Anthony Jennings (Letters last week) makes an important contribution to the debate over local connections with the origins of the BBC radio series The Archers by pointing out that the farmer Henry Burtt, whose idea it was, lived at Dowsby Hall where Mr Jennings is currently the tenant, and not Rippingale, the village which is claiming the honour on the grounds that it also has a public house called The Bull which has become a permanent feature of the programme.
In fact Burtt (1892-1987) had occupied the old hall since 1929. By all means he may have entertained the BBC radio producer Godfrey Baseley in 1946 and later when they discussed the show but there appears to be no evidence that they went to The Bull at Rippingale and as there are several other villages with attractive hostelries close by, it could have been any one of them.
It might even have been The Vine at Dowsby which was in business at that time because it did not close until 1951 and still exists as a private house.
A short walk from Dowsby Hall to Mr Burtt’s own local would have been a likely proposition although had they considered the prospect of a three mile drive to Rippingale by car then they may well have decided to go to Bourne instead, a more attractive choice for the occasion because The Bull in the market place (the Burghley Arms since 1955) was also a very popular inn at that time which had a most welcoming social atmosphere and also served a very good lunch.
This would have provided an even better opportunity to learn about the locality because this hostelry was then a favoured meeting place for farmers, businessmen and country folk, particularly on market days, discussing the very issues that have since occupied the plot lines of this popular radio series, and would also have been well known to Henry Burtt because many of the local agricultural organisations also used it for their regular meetings and annual dinners.
Jim Latham has done valiant work in pursing his claim to Rippingale as the programme’s inspiration but now it appears that it may have been Dowsby or even more likely Bourne and in the light of this latest evidence the jury is still out.
Stephenson Way, Bourne