REEPHAM – A BRIEF HISTORY
The parish of Reepham lies 4 miles east north east of the City of Lincoln and about 2 miles north of the River Witham, on the dipslope of the limestone ridge on which Lincoln is situated. Technically the village is a ‘nucleated’ settlement, with the older buildings clustered around the church and village green. A small stream running through the parish towards the Barlings Eau forms the northern limit of the buildings today, as it did in the past. The street pattern to the south of High Street was altered by the coming of the railway in 1848. However whilst the centre of the village remains largely unaltered there has been linear expansion over the years and, more recently, in-fill with new houses and bungalows. Beyond the built-up area is farmland as it has been for centuries.
The Earliest Times
We do not know when people first settled here but aerial photographs have revealed a number of ditched enclosures of prehistoric date. At least one of these also shows two hut circles which were almost certainly used as houses. These sites have not been excavated so cannot be dated accurately. However several artefacts have been found in fields and gardens around the village over the years which show that the area was being used from Mesolithic times onwards. Most notable of these are a polished stone axe, found in 1929, and an early Bronze Age palstave or axehead, found in 1892.
From the Iron Age there are a few fragments of pottery and a silver coin of the Corieltauvi tribe from the 1st century BC. Lack of finds however, does not mean the area was empty – we know that there was a lot of activity at nearby Fiskerton at this period – it just means that the evidence has not been found yet.
The northern boundary of the Parish is formed by the line of the Roman road from Lincoln to Burgh-le-Marsh. Being so close to the major Roman settlement of Lincoln it is not surprising that a considerable quantity of Roman material has been found in the Parish.
From one site alone the finds include a number of coins dating from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD; the bottom stone of a quern for grinding corn into flour; and an iron ploughshare, suggesting an established farming economy. But there were also three iron spearheads dating from the 1st century, which are of a specifically military character. Could it be that legionaries, or retired legionaries, were living here then? Whoever they were, these and other finds indicate that this area was well occupied throughout the Roman period (AD 43-409). Several copper alloy brooches and a buckle give a tantalizing glimpse of how they dressed. There is also aerial photographic evidence for a Roman farmstead, between the known villas at Greetwell and Sudbrooke.
After the Roman period finds become sparse again but documentary and landscape evidence suggests that Reepham became an important settlement, indeed may already have been so at the end of the Roman period. The elements of the name – reeve and ham – are Old English meaning the homestead or village of the reeve, a senior official who was the King’s representative at Lincoln. Hawthorn Road, previously known as Stocking Lane, runs directly from uphill Lincoln to Reepham, providing easy communication. Where this highway enters the village there is an area of land around the current Old Manor House (1) which has been suggested as the site of the Reeve’s enclosure, of Middle Saxon date. The Reeve’s own estate was sizeable and seems, at this early date, to have incorporated the area now occupied by the parishes of Fiskerton, Scothern and Barlings as well as Reepham. So a settlement here was well established by the 8th century AD.
Following the Danish (Viking) raids and subsequent settlement of Eastern England in the 9th century, Lincolnshire became part of the Danelaw. New administrative divisions known as Wapentakes were set up. Reepham became part of Lawress Wapentake, which consisted of 25 parishes stretching from Torksey in the west to Fiskerton in the east.
The Medieval Period
At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 the Abbey of Peterborough was the largest landholder in Reepham. It held four carucates and six bovates of ploughland (a carucate was a unit of assessment of land for tax purposes and was based on the amount of land a team of 8 oxen could plough in a single season. It was subdivided into bovates, based on what a single ox could plough in a season, so represents one-eighth of a carucate. Bovate = approx. 15 acres; carucate = approx. 120 acres, 1hectare=2.47 acres). It also held 60 acres of meadow and ‘underwood 8 furlongs in length and 4 in breadth’. Colsuen (Colswein), an Anglo-Saxon who had close ties to William the Conqueror and who was a major landholder in the Lincoln area, held six bovates and had 18 acres (ha.) of meadow. Ranulf de Sancto Walarico had four bovates and 12 acres (ha.) of meadow. Both Colsuen and Ranulf laid claim to some of the woodland held by Peterborough Abbey, but their claim was not upheld. The Lindsey Survey of 1115 shows the Bishop of Lincoln holding land amounting to four bovates whilst Robert de Haya had six bovates. Whilst Peterborough Abbey retained control of its land long after the Domesday Survey, other holdings changed hands, so that by 1428, if not before, Colsuen’s six bovates were in the hands of Barlings Abbey which remained a significant landholder until the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.
There may have been a Saxon chapel as part of the Reeve’s residence but this was on a different site to the present church. The earliest physical remains in the present church of St Peter and St Paul date from the late 12th century but the site was almost certainly occupied by an earlier church pre-dating the Norman Conquest. Later, it was one of the most valuable churches in the deanery as indicated by the tax surveys of the period between 1254 and1428.
By the early medieval period the village had largely developed its present layout. Whilst no buildings survive from this period (apart from fragments of the church) the actual settlement pattern and the distribution of buildings has remained very much the same. Certainly the road and footpath/bridleway network were in existence at this date. The various footpaths and bridleways are the remains of direct through routes to neighbouring villages – Nettleham, Scothern, Langworth, Barlings and Fiskerton. Hawthorn Road (Stocking Lane) provides the main route to Lincoln. The village was once at the hub of an extensive communications network. It is fortunate that so many of these Rights of Way have survived and that most of them are still well used. They are an important part of Reepham’s heritage.
It is thought that The Green was once considerably larger, encompassing the church and vicarage area as well. The open space has been encroached upon by later houses and front gardens, leaving only a small triangle of open space.
Around this core of buildings lay the Open Fields that were cultivated in rotation growing arable crops for the inhabitants. Other essentials were pasture for livestock and woodland to provide timber for buildings and brushwood for fuel. The system of cultivation by teams of 8 oxen pulling a heavy wooden plough left permanent marks in the soil, known as ‘ridge and furrow’. These marks were once visible all round the village but all have been destroyed by modern ploughing except one fragment in the field to the east of Kennel Lane(2).
This system of cultivation continued until most of the land around the village (285 acres with permission to graze 207 animals on this area) was enclosed by the Enclosure Act of 1699 when the fields were divided into individual land holdings. Only Reepham Moor remained as open land for communal grazing until 1870 when the remaining 18 acres were enclosed.
The Post Medieval Period
The population declined in the post medieval period reaching140 inhabitants by 1789 and this is reflected in the reduction in the size of the church which had both north and south aisles at one stage. However by the seventeenth or early eighteenth century both aisles had been removed. Reepham has been described as “an open village” meaning the land ownership was divided amongst a number of owners and not in the control of just one or two. This freedom enabled its population to increase from 183 in 1801 to 368 in 1851 and reach 387 in 1901. This expansion was in response to the dramatic growth in the population of the City of Lincoln from 7000 to 50,000 during the 19th century as Lincoln changed into an industrial centre. The next growth for Reepham occurred after the Second World War. There were 492 residents in 1951 and there has been a steady increase to the latest census of 2011 when the population reached 915 in the village and 1250 in the parish.
In 1631 the living of the church was purchased by the Mercers Company of London under the terms of the will of Richard Fishbourne. The Mercers still support the maintenance of the church as one of its patrons.
The oldest surviving properties in Reepham, aside from the parish church, date back to the 18th century. On the High Street there is The Old Manor House/Lawris Cottage(1) which was originally one property and Bartlegarth House(3). Both of these houses and another double property, Laburnum Farmhouse/the Old House, in Smooting Lane(4) are built from limestone rubble with some limestone ashlar and pantile roofs. (“Smooting" means a narrow passage between houses.) There are similarly constructed limestone cottages on The Green. However some cottages were originally built as single storey dwellings with a chimney at one end and subsequently enlarged upwards and sideways using locally available materials such as rubble, stone and locally produced brick, like the yellow Langworth brick, e.g. Rose Cottage, Church Lane(5) and The Cottage,The Green(6).
In this period the main route into Lincoln was Stocking Lane, so called because animals were kept in the lane which had gates at either end to contain “the stock”. Where Stocking Lane met the Wragby Road was the site of one of the county’s first turnpikes. In 1739 the Lincoln-Wragby-Baumber Trust was established to make the highway into a toll road which followed the northern boundary of the parish.
Reepham was a fairly self contained village with trades and craftspeople supporting an agricultural economy and as such persisted in this form well into the 20th century. Indeed by the end of the 18th century there is evidence of the village having at least one butcher, a blacksmith, a wheelwright and joiner/undertaker, a cordwainer(shoemaker), several farmers and cottagers. Mention of an alehouse in the village occurs from 1796 when an annual application for recognisance is made and by 1823 this takes the name of The Chequers(7). The pub owners were variously John Curtis and Rebecca Curtois.
The 19th and 20th Centuries
However life was not a rural idyll for all as in 1829 one Reepham resident, Matthew Nelson, was sentenced to death which was commuted to a life sentence and he was transported to Tasmania where he arrived aboard the Bussorah Merchant in 1830. There was also recognition of the needs of the poor for in 1819 Robert Parkinson of Reepham left £40 in trust, the interest of which was to be distributed by the churchwardens of Reepham and Fiskerton in the form of bread to the poor of the parish each St Thomas Day (21 December). In 1880 Mrs Crosby left ‘£100 for the interest to be used for the most needy poor of the parish in such proportions as the Churchwardens and overseers shall think proper but no one to receive more than five shillings in the same year’. These charitable funds were last distributed in 1979 by which time the individual dispensation was 25p. The charities were wound up and the remaining sum given to Reepham C.E. School to help needy pupils.
The Victorian era brought major changes to Reepham that affected a variety of residents in many areas of everyday life and work. In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Reepham like this:
"REPHAM, or Reepham, a village and a parish in the district and county of Lincoln. The village stands adjacent to the Lincoln and Hull railway, 4 miles E N E of Lincoln; and has a station on the railway. The parish comprises 1,430 acres; and its post town is Lincoln. Real property, £4,028. Pop., 436. Houses, 87. The property is much subdivided. The Burton hounds are kennelled here. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Lincoln. Value, £176. Patrons, the Mercers' Company, London. The church is good; and there is a parochial school."
The Primary School is of Church of England foundation(8). The school was built originally in 1859 by the efforts of the Reverend J Jones at a cost of £350! Further classrooms and offices were added in 1894 at a cost of £240.
In 1873 the school was placed under Government control and in 1951 became Reepham Church of England Controlled Primary School. In 1988 two new classrooms and a library area were built. In 1993 a further £500,000 was spent on the school, providing three new classrooms, a hall and an administration block. A further classroom was built in 1999. A new I.C.T. suite was built in the courtyard during 2003 and in 2006 a small multi-purpose room was built. From its early days providing education for 20 or so pupils it now caters for 175 young people.
A marble tablet beneath the east window of the St Peter and St Paul's Church(9) commemorates the rebuilding of the chancel in 1836, at a cost of £150. The north chancel window is early 13th century, whilst the east and south chancel windows date from the 1836 restoration. In 1855, the 14th century chancel arch was rebuilt and the pews were installed in the chancel, at a combined cost of £50. In 1862, a further major restoration took place, under the direction of the architect Mr. Michael Drury. The north aisle was added, the tower was rebuilt, a new porch erected (using some of the 14th century earlier porch), and the nave roof re-timbered at a much steeper pitch, at a combined cost of £900. Small alterations took place in the 1950's and early 1960's. Major refurbishments in 2010 and 2013 saw the removal of the Victorian pews in the Nave, levelling of the floor, upgrading of the heating, installation of a toilet and servery and the purchase of chairs. This gives the village a very flexible, beautiful building suitable for many uses. For the majority of the Victorian era the Methodists of the village met in the Reading Room on the corner of High Street. A purpose-built Chapel(10) opened in 1894 and for many years in the twentieth century it held a Sunday School.
Reepham railway station(11) opened in 1848 and closed in 1965 although the line from Lincoln to Cleethorpes is still in use. The station's building is now a private residence. The former coal yard and sidings are now occupied by two bungalows(12). There is no trace of the platforms which were located either side of the level crossing, the staggered layout being typical of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) that built the line. The removal of the manned signal box has resulted in much longer waiting times for road traffic and pedestrians. Up to closure, grammar school pupils at De Aston School in Market Rasen used the station. It was the only village station on the line that was actually in the village; most others being a few miles outside the villages from which the stations took their names.
Farms were thriving businesses during the 19th century and into the 20th century. Over the past hundred years their size has increased as the numbers have fallen from 13 in the 1930s to six in the 1950s to the current four. Branch 17 of the Lincolnshire Co-operative Society(13) opened in 1901 as the premises in the High Street, situated in the front room of someone's house, were totally inadequate. The Co-op supplied all the villages with a delivery service for a radius of five miles until it closed in 1979. Independently there was a general store and a separate bakery situated at the other end of the High Street. The bakery closed and became a pottery but that too closed in the1990s. However the Post Office and General store are still in operation.
Until 1974 there were two public houses in the village, The Chequers(7) and The Fox and Hounds(14). Sources of employment within the village have been many and varied over the years including bakery, carpenter, builders, coal merchant, public houses, shops, farming, railway, school, doctor, church, chapel, blacksmith, kennels, hairdressing, butcher, fish and chip shop, haulage, potter, shoemaker, gardeners, rat catcher, pig killer and dressmaker. There are reports that there was even a fire station. Many people still live and work in and around the village.
The twentieth century saw a growth in social clubs, sports and community groups. At various times there were cricket, football and cycling clubs. The Womens Institute and a Man’s club were formed although only the former continues. For older folk there was a Friendship Club and there were several societies based on music and entertainment.
Oil was discovered a number of years ago and nodding donkey oil-wells operate on surrounding farmland as part of the Welton oil field. A gathering station for the oil is situated a few miles outside the village. The oil is transported by railway to refineries at Immingham on the Humber Estuary. There are current plans to store gas underground once the oilfield has stopped producing oil. In 1980, B.P. were granted a Government licence to make exploratory drillings for oil in Reepham and some surrounding areas. In November 1981 a major strike, subsequently named the Welton Oil Field, was discovered.
As the twenty first century proceeds Reepham and its community continues to thrive.