1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Horncastle
HORNCASTLE, a market-town in the S. Lindsey or Horncastle parliamentary division of Lincolnshire, England, at the foot of a line of low hills called the Wolds, at the confluence of the Bain and Waring streams; the terminus of a branch line of the Great Northern railway, 130 m. N. from London. Pop. of urban district (1901) 4038. The church of St Mary is principally Decorated and Perpendicular, with some Early English remains and an embattled western tower. Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school was founded in 1562. Other buildings are an exchange, a court-house and a dispensary founded in 1789. The prosperity of the town is chiefly dependent on agriculture and its well-known horse fairs. Brewing and malting are carried on, and there is some trade in coal and iron.
Remains have been found here which may indicate the existence of a Roman village. The manor of Horncastle (Hornecastre) belonged to Queen Edith in Saxon times and was royal demesne in 1086 and the head of a large soke. In the reign of Stephen it apparently belonged to Alice de Cundi, a partisan of the empress Maud, and passing to the crown on her death it was granted by Henry III. to Gerbald de Escald, from whom it descended to Ralph de Rhodes, who sold it to Walter Mauclerc, bishop of Carlisle in 1230. The see of Carlisle retained it till the reign of Edward VI. when it was granted to Edward, Lord Clinton, but was recovered in the following reign. In 1230 Henry III. directed the men of Horncastle to render a reasonable aid to the bishop, who obtained the right to try felons, hold a court leet and have free warren. An inquisition of 1275 shows that the bishop had then, besides the return of writs, the assize of bread and ale and waifs and strays in the soke. Horncastle was a centre of the Lincolnshire rebellion of 1536. Royalist troops occupied the town in 1643, and were pursued through its streets after the battle fought at Winceby. It was never a municipal or parliamentary borough, but during the middle ages it was frequently the residence of the bishops of Carlisle. Its prosperity has always depended largely on its fairs, the great horse fair described by George Borrow in Romany Rye being granted to the bishop in 1230 for the octave of St Lawrence, together with the fair on the feast of St Barnabas. The three other fairs are apparently of later date.
See George Weir, Historical and Descriptive Sketches of the Town and Soke of Horncastle in the County of Lincoln and of Several Places adjacent (London, 1820).