Today, several denominations co-exist in Horncastle. Methodists, part of the Horncastle and Bardney Circuit, meet at the Queen Street Chapel. That Chapel opened in 1965 and is the the third built on this site. Yet two others preceded those, built on the Wong, near the present Manse. In 1758, two houses in the Horncastle were licensed by the Bishop for Dissenting Worship, one for the Independents, the other the home of William West on the Wong, for Methodists. The Baptists also had a chapel here, first erected in 1767 and rebuilt in 1830. The Lincolnshire FHS has a fiche listing some "Lincolnshire Methodist Membership Lists - Horncastle and Grimsby areas, 1769 to 1823." Also, check our Non-Conformist Church Records page for additional resources.
Horncastle is both a town and parish 135 miles north of London, on the banks of the Rivers Bain and Waring where they join. The parish lies about 21 miles east of Lincoln and about ten miles northwest of Spilsby. The parish itself is bounded on the north by West Ashby parish, to the west by Langton and Thimbleby and on the south by Thornton and Scrivelsby. The parish is in a valley just west of The Wolds and covers about 1,420 acres.
Horncastle town is a Market Town with some light industries: drainage pipes, paper sacks, newspaper publication and printing and country clothing. It supports several local sports teams. Tourism is a major industry, especially the Antique trade. Many citizens commute daily to Lincoln, Boston, Louth and Skegness and to the RAF base at Coningsby. If you are planning a visit:
The town is easily accessed as it lies at the crossing of the A158 trunk road between Skegness and Lincoln and the A153 between Louth and Coningsby.
Consider a stay at the Best Western Admiral Rodney Hotel. It is listed as an old coaching inn, extensively refurbished, in the center of Horncastle on North Street. Or try the Bull Hotel or the Red Lion.
Because of its size, the town offers many places to dine or share a pint with friends. There's the Black Swan Inn on South St., the Coach & Horses Inn, Hemingby, The Crown and the Fighting Cocks Inn, both on West St., etc.
Horncastle was originally the Roman town of Banovallum; remains of the Roman wall can be seen in the local library. Horncastle may have existed before the Romans made it into a military base. R. G. Collingwood says of this site in his excellent work, "The Archaeology of Roman Britain," 2nd ed. London, Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1969:
"Horncastle, in Lincolnshire, may have been a Saxon Shore fort. Stukeley, in the early eighteenth century, describes its walls as 'three or four yards high, and four yards thick. ... It is a perfect parallelogram ... at the corners have been square towers, as they report ; the gates were in the middle of three sides, and I suppose a postern' in the fourth. His plan shows the area as about 31 acres (Stukeley, It. curiosum, P. 30). In point of fact the towers were probably round, and the plan is not quite a parallelogram. Although the classification of the site as a Saxon Shore Fort would be better described as a Fortified Civil Settlement or Burg, which were also prevalent at the time."
The precise era of Roman settlement in Horncastle is not certain, but by 300 A.D. there was a considerable fort here. The purpose of the Roman fort is not clear. It is not on any of the important Roman roads, so access must have been via the River Bain. One Roman road running west from Lincoln via Wragby passes about five miles north of the town.
In 1066, part of the town was held in the hands of Queen Edith, widow of Edward the Confessor, and William the Conqueror himself had lands here, though how much 'town' there was at this time is debatable.
A market charter was granted in 1230 by Henry III and the town flourished until the 16th century. In the 1580s/1590s, Plague strikes Lincolnshire and checks population growth in towns like Horncastle. In the 19th century the town flourished again due to the opening of the Horncastle Navigation Canal in 1802.
The town was famous for its horse fair from before the 13th century, but this was last held in 1948. It was normally held on the 21st of August, but it lasted a week. In fact, a local saying was "Horncastle for horses". In early Victorian times, the fair was said to be the biggest in the world.
In 1792 an Act was passed and in 1802 the Horncastle Navigation Canal opened. This had a dramatic impact on town growth until the advent of the railways in the latter half of that same century. It was Horncastle´s link with the River Witham which enabled navigation south to The Wash, and north to Lincoln, then via the Fossdyke Canal to the River Trent. The principal cargos were corn and wool. The canal was officially declared defunct in 1889. For a good book on the subject, see: "Horncastle and Tattershall Canal," by J. N. Clarke, Oakwood Press, 1st Edition - 1990, ISBN 0853613982, priced about £5.00. Also, visit the Lincolnshire Life site.
Horncastle had a reputation as a smuggler's den in the 1800's. Tobacco was often smuggled here from the coast, then distributed throughout the area.
Gas lighting came to Horncastle in 1833.
About 1836, Foundry Street and Union Street were formed.
The town was also the home of Alfred Tennyson's fiance, Emily SELLWOOD, who lived here in the 1840's. The old Sellwood house -- which was built over the remains of a burned-down pub -- has in its turn been replaced by Woolworth's. Tennyson did not like Horncastle and once wrote: "Of all horrors, a little country town seems to me to be the greatest."
The Railways came to Horncastle on 12 August 1855, when a 7.5 mile section between the town and Kirkstead opened. Later it would join the Great Northern Railway.
The Corn Exchange on High Street opened on 5 July 1856.
The King's Head, one of the few "mud and stud" buildings in the town, is a picturesque thatched building and is noted for its wonderful floral displays.
Around 1869, the town sewage system was initially completed.
The town clock was erected in High Street in 1890.
Hangman's Corner is near the old mill on Mareham Road.
A pub known as "Harpars Bar" at 6 South Street was previously the "Coach & Horses." In 1891, Jane Maddison LINGARD was the Innkeeper.
Horncastle is the center of many sightings of the "Lindsey Leopard", or as the press call it, an "LAC" or Large Alien Cat. Several people describe it as a puma, others more like an ocelot, etc.
A good book to consider is "In Lincolnshire Long Ago," - a story of Horncastle in the 1920's by Douglas Lamming, County Town Books, 164 pages, about £10.
Another is "Watch and Ward In the Countryside - (A Review of the Development of the County Constabulary... based on the Market Town of Horncastle)," by J. N. Clarke.
Pamela BENSON tells us this story about Alfred Lord TENNYSON:
A friend of my family member was a servant in a 'big house' in Horncastle. I believe it was in the Square. When Tennyson was a young boy his family visited there regularly. This servant was concerned that even on very cold days Alfred didn't wear shoes. Apparently, they said, the problem was that all the children had to learn to knit his own socks, boy or girl, and were not allowed to wear shoes without socks. What an incentive to pick up knitting needles, frosty days must have been!
The parish had the Tuberculosis Dispensary & Infant Wellfare Centre built on Bridge street in 1789. It relocated to 52 North street in 1866. This became the War Memorial Hospital and Dispensary shortly after World War One, although the building on Bridge street continued to be used for TB patients. There was no requirement for archiving patient records. Miss M. E. WORTHY was the matron and Miss HINCH was the "health visitor" in 1930.
There was a small hospital for infectious diseases on Spilsby road under the control of the Urban District Council. It was functioning in 1930.
On the west wall of the south chapel of St. Mary's Church are a group of 13 scythe blades. Pevsner says they are traditionally connected with the battle of Winceby (1643) or the Lincolnshire uprising of 1536. Neither of these local legends have any proof. The Lincolnshire FHS has a fiche listing the "Lincolnshire Rising Participants, 1536."
You might find the following book of value: "The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment Territorials and Volunteers", by H. R. Tweed, subtitled: "A History of the Horncastle Detachment, 4th Battalion The Lincolnshire Regiment (Territorial Army), from the raising of the original Volunteer Corps in 1803 to the present time," Horncastle, W.K. Morton & Sons, 1936.
The First Lincolnshire Rifle Volunteers (G Company) formed in 1861 had 83 members in 1881. There Drill Hall, as above, was on the Boston Road. In 1881, R. C. ARMSTRONG was captain; Arthur ELWOOD was first sargeant; Hugh GEORGE was surgeon; the Rev. Arthur SCHRIVENOR, chaplain. Another source calls this unit G Company of the Lincolnshire Regiment of Volunteers and its formation as 1860.
In 1905, Herbert Arthur HOWES was captain; Frederick F. BAMBER was first sargeant.
In 1924 Horncastle War Memorial Hospital was dedicated. Originally erected as a dispensary in 1867. In 1998 medical services ceased.
The Roman name of Banovallum comes from Latin for "walled place on the River Bain", but it is speculation as to which came first, the village name or the river. The ancient form of the existing name was probably Hyrnceastre. The town is first recorded as Hornecastre in the 1086 Domesday Book, from the Old English horna+ceaster or "fort on a horn-shaped or angled piece of land". A. D. Mills, "A Dictionary of English Place-Names," Oxford University Press, 1991.
This place was an ancient parish in Lincoln county and became a modern Civil Parish when those were established.
The parish was in the ancient Horncastle Soke in the East Lindsey district in the parts of Lindsey.
On 24 December, 1880, this parish was reduced to enlarge Wildmore Civil Parish.
On 24 March, 1884, this parish was reduced to enlarge Wildmore Civil Parish. The area transferred was "Horncastle Marsh".
On 24 March, 1887, this parish was reduced to enlarge Goulceby Civil Parish.
On 1 April, 1936, this parish was reduced by 2 acres to enlarge Langton Civil Parish and by 25 acres to enlarge Thornton Civil Parish. In return, this parish gained a different 26 acres from Thornton C. P.
You may contact the Horncastle Town Council regarding civic or political issues, but they are NOT funded to provide you with family history searches.
The present-day Horncastle schools draw from a large area and include the County Primary School, The Banovallum Comprehensive School, The Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, and the St Lawrence Special Needs School.
The Queen Elizabeth Grammar School is on West Street, LN9 5AD, tele: 01507 522465. It is one of the oldest grammar schools in the country. A school is known to have been in existence in 1327, but records effectively begin when Queen Elizabeth 1 granted, on the petition of Edward, Lord Clinton and Saye, Earl of Lincoln, a Charter to establish a Grammar School in Horncastle on 25th June 1571. Originally, the school was built on a site adjoining the River Bain close to St Mary's Parish Church.
Mark in Barcelona has provided a partial list of students who were admitted to Horncastle Grammar School.
Watson's Free School was founded in 1784 by Richard WATSON for the instruction of poor children. The shool was enlarged and repaired in 1835 and by 1881 had become an Infants' School. It continued in use until 1918. The building was then used as a private school until about 1960. In 1963 the building was bought by the Horncastle & District Photographic Society and is still in use today.
The Banovallum School (Community school, Mixed) is on Boston Road, LN9 6DA, tele: 01507 522232.