Market Hall in Crowle
Crowle is a small town on the Isle of Axholme in Lincolnshire. It is beside the Stainforth and Keadby Canal and has a railway station. Notable buildings in the town include the parish church, in which can be seen the Crowle Stone runic cross shaft, and the Gothic revival market hall.
The town developed between Mill Hill, 60 ft above sea level, and the River Don. The Don flowed into the River Trent just north of Crowle and was a busy route for shipping, including international trade.
The Archaeological evidence is sparse but increasing. Late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age flints have been found, as has Roman and Romano-British pottery. Pieces of amphora suggest either a higher status building or that Crowle was a trading centre. The top of Mill Hill was used for arable farming from at least Roman times onwards, though only on the higher, dry ground.
Crowle's St. Oswald church has elements of Anglo-Saxon / Norman design. The town seems to have been developing in the 11th century. Over the next 300 years, it grew and had a three-day fair and later acquired another taken from nearby Garthorpe. It seems to have benefited from the growth in trade, and did not suffer too much from having a Viking army parked up-river at Adlingfleet during the winter of 1070. Adlingfleet was left as wasteland. The surrounding marshland seems to have dried a little during the warm period around AD 1000.
The town appears to have gone into decline in the late Middle Ages, perhaps for climactic reasons or the Black Death, and two villages to the north, Haldenby and Waterton, were deserted in this period. The fair declined and the growth of Hull may have done for Crowle what it was doing for Beverley, taking its trade. Silting of the River Don was not addressed.
In the 1620s, Vermuyden drained the land, turning a productive marsh-based peasant economy into a less productive arable system. It was not until the late 18th century that the land was drained properly.
Crowle, along with the whole of the north Isle of Axholme, thrived in the 19th century. Effective drainage, the steam pump, and warping the land (controlled flooding to deposit silt and nutrients) to increase fertility, saw a massive growth in population. Census records suggest some migration from outside the region, including an Irish population.
After 1870, the town went into a sharp decline, as foreign competition in the meat and corn markets was coupled with bad harvests and animal diseases. The population fell from about 3,500 to 2,500 in 1890.
In recent years, the town has undergone major expansion with residential developments on Mill Hill, Wharf Road, Field Side and Godnow Road. There have also been several infill redevelopments of old farm buildings in the older part of the town.
One of its public houses, The White Hart, is the oldest in the Isle of Axholme.
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