Louth has played an important part of
Lincolnshire History. Still thriving with weekly markets, the
town became a major trading area in the 1770s with the
building of a canal. Costing a princely £28,000, the canal
became a major thoroughfare for the town, adding to the wealth
generated from the wool trade.
It was over eleven miles in length,
extending from Louth Riverhead to Tetney and eight locks were
incorporated to overcome the forty six feet differential in
levels involved. Trade through the canal was brisk and there
were regular sailings to London and Hull and other local
In 1920 disaster struck the
prosperous town when the river and canal flooded, destroying
large areas of Louth and killing 23 people. The waterway
finally closed in 1924, after a period of decline following
the opening of the railway.
The 18th century wool warehouse at
the head of the canal is now a restaurant and public meeting
place and houses an excellent display of the canal. Although
the waterway itself is no longer navigable, the towpaths have
been restored and make a fine walk out of town.
Adorning the Louth skyline is the
parish church of St James. With its 300 foot tower standing
high above the town, it is the most famous landmark in the
immediate area. Other historic buildings include a number of
coaching inns, as well as fine period houses in Westgate and
Upgate. The town sits on the Greenwich meridian and a small
plaque in Eastgate marks the line.
In 1818 the local
artist and architect Thomas Espin, FSA, built this Gothic
villa, which is now called the Priory Hotel. On the grounds
near the lake is a folly that he had constructed from
sculptural fragments, which came from Louth Abbey.
Louth Abbey was
founded on the marshy Isle of Haverholme in 1137 on land given
by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln to the Cistercians. In 1139, at
the preference of a large group of monks arriving from the
motherhouse of Fountains (Yorkshire), the house was moved to
Louth were it flourished as a major player in the county wool
trade. Between 1227-46 there is record of 66 monks and 150 lay
brothers at Louth Abbey. The 14thc. and 15thc. saw the slow
decline of the abbey, which was suppressed in 1536 (see
Knowles and Hadcock). In 1818, Thomas Espin collected a number
of sculptural fragments from the ruins of Louth Abbey for the
construction of his home, Louth Park. He combined the
Romanesque fragments recorded here with other medieval pieces
to form this garden folly for his estate. Espin died in 1822
and his home has been in the hands of various private owners
since that point. For several decades it was a private school.
In the 1970s his home became The Priory Hotel.
Located at the western
end of the town in 20 acres of magnificent grounds, Thorpe
Hall is considered to be one of the finest country houses in
Lincolnshire and certainly forms a notable part of
Lincolnshire History with its tales of Ghostly apparitions. It
was originally built in 1584 for Sir John Bolle, who was
knighted for his military exploits in Cadiz, Spain in 1596,
and eventually died here on November 3rd 1606. However, much
of the present building is later having been altered and
enlarged at various times during the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th
The building stands on
the site of an earlier hall which belonged to a family of
merchants called Chapman in the 15th and early 16th
centuries.The formal gardens and grounds, which include a deer
park and lake, were originally laid out by Gertrude Jekyll in
The hall stayed in the
hands of the Bolle family until the 18th-century and their
Coat of Arms can still be seen in the wall of the Dovecote at
Thorpe Hall. There have been many esteemed residents since
including Captain Julius Tennyson, nephew of the Poet
Laureate, and Captain Langston Brackenbury, MP for Louth, who
actually died in the House of Commons.
King Edward VI Grammar School
The school at Louth which eventually
became King Edward VI Grammar School can lay claim to being
one of the oldest in the country - we know that there was
schooling in the town as early as the eighth century. The
earliest direct mention of a school here in the middle ages
comes in a reference to the Louth schoolmaster Simon de Luda
in 1276. The school seems to have been financed by the town's
religious and merchant guilds and by a chantry established by
Thomas of Louth in 1317.
With the dissolution of the religious
guilds in 1548, the future of education in Louth, as in so
many other market towns in England, was placed at risk.
Leading figures in the town petitioned Edward VI to secure the
school's future, and on 21 st September 1551 the school was
granted a royal charter under which it was handsomely endowed
and a Foundation was set up to administer it. This Foundation
(though, sadly, not the handsome endowments) continues today
and works actively behind the scenes to support the school,
most recently offering financial support to our successful bid
to become a Specialist Science College.
During its long history the school
has gone through many changes of character. Until the mid
1960s it was a boys' school. In 1903 a girls' grammar school
was established close by and 1965 the two schools amalgamated.
At the same time it became a 14-18 school within the
innovatory "Louth Plan", which saw a 14-18 selective
school sitting alongside three 11-16 high schools in the town
and its environs. This situation would continue until the
mid-1990s when the "Louth Plan" finally fell apart,
and in 1997 the school reverted to taking the full secondary
Since 1944 the school has been within
the state sector, originally as a Voluntary Controlled school.
In 1991 it became Grant Maintained and then adopted Foundation
status in 1998. In September 2003 it became, additionally, a
Specialist Science College, although this does not mean that
it has ceased to be a grammar school which aims for, and
reaches, high standards across the curriculum.
Amongst our former students we number
Captain John Smith (1592-95), who went on to be the first
elected president of Virginia; Sir John Franklin (1797-1800)
and Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1816-1820). In more modern times
our students have included Chris Wright (founder and chairman
of Chrysalis Group) and the leading academic, Professor
Philip, the Lord Norton of Louth.
Lincolnshire History of St James Church
Aethelheard (of Hludensis Monastery) is appointed Archbishop
of Canterbury. The Church is believed to be dedicated to St
Herefrith, perhaps being built on the site of his Shrine.
Church is rebuilt. Edward I
is crowned, succeeding Henry III.
in the 15th century - generations of men spend their life
working for the Church as labourers and craftsmen, rebuilding
St James' Church. The building is moved 1.2m and raised by
50cm on new bases. The tower is built separately, and will be
joined to the Church at a later date.
The roof of the Tower is
strengthened in preparation for the building of the
is the early 16th century, and the population of England is
recovering from losses caused by the Black Death. John
Cole is Mason in Charge of the Spire.
Sudbury (the Vicar who retired last year) has given the Church
a magnificent Hutch, for keeping valuables. It has medallions
on the doors, depicting Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, with
the crowned Tudor rose in between.
Weathercock is placed on top of the completed Spire. It is
made from the great Copper Basin taken from the Scots at
Flodden Field. The people of Louth are very proud! It is the
13th of September, and the Spire (which is the tallest of any
Parish Church in England) was consecrated today, to the
singing of the Te Deum. Great celebrations began, and the six
Bells including the Great Bell, called James and weighing
26cwt, could be heard across the town, in proud proclamation
of years of hard work and skill. There will be some sore heads
in the morning, as free Ale was given out this afternoon! The
total cost of building the Spire is £305 8s and 5d.
"Act of Supremacy" transfers Papal supremacy over
the English Church, to the Crown.
is the 1st of October, and after Evensong, only 21 years after
the great celebrations of the Consecration of the Spire, a
riot has started. This is a reaction to rumours of Monasteries
being closed, and of Church wealth being confiscated.
is the 25th of March, and the Lincolnshire Rising has ended.
Thomas Kendell, Vicar of Louth will be executed at Tyburn.
are removed from the Church.
Reformation under Edward VI and Elizabeth I, and the
Counter-Reformation under Mary, causes great changes in the
Church. At our Church of St
James, new Images are being installed, and the Chantries swept
away. Strict ritual is introduced.
I succeeds to the Throne, and consolidates the Church of
Rood Screen and Loft at St James' are removed.
is a great storm this year in Louth, and the Spire is damaged,
and needs repair.
idea to improve the services at St.James, by changing the pews
around, is executed. The more well-off, who subscribed to this
appeal for funds are excused pew rent. This favour will be
passed on to their descendants. Charles
Edward Stuart, (Bonnie Prince Charlie) is born in France this
ring of eight bells is recast by Daniel and John Hedderley,
bellfounders of Derby, and hung in a magnificent wooden frame.
This (still) is the heaviest eight-bell peal in Lincolnshire,
and the eighth heaviest in the country - the tenor weighing
31cwt 1qr 7lb. The Prime
Minister is George Walpole. Gullivers Travels is written this
Williams R.A. paints the tall pictures of St Peter, St James
and the Deposition from the Cross (now hanging in the nave).
William (Wolley) Jolland is vicar of Louth. During his time,
galleries are constructed over the aisles, and the reroofing
and reseating continues. His eccentricity is well known; he
has built a hermitage in the vicarage garden, and he
embellishes his services with his own asides. His portrait by
Richard Jones hangs in the clergy vestry.
new Organ is presented by David Atkinson of Fanthorpe Hall,
with the provision of a Gallery in the Tower, and £600 to
provide an Organists' Salary.
new Clock by James Harrison of Barton is provided. This
is the year that Napoleon escapes Elba, and the "Hundred
Years War" begins.
III dies, and is succeeded by the Prince Regent as George IV.
We are in the 1820s, and Tennyson is a schoolboy living at 74,
Westgate Place. He is studying hard, in the hopes of going to
new Weathercock is provided.
roofs and ceilings for the Nave and Aisles are installed,
using plans drawn up by Edward James Willson of Lincoln, and
William Coulan, a Louth Builder.
lighting is installed.
Engraving by T. W. Wallis, engraver, wood carver,
meteorologist, and borough engineer shows the unrestored
Church, with Galleries, the Thorpe Hall Pew, (John Louth's
Chantry), box pews, high reading-desk and Pulpit and the
Reredos composed of the three paintings by William Williams.
Over the Chancel Arch hangs a coat of arms. The
Catholic Emancipation is taking place at this time.
Spire is struck by lightning, and repairs increase the height
to 295 feet. William Brown takes advantage of the scaffolding,
and makes sketches for his panorama of Louth.
the past 4 years, William Brown has worked on his panorama of
Louth, and it now goes on exhibition to the public.
Chancel and Stained Glass window are refurbished. Albert
dies, and Queen Victoria retires into mourning.
Fowler completes his restoration of St James', which remains
basically unchanged for the next 133 years. This
is the year that the Suez Canal opens, and the Union Pacific
Railway is completed.