Horncastle, Lincolnshire

Horncastle, Lincolnshire

Horncastle is an attractive market town in the East Lindsey district of the county, located where the Rivers Bain and Waring meet at the south-west foot of the Wolds, at the crossroads of two of Lincolnshire's major roads: the A158 that runs east-west, joining the county town of Lincoln with the seaside resort of Skegness; the A153 joins Louth in the north with Sleaford and Grantham in the south.

The town is sited upon the location of a Roman fort, built during the occupation period of Britain. One section of the walls is on display in the town's library. The remains of a Roman well and accompanying Roman wall, being a recognised historical monument, can be seen in the grounds of the Manor House, a Grade II listed Georgian town residence, built during the 18th century, standing on an enviable site of approximately one and three quarter acres. Although fortified, Horncastle was not on any important Roman roads, which suggests that the River Bain was the principal route of access.

It is believed that during this period the town became known as Banovallum (i.e. "Wall on the River Bain") – and this name has been adopted by several local businesses and by the town's secondary modern school - although, historically, there might be some inaccuracy with this claim.

Horncastle - derived from the Saxon name Hyrnecastre - is mentioned in the Domesday Book of the late 11th century and records declare 41 households, including twenty-nine common folk and twelve smallholders, 100 acres of meadow and two mills. The next development in the town was St Mary's Church, built during the 13th century, a Grade II listed Medieval building, heavily restored during the late 19th century, and certainly worth a visit. Later in this century, the town was awarded its market charter. Its reputation grew with the commencement of the great August Horse Fair, which became an internationally-famous annual trading event, and was probably the largest event of its kind in the country until it ceased just after the Second World War.

Modern day Horncastle, with a growing population of six thousand residents, is a centre for the antiques trade with local shops and the weekly Horncastle Market on Thursdays and Saturdays. There is a regular bus service and several places to eat and drink, local independent shops, with traditional half day closing on Wednesdays, and two chain supermarkets. During the summer months, the Horncastle Summer Craft Fair is held, celebrating local crafts and food, and featuring bands, dancers and singers, small funfair rides and a miniature railway.

For a change in pace, there is the Snipe Dales Country Park & Nature Reserve, located 5 miles away, on the southern edge of the Wolds, ideal for long walks and exploration. The Greenwich Meridian, chosen as the Prime Meridian in the late 19th century, passes through this point. Snipe Dales is one of the few semi-natural wet valley systems still surviving.

Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, was born six miles from Horncastle in the Wolds village of Somersby.