Historical description of Lincolnshire, England

Map of Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire or Lincoln, a maritime county on the E of England. It is bounded on the N and NE by the Humber, which separates it from Yorkshire, on the E by the German Ocean, on the SE for about 8 miles by Norfolk, on the S by Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, on the SW by Rutland, on the W by Leicestershire and Notts, and on the NW by Yorkshire. Its outline in a general view is oblong, with a great curve along the NE, an indentation by the Wash on the SE, and a considerable curve on the SW. Its length, from N to S, is 73 miles; its greatest breadth is 48 miles; its average breadth is about 37 miles; its circuit is about 260 miles; its area, according to the latest returns furnished by the Ordnance Survey Department, is 1,693,547 statute acres; and its population (1801) 208,625, (1821) 283,058, (1841) 362,602, (1861) 412,246, (1881) 469,919, (1891) 472,878. About two-fifths of the surface are fens, and the rest is a diversity of swell and knoll and hill, with intersecting dale and vale. The fens occupy the Isle of Axholme in the NW, the Vale of Ancholme in the N, a broad belt outward to the coast in the NE, and most of the country S and SE of Lincoln city; they are supposed to have, at a comparatively recent geological period, been covered by the sea; they are all level, and they were, within the human epoch and till reclaimed by art, all in a state of marsh. The Isle of Axholme began to be reclaimed in the time of Edward I.; the fen of Deeping, in the S, appears to have been partly improved even before the Roman Conquest; vast tracts were reclaimed, with great enterprise and great rapidity, immediately after the era of modern general georgical improvement; only a few pendicles now remain in a wild condition, and from the combined results of embanking, draining, and skilful management, the quondam marshy wastes now exhibit expanses of fertility inferior to no other tracts in England. The drainage ducts consist of ditches ramifying into what are called dykes, and the latter are large fosses like canals, are very numerous, many of them very long, and some of them navigable by barges. The other parts of the county are chiefly wolds, but include what formerly were called heaths, and they at one time were very generally bleak and waste, but like the fens, though in a different way, have been so reclaimed as to exhibit now an aspect of luxuriance. The aggregate appearance of the county, notwithstanding the prevalence of level grounds, is very pleasing. The level tracts themselves, indeed, are pleasing chiefly from the ornature of culture; but the other tracts have such inequality of surface, or such diversity of hill and dale, interspersed with wood and lawn, as constitutes the beautiful or even the picturesque in natural scenery; and very numerous spots throughout these tracts, or sometimes long reaches of hill-shoulder or of tableau, command very extensive and charming views. The coast-line, including that of the Humber, is about 110 miles in length, and excepting at Cleeness, near Grimsby, where there are high bold cliffs, it is all low and flat. The foreshore, or space between high and low water, is sometimes not less than 2 miles; and it includes many banks, called chain-huts, which consist of roots, trunks, and branches of trees, intermixed with frondage of aquatic plants, and are alternately covered and left bare by the tide. The sea, in some parts of the coast, has made encroachments on the land, and in other parts has retired. Vast tracts, even from the time of the Roman occupation, have been redeemed from the sea by embankments.

The river Trent comes in from Notts near Newton-upon-Trent; is soon joined by the Fossdyke navigation, coming from the Witham at Lincoln city; traces the boundary with Notts, past Torksey, Knaith, and Gainsborough, to the vicinity of West Stockwith; goes thence between the Isle of Axholme and the main body of the county, to the Humber; is navigable by great ships from Gainsborough to the sea, and together with the Humber opens inland navigation, by canal or river, to almost every part of England. The rivers of the county, next in importance to the Trent, are the Welland, the Witham, and the Ancholme, and the chief smaller rivers are the Glen, the Steeping, the Bain, and the Ludd. The geological formations, for the most part, extend in parallel belts, nearly in the line of the length of the county, from S to N, and succeed one another in ascending order from W to E. A narrow belt in the extreme W, along the Trent from Newton-upon-Trent to Althorpe, consists of new red sandstone, or keupar marl and sandstone, and is continuous with a large tract of the same formation along the E of Notts. A broad belt, occupying all the SW from the W boundary to the-eastward of Grantham and Hougham, and extending due northward, with gradually narrowing breadth, all the way to the vicinity of the Humber, consists of lias formation, variously sand, upper lias clay, marlstone, and lower lias clay and lime. Another belt, immediately E of the preceding, nearly as broad in the S but very much narrower in the middle and in the N, and extending from the boundary with Rutland due northward, past Lincoln city to the vicinity of the Humber, consists of lower oolitic formations, variously cornbrash, forest marble, Bradford clay, Bath oolite, fuller's earth, and inferior oolite. A fourth belt, immediately E of the third, very narrow in the extreme S, widening gradually to a considerable breadth about Sleaford, interrupted in the S vicinity of Lincoln city, suddenly expanding there in a wing east-south-eastward to the vicinity of Spilsby, proceeding northward from the city and from Wragby with considerable but decreasing width, and extending altogether from the vicinity of Greatford due northward to the vicinity of the Humber, consists of middle oolitic formations, variously coral rag, calcareous grit, and Oxford clay. A fifth belt, generally a very narrow one, running contiguously to the E side of the fourth, from the vicinity of Spilsby north-north-westward to the vicinity of the Humber, consists of upper oolitic formations, variously Portland limestone, Portland sand, and Kimmeridge clay. A sixth belt, of similar width to the fifth, but less regularly wide, beginning in the vicinity of Irby, and extending north-north-westward, past Spilsby and South Willingam, to the vicinity of the Humber, consists of lower green sand. A seventh belt, of similar breadth to the sixth, contiguous to all of it on the E, and extending from the vicinity of Irby north-north-westward to the vicinity of the Humber, consists of upper green sand and gault. An eighth belt, about equal in breadth to aggregately the three preceding, and extending from the neighbourhood of Burgh north-north-westward to the vicinity of the Humber, around Barton, consists of chalk. All the rest of the county, comprising all its south-eastern portions between the middle oolitic belt and the sea, all its north-eastern portion between the chalk belt and the sea, a slice of its northern portion along the Humber, a narrow tract up the course of the Ancholme river, and a fringe round the Isle of Axholme, consists of alluvial deposits or of reclaimed marsh. Gypsum is dug in the Isle of Axholme ; lime is calcined in the wolds; whiting is made from the chalk near the Humber; freestone is quarried near Ancaster, and good oolitic building stone is quarried near Lincoln and in other places. At Little Bytham a silicious clay which was used by the Romans for the manufacture of pottery is now worked up into bricks of great strength and hardness, called the Adamantine Clinker bricks. Ironstone of excellent quality is mined at Appleby (Brigg), Frodingham (Brigg), Frodingham and Scunthorpe in immense quantities. The average annual quantity produced is about 105,000 tons. There is a mineral spring of considerable value in the treatment of rheumatic affections, with bath and pump rooms, at Woodhall Spa. The botany of the county, particularly in aquatic plants, is rich. Wild fowl used to be remarkably abundant, and used to be captured by decoys and otherwise, in large numbers, but in consequence of the draining of the fens they have very greatly decreased, yet they are still numerous, and they include swans, geese, ducks, widgeon, teal, ruffs, reeves, shovellers, peewits, terns, grebes, spoonbills, storks, cranes, herons, lapwings, rails, coots, moorhens, god-wits, kingfishers, and water-wagtails. Game birds, including pheasants, partridges, and woodcocks, are on the higher grounds. Rabbit-warrens used to abound in the sands of the wolds, but have been broken up. Fresh-water fish, though now having much less scope of water than before, are still plentiful, and include pike, perch, carp, chub, roach, dace, tench, bream, barbel, ruff, and eels. The climate of the low lands was formerly very humid and productive of ague, but since the reclamation of the fens it has become comparatively dry and quite salubrious. The climate of the higher grounds used also to be considerably affected by miasmatic exhalations from the marshes, but is now noted for salubrity.

The soils vary considerably according to the geological formations, may be found of ten or twelve different kinds in a band across the county from W to E, and can sometimes be traced in homogeneous belts, or in strips of each one kind only, along the whole county from or near the S boundary to the vicinity of the Humber. A good sandy loam is common in the heath division; a sandy loam with chalk, or a flinty loam on chalk marl, abounds on portions of the wolds; an argillaceous sand, merging into rich loam, and a rich vegetable mould, both remarkably fertile, cover most of the Isle of Axholme ; a well-reclaimed marine marsh, a rich brown loam, and a stiff cold clay variously occupy the low tracts along the Humber and between the N wolds and the sea; a peat-earth, a deep sandy loam, and a rich soapy blue clay, occupy most of the eastern and the southern fens; and an artificial soil, obtained by the process of " warping," occupies considerable low strips of land along the tidal reaches of the rivers. The state of agriculture has long been celebrated. Some estates are large, but most are small. The land, except in the low tracts, is chiefly freehold. Many farms comprise from 400 to 500 acres, and are held and worked by their own proprietors; but most of the farms are small and are held on leases of seven or fourteen years. The farmers are noted for intelligence, and their labourers, in general, are comparatively comfortable. The arable land forms but a small proportion of the entire area, yet includes much of the reclaimed marsh and fen; and it is remarkable for its productiveness in wheat and beans. Some of the fen-land, on being subjected to the plough, has yielded ten successive crops of corn, without any intervening fallow or green crop. Bone-dust, fish, and rape-seed have been much used as manure. The grazing lands are aggregately of great extent, and have long been noted for their singular excellence. The richest of them are near the towns and villages; excellent ones, primely adapted for feeding sheep and fattening cattle and horses, and grazing so smoothly as to present to the eye the verdure of a bowling-green, are in parts of the fens; and others, varying from very rich, and eminently suited for the feeding of stock, to a middling quality fit only for inferior purposes, are in other parts of the fens. The artificial grasses, with various species of trefoil and other herbage, are much cultivated. The principal crops on the arable lands are wheat, oats, barley, hemp, woad, rape, cabbages, turnips, and sainfoin, but they are cultivated variously according to soil or situation, and are not raised in any generally recognised rotation. Wheat yields 3 1/2 quarters, barley 4 1/2, but neither for the most part is of prime quality. Oats average 6 1/2 quarters and are of excellent quality. Beans yield 3 1/2 quarters. Sainfoin yields a plentiful crop, lasting from 9 to 14 years. Onions are raised to a great extent in the Isle of Axholme, and under favourable circumstances are a very profitable crop. Large quantities of oil-cake are imported for stall-feeding. The short-horned Lincolnshire breed of cattle and the long-horned Leicestershire breed, are raised and fed to great advantage, chiefly for the butcher. The dairy, except in the vicinity of the larger towns, receives little attention. The sheep are chiefly of the large Lincolnshire and large Leicestershire breeds. The horses, for both the saddle and the yoke, are remarkably fine, and are chiefly sold in the markets of Yorkshire. Hogs are numerous and have been improved. Geese used to be bred in vast numbers, chiefly for the sake of their feathers, but concurrently with the draining of the fens, they have diminished or disappeared.

According to the census returns issued in 1893, the chief occupations of the people of the county were:—Professional, 6656 males and 4988 females; domestic, 1119 males and 30,366 females; commercial, 15,393 males and 190 females; agricultural, 59,629 males and 1424 females; fishing, 3208 males and 3 females; industrial, 59,979 males and 12,790 females; and "unoccupied," including retired business men, pensioners, those living on their own means, and others not specified, 28,980 males and 130,820 females; or a total in the county of 174,964 males and 180,581 females. The number of men employed in the leading industries was as follows:—Agricultural labourers, 39,223 ; farmers, 9302 ; iron and steel workers, 8388; general labourers, 7753 ; and carpenters and joiners, 3483. The chief occupations of women were—domestic service, with a total of 26,400; millinery and dressmaking, 6447. There were also in the county 385 blind persons, 332 deaf, 190 deaf and dumb, and 1271 mentally deranged.

The manufactures are few and comparatively small, and comprise principally sack-weaving, woollen-working, flax-dressing, rope-making, leather-working, and shipbuilding. There are also iron foundries, engineering works, and some very large manufactories of agricultural implements. The commerce was so small prior to 1841 as not to have had a custom-house till then, continued to be comparatively small till about 1860, but has since risen considerably; has its chief seats at Gainsborough, Great Grimsby, and Boston, and may be said to share in the commerce of Hull and Goole. Steamers ply along the shores, both up the Humber and on the route from Hull to London; sea-bome steamers to various Continental ports ply from Great Grimsby; steamers ply across the Humber and down from Gainsborough to Hull, and run inland from the Humber and from Boston. Few parts in the county are five miles distant from a navigation, either maritime or inland, and no part, except a portion of West Lindsey, is without access to the general system of navigation throughout England.

With respect to railway communication, it will be seen from the map of the county which forms part of this volume that Lincolnshire is traversed throughout by railways, so that about 8 miles is the extreme distance of any part from a station. As we have mentioned previously, the county is served by the G.N.R., G.E.R., M.S. & L.R., and M.R. Commencing with the G.N. system, one main line coming in from Peterborough traverses all the E side of the county by way of Spalding, Boston, Alford, and Louth to Great Grimsby, where it joins the M.S. & L.R. A branch from this line strikes off at Spalding and goes south-eastward toward March; another and older branch now worked by the G.N.R. and M.R. jointly, coming from Bourn, crosses the main line at Spalding and goes eastward past Holbeach and Sutton St Mary toward Lynn. From Boston a branch passes westward by way of Sleaford and Willoughby to Syston Junction, and another branch passes north-westward toward Lincoln, with a short branch to Horncastle and another and longer one to Louth. Following the main line north-eastward from Boston a short branch strikes off at Firsby westward to Spilsby, while another strikes off in a curved line eastward passing through Wainfleet on to Skegness. A little further northward a branch strikes off in a north-easterly direction from Willoughby by way of Alford, Sutton, Mablethorpe, and Saltfleetby to Louth. Returning to the junction at Spalding, there is another line which is worked by the G.N.R. and G.E.R. jointly, which passes through the county north-westward by way of Sleaford, Lincoln, and Gainsborough toward Doncaster. A little further westward a main line, part of the trunk of the G.N.R. coming into the county at Tallington, goes along the SW border, past Little Bytham, Great Ponton, Grantham, Hougham, and Claypole toward Newark. From this line at Essendine a branch strikes off northward through Bourn to Sleaford, and from thence in connection with the G.E.R. to Lincoln. From Lincoln city a branch line of the G.N.R. goes southward through Waddington, Harmston, and Leadenham toward Grantham, and another line belonging to the Midland system goes from Lincoln city south-westward, not far from the route of the Fosse Way, toward Newark. The M.S. & L. line, entering the county at Torksey, joins the G.E. and G.N. Joint line near Saxelby. Another line of the M.S. & L. system, entering the county at Gainsborough, passes north-eastward through Brigg to Ulceby Junction, from which there are branches south-eastward to Great Grimsby and north-westward to New Holland and Barton-upon-Humber. From Barnetby on this section of the railway a line passes southward through Market Rasen to Lincoln city, and another westward through Appleby and Frodingham, past Crowie, toward a grand junction of railways at Doncaster. The aggregate of paved streets and turnpike roads within the county is about 520 miles, and that of other highways for wheeled carriages about 4000 miles.

Lincolnshire contains 747 entire civil parishes and parts of two others. It is divided into the three administrative counties of the parts of Holland, Kesteven, and Lindsey, together with the county boroughs of Grimsby and Lincoln. These administrative counties, each of which has its separate magistrates, quarter sessions, clerks of the peace, and treasurer, are also known as Parts, Divisions, Ridings, and Trithings. Lindsey, the " Island of Lindum," includes the Isle of Axhoime, and occupies more than half of the county north of the Witham and the Fossdyke. Kesteven, in South Lincolnshire, is to the west, the derivation of the name being unknown, and Holland, the smallest of the three divisions, is on the sea coast, the name implying flat, marshy, and fenny laud. Lindsey is divided into fourteen Wapentakes (a word of Danish origin signifying weapon-touch, and meaning land held under a lord whose tenure was so recognised), two Sokes (an old term for a tenure of land with a right to hold a court of inquiry), two Hundreds (anciently a division of 100 families), and the Liberty of Lincoln. The three administrative counties of the parts of Holland, Kesteven, and Lindsey contain respectively 55, 211, and 458 entire civil parishes, the county borough of Grimsby one entire parish, and the county borough of Lincoln eighteen entire parishes; these administrative areas together also contain four other entire civil parishes, and parts of two parishes which are situated partly in other administrative counties. The ancient county contains 581 entire ecclesiastical parishes and districts and parts of four others. It is situated almost entirely in the diocese of Lincoln, though some small portions are included in the dioceses of Southwell and York.

The county is governed by a lord lieutenant and custos "rotulorum, and is in the Midland judiciary circuit, and the diocese of Lincoln. The assizes are held at Lincoln, and the quarter sessions for the Parts of Lindsey at Kirton and Spilsby; for the Parts of Kesteven, at Bourn and Sleaford; for the Parts of Holland, at Boston and Spalding. The county hospital is at Lincoln, and the county lunatic asylum at Bracebridge. Under the Local Government Act, 1888, 51 & 52 Vict. c. 41, each of three divisions or " parts " of the county of Lincoln, with the exception of the city of Lincoln and the borough of Grimsby, became an administrative county governed by a county council. The county council for Lindsey meet at Lincoln, and the council consists of 19 aldermen and 57 councillors. The county council for Kesteven meet at Grantham and Sleaford alternately, and consists of 16 aldermen and 48 councillors. The Holland county council meet at Boston and Spalding alternately, and consists of 14 aldermen and 42 councillors. The city of Lincoln and the borough of Grimsby are administrative counties or county boroughs in themselves.

The ancient county is divided for parliamentary purposes into the following divisions:—West.Lindsey or Gainsborough, North Lindsey or Brigg, East Lindsey or Louth, South Lindsey or Horncastle, North Kesteven or Sleaford, South Kesteven or Stamford, Holland or Spalding. It includes the following parliamentary boroughs:—Boston (Holland Division), Grantham (South Kesteven Division), Grimsby (North Lindsey Division), Lincoln (West Lindsey Division). There are altogether 24 market-towns, and a further 23 that still maintain annual fairs, with upwards of 900 smaller towns, villages, and hamlets. The chief seats are Redbourne House, Lincoln Episcopal Palace, Belton House, Brocklesby Hall, Uffington Hall, Haverholme Priory, Nocton Park, Grimsthorpe Castle, Burghley House, Burton Hall, Little Grimsby Hall, Riseholme Hall, Aswarby Hall, Casewick Hall, Denton Hall, Easton Hall, Normanby Hall, Scawby Hall, Scrivelsby Court, Skendleby Hall, Somerby Hall, Syston Hall, Abbey Park House, Allington Hall, Appleby Hall, Barrow Hall, Bayon's Manor, Bilsby Hall, Blankney Hall, Bloxholm Hall, Boothby Hall, Boultham Hall, Branston Hall, Brattleby Hall, Buckingham House, Buckminster Hall, Bulby House, Burwell Park, Cadwell Hall, Candlesby House, Canwick, Cawkwell House, Caythorpe Hall, Cleatham Hall, Coleby Hall, Cressy Hall, Dalby Hall, Doddington Hall, Elsham Hall, Frampton Hall, Fulbeck Hall, Fulney Hall, Gate Burton Hall, Girsby Hall, Grainsby Hall, Greatford Hall, Gunby Park, Hackthorn Hall, Hagnaby Priory, Hainton Hall, Hanthorpe House, Harlaxton Hall, Harmston Hall, Harrington Hall, Hawerby House, Healing House, Hirst Priory, Holywell Hall, Irnham Hall, Kenwick House, Killingholme Manor, Lady Anne's House, Langton Hall, Lynwode Manor House, Moortown Hall, Nettleham Hall, Newport House, Newton House, Norton Disney Hall, Northorpe Hall, Ormsby Hall, Osbournby Hall, Park House, Partney Hall, Raithby Hall, Rauceby Hall, Revesby Abbey, Riby Grove, Scremby Hall, Skellingthorpe Hall, Skendleby Lodge, Skendleby Hall, Stoke Rochford Hall, Stourton Hall, Stubton, Swineshead Hall, Swinhop House, Thonock Hall, Thorganby Hall, Tothby House, Utterby House, Walcot Hall, Walmsgate Hall, Wellvale, and Wickenby Manor House.

The territory now forming Lincolnshire was probably first settled by the Iberians, afterwards by the Welsh; passed into the possession of a Belgian tribe; and at the landing of the Romans was inhabited chiefly by the Coritani, who are said to have been a branch of the Iceni. The Romans conquered it in the year 70, and they raised embankments, cut dykes or canals, made roads, and built towns. The tribes afterwards called English, including Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, Warings, Danes, Bructuars, Burgundians, and Vandals, made inroads and acquired mastery in the 6th century; they formed a number of commonwealths, three of the chief of which were those of Lindsey, Gainsborough, and the Gyrvians, and they gave rise to the families of Gaining, Horning, Horsing, Epping, Uffing, Folking, Harring, Hacking, Hedding, Billing, Ailing, Willing, Newing, Craning, Ludding, and others which struck root in the region. The kings of Northumbria and of Mercia contended for the territory, were fitfully masters of much of it, and seem to have sometimes called it Southumbria. It at last went into annexation with Mercia, but it was conquered in the latter part of the 9th century by the Scandinavian Danes; it formed part of their Danelagh till they were expelled by Edward the Elder, and it took so deep and wide an impression from them that their word by, signifying " a town," terminates the present names of no fewer than 195 of its townships, or about one-third of all such names in England. The county figures frequently in subsequent history, especially in that of the times of John and Charles I.; was the scene of the decisive battle which seated Henry III., while yet a boy, on the throne; and witnessed, particularly about Lincoln city, some important events in the wars between Charles I. and his parliament.

Ancient British remains, including camps, tumuli, canoes, and minor objects, in considerable number, either exist or have been found. Roman towns were at Lincoln, Alkborough, Ancaster, Brant Broughton, Tattershall, Horncastle, Kirton-in-Lindsey, Winteringham, Broughton, and Willoughby; other Roman settlements were at Gainsborough, Yarborough, Ludborough, Billingborough, Flixborough, Stallingborough, Blyborough, Brackenborough, Braceborough, Waslingborough, Haborough, Bumburgh, Caistor, Honingston, and South Ormsby; and vestiges of the Roman works, in a variety of forms, still exist in a number of these places. The Roman roads Ermine Street, Fosse Way, and Salt Way traverse the county; and Roman cuttings for drainage are represented by the extant Fossdyke and Cardyke. Remains of med5a;val castles are at Lincoln, Torksey, Moor Tower, Tattershall, and Somerton. Abbey ruins are at Bardney, Barlings, Croyland, Kirkstead, Louth, and Tupholm. Old priories, or remains of them, are at Bullington, Burwell, Croxhill, Sempringham, Stamford, and Thornton. Preceptories of the Knights Templars were at Aslackby and Temple Bruer. A remarkable hospital was at Spittal, and a college at Tattershall. Numerous old churches of interesting character are in most parts of the county, particularly in the fens; and the best of them are the cathedral at Lincoln, the churches at Boston, Clee, Grantham, Gedney, Louth, Great Ponton, Stamford, Heckington, and Stow.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5