Louth (St. James)

LOUTH (St. James), a market-town and parish, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the Wold division of the hundred of Louth-Eske, parts of Lindsey, county of Lincoln, 28 miles (E. N. E.) from Lincoln, and 150 (N. by E.) from London; containing 8935 inhabitants. The ancient Latin name of this town was Luda, from its vicinity to the Lud, a small stream formed by the junction of two rivulets. It was distinguished for the number of its religious houses previously to the Reformation, and the inhabitants were the first to resist the measures enforced by Henry VIII. for their suppression. In 1536 they took part in the insurrection called the "Pilgrimage of Grace;" and the prior of Barlings, who was their leader, the vicar of Louth, four other priests, and seven laymen, were executed at Tyburn in the following year. A destructive plague, which raged here in 1631, from April until the end of November, swept away 754 persons. The town is pleasantly situated in a fertile vale eastward of the Wolds, bounded on the north and south by chalk hills, which command extensive and varied prospects. It is neat and well built, the houses being chiefly of brick and covered with tiles; the streets are paved, and lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are supplied with excellent water from several springs in the neighbourhood: the air is highly salubrious. Great improvements have been made of late years, including the addition of handsome frontages to many of the buildings in the principal streets; that of the King's Head hotel attracts much admiration. Gasworks were completed in April, 1826, by a company of proprietors with a capital of £9000, raised in £50 shares, under an act passed in 1825; in which year, also, an act was procured for lighting, paving, and watching the town. Assemblies and concerts are held in the mansionhouse, which contains an elegant suite of apartments, ornamented in the Grecian style; and a mechanics' institute, consisting of about 200 members, has offices in an extensive building in Mercer-row, erected in 1833, and which also comprises a subscription newsroom and library, a savings' bank, and a large apartment for public meetings.

The town, from its position in the centre of a rich grazing and agricultural district, has continued to increase in the extent of its trade, the population having been more than doubled since the commencement of the present century. A carpet and blanket factory, a paper-mill, a soap-house, and several tanneries and roperies, afford employment to a considerable number of persons; there are likewise a few worsted manufacturers and wool-staplers, and in the vicinity are extensive quarries of limestone, of which large quantities are burnt for farming purposes. At Riverhead, also, are spacious granaries, and coal and timber yards. In 1761 an act of parliament was obtained for cutting a canal between the town and the Humber, which was completed at an expense of £12,000; and by means of this mode of communication, vessels of considerable burthen regularly trade with London, Hull, and several other parts of Yorkshire, carrying out corn and wool, and bringing back coal, timber, iron, grocery, and other articles: in 1828, an act was passed for maintaining and improving this navigation. An act was obtained in 1846 for a railway from Great Grimsby, by Louth, to Boston. The wool-market is a commodious building, opened in June, 1825. The general market-days are Wednesday and Saturday, and there is a market for sheep every Friday during the spring and autumn; the market-place occupies a large area in the centre of the town. Fairs are held on the third Wednesday after Easter, on August 5th, and November 22nd.

A charter was granted to the town by Edward VI., who vested the government in a warden and six assistants. This was confirmed in the 5th of Elizabeth, who gave to the corporation "the manor of Louth and divers lands there," of which the annual value then was £78. 14. 4½., reserving to the crown the annual payment of £84; and the privileges of the town were again confirmed and extended by James I. The municipal government is now vested in a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors, under the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76; the borough is divided into two wards, and the number of magistrates is five. The general quarter-sessions for the southern parts of the division of Lindsey are held here and at Spilsby alternately; petty-sessions occur weekly in the mansionhouse. The powers of the county debt-court of Louth, established in 1847, extend over part of the registrationdistrict of Louth. The guildhall was erected at a cost of £1460, about the year 1815, when the old hall, a small square edifice, was taken down; and a sessions' house, gaol, and house of correction for the division of Lindsey, were built in 1827, at a considerable expense, near the site of the old prison: the sessions'-house is a handsome pile, with a portico of Roman-Doric architecture.

The parish is co-extensive with the borough, and comprises, exclusively of roads, 2560a. 3r. 25p., of which 1160 acres are arable, 527 meadow, 791 pasture, and 77 ground occupied by buildings. The living is a discharged vicarage, with that of St. Mary's united, in the patronage of the Bishop of Lincoln, and valued in the king's books at £12; net income, £300. There were formerly two churches, dedicated respectively to St. Mary and St. James. The latter, which alone remains, is one of the finest structures in the county, and a remarkably good specimen of the later English style; at the east end is a window of seven lights, with very beautiful tracery, and at the western extremity is a lofty tower with a rich crocketed spire. The spire having been blown down in 1634, the present octangular one, 288 feet in height, was erected; it was struck by lightning in 1828, and repaired the following year. The burial-ground has not been used for upwards of half a century, the churchyard formerly belonging to the church of St. Mary being the general place of interment. A commodious vicarage-house was lately erected by the Rev. E. R. Mantell, vicar. Holy Trinity church, erected in 1834, chiefly through the exertions of one individual, is a brick edifice with an octagonal tower, contains 600 sittings, and cost £1800, raised by subscription, to which Mr. Isaac Smith was a large contributor: the patronage is vested in certain Trustees for forty years, and afterwards in the Incumbent of the parish. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, Roman Catholics, and others.

The free grammar school was founded by Edward VI., and endowed with the property of some ancient guilds in the town, consisting of about 350 acres of land, with the tolls of markets and fairs; the income is nearly £800 per annum, of which sum one-half is appropriated to the master, one-quarter to the usher, and one-quarter to the maintenance of twelve women, who reside in almshouses under the schoolroom. By the 136th clause in the Municipal act, the warden and six assistants are continued a corporate body for the regulation of the school, and remain seized of all the lands, tolls, and tenements granted by Edward VI. The Rev. John Waite is the present head master. Another school, founded in 1562 by Richard Hardie, is endowed with lands, the income of which is about £90. A third, for boys, was endowed by the will of Dr. Robert Mapletoft, Dean of Ely, in 1677, with a rent-charge of about £40 per annum: Thomas Espin, F.S.A., whose views of the cathedral, churches, and ruins in the county, are much admired, was master of the school for 30 years, and on his death, in 1822, was interred in a mausoleum near his late residence in the town. A national school was erected in 1818, an infants' school in 1835, and a British school in 1840. The poor-law union of Louth comprises 88 parishes or places, containing a population of 29,588 persons: the workhouse occupies a pleasant site at the head of Broad-bank, in the immediate vicinity, and was built in 1837, at a cost of £6000, for the reception of 350 paupers. About a mile from the town is the hamlet of Louth-Park, containing 87 inhabitants, where are some slight vestiges of an abbey founded by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, in 1139, for monks of the Cistercian order, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary; it was a cell subordinate to Fountains Abbey, in Yorkshire, and at the Dissolution had a revenue of £169. 5. 6.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.