Bourne Archive: Kesteven: Parliamentary Gazetteer     Latest edit 6 Aug 2009.   

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The Parliamentary Gazetteer’s Summary of Kesteven, 1843.

Kesteven (Parts of), a division on the western side of the county of Lincoln, bordering on Nottinghamshire, and bounded on the north and north-east by the river Witham, which separates it from Lindsey; on the east by the division of Holland; on the south by the river Welland, which divides it from Northamptonshire; and by parts of Nottingham, Leicester and Rutland shires, on the west. Area 445,560 acres. Houses 15,654. Pop., in 1831, 81,830.

This district is subdivided into the wapentakes of Ashwardham [sic], Aveland, Beltisloe, Boothby-Graffo, Flaxwell, Langoe, Loveden, Ness and Winnibriggs with Threo, besides the soke and borough of Grantham, and the borough of Stamford. It contains 7 market towns, viz., Bourne, Corby, Market-Deeping, Folkingham, Grantham, Sleaford, and Stamford, with 181 parishes. “The features of this division are very diversified, and the soils greatly varied; the western part is fine arable as well as grazing land, and parts of it are well-wooded; more particularly the wapentake of Beltisloe. About Sleaford is a tract of fertile pasture land, sufficiently dry for sheep; and yet calculated for the fattening of large cattle. The variations of soil are nearly all in a longitudinal direction from north to south. The south-western part contains some handsome seats of the nobility and gentry, and abounds with woods, particularly about Belton, Denton and Grimsthorpe. The eastern side of the division is low and swampy, partaking of the nature of the adjacent marsh lands in the division of Holland. The south-western [sic] part was at a former period denominated a forest, as well as fen;1 and formed part of the possessions of Leofric, earl of Mercia, who was lord of Brune [sic] and the adjoining marshes. In the time of Henry I., it was enlarged and afforested by royal mandate.” – Hist. of Lincolnshire, 18342. The extent, as described by Dugdale, 3 “was from the bridge of Market-Deeping 4, to the church of Swaiston 5, on the one side; and from the bridge of Bicker 6, and Wragmere Stake 7, on the other side; which metes divided the north parts; and the river of Welland the south; excepting the fen of Goggisland 8, in regard it was a sanctuary of holy church, as belonging to the abbey of Croyland. And being thus made forest, it continued so until King Henry the third’s time, who, in the 16th year of his reign 9, granted unto all the inhabitants within the same, that it should thenceforth be disafforested.” – Dugdale’s Imbanking and Draining, pp. 194, 195. The men of Kesteven gave 250 marcs to have the king’s charter, for disafforesting Kesteven, according to the boundaries contained in that charter. This division having been mostly enclosed, drained, and cultivated, contains much rich and valuable land.


1.            Someone, apparently the writer of the history of Lincolnshire (but followed by the writer of the gazetteer), has got himself into a muddle. He associates a forest with the trees which have been mentioned but the royal forest was in the fens: the Car Dyke formed its western boundary. The Kesteven part of the royal forest was in the south-eastern part of Kesteven. See the map link below.

              The ancient forest, after which Kesteven is said to have been named, lay in the upland part of the Parts of Kesteven, between Grantham and Bourne. In so far as confusion is avoided, the royal forest (in the fens), seems to be known as ‘Kesteven Forest’ while the ancient forest (on the upland) is called the ‘Forest of Kesteven’. However, I have never seen this stated explicitly. Nor have I seen both forests discussed in the same text; except here, where the writer does not realize that that is what he is doing. Also, the hypothesis is not supported by the Forestry Commission’s nomenclature, in which the remaining upland woods are grouped together as ‘Kesteven Forest’. (RJP)

2.           This is the only detail of the reference which the gazetteer gives but the work in question may have been: ALLEN, Thomas. The History of the County of Lincoln. From the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Leeds (1830-34). Copies are in Lincolnshire County libraries at Boston, Lincoln, Louth and Sleaford.

3.           DUGDALE, William. The History of Imbanking and Draining of Divers Fens and Marshes. London (1662 Revised edition 1772) Lincolnshire library shelf number L.FENS.627.5 LOC (at Lincoln).

4.           TF1309

5.           This will be Swaton, TF1337.

6.           TF2237

7.           TF1941

8.           Around grid reference TF2211. See the map in David Roffe’s essay on the Crowland fens.

9.           Henry came to the throne in 1216 so the sixteenth year of his reign will have been 1231.


The following are from  Dr. Langton’s pages on the St. John’s College site.

          The Royal Forest of Kesteven, map.

          The Charter of the Forest (1217).

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