Categories for 2020
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News 2020
Lectures and Conferences

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Segregation and Reputation
The Gilbertine Order in Lincolnshire

Over sixty SLHA members and others ‘zoomed’ into the first of the Society’s on-line talks on Wednesday 16 December. It was given by Dr Pete Townend, with Ian George, SLHA Chairman, acting as host.

Gilbert of Sempringham founded his first cell in his native village and went on to establish a further nineteen in his lifetime, principally in Lincolnshire and neighbouring counties. Apart from being the only religious foundation of English origin, the Gilbertine order is distinctive in having several  ‘double houses’, ie with both men and women.

A detailed study of these sites indicates how the canons and nuns led their separate yet closely related lives. An east-west wall through the centre of the church, a deep ditch bisecting the site, and entirely separate cloisters and ancillary buildings – these were the physical features that kept men and women apart.

The Gilbertine monasteries, then numbering 27, were dissolved in 1538-39 in the second wave of action under Thomas Cromwell. Robert Holgate, later to become Archbishop of York, a Lincolnshire man, played a prominent role in this process.

Dr Pete Townend

December 2020

Feather Factories of the Fens
Pillows, mattresses and duvets made in Boston

The third of three talks delivered at the Sunday Special at Jews’ Court on 15 March was given by Neil Wright on the topic of feather factories in the Lincolnshire Fens.

Feathers were first collected on an industrial scale in south-east Lincolnshire when goose feathers were made into writing quills. At the same time the softer feathers of the geese - and those of swans - were plucked for filling ‘luxury’ pillows and mattresses.

Small factories were built in Boston – successively in Petticoat Lane, Bridge Street, West Street, Cornhill Lane – from the 1840s for the Anderson family (headed for much of the time by a female member). The firm’s final move was to a splendid new factory in Trinity Street in 1876, a building which still survives.

Other feather making concerns emerged briefly in Boston and also at Billingborough. Fogarty took over the Trinity Street factory in 1899 and later moved to modern premises. This firm made duvets and pillows (latterly without feathers) on a large scale with a substantial staff, but closed in 2019.

Former feather factory, Trinity Street, Boston

March 2020

Early Victorian Antiquarians and Archaeologists
Acitivites in Lincoln at the time of George Boole

At the Sunday Special held at Jews’ Court on 15 March Mick Jones, former City Archaeologist, spoke about antiquarians and archaeologists in Lincoln at the time of George Boole, i.e. the second quarter of the 19th century.

This was the time when the Mechanics Institute and the short live Topographical Society were set up in Lincoln and among the most local influential individuals were J S Padley (surveyor and cartographer), E J Willson (antiquarian) and W A Nicholson (architect).

Significant archaeological discoveries were made in Lincoln and close by during this period, including the Witham Shield (in the Witham at Washingborough), Roman West Gate (Castle dyke), Roman mosaic (County prison, Lincoln Castle), Roman sewer (Bailgate) and a Viking comb case (Central Station).

The significance of Lincoln was recognised in 1848 when the Archaeological Institute held its 7-day annual meeting in the city, attended by several hundred delegates.

March 2020

Nettleham’s Jersey School
Girls spin flax to offset poor rate

One of the three talks at the Sunday Special in the Jews’ Court meeting room on 15 March was given by Pearl Wheatley.  Her topic was the Jersey School which operated in Nettleham between 1786 and 1816.

Most of Lincolnshire’s Jersey Schools of this period were set up further east in the Wolds area to support the woollen industry based on Lincolnshire Longwool sheep.  The boys and girls who attended the schools were from the poorest families and their occupation, spinning wool and knitting woollen garments, reduced the cost of poor relief in the parish.

In Nettleham it was only girls who attended the school and they spent most of their time spinning flax, not wool. A written record has survived which names the pupils, their ages and the income they generated.

The schoolhouse was on Church Street within a few yards of the parish church. When the Jersey School closed the building was occupied by the village elementary school, which was later classified as a National School.  In the 1880s the village children moved to a new building on a site on High Street now known as The Old School.

March 2020

Lincolnshire Churches
From the Anglo Saxons to the Victorians

Dr Matthew Godfrey, Historic Churches Support Officer for Lincoln Diocese, gave an illustrated talk to SLHA members at Jews’ Court on Tuesday 3 March.

Lincolnshire has good examples of church buildings of each architectural period. As well as the much admired tower of St Peter’s church in Barton and the crossing at Stow, there is important surviving Anglo Saxon work in grave covers and in a variety of fragments at several sites across the County.

Typical Norman Romanesque features can be seen at Bicker and Long Sutton, and later 12th century – or Transitional – work is superbly demonstrated in the arcades of the other Barton church, St Mary’s.

St Leonard’s at Kirkstead (the survivor of the abbey) is a fine example of early Gothic style (Early English) with pointed arches and plate tracery.

The Decorated period – both in its earlier Geometric style and later Curvilinear – is especially well represented in both the Cathedral and at Heckington (1290-1340).

Tattershall’s church, built in a relatively short period in the 1480s, demonstrates the Perpendicular style and there are other outstanding examples of work form this period in the large churches of Louth (tower and spire) and Boston (tower).

Classical features were reintroduced in the churches built by the Georgians, but the Victorians moved back to Gothic styles (Early English and Decorated mainly) in the rash of church rebuilding in the nineteenth century.

Photo: St Andrew's Church, Heckington, south window in south transept. The tracery is a fine example of the curvilinear style of the Decorated period (c.1300); the stained glass is Victorian.


March 2020

Controlling the Demon Drink
The Alcohol Problem in Victorian Lincolnshire

The speaker at February’s midweek meeting in St Hugh’s Hall, Lincoln was Adam Cartwright, who has a wide knowledge of Lincolnshire’s brewing industry and licensed premises. His superbly illustrated talk dealt with the growth in beer drinking in the nineteenth century and the temperance movement which developed in opposition to it.

Consumption of beer peaked in the 1870s (at about 40 gallons per capita per annum) and the negative impact on family life and well-being among the working class was considerable.

Some of the numerous temperance organisations advocated total abstinence; others created new social venues and offered alternative activities. Temperance hotels and halls were built in several Lincolnshire towns and special rallies attracted large numbers of followers.

One or two prominent Lincoln men became passionate supporters of the temperance cause and were not afraid to defend their views in the public arena.

February 2020

Shodfriars’ Hall, Boston
A restoration project

As one of three presentations to SLHA at the Sunday Special on 19 January, Robert Barker spoke about the ambitious plan to restore Shodfriars’ Hall on the edge of Boston’s Market Place.

The well-known and much photographed west portion of the building facing the street dates from the late fourteenth century, though much restored. The large Great Hall to the rear was built in ambitious style in the 1870s by George Oldrid Scott.

Over the years the building has had a remarkable range of uses but maintenance of its fabric has been inadequate. It is no longer watertight and lacks many of the features essential for a public building.

The active local group is seeking to restore the building as a multi-purpose community space for social and educational activities.

January 2020

Stamford’s Industrial History
Preview of a publication

In 1967 the late Neville Birch published a brief history of the industries of Stamford, and then, over the following decades, proceeded to research the subject much more thoroughly. Before his death in late 2018 Neville had written a new detailed draft which is now being edited by his SLHA colleagues for publication later this year.

At the Sunday Special at Jews’ Court on 19 January Chris Lester, editor of the book, spoke about the project and highlighted the range of Stamford’s industrial history covered by the book.

It is perhaps surprising that so many industrial concerns were based in the town at one time; it is even more unexpected that several of Stamford’s manufacturing firms gained national standing and influence.

The forthcoming book will deal with all the town's industries, both large and small, and promises to attract a wide and interesting readership.


Stamford's Midland Railway Station

January 2020

Historic Graffiti in Lincolnshire
Recording and Interpretation

Brian Porter, Co-ordinator of the Lincolnshire Medieval Graffiti Project, gave SLHA members an update on recent work in the County’s churches at a ‘Sunday Special’ in Jews’ Court on 19 January.

Now In its seventh year, the project has covered over 200 churches and assembled 8000+ photographs.

A wide range of graffiti has been recorded, though few are dated and their inscribers are generally unknown. Some symbols and patterns are relatively common (double Vs, hexfoils, quatrefoils, Stars of David, merrell squares) while others, such as human figures, are rare and intriguing. Masons’ marks are often seen but are not well understood.

A flavour of the group’s work can be seen on their website and a report of the completed project will be of great interest.

Graffito at St James's Church, Aslackby

January 2020

The Anchoress and the Queen
Archaeology in the centre of Grantham

The first midweek meeting of 2020 in St Hugh’s Hall brought Ruth Crook from Grantham to speak about the history of St Peter’s Green in the town.

For much of the medieval period this site, close to the town centre, was owned by Peterborough Abbey. They built a small chapel dedicated to St Peter and attached to it at one time was a small cell occupied by an anchoress.

The remarkable procession carrying the body of Queen Eleanor from Lincoln to London in 1290 broke its journey in Grantham (and at several other places), and an elaborate cross was erected to mark the occasion.  The cross was probably located in St Peter’s Hill though it is not known exactly where.

Recent survey work in the area has produced a wide range of material and has confirmed the location of the chapel and other more recent features.

Queen Eleanor memorial at the Guildhall

January 2020