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Looking north along Southgate
Grid reference: TF064455
Location: 52°59’46"N, 0°24’47"W
Population: 14,494  (2001)
Post town: Sleaford
Postcode: NG34
Dialling code: 01529
Local Government
Council: North Kesteven
Sleaford and North Hykeham

Sleaford is a town in the Kesteven part of Lincolnshire. It is located 13 miles north-east of Grantham, 17 miles west of Boston, and 19 miles south of the county town, Lincoln.

The name Sleaford is from the Old English esla ford, meaning "ford over a muddy stream" (now known as the River Slea). In AD 852 the name first appears as Slioford whilst in the 1086 Domesday Book it is recorded as Eslaforde'.[1] The river was the main trade route for the town for many years. In 1794, the Slea was canalised; known as the Sleaford Navigation, it operated until superseded by the railways in the mid 1850s.

Until recently, Sleaford was primarily an agricultural town, supporting a cattle market and seed companies such as Hubbard and Phillips, and Sharpes International Seeds. More recently, Sleaford is developing as a tourist and craft destination.

The town is part of the Flaxwell Wapentake.


An electrum stater of the Corieltauvi, mid-first century BC

The modern centre of Sleaford originated as New Sleaford. Excavations in the market place in 1979 uncovered the remains of a small Anglo-Saxon settlement of eighth-century date. Old Sleaford, towards the eastern end of the modern town, was probably a tribal centre of the Iron Age Corieltauvi. There may have been a pre-Roman coin mint here, since the largest hoard of coin pellet moulds ever found in Europe was excavated here. Few Iron Age coins were found here however, and it is believed that after being poured into the pellet moulds, the coins were taken to Leicester to be stamped.

A Roman road, Mareham Lane, used to run through Old Sleaford, and southwards along the fen edge, towards Bourne. Where it passed through Old Sleaford, excavations have revealed a large stone-built domestic residence with associated farm buildings, corn-driers, ovens and field systems, as well as a number of burials.

In 1858, just to the south of the town, a large Anglo-Roman cemetery was found, showing a mix of pagan and Christian burial practices. A large Anglo-Saxon cemetery, of some 600 burials was found during construction of the new railway station in 1882. Further to the south-west, in nearby Quarrington, a substantial Anglo-Saxon settlement was excavated during a new housing development. To the north of the town, an early Saxon settlement was investigated by APS prior to the construction of new housing and facilities at the Holdingham roundabout. Some of the artefacts can be seen displayed at the McDonald's restaurant on the site.

Middle Ages

William the Conqueror gave the manor of Eslaforde to Remigius de Fécamp, the first Bishop of Lincoln, in around 1086. Before the Conquest, so the Domesday Book records, it was held by Bardi, a man otherwise unknown.

About 1130, Bishop Alexander of Lincoln built Sleaford Castle just southwest of the town. The footings and moat can still be seen, in what is now the Castle Fields. This was the period in which the town moved westwards. The castle was demolished in the Elizabethan era, not later than 1600.

King John, who was disliked by the baronage, visited Sleaford in 1216, the day after he had lost his baggage train. He was already ill but someone spread the story that while staying overnight at Swineshead Abbey, he was poisoned by a monk with toad venom. After leaving Sleaford, the King continued his journey reaching Newark, where he died.

From 1556, the ownership of the town and its lands passed from the church to local absentee landowners.

17th and 18th centuries

Carre's Grammar School was established in 1604[2] by Robert Carre of Aswarby (later Sir Robert Carr of Old Sleaford) who went on to found Carre's Hospital in 1636 (Sleaford Hospital survives as a charitable trust, owning and operating the almshouses at the junction of Carre Street and Eastgate immediately to the south of St Denys Church and a later set of almshouses in Northgate). The school eventually fell into decay and students were taught in the parish church (this part of St Denys Church is now known as the Lady Chapel) until 1816, when the school was discontinued. It was rebuilt in 1834 in an Elizabethan style and classes continued. Although the school was free for classical learning, a fee of about two guineas a year was charged for other branches of education.

In 1726, William Alvey left an endowment for 20 poor boys and 20 poor girls to attend school. Alvey's Charity School was held in rented rooms until 1841. In 1785, James Harryman left the interest from £100 to provide boots and stockings for the children of this school.[3]

The common lands were enclosed in 1777 (some sources say 1794).

The Sleaford Navigation canal was opened in 1794.

19th century

From 1829 to 1831, the street pattern of the entire town was reworked, a new Town Hall built, and better drainage laid. After the voting reforms of 1832, Sleaford became a polling place for the members of parliament for the Southern Division of Lincolnshire.[4]

The railways arrived from 1857. Sleaford was eventually the junction of six major roads and five railway branch-lines, making it a regional centre. The railways caused the decline of the Sleaford Navigation, which closed in 1878.[5] The Hubbard seed firm was founded in Sleaford in 1882 and then grew to become a major national business.

20th century

Bass Maltings
Weir below a bridge in the town centre

The Bass Maltings complex opened fully in 1905, replacing all the small malthouses in the area. The complex struggled to remain open during Second World War, but survived and continued operating until 1960. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner considered the huge brewing malthouses to be Lincolnshire's most important industrial architecture, stating in his book Buildings of England; "For sheer impressiveness, little in English architecture can equal the scale of this building. A massive four-storey square tower is in the centre of a line of eight detached pavilions. The total frontage is nearly 1,000 feet."

During First World War, from 1916 naval airships operated from nearby Cranwell, then known as RNAS Daedalus,[6] and a now defunct field, RFC Leadenham provided England's main defence against Zeppelin raids. RAF College Cranwell became the world's first military air academy in 1920.[6]

During Second World War, the many RAF airfields north of Sleaford played a role in the Battle of Britain, in the debilitating of the Axis war machine and RAF and USAAF airfields all around took part in the Allied invasion of Europe. However the area's wartime aviation history is more often associated with bombing, the name "Bomber County" being attributed to Lincolnshire.

In the 1940s, plastic surgery was pioneered at No.4 RAF Hospital, Rauceby, on the western outskirts of Sleaford. The Burns Unit was situated in Orchard House — one of the last remaining parts of Rauceby Mental Hospital (formerly the Kesteven Lunatic Asylum) to remain in NHS use as offices for Lincolnshire South West PCT following the Mental Health Hospital's closure in 1998. The whole site (which has been redeveloped for private housing) and its immediate environs including Rauceby railway station, has recently been renamed Greylees, a suburb of the Market Town of Sleaford.

The town is also home to Sharpes International Seeds, whose history can be traced from their merger with Zeneca Seeds in 1996, which formed Advanta Seeds, right back to 1560.

21st century

Sleaford town sign

Since 2000, the town and its buildings have undergone significant expansion and improvement; with the building of numerous new private housing estates on the periphery, a new infant school, and refurbishment of town centre buildings with a £15-million SRB 'Sleaford Pride' grant.

In 2005, a £55-million project was announced by Prince Charles and the Phoenix Trust, to restore the Bass Maltings complex on the southern side of the town.

In April 2005, the Channel 4 magazine Location, Location, Location named Sleaford as one of the Top 10 'house price hotspots' in England, forecasting a strong surge above spring 2005 prices before the end of 2005.

In June 2009, planning permission was granted for a Tesco Extra store to be built on the former Advanta Seeds site.[7] The grant of permission was conditional upon a new access road being provided, the proposed route of which crossed Boston Road Recreational Ground, requiring the removal of 47 rare, mature trees.[8] Once the new store has opened, Tesco's current Northgate site is expected to be converted into four retail units.

The two main local football teams — the Legionnaires and Sleaford Town FC – played for many years on Boston Road Recreation Ground. The wooden pavilion finally gave way to rot and decay in 2004, and their new stadium opened, located a little further down Boston Road just outside the town's curtilage in March 2007.

Sleaford Museum Trust keeps its collections in storage due to lack of suitable premises but has established a "virtual museum".[9]

The United Reformed Church (previously the Congregational Church) in Southgate had its frontage redeveloped in 2007 to provide community rooms, called "The Source", with assistance from WREN and Lincolnshire County Council's 'Multi Use Centres' initiative. In 2008 Sleaford United Reformed and Community churches joined to become The Riverside Church.[10]

Parish church

St Deny's Church

The parish church of St Denys forms the eastern side of the town's market place. The building, which has the oldest stone broach spire in Britain, mostly dates from 1180 although sections were rebuilt following a thunder storm in 1884. The sanctuary rail (originally from Lincoln Cathedral) is by Sir Christopher Wren.[11] The church is also known for its stained glass, traceried windows and carved gargoyle heads, the buildings Grade I listing notes "particularly good mid Cl4 tracery and ornament".[12]

Sights of the town

Cogglesford Mill in 2002

Cogglesford Mill (on the River Slea) dates from the 17th century. It is Lincolnshire's last working water mill and is possibly the last working Sheriff's Mill in England[13] (making it of national importance). It is probably on the site of an earlier Mercian estate mill. The adjacent house where the mill worker would have lived is now a restaurant.

Sleaford's Bull & Dog pub, formerly the Black Bull, dates from 1689 (according to a date-stone set in its front wall) and is said to have the oldest surviving bull-baiting pub sign in England.

In the town centre stands Money's Mill, a 1796 windmill. It currently has no sails and for several years served as Sleaford's tourist information centre.

Side of the Hub, with start of new riverside walk alongside River Slea

Other town landmarks include the Handley Monument, the semi-derelict Bass Maltings, the ruins of Sleaford Castle, and the Picturedrome (once a cinema (upstairs) and a pool hall (downstairs), later a nightclub and currently unoccupied).

In 2011 agreement was reached to convert the Bass Maltings site into shops, offices and more than 220 apartments and houses.[14]

The Hub National Centre for Craft & Design[15] includes galleries and studio space. It is situated in the former Hubbard's Seed Warehouse on the Sleaford Navigation wharf.


Local newspapers are The Sleaford Target,[16] The Sleaford Citizen, and The Sleaford Standard.[17] Local radio is provided by BBC Lincolnshire and the commercial radio station Lincs FM.

Navigation and cycling

The Slea, once but a stream, was canalised to render it navigable in the eighteenth century. There are plans to make the River Slea navigable again by boats, from the River Witham up to Sleaford. It is currently navigable only by canoes and similar lightweight one-person craft. Most of the Slea has footpaths running alongside it, and these complement the area's many public footpaths and cycle-paths.

There are several new cycle-paths around the town taking advantage of the flat Lincolnshire landscape, including the Sleaford Cycle Trail, but Sleaford is not yet connected to the National Cycle Network. In July 2005, plans were made to connect the town with the existing NCN National Route 15 which (at that time) ended just north of Grantham and extend Route 15 through Sleaford to meet the NCN National Route 1 at the River Witham.


Sleaford holds a market in the town on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Until 1202, it had been held on Sunday but in that year it was transferred to Thursday and at a later date from Thursday to Monday. Since 1912, an annual charity raft race has taken place on the River Slea. In recent years, this has been coupled with the Water Festival local music event.


  • Football: Sleaford Town FC

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Sleaford)


  1. A. D. Mills, "A Dictionary of English Place-Names", Oxford University Press, 1991
  2. "Carres School". Retrieved 8 July 2009. 
  3. Charitable Trust Deed, revised 2003
  4. Information on Sleaford  from GENUKI
  5. Vision of Britain - Imperial Gazetteer: Sleaford
  6. 6.0 6.1 "RAF College Cranwell > College History". Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  7. Hubbert, Andy (9 June 2009). "New Tesco store and road scheme get the go ahead". Sleaford Standard (Sleaford, Lincolnshire: Johnson Press). Retrieved 15 September 2009. 
  8. "Tesco store is 'sign of the future'". Lincolnshire Echo (Lincoln). 11 June 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2009. 
  9. "Virtual Museum". Sleaford Museum Trust. 
  10. Sleaford Riverside Church
  11. "Sleaford St Denys C.E. Parish Church". Lincolnshire County Council. Retrieved 2009-06-10. "Country churches which boast work by Sir Christopher Wren are few and far between, but one such is St. Denys' in Sleaford's busy market place. At the time of the French Revolution, Lincoln Cathedral was refurbished and the cathedral's altar rail was surplus to requirements. The then vicar of Sleaford managed to persuade the church authorities to let St Denys have the rail. The church's mediæval rood screen was expertly restored in 1919 by Sir Ninian Comper in memory of 3 members of the Peake family killed in action in the First World War. In the days before state schooling, priests often doubled as teachers and the Lady Chapel was used as a schoolroom in the 19th century. Members of the Carre family are buried in the vault below the Lady Chapel, whose six-light stained glass and traceried window was rated by Nicholas Pevsner as the fourth finest in England." 
  12. "Parish Church of St Denys (Listing NGR: TF0687645892)". Listed Buildings Online. English Heritage. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  13. "Cogglesford Mill". Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  14. BBC News 12 April 2012
  15. "About us > Riverside Walk". Retrieved 12 November 2008. 
  16. Sleaford Target
  17. Sleaford Standard