Aerial surveys in the late twentieth century “have revealed that the density of settlements in Lower Lymndale is exceptional for the Wolds suggesting it was important during the Roman period. The strong funerary and ritual elements recorded in the area suggest that it was also important in the prehistoric era. The area was not served by a Roman road, the nearest being three kilometres to the north.” states Dilwyn Jones in Lincolnshire’s Archaeology from the Air.
Evidence from cropmarks show a large settlement at Aswardby, a possible villa at Bag Enderby and two smaller settlements across the river. One follows the line of Snake Lane directly opposite present day Somersby and the other is a little further north. These are thought to be Romano-British settlements and are connected by roads or tracks although none in the lower dale were metalled and any villas would have been only a modest in size. Even so this was the most heavily settled and farmed area of the Wolds having partially set the pattern for later settlement and roads in subsequent eras. The location of a Romano-British settlement opposite Somersby adjacent to Snake Lane followed its course for a kilometre and points to the bridge west of Somersby being the favoured crossing point of the River Lymn then as now.
Horncastle would have been the main administrative centre of the area. The upper dale of the Lymn though appears undeveloped compared with the lower dale despite a major Roman road passing straight through it. (See Uppper Lymndale Blog.) The other mystery is in the DB there is no mention of the once large Roman settlement of Aswardby or of its two neighbouring parishes of Harrington and Sausthorpe.
The lower dale was as heavily settled at the time of the DB as during the Roman period with some “very large settlements” at Partney, Hundleby and Hagworthingham – the opendomesday.org website (ODB). The latter having eight entries in the DB! Other sizeable settlements in Hill Wapentake were Ashby, Bag Enderby and Langton but then there is the collective entry of Tetford, Salmonby, Brinkhill, Hagworthingham, Langton, Winceby and Claxby :-
- Households: 12 villagers. 20 smallholders. 150 freemen.
- Ploughland: 33 ploughlands (land for). 39 men’s plough teams.
- Other resources: Meadow 350 acres. 9 mills, value 1.0.
All were sizeable villages in there own right though the sizes of their parishes varied considerably. Also there were 9 mills and only seven villages but it is the position of these mills mainly strung out along the River Lymn which is most interesting, This is because the river often forms a boundary not just between some of the seven villages but between them and the three villages missing from the DB.
Watermills were much smaller then and it is not possible to locate them exactly but by Tennyson’s youth there were still a few much larger versions operating on the river. Stockwith Mill is closest to his home and is thought to be the location where he got the inspiration for his poem the Miller’s Daughter. This evocative location is almost on the boundary of the parishes of Harrington and Hagworthingham. Just two kilometres downstream though stands Aswardby Mill. This mill is positioned where the boundaries of three parishes meet. These are Hagworthingham, Aswardby and Sausthorpe two of which are missing from the DB. Also of the seven villages which share the mills four do not have direct access to the river. Aswardby Mill presumably always had this name and if it was the location of a DB mill it would be strange calling it after a place that did not yet exist and even by Tennyson’s day the parish only had a toe hold on the mill as it was in an extended corner of the parish.
It appears the seven DB villages are randomly scattered across Hill Wapentake and do not always have connecting boundaries but if you add the three missing villages plus two other DB omissions, Scrafield and Hameringham found further south, then these with the inclusion of the twin villages of Somersby and Bag Enderby creates a contiguous block. This suggests there were originally eight large parishes each in different stages of evolving into two or more centres but still sharing resources like watermills – see the list below. This group of parishes centred on the River Lymn and another group entry, as described in an earlier blog, centred on the River Great Eau could possibly be the result of the DB assessors unable to work out what actually belonged to each parish because of a collaborative approach to resources? Possibly a legacy of old tribal areas from much earlier times?
Pairing of parishes :
Tetford & Salmonby
Brinkhill & Harrington
Langton & Sausthorpe
Winceby & Scrafield
Claxby & Hameringham
Bag Enderby & Somersby
Hagworthingham & Aswardby
Ashby & Stainsby
It could also explain why Aswardby was not included in the DB as it might have been paired with the larger parish of Hagworthingham. Just as by the pairing Scrafield with Winceby would explain the latters wealth in the DB despite being so small it was later not a viable entity and is now lost among the trees of Snipe Dales nature reserve. Across the river meanwhile there were two long parishes each with two nuclei so that Brinkhill was linked with Harrington and Langton with Sausthorpe.
When looking at Lincolnshire as a whole however the anomaly is not the missing parishes in Hill Wapentake but the density and small size of most of the other parishes in this area and this spills over into the surrounding Wapentakes. Across in Holland and Kesteven parishes are generally larger and longer usually incorporating different types of land such as marsh and fen in Holland and heath and fen in Kesteven. This is with the exception of areas south of Sleaford in Kesteven and south of Grimsby in Lindsey where there are dense clusters of villages ending in by indicating heavy Danish settlement.
All this points to the seasonal movement of livestock at different times of the year in most parts of the county but for some reason this was partially disrupted in the South Riding by either a heavy period of settlement most likely from Denmark or a later political re-organisation was seen as expedient despite it ignoring age old traditions and lifestyles as happened with Lindsey in the twentieth century. It is possible that prior to the arrival of the Danes in Hill Wapentake there were probably as half as many parishes but of larger size and also many less in other parts of the South Riding.
Langton for example at the time of the DB stretched from the ancient Hub high on the chalk wolds all the way to the River Lymn six kilometres away and eighty metres lower. This was once more normal and probably represents an earlier pattern of land division. Further back in time when population pressures on the land were less parish divisions or there equivalent at the time might have stretched twice this length in an effort to incorporate different types of terrain as can be found at Potterhanworth and its neighbours near Lincoln. While to the east there is South Thoresby and Thoresthorpe that may once have been a single parish as was probably the case with many other bys and thorpes along the extreme eastern edge of the Wolds in Calcewath Wapentake. Even in the South Riding there is the exceptionally long parish of Edlington survives. This stretches from the Bain to the Witham and incorporates many types of terrain. The reason for its survival is that it is wedged between two ancient drove roads which connect the Wolds to the Fens.
The unusually high number of sokemen and the high incidence of parish pairing could even suggest an organised “planting of Danes” in the area similar to what took place in Ulster in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the planting of Protestant English and Scots in Catholic Ireland. The shear density of by place names either side of the Bluestone Heath Road, greater than anywhere else including Scandinavia, points to a military mind set – practical but unimaginative. The reasoning behind this was to secure a strategic point on the east coast as a base for future raids or invasions. Ports at Grimsby, Saltfleet and Wainfleet and ridgeways, saltways and drove roads crisscrossing the region made for good access while difficult for Saxon armies who could only approach by circling round the great barrier of the Fens.