Horncastle Through The Ages

Pre-Roman Horncastle

There is no doubt that the southern wolds in Lincolnshire and in particular the River Bain valley were inhabited from the Neolithic period right through to the late Iron age.

The Lincolnshire Wolds have produced evidence of some of the oldest human remains in Britain. In the Neolithic period, early settlement concentrated on the highest and drier ground. Later, in the Bronze and Iron ages, settlement extended onto chalk in the southern wolds, for example at Skendleby. The evidence of visible archaeology is strong and many barrows cap the hill tops, such as six barrows at Tathwell.

From the Iron age the chalk uplands had a well established network of trackways, for example High Street and the Bluestone Heath Road.

Nearer to Horncastle, the hill surrounds to the Bain valley have produced evidence of perhaps wandering Neolithic hunters. There is also evidence of Bronze age settlement, particularly in the West Ashby area. Iron age settlement and farmstead enclosures have also been identified above Horncastle college and Bonnetable Road on the road to Mareham on the Hill.


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Lincolnshire Rising 1536
Horncastle's part in the Lincolnshire Rising against the policies of Henry VIII.

The Lincolnshire Rising and in particular

Horncastle involvement


The King and his men

King Henry VIII - Head of the Catholic Church in England

Dr Raynes - the Bishops Chancellor

Dr Frankish – his assistant

Thomas Wolsey – servant of Thomas Cromwell

Robert Dighton, Nicholas Sanderson, Sir William Saunderson staying at Scrivelsby - Tax commissioners

The Gentry

Sir Edward Dymoke - Sheriff of Lincolnshire

The Duke of Suffolk

The Clergy & Yeomen

Thomas Kendall – Vicar of Louth

Nicholas Leach – Sub-deacon of Oxford

William Leech (Leche) – Sheep Farmerof Fulletby

Robert Leach - Sheep Farmer and Parson of Belchford

The Religious

Abbot Matthew Mackrell - Abbot of Barlings Abbey & 4 monks

William Morland – Monk, formerly of Louth Park Abbey

Thomas Retford – Vicar of Snelland

Thomas Yoell – Priest from Sotby (very uncomplimentary about Thomas Cromwell but paid for it with his life)

The Abbot (armed with a battleaxe) & 3 monks from Kirkstead Abbey

The Middling Sort

Nicholas Melton – Cobbler from Louth (a ringleader of the Rising and known as Captain Cobbler)

From Horncastle :-

Robert Sotheby Draper and Church Warden

William Bywater also a Church Warden

Davy Bennett Weaver

Andrewson Schoolmaster

William Longbottom Barber

Philip Trotter Mercer

The Plebs

Thomas Dixon plus many others unknown

1480 - 1530


For 50 years there had been peace. It was a time for entrepreneurs to flourish. An era when the middling sort of people - yeomen, small farmers, glovers, weavers, cobblers, merchants and schoolmasters prospered. People such as William Leach sheep farmer from Fulletby

In towns and villagers Churches were rather different from today. Full of altars, gold and silver chalices, candles, statues, and painted carvings provided by rich and poor. For the rich special chantry chapels where masses could be said all day long whilst for the poor and middling sort trade guilds perform the same function – sharing the cost among members. Church buildings themselves were used just like our modern community centres and village halls.

The clergy were not yet a formal profession. Although some had studied divinity most had no formal qualifications. Some could not even read or write. Others such as Robert Leach made a good living combining farming at Belchford with the priesthood.

1526 – 1536


Firstly upset traditional Roman Catholics (primarily the clergy and gentry) by :-

Passing a law banning the Pope’s name from official prayers and substituting the King instead.

Insisting that clerics encourage people to learn the Lord’s Prayer and read the Bible in English.

Insisting that Clergy have to be educated and know what they were talking about. If they don’t then they will lose their jobs to better qualified monks

Then create a new annual tax on the clergy as well as the existing taxes (first fruits)

And also upset the gentry by creating a sort of inheritance tax (Statute of Uses)

And then upset ordinary people

by abolishing most of their Holy day feasts. There had been about 50 - basically days off work with feasts. All those that occurred between 1 July and 29 September were abolished.

If that is not enough, threaten to dissolve the large monasteries where many ordinary people were employed

And finally ensure that your ex wife old queen Catherine of Aragon dies, execute your current queen Anne Boleyn, and get married again to Jane Seymour all in the space of a few months of 1536.

If you really want to start a rebellion do all the above and then send in the tax inspectors all at the same time.




Old Bolingbrooke

SATURDAY Sept 30th The die is cast

Priests from all over the deanery have been called to Old Bolingbrooke to be instructed by Dr Raynes about the new church doctrines and taxes.


SUNDAY Oct 1st The Rising begins

Vicar Thomas Kendall preaches a ‘fiery sermon’ against the new doctrines and warns parisioners to be ready to rise up.. The rumour mongers get busy with claims that there will be a poll tax on sheep and cattle and that the King is going to close down small parish churches and amalgamate them with bigger ones and take all the gold and silver for himself.


Monday Oct 2nd - Stiring up trouble

William Leach visits some Horncastle labourers and tells them that treasures from Louth church have been taken by the Kings men and that they were coming to Horncastle to take away the treasures from there.

David Benet rand the common bell in the church to raise the people.

Philip Trotter put on some of the armour of Lionel Dymoke from the church & held the Dymoke flag aloft.

Tuesday Oct 3rd – Rumours continue

The tradespeople of the town gather to hear what William Leach has to say. Convinced of the threat to Church about 100 march to Scrivelsby to persuade Sir Edward Dymoke and the other Gentry to join their cause ‘in pain of their lives and if they do not we will destroy them and burn their houses over their heads’ . Needless to say, the gentry acquiesced.

An old gentleman, Sir William Saundon was put on horseback but a man struck the horse making him fall off and he was made to walk to Horncastle in the heat and confined in the Moot Hall.

Wednesday Oct4th - Murder Most Foul

‘Kill him, kill him ‘cried the priests

Men from Horncastle & Miningsby went to Old Bolingbrooke and dragged Dr Raynes from his sickbed. He was put on a horse and taken to Horncastle where he was pulled from horse and knelt upon and clubbed to death with their staves. His clothing was divided amongst the rebels.

Then the rebels carried out a mob lynching of Thomas Wolsey – one of Thomas Cromwell’s servants. Both bodies were buried in the Churchyard of St Mary’s.

THURSDAY Oct 5th The March to Lincoln

The march from Horncastle to Lincoln began. With Sir Lionel Dymoke’s banner being waved ahead by Philip Trotter and carrying whatever weapons they could lay their hands on, including perhaps, the scythes shown in the church. The mob headed off no doubt chanting a Medieval equivalent of ‘Henry Henry Henry Out Out Out’

Stopping for the night at Langworth, many slept in the barns of Barlings Abbey.

Friday 6th October – Rent a mob

Many of the poorer men were paid 12d each by William Leach to continue on to Lincoln. Here the protest stopped at Mile Cross where they met up with the main contingent from Louth and some went on into the city. Rather than continue with the Dymoke banner they made a new banner of their own using religious and local symbols.

Although the Gentry (such as Sir Edward Dymoke) had travelled with the rebels, normal social divisions were maintained. The mob slept in the fields, whilst the Gentry were entertained in the Chancery by the Cathedral dignitaries.

Finally the demands drawn up by George Stanes of Haltham on Bain were sent to Henry. Although the mob included many ordinary common people, none of these demands would have made any difference to the vast majority of them.

They included the abolition of the new clergy taxes and inheritance tax and the sacking and punishment of some bishops including Bishop Longland of Lincoln.

Tuesday OCT 10th Henry’s reply

Basically Henry said no. He said all the taxes had been approved by Parliament which at that time simply consisted of the nobles and gentry anyway.

And as far as removing the Bishops

He had never heard that a Prince’s councilors and bishops should be appointed by ignorant common people, and least of all by the rude commons of one of the most brute and beastly shires in the realm’

Wed 11th Oct - Wed 18th Oct

The End of the Rising

Although people such as William Leach tried to continue, most of the rebels simply went home. The Kings councilors soon arrived in quickly followed by the Duke of Suffolk to round up the ringleaders and start the interrogations. Those responsible for Dr Raynes’ death were quickly identified and taken to Lincoln.

December 1536 - To the Tower

With the interrogations finished , some were pardoned , some were kept in Lincoln, but the ringleaders such as the Leach brothers, Abbot Mackrell and those who murdered Dr Raynes were sent to the Tower of London.

February 1537 - The reprisals start

On the Sunday and Tuesday after Candlemass it was reported that the men of Lincoln were busily hanging

March 6th - 7th 1537

Many more, including the Abbot of Kirkstead and all the monks who may have been involved in the rising, were hung in Lincoln. On the Friday hangings took place in Horncastle and then in Louth on the Saturday.

25th March 1537

From the Tower of London, William Morland monk of Louth abbey, Thomas Kendall vicar of Louth, Abbot Mackrell of Barlings, Nicholas and Robert Leach, Philip Trotter and William Longbottom of Horncastle and many others were taken out to be hung, drawn and quartered.


Written by Ruth Addison and Mary Silverton Sep 2015