HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Long 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. Sleaford’s 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 mounds.

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 times.

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 in 1881.

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.

A SHORT HISTORICAL WALK AROUND A LINCOLNSHIRE MARKET TOWN

The Sleaford Town Trail starts and finishes in the Market Place. It will take about two hours to walk the entire trail.

1. 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 stations.

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 1861.

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 Sleaford’s 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. Carre’s 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 1830’s. 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.
Admission free.

Follow 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 Gladstone’s (or Money’s) Yard, past the base of Money’s Mill, and so into the southern arm.

6. Money’s 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 Money’s Yard, go through the passage into Southgate and turn left towards the Handley Monument.

7. The Handley Monument is one of Sleaford’s 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 him.

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 Bishop’s 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 1216.

The castle’s 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 inner bailey.

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 Kirk.

11. The Old Playhouse was purpose built in 1824 as Sleaford’s own theatre. In the 1850’s it was converted by Kirk and Parry into Sleaford’s 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 town’s 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 there.

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 Carre’s 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 Kirk.

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 1960’s, when the present new blocks were erected to the north.

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Southgate 1905
 
Owens now Iceland
 
Lafford Terrace 1907
 
Sleaford Firebrigade 1914
 
Sleaford Firebrigade 1924
 
 
Northgate 1907
 
Mortons Printers Market Place
 
Now Lloyds Bank
 
Now Interflora HQ
 
St Denys Vicarage