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Navenby village from the Viking Way
Grid reference: SK987580
Location: 53°6’36"N, 0°31’26"W
Population: 1,666  (2001)
Post town: Lincoln
Postcode: LN5
Dialling code: 01522
Local Government
Council: North Kesteven
Sleaford and North Hykeham

Navenby is a village in Lincolnshire eight miles from the county town, Lincoln; Navenby has is a place of some 1,666 souls and serves as a commuter village for Lincoln.

A Bronze Age cemetery has been discovered in the village, as well as the remains of an Iron Age settlement. Historians also believe Navenby was a significant staging point on the Roman Ermine Street, as the Romans are reported to have maintained a small base or garrison in the village. Navenby was a market town from the 11th century but when the market fell into disuse in the early 19th century, Navenby returned to being a village.[1][2]

The parish of Navenby is rural, covering more than 2,100 acres. It straddles Ermine Street, a Roman road built between 45 and 75 AD, which runs between London and York.[3] The Viking Way, a 147-mile footpath between the Humber Bridge in Lincolnshire and Oakham in Rutland, also cuts through the village. The Norse influence over Lincolnshire in the 9th and 10th centuries is demonstrated by the many local place names ending in -by, including Navenby.


Early history

Archaeological investigations around Navenby indicate the area has been occupied since at least the Bronze Age, about 600 BC.[4] The remains of Iron Age farms have been found at Chapel Lane, a site now protected as a public open space by the local councils and supported by Navenby Archaeology Group.[5]

Ermine Street in Navenby
The remains of Navenby's market cross

Significant Roman finds include parts of shops and houses that would have fronted Ermine Street, in the days the legions marches here to and from Lincoln.[4][6] A 2009 archaeological dig uncovering a road, building foundations and Roman graves along with pottery and coins, showed Navenby to be a Roman station.[7]

Middle Ages

Cremations dated to the middle Saxon period have been discovered near the junction of High Dyke with Chapel Lane.[4] Late Saxon remains have also been found under and around St Peter's Church, suggesting the original Roman village had moved from Ermine Street to Church Lane and North Lane by the late-Saxon period.[4][6]

Navenby, originally an agricultural village, became a market town after receiving a charter from Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. The charter was later renewed by William Rufus, Edward III, and Richard II.[1][2][8]

The wide main street, down which farmers once drove their sheep to market, is lasting evidence of its market town status. A market square once stood at the centre, marked by a cross in honour of Queen Eleanor. Today, the square has gone and the cross is a stump.[8][9]

Modern period

Parish records exist for Navenby from 1681, although bishops' transcripts go back to 1562.[10] The documents show the village hosted several annual fairs each year: a market fair on 17 October at which farm animals were traded; a feast on the Thursday before Easter;[11] and a Hiring Fair held each May Day, at which servants gathered to seek employment.[12]

The parish was inclosed in 1772.[10] Such was the significance of Navenby at this time that a workhouse for the parish poor was erected here, although the building was later given over to other uses. A Sick Society was founded in 1811 and a Parish School was built next to St Peter's Church in 1816, paid for by subscription. Following the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act Navenby parish became part of the Lincoln Poor Law Union.[13]

19th century

Navenby Methodist Church

When the market closed in the early 19th century Navenby lost its status as a market town, and once again became an agricultural village. The Penny Cyclopaedia of 1839, published by The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, described the village in this way:[14]

Navenby is in the hundred of Boothby Graffoe, parts of Kesteven, on the road from Grantham to Lincoln, 124 miles from London.

The church is partly of Early English and partly of Decorated English architecture. The windows of the chancel are very fine specimens of Decorated character, particularly the east window, the mullions and tracery of which are remarkably graceful.

There were in 1833 two dame schools, with 18 children; two day-schools, with 25 children; and one endowed day and Sunday school, with 109 children in the week and 166 on Sunday.

Many buildings were erected in Navenby during the 19th century, including a small Wesleyan Methodist chapel in about 1830, which was completely rebuilt in 1840. A Temperance Hall was built in 1852, later used as a second base by the Wesleyan Reformers.[15]

A Volunteer Fire Brigade was founded in 1844, comprising five men and a manual engine. The Provincial Gas Light and Coke Company began supplying gas lighting to the village in 1857, and in 1867 a railway station was built three-quarters of a mile west of the village, on the Lincoln-to-Grantham branch of the Great Northern Railway.[16]

Twentieth Century and beyond

Navenby was an agricultural village at the beginning of the 20th century, but the outbreak of the First World War brought changes for the community. A small airfield, Wellingore Heath, was opened on land bordering Navenby in 1917, to provide a base for the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. The flat landscape, with its cliff-top situation, proved an ideal situation for flight operations.[17]

T . Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was stationed at nearby RAF Cranwell just after the war, in 1926, where he wrote a revised version of his book Seven Pillars Of Wisdom.[18][19] He mentioned Navenby in a letter to a friend at the time, saying:
I'm too shy to go looking for dirt. That's why I can't go off stewing into the Lincoln or Navenby brothels with the fellows. They think it's because I'm superior: proud, or peculiar or 'posh', as they say: and its because I wouldn't know what to do, how to carry myself, where to stop. Fear again: fear everywhere.[20][21]

Wellingore airfield closed after the war ended, but it was re-opened in 1935 and its facilities expanded during the winter of 1939–40. By then known as RAF Wellingore, notable officers stationed there included Wing Commander Guy Gibson. Group Captain Douglas Bader is known to have briefly messed at Wellingore while on R&R leave from the Battle of Britain too, and both Gibson and Bader were regular visitors to Navenby.[22] The base served as a satellite field for RAF Digby until 1944 and as a relief landing ground for RAF Cranwell from April 1944 until its final closure in 1945, after which it was used as a camp for prisoners of war from Germany and the Ukraine; the inmates were often made to work on the surrounding farmland.[17]

Navenby lost many men during the two World Wars. The village war memorial, a rough hewn stone Celtic Cross mounted on a plinth with a three-stepped base, is in the churchyard of St Peter's. On it are inscribed the names of the 22 casualties from the First World War and the 8 from the Second World War.[22][23]

Following an initial decline in the population of Navenby at the turn of the 20th century, the post-war years saw numbers rise steeply. More than 35 new houses were built between the end of the Great War until the 1950s, as well as to other building projects from the 1970s onwards.[24] Other post-war changes include the move away from a dependence on farming. Although Navenby continues to be surrounded by farms, it is now largely a dormitory village for Lincoln, Grantham and beyond. Figures from the 2001 census show that, out of a population of 1,666, almost 600 commute to work each day.

Parish church

St Peter's Church

The parish church is St Peter's. It is difficult to date the building as it has a mishmash of styles, although its origins are probably 13th century.[25] Parish registers exist from 1681, and Bishop's transcripts go back to 1562,

St Peter's is a grade I listed building. It is made up of three parts, including a mid-19th-century west tower, which replaced the original in 1859–60 after it fell down. The perpendicular clerestory is decorated with shields in quatrefoils and is lit with closely set three-light windows. The tall decorated chancel has very large windows. The side windows have reticulated tracery. The large east window was partly rebuilt in 1875–76, and is composed of six lights with two large mouchettes nodding to each other, as well as a very large reticulation unit.[26]

The sedilia and piscina are thought to date back to William de Herleston, who was rector of St Peter's from 1325–29. He was Edward I's chancellor and later became Canon of Llandaff. A founder's tomb, which is in a slightly different style, is probably that of his successor, John de Fenton, who was rector until 1832. The font is a lavish Victorian affair by Charles Kirk Junior, which was shown at the 1862 International Exhibition in London. The Pulpit is Jacobean and the Rood screen by Temple Moore dates from 1910. The Royal Arms are signed "Thomas Hunton of Lincoln. Painter 1710." There is a late 13th-century grave slab, with an inscription in Norman script which says "Pray for Richard de Lue" (Louth).[8][25][26]

The church also contains an Easter Sepulchre.[9] The carving is recognised as one of the finest in Lincolnshire, if not in the country, and receives a mention in virtually every book written on churches and their architecture.[27] The churchyard is managed as a nature reserve.

In 1982, church officials threatened to close St Peter's Church after being refused permission to sell silverware to pay for urgent repairs. The Archdeacon, the Venerable Michael Adie, ruled that such sales were against church policy, and that funds must be raised locally.[28]

About the village

The centre of Navenby village is a designated conservation area; many of the stone and brick-built houses date back hundreds of years. More than 20 of the properties, as well as the 1935 red telephone kiosk in High Street, have listed building status.[29]

Mrs Smith's Cottage

Mrs Smith and her cottage

Mrs Smith's Cottage is a mid-19th century Grade II listed building made from early Victorian red bricks.[30] The range, the heart of the house, was in daily use for cooking and heating until the mid-1990s. The only access to the bedrooms is by a ladder. Electricity was installed in the 1930s, and the only other visible modern innovations are the coldwater tap – installed to prevent the local council condemning the cottage in the late 1970s – and an inside toilet. The original outside privy and washhouse can still be viewed.[31]

The cottage is named after its last resident, Mrs Hilda Smith, who lived there until 1995, when she was 102 years old. When Mrs Smith died, villagers mounted a campaign to ensure the cottage was kept as "something special" for Navenby.[31]

Today the cottage is run as a museum, having been granted official museum status in March 2000. It is open for much of the year and staffed by volunteers. The old pig sty and storage shed, deemed beyond repair, were demolished and the bricks used to construct a purpose-built visitor centre, used for exhibitions about Navenby and the local area.[31]

Culture and community

Navenby used to be served by several public houses, but The Butcher's Arms and The Green Man Inn have long been converted into private houses. Now, just the King's Head and The Lion and Royal remain.[8]

The Grade II listed 18th-century King's Head is probably the oldest public house in the village; the nearby Lion and Royal dates from 1824 and is also Grade II listed. It was probably just called "The Lion" when it first opened, but added "Royal" to its name in honour of a special visitor. There is a large emblem over the front door, topped by the Prince of Wales's feathers, presented after the Prince (later Edward VII) stayed there, albeit briefly, in 1870.

The former Green Man Inn, at the junction of Green Man Lane and the A15, was once a staging post for travellers and may have also been a court house.[32] The Lincoln Club was established here in about 1741, catering for the "distinguished gentlemen of Lincolnshire". Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the notorious Hellfire Club, was a member, as were Lord Monson of Burton and Lord Robert Manners of Bloxholm.[33][34][35]


  • Bowls: Navenby Bowls Club
  • Football: Navenby's FA and Navenby Juniors

Other clubs include Navenby Archaeology Group, which aims to uncover the village's extensive historic past.[36] There is also the Women's Institute, which has celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007,[37] and Artists of Navenby, a 40-strong group of artists.[38]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Navenby)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bradshaw, George (1858). Bradshaw's Shilling handbook. Bradshaw's Illustrated Tourists. Self published. p. 102. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Centre for Metropolitan History: Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516 (2006). "Lincolnshire/Navenby". Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  3. BBC (2007-09-24). "Ermine Street, A Journey through Roman Britain". Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Navenby Archaeology Group (2007). "Navenby Archaeology Group, The Romans in Navenby". NAG Projects. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  5. Local Heritage Initiative (2006). "The "Open Space," Chapel Lane, Navenby". Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 National Monuments Record: No. 326101
  7. A Roman Service Station in Navenby - BBC
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Theobald, Judy (September 2005). "Down your way, Clifftop neighbours" (PDF). Lincolnshire Life. Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Timbs, John (1872). Abbeys, castles and ancient balls of England and Wales, their legendary lore. Frederick Warne and Co. p. 9. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Slater, Gilbert (1969). The English Peasantry and the Enclosure of Common Fields. Elibron Classics. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-4212-1081-0. 
  11. Dugdale, Thomas (1854). Curiosities of Great Britain: England and Wales Delineated, Historical. L. Tallis. p. 1233. 
  12. White, William (1882). History, gazetteer, and directory, of Lincolnshire, and the city and diocese. Oxford University Press. p. 611. 
  13. White, William (1969). White's 1856 Lincolnshire. A. M. Kelley. p. 15. 
  14. Charles Knight (publisher) (1839). Penny Cyclopaedia. Charles Knight. p. 13. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  15. White, William (1882). History, gazetteer, and directory, of Lincolnshire, and the city and diocese. Elibron Classics. p. 800. 
  16. Great Britain Historical GIS Project. "A vision of Britain through time, Place: Navenby Lincolnshire". A Vision of Britain Through Time. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 RAF Lincolnshire (2006-12-06). "RAF Wellingore". Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  18. Hastings, Chris; Bisset, Susan; Edwardes, Charlotte (2007-06-09). "T E Lawrence's 'mistress' was an orphan". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  19. Hart, Basil (1936). T. E. Lawrence in Arabia and After. J. Cape. p. 424. ISBN 0-8371-4258-X. 
  20. Wilson, Jeremy (1990). Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence. Atheneum. p. 766. ISBN 0-689-11934-8. 
  21. Knightley, Phillip (1970). The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia. McGraw-Hill. p. 294. ISBN 0-17-135010-3. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Raf Lincolnshire Information Service (August 2004). "RAF Wellingore". Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  23. Roll of Honour website, supported by The Ministry of Defence and The Royal British Legion (2002). "Roll of Honour – Navenby War Memorial". Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  24. A Vision of Britain Through Time website. "Navenby AP-CP: Total Houses". Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Jenkins, Simon (1999). England's Thousand Best Churches. Allen Lane. p. 387. ISBN 0-7139-9281-6. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 Betjeman, John (1959). An American's Guide to English Parish Churches. Dowell, Obolensky. p. 245. ISBN 0-00-217727-7. 
  27. Andrews, William (2006). Old Church Lore. Kessinger Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 1-4286-1314-5. 
  28. Skegness Standard (1982/2007). "St Peter's In Debt, Pages from the Past". Retrieved 2008-02-20.  Template:Dead link
  29. National Heritage List England no. 11253591: Navenby (Historic England)
  30. Anderson and Glenn website (2007). "Mrs Smith's Cottage". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Museum website (2010). "Mrs Smith's Cottage, Navenby, Lincoln". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  32. White, William (1882). History, gazetteer, and directory, of Lincolnshire, and the city and diocese. Independent Office, Sheffield. p. 153. 
  33. Allen, Thomas (1834). History of the County of Lincoln: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time. J. Saunders, jr. p. 261. ISBN 1-142-34236-0. 
  34. Templar Mechanics website. "Temple Bruer Pentacle and Hell Fire Club". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  35. Kemp, Betty (1967). Sir Francis Dashwood: An Eighteenth Century Independent. St Martin's Press. pp. 108, 109, 122. 
  36. website. "Navenby Archaeological Group". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  37. website (2007). "Navenby Women's Institute Picture Gallery". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  38. website (2007). "Artists of Navenby". Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
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  • Burgess, Neil (2007). Lincolnshire's Lost Railways. Stenlake Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84033-407-4. 
  • Burnham, Barry C. (2001). Roman Britain in 2001. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07303-7. 
  • Campion, Edward G. (1976). Lincolnshire Dialects. Richard Kay Publications. ISBN 0-902662-31-7. 
  • Mills, A.D. (1991). A Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280074-4.