The History of Welton

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Developing a History of Welton

It sounded an easy task, “feedback from the website shows that one thing people want to see on the site is a history page” – so I volunteered as I’m interested in that sort of thing. Except of course when it comes to putting pen (or bubble-jet cartridge) to paper I realise that just being interested might not be enough!
Still I am probably like the majority of you who have sought out this particular site and this particular page, have something of a background knowledge through being a resident either currently or in the past…….but as this is the world wide web, you might just be browsing, or more likely know of or have traced a family link to the village. You may never have walked down the main street in the sunshine or stood at Manor Park on a wet day with the danger of the wind whipping over Lincoln cliff and depositing a football, with some human assistance, straight in your face.
So whoever you may be and wherever you are currently sitting in the world I will try to guide you through the history of the village and thankfully a local has agreed to keep an eye on my efforts.

My plans are to put together notes on the following eras:
Ancient times up to 1066
The Domesday Book Entry
The era of the Prebend Lands (11th to 18th centuries)
How the Enclosure Act changed the village (Late 18th century)
The Victorian era
Alongside this I hope to develop a timeline of important moments in village history.

You’ll notice I’m not planning anything relating to the 20th century, this is because, as many of you will be aware, two excellent books have been produced in recent years “Welton I remember…” and “Welton Diary of a Century” both published by the Parish Council Publications Committee. These focus particularly, although not exclusively, on the 20th century in the detail that this website never could. They have many interesting photographs and records of interviews with the residents who experienced life in the village in the last 100 years. If you wish to obtain one or both of these books please go to the Parish Council page on this site for details of how to order.
Parish Council

I hope this site will, over future months, develop to give you a brief outline of the main topics of village history. If anyone has any particular requests or has some notes which they might like to share with others through this site then please leave a note on the notice board and I’ll get back to you.
Notice board

(Please note that unfortunately I will not be able to accommodate requests to check church/parish records re individual family histories)

Mike Hubbert
March 2004

Welton-by-Lincoln – Ancient Times

This article, which is planned to be the first in a short series, will look back to ancient times before the Norman Conquest and the Domesday Book. From the references I have made you will see that much of the early evidence is derived from “A Welton Miscellany” by Terence R Leach which includes the “Notes on the History of Welton by Lincoln” by Rev. Alfred Hunt. Copies of this booklet are available from local Libraries and it is well worth a read.

Welton – The Town at the Wells - from the Anglo-Saxon ‘wella’ a place of springing or bubbling waters and ‘tun’ an enclosure at the wells. 1

The very earliest indication of human life in Welton is a Neolithic stone axe c.2,500 to 3,000 b.c. which originates from rock at Great Langdale in the Lake District. 2 There have been a number of similar finds in Lincolnshire where it is believed farming started around 4,000 b.c. and continued through Neolithic, bronze and iron ages for the next 3 to 4 thousand years. 3

We then take a massive leap forward to look at evidence from the Roman Era which commenced when they invaded the area in c. AD 45 and continued through to the early part of the fifth century. Considering this was a period of some 400 years the evidence found to date is limited but is still significant. In the late 19th century a part of Chapel Close was levelled and this revealed 50 to 60 pieces of broken roman pottery along with roof tiles and coins. In addition south of Cliff Road and south west of the site of the modern Saxon House a widespread scatter of Roman pottery was found. This is in the field known as Tinker’s Piece where an outline of a large rectangular building has also been seen from the air which may possibly originate from this era. Thirteen skeletons were found buried under slabs in Norbeck Lane in 1963 which may also be of Roman origin. 4

One can only speculate as to the extent of any Roman occupation as very little investigation has been undertaken in the immediate area. We do know that the Roman Ermine Street (now the A15) forms the western border of the parish and that this road was a major route linking London with the military north. We also know that Lincoln was seen as a strategic location by the Romans which led to them building a fortress probably within 20 years of them coming to the area 5. We also know that Lincoln became a provincial capital in the fourth century when Britain was subdivided into four. With Welton’s proximity to both the Ermine Street and Lincoln, and its’ abundant water supply, it can only be presumed that the area might well have had some form of attraction to the Romans.

When the Romans left Britain in the fifth century a six hundred year Anglo Saxon period began, latterly influenced by Scandinavian invasions which impacted greatly upon Lincolnshire. Evidence of this period found in Welton is an Anglo Saxon burial ground that was discovered in 1971 when Saxon House was being constructed. 10 burials, thought to date from 550 a.d. were found in shallow graves in a field which had not previously been ploughed.6
“Two males had shields with them and one a scamsax (knife). The females had necklaces and bronze brooches with them. Some of the skeltons were those of children.” (from Welton, I remember) It is thought that each burial also had a small mound over it. Interestingly this discovery is in a similar area to the majority of the Roman evidence listed above.
Evidence of Welton’s importance in the Scandinavian era appears tenuous and surrounds the field known as Tinkermere. There is speculation that this word may have originated from the Tingamore or Thing a mere. Under growing Scandinavian influence a ‘Thing’ was a meeting place for the whole district where laws were made for the government of the whole district. 7 At the same time the Wapentakes were established in northern Britain, these were areas of administration were to continue with varying importance into the early part of the 20th century. The word Wapentake is derived from the Old Norse “vapnatak” which refers to warriors showing or brandishing weapons in a show of assent at an assembly. 8 During this period Welton become part of the Lawress Wapentake where it remained for over a thousand years. Could it be then that a ‘Thing’ existed in Welton and that this was the meeting point for the Wapentake? Early historian Rev. Alfred Hunt claimed this in the 1920s but this was later questioned by Terence R Leach in his booklet. In actual fact there appears to be evidence that by the 11th century the administrative centre for the Lawress Wapentake was at Nettleham as this was the soke of the wapentake. 9 The word soke seems to have a number of meanings in the past, but in relation to a wapentake it indicated a court where the residents in the territory of the wapentake’s soke had to attend the court and abide by its’ decisions.

So, unfortunately, but probably not unusually for a village the size of Welton, there is little evidence of what was here over a thousand years ago.
The next article will concentrate on the first written evidence as found in the Domesday Book.


1 Notes on the History of Welton by Lincoln, Rev. Alfred Hunt M.A. (c.1920) Page 1

2 A Welton Miscellany, Terence R Leach (1984) Page 7

3 An Historical Atlas of Lincolnshire, University of Hull Press (1994), The Beginnings of Farming, Jeffrey May Page 10

4 A Welton Miscellany, Terence R Leach (1984) Page 8

5 An Historical Atlas of Lincolnshire, University of Hull Press (1994), Roman Lincoln, Michael J Jones Page 16

6 A Welton Miscellany, Terence R Leach (1984) Page 8

7 Notes on the History of Welton by Lincoln, Rev. Alfred Hunt M.A. (c.1920) Page 2

8 Domesday Book, how to read it and what its text means, Geoffrey F. Bryant, The Workers Educational Association (1985) Page 101

9 An Historical Atlas of Lincolnshire, University of Hull Press (1994), Medieval Administration, David Roffe, Page 38

The Domesday Book entry for Welton-by-Lincoln

We now move on to 1086 and the Domesday Book entry for Welton made some twenty years after William the Conqueror led the Norman invasion:

Manor - In Wellatune Swen had twelve carucates of land (assessed) to the
geld. There is land for sixteen teams. Now six canons of Lincoln have five
teams there in demesne, and forty eight sokemen and four borders having
eleven teams and five mills rendering forty shillings and one hundred and
fifty acres of meadow, and forty acres of underwood. In the time of King
Edward it was worth sixteen pounds; tallage forty shillings. It is three
leagues in length and one in breadth.
In Burton there is soke of this manor, 1 carucate of land (assessed) to the geld. There is land for one team. 6 sokemen have 1 team there.

This entry is as recorded in Lincoln Record Society, Volume 19, The Lincolnshire Domesday and the Lindsey Survey. Edited by C. W. Forster and T. Longley – copies of this volume can be borrowed from Lincoln Central Library (Ref L.052) although they are now delicate as they date from 1924.

It’s a fairly short piece of text and to the 21st century reader contains phrases which are no longer in common use or understanding. Lincoln Central Library also have a copy of an excellent book (Ref L.WALT 333.32) to help anyone research a Domesday entry, that is: Domesday Book how to read it and what it means, the example of Waltham, Lincolnshire by Geoffrey F. Bryant. This was published by The Workers Educational Association, Waltham Branch in 1985. All the following text has been gleaned from using the detail in that book, I haven’t individually referenced it to each page but do whole–heartedly acknowledge the influence it has had upon this article.

To help interpret the entry its worth noting a few facts:
Firstly, Welton would not have been what we now know as a village with a large central single settlement. Its more likely there would have been a number of settlements where people lived, some single farms, perhaps small hamlets, some bigger hamlets and possibly some large groupings of houses.
At a later time these small settlements would be abandoned and the people would, in the main, come to live around the church to start to form what we see today.
Secondly the Domesday Book was produced to record anything that produced an income for a lord, and ultimately the King. It ignores anything that does not produce an income, therefore it is not the complete record of a village that many might imagine.

A Summary of what is recorded in largely 21st century English might read:

In 1086 Welton was held by the Bishop of Lincoln who having displaced the previous owner, Swen, was utilising the land to create income for five of the Canons who administered his cathedral. The Canons were unlikely to live in Welton but exploited the property for their benefit and worked it through resident agents or stewards. When taxes were collected the total from Welton was based on 1440 acres of rateable (not actual) land, although it is suggested that another 480 acres could be added to the rateable figure to increase the tax collected. The Canons maintained home farms in Welton which their agents worked with five plough teams. The population included 48 families who, whilst being required to do unpaid labour on the canons’ farms, enjoyed a large measure of freedom and also four families of craftsmen (potters/carpenters) or labourers. These peasant families had eleven plough teams themselves.
There were 5 small horizontal paddle type watermills on the estate which also brought a small income to the Canons. The Canons also benefited from one hundred and fifty acres of meadow which was an important resource for feeding the plough teams. No church is mentioned, this could mean that only a wooden ‘field-chapel’ existed at this time in Welton.
One or more of the Canons also controlled some land at Burton through the home farm system based at Welton. Here a further 120 acres of rateable land was worked by one plough team. Six families lived on this land and they had one plough team.
If the estate was let to tenants it would be likely to yield sixteen pounds to the Canons, this amount having not altered since 1066, or earlier, in the time of King Edward.

Looking at the entry in detail:
Manor - In Wellatune Swen had twelve carucates of land (assessed) to the
The term Manor at the start of the entry indicates that Welton contained the administrative centre for the estate which, as the later entry shows, included a part of Burton.
Wellatune is the spelling of the village name at that time, whilst Swen had indicates that he was lord of the manor when William invaded in 1066.
twelve carucates of land (assessed) to the geld –this indicates what we would know as the rateable value, a carucate was equivalent to around 120 acres but the fact that 12 carucates are notes does not mean that there were 1440 acres in the village, it was only an indication of the wealth production capabilities of the land. The geld was the taxation system introduced in Anglo Saxon times, so effective was it that William continued to make use of it.
There is land for sixteen teams. - The land for sixteen teams is another rateable value type statement and where it exceeds the number of carucates, as in Welton, it has been suggested that this indicated potential for an increase in the geld tax due.
Now six canons of Lincoln have five teams there in demesne, - her we see the first reference to the six prebendal lands which had been created in 1075 when William granted the land to the first Bishop of Lincoln Remigius, and at either this time, or perhaps earlier, the Scandinavian Swen lost out to the Norman conquerors. The five teams here are now a true survey of what was actually in place, we have moved on from the rateable value type calculation to the reality of the wealth creating resources in the village. Each team would cover around 160 acres and comprise of 8 oxen. The term demesne indicates that the six canons did not reside on and farm the lands themselves but relied upon the sokemen to do the work for them. This equates to the definition of the prebend as we shall see later.
and forty eight sokemen and four borders having eleven teams – A sokeman was a peasant who held land over which a lord held soke rights. In other words the lord could demand payments in cash or in kind and require certain services. The sokeman would also be responsible for the geld payment on any land he held. Borders were peasants who had no land and would have earned a living as either a labourer on a demesne or as a craftsman such as a potter or carpenter. Once again the eleven teams would be of oxen each likely to be 8 strong.
It is thought that a Domesday family was made up of 4 to 5 persons, so 48 sokemen and 4 bordars would suggest a 1086 Welton population of 234.
and five mills rendering forty shillings – here at last we have some evidence that our forefathers were making use of the waters found in Welton. As windmills were unknown in England until the 12th century it can be seen that these 5 mills were watermills. Comparing the forty shillings value of these mills to others in Lincolnshire suggests they may have been, at an average of eight shillings each, small horizontal paddle mills. Some mills in other locations were valued at over £1 each suggesting they were the more modern vertical wheeled types.
one hundred and fifty acres of meadow, and forty acres of underwood – Meadow was essential for growing hay to feed the oxen who in turn ploughed the fields. Cows to provide milk, butter and cheese were luxuries that arose at a later date. The underwood was actually rough grasses and bushes where sheep would be kept, they would be a likely source of milk and cheese along with meat and wool.
In the time of King Edward it was worth sixteen pounds; tallage forty shillings.
The sixteen pounds noted here are pounds weight of silver. The only coinage in England in 1086 was a silver penny, and a pound of silver was divided into 240 pieces each of which was used to create a penny. It is thought that the value stated here is likely to relate to rents which were or could be charged to tenants on the estate.
It is unclear what the term tallage actually referred to although it is suggested that it was a payment made by the manor to a superior or chief manor.
It is three leagues in length and one in breadth.
Rather like the comment made in respect of tallage, the areas recorded in the Domesday Book are the subject of much speculation as to what was actually being measured and there appears to be little we can understand from this entry.
In Burton there is soke of this manor, 1 carucate of land (assessed) to the geld. There is land for one team. 6 sokemen have 1 team there.
There are several entries for Burton in the Domesday book, this is because unlike Welton it was not noted as a Manor due to the fact that a number of lords held the land there. The entry we see here shows only that part of the Burton land that was controlled through one or more of the demesnes in Welton, the term soke is used here to describe this arrangement.

It is worth noting that a church is not mentioned in the entry for Welton. There appear to have been a number of complex arrangements at this time within the church structure with dues paid to either Minsters, Mother Churches, Monasteries and Cathedrals . There were also private churches where the lord of an estate could cream off some of the monies due to the formal church structure which in turn meant that the estate boundaries as outlined in the Domesday Book were not always co-terminus with the parish boundary.
It might well be that at Welton a wooden field chapel existed which paid its dues to a larger church.

In summary what is recorded here is a very short attempt at trying to understand the Domesday Book entry. There is probably a good deal more that could be found given further time and effort to undertake more detailed research. If anyone has done this research and would like to share it please contact the web-master. [Thanks! srs]