nurse, and lived in the country keeping sheep with her foster mother (in what is now Turkey). Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, asked to marry her, but with the demand that she renounce Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents are said to have occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s innards. The Golden Legend describes this last incident as “apocryphal and not to be taken seriously”

The church stands to the East of the village facing out towards the manor house and open fields. The reason for the importance of the village in days long gone was the existence of a spa about a mile from the village. The healing waters of this spa drew people in from far and wide, and George III was drawn here, visiting the church in 1770. It seems like a long time ago but it has recently become quite topical because it was a previous famous occasion that the people of the America were concerned about the mental stability of their supreme ruler.

The Royal coat of arms adorns one wall of the nave, which commemorates his visit. George III was looking for a cure for his mental illness, and was treated by the famous doctor Willis, with the Royal patient being treated in a wing of the nearby Shillingthorpe Hall, now demolished. The hall later became a private lunatic asylum.

Back to the run and, once again, about-turn and back to Greatford where the Hare and Hounds PH was sadly shut due to the pandemic (and it being very early in the morning). I’ve been to the Hare and Hounds a few times and it’s a lovely pub that normally used to have a friendly Tuesday evening quiz and absolutely awesome pizza. I look forward to visiting again when the pandemic is over although it seems villagers can currently order takeaway food as per the sign in the photo.