SLEAFORD IS A SMALL town in Lincolnshire. I do not think it is on many tourists’ itineraries, and I am not sure that I would recommend it highly. However, on a positive note, everyone we met there was extremely friendly. Southgate Street is a vibrant shopping district with plenty of charity shops and places to eat and drink. At the south end of this thoroughfare, there is a gothic revival monument that towers over its surroundings. Shaped a bit like an Eleanor Cross or a shabby version of London’s Albert Memorial, it commemorates Henry Handley (1797-1846).
Henry was the son of a local banker and attorney, Benjamin Handley. He was educated at Charterhouse, Eton, Oxford, and Lincolns Inn. He married Caroline Edwardes, daughter of William Edwardes, 2nd Baron Kensington in 1825. He neither graduated at Oxford nor practised as a barrister. Three years later, he inherited his father’s estate. He served as a Whig Member of Parliament for Heylesbury in Wiltshire from 1820 to 1826. In 1826, he left Parliament and became a gentleman farmer near Sleaford. So far so good, but why does Sleaford have such an imposing monument to remember him?
Between 1832 and 1841, he was the elected MP for Lincolnshire South. According to an online article in “Lincolnshire World”, during this period:
“Henry, a father of 10, was a budding entrepreneur and his interest in agricultural affairs was always to the fore. During his time as MP for S. Lincolnshire … Henry opposed corn imports, championed steam power, and supported steam railways rather than canals. In 1842, Henry became President of the Royal Agricultural Society.”
So, it appears that Henry worked well for improving the prosperity of Lincolnshire. He proposed and carried out projects that would have helped both the locals and his own agricultural endeavours. In these things, the local people rated him as being so successful that after his death, they raised more than £900 to pay for the construction of his 65-foot-tall memorial in Sleaford. It was designed by the Birmingham architect William Boyle, and it remains a remarkably immodest landmark in a pleasantly modest town.