Looking at and reading the landscape is a really important part of understanding our past. All the archaeological sites and buildings we have information about in the Historic Environment Record are recorded in their landscape context, as the nature and location of sites are influenced by the landscape, and in turn the landscape we see today has been very much shaped by human activity.
The earliest prehistoric people in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic (Old and Middle Stone Age; 400000BC until about 5000BC) were hunter-gatherers moving around the landscape exploiting seasonal food supplies and never settling in one place for any length of time. They, therefore, made very little impression on the landscape, and very little trace of them remains. Some of their tools, and the sites where they were made, have survived, and are recorded in the HER.
During the Neolithic and early Bronze Age (around 4000BC until 1500BC) the types of sites which dominate the landscape are ritual or religious and funerary monuments. In the Neolithic we start to see long barrows built in some of the most prominent places in the county, and similarly round barrows during the Bronze Age.
During the later Bronze Age and the Iron Age (about 1500BC until AD42) settlements and farmsteads, enclosures and field systems become more dominant. The best way to see these monuments today is from the air, as they are sometimes visible as marks in the ripening crop. The HER holds many aerial photographs which show these sites.
Many of the farmsteads and settlements which have their origins in the Iron Age continued in use after the Roman Conquest. Some settlements developed into towns which still exist today. Some Roman structures still survive: for example, in Lincoln, Horncastle and Caistor. In rural areas villas were built, which were administrative centres for sometimes very large agricultural estates. These were all connected by a network of roads of various sizes.
After the end of the Roman period (after about AD410) Lincolnshire was settled by Anglo-Saxons, in particular Angles from Germany. They continued to farm the land and founded settlements and farmsteads. The early Anglo-Saxons continued to use Roman roads and some of their settlements. They do appear to have had quite complex attitudes to the buildings the Romans left behind. In Lincolnshire the major sites from this period are the vast cemeteries dotted across the landscape.
The third quarter of the first millennium AD (around AD750 to AD1000) saw the creation of many of the parishes and villages that we know today in Lincolnshire: many of them bear names which are derived from Old English. The Vikings held control in Lincolnshire at various times during this period, and they also leave a place name legacy, although we know little about those who settled in Lincolnshire.
These settlements mostly survived the Norman Conquest of 1066, and are recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. The remains of medieval settlement are a common feature of the Lincolnshire landscape. Some of these villages became completely deserted over the years for a wide variety of reasons, like the growth in importance of sheep farming, population decline due to poor harvests, and creation of new parks. The Black Death clearly did have an impact in Lincolnshire, but it very rarely led to complete desertion of settlements.
The Normans also built castles in Lincolnshire, which were designed to be imposing and dominate the local population.
Monastic houses, including abbeys and priories, were extremely important and dominant features of the medieval Lincolnshire landscape. They owned and farmed large tracts of land across the county, and some became extremely rich. Not many of the buildings survive above the ground today, but some are still visible, and can be visited. Many of the remains can be seen as earthworks.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries too had a huge impact on the landscape in Lincolnshire, as many of the monastic houses were demolished and the building materials reused, or the buildings fell into disrepair. On many monastic sites new houses were built by the wealthy landowners who bought the land from the Crown.
The Civil War too, is visible in the Lincolnshire landscape. There are Civil War defences which still survive today as earthworks, like those in Crowland.
Further information on the Civil War defences can be found on the HER Gateway website.
The Industrial Revolution did not bring about the profound changes to the landscape in Lincolnshire as it did in many parts of the country. Nevertheless there is still a legacy of industrialisation across the county. The factories in Lincoln, for example, like Clayton and Shuttleworth, or Marshalls in Gainsborough not only had an impact on the urban landscape in terms of the factory buildings themselves, but also led to large house-building projects to house the workers. An extensive network of railways and railway buildings were built in the nineteenth century, which changed the landscape and allowed faster communication and transport of goods.
Further information on the Britannia works, Gainsborough can be found on the Heritage Gateway
Lincolnshire during the Second World War was known as ‘Bomber County’. Many airfields and associated buildings were constructed during that time, and had a profound effect on the Lincolnshire landscape. Other remains include concrete pill boxes, tank traps, searchlight batteries and gun emplacements.
The HER holds records on all these types of sites, and many others. You can search the database to find out more.