South Kesteven’s Surprising Heritage Sites – a blog series part six – The Tale of Butcher.

June 21, 2024

Morkery wood is nestled just inside the border of South Kesteven, near to South Witham and Castle Bytham.

The beautiful woodland is maintained by the forestry commission and is a fantastic place to relax, walk, picnic, and spot wildlife.

Like many of South Kesteven’s woodlands, Morkery Wood was utlised by the RAF during the Second World War.  While nearby North Witham became an airfield which played a crucial role in D-Day (click here to read more), Morkery wood became an ammunition store for nearby RAF bases.

As a result of this the woodland is crossed with concrete and hard surfaced paths which are an accessible way to explore the woodland, and along one of these paths, known as the Stone Ride, which once led into the grounds of Stocken Hall, visitors can discover an intriguing relic from an altogether different age.

Close to the southern edge of the woodland, a stone memorial breaks through the undergrowth just meters from the path. Decorated with the image of a horse, the memorial marks the grave of ‘Butcher’ (sometimes recorded as ‘Black Butcher’) the favorite horse of Field Marshal Thomas Grosvenor, one of the Duke of Wellington’s trusted commanders.

Thomas Grosvenor had come to prominence for his command during the Battle of Copenhagen, an extended bombardment of the town which aimed to destroy the Danish fleet, and prevent it being taken into service to support French forces during the Napoleonic Wars.
Despite increasing military influence, and his later political career, he was known as much, if not more, for his horses.
He had a well-regarded stud, and was renowned for breeding ‘Copenhagen’, the famous horse gifted to the Wellington, which the Duke rode at Battle of Waterloo.

In 1797 Grosvenor married Elizabeth Heathcote, whose family owned Stoken Hall (now in Rutland), which sits less than 250m from the Lincolnshire border, and the southern edges of Morkery Wood.

Around 1850 Thomas Grosvenor visited Stoken, and was returning to the house from a hunt, when his beloved Butcher collapsed and died.   To prevent the indignity of Butcher being dragged through the woodland and back to the house, Grosvenor ordered that he be buried where he fell, and later commissioned the limestone memorial which marks his grave.

The front side of the memorial was decorated with a representation of Butcher.  Grosvenor had a poem engraved on the back of the monument, which is now sadly extremely warn.

In 1995 the Rutland Record published an article by Peter Fleetwood – Hesketh, one of the last residents of Stoken Hall, which recounts the poem expressing Grosvenor’s fondness for Butcher (as well as the antiquated spelling of the name of the wood):

‘Within Old Morcary Wood you hear the Sound
Of Lowther’s voice encouraging the Hound
Pass ye not heedless by this pile of Stones
For underneath lie honest Butcher’s Bones
Black was his colour but his nature fair
Where’er the Hounds went Butcher would be there
Thos Grosvenor pays this tribute to his worth
A better hunter ne’er stretched Leathern Girth.’

You can click here to read the full article.

Butcher’s grave memorial received Grade II Listed status in 1986, ensuring that poor Butcher’s memory would be preserved for generations to come.

 

 

Image Credit:  ‘A Horse’s Grave’ by Dave Thompson
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Dave Thompson – geograph.org.uk/p/4629009

 

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