Fields of Conflict: battles and skirmishes in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire has been the site for a number of battles over the ages. Some are well known such as the battles of the Royalists and the Parliamentarians, while others are less well known.
Nothing is known in detail about any battles in Lincolnshire before the medieval period although we can assume that small battles and skirmishes took place from time to time in the prehistoric period. Finds of spearheads, swords and arrowheads have been made over all of Lincolnshire and the Celtic society of the late Iron Age certainly had a strong warrior tradition. Several swords have been found in the River Witham near Lincoln as was the Witham Shield, one of the most spectacular Iron Age finds in the country. The Romans conquered Britain in the first century AD but the Roman histories of the time have no reports of battles that can be confidently placed in Lincolnshire. There are some early Roman forts (recorded in the HER) that show the Roman army was present in this area. There is also evidence for the Vikings’ Great Army being in Lincolnshire, as they spent the winter at Torksey in AD873-874, but again no evidence of any battles.
Lincoln two important battles at Lincoln in both of which Lincoln Castle was the prize. The First Battle of Lincoln was fought in 1141 during the troubles in the twelfth century following King Stephen’s coronation. Sometimes referred to as The Anarchy, it was a time of civil war when there were two rivals for the throne of England. In 1141 King Stephen and his army was defeated by a force of noblemen who supported the Empress Matilda the rival claimant to the kingdom.
Further information on the first battle of Lincoln (1141AD) can be found on the HER Gateway website.
Second Battle of Lincoln occurred in 1217, during the First Barons’ War (1215-1217), when William Marshall, earl of Pembroke and regent to the young King Henry III, defeated the French forces under the Comte de la Perche. The French had become involved in the civil war on the side of rebel barons opposed to King John of England. King John died in 1215 but the civil war continued with the French occupying part of England under Prince Louis, who later became King Louis VIII of France. The French defeat at Lincoln was a severe setback to Louis and the French withdrew from England shortly afterwards.
Further information on the second battle of Lincoln (1217AD) can be found on the HER Gateway website.
During the English Civil War (1642-1649) between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians there were several battles and skirmishes in Lincolnshire. There were battles at Gainsborough Ancaster Heath, Riby Gap and the most significant battle was at Winceby in October 1643 where the Royalists were defeated by a Parliamentarian force that included Oliver Cromwell. This defeat saw the end of the Royalist cause in Lincolnshire and the County remained in Parliamentarian hands until the end of the war. There were some later small scale skirmishes as the Royalist garrison at Newark raided into Lincolnshire from time to time. For example at Waddington in 1644.
Further information on the skirmish at Waddington and Harmston during the Civil War in 1644 can be found on the HER Gateway website.
Lincolnshire is well known for its bomber airfields and it was aircraft from these airfields that took part in the bomber offensive over the continent during the Second World War. Numbers of aircraft crashed in Lincolnshire while taking part in bombing raids and there were also aircraft lost during training accidents. The HER has records for these airfields which played such an important part in the history of the RAF and also records aircraft crash sites where the sites are known. There are also some crash sites of enemy aircraft, a direct result of battles in the air above Lincolnshire. For example, a German Dornier bomber shot down while on a raid on Hull in 1944. It was shot down by a Mosquito night fighter over Louth and crashed at Legbourne. The site of the crash was excavated in 2007.
Further information on the crash site of Dornier 217-M1 aircraft, Legbourne can be found on the HER Gateway website.
Sometimes battlefields owe their origins more to fiction than fact as people often prefer a more exciting story to the plain and ordinary. The Battle of Threekingham for example appears to have been invented by a monk from Crowland writing a history in the fourteenth century. His purple prose postulated that three Danish kings were killed in the battle, were then buried here and this was how the village got its name. In fact the earliest form of Threekingham in Domesday book is Trichingeham that means ‘the estate of the family of Trich’ and there is no evidence for a battle here.
Further information on the alleged battle near Threekingham in 870 between Danes and Saxons can be found on the HER Gateway website.