the capital of Kesteven, Sleaford can trace its history back
to Iron Age times. The earliest settlement was at Old Sleaford,
between the Boston Road and the River Slea, where archaeologists
have uncovered the remains of a massive mint (the largest
of its kind anywhere in Europe), belonging to the Romano-British
Coritanni tribe. The original ford at Old Sleaford was also
the site of the Roman settlement.
During Saxon times, the focus of settlement shifted to New
Sleaford, the site of the present town, and by the time of
the Norman Conquest it was an established administrative centre
for the region. Sleafords market also dates from Anglo
Saxon times. In 1087, the River Slea provided the power for
18 water mills, most of them in Sleaford itself.
William the Conqueror granted the manor of New Sleaford to
the Bishops of Lincoln and it remained in their hands throughout
the Middle Ages. In about 1140 they built a castle just west
of town, of which little trace now remains except for a few
The manor of New Sleaford was sold off in the sixteenth century
and passed into the possession of the Carre family in 1559.
Old Sleaford was held by the Hussey family until Lord John
Hussey was beheaded for treason in 1536. It then reverted
to the Crown and was also eventually acquired by the Carres.
At the end of the seventeenth century, the Carre estates passed
by marriage to the Hervey family, Earls (and later Marquesses)
of Bristol, who were Lords of the Manor until very recent
Down the years, the town grew as a market and business centre
for the surrounding countryside. At the end of the eighteenth
century, a navigable waterway was opened along the Slea to
link the town with the River Witham, and for some years following
this it enjoyed a unique position as the local terminus of
the inland waterway system in the area. The coming of the
railways in the middle of the nineteenth century stripped
it of this role and the Navigation itself was closed down
For much of the nineteenth century, Sleaford was also the
headquarters of the firm Kirk and Parry, who were builders
and architects with a national reputation, specialising in
the construction of railway stations and the restoration of
churches. Examples of their work include all the stations
between Peterborough and Retford and many of the nineteenth
century public buildings in Sleaford.
SHORT HISTORICAL WALK AROUND A LINCOLNSHIRE MARKET TOWN
Sleaford Town Trail starts and finishes in the Market Place.
It will take about two hours to walk the entire trail.
The tower of St Deny's Church is the oldest part of the building,
dating from perhaps 1180. The broach spire (dated around 1200)
is among the oldest stone-built ones in England and stands
144 feet high. On 1884, the spire was struck by lightning
and had to and had to be completely rebuilt by Sleaford architects
and builders Kirk and Parry, a nationally famous firm who
specialised in church restorations, public buildings and railway
The Vicarage, which stands on the north side of the churchyard,
is one of the oldest surviving houses in the town. The main
wing with timber-framed gable is fifteenth century. The red
brick-wing was added by Charles Kirk (of Kirk and Parry) in
In the north-east of the churchyard stands a late medieval
window, removed from the tower of the church at the time of
the 1884 rebuilding. Nearby, behind an iron gate, is the Town
Lockup, used until 1837 for detaining Sleafords vagrants,
drunkards and petty offenders.
In the south-western corner of the Market Place stands the
Sessions House, still used as the meeting place for Sleaford
Magistrates Court. It was designed by the London architect
H.E. Kendall and built by Charles Kirk the elder in 1831.
The Gothic-style Bristol Memorial Fountain was erected in
the Market Place in 1874 in memory of the Lord of the Manor,
Frederick William Hervey, 2nd Marquis if Bristol. It, too,
was designed by Charles Kirk.
2. Carres Hospital, on the corner of Eastgate and Carre
street, was founded in 1636 by Sir Robert Carre, the Lord
of the Manor, to house and support twelve local men. The present
east range was built by Charles Kirk in 1830 to a design by
Kendall. The south wing and chapel were added in 1844. From
the Market Place, follow the trail along Eastgate,
3. Lafford Terrace, now used as District Council offices,
was originally a series of seven middle class town houses,
in a terraced palladian style, designed and built by Kirk
and Parry in 1856.
4. Cogglesford Mill is the only surviving watermill in Sleaford.
It was probably built around 1750. The top floor was added
in the 1830s. The mill itself is now restored to working
order and is open to the public. The "Coggle Ford"
after which the mill was named is a few yards further east,
where Mareham Lane, a prehistoric trackway and Roman Road,
crossed the River Slea.
Cogglesford Mill opening times:
Easter to October, daily 10am-5pm:
November to Easter, Saturdays and Sunday, 10am-4pm.
the footpath along the River Slea, past Sleaford Swimming
Pool and into Carre Street.
The original public wharf opened off from the eastern
side of Carre Street (to the rear of the Bedehouses) and is
now a private yard, partly built upon. Inside it stands Navigation
House, the canal company office built in 1838. A little further
along Carre Street, on the same side of the road, is the stone
portal which once marked the entrance to the wharf, marked
"1792 Navigation Wharf".
The canal head consisted of two branches, whose positions
can still be seen from the two bridges in the centre of Carre
Street. The canal originally crossed Carre Street, fed round
what is now known as Gladstones (or Moneys) Yard,
past the base of Moneys Mill, and so into the southern
6. Moneys Mill was the Sleaford Tourist Information
Centre, stands seventy feet high and has eight stories. It
was built around 1796 because the new Navigation meant large
quantities of corn could now be brought by barge and offloaded
right outside the door.
From Moneys Yard, go through the passage into Southgate
and turn left towards the Handley Monument.
7. The Handley Monument is one of Sleafords best known
landmarks. Henry Handley came from an influential Sleaford
family and died in 1846, after serving for nine years as the
local MP. The design of the Monument, reminiscent of an Eleanor
Cross, was by the architect William Boyle, of Birmingham.
It consists of three stages, the lowest housing a statue of
Handley himself. Handley Street, nearby, was also named after
8. Immediately opposite Handley Street is the Jacobean-style
Mansion House(No. 62 Southgate), which the architect and builder
Charles Kirk constructed for himself around 1850, it was converted
into the Kesteven and Sleaford High School for Girls.
The Bull and Dog public house, further along Southgate on
the western side, is easily recognised from the prominent
1689 datestone, set in the wall above the ground floor. This
is reputed to be the oldest surviving pub sign in England
and shows a contemporary bullbaiting scene (also thought to
be unique in this country).
Continue along Southgate and walk through the Riverside
Shopping Centre, along West Banks to reach Castle Causeway
and turn left to reach Sleaford Castle.
9. Almost nothing remains of Sleaford Castle. It was built
between 1123 and 1139 by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln. It never
withstood an armed attach or siege but was an agricultural
focus for the Bishops estates in Sleaford and elsewhere.
King John spent one of the last nights of his life here after
the loss of his baggage train and jewels in the Wash in October
castles decline to its current state began in the sixteenth
century. An engraving of the castle made early in the eighteenth
century shows a ruin, but with a considerable amount of stonework
still visible. All that now remains, however is one small,
toppled portion of a wall in the north-east corner of the
From the castle site, follow Castle Causeway and Westgate
back towards the town centre.
10. On the way you will pass Westholme House situated
inside the gates of St George's Technology College and which
now serves as an Adult Education and Sixth Form Centre. Built
in about 1849 in French Gothic style, it was the private residence
of Thomas Parry, the partner and brother-in-law of Charles
11. The Old Playhouse was purpose built in 1824 as Sleafords
own theatre. In the 1850s it was converted by Kirk and
Parry into Sleafords first infant school but is now
the home of a local theatre company again. Follow Westgate
back to the town centre.
12. Across from Westgate, adjacent to the Sessions House,
is Lloyds Bank. This was built around the end of the seventeenth
century by William Alvey, founder of the towns charity
school. The original tall central doorway with its pedestal
can still be seen, and the combination of small size and perfect
proportions makes it one of the finest buildings in the town
13. On the western side of Northgate (almost opposite the
Methodist Church) is the Manor House now divided into several
different houses. It originally incorporated not only the
older stone-built section but the Georgian extension on the
right, now known as Rhodes House after the entrepreneur and
explorer Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) who spent parts of his boyhood
The stone sections of the Manor House are mainly seventeenth
century, and there are two datestones on the building: "1637"
in the courtyard and "1619" over the two storey
bay window which faces Northgate. What makes is an unusual
building is the extensive re-use of mediaeval materials (chiefly
fourteenth century), some of which were almost certainly plundered
from Sleaford Castle after it fell into disrepair.
14. At the top of Galley Hill are the Northgate Almshouses
built as an extension to the Carres Hospital in Eastgate
in 1857 to a design by Charles Kirk. The attached Old Savings
Bank was part of the same development.
15. Carres Grammar School was founded in 1604 and moved to
Northgate in 1834. The 1834 section of the school is still
in use, and consists of the stone-fronted schoolhouse (with
Carre and Bristol family arms above the door) and the two
wings on either wide of it. The design, yet again, was Charles
The red brick additions on the right and left of the main
block are Edwardian. The larger of them, carrying the datestone
1904, served as the main part of the school until the 1960s,
when the present new blocks were erected to the north.
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