1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sleaford

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SLEAFORD, a market town in the North Kesteven or Sleaford parliamentary division of Lincolnshire, England, in a fertile and partly fenny district on the river Slea. Pop. of urban district (1901) 5468. It is 112 m. N. by W. from London by the Great Northern railway, being the junction for several branch lines and for the March-Doncaster joint line of the Great Northern and Great Eastern companies. The church of St Denis is one of the finest in the county, exhibiting transitional Norman work in the base of the western tower, which is crowned by an Early English spire, which, however, is mainly a copy of the original. The nave is of beautiful late Decorated work with an ornate south porch. There is a splendid carved rood screen of oak. The chancel is Perpendicular. There are a few picturesque old houses. The district is very fertile, and the trade of the town is principally agricultural, while malting is also carried on.

The discovery of numerous coins of the Constantine period, the earthworks of the castle-area, and its proximity to the ford by which Ermine Street crossed the Witham, point to the probability of Sleaford (Slaforde, Lafford) being on the site of a Roman settlement or camp, and that the Saxons occupied the site before their conversion to Christianity is evident from the large cemetery discovered here. Domesday Book records that the manor had been held from the time of Edward the Confessor by the bishops of Lindsey, whose successors, the bishops of Lincoln, retained it until it was surrendered to the Crown in 1546. It soon afterwards passed to the family of Carr and from them, by marriage, in 1688 to John Hervey, afterwards earl of Bristol. The quadrilateral castle, with its square towers and massive keep, was built by Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, and became one of the chief episcopal strongholds. King John rested here in 1216 after his disastrous passage of the Wash, and in 1430 Bishop Richard Fleming died here. The castle was in good repair on its surrender in 1546, but was dismantled before 1600. Sleaford never became a municipal or parliamentary borough, and the government was manorial, the bishops possessing full jurisdiction. The townsfolk were, however, largely organized in the gilds of Corpus Christi, St John and Holy Trinity, accounts for which are extant from the year 1477. The origin of the markets and fairs is unknown, but in answer to a writ of quo warrants of the reign of Edward I., the bishop declared that they had been held from time immemorial.

See Victoria County History, Lincolnshire; G. W. Thomas, “On Excavations in an Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Sleaford, Lincolnshire,” Archaeologia, vol. i. (London, 1887); Edward Trollope, Sleaford and the Wapentakes of Flaxwell and Aswardhurn in the county of Lincoln (London, 1872).