Lincolnshire (Part of Mercia)

Lincolnshire, though now a well-defined county, was less well defined in Anglo-Saxon/Englisc times. The northern part between the Humber and the River Witham (on which stands Lincoln city) was known as Lindsey, as for administrative purposes this part of the county is still called. It was colonised by Anglian tribes working south from the Humber, peoples belonging to the same groups as those who had penetrated northwards to Deira and Bernicia, and the later ones who worked south-west and joined up with others from the Wash to form North Mercia. The date of the Lindsey settlements is not known, but might be as early the second half of the fifth century. The early history of Lindsey is obscure and its Kings no more than names. It was a bone of contention, being too small to stand permanently alone, between Northumbria and Mercia, but eventually became a permanent appendage to Mercia.

Christianity was introduced into Lindsey by Paulinus 627 approx who built a stone church at Lincoln. Little or nothing is known about its ecclesiastical history during the next half-century until in 677 Archbishop Theodore detached Lindsey from the huge diocese of Lichfield and made it a separate diocese of Lindsey with its cathedral at Sidnacester. the site of Sidnacester is not known. The see apparently ended at the Danish invasions and was not revived until the formation of the Norman diocese and cathedral at Lincoln.

The southern part of Lincolnshire, now known as Kesteven and Holland, belonged then as it does today to fenland country. It was colonised from the Wash by Anglian tribes allied to those who penetrated west to form North Mercia and to those who moved south-west to form Middle Anglia. It originally formed part of Middle Anglian kingdom and was later absorbed into Greater Mercia with the rest of Middle Anglia, after which its association with Mercia was always close, especially ecclesiastically. Thus Guthlac, the founder of Crowland Abbey, was a member of the Mercian royal house and his church was consecrated by Headda, Bishop of Lichfield, between 700 and 706. Ecclesiastically it formed part of the Middle Anglian province. When Theodore in 677 split up the unwieldy see of Lichfield he made a separate see of Middle Anglia (including south Lincolnshire), which became permanently seated at Leicester in 737. This see also ceased to exist at the Danish invasions.

In the late ninth century Lindsey was colonised further by the soldiers of a Danish army, and after Alfred’s peace with Guthrum of 886 the whole county became part of the Danelaw. Culturally the area became more unified and to some degree separatist, at least until the re-conquest by Edward ‘the Elder’ 918 approx. The culture of Lindsey, as expressed in its sculpture and architecture developed along somewhat independent lines owing to its relative geographical isolation from its nearest Englisc neighbours; Lindsey, the heart of the area, occupying about two-thirds of it, might almost have been an island. It was bounded on the north by the Humber, its main access from the sea, and on the east nominally by the sea with no navigable rivers but more effectively by a band of swamp and marsh widening southwards until it merged with the Fens. On the west there was extensive marshes, heaths and forests through part of which the river Trent, flowed forming a western boundary. The only easy access from the land side was the Roman road, Ermine Street, from Chichester via London to the North. Which in Lincolnshire ran from Stamford through Lincoln to Scunthorpe and the Humber. This part of the road passed along the eastern lower side of the long strip of oolite, narrowing northwards, which runs from south to north through the county, still called ‘The Cliff’ locally. a chalky outcrop to the north-east forms the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Much Danish and Scandinavian influence can be seen in the great of carved stones and fragments scattered throughout the county. Little is known about Lincolnshire churches prior to the eleventh century for, apart from Barton-on-Humber, Broughton-by-Brigg and Stow, where there are significant remains, no early churches remain. All have been rebuilt, some more than once throughout the centuries, leaving only bits and pieces here and there which indicate the existence of earlier buildings. There are thirty-eight towers built in the very last years of the pre-conquest era in some cases perhaps a little later.