These are the flagship publications of the Society, each written by a leading expert in the field and, at the time of writing, taking account of the latest research on the particular period or topic under discussion.
Each book has been prepared under the direction of the SLHA History of Lincolnshire Committee, of which Professor John V Beckett, University of Nottingham, is the current chairman. Further details of the Committee, its operation and plans for the future may be obtained directly from Professor Beckett (e-mail) or via SLHA.
The original task undertaken by the Society to prepare 12 volumes covering the main historical periods of the County's development was completed in 2000. A new series entitled Studies in the History of Lincolnshire was then launched to deal in detail with particular aspects of Lincolnshire's past. (Read fuller details below.)
The Committee plans to publish several new titles in the near future.
Prospective authors are encouraged to submit proposals to Professor Beckett.
The History of Lincolnshire
Thomas Green, 2012, 320pp
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This volume breaks new ground. It offers an interdisciplinary approach to the history of the Lincoln region in the post-Roman period, drawing together a wide range of sources. In particular, it indicates that a British polity named Lindes was based at Lincoln into the sixth century, and that the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindsey had an intimate connection to this British political unit.
The picture that emerges is also of importance nationally, helping to answer key questions regarding the origins of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and, in particular, Lindisfarne.
Dr Thomas Green is currently engaged in research at the University of Oxford, where he recently completed his doctoral thesis. His principal research interests lie in the history, archaeology, place-names and literature of early medieval Britain, with a particular focus on the early Arthurian legend and Anglian–British interaction in this period.
Review 1: Nicholas Higham, Professor of Early Medieval and Landscape History, University of Manchester
Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Vol 47, 2012
It was a pleasure to be asked to review this book. It is rare that one has the opportunity to read a county-based study focused on the problems of the British Dark Ages which is both so fully engaged with up-to-date scholarship and operating assuredly across all relevant disciplines – history, archaeology and place-name studies, plus occasionally historical genetics and palaeoecology. Not only does it offer a sophisticated study of Dark-Age Lincolnshire but it also makes an important contribution to wider debates about the ending of Roman Britain and the beginnings of Anglo-Saxon England.
Green uses the introduction to contextualise his findings in terms of current thought on the fifth and sixth centuries, highlighting possible approaches, difficulties of the evidence and the main issues. The first chapter then examines the later fourth century, stressing the comparative vitality of Lincoln as a provincial capital and the continuing use of villas and fortified centres around the capital. As we move past 400, so the problem of archaeological invisibility becomes a major issue, but away from the Fens, where inundation clearly had a major impact, the author favours broadly stable population levels across the period.
Chapter 2 then focuses on the emergence of a sub-Roman, British territory centred on Lincoln, from which it took the name *Lindēs, ultimately preserved in the name of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Lindisfaran (‘the people who migrated to the territory of *Lindēs’), and in the ninth-century Historia Brittonum as Linnuis. On the periphery of the territory, large cremation cemeteries were established, reflecting Anglian settlement. British control explains the absence of early English burial around Lincoln. The distribution of the new cemeteries is compatible with both Roman-period centres and the wapentake system of the Anglo-Scandinavian period, suggesting considerable administrative continuity, albeit with some sub-division. The complex sequence of churches and cemeteries evidenced at St Paul in the Bail in central Lincoln from the fourth to the sixth centuries reflects its role as a place of power and influence. A concentration of British penannular brooches and late Celtic hanging bowls recall a British elite.
In chapter 3 the focus shifts to Anglian-British interaction. While the early cemeteries may reflect the presence of federates, literary evidence implies clashes. Mapping Anglian cemeteries against the Romano-British provincial geography implies that Lincoln retained a degree of control over the entire province of Britannia Secunda. Y Gododdin, the early Welsh poem concerning the deaths of many warriors at Catraeth (probably Catterick, though that is hardly in the Vale of York (p. 95)), may refer to ‘men of Linnuis’as participants. British names occur in a sixth-century context in the genealogy of the kings of Lindsey and several Old English place-names incorporate British personal names. While the second church of St Paul in the Bail does not seem to have survived to 600, use of the cemetery continued, and numerous local dedications to St. Helen also perhaps reflect religious continuity. The replacement of British leadership of the area by Anglo-Saxon therefore seems to have involved a degree of accommodation. Green proposes a period of bilingualism followed by the dominance of Old English, suggesting that Old Welsh would still have been spoken in the region into the eighth century. There is material evidence reflecting the crossover from British to Anglo-Saxon culture, including pottery and metalwork.
The fourth chapter discusses the extent of *Lindēs, arguing for an original ‘greater’ Lindsey which included much of Kesteven, Holland and Hatfield. Attention focuses on Lissingleys – the point of meeting of the three Ridings of the Viking Age. Three cemeteries close by and a wide variety of earlier finds suggest a meeting place, perhaps a Romano-Celtic temple or shrine, so a long history of assembling in this vicinity. Elsewhere, some of the prehistoric and Roman-period causeways across the Witham valley continued in use, with attendant votive offerings. The debt of later Anglo-Saxon Lindsey to *Lindēs is arguably considerable.
In chapter 5 Green turns to the sub-divisions of Anglo-Saxon Lindsey. He sees the Middle Angles as a significant kingdom in the long-term (which I must admit I do not), seeing such as the Spaldingas as a sub-group within this major people. Within the Lindisfaran discussion focuses on the Billingas, a group defined by cemeteries around Quarrington. Garwick, he suggests, was a local wīc through which the large numbers of amber beads and ivory artefacts found in the cemeteries had arrived. This in turn encouraged the Mercians to take control of the area in the later seventh century when they had lost London to the West Saxons, evidenced by the exceptional c. 160 sceattas so far found at Garwick.
Chapter 6 assesses the probability that the Lindisfarancolonised other areas, particularly Bernicia, where Lindisfarne replicates the name, but also Deira in East Yorkshire, where the great cremation cemetery of Sancton has close parallels with those in Lindsey, and Repton in Derbyshire. If some memory of these fifth- and sixth- century colonists survived into the seventh century, then this may help explain the bitter contest between Northumbria and Mercia for control of Lindsey.
The conclusion pulls together these several strands, proposing that Anglo-Saxon Lindsey owed a considerable debt to the forms and structures of Romano-British society there, via the period of British rule in the fifth and early sixth centuries. On this showing, some British elites as well as numerous peasants successfully acculturated, though that process was largely later than 650.
This inter-disciplinary exploration of *Lindēsoffers a new standard for regional work. It also provides a model capable of explaining how Roman Britain transmuted into Anglo-Saxon England, emphasising continuities in local and regional structures as well as population, alongside significant immigration. What it does not do, though, is explain why this occurred. If British polities retained control of Anglo-Saxon incomers right into the sixth century, how and why was this balance reversed? And how does this equate with the Gallic Chronicle of 452, which has power shifting to the Saxons in 441, and to Gildas’ testimony, which describes Saxon rebellion and ravaging in what has to be the fifth century? For my money the process was less peaceful than Green would have us believe, but even so it is a convincing analysis. But is Lincoln and its hinterland a special case, or is the evidence merely more accessible here? Does it reflect what was happening elsewhere across Britain, or not? These and many other questions remain to be answered, but this book makes an important contribution to the central historical debates and will provide an important point of reference as to how we model the British/Anglo-Saxon interface for the next generation.
"Britons and Anglo-Saxons is an impressively interdisciplinary book that combines linguistic, historical, literary, and archaeological evidence into a coherent narrative for the post-Roman fate of Lincolnshire... his central contention that "the Britons based at Lincoln in the fifth and sixth centuries left a political, administrative, cultural, and even potentially a symbolic, legacy for succeeding centuries” (153) is amply borne out by his thorough interdisciplinary methodology, and his findings are sure to have an impact on the wider historiography of early-medieval British history... a major accomplishment by a promising young scholar...”
(Speculum: the Journal of the Medieval Academy of America)
"[A] well-researched and stimulating book... Green makes a compelling case for a post-Roman British-speaking people and polity based on Lincoln, from which an Anglo-Saxon kingdom developed.”
(History: the Journal of the Historical Association)
"This book, based on the author’s doctoral thesis, explores the relationships between British and Anglo-Saxon populations in post-Roman Britain and the formation of kingdoms, using Lincolnshire as a case study... As an exploration of the aftermath of Roman Britain, the relationships between native populations and immigrant communities, and the mechanisms behind the development of subsequent administrative units, this book makes for a very thought-provoking read... It is a welcome addition to our understanding of the early centuries of post-Roman Britain.”
"This book should recommend itself to the introductory reading lists of history and archaeology students but will also serve the general reader well. Green clearly sets out the undoubted importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the study of this period, while at the same time recognizing the limitations inherent in some of these methodologies. This study draws upon the combined application of history, archaeology, place-names, and early literature to reconstruct its narrative — approaches that one would wish to see duplicated across the country... Dr Green has demonstrated the effectiveness, and limitations, of the interdisciplinary approach that he rightly advocates. This book not only provides a narrative for Lincolnshire but also reinforces the potential value of similar approaches elsewhere in Britain while at the same time offering a compelling introduction to the challenges of studying this period of Britain’s past.”
"...a lively and convincing account of a neglected British kingdom, admirably multidisciplinary in approach and alive to questions of wider interest, such as Anglo-Saxon kingdom formation and the survival of Roman society after AD 410. It makes for a good story, engagingly told.”
(The Archaeological Journal)
Review 2: Stephen Rippon, Professor of Landscape Archaeology, University of Exeter
The Local Historian, May 2013
The fifth to seventh centuries used to be known as the 'Dark Ages', but in recent years a wide range of evidence has shed new light on the transition from Roman Britain to medieval England. However, this is a particularly challenging period to study as not only does it lie at the interface of two cultures—the Roman and the medieval—but it also sees the earliest documentary evidence that really tells us about the landscape and society of Britain.
This book is an overview of that diverse range of source material from one English county, Lincolnshire, and is characterised by its integration of archaeological, documentary and place-name evidence. Another distinctive feature of this study is that while discussing some of the Germanic Anglian sites in Lincolnshire—the traditional focus of scholarship in this period— the central theme of the book is the relationship between these immigrants and what appears to have been a substantial surviving native British population.
A strong case is made for Lincoln remaining as a centre of British power throughout the fifth century, and for the establishment of a series of large Anglian territories in the more peripheral districts, each focused on a large communal cremation cemetery.
This is not, however, an unproblematic book. The author's use of archaeological data could, in places, be more critical, and the reader is often left wondering just what is the evidence for this assertion'. There also needs to be more clarity over whether the interpretations of place-names are the accepted view or the author's own view (the cumbersome referencing system using endnotes compounds these problems).
In places the text also drifts down cul-de-sacs such as the long and complex argument that the similarity between the place-names Lindisfaran (the people thought to have lived in modern Lindsey) and Lindisfarne suggests a migration from one to the other.
The book is, however, supported by a large number of illustrations and presents some novel approaches to this period with its focus on the native as well as the immigrant populations, and the territorial structures within which they lived.
Jonathan Brown, 2005
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The late 19th and early 20th centuries were one of the major times of transformation in the county's farming, despite some difficult economic conditions. Mechanisation and scientific techniques were applied to farming. In this book the course of these developments in Lincolnshire's farming history is traced along with the rise of those particular features of the county's agricultural landscape: the potato and bulbs.
Jonathan Brown, born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, has been employed at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading for the past twenty years. He is the author of several books on farm machinery, farm horses and other aspects of rural life.
Review by Dr Joan Thirsk, Hadlow, Essex
in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, 41 (2006)
The hundred years of history surveyed by Jonathan Brown in this book expose dramatic contrasts of experience between Lincolnshire’s farming regions; the author, enjoying deep familiarity with his native county, tells an absorbing story of their varied fortunes. He begins with a veritable golden age for some farmers between 1850 and 1875, but it did not last. There followed grim years of depression for all between 1879 and 1914 then war which always puts sudden pressure on farmers to perform miracles; then came another depression, reaching its lowest point around 1929, and requiring another world war to bring any substantial revival. The story ends in 1945 when farmers with long memories were again filled with doubts about their future. As things have turned out, they were right to be apprehensive.
In their farming regimes, Lincolnshire’s regions adopted some very varied strategies between 1850 and 1945, and Jonathan Brown gives a clear explanation of each one, both from the farmers’ and the nation’s point of view. The first twenty-five years were called a ‘high farming’ phase, the strongest praise going to the Wolds, which developed its sheep/barley system, exploiting the long wool of its sheep, and growing barley that was often of malting quality. Farms grew larger, the most prosperous farmers could afford to re-plan and rationalise their farm buildings, and still drive to market in their carriages. On the Cliff and Heath, they also earned praise, by using a lot of artificial fertilisers to help their poor soils grow turnips, and feed oilcake to fatten cattle. High expenditure in both regions produced splendid results.
In other parts of the county, in the Fens and in Axholme, small farms set a quite different pattern. Farmers found potatoes to be an increasingly successful commercial crop, especially Axholme which had accessible towns like Sheffield with a growing industrial populations waiting to eat them. But then, in 1875, depression struck, starting with bad seasons and worsening when imported cereals and meat flowed in and cut the demand for home produce. The small farmers then showed their remarkable staying power. They could draw in their horns, live modestly, and rely on family labour to grow crops that required hand cultivation. They grew more and more vegetables, their agriculture coming to resemble horticulture, and showing great ingenuity and resourcefulness. Rider Haggard was so impressed in 1902 that he described Axholme, when deep depression ruled elsewhere, as ‘truly prosperous’.
The First World War transformed this mainly melancholy scene, when the work of farmers was recognised as being in the front line of home defence. They were paid fairer cereal prices, while meat production scraped along. Women, and children in harvest time, working in the fields, relieved the labour shortages. Yet that spell of prosperity for farmers was short-lived. The government did not take long after the war to remove the price guarantees that it had promised into the future, and depression returned. Sheep/corn farming in the Wolds, writes the author, was a disaster, though sugar beet, for which subsidy was offered in 1925, gave some relief; and in 1934 over 71,000 acres were growing in the county.
Through these years, the smallholders of the Fens and Axholme again held their heads above water more successfully than anyone else, focusing their efforts ever more purposefully on vegetables and a variety of alternative enterprises, including mustard, bulbs and flowers. Some few farmers elsewhere prospered on dairying, some on pigs and some on poultry. Niche markets represented an alternative agriculture that offered the best routes to salvation. It enabled woad-growing to survive as a dye crop, for example, though only until 1932 when Lincolnshire, the last of all the counties, abandoned it. It is a fascinating story of a specialist enterprise, though Jonathan Brown does not mention it. But, in the similarly precasious conditions of farming today, woad is again the object of current research, nurturing the hope of finding a brighter commercial future for it.
The Second World War subjected farmers to experiences similar to those of the First World War; women again worked the land, helped by children at harvest time and, interestingly, by some prisoners-of-war from Italy and some Russians, liberated from German prisoner-of-war camps by the British after D-Day in 1944. Meat production took a back seat and Lincolnshire as a county of cereals and potatoes came to the fore. Farmers’ incomes quadrupled. There the author ends his story, leaving his farmers in a sceptical and uncertain mood in 1945, apprehensively contemplating the future.
The author tells an absorbing story, illustrated with many examples of real people, naming and locating them on their farms. But the reviewer would have liked him to give more credit and attention to the small farmers. Lincolnshire was distinctive in having so many and they proved most flexible and ingenious in surviving long depressions. Like most historians, the author’s emphasis and examples relate to the large and notably successful farms; and, admittedly, it is difficult to avoid this tendency since they yield the most documents. Moreover, whenever a farming system proves successful, success is conventionally measured in the growing size of enterprises. Thus it happened in fenland agriculture. Yet it was the many valiant, small-scale farmers who first demonstrated the success of specialisation. I can remember meeting members of their families in the 1950s, whose oral history, I hope, will somewhere be recorded alongside the grand record of the farmers who became large growers. It may be some of the celery growers in Axholme survive as veterans to tell a personal story before the opportunity is totally lost.
A related topic missing from this book concerns the animated controversy on the practical and social merits of smallholding. A rich and lively debate developed around that subject from 1890 until 1910 and beyond. It is most sympathetically captured by Louisa Jebb, carrying out a three-year investigation into its fortunes, going round on a bicycle and, we are told, ‘showing a remarkable knack of talking to simple people and getting them to talk to her’. Her report was full of practical good sense in favour of small farms; and when she wrote a slim pamphlet about the merits of owner-versus-tenancy in 1909 Lord Carrington wrote the foreword; he, having rented out 650 acres of Lincolnshire land around 1904 to 200 smallholding tenants, became a loyal supporter of the Lincolnshire Small Holdings Association. The Ministry of Agriculture also lent a hand by setting up the Holbeach Farm Colony in 1917. What happened to all this? The author picks up only a fragment of the story by mentioning (p.41) how Guys Hospital in 1919 sold land at Sutton Bridge to the Ministry of Agriculture to help ex-servicemen find a career on small holdings after the war. Yet another project was set up in 1934 to give work to unemployed men working their own land. It acquired twenty sites for small holdings, including two in Lincolnshire – one at Dairy Farm, Lower Fulney in Spalding, and the other at Harrowby Hall. What happened to them? The author has missed the chance to tell us the end of these intriguing stories.
Such criticisms, however, should not detract from our warm appreciation for Jonathan Brown’s friendly and informative account. It is much enriched with photographs.
Charles K Rawding, 2001, 229pp
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Traces the development of the landscape and people of the Wolds in a period of momentous change, assessing the contribution of the great landowners, the tenant farmers, and the labourers of the region. It looks at the market towns and the role of their trades people and provides a clear overview of how society developed in this fascinating and neglected part of the county.
Charles Rawding is Geography PGCE Course Leader at Edge Hill College, Ormskirk. For 20 years he lived on the Lincolnshire Wolds or on the edge of them. He has published a number of village histories and articles.
Review by Dr Richard Olney, London
in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, Volume 36 (2001)
What a splendid subject for a book! Even today the Lincolnshire Wolds present a distinctive and striking landscape, very different from the lowland areas surrounding them.
A somewhat long and narrow region of chalk upland, it is characterised by large, isolated farms, small settlements and wide horizons. Moreover, despite the concomitants of twentieth-century agri-business, the Wold landscape is still recognisably a nineteenth-century one. Its farmsteads and cottages, coverts and plantations, churches and monuments, remind us at almost every turn of its early mid-Victorian heyday.
Charles Rawding, in this substantial study, describes many aspects of the Wolds during this period. He has a strong feeling for the landscape, and shows how it was influenced by social and economic factors. He looks at agriculture and industry (what very little industry there was), transport and communications, patterns of land ownership, settlement and population structure. He looks at rural society, class by class, showing how landowners, farmers and farm workers interacted with each other.
The Wolds supported a relatively simple hierarchy and one that, as he shows, was not without its tensions, particularly between farmers and their employees. He then brings together some of these strands in a chapter entitled ‘Society on the Lincolnshire Wolds’, which discusses differences within the region such as that between open and close parishes, and concludes with a chapter on ‘Culture and changes in the villages’.
Dr Rawding also shows how the region changed during the century. In 1800 rough pasture and rabbit warrens were still features of the landscape. By 1850 the Wolds had acquired a maturity and prosperity that owed much to high farming and conspicuous landlord investment.
By 1900 the distinctive character of the area in social and economic terms had been weakened by agricultural depression, and its comparative isolation had been lessened by improved communication and by the impact of external change.
In compiling this thorough account Dr Rawding has been able to draw on a corpus of already published work. The chapter on working-class culture, for instance, owes much to the work of Rex Russell. But he has also exploited primary sources, such as the tithe files in the Public Record Office, to good effect. He has been given access to three manuscript collections kept locally in private hands, and his personal knowledge of the area shows, for instance, in his comments on Wold churches and their monuments. The volume is attractively produced and includes photographs taken by the author.
How far does the book advance our understanding of the local and regional history of Lincolnshire? At the outset Dr Rawding describes the Wolds as a distinctive pays, a physical region distinguished clearly from the marshes to the east and the sandy moors to the west. This follows the work of Professor Alan Everitt, who in the 1970s used the word pays to denote a type of countryside based on geological formations and displaying distinctive landscape features.
The Wolds were certainly a pays in this rather limited sense, although within the district there were and are differences between the southern Wolds on the one hand and the central and northern Wolds on the other. It is the latter which present the country’s most typical features – the big estates, large farms and long vistas. The southern Wolds around Somersby look, feel and indeed are some way from the northern Wolds around Brocklesby. They even had their own hunt.
In the final chapter, however, Dr Rawding claims that ‘the concentration of different groups of people in different villages or on the farms, the varied interest [sic] and activities of social groups, and the complex set of interactions between these groups define [my italics] the pays which was the Lincolnshire Wolds in the nineteenth century’. In other words, the Wolds were a social and cultural as well as a physical entity. Having begun by defining them in physical terms he ends by defining them in terms of local society or community. The rest of the book does not prepare us for this statement. Nor does Dr Rawding elaborate upon it for it is, in fact, his concluding statement.
Of course, the English local historian cannot adhere too rigidly to definitions: the subject is too rich and complex for that. Everitt himself warned us that local boundaries were rarely coterminous. A farming region and a social neighbourhood might not correspond, or might correspond at one period and not at another. The content of a region will vary with the historian’s approach – whether he is looking at it from an economic or a social point of view. And no region had hard and fast boundaries, like the walls of a medieval city. In the case of the Lincolnshire Wolds, however, it is worth reflecting on the factors that made it more or less of a social, economic and cultural entity during the nineteenth century.
Agriculturally, for instance, the rise of high farming made it less necessary for wold farmers to hold marsh or fen land for summer pasture. By 1850 the wold economy had become in a sense more self-sufficient. Paradoxically, however, this made it less distinctive when compared with other regions of large farms within the county. Economically, it could be argued, that the period 1750-1850, rather than 1800-1900, was the defining period for the Wolds, not least in terms of the impact of the enclosure movement.
Socially one could begin with the obvious point that the Wolds had no central concentration of population. Its inhabitants looked outwards – to the market towns on its periphery. These towns were social centres but they also linked the Wolds to adjacent regions. Louth, for instance, served the marsh as well as the central Wolds, Horncastle the Fens as well as the southern Wolds.
Looking at eastern Lindsey more generally, it is possible to discern two economic and social regions that actually cut the Wolds in half, so to speak. The northern and central parts belonged to a north-east Lindsey region served by Grimsby, Barton, Brigg, Caistor, Market Rasen and Louth, whilst the south fell into a region around Horncastle, Alford, Spilsby and Boston.
The farmers of the Wolds, even those that Lord Yarborough claimed to have bred himself, came from a stock that was common to a wider area of north Lincolnshire. So did the labourers, a rural class whose culture was increasingly affected by urban influences during the nineteenth century. This makes Dr Rawding’s chapter on village culture particularly problematic if one is looking for a distinctive local character. It may be significant that quite a few of his examples are taken from outside the Wolds themselves.
Another approach would be to compare the Lincolnshire Wolds with those of Yorkshire. As Dr Rawding points out they are similar but also different. But an extended comparison would, of course, be beyond this study. Rather than complain about what it lacks, we should welcome it as a stimulus to further research. This is the first volume in a new series of Studies in the History of Lincolnshire. We look forward to many more.
R W Ambler, 2000
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Seeks to understand developments in religious life between 1660 and 1900 through an exploration of its place in the lives of local communities of the County. This is an account of how the development of Protestant dissent, the Evangelical Revival, the rise of Methodism, the transformation of the Church of England, and the changes in the Roman Catholic Church affected and were shaped by the people of Lincolnshire.
Rod Ambler is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Hull. He has written a number of papers on the social and religious history of local communities, especially in north Lincolnshire, where for many years he has worked as adult education tutor.
Review 1: David W Bebbington, University of Stirling
in English Historical Review, Volume 118 (2003)
The last volume to appear in the History of Lincolnshire series covers the religious life of the country from the Restoration to the end of the nineteenth century. Written by Rod Ambler, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Hull, who is immensely knowledgeable on the subject, it adopts a definite theme. The central contention is the vibrancy of the autonomous parish community. Members of each parish were not so much victims of ineluctable social change (there may be a polemical thrust here against Jim Obelkevich's Religion and Rural Society (Clarendon P.,1976), which stresses the involvement of the churches of part of Lincolnshire in class formation) as active agents in the transformation of their lives. Thus infant baptisms took place not at the time specified in the Book of Common Prayer but when it suited the parishioners; and churchwardens reported ‘omnia bene’ to visitation enquiries in order to protect the community from unwelcome outside interference.
Even Dissent was bound up in parish life, far more closely than most commentators have suggested for the earlier part of the period. Thus the Nonconformists numbered some substantial property-owners in their ranks; and the Baptists, lacking the separate poor relief system of the Quakers, looked to the parish to provide for their needy. Fringe attenders helped blur the boundary between the core church members and the rest of the community.
There is a wealth of evidence, very often presented in statistical form, on many other issues usually discussed less concretely in the standard literature on religion in the period. Thus clerical non-residence was clearly a serious problem: sixty-three per cent of incumbents were non-resident in 1790, still sixty-two per cent in 1832 but then only thirty-eight per cent by 1853.
Ambler argues for weak bonds between clergymen and their flocks, which may help explain why at the 1851 census one village recorded a parish church attendance of only three. That must also be a factor in explaining the huge impact of Methodism on the county. The Methodists clearly gained by revivals, and this is one area where more might have been said. The reader is assumed to understand what took place in a revival, so that no example is analysed. In particular the revivalists centred on Louth, which broke away from Wesleyanism to create a strong United Methodist Free Churches presence in the area, deserve further scrutiny.
It is a pity that the sources have been listed in the bibliography not in the standard form, by author or manuscript collection, but in order of abbreviations used in the book, an arrangement that makes them difficult to comprehend. The sources, however, have been trawled with immense care and insight. The result is an appraisal of the religious life of a county in all its main denominations that carries conviction and authority.
Review 2: Andrew Chandler, George Bell Institute, Birmingham
in Midland History, Volume 33 (2007)
Seven years have now passed since this impeccable study first appeared in the multi-volume History of Lincolnshire, published by the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archeology. R.W. Ambler is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Hull University, and not the least of his qualifications for the task here is an edition of the 1851 religious census returns for the county, published in 1979, and a later portrait of Primitive Methodism in South Lincolnshire. These two studies have clearly laid deep foundations for this far more extensive survey, and the dividends are rich. It is a steady, self-assured and impressive excavation of the subject, and surely the definitive work of its kind.
The chronological frame is a broad one, and essentially it is set down by national, rather than local narratives. With 1660 comes the Stuart restoration, while 1900 may well be taken to usher in a new age in which the bustling, diverse world of communal religion which this book examines so intricately would soon wane. Ambler finds much local material to substantiate what are now recognized as general trends. The new Church of England of Charles II finds its feet unsteadily but is soon secure. Dissent persists, showing something more than sectarian reality, for they are religious forces rooted strongly in the soil of the region and the relationships of an essentially agricultural social order. Catholicism evolves from being the preserve of great families; Presbyterianism is a force in the towns; Independency struggles somewhat in much the same terrain; Baptists are conspicuous throughout the region and do better in rural areas.
Time brings alterations and new perspectives. The worship of the Church and the practices of the clergy shift markedly across the eighteenth century. As elsewhere, it is the growth of institutions of education and voluntary societies which by degrees convert the Church from a stable establishment force into a livelier power in the communities, one through which the winds of popular participation blow gustily. The world of Dissent, too, is by the early nineteenth century a 'transformed' one. Ambler writes well of the interior worlds of faith and devotion which these traditions spawned, describing their attitudes and practices in matters of 'order' and discipline, charity, education, piety and theology.
The emergence of Methodism in the north of the county and among villages with strong labouring populations is traced with a fine pen. These are all developments evoked not only by a remarkable succession of individuals, congregations and passing situations, but by the very architecture of religious life. New Bolingbroke Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, a pure and simple expression of 1825, speaks of limited means and disdains any seeking after superficial effect. By contrast, the imposing façade of Market Rasen Wesleyan Methodist chapel, a miracle of 1863, shows a religious force which had truly arrived as a social power, and one that was in no doubt of its claims.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the establishment was setting its house in order nationally, its clergy busy in residence across the parishes, benefiting from a growth in popular involvement and sensing, no doubt, a strong whiff of competition in the air. There is little here of the significance of the new manoeuvres of higher authorities; of the pastoral bishops and vigorous archdeacons to whom Arthur Burns has more recently attached the vision of a diocesan revival on the Church of England. But Ambler's exploration of community life in the Victorian age allows us to see how parish life achieved a more insistent rhythm; Sunday services increase in number (not necessarily with much popular effect) and Ritualism brings new enthusiasms, perhaps among as many as half of the clergy of the diocese. It is enough to cause righteous consternation among the ranks of the Protestant Church Association. Social rites show all traditions setting to work in a veritable free market of religious loyalties.
Meanwhile, churches and chapels themselves are not merely preserved but turned into various kinds of gothic — further evidence not merely of the loyalty of numbers but the fresh opportunities brought by new riches. Irish immigration increases and redefines the Roman Catholic Church in towns like Grimsby and in Lincoln itself. By the last third of the century every tradition is awash with self-improvement classes, charitable bodies, Sunday schools, schools altogether, temperance societies and missions. Nonconformity of all strains exulted in its hey-day. It was enough to disconcert Bishop Edward King and alter the social roles assumed by his clergy. But, as Ambler observes, the Church's 'inherent historic institutional strength' would see it through.
Within only a decade or so, all of this was looking vulnerable, owing not least to regional economic frailty which brought the beginning of a great migration from the countryside. The book ends rather abruptly, the author perhaps wishing to avoid an undue generalization or broad provocation. But its basic points have been well made. This offers a rich mine of information for any committed religious or social historian and it will certainly deserve a place on their shelves. For the historian of the modern Midlands, it must provide an essential point of reference.
Prehistoric Lincolnshire (Volume I)
Jeffrey May, 1976
Roman Lincolnshire (Volume II)
J B Whitwell, 1970 and 1992
Deals with the Roman invasion of Lincolnshire and the effects of the occupation - the distribution of towns and rural settlements, roads and canals, industries, trade and religion. Special attention is given to Lincoln, one of the few Roman coloniae in Britain. The study concludes with an account of the collapse of Roman rule and its effects on the region. Ben Whitwell, an expert in the archaeology of Roman Britain, is a former Keeper of the City and County Museum in Lincoln.
Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire (Volume III)
Land and People in Medieval Lincolnshire (Volume IV)
Graham Platt, 1985
Church and Society in Medieval Lincolnshire (Volume V)
Dorothy M Owen, 1971, 2nd edition 1990, ISBN 0 902668 13 7
The first general survey of Lincolnshire's medieval religious history. The main theme of the book is the role of the church in medieval Lincolnshire society. It describes the parochial setting of the county and discusses the origins of churches and chapels. It examines the effect of the Bishop's government, and of monks, nuns and friars on the life of the people of Lincolnshire.
Dorothy Owen was well known as an ecclesiastical historian and author of works on medieval religious history. At one time she worked as assistant Archivist in the Lincolnshire Archives Office and thus acquired detailed local knowledge.
Tudor Lincolnshire (Volume VI)
Gerald A J Hodgett, 1980
Seventeenth-Century Lincolnshire (Volume VII)
Clive Holmes, 1980
Agricultural Revolution in Lincolnshire (Volume VIII)
T W Beastall, 1978
Rural Society and County Government in Nineteenth-Century Lincolnshire (Volume X)
R J Olney, 1979
Lincolnshire Towns and Industry : 1770-1914 (Volume XI)
Neil Wright, 1982
Twentieth Century Lincolnshire (Volume XII)
Dennis Mills (Editor), 1989
Hardback 372pp, ISBN 0 902668 14 5
Reviews many aspects of the County's history from about 1900 to the 1970s: population change and urban growth, farming, industry, transport, the social impact of the RAF, holidaying and the conservation of the coast, the early days of planning, local and constituency politics, education, religion and spiritual life. Includes an important collection of old photographs which illustrate a wide range of Lincolnshire events and scenes.
Local authors with specialist knowledge write on 12 distinct themes.
History of Lincolnshire Committee
Some counties were lucky enough to have historical surveys prepared in pre-Victorian times; one thinks of Plot’s Oxfordshire, Hutchins’ two volume (later extended to four) study of Dorset and Hasted’s Kent. Lincolnshire has no equivalent.
The Victoria County History series was initiated at the end of the nineteenth century and, it was hoped, that in Lincolnshire’s case, a comprehensive record of the county’s history would result. Some counties hardly ‘got off the ground’ and Lincolnshire was one such. Only a Volume Two appeared and the project for this county has fallen by the wayside.
When Dr (later Professor) Alan Rogers heard that a committee had been set up in Cheshire to produce a history of that county he proposed to the Lincolnshire Local History Society that a similar project administered by the Rural Community Council be set up.
On 12 January 1966 a meeting was held in Lincoln Castle at which a History of Lincolnshire Committee was inaugurated. Shortly after, at a meeting in Nottingham University, Dr Joan Thirsk agreed to chair a group comprising Professor Bullough and Dr May (both Nottingham), Ben Whitwell (Lincoln City and County Museum), Dr Dorothy Owen (Cambridge), G A J Hodgett (King’s College, London), Dr Rogers and Mrs Simpson (Leicester).
Sufficient funding and guarantees were obtained so that the project could proceed. It was originally expected that there would be eleven volumes dealing with the county in a chronological sequence. It was also hoped that there would be two volumes issued each year since work from several potential authors seemed to be well in hand already.
By 1968 Dr Rogers had become Chairman and the committee had taken on a more Lincolnshire orientated colour with the inclusion of Tom Baker (Director, Lincoln City Libraries and Museum), the Lindsey & Holland County Librarian, the Lincolnshire County Archivist, Rex Russell and Jim English. Mr G R Watson became treasurer.
The early days were difficult owing to the failure of most of the intended authors to produce acceptable material. It was not until 1971 that Ben Whitwell’s volume Roman Lincolnshire appeared as the first of the series.
It also proved impossible to issue books in the order of the proposed chronological sequence. In the event, the final books of the series, now increased to twelve, did not appear until 1998 and 2000 and dealt with Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire and Churches, Chapels and the Parish Communities of Lincolnshire, 1660-1900 respectively.
In the thirty years between the first and last of the series the Committee was chaired by Professor Maurice Barley, followed by Dr Dennis Mills and, presently, by Professor John Beckett of Nottingham University; the personnel has also altered considerably.
Once the project had been completed the Committee decided to pursue a policy of publishing monographs on topics relating to the county but cutting across chronological distinctions by concentrating the focus on special subject areas or on specific geographical parts of the county.
The first three to be published in the new series are The Lincolnshire Wolds in the Nineteenth Century by Dr Charles Rawding (2001), Farming in Lincolnshire, 1850-1945 by Dr Jonathan Brown (2005) and Britons and Anglo-Saxons, AD 400-650 by Dr Thomas Green (2012). Other titles are in the pipeline.
The Editorial Board of the History of Lincolnshire Committee will consider the academic merits of any proposed volume, and the Committee will assess its commercial merits.
Books should comprise 80-90,000 words, with full scholarly apparatus, maps and appropriate illustrations.
No subject is excluded, but publications must satisfy the parameters of the series, and fit within the broad sweep of Lincolnshire's history and archaeology, taking into account the latest research on the particular period or topic under discussion.
Priority may be given to books with a broad spatial coverage and a reasonably long time span, but there is no obligation on an author to cover fixed periods or the whole county.