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
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.
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.
(Please note that unfortunately I will not be able to accommodate
requests to check church/parish records re individual family histories)
Welton-by-Lincoln – Ancient
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
“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
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)
geld. There is land for sixteen teams. Now six canons of Lincoln have
teams there in demesne, and forty eight sokemen and four borders having
eleven teams and five mills rendering forty shillings and one hundred
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
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
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
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
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
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]