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Foston shown within Lincolnshire
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Foston lies on an ancient crossroads, situated on the northern edge of the Vale of Belvoir, nearly six miles northwest of Grantham, national grid reference SK 85 42. Foston has a linear scattering of houses sited on the upper edge of a north-south fault line, in theory giving flood-free living conditions, but having a line of springs, which emerge from the outcropping limestone. The local subsoil is mainly clay although there are a considerable variety of soils within the parish.
Foston is traditionally a farming village. The River Witham runs to the north of the village and the A1 trunk road bisects the south-western edge, isolating half a dozen village dwellings. The Foston Beck runs along the eastern border and the parish covers around 850 hectares. Neighbouring villages include Long Bennington, Westborough, Allington and Marston.
In Roman times there was a settlement in the parish and it is thought that it may have been developed from a late Iron Age farmstead situated close to the Fallow Ford at the end of Fallow Lane. A Roman Villa was excavated in late Victorian times 1891–1896; it was on slightly raised ground near to the present forded crossing of the River Witham. Rev. Henry Faulkner Allison (who was Curate of Foston from 1891 to 1896) found various Roman pieces of pottery and Mr J Dable discovered numerous Roman coins in 1973. These coins were dating from Nero AD 37 to Constantius II in 306. Other artefacts have also been found including two Dolphin brooches and one Trumpet brooch along with a Stud brooch.
The Saxons settled in this district and extensive remains have been excavated on Loveden Hill, which can be seen to the east of the village. Another pointer to the possible Saxon settlement within the parish is to be found in the name Foston itself – i.e. the first “ton” or settlement on the road north from Grantham, FOTR-TUN. The combination of Scandinavian personal name and Saxon ending found in Ekwall’s interpretation of the Village name may reflect a Saxon settlement taken over by a Viking headman. Foston from the Old Scandinavian Fos+ton, for “farmstead or Fotr”. [A. D. Mills, "A Dictionary of English Place-Names," Oxford University Press, 1991]
The Normans took over an existing agricultural society and organised it into a Feudal System where land is held in return for the performance of services. The manor was the farming unit and evidence of the manorial system is extensive in Foston. Foston was part of the manor of Long Bennington and Foston appears in the 1086 Domesday Book as “Foztun”.
Agricultural practices in the Middle Ages were based upon the open field system and the land divided into strips. The general line of the holdings would run in an east-west direction. The Enclosure Act in a plan dated 3 March 1796 affected Long Bennington and Foston. The present pattern of land usage is very nearly that formed from the old strip system at enclosure. Modern agricultural machinery has made it necessary to remove hedges, thus recreating the appearance of the large open fields of the pre-enclosure era.
The English Civil War started in 1642. A Battle on Gonerby Moor was fought between Foston and Marston on the north-eastern side of the Great North Road in 1643, which was the year Oliver Cromwell won his first victory over the Royalists at Grantham. The Royalists were defeated in 1647, and King Charles I was executed two years later. The monarchy was restored with Charles II in 1660.
The Anglican Church of St Peter dates back to at least the 13th Century, although in 1858 it received substantial restoration and was partially rebuilt under the direction of Charles Kirk. The parish register for burials and baptisms begins in 1626, several years before Oliver Cromwell proposed the civil registration of births, deaths and marriages. Marriages were included in the Long Bennington register until 1766. There was a Wesleyan Methodists Chapel that was situated on Chapel Lane. However, it was taken down and bungalows and houses were built on the site.
A National School was built next to the Church in 1847 to hold eighty children, which later became a Church School. The attendance at the time was only about forty. An earlier school building adjoined the south wall of the churchyard. The School was closed in 1987 and subsequently converted into a home. Children up to the age of eleven generally attend the Long Bennington Church of England Primary School or the Allington with Sedgebrook Church of England Primary School at Allington. There is a bus or taxi provided for traveling by the local authority if there is justification.
The Foston Post Windmill was one of the oldest in Britain, dating back to 1624. It was demolished in 1966. It had been sited on the A1 at the cottage known as Mill House. Previous to that it was sited at Mill Close on Allington Lane and before that it stood immediately below the old Post Office on Newark Hill. At the time these mills were considered portable.
Old buildings constructed from mud and stud have been demolished although most new dwellings have been built on sites of older dwellings with the exception of Wilkinson Road. In 1967–69 around forty houses were built on land belonging to Mr Wilkinson whose family had farmed in the village for a hundred years. Two new houses were also built on the site of The Black Boy Inn. From 1979 to the 1980s eight houses were built on Highfield Close and since then individual houses have been fitted in along Main Street, Church Street, Newark Hill and Long Street. Recently there has been series of individual properties built, mainly of high quality family homes, in Long Street and Back Lane.
Coaching was at its height in the early 19th century and Foston had several inns and Staging Houses. The Duke William public house was at the Allington crossroads close to the service station area. The Black Horse still exists in the centre of the village as a private house and flats. The Black Boy which was demolished in 1965–66 stood at the junction of Tow Lane and Newark Hill. With the advent of the railway Foston lost any importance it may have had as a staging post and the village was bypassed in 1926, isolating the village from any through traffic.
At the turn of the century when the Great North Road ran through the village, the vehicles on the road were mainly horse drawn. Travelling circuses would pass through the village along with occasional dancing bears and travellers from all walks of life.
During the First and Second World Wars, Foston remained a thriving village. During the Great War eight men from the village lost their lives in the armed forces. In the Second World War, two men were lost during the war. During that time American Medics stationed at Allington frequented the public houses in the village. Italian prisoners of war worked on some of the farms, replacing villagers that had left to go to war or work in Grantham at the armament factories.
Up until the time the school closed Foston remained a busy, more or less, self-supporting village. By the beginning of the twenty-first century the story is very different. Foston has lost all its services including the Doctors surgery, Post Office, pub, and shop, which, was also a bakery.
St Peter's Church in Foston dates back to the 10th century and is a Grade 1 listed building. The chancel arch is one of the finest examples of late Norman building in Lincolnshire, with lines of beautiful clean cut chevrons decorating it.
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