Sunday, 1 January 2017

An Abandoned Village

In my pre-driving days, I used to travel, with my parents at weekends in the summer, from Lincoln to Mablethorpe via Belchford and Alford.  On the crest of a hillock at the side of the Bluestone Heath Road are some ruins and, despite asking a local and checking OS maps, we could not find out what it was.

Remains of St Andrew's Church, Calceby
Fast forward more years than I care to remember, I now know the ruins are of St Andrew's church, Calceby.  

Calceby existed prior to the Norman conquest, it was one of 84 villages in Lincolnshire belonging to Earl Harold who, for a few months in 1066, was King Harold II of England.  King William granted the village of Calceby to Earl Hugh of Chester.  'Calceby' is Old Scandinavian: 'Kalfr's village'

At Domesday, Calceby was a thriving village totalling 151 villagers, extensive ploughlands, 1000 acres of meadow and 80 acres of woodland.  The village was probably near to its peak in the 11th century and suffered a long slow decline.  In 1377 60 villagers paid poll tax and 18 families were recorded in 1563.  By 1961 the population was just 32 persons.

There are many reasons why a village was abandoned, a plague outbreak is just one, a plague pit was discovered during the widening of Bluestone Heath Road near the village in 1952, possibly dating from the "Great Pestilence" of the 14th century;  climate change meant years of poor harvests when many people would leave.  But the main reason Calceby and about 100 other villages in the Wolds were abandoned was due to landowners changing from arable to more profitable sheep rearing, Fewer people were needed on the land so they moved to the larger centres of population, Alford, Horncastle and Spilsby.  A total of 20 farms were abandoned by the landowners during the 17th century,  the open fields were enclosed on behalf of Sir Drayner Massingberd (1615-1689) beginning in November 1672

Aerial Map of Calceby, showing outlines of various features (Bing)

The last baptism at St Andrew's church was in 1724.  The last vicar of St Andrew's, William Pennington, was instituted in 1724.  Calceby was united with South Ormsby and Kelsby in 1750. By this time the church was in serious disrepair and in 1756 much of it was demolished and sold to the South Ormsby estate. 

The church of St Leonard, South Ormsby was restored in 1871-2 by James Fowler of Louth, the 12th century round arched doorway in the west wall is said to be from Calceby.


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