Hackthorn Church


Written by Sir Weston Cracroft-Amcotts in 1967



Undoubtedly a Roman Settlement was established here, a Colony forming part of the Lindum Colonia , where soldiers of the Roman Legion were encouraged to settle on retirement.  A line of these settlements can be traced approximately one mile to the east of Ermine Street (the main Roman road from Lincoln to the North) at points where springs of fresh water come to the surface.  At Hackthorn, regular formations of banks in rectangular and square forms both east and west of the church show the location of such a settlement.  Roman coins have been found on the site, including a gold piece bearing the head and inscription of Claudius, Emperor of Rome from AD 41-54.

It is likely that a medieval village later took the place of the Roman Settlement, being sited not only where the present village stands, but north of it where the land slopes southwards down to the beck and where excavations have revealed an almost continuous series of building foundations.

After the Conquest

Doomsday Book, of which the Lincolnshire section was completed early in 1086, mentions the existence at Hackthorn of two mills, possibly in similar positions to the windmill and watermill that were working in the 19th Century.  The derivation of the name Hackthorn, variably spelt HAGETONE, HAKETHORN, HACATHORN, AGETORNE OR HAGGETHORN, may be from the Old English words “haca” a hook or a bend, or from “hagathorn” – hawthorn.


There is little doubt that a Church has existed at Hackthorn on the present site since early days.  During the Anglo-Saxon era, Lincolnshire was as remarkable for the number of its churches as it is now for their graceful architecture and general beauty: over 200 Lincolnshire churches are recorded in Doomsday Book, including Hackthorn.  The only remnants of this early church are the two arches incorporated into the North and West doorways of the present building and some thick slabs of Saxon origin, that were excavated when the present foundations were being laid.  Some fifteen yards south of the centre of the church stands an ancient stone bearing a Saxon cross, such as were often erected in churchyards as a kind of communal cross before the practice arose of erecting individual tombstones.  This particular stone seems to be part of the sepulchral slab found by the Rev. Edwin Jarvis incorporated in the walls of the old church when it was pulled down in 1844.  An article in the Archeological Journal of December 1849 describes the slab and its carvings as of pre-Norman date and gives a drawing.  The slab, which was broken in two in the middle, was some 6 to 7 feet long and about 2 feet wide: it would seem that the upper half, with the fracture trimmed off, was inverted and erected where it now stands in the Churchyard.  The stone is carved on each side with a cross, both the cross and the stone itself being edged with a rope device, and bears centrally a small circle – the signal of eternity.

In the 12th Century, a number of Gilbertine Monastic establishments were founded by St Gilbert of Sempringham, Lincolnshire.  These usually consisted of a Convent for nuns together with a community of priest ‘canons’ to which were added bands of lay sisters to serve them, and lay brothers to carry out farm work.  One such House was established at Bullington, between Barlings and Wragby, about 1150, by Simon, son of William, ancestor of the Lords or Kyme who had lands in Hackthorn  and some rights over the parish church.  A ‘mediety’ of the church (half) was given by William of Otringham to Bullington Priory, which also came to own a considerable number of agricultural properties in Hackthorn parish, many given as alms or by legacies.  Bullington’s rights in the church of Hackthorn were subsequently confirmed by Geoffrey, Bishop of Lincoln, St Hugh and others.  It is likely that Bullington had a Grange here with a few residents, mainly lay brothers, to look after their farm land, similar to the one held by Barlings at Grange de Lings (Grange de Barlings), near Nettleham.  Its’ site may have been where the modern farm stands known as Hackthorn Grange, or about 600 yards upstream from it,  where foundations have been traced of a large building standing on the North side of the beck.

The Dissolution

When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1538/9, the properties of the Gilbertine Houses at Bullington and St Katherines, Lincoln, were granted to the Duke of Suffolk for his help in subduing the Lincolnshire rebellion; the Duke was perennially hard-up and subsequently sold much of his land in the county, including St Katherines, which was bought by the Grantham family in 1540.  It is possible that the Bullington land, including the Hackthorn property and the mediety of the church, was similarly disposed of later, as it was from Robert Grantham that his nephew, John Cracroft, subsequently inherited his Hackthorn Estate.


In the Episcopal Visitation of 1473 complaint was made of the ruinous condition of both the Chancel and the Vicarage, the former, due to the default of the Priors of Bullington and St Katherines and the latter due to the default of the Vicar who was at the time a Canon of St Katherines.  The Vicarage was reported to be too poorly endowed to enable the charges to be met or repairs to be carried out, but on November 15th 1473, the Vicar was enjoined in the Cathedral Church of Lincoln to repair his vicarage within 2 months under pain of having to pay 13s 4d to the Cathedral (a strange and to modern ideas somewhat unfair sentence).

The Episcopal Visitation of 1519 contains the following comments:

Non habent divina officia in temporibus consuetis.

Vicarius custodit mulierem in domo sua

Non habent distribuciones


Rectoria dimittitur laico

Cimitarium non est clausum

This interesting example of the dog latin of the day may be literally translated as follows:

Divine Service is not held at regular hours

The Vicar keeps a woman in his house

They do not make distributions

The parsonage house is let to a layman

The graveyard is not enclosed

The Eighteenth Century

Between 1689 and 1715 when Joseph Lister, Rector of Cold Hanworth, was wont to sign the parish register of Hackthorn, it was recorded of him that “He serves each parish every other Sunday all the Summer: the parishes are contiguous, the Congregation is the same”

A Terrier or Inventory taken in 1709 states: “We have three bells, one common prayer book, one large Bible, one Flaggon, one Chalice and cover with no inscription, weighing seven ounces.  The church is repaired by a Lay laid on the whole parish.  The Chancel is repair’d by the honrb. The Lady Saunderson.  The churchyard fences are repair’d by all the inhabitants”.

To this was added in 1715 “One Surplice” and the remark that the Chancel was repaired by Lord Saxby, Improprietor.

Similar items were included in “An Inventory of the Utensils in and belonging to the parish church of Hackthorn AD 1753,” together with one large book of Homilies, one book of Articles and Constitutions, one linen tablecloth and one napkin for the Communion Table.

The previous year the Visitation by the Archdeacon of Stow recorded:

“Hackthorne – Mr John Arnold, sequestrator, absent

Samuel Rogers, Churchwarden, appeared

The church wants white washing, and some pointing on the outside.

The Chancel tiles in bad condition

The inside not drawn with lime and in bad condition”

Though we have few records of the Medieval Church, the following petitions gives some idea of the church as it existed in the 18th Century.  In March 1764 the “Minister”, Church Wardens and principal inhabitants of Hackthorn presented a petition to the Archdeacon of Stow for a Faculty to enable them to carry out repairs and improvements to the parish church.  They pointed out that the church was “ruinous and out of repair, particularly the roof: that the church being open to the roof is very cold and in winter dangerous to the inhabitants, many of whom are very old: likewise the steeple is ruinous and dangerous: the church at present is tiled and the steeple hath a light covering of lead.”  It was proposed to “take off the roof of the church and have a new roof laid on by able workmen; to have the church ceiled or underdrawn and by that means made more warm and decent; to take down so much of the said steeple as is bad and ruinous, and to make the same strong and safe with a covering of tile, the same as the covering on the body of the church”, and “it will cost them upon a moderate computation upwards of Forty Pounds”.  The lead that will come off the steeple will not be worth Three Pounds.  There are three bells belonging to said church, one whereof is broke and the other become useless: the said two bells weigh about ten hundred weight and are not worth more than thirty two pounds ten shillings at the most”.  Permission was sought to “sell and dispose of in the best and most advantageous manner the said lead and two bells, the proceeds to be applied for and towards the purpose of aforesaid”  The petition was signed:- Josiah Johnson, Minister; Sam Rogers, John Hill, John Williamson, Churchwardens.

A Faculty was duly granted on 30th March 1764.  The appearance of the church after the above repairs had been carried out and after the alterations to the steeple, is shown in a sketch of 1793 held in the Banks Collection of drawings in the City Library at Lincoln, of which we have an enlarged watercolour.

A Terrier date 1771, after listing the same items as are shown in the Inventory of 1753, state, “The Church is repaired by a lay laid on the whole parish, the Chancel by the Honble. Lord Scarborough, Improprietor, the Church fences by all the Inhabitants.


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