History of Lincolnshire

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Lincolnshire, England derived from the merging of the territory of the ancient Kingdom of Lindsey with that controlled by the Danelaw borough Stamford. For some time the entire county was called 'Lindsey', and it is recorded as such in the Domesday Book. Later, Lindsey was applied only the northern core, around Lincoln, and emerged as one of the three 'Parts of Lincolnshire', along with the Parts of Holland in the south-east and Kesteven in the south west.

In 1888 when county councils were set up, Lindsey, Holland and Kesteven each received their own separate one. These survived until 1974, when Holland, Kesteven, and most of Lindsey were merged into Lincolnshire, and the northern part, with Scunthorpe and Grimsby, going to the newly formed non-metropolitan county of Humberside, along with most of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

A further local government reform in 1996 abolished Humberside, and the parts south of the Humber became the unitary authorities of North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. These areas became part of Lincolnshire for ceremonial purposes such as the Lord-Lieutenancy, but are not covered by the Lincolnshire police. These two authorities are in the Yorkshire and the Humber region.

The remaining districts of Lincolnshire are Boston, East Lindsey, Lincoln, South Holland, South Kesteven, North Kesteven and West Lindsey. They are part of the East Midlands region.

Pre-Roman and Roman[edit]

Lincolnshire before the Romans was occupied by the Corieltauvi a British tribe. There have been several small pre-Roman barrows discovered near to Boston and Frampton.

The Romans established permanent government in Lincolnshire soon after the invasion of AD 43, but the tyrannical rule of the Roman sub-prætor Ostorius Scapula so inflamed the Corieltauvi and their neighbours in Yorkshire, the Brigantes, that they conducted a simmering low key rebellion lasting well into AD 70.

Eventually, the Governorship of Britain was given to the Deputy of the Prefect of Gaul and the title Vicar of Britain created. He resided at York, and the sub-district of Flavia Caesariensis, which comprised Lincolnshire and parts of the Midlands was created.

Once established, the Romans set about improving Lincolnshire. They created the Car Dyke, a series of semi-natural and artificial boundary ditches which run from the River Welland at Market Deeping for 64 km to the River Witham at Washingborough, constructed hard standings and walkways across the fens, and also built inland ports such as the Brayford Pool at Lincoln.

The main Roman forts in Lincolnshire were:

The Romans built three main roads through Lincolnshire:

Other roads of Roman origin are the Salters' Way, continuing the line from the Leicestershire border across Ermine Street near Old Somerby, to the then coast at Donington. King Street including The Long Hollow road, joined Ancaster to the fen edge and Durobrivae near Peterborough. Two roads linked Lincoln to the coast across the Wolds. This was used as part of the defence system set up to protect the Saxon Shore and re-used by William the Conqueror in conjunction with Lincoln Castle. There are also scores of smaller sections of roads branching off from the three major routes which are certainly Roman as well, linking Ermine Street with the Wolds and King Street with the coast. Also, Mareham Lane continued the fen-edge line of King Street northwards.

When the Romans departed in the fifth century, all these works gradually fell into ruin and disrepair.

Anglo-Saxons and Danes[edit]

Incoming groups of Angles settled heavily in the Midland and East Midland areas of what is now England. The Anglian Kingdom of Lindsey was established between the Witham and the Humber, in the northern part of the what is now Lincolnshire, by the 6th century and seems to have maintained its independence until at least the end of the 7th century, but was absorbed into Mercia - a rising power - in the 8th century.[1]

In 865 a formidable Danish raiding army, led by Ivar (spelled Hinguar or Igwar in English sources), one of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, landed in East Anglia and established winter quarters there.[2] Within a few years this force succeeded in conquering Mercia and all the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms except Wessex.

Scandinavian settlers followed the raiders into the swathe of England under Danish control, which became the Danelaw. They have left a legacy of Scandinavian elements in many Lincolnshire place-names.[3] Lincoln became a Danish borough. In the 10th century it became the head of the new shire of Lincolnshire.

The Norman Conquest[edit]

The Anglo-Saxon nobility of Lincolnshire was destroyed by William the Conqueror, and the lands divided amongst his followers. He constructed Lincoln Castle, and another at Tattershall. Numerous others were built by Norman magnates, mainly in the years immediately following the Conquest and around 1140, during the period of civil war when Stephen and Matilda were disputing the right to rule. The First Battle of Lincoln, in 1141, was part of this.

The Middle Ages[edit]

The Witham valley between Boston and Lincoln had the highest concentration of Abbeys and monastic foundations in the country. The principle foundations were Barlings Abbey, Bardney Abbey, Catley Abbey, Nocton Abbey, Stainfield Abbey, Stixwould Abbey, Tupholme Abbey, Kirkstead Abbey, Kyme Abbey . The rest of the county was not left out, there were houses at Bourne Abbey, Sempringhm Abbey and many other places. But the clustering along the Witham was extraordinary.

Fewer Castles were built, although some of the manors were fortified in early years. Given the size of the county it is perhaps just as surprising that there are so few castles, as that there are so many Abbeys up the Witham. Boston, for example, appears to have had seven friaries, and to be defended only by the town walls. There appears to have been no garrison.

Fairs at Stamford, Grantham, and Stow Fair were established, and lasted throughout the period. Corby Glen sheep fair has been held more or less unchanged every year since 1238.

Sheep farming and the wool trade brought untold wealth to the area. Churches of breathtaking beauty were built.

In this period the Queen's Champion was appointed, and the post is still held by his successor, and many great estates and schools were founded. The Middle Ages were as rich and colourful in Lincolnshire as anywhere else. Events like the accusations against the Jews or the Lincolnshire rebellion show that life was not all a sybaritic idyll.

An important medieval book, the Luttrell Psalter forms the basis for nearly every schoolbook illustration of the period. It lay unregarded in the church at Irnham until the early 20th century when it was saved for the nation: a public subscription in a popular newspaper raised enough to buy it before it was sold overseas.

Grantham's St Wulfram's church has a fine example of a Chained library still extant within the church.

The Reformation[edit]

During the Protestant reformation, Lincolnshire had strong pro-Catholic sentiments, and on 2 October 1536 an anti Anglican peasant rebellion broke out. The leaders of this rebellion were local peasants and Catholic priests. King Henry VIII responded by dispatching an army of 3,000 soldiers under the command of Sir John Russell and the duke of Suffolk to quell the rebellion. Despite the large number of the rebels (around 60,000), the rebellion was suppressed on 13 October.

The English Civil War[4][edit]

During the war, Lincolnshire was part of the Eastern Association, the Parliamentarian alliance. On its western border lay the Royalist strongholds, of Newark on Trent and Belvoir Castle. Lincolnshire was therefore raided and defended by the respective parties. For a time, Crowland, in the south of the county was fortified for the king.

Lincolnshire was important to the Parliamentarians as it provided access between the great arsenal of Hull and the south and the Eastern Association's heartland in the east of England. It also offered a potential starting line for an advance across the English Midlands, cutting the north of England off from the west.

Second World War[5][edit]

The RAF in the Second World War[edit]

In the late 1930s, despite its coastal holiday industry, distant and near water fishing industries, iron mining and smelting, heavy machinery manufacturing, the country's main road and railway lines and growing number of airfields, Lincolnshire was large enough to give an impression of being a largely unvisited, peaceful agricultural backwater until the Second World War, when its extent, gentle topography and relative proximity to the enemy led to a further expansion in the number of Royal Air Force stations in the county. By 1945 the number of RAF bases exceeded 46. Some of these had by that stage been lent to the Eighth United States Army Air Force. The very first airfields had been built for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) or the Royal Naval Air Service, the first of them at Skegness, on the coast, in 1912, when the RFC was established. Among the more famous Royal Air Force stations in the county was and is RAF Cranwell. This had begun as The Royal Naval Air Service Central Training Establishment, Cranwell; commonly known as HMS Daedalus, commissioned 1 April 1916. It became the RAF Officer Training College after the formation of the RAF in April 1918. RAF Swinderby was a Polish-manned RAF station and from 1964, the RAF's main Recruit Training Camp. RAF Scampton, was the home base of 617 Squadron.

Lincolnshire still has the strongest claim to being the 'home' of RAF Bomber Command, playing host to many squadrons, including the Lancaster bombers of the famous 617 Dambusters squadron who were based at RAF Scampton[1]. There were two Bomber Groups based in the county - No. 1 in the north and No. 5 Group in the centre and south. The Battle of Britain memorial flight is still led by a Lancaster named The City of Lincoln.

Before the war, Sir Frank Whittle had attended RAF Cranwell, near Sleaford, in the late 1920s. Here he formulated his ideas for the jet engine. On 15 May 1941 the world's first true jet-engine flight took place at Cranwell, by the Gloster E.28/39.

Most of the airfields were closed after the war and, although most have been built over, disused airfields, abandoned control towers and crumbling concrete bunkers and airfield buildings remain a physical feature of the county in a number of places, and many still, it is said, holding ghosts and are haunted.[6] Many people in Lincolnshire have learned to drive a car on the disused concrete airstrips of the county.

Cold War history[edit]

RAF Waddington and RAF Scampton formed two of the main bases for the V bomber Force, flying Vulcans, during the Cold War, while Thor missiles were stationed on former wartime air stations at for example, RAF Folkingham.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Lapididge (ed.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Englo-Saxon England (2001) p.289.
  2. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; Dorothy Whitelock, Fact and Fiction in the Legend of St Edmund, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology 31 (for 1969), pp. 217–33.
  3. ^ Michael Lapididge (ed.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Englo-Saxon England (2001) pp. 369–371 and map 3.
  4. ^ Web links and list of references.
  5. ^ Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore (1981). Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2. PSL. ISBN 978-0-85059-484-3. 
  6. ^ Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore. Ghost Stations Lincolnshire (Paperback). L'Aquila Publishing. ISBN 978-1-871448-06-1. 

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