Horncastle History the bane of Tennyson
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 9:58:55 AM
Historic Market CharterIt's interesting to note, on the Horncastle town signs the numbers '1231'. This is always thought to refer to the date of the market charter, but is invariably the time the traders start packing up after "being up since 5 a.m., mate". In any case, there's an argument for there always having been a market in Horncastle from prehistoric times, with evidence of 'Oss' the caveman breeding pterodactyls to the South of the current town.
Roman FortThere was certainly something large here in Roman times, and arguments rage as to what it was, and what it was called. I think a little forensic history investigation is called for. If we take measure of, and extrapolate back the current buildings, rituals and placements, then it's obvious that with the concentration of current public toilets within the old roman walls, Horncastle started life as a toilet stop, on the Roman Way from Lincoln (Lin Colonia) to Burgh (Borough). No doubt the local ancient Britons sold wode, polished metal mirrors and bone combs to the legionnaires' wives, whilst noxious local plants were available to fill their pipes (the trade carries on to this day).
With the Emperor's chosen caravan being carried in Sedan chairs for 40miles, there's every reason to suppose the Saxon / Briton "Hyrnecaistre" was actually "Hernia Caesar".
RevolutionJust as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Romans' demise left something of a power vacuum. In the centuries following, the Britons had running battles with Saxons. Supposedly Raengeires beat Horsa in the vicinity of Tetford, taking all his chatels. It's suspicious that Horses became very plentiful around this time, and an annual fayre began in the town, buying and selling..
Centuries later, divine retribution, with the reappearance of Saxon, in the incarnation of Horncastrian Peter 'Bif' Bifford.
Almost simultaneously, the Vikings / Danes were encroaching southwards in search of treasure, food and fresh bloodstock, and it's fascinating to see how much magic of the North Atlantic refugees comes through in our grammar, even today. The Vikings being remembered in Lincolnshire with a 140Mile Footpath from the Humber Bridge to Rutland. A 1000 years on and they were still fighting, first with the revolt against Henry Vlll, and then later the Battle for the Commonwealth at Winceby. It's thought the scythes in St Mary's church date from 1536 and are to do with these events. Actually, they were collected at the last time the Council cut the nettles on the river bank...
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Horncastle is supposedly 'twinned' with Bonnetable in the Sarthe region of France, allowing for a one line mention on their 'website'.
Spooky goings on at the St Mary's Church, with a change in vicar preceding a great flood. Hasn't it always been so since the time of Noah?! The floods in 1920 collapsed buildings on Bridge St, whilst in Autumn 1960 Horncastle broke the rainfall records with a foot and a half in three hours and water chest high at Robert Bell's wharf premises.
ProminenteOne of Horncastle's famous sons was William Marwood, a cobbler. With the lawlessness of the times, he found he was making more money as a hangman, perfecting his trade with rope lengths calculated from the body mass of the convicted. Indeed Joseph Banks often only came into the town in his capacity as a magistrate, whilst Alfred Lord Tennyson's father in law, Henry Sellwood, was a solicitor. The courts on North St were only built in 1865 because of the volume of cases at the time. All this probably gave rise to one of Tennyson's lesser quoted quotes : "Of all horrors, a little country town seems to me to be the greatest". Born a Leo on August 6th 1809, his father a Parish Parson and his mother a daughter of the Louth Vicar, Tennyson would have been as uncomfortable in the town as a friendly farm cat. His Jupiter around the Aries (Taurus cusp) shows his 'moral' to be forthright, while his Mercury in Cancer would have put a homely stricture on his thoughts. Venus with the Moon in Gemini would have given him a wistful faithfulness and humour and the opposition to the triple conjunction of Saturn,Mars and Uranus making him bolder than most men in courtship, after a time. A triple conjunction of such volatile planets in Scorpio is cause for brilliance (or insanity) in many, and it is fortuitous that Neptune was close at hand.
Pickpocket, or Two..Tennyson's experience of visiting Victorian Horncastle, to court the niece of Sir John Franklin (whom he would marry when he was 41), was at the time nearly 50 licensed pubs, bars, inns and .....
.....premises were present in the town. With the largest Fayres in Europe for livestock, horses and implements, the town was full to overflowing with animals being sold. It wasn't until around the mid Victorian era that someone thought to wash the streets twice a day, and gaslights became provisioned.
With many drinking establishments having active links to 'madams' and their girls, thieves, pickpockets, counterfeiters, clippers and scoundrels, the law courts and local part time Parish Constables were kept busy. The town has changed alot, the prvious Walks, Arcades, Courts, Yards and Lanes being little warrens amongst stables, cock and dog fighting courts, alehouses and back street trades, where Gentlemen with a pocket watch would fear to tread without a Constable or Guard in attendance.
Mutiny!It's wry indeed to realise that most of the famous figures in the areas history (Sir Joseph Banks, Revesby; Capt John Smith, Willoughby; George Bass of Sleaford; Sir John Franklin, Spilsby; and his uncle, Capt Matthew Flinders, Donington) became famous after putting tens of thousands of miles between themselves and Horncastle. Their families boosted by agricultural riches and the draining of the fens, men of academic learning and more leisurely pursuits could be supported by the economy. The definitive Horncastle History is available to read online, but, as usual it's written by and for those who were doing well, whilst Marwood and Flinders were arranging death or transportation for those who were finding hard times.
A history of Claxby Village, near Market Rasen, shows the criminalisation of thousands at the time for minor transgressions; such were the orders to magistrates to enable a slave labour pool in the 'brave' New World. Had they stuck around, they would have seen a burgeoning wealth for the town as the canal, and the railway, turned Horncastle into the Immingham of the time. With large ships still anchoring off Skegness, Wainfleet and up the Witham from Boston, the small Horncastle sloops and canal boats did a roaring trade. Buildings of the town became three, four and five storey, on top of extensive cellars, echoing the Baltic Hanseatic Burghers across the North Sea. One of these belonged to Lunn & Dodson and can still be seen to the West of the town from the Bain on Bridge St., Sir Henry Lunn making his fortune with travel away from Horncastle, setting up Lunn Poly, now Thomson Holidays.
As the railways lost traffic, the roads expanded and the cobbles were given a coating of tar from Mr.MacAdam. The thatched roof all but disappeared, the area becoming urbanised, brick and tile instead of straw and cobble. With Horncastle supplying much of the Wold with farming equipment and stores, things were still looking rosy, but this perverse change to road transport in the 1950's ushered in leaner times killing the railway in the end, which had earlier usurped the canal. Mass production and centralisation meant wholesalers became a trade of the past, and warehousing and stockyards further succumbed to 'just-in-time' production. This shifted the emphasis to sea-ports and container lorries. The pace of life changed somewhat and became much more frantic and crucial for those involved in work and the supply chain. What two hundred years ago was leisurely shipped, or one hundred years ago steam trained to town wharfs, now must be driven individually around the county at 70mph, from large central depots.
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