Saxilby and District History Group

A modern, expanding village with an ancient heart.

Whilst the village has seen the construction of a number of green field housing sites over the past few years, and the subsequent increase in population, the centre of Saxilby retains its medieval street plan. Below is a section from the oldest surviving map of the area, drawn in 1648. On it you can see the Church, the post mill on Mill Lane, High Street, Sykes Lane and the canal.

The layout of the deserted medieval villages of North and South Ingleby (a scheduled ancient monument) remains as it was in the 13th century.

Several buildings remain which span the centuries: St. Botolph’s Church (C12th), Saxilby Old Hall (C15th), the Manor House (C16th) and several cottages (C18th). Although most of these buildings are listed, this is not always a guarantee of preservation. Amongst the Grade II listed buildings now lost are a pair of mid C19th railway cottages at 10 and 12 Sykes Lane and a C17th timber framed cottage at 105 High Street, now the site of a supermarket.

The oldest artificial waterway in the country, The Fossdyke, connecting the River Trent at Torksey to the River Till at Odda, has influenced village life throughout the past two millennia.


When the Roman Army arrived in the area in 50AD, they found a cluster of huts around the Brayford in Lincoln inhabited by a Celtic tribe called the Coritani. A great swamp lay between here and the Trent. Historians are undecided whether the Fossdyke was built for land drainage or as a canal some 100 years later. Certainly, according to the Doomsday Book, both Torksey and Hardwick were ports by the time of Edward the Confessor in 1050.

There is little evidence of Roman occupation within the area, although excavations at Ingleby and Sykes Junction have both found Roman pottery. Possibly, like Lincoln, we are living on the top of a Roman settlement.


By 400AD, Lincoln had been taken by the Angles and burnt to the ground, with the City left as a deserted ruin. No trace of the Coritani Tribe remains either in our language or place names. The area around Lincoln was overtaken by Anglo-Saxon invaders known as the ‘Lindiswaras’, whilst the ‘Gainas’ occupied the banks of the Trent. The Kingdom of Mercia  was formed around 580AD, incorporating a semi-independent Kingdom of Lindsey.


The Venerable Bede writes that the Danes (Vikings) came to the area in 839, and plundered the district with ‘great slaughter’; that year again, in Lindsey, East Anglia and Kent, many men were killed by that force’. They came again in 869, and in 873 the whole Viking army over-wintered at Torksey, by now an important town, and larger than Nottingham. Whilst the Kingdom of Mercia retook possession of the area in 918, the Danish invaders had settled within the area as farmers and merchants. It is from these settlers that most of our place names and dialect derive.

Place Names

Saxilby (Danish) ‘Saxulf’s Farmstead’. ‘Ad Saxebi in Lincolescira’ (Doomsday Book 1086).

Ingleby (Danish) ‘Settlement of Angles’; ‘Englebi’ (Doomsday Book 1086).           

Broxholme (Anglo-Danish) ‘Broces Holm’; ‘the island amidst the fen waters of the brook’.

Broadholme (Anglo-Danish) ‘Wide island’.

The area was overtaken by Danish invaders some one hundred years later in 1013, led by King Swegn, who established a camp at Gainsborough; ‘all quickly bowed to him . . . all the folk of Lindsey’. He was succeeded by his son, Cnut, who, as a Christian convert, founded many monasteries in the area.

Lords of the Manor.

Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, lands were given to the French nobility, who created the concept of the Lord of the Manor, a situation that would survive until 1804. The whole population lived in virtual slavery; they were subservient to the Lord of the Manor, and both food and shelter were in his gift. The Doomsday Book (the first surviving census) records the ownership of lands at Ingleby. Three villages of that name are recorded, parts of which are the present Saxilby. An estimate of the size of the villages can be inferred from the entries. ‘In Engleby . . .5 Sokemen and 8 villanes have two carucates’ (population=52); ‘In Englebi . . . 12 villanes and 2 sokemen, and 4 bordars with one carucate and a half’ (population=72); ‘In Englebi . . . 5 villanes and 1 sokeman with half a carucate’ (population=28). The population of the country at this time was about two million. Saxilby by name is mentioned in the entry for Broadholme; ‘In Brodeholm . . .the service of the villanes belongs to Saxebi in Lincolescira’.

Norman Landlords in 1086.

Three Manors were created by the Normans.

The first was granted to Bishop Odo of Beyeaux, who was the half brother and second in command to William the Conqueror, and acted as Regent when William was out of the country. Saxilby was one of 76 estates he held in Lincolnshire, and his tenants here were Coleswain and Wadard. He was a proud, arrogant, aspiring man, and looking upon himself rich enough to purchase the papacy, he set off for Rome in 1082. He was seized by King William as he prepared to sail from Portsmouth, and forfeited his treasure and estates. The Crown retained part of Saxilby Manor until 1966, and the Gables Manor Nursing Home at Ingleby is part of this estate. The remaining lands were given to Manasser Arsic.

Robert de Todeni was granted the second. Amongst the other manors which the Conqueror bestowed on him, he obtained that of Belvoir, where he built the existing castle. His son Berenger was his tenant. The present Duke of Rutland is his immediate ancestor.

The remaining Manor was granted to William de Perci, who was the admiral of the fleet which brought King William and his army on the invasion of England. He founded the abbey at Whitby, and his brother Serlo was the first abbot. He died on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and whilst he is buried in Italy, his heart is interred in Whitby Abbey.

12th Century.

The next surviving survey was taken around 1110 during the reign of Henry I. Alan de Perci had succeeded his father, Robert de Hay followed Coleswain as the King's tenant, Wigot of Lincoln had taken over from Robert de Todeni, and the tenant of Manassser Arsic was Turstan de Renni. Wigot was the Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1114, and was later followed by his son Alan.

Occasionally during the middle ages, day to day village life was affected by national politics, when the population would hardly even be aware of the name of the monarch. The monk, Orderis Vitalis, records at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 that a force led by Earl Ranulph of Chester ‘crossed the Fossdyke, swollen large by winter rains’.

14th Century.

A royal commission held in 1375 on the state of the Fossdyke ruled that the abutting landlords were responsible for the upkeep of the canal. They are named as Sir Ralph Daubenay, the Abbott of Newstead, Gilbert de Brydeshale, Hugh de Normanton, and Lady Katherine de Swyneford.

The Daubenay family (also known as D'Albini or de Albiniaco) may have been the first Lords of the Manor to live within the parish, and a family tomb is in St. Botolph's church.

A Premonstratention nunnery at Broadholme was overseen by the monks of Newstead Abbey.

Lady Katherine de Swynford, Lord of the Manor of Torksey with Hardwick, and Kettlethorpe, was the third wife of John of Gaunt. They were married in Lincoln Cathedral on 13 January 1396, and lived at Bolingbroke castle near Horncastle. Katherine died on 10 May 1403 and is buried in the Cathedral. Her stepson, born at Bolingbroke, became King Henry IV in 1399.

15th Century.

The Daubney lands were forfeit in 1483, passed to Sir Thomas Burgh, whose family home was the Old Hall at Gainsborough. He built a home for his son, which is Saxilby Old Hall at 76 High Street.

l6th and 17th Centuries.

Before 1540, these lands passed to the Monson family of Burton and South Carlton. The Monsons were one of the leading Lincolnshire families. Amongst the offices they severally held were Lord Lieutenant, ‘Knights of the Shire’, MP for Lincoln, and Recorder of the City of Lincoln. One of the family, William, was appointed ‘Admiral of the Narrow Seas’ during the reign of James I in 1602.

The surviving estate map of 1648 was drawn up during the Civil War for the Worshipful John Buxton, the Lord of the Manor at Broadholme. He was living in the former nunnery renamed Broadholme Hall. The other landlords are shown as Sir John Monson, Anthony Monson, Sir Robert Heath, the King, Mr. Atkinson, Wife Weatherhead and Wife Searsbey. Mr. Atkinson had been the vicar of Blyton, and transferred to the living of Glentworth. He was a leading nonconformist and puritan, and in 1604 was cited for not wearing a surplice and conforming to the ceremonies. He was excommunicated, but absolved on swearing to obey church law. In 1625 he was allowed £20 per year to preach and read lectures as the Mayor of Lincoln should appoint, on Wednesdays.

By the time of the Conquest, the Fossdyke had become un-navigable, and Torksey and Hardwick were in decline. In 1121, Bishop Atwater, under instructions from King Henry I, improved the canal by ‘scouring the channel’. There are records of the canal again being maintained in 1335, 1365 and 1518. Following years of expensive Royal maintenance, King James I gave the canal to the City of Lincoln, and by 1660, the canal traffic had virtually ceased.

Following the taking of the City of Lincoln by the Earl of Manchester during the Civil War in 1644, he records in his diary ‘have quartered four regiments of foot at Gainsborough, Torksey Bridge and Saxilby, being in readiness to march towards the Scottish Army’.

The surviving churchwarden’s accounts cover an eventful period in the history of the church in England. Dating from 1551, they begin during the reign of Edward VI, following the establishment of the Church of England. Many of the symbols of Catholicism are sold at this time, only to be re-instated during the reign of Queen Mary. The entries continue in detail during the reign of Elizabeth I, when again the church articles are sold, until 1569. Written in both Latin and Lincolnshire dialect, these can be seen in the Lincolnshire Archives.

How the ‘Other Half’ lived.

With the exception of changes in the ownership of the area by the lord of the manor; life for the villagers of Saxilby and Ingleby would see little change for some 800 years.

Villagers were known variously as sokemen, bordars, vassels or villanes (from which we get the word 'villagers') which were merely varying degrees of virtual slavery. They worked and lived for the Lord of the Manor, providing not only his food and other necessities, but gave both the source of his taxation and their services as fighting men. Their payment was mainly in kind; they were allowed to retain part of the product of their labours to live on.

A family lived in a single roomed building, constructed in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire of wooden battened walls coated in mud (mud and stud), with a thatched roof made usually from reeds where available. A poor family could build a house on common land, and stay for less than a year without paying rent to the manor. They would then move on to the next parish; hence the expression 'up sticks'.  The only stone built buildings in the village were the church, which was used additionally as the meeting house, and the residence of the Lord of the Manor; brick built workers cottages did not appear until the late 17th century. The estate was run by a manager known as the `reeve’; these managers were also appointed by the Crown to run the affairs of the county, and were known as 'Shire Reeves' - now known as sheriff.

General education was not introduced until the mid 1800's and usually the only person in the village who could read and write was the priest, who was often the second son of landed gentry.

Small fields and buildings within the village were enclosed by fencing (closes), with the entrances to the village possibly gated. The surrounding commons and moors, often enclosed by turf banking, were used to graze cattle and horses.

Horses were used at this time only for transport and cavalry. Oxen were used for land cultivation, as revealed in the Doomsday Book, where measurements given are `Bovates' - the amount of land that could be cultivated by a one ox plough, and `Carucates' - an eight ox plough team. The enclosures of cultivated land were strip farmed, forming lines of high ridge and furrow, and known as furlongs. These strips are six and a half feet wide, the width of one swathe of a scythe. This measurement, known in Lincolnshire as a 'gad' can be seen in old land deeds. An example of ‘ridge and furrow’ can be seen from Sykes Lane, alongside the Health Centre.

Areas of woodland are noted in the Doomsday Book. Wood was used for house building, fencing, and fuel. The fruit of beech, oak and other forest trees was used as pig-fodder, known as 'mast'.

Until the mid 18th century, wolves still roamed the area. In order to protect their geese and chickens, small areas of land were surrounded by thick, impenetrable thorn hedges, called '`gooseburrayes'. Bees were kept to provide honey and sugar. Honey, when mixed with lime and water, was used as hard wearing house paint.

Until the late 12th century, when the windmill was introduced, flour was ground by hand or produced from water-mills. As no mills are recorded in the Doomsday book within the immediate area, flour would be brought from Lincoln. Salt was brought from the many salterns that stretched along the coast from Grimsby to Boston.

Not only overburdened with the high taxation imposed by the King, villagers had to contend with changing weather patterns (global warming?!), bubonic plague (the black death), and numerous animal diseases.

Huge sandstorms blew throughout the Trent Valley, from time to time blocking the Fossdyke. The ports of Torksey and Hardwick fell into decline; `In the time of King Edward there were in Torksey two hundred and thirteen burgesses........ The King now has Torksey, and the burgesses resident thereon number one hundred and two, but one hundred and eleven of the mansions are decayed and uninhabitable.' (Doomsday Book) (A burgess was a householder). In 1748 and 1754 there are accounts of the numbers of cattle dying of the plague, and in 1817 Lord Monson’s tenants petition for a reduction in rents due to the depreciation in the value of agricultural produce and the losses arising from the enclosure of the fenlands.

The Fossdyke.

Considerable improvements were made to the Fossdyke in 1672, and the Brayford in Lincoln developed into a busy port. By the mid 18th century, the expansion in both road and waterway traffic brought increasing prosperity to the village. The City of Lincoln leased the Fossdyke to Richard Ellison in 1741; the channel was restored, and re-opened in 1744. At the same time, turnpike roads were being established. A road ‘leading from Carholm Gate to Drinsey Nook, Dunham and Littleborough (Marton) Ferries’ opened in 1756, and a new drawbridge was built over the canal on Fosse (Bridge) Street.


The landscape we see today was formed in 1804, following assent of Parliament to the Enclosure Act in 1802: ‘An Act for dividing, inclosing, draining . . . the open fields, half year’s meadow land, common pastures, commons, moors and waste lands within the parish of Saxelby’. When the enclosure was over, new public and private roads had been formed, new land drains cut, and over 120 plots of land staked out ready for new hedges to be planted. Many of the surviving hawthorn hedges around the village today are the result of this planting. The power of the Lords of the Manor had come to an end. In lieu of lost rents, the new fields were allotted to the previous landowners. Lord Monson received the largest, totalling 761 acres. Roger Pocklington, Lord of the Manor of Saxilby, was granted 305 acres, and Charles Stacey is named as the Lord of the Manor of Broadholme.

Surrounding Villages