One of the first things daytrippers and visitors notice are the Horncastle town signs and the numbers '1231'. This is thought to refer to the date of the market charter, but is invariably the time the traders start packing up after "being up since 5 a.m., mate". In any case, there's an argument for there always having been a market in Horncastle from prehistoric times, with evidence of
There was certainly something large here in Roman times, and arguments rage as to what it was, and what it was called. I think a little forensic history investigation is called for. If we take measure of, and extrapolate back the current buildings, rituals and placements, then it's obvious that with the concentration of current public toilets within the old roman walls, Horncastle started life as a toilet stop, on the Roman Way from Lincoln (Lin Colonia) to Burgh (Borough). No doubt the local ancient Britons sold wode, polished metal mirrors and bone combs to the legionnaires' wives, whilst noxious local plants were available to fill their pipes (the trade carries on to this day).
Just as in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Romans' demise left something of a power vacuum. In the centuries following, the Britons had running battles with Saxons. Supposedly Raengeires beat Horsa in the vicinity of Tetford, taking all his chatels. It's suspicious that Horses became very plentiful around this time, and an annual fayre began in the town, buying and selling..
And the hoofs of the horses beat, beat,
The hoofs of the horses beat...
Centuries later, divine retribution, with the reappearance of Saxon, in the incarnation of adopted Horncastrian Peter 'Bif' Bifford.
Antique Cars Album
To labour and the mattock-harden`d hand,
Than nursed at ease and brought to understand
A sad astrology, the boundless plan
That makes you tyrants in your iron skies,
Innumerable, pitiless, passionless eyes,
Cold fires, yet with power to burn and brand
His nothingless into man.
Horncastle is supposedly 'twinned' with Bonnetable in the Sarthe region of France, allowing for a one line mention on their 'website'.
Horncastle Architecture Album
The great and good are celebrated around the town with Civic Blue Plaques, one of Horncastle's famous sons being William Marwood, a cobbler. With the lawlessness of the times, he found he was making more money as a hangman, perfecting his trade with rope lengths calculated from the body mass of the convicted. Indeed Joseph Banks often only came into the town in his capacity as a magistrate to sit the assizes on High St, whilst Alfred Lord Tennyson's father in law, Henry Sellwood, was a solicitor. The courts at the top of North St were only built in 1865 because of the volume of cases at the time. All this probably gave rise to one of Tennyson's lesser quoted quotes : "Of all horrors, a little country town seems to me to be the greatest". Born a Leo on August 6th 1809, his father a Parish Parson and his mother a daughter of the Louth Vicar, Tennyson would have been as uncomfortable in the town as a friendly farm cat. His Jupiter around the Aries (Taurus cusp) shows his 'moral' to be forthright, while his Mercury in Cancer would have put a homely stricture on his thoughts. Venus with the Moon in Gemini would have given him a wistful faithfulness and humour and the opposition to the triple conjunction of Saturn, Mars and Uranus making him bolder than most men in courtship, after a time. A triple conjunction of such volatile planets in Scorpio is cause for brilliance (or insanity) in many, and it is fortuitous that Neptune was close at hand.
Pickpocket, or Two..
Tennyson's experience of visiting Victorian Horncastle, to court the niece of Sir John Franklin (whom he would marry when he was 41), was at the time nearly 50 licensed pubs, bars, inns and premises were present in the town. With the largest Fayres in Europe for livestock, horses and implements, the town was full to overflowing with animals being sold.
I held for Richard, and I hated John.
I am a thief, ay, and a king of thieves.
Ay! but we rob the robber, wrong the wronger,
And what we wring from them we give the poor.
I am none the worse for that, and all the better..
It's wry indeed to realise that most of the famous figures in the areas history ( Sir Joseph Banks, Revesby; Capt John Smith, Willoughby; George Bass of Sleaford; Sir John Franklin, Spilsby; and his uncle, Capt Matthew Flinders, Donington) became famous after putting tens of thousands of miles between themselves and Horncastle. Their families boosted by agricultural riches and the draining of the fens, men of academic learning and more leisurely pursuits could be supported by the economy.
By the island in the river, flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers The Lady of Shalott.
By the margin, willow veil'd, Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd the shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot
Buildings of the town became three, four and five storey, on top of extensive cellars, echoing the Baltic Hanseatic Burghers across the North Sea. One of these belonged to Lunn & Dodson and can still be seen to the West of the town from the Bain on Bridge St., Sir Henry Lunn making his fortune with travel away from Horncastle, setting up Lunn Poly, now Thomson Holidays.
As the railways lost traffic, the roads expanded and the cobbles were given a coating of tar from Mr.MacAdam. The thatched roof all but disappeared, the area becoming urbanised, brick and tile instead of straw and cobble. With Horncastle supplying much of the Wold with farming equipment and stores, things were still looking rosy, but this perverse change to road transport in the 1950's ushered in leaner times killing the railway in the end, which had earlier usurped the canal. Mass production and centralisation meant wholesalers became a trade of the past, and warehousing and stockyards further succumbed to 'just-in-time' production. This shifted the emphasis to sea-ports and container lorries. The pace of life changed somewhat and became much more frantic and crucial for those involved in work and the supply chain. What two hundred years ago was leisurely shipped, or one hundred years ago steam trained to town wharfs, now must be driven individually around the county at 70mph, from large central depots.
Horncastle History, the bane of Tennyson
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Finnlines To Hull.