JCA 43 Lincolnshire Wolds - UK Government Web Archive

JCA 43 Lincolnshire Wolds.
3 JCA sub-units.1: North West Scarp, 2: Chalk Wolds, 3: Ridges and valleys of
the south west, 4: South East claylands
1. Settlement and Development
The dry uplands retain an exceptional array of archaeological evidence for prehistoric occupation and
landuse from the Neolithic period onwards, including settlement and ceremonial sites, highly visible
burial mounds and trackways. Extraordinary cluster of Neolithic long barrows and long mortuary
enclosures along the Wolds plateau and the heads of the south western valleys.
Roman occupation was equally widespread, linked by major roads and by east-west tracks related to
the coastal salt industry.
Modern settlement characteristics have roots in the early medieval pattern of nucleated villages, many
bearing Saxon or Danish placename elements, and low densities of dispersed farmsteads and hamlets.
Depopulation of the Wold villages began early, partly due to epidemics and poor harvests in the 14 th
century, and partly through the actions of powerful landowners keen to turn arable land to pasture in
order to capitalise on the value of sheep-rearing in the 15th and 16th centuries. Another episode of
enclosure saw the population fall by a further 25% in the 17th century, although the area still retained a
substantial number of villages until the final phase of enclosures in the later 18 th and early 19th
centuries. The Wolds have the highest concentration of Lincolnshire's 235+ deserted medieval village
sites, many in highly visible locations, many outlived by a single farm or manor house carrying the
village name.
Successful villages tend to cluster along the spring line scarps surrounding the plateau and within the
southern river valleys. Dominant building materials vary according to the local source of limestone or
ironstone, although brick and render are commonplace amongst the domestic building stock.
Country houses and country house estates dating from the late medieval period are a further
characteristic of the landscape, illustrating the wealth of individual landowners in the largely 'closed'
parishes which resulted from the early enclosure and depopulation.
Limestone, chalk with brick detailing, brick and tile are the main traditional materials. These result from
extensive rebuilding in 18th century and later.
2. Agriculture
The mixed arable and grazing landscapes of the earlier medieval period gave way to extensive
enclosed pasture from the 14th century onwards. A further period of enclosure In the 17th century was
more concerned with improving arable production, which by 1801 took up approximately one quarter of
the available land, mixing fodder crops for the sheep with barley fields fertilised by their mature.
The pre-1750 landscape was still broadly one of open fields, common waste and nucleated villages,
with relatively few isolated farmsteads of medieval origin. However from the later 18th and 19th centuries
general enclosure completed the transformation of the Wolds through the dismantling of village
agriculture, the engrossment of small farms, and the creation or fewer but more substantial tenant
As a result there is very low survival of pre-1750 farmstead buildings, but numerous large, early to mid
19th century, brick and stone farmsteads set around cattle courts (with large combination barns and from
mid 19th century mixing rooms). The Georgian estate farmsteads, notably those of the Brocklesby
Estate, and the later farmsteads created 1840-1870 by the Turner family of Stoke Rochford Hall.
Straight tracks were laid out in the new enclosures which contained sheep-based arable systems similar
to those developed on the light chalk soils of north-west Norfolk.
Horse power, and from 1830s steam power, was a major feature of the arable Wolds farmstead.
Later 20th century farming saw the further expansion of arable production detached from livestock
farming, which now dominates the Wolds.
3. Fields and boundary patterns
The Wolds are dominated by large rectilinear field patterns. For the most part these reflect two
processes: the development of general enclosure through sequential enlargement and reorganisation of
systems dating back to the depopulations of the later medieval period; or, in open parishes and areas
which retained open field systems into the mid 18th century, later enclosure by Parliamentary Act.. In
both cases, however, the overall final appearance is similar: a Georgian/early Victorian farming estate
landscape of large scale, rectilinear fieldscapes with straight lanes and wide verges, divided by thorn
hedgerows ( which have seen depredations and poor management in recent decades).
The south western clayland edge retains a more varied mixture of regular and smaller irregular fields,
reflecting a greater mixture of tenure and farming practices.
Irregular pasture enclosure is more commonplace to the north west where poor soils precluded later
arable expansion and reorganisation.
Dry stone walling is a key feature of the north west scarp.
4. Trees and woodland
The area was substantially cleared of woodland by the 11th century. The Wolds woodland is mainly in
the form of broadleaf plantations and beech hangers designed to provide shelter and shooting cover
across the late 18th and 19th century farming estates.
The north west scarp has a more intricate pattern of managed woodland clustered in the steeper slopes
and surrounding the villages and isolated settlements.
5. Semi-natural environments
6. River and coastal features.
River margin meadows are a significant historic landscape survival.
Ongoing ploughing threatens the survival of buried archaeological sites whether or not they are
protected as scheduled ancient monument. The Wolds has the highest concentration of
Scheduled Monuments at Risk for this reason.
Arable conversion of grassland is a major threat to unprotected archaeological earthworks,
River & Coastal
The loss of meadow land to settlement and other land use changes along the water courses of
the south western valleys.