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Barrowby in the early modern era

'Early modern' is historian-speak for the centuries between the medieval era and the start of more industrialised societies. In Britain it can be thought of as from about 1500 to around 1815.

By the early sixteenth century the Reformation was well underway in England. The Crusades in the Middle East had ended and Europe was learning about its 'lost' Classical heritage – thanks to Arabic manuscripts – and this instigated the Renaissance.

Even more important, the Age of Discovery was underway. Christopher Columbus 'discovered' America in 1498. Vasco da Gama discovered a sea route to India in 1498. Initially the latter was more important as it quickly opened up additional trade. Many more voyages led to colonisation of islands and continents, more-or-less culminating with Captain James Cook's discovery of Australasia in 1770.

The early modern era is considered to end either with Napoleon's rise to power from 1799 or with his defeat in 1815.

So much for the world stage. England generally thrived under a succession of Tudor, Stuart and Georgian monarchs – although Oliver Cromwell temporarily put something of a spanner in the works. Grantham was Parliamentarian. But Barrowby, as with so many rural villages, was Royalist. All was resolved with the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

What else happened in early modern Barrowby?

Religion first of all. The Reformation and the subsequent Dissolution of the Monasteries had an impact locally.

Newbo Abbey was dissolved in 1536.

Seemingly in the 1560s the Reformation really took effect in Barrowby as the churchwarden's accounts report the sale of a cross, candlestick and a pair of censers. These were broken up and melted down. The following year a pair of handbells was sold, probably also for their metal content.

Around this time the rood screen was removed and safely stored.

Later, in the 1640s, the rector of All Saint's was deeply immersed in the changes to Church of England practices and beliefs.

Farming continued much as during the medieval era, but with ever-increasing amounts of produce and profits. Wool was still making good money (more information here). Traffic on the Great North Road continued to increase, requiring yet more food and provisions for horses to be supplied to the inns in Grantham.

As with almost everywhere in England, the open fields were enclosed. Barrowby's Enclosure Award was in 1762. This in turn created smaller areas of commons, such as the village green.

All aspects of agriculture were undergoing a revolution, thanks to the breeding programmes of Robert Bakewell, the adoption of turnips for feeding livestock in winter, and clover in place of fallow to fix nitrogen in the soil. As a result agricultural output grew faster than the population between 1670 and 1770.

The number of 'vagrants' passing through Barrowby was recorded in the Parish Constables' accounts. In the years 1747–8 no less than 30 small payments were paid to such 'vagrants', who mostly would have been agricultural labourers seeking new employment. (Cryer 1979 p60) This suggests the 1740s were especially difficult.

Early in the eighteenth century Barrowby had a tanner, shoemaker and woolcomber. By 1812 there was a resident cabinetmaker, shoemaker (recorded as a 'cordwainer'), wheelwright, butcher and a boatmaker at Stenwith. (Cryer 1979 p62)

The start of the Napoleonic Wars in 1803 instigated a huge demand for food, horses, leather, wool and other produce. For a time rural England was exceptionally wealthy (it wasn't to last... ).

The great and the good carried on being great and sometimes good. For example, Sir John Thorold, 4th Baronet (1664–1717) was a Member of Parliament representing either Grantham or Lincolnshire in a number of parliaments between 1697 and 1715. Although living at Marston Hall and Cranwell, he owned about a quarter of Barrowby (the other parts being split between the Duke of Devonshire and the Welby family). The Thorold family also owned land in the nearby settlements of Casthorpe and Sedgebrook. More information on Wikipedia. (Sir John is commemorated by Thorold Road, to the south of Hedgefield Road.)

John Manners (a.k.a. the Marquess of Granby) was MP for Grantham in the 1740s and Commander in Chief of the British army during the Seven Years War (175663) – having previously raised a regiment to fight the Jacobite rebellion of 1745.

Wikipedia says Manners was popular with his troops and many public houses are still named after him today. It also says 'He is probably best known today for being popularly supposed to have more pubs named after him than any other person – because, allegedly, of his practice of setting up old soldiers of his regiment as publicans when they were too old to serve any longer.' Barrowby had a pub named after him, on the corner of Welby Court and Main Street. But presumably it was so named because of Manners' 'local connections' to Belvoir Castle and Grantham.

L.R. Cryer compiled a list of the names of Barrowby's publicans from the seventeenth to nineteenth century (Cryer 1979 p48).

In death the great and the good began to be commemorated with stone gravestones. Which used both Lincolnshire limestone and slate from the Charnwood Forest, over thirty miles away in west Leicestershire. The slate could be evidence for trade between Leicester and north Norfolk, following an ancient saltway (which locally is now the part of the A607 running from near Waltham on the Wolds to Grantham, via Croxton Kerrial and Harlaxton).

Travel improved greatly by the end of the eighteenth century. What is now the A52 between Grantham and Nottingham was improved when this became a toll road soon after 1729, with a toll bar at the junction with what is now Rectory Lane.

Even more radically between 1793 and 1797 a canal was constructed from Nottingham to Grantham, with a wharf on the Barrowby side of Harlaxton.

Little did anyone in the first few decades of the nineteenth century realise, but the Industrial Revolution would soon make all this seem like a very different world.

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