I first came to Bishop Burton on a sunny day in July 1968, with my then girlfriend, Joy Dunning. My Chelsea flat-mate, Trevor Sanderson, who lived in Beverley, drove us from London, where he and I were postgraduate physics students at Imperial College. From that day I have been enchanted by the village but there have been many changes over the last forty years.

The biggest change is the loss of the row of magnificent elm trees opposite the entrance to the College of Agriculture, as it was then called, and the double row in The Grove. Like millions of elms all over England they were felled as a result of Dutch Elm disease. It was a terrible loss to our countryside.

The Altisidora was much smaller then and it did not have a restaurant. It was a more traditional country pub with 'character', which disappeared with the advent of ownership by a brewery chain. Most of the clientele were villagers, unlike today. On the morning of my wedding on 28 March 1970, while Joy was getting ready at Westfield Farm, I went to the ‘Altis' with my Best man, John Maidment, who bullied me into drinking four glasses of port.

Another big change is the development of the new houses on the south side of Bryan Mere, where previously there stood a large and unsightly riding stable. These houses blend well with the village, as do several other new ones elsewhere, although there are also a few that would not pass today's more rigorous planning regulations.

Another obvious change is the development on The Green of the old barns that were once part of Westfield Farm. One of these, Barn House, I know very well as my in-laws, Jim and Dorothy Dunning, have lived there since 1976. I spent many hours sanding the doors and banister rail when they first move from the farmhouse.

At Westfield, I have fond memories of helping with the harvest, driving a tractor - ‘leading corn' - and developing my muscles by stacking straw bales. The farmhouse looks much the same from outside and although it has been beautifully transformed inside I can still see it in my mind's eye as it was.

The College has expanded considerably. It is criminal that the original High Hall was demolished, to be replaced by a utilitarian main building, but that happened long before my time. The entrance area has now been transformed into a huge and unsightly car park and the classic iron railings have been replace by crude wooden fencing, which perhaps are indicators of the institution's success.

All Saints Church is, of course, the most prominent feature of the village. As a Grade 1 listed building, it has remained almost unchanged for centuries. The weeping ash is still there over the entrance steps. I passed under it on my wedding day and I posed under it with our daughter, Faye, on her wedding day in September 1996.

Much of the village remains exactly the same as it was forty years ago. Indeed some of the buildings are probably unchanged since the mid-eighteenth century. Joy and I are now proud owners of Willow Cottage, which is one of several Grade 11 listed buildings that contribute to a delightful setting admired by so many visitors.

 


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