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Sewstern Lane or The Drift

I am including Sewstern Lane – otherwise known as The Drift – in the medieval section simply because that's when we begin to have documented references.

However it was in use from at least as far back as the Iron Age when it was part of a route from East Anglia which crossed the Welland at Stamford, and then ran north-west over the limestone uplands and across the Vale of Belvoir to the Trent at Newark.

The boundary between Lincolnshire and Leicestershire follows Sewstern Lane for many miles. Which means it is also the western boundary of Barrowby parish, where Sewstern Lane survives as a minor trackway running north-south between Breeder Hills and Stenwith.

Looking north along Sewstern Lane (a.k.a. The Drift, a.k.a. the Viking Way) where it crosses the lane running east out of Stenwith.

During the era of horse-drawn coaches and wagons Sewstern Lane was not a minor trackway but a major route. The only problem was that there were few villages on the route so refreshments and accomodation were not readily available. The lane takes its name from Sewstern as this is the only village for many miles north or south.

The turnpiking of the Great North Road between 1663 and the 1750s – and the increase in coaching inns at Grantham and Stamford – reduced the significance of Sewstern Lane. But the track was still used by cattle drovers, 'drifting' their herds down to the London market – hence 'The Drift'.

Traditional cattle 'drifting' (but not along Sewstern Lane).

From Stenwith the lane heads north to Long Bennington, where it merges with the Great North Road (A1).

Going south the track skirts Woolsthorpe, passes between Harston and Denton then rises over the summit of the hill between Denton and Croxton Kerrial. A short way to the south, at a remote crossroads once stood the Three Queens Inn. This was regarded as rather notorious, for reasons unspecified. But so were most inns on drovers' routes…

This crossroads was once more important as it is where two prehistoric tracks – and later Roman roads – intersect. The east-west route (now known as Gorse Lane) was used by the Romans to access a small Roman town at Saltersford. Much later the same route became a Salt Way (hence the place-name Saltersford).

Thanks to Matt Pennifold for sharing his knowledge of the Salt Way route.

The Three Queens

The site of the former Three Queens Inn at the crossing of
Sewstern Lane and the Salt Way.
    More about the Three Queens Inn and other drover's inns on the Salt Way.

    Continuing south The Drift traverses Saltby Heath, before forming the eastern part of Sewstern, then crossing into Rutland close to the former Roman small town at Thistleton.

    The original route was cut by the construction of Saltby and Cottesmore airfields in the early 1940s. A short detour to the east of the Cottesmore runway enables the historic routeway to be rejoined to the south a little way north-west of where the route branches off from the Greet North Road near Greetham.

    The entire route can be walked, allowing for a few detours (such as at Cottesmore, and for the Grantham Canal near Barrowby). Most can be cycled (although some parts can be very muddy, as I discovered in the early 1990s). It is shown on modern maps as the Viking Way. (Note that the Viking Way does not terminate near Greetham but continues south to the north shore of Rutland Water.)

    If you think I've got something wrong – or can add additional information or photographs – then please email me:– bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk.

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what's new?

Articles about Barrowby

Barrowby's location and geology

summary of prehistoric Barrowby

summary of Roman Barrowby



Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Nineteenth century

nineteenth and twentieth century population

Twentieth century

guided walks in and around Barrowby

there's more could be said...


index of surnames in Cryer 1979

Articles and web links for nearby places

rare seventeenth fonts at Muston, Bottesford and Orston from Project Gargoyle Newsletter 2020

Ironstone quarries of Leicestershire
YouTube video

Wyville's wells

Harston's Anglo-Saxon carvings

Bottesford's effigies

Grantham Canal Society

The Grantham Canal
All you need to know – and more – from Wikipedia

Croxton Kerrial manor house excavations
photos and brief details from Leicester Mercury.
By 2021 the remains had been consolidated and there are annual open days.

Harlaxton History Society

Bottesford History Group

Grantham Civic Society

Grantham Museum

Heritage Lincolnshire