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Coordinates: 53°12′29″N 0°06′50″W / 53.208°N 0.114°W / 53.208; -0.114
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Town and civil parish
St Mary's Church, Horncastle
Horncastle is located in Lincolnshire
Location within Lincolnshire
Area5.73 km2 (2.21 sq mi)
Population6,815 (2011)
• Density1,189/km2 (3,080/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTF2669
• London115 mi (185 km) S
Civil parish
  • Horncastle
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtLN9
Dialling code01507
AmbulanceEast Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
53°12′29″N 0°06′50″W / 53.208°N 0.114°W / 53.208; -0.114

Horncastle is a market town and civil parish in the East Lindsey district in Lincolnshire, England. It is 17 miles (27 km) east of Lincoln. Its population was 6,815 at the 2011 census and estimated at 7,123 in 2019.[1] A section of the ancient Roman walls remains.



Although fortified, Horncastle was not on any important Roman roads, which suggests that the River Bain was the principal route of access to it.

Roman Horncastle has become known recently as Banovallum (i. e. Wall on the River Bain). Although this Roman name has been adopted by some local businesses and the town's secondary modern school, it is not firmly known to be original.[2] Banovallum was merely suggested in the 19th century through an interpretation of the Ravenna Cosmography, a 7th-century list of Roman towns and road-stations,[3] and may equally have meant Caistor.

The place-name ‘Horncastle’ is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as ‘Hornecastre’. It appears as ‘Hornecastra’ in the Pipe Rolls of 1130. The name means “the Roman fort in the tongue of land” between the River Bain and River Waring.[4]

The Roman walls remain in places. One section is on display in the town's library, which was built over the top of the wall.[2] The Saxons called the town Hyrnecastre, from which its modern name derives.

The former Horncastle Town Hall

Domesday Book[edit]

Horncastle is listed in the 1086 Domesday Book with 41 households, including 29 villagers and twelve smallholders, and had 100 acres (0 km2) of meadow and two mills, all belonging to King William.[5]


Dating from the 13th century, well before the Reformation, the Anglican parish church is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. It is a Grade II* listed building in the Early English style, but was extensively restored 1859–1861 by Ewan Christian.[6]

English Civil War[edit]

Four miles out is the village of Winceby, where in 1643 the Battle of Winceby helped to gain Lincolnshire for Parliament, although its leader, Oliver Cromwell, was almost killed.[7] Local legend has it that the 13 scythe blades hanging on the wall of the south chapel of St Mary's Church were used as weapons at Winceby, but this is mainly seen as apocryphal. The historical opinion is that they probably date from the Lincolnshire Rising of 1536.[8] Both theories on the scythes appear in the "Church History" Lincoln website.[9]

Blood sports[edit]

Horncastle was once a centre for cockfighting and bull-baiting.[10] The Fighting Cocks remains the name of a local pub. Bull-baiting was practised in the area known as the Bull Ring. One historian finds that the practise continued until about 1810.[11] Both these sports were banned in England and Wales under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.[12]

Market and horse fair[edit]

Horncastle Market Place with Stanhope Memorial

Horncastle gained a Crown market charter in the 13th century. It was long known for its great August horse fair, a famous trading event that continued until the mid-20th century. It ended after the Second World War, when horses had largely ceased to be used on farms. The town remains a centre of the antiques trade.[13][14]

The annual horse fair was probably first held in the 13th century. It would last for a week or more every August. In the 19th century it was probably the largest such event in the United Kingdom. The slogan, "Horncastle for horses", was a sign of the town's standing in this trade. The fair was George Borrow's setting for some scenes in his semi-autobiographical books Lavengro and The Romany Rye. The last was held in 1948.[15] Livestock markets continued for pigs and cattle, the last cattle market being held in 2000.[16]

In 1894 the Stanhope Memorial, designed by E. Lingen Barker,[17] was raised in the centre of the Market Place in memory of Edward Stanhope MP. It is a Grade II listed structure made of limestone, red sandstone and pink and grey streaked marble.[18]

Notable buildings[edit]

The Grade II listed Old Court House in Louth Road was built in 1865. There are 116 other listed edifices in the town, including the three places of worship – St Mary's (Grade II*), Holy Trinity (Grade II) and the Congregational Church (Grade II) – and several sections of the Roman walls (Grade I).[19] The former Horncastle Town Hall was built as a drill hall and completed in around 1903.[20]


Historically, the civil parish lost population from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, as urbanisation and agricultural changes drew people to cities, where more work was available. However, the population since the late 20th century it has risen, to 6,815 in 2011, its highest so far. The estimated population in 2019 was still higher at 7,123.[21]

Population of Horncastle civil parish
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1951 1961 2011
Population[22] 2,015 2,602 3,058 3,988 4,521 5,017 4,818 4,374 4,038 3,900 3,459 3,496 3,809 3,771 6,815


Horncastle lies 7 miles from Woodhall Spa, 18 miles from Boston, 21 miles from Lincoln and 13 miles from Louth. It is near the main A158 road between Lincoln to Skegness, to the south of the Lincolnshire Wolds, where the north–south River Bain meets the River Waring from the east, and north of the West and Wildmore Fens. The south of Horncastle is called Cagthorpe. Langton Hill to the west was part of Horncastle Rural District in the Parts of Lindsey, but is now in the district of East Lindsey, based in Manby.

North of Horncastle are the villages of West Ashby and Low Toynton, and to their south Milestone House and Mareham on the Hill on the eastern outskirts. The Viking Way meets the River Waring, then north of the A158 the village of High Toynton. The A153 skirts the southern edge of the River Bain to reach Roughton and Thornton. The border follows the Old River Bain west of the A153 and north over the river meadows, crossing the Horncastle Canal and Viking Way. Eastwards it crosses the B1191 to the village of Langton and northwards to Thimbleby. It meets the B1190, then the A158 at the B1190 junction, following Accommodation Road to the east and skirting the north of the town along Elmhurst Road, past Elmhurst Lakes, to reach West Ashby at the River Bain near Hemingby Lane.


Lincolnshire Integrated Voluntary Emergency Service is based at the Boston Road Industrial Estate. The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is based in Banovallum House. Mortons of Horncastle is a major national magazine publisher of classic motorcycles, aviation and road transport heritage titles, based in the industrial estate off the A153 (Boston Road).[23]


An electoral ward of the same name exists. It includes Thimbleby and had a total population at the 2011 Census of 7,073.[24]


Horncastle has always been a safe area for the Conservative Party, except for two years in the early 1920s, when it had Liberal Party representation. It had an eponymous parliamentary constituency for 98 years, from 1885 to 1983. It then became Gainsborough and Horncastle, and after 1997 Louth and Horncastle. Henry Haslam served as MP in the Second World War and the five years of the Churchill wartime government. The veteran politician Sir Peter Tapsell was MP for the town in 1966–1983 and 1997–2015, being Father of the House of Commons from 2010 to 2015. After a redistribution of parliamentary constituencies, Edward Leigh was MP from 1983–1997. In 2024 Victoria Atkins was re-elected as the Conservative MP for Louth and Horncastle.


Primary schooling[edit]

Horncastle Primary School stands in Bowl Alley Lane.[25]

Secondary schooling[edit]

Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School was founded in 1571, and is among the top schools in Lincolnshire,[26][27] having been at times among the top schools in the country. Its tennis, hockey, netball and cricket teams compete regionally, and the tennis team was a regional winner in the 2005 British Schools Tennis Championships. Queen Elizabeth's is a specialist Science College and Language College. Its Design and Technology department recently entered two teams in the National 4X4 for Schools engineering competition, one of which came first nationally in its age group, while the other came second nationally overall.[citation needed]

The Banovallum School[28] is a non-selective community school serving Horncastle and surrounding villages; it forms a science specialist school jointly with Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School. The most recent Ofsted inspection in 2019 judged the school to be overall Grade 2 (good).[29] It had a building added in 2010, with facilities for cookery, woodwork, metalwork, art and music.[citation needed]

St Lawrence School is a special-needs school with a county-wide intake. It comprises the Lincolnshire Wolds Federation with St Bernard's School, Louth.[30][31]


Horncastle College was a "lifelong-learning" adult education college that ran short and residential courses in I.T., art, languages and local history.[32] It has been replaced by Fortuna Horncastle Business Centre.[33]



Bridge Street

Horncastle sits at the crossroads of two major Lincolnshire roads: the east–west A158, joining the county town of Lincoln with the resort of Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast, and the north–south A153 joining Louth with Sleaford and Grantham in the south. These meet at the Bull Ring in central Horncastle.

The A158 through Horncastle becomes busy in the summer holidays with Skegness holidaymakers. To alleviate traffic pressure in the town centre a relief road, Jubilee Way, was built in the 1970s. Minor roads run from Horncastle to Bardney, Boston (via Revesby), Fulletby and Woodhall Spa.

Horncastle is a hub for the InterConnect rural bus service. Regular services run to Lincoln, Skegness and across the Wolds. The Viking Way long-distance footpath passes through the town.[34]


The Great Northern Railway's Lincoln–Boston line ran through Kirkstead, 8 miles (12.9 km) from Horncastle, and a branch line from Kirkstead (later Woodhall Junction) through Woodhall Spa to Horncastle opened on 11 August 1855. The last passenger service ran in 1954, with complete closure to goods traffic in 1971.[35] Horncastle railway station was demolished in the 1980s and replaced by housing. The nearest railway station now is Metheringham (15 miles, 24 km) on the Peterborough to Lincoln Line.[36] Part of the old railway is followed by the Viking Way footpath.[34]


South Basin of the Horncastle Canal, Horncastle

Horncastle Canal, based on the River Bain, was begun in 1792 and opened in 1802.[37]
In 2004 it was suggested that the canal be renovated with the help of private capital and promoted as a route for pleasure craft, as has been done successfully in other areas.[38] A local kick-start programme raised money for the project.[39]


Local news and television programmes are provided by BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and ITV Yorkshire. Television signals are received from the Belmont TV transmitter.[40]BBC East Midlands and ITV Central can also be received from the Waltham TV transmitter.[41]

Local radio stations are BBC Radio Lincolnshire on 94.9 FM, Greatest Hits Radio Lincolnshire on 102.2 FM, Lincs FM, an DAB radio station and County Linx Radio that broadcast online. [42]

The Horncastle News is the town’s weekly local newspaper.[43]


Field games[edit]

Horncastle Town FC, founded in 1873, is an amateur club based at The Wong.[44] It joined the Lincolnshire Football League in the 1996/1997 season.[45]

The town's cricket club at Coronation Walk has two men's and five youth teams.[46]

Horncastle Hockey Club is a voluntary field-hockey body set up in November 1970 at Coronation Walk, Horncastle.[47] In 2020 it had two men's and two women's teams and a junior section.

Court games[edit]

Horncastle and District Tennis Club has served for over 70 years. Initially on grass courts in Stanhope Road, the club moved to the current Coronation Walk location in the 1970s.[48]

Horncastle Community Members Squash Club in Hemmingby Lane was founded in November 2006 to preserve an existing club by buying out retiring owners who had run it for 25 years.[49]


New housing by the River Bain

The town has been susceptible to flooding,[50] notably in 1920 and 1960, and with three floods between 1981 and 1984.

Folk belief associates the occurrence of floods with installations of new vicars in Horncastle's Anglican Church. The vicar changed in 1919 and 1959, both less than a year before a flood. The flooding of the early 1980s was attributed to the change of vicar in 1980, but there was no flooding after the change of vicar in 1999. The River Bain and River Waring overflowed during the 2007 United Kingdom floods.[50][51][52]

Flooding recurred in 2012.[53] A £15 million, 30-year-old proposed flood-defence scheme was seen as unlikely to have prevented the 2012 flood, but new flood defences are being discussed.[54] An anti-flood pump was installed in 2013.[55]

On 7 October 1960 Horncastle entered the UK Weather Records with a "highest 180-minute total" rainfall of 178 mm.[50][56] Water levels are said to have risen 8 feet (2.4 m) as a consequence.[52]

Real-time river levels are available from the Environment Agency:

Flood warnings for the town:

Twin town[edit]

Horncastle is twinned with Bonnétable, a ville de marché (market town) in the French department of Sarthe, with a population of about 4,000.[57][58] The towns' relationship is commemorated by a Rue Horncastle in Bonnétable and a Bonnetable Road in Horncastle (without the acute accent).

Notable people[edit]

View northwards towards the town from Dalderby


  1. ^ City Population. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  2. ^ a b Historic England. "Bannovellum (352692)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  3. ^ Roman-Britain.org
  4. ^ ’The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names’, p.250.
  5. ^ "Horncastle". Open Domesday. Anna Powell-Smith/University of Hull. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  6. ^ Historic England. "St Marys Church, Horncastle (Grade II) (1168259)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Local web site, detailed account of civil war actions". Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  8. ^ "Account of Lincolnshire Rising". Horncastle Discovered. Archived from the original on 12 July 2011.
  9. ^ "Church History". Lincoln. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  10. ^ BBC Lincolnshire – Lincolnshire Day. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  11. ^ Records of Woodhall Spa and Neighbourhood. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  12. ^ – Cruelty to Animals Act. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Town Council details". Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Lincolnshire things to do | Lincolnshire days out | what to do in Lincoln". Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  15. ^ "Horse fair details". Horncastle Discovered. Archived from the original on 12 July 2011.
  16. ^ Lincolnshire Life - Join the Celebrations. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  17. ^ List of work, etc. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  18. ^ Historic England. "Stanhope Memorial (1262721)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  19. ^ British Listed Buildings.
  20. ^ "Much-loved Edwardian drill hall faces destruction". Save Britain's Heritage. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  21. ^ City Population. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Vision of Britain". Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  23. ^ "Geograph:: Approaching Horncastle from the South © Tony Atkin cc-by-sa/2.0". www.geograph.org.uk.
  24. ^ "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  25. ^ "Government record for primary school". Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  26. ^ "Government record for Grammar school". Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  27. ^ "The Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Horncastle", BBC News
  28. ^ "Government record for Secondary school". Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  29. ^ "The Banovallum School, Horncastle", Ofsted report 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2012
  30. ^ "Special school web site".
  31. ^ "Government record for Secondary school". Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  32. ^ "Horncastle College". Archived from the original on 19 May 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  33. ^ "Fortuna Horncastle Business Centre". Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  34. ^ a b The Viking Way: Official Guidebook to the 147 Mile Long Distance Footpath Through Lincolnshire and Rutland. Lincolnshire Books. 1997. ISBN 1-872375-25-1.
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  37. ^ Historic England. "Horncastle Canal (892922)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  38. ^ "Cash pours in for project to revitalise canal". Horncastle News. 5 February 2004. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  39. ^ "Kickstart for canal". Horncastle News. 29 October 2003. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  40. ^ "Belmont (Lincolnshire, England) Full Freeview transmitter". May 2004.
  41. ^ "Waltham (Leicestershire, England) Full Freeview transmitter". May 2004.
  42. ^ "Radio Lincolnshire – Find Your Local Station". 18 February 2015.
  43. ^ "Horncastle News | British Newspapers Online". 8 October 2013.
  44. ^ "StackPath". www.horncastletownfc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  45. ^ "StackPath". www.horncastletownfc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  46. ^ "Horncastle CC". horncastle.play-cricket.com. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  47. ^ https://horncastlehockeyclub.clubbuzz.co.uk/. [dead link]
  48. ^ "About Us | Horncastle & District Tennis Club | Horncastle". hdtc. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  49. ^ "Horncastle Squash Club | About.php". squash.cromwellstudios.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
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  61. ^ Brown, Anthony (2000). Ill-starred captains: Flinders and Baudin. Crawford House Pub. p. 489. ISBN 978-1-86333-192-0.
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External links[edit]