History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 13th century St Mary's church
The Romans built a fort on the River Bain, which may have formed part of their Saxon Shore network of coastal defences. We do not know what the Romans called their fort, but it was later known as Banovallum, 'wall on the River Bain'. Several sections of Roman wall can be seen, including a section incorporated into the town library.
The Saxon's called the town Hyrnecastre. Horncastle was granted a market charter in the 13th century, and became a popular centre for horse trading, with an annual fair that only died out in 1948. So popular was the annual horse fair that a saying arose, 'Horncastle for horses'.
The Lincolnshire Rebellion
The village of Horncastle played a key role in the Lincolnshire Rebellion, a spontaneous reaction against Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries that grew into what we now call the Pilgrimage of Grace. Local farmers fuelled by the fear that Henry's commissioners wanted to rob St Mary's of its treasures, forced local gentry to demand the deaths of Thomas Cromwell, who oversaw the Dissolution, and his leading church supporters.
They killed several local gentry and marched on Lincoln, gathering support as they went. The rebellion fell apart when the king refused their demands, and the Horncastle ringleaders were executed at Tyburn on Maundy Thursday, 1537.
St Mary's Church
There has been a church on this site since the Roman period. The Roman building was replaced by a Saxon Minster church; a mother church for the region. The present building was begun around AD 1250 and restored in 1660 and again in 1859. The oldest parts of the building are the nave arcade, in Early English style, and the tower arch. In the south chancel wall is a restored 14th-century piscina. Beneath the altar is a memorial to Thomas Raithbeck and his wife who established the nearby Bede House in the 16th century.
One of the most peculiar treasures of St Mary's is a collection of agricultural scythes said to have been used as weapons at the Battle of Winceby in 1643. There are 13 scythes, set on the wall of the south chapel. The Battle of Winceby story seems unlikely, as it was a cavalry skirmish, but they could have been used in the short-lived Lincolnshire Rebellion of 1536, described above.
Another historic building in Horncastle is the former Holy Trinity church on Albert Street. In 1847 Holy Trinity was built as a chapel of ease for the parish church of St Mary. It was declared redundant in 1979 and is now used as an antique shop, but it it is still an interesting example of a small Victorian church.
On the A158/Spilsby Road stands a 19th-century tower mill. The mill, bereft of its sails, is built of red brick with stone steps up to a raised entrance of the south side. The internal milling machinery is partially intact, but the mill is privately owned and only visible from outside. The mill was built in 1843 and had 5 pairs of grinding stones. The sails were removed in 1916 and the wheels were driven by an oil engine until it closed for good in 1940.
Address: Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England
Attraction Type: Town
Photo Credit: Dave Hitchborne, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Haltham-on-Bain, St Benedict's Church - 3.6 miles (Historic Church)
Bolingbroke Castle - 6.3 miles (Castle)
Tattershall College - 7.8 miles (Historic Building)
Tattershall Church - 7.9 miles (Historic Church)
Tattershall Castle - 8 miles (Historic House)
Burwell, St Michael's Church - 8.6 miles (Historic Church)
Haugham, All Saints Church - 8.9 miles (Historic Church)
Goltho, St George's Church - 9.7 miles (Historic Church)
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