Bourne Archive: FNQ: 1500 Enquiry            Latest edit 26 Dec 2010.   

Interactive version ©2006 R.J.PENHEY

The Bourne Archive


Fenland Notes and Queries. Edited by Rev. W.D. Sweeting, Rector of Maxey.

Part 16. January 1893.

This quarterly periodical took the form of a forum in which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so qualifying as ‘notes’.

Because of its length, the late fifteenth century document was spread between two FNQ articles of which this is the first. The second is FNQ 380. Two print versions are available. These include only the text of the 1500 document, one in the original Latin, the other translated. Each of the print versions combines the relevant material from FNQ 338 and FNQ 380.

No claim is made as to the authorship of the FNQ articles but they are almost certainly by Sweeting. The parts of words in the Latin text which are printed in Italic will be those which Sweeting has reinstated after they had been omitted by the 1500 legal scribe’s shorthand (or that of the copyist).

I have inserted national grid references in end notes to facilitate the placing of the names mentioned, on a map. These are unqualified where I estimate the probability of their accuracy to be greater than 95%. Otherwise an indication of estimated probability is given.


Bookmarks: – Boston : Bridgedike : Collyweston: Gobionbooth : Great Sluice: Kyme Hall : Maxey Castle : Old Ea (Witham) : Shedingfleet : Willowbooth : Wragmer Stake : List of Jurors


338 – The Limits of Kesteven and Holland.1 – Disputes as to the true boundary between the parts of Kesteven and the parts of Holland were of constant occurrence, and on some occasions developed into disturbances and riots.2 Dugdale, in his History of Embanking and Draining, p. 197, has this passage: –

In this year [14 Rich. II., 1390-91], upon question betwixt the inhabitants of Kesteven and Holland, touching the bounds betwixt those provinces, there was a Commission granted by the King to Robert de Willughby [and eight others] to enquire thereof. Whereof a perambulation was made, and an inquisition taken … which was exemplified under the great seal. In pursuance whereof, there were ten crosses erected in several places, for metes and divisions of them. But within the space of two years following they were all thrown down again, and the stones carried away by the men of Kesteven. Whereupon a commission was granted, and sat at Donington, on Thursday next after S. Matthew’s day, in 17 R. II, [i.e., Thursday, 25 Sep. 1393] by Robert lord Willughby3, and others, to make enquiry, and to punish the offenders ; sundry whereof were therefore hanged, some banished, and some fined in great sums ; and command given for erecting new crosses of stone, at the charge of these men of Kesteven.

But this commission did not have the desired effect of finally settling the dispute. On the following page Dugdale refers to another commission that was held a little more than a hundred years later, at the instance of the Countess of Richmond and Derby.4 He does not, however, give any details of this commission (except the names of the jurors), nor describe the boundaries which it prescribed. Among the archives of the Commissioners of Sewers at Spalding is a certified copy of what may be called the report of this commission. It is a paper of singular interest, but as it would be too long to be inserted in its entirety in one part of Fenland Notes and Queries, we propose to print it by instalments, together with a translation.

The document is thus endorsed : –

Ao Henrici septimi 16o

The Limitts of Holland & Kesteven tempore Margaretae Comitissae Richmond & Derby

Undr ye hands of Mr Anderson Maior of Boston5 & Mr Gannoch Justice ibm. [ibidem - in the same place]

It will be seen that quarrels between the two provinces had not ceased, and that the Countess, in the interest of peace, had obtained this new commission from the King, her son. She resided frequently at Collyweston,6 and had also a residence at Maxey Castle. The latter property had been in the royal family since the time of Eleanor of Castile. Both these places are mentioned in the document. The date of the report is 8 Sep. 1500.

Innotescat Omnibus presentibus7 et futuris Quod piissima et nobilissima princeps Margareta Comitissa Richemond et Darby Mater charissima domini nostri domini regis Henrici septimi dum magnum pontem infra villam sancti Botulphi restaurare instituit et sub eodem Cataractam sive Slusam redintegrare sive edificare et constituere in utilitatem omnium paludum et mariscorum inter aquas de Welland et Wytham et totius patrie circumiacentis de Kesteven et Holland et eandem perpetuo manuteneri voluit imposterum et conservari sumptibus et expensis hominum de Holland  Quia illi maxime utilitatem exinde caperent et precipue villata de sancto Botulpho predicta ratione profundioris portus per eandem futuri (ut speratur) Et quia propter discordias ex malitia motas non liquide constat omnibus  Ubi limites mete bunde et diuisiones inter partes predictas iaceant vel posite sunt inter aquas predictas  Quia homines de Kesteven ex dedita opera ut metas predictas delerent et confunderent aliquot  Cruces sanctas dividentes partes predictas nuper subruebant et abstulerunt ex qua re satis intellecta et cognita prefata nobilissima princeps odio habens huiusmodi discordias et contentiones et iniurias et cupiens enixe veritatem revocari et redintegrari per litteras suas impetravit a domino Rege Commissionem suam sub sigillo directam Roberto domino Willowghbie Thome domino Rosse Thome domino ffitzwater Georgio domino Haystings Johanni domino ffitzwarren Roberto Dymocke militi Georgio Taylboys militi Edwardo Stanley militi Reginaldo Bray militi et Christoffero Willoughbie militi   Ut illi decem novem octo septem vel sex eorum causam querimonium et lites exinde ortas cognoscerent audirent et imposterum determinarent quibuscumque vijs medijs et modis possent et valerent.  Unde predicti Commissionarij mandatum suum mittunt virtute Commissionis predicte Vice Comiti Lincolniensi ut ad certum diem et locum coram ipsis venire faceret xxiiijor probos et legales homines de Balliva sua per quos rei veritas melius cognosci poterit ad inquirendum de controuersia predicta  Ad quem diem scilicet quarto die Septembris  Anno xvjto regni domini domini regis Henrici vij: predictus Vice Comes Lincolniensis retornavit breve predictum et Commissionarij predicti humiliter obtemperantes domine nobilissime comitisse que apud Collyweston illos convocavit et in mandatis dedit et oravit ut causam hanc diligenter caute et accurate agerent et tractarent secundum veritatem et post crebras et longas perambulaciones unacum Juratoribus habitas et Postquam his cum Juratoribus limites et bundas partium predictarum lustrassent nunc equites nunc pedites nunc Cimbis vecti primo ab aqua de Welland ad Wytham et deinde e contra procedendo interea multis evidentijs et rotulis et Recordis coram Commissionarijs et Juratoribus hinc et illinc ostensis apud Sessiones suas inceptas apud Kime in domo mansionali predicti Georgij Taylboys militis dicto quarto die Septembris anno xvjto dicti domini regis henrici septimi (ut prefertur) et finitas apud Maxey Castle in presentia prefate nobilissime Comitisse quarto die post videlicet octavo die Septembris predicte receperunt veredictum Juratorum in hec verba Viz: Inquisitio indentata capta apud Maxey Castle in Comitatu Northampton viijo die Septembris Anno regni regis Henrici septimi xvjto in presentia nobilissime Comitisse Margarete Comitisse Richemond et Darby coram Roberto domino Willoughbie Thoma domino Rosse Thoma domino ffitzWater Georgio domino Haystings Roberto Dymocke milite Georgio Taylboys milite Edvardo Stanley milite et Cristoffero Willoughbie milite per sacramentum Roberti Husse militis et sociorum suorum qui in mandatis precipue habent ut omni qua possent diligentia querant ubi antique rate et vere bunde mete diuisiones et limites inter Kesteven et Holland sint vel esse debent inter aquas de Wytham et Welland et addita exinde quacumque cura labore et inquisicione Juratores predicti dicunt super sacramentum Suum Quod antique rate et vere bunde mete et limites dividentes partes predictas sunt que sequuntur Viz eundo ab aqua de Wytham et tendendo ad aquam de Welland dicte mete bunde et limites incipiunt in loco ubi aqua de Wytham et Kyme Water simul cadunt et coniunguntur et ab eodem loco ascendendo occidentaliter sicut Cursus aque predicte vocate Kyme Water currit et tendit usque ad locum ubi le ould Ea cadit in aquam de Kyme et ab eodem loco vertendo australiter et ascendendo per cursum dicte ould Ea alias Holland dike alias Kime dike  Quia diuidet partes predictas usque ab Willobothe et tunc ascendendo directe per fossam predictam vocatam le Ould Ea usque ad South Ea et deinde sicut le South Ea venit a quadam Syka vocata le Shedingflete et ab eodem loco directe recta fere linia ad Wragmerstake alias Blackestake habita levi et parva declinacione ad sinistram videlicet orientem.  Et Juratores predicti dicunt super sacramentum suum Quod tunc procedendum sit versus austrum per Gobyonbothe alias Molbothe usque ad Gristhirn alias Grist declinando paululum inter Gobyonbothe et Grist versus occidentem et tunc ascendendo versus Australiter per quandam sykam que ducit directe inter litle folinge Worthill et greate folinge Worthill quorum prius dictm est in Holland et posterius dictum in Kesteven et tunc ascendendo versus austrum per dictam sykam directe ad crucem lapideam super brigedike que posita fuit in honorem dei beate marie virginis ut semper sit meta et bunda inter partes predictas.

Translation         [Kesteven and Holland]

Be it known to all present and future that whereas the most pious and most noble princess Margaret Countess of Richmond and Derby the most dear mother of our sovereign lord King Henry the seventh decided to restore the great bridge within the town of Boston and to renew or build a flood-gate or sluice beneath the same8 and to construct it for the use of all the fens and marshes between the waters of Welland and Wytham and all the country round about of Kesteven and Holland and wished the same to be perpetually maintained and kept in repair at the costs and expenses of the men of Holland because they would derive most advantage from it and especially the township of Boston by reason of the deeper harbour that would be created (as is hoped) And because through quarrels moved by malice it is not clearly agreed by all where the limits metes bounds and divisions between the parts aforesaid lie or are placed between the waters aforesaid Because the men of Kesteven with deliberate intention of destroying and putting into confusion the metes aforesaid lately overthrew and carried off some consecrated Crosses that divided the parts aforesaid and when this matter was sufficiently understood and known the aforesaid most noble princess holding the detestation quarrels and contentions and wrongs of this sort and desiring earnestly that the truth should be regained and restored by her letters obtained from our sovereign the King his Commission directed under his seal to Robert Lord Willoughbie9 Thomas Lord Ross10 Thomas Lord Fitzwater11 George Lord Haystings12 John Lord Fitz warren13 Sir Robert Dymocke14 Sir George Taylboys15 Sir Edward Stanley16 Sir Reginald Bray17  and Sir Christopher Willoughbie18  That they ten nine eight seven or six of them19 enquire into and hear the cause of complaints and the strifes that have arisen on the subject and finally determine them by whatever ways means and manners the possibly could.   Whereupon the aforesaid Commissioners send their mandate by virtue of the Commission aforesaid to the Sheriff of Lincoln20 that he would cause to appear before them at a certain day and place twenty four good and lawful men of his bailiwick by whom the truth of the matter might be better ascertained for enquiring into the controversy aforesaid  On which day that is to say the fourth day of September in the sixteenth year of the reign of our sovereign lord King Henry the seventh the aforesaid Sheriff of Lincoln returned the writ aforesaid and the Commissioners aforesaid humbly obedient to the most noble lady countess who summoned them to Collyweston and charged them and entreated them to deal with this cause diligently cautiously and accurately and discuss it according to the truth and after frequent and lengthy perambulations had with the Jurors and after they had with these Jurors examined the limits and bounds of the parts aforesaid sometimes on horseback sometimes on foot and sometimes in boats going first from the water of Welland to Wytham and then going the reverse way many evidences rolls and records having meantime been exhibited here and there before the Commissioners and Jurors at their Sessions commenced at Kime in the mansion house of the aforesaid Sir George Taylboys on the said fourth day of September in the sixteenth year of the lord King Henry the seventh (as said before) and finished at Maxey Castle in the presence of the aforesaid most noble Countess on the fourth day after namely the eighth day of September aforesaid received the verdict of the Jurors in these words viz : Inquisition held at Maxey Castle in the county of Northampton the eighth day of September in the sixteenth year of the reign of King Henry the seventh in the presence of the most noble Countess Margaret Countess of Richmond and Derby before Robert Lord Willoughbie Thomas Lord Rosse Thomas Lord FitzWater George Lord Haystings Sir Robert Dymocke Sir George Taylboys Sir Edward Stanley and Sir Christopher Willoughbie by the oath of Sir Robert Husse21 and his fellows who were specially charged with all possible diligence to enquire where the ancient settled and true bounds metes divisions and limits between Kesteven and Holland are or ought to be between the waters of Wytham and Welland and after using in the matter every kind of care labour and enquiry the Jurors aforesaid say on their oath  That the ancient settled and true bounds metes and limits dividing the parts aforesaid are as follows Viz:  In going from the water of Wytham and proceeding to the water of Welland the said bounds and limits begin in a place where the water of Wytham and Kyme water fall together22 and are joined and from the same place going up westward as the course of the water aforesaid called Kyme Water runs and goes up to the place where the Old Ea23 falls into the water of Kyme and from the same place turning to the south and going up by the course of the Old Ea otherwise Holland dike otherwise Kime dike   Because it will divide the parts aforesaid up to Willobothe24 and then going directly up to the ditch aforesaid called Old Ea up to the South Ea  And then as the South Ea comes from a certain Syke called the Shedingflete25 and from the same place directly by an almost straight line26 taken to Wragmerstake otherwise Blakestake by a gentle and slight turn to the left that is to say to the east27  And the Jurors aforesaid say upon their oath that then one must proceed towards the south by Gobyonbothe otherwise Molbothe28 up to Gristhirn otherwise Grist turning a little between Gobyonbothe and Grist towards the west and then going up towards the south by a certain syke which leads directly between Little Folinge Worthill and Great Folinge Worthill whereof the former is said to be in Holland and the latter in Kesteven and then going up towards the south through the said syke directly to a stone cross on Bridgedike which was erected to the honour of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary to be always a mete and bound between the parts aforesaid.


1 ^ Kesteven and Holland are two of the three Parts into which the county of Lincolnshire was divided between the tenth century and 1974. In the time of the English settlement of the future Lincolnshire, Lindsey was settled from the coast of the sea but particularly successfully from the Humber whence the grain of the geology permitted expansion beyond the immediate hinterland. In Holland, settled from The Wash, this hinterland was particularly restricting as it took the form of tidal flats, marsh and fen. So Kesteven was settled principally, not via Holland but from Lindsey.

2 ^ By about 500 (a little earlier rather than later), Kesteven was only partially settled by the English but Holland people were beginning to move past the southern end of the mud flats, into southern Kesteven as at Baston, for example. But this was the time when the British began fighting back so the Baston settlement appears to have been withdrawn (Mayes & Dean). By putting together snippets of information left by Nennius and Gildas, we get the picture that the expansion of the English area of settlement was inhibited for a couple of generations. Archaeological finds in Kesteven seem consistent with this. In Kesteven, the settlement later progressed again but in the fens at the southern end of the present document’s terms of reference, Crowland, the delay seems to have lasted nearer two hundred years. The locals were speaking Brythonic when Guthlac arrived in 699. By the time they faced each other, the men of Kesteven and of Holland were strangers by at least two generations and in the cases of both Holland and Kesteven vis à vis Crowland, of quite different cultures. There was friction which became a tradition. This was particularly so between Deeping, in Kesteven and Crowland. But there was also a tradition of trouble between Spalding and Crowland; as well as the boundary disputes between Crowland and Peterborough.

3 ^ Robert Willoughby, 4th Baron Willoughby de Eresby (1349-1396).

4 ^ Lady Margaret on the Tudor History site.

5 ^ Boston is the quarter of Skirbeck which developed into a major port after the River Witham changed its course to an outfall in The Haven. This is most likely to have happened as a result of the great flood of 1014, though that is not certain. The flood is reported by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Savage p. 160).

6 ^ Tudor History site  footnotes.

7 ^ The letters in Italic type will be those which Sweeting has reinstated after they had been dropped by the 1500 legal scribe (or the copyist) as part of his shorthand.

8 ^ This is clearly not the same sluice as that erected by Alan de Croun and another Margaret, Countess of Richmond (1142) during Stephen’s reign (Wheeler, p26). This was called the ‘Great Sluice’ and was a precursor of the modern Grand Sluice but in a place described as ‘where the hundreds of Skirbeck and Kirton divide’. In the mid-nineteenth century, this description would place it at TF342417, (now Slippery Gowt Farm) (PBC). Allowing for earlier wandering of the main channel of the Haven would extend the range between TF342417 and TF352413 (PBC viewed in the light of SS). The configuration of the boundary between Skirbeck and Skirbeck Quarter makes TF348415 the most likely spot (PBC compared with SS and O1S37).

1. Part of the 1831 Parliamentary Boundary Commission map. The southern boundary separates the Kirton and Skirbeck Wapentakes.

2. Part of Hondius’ 1610 map of Lincolnshire. Detail of Skirbeck & Kirton Wapentakes.

Loading 1831 Parliamentary Boundary Commissioners' map of Boston.1 Loading Hondius' 1610 map of Lincolnshire: detail of Skirbeck & Kirton wappentakes2

The sluice mentioned in the present document, incorporating the bridge, was on the site (after at least two rebuilds of the bridge part - in 1631 and 1741) of the precursor of Rennie’s Town Bridge (Wheeler, p447). Croun’s sluice would not have been at all in a useful position for a bridge. Croun’s sluice seems to have been past use in 1316 (Wheeler, p26.). The Town Bridge on the other hand, is exactly placed to bridge the gap in the old Haven bank, caused when the Witham broke into it in 1014 (a date which is say, 80% likely RJP3). The reasoning leading to the conclusion that the Witham was thus realigned is too complex to be dealt with here. I hope to explain it on a page of its own RJP.

9 ^ It is difficult to place him. He is listed as a lord both explicitly and by his position in the list, so he was not Sir Robert Willoughby of Parham. However, There was no Robert in the appropriate generations of the Willoughby de Eresby line. It looks as though someone has confused him with the earlier, Robert, 4th Baron Willoughby de Eresby.

10 ^ Again, he is difficult to place. See Baron Ros

11 ^ This link is the best I can find.

12 ^ George Hastings, de jure 12th Baron Hastings  (1474-1512)

13 ^  He will have been one of this family.

14 ^ See Dymoke.

15 ^ This will be an indication of the family connections.

16 ^ He will have been one of this Stanley family therefore a relative by marriage of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Derby.

17 ^ See Reginald Bray. As a ‘new man’ he is low in the list.

18 ^ He was a brother of William Willoughby, 11th Baron. Each was a son of Christopher Willoughby, 10th. Baron Willoughby de Eresby.

19 ^ The quorum.

20 ^ Wikipedia

21 ^ Hussey, another family name prominent in Lincolnshire’s history. A Robert Husse is listed by Thompson p.121, among the members of the Corpus Christi Guild of Boston in 1516.

22 ^ This is the point at which the course of the modern Witham diverges from that of the pre-eleventh century Witham. The point referred to in the text lies between Dogdyke and Chapel Hill at TF208548. Since 1761, Kyme Eau has joined the Witham just below Chapel Hill at TF209540. The flow direction in this part of Kyme Eau is the reverse of that of the pre-eleventh century River Witham in the modern Kyme Eau’s bed.

23 ^ The name ‘Old Ea’, that is ‘old river’, derives from its having been the old course of the Witham. (RJP3) The junction between this and Kyme Eau is at TF194506. It is better-known as Holland Dyke and marks the eastern boundary of South Kyme Fen in Kesteven and the western boundary of Mary Land in Holland Fen.

24 ^ This appears to have been at the junction between the Old Ea and the South Ea, TF215659, where the Old Witham flowed on to Swineshead and Drayton, via the line of the Skerth and the South Ea entered it from the middle of the south Kesteven/west Holland fens.

25 ^ The Sheddingfleet appears to have been the drain which connected the South Ea at TF209438 with The Skirth at TF226437. (RJP3)  The name is not in common modern use. Wheeler (Appx. I  p.33), who knew his Lincolnshire fen drains, quotes the present document as its only source. The drain in question looks like an attempt to improve the outfall of what has come to be called the Midfendike, the medieval boundary marker and perhaps also drain, though the present document uses that name only further south. The Skerth Drain seems to be the artificial derivative of the old course of the Witham, aligned on the Old Ea at Swineshead. The modern use of the Old Ea name at Swineshead is reported by Brian Simmons (personal communication).

26 ^  The first Ordnance Survey shows this as being on one line with the Midfendyke. (RJP3) It runs from TF216458 to be cut by the South Forty Foot Drain at TF200419.

27 ^  This bend seems to be in Horbling Fen at about TF170353, close to where Phillips shows a possible Roman road across the fen. This road is usually taken as having served to carry salt and other products away from the coast.

28 ^ This was by Billingborough Lode at TF162326, just to the north-west of Neslam Bridge Farm.

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