(Reproduced by the kind permission of West Lindsey District Council, Tourism and Arts Unit)
WHERE TO PARK AND START
Park in the Town Hall car park by the public toilets (entrance to car park in North Street).
Having parked, on foot via the ramp at the side of the Town Hall, cross the road and make your way to the Market Place, where the Walkabout begins.
The name Caistor comes from the Latin word ‘Castra’ (meaning ‘camp’) and this is precisely how this pleasing little market town, perched on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, originated in the third or fourth century AD. The occupying Roman forces established a camp here, probably drawn to the site by its natural defences, its natural springs and the supply of iron ore at nearby Claxby. The original area totalled some seven and a half acres and was encircled by a wall. Parts of this Roman wall can still be seen today.
Caistor continued as a stronghold long after the Romans departed. Little is known however about the post Roman development into a medieval town, although in 1086, according to the Domesday Survey, there were fifty-two families living here.
Caistor became an early ecclesiastical centre, probably the site of a monastery, which may have used the walled area as its precinct. (This may explain the establishment of a market to the east outside the walls, the site of the present market place).
1536 saw the Lincolnshire Uprising and the Pilgrimage of Grace which were the direct result of the Dissolution of the Monasteries instituted by King Henry VIII. Local people were outraged by the forcible expulsion of monks and nuns, and disturbed by a rumour that their own parish churches were to be plundered. So groups of men got together to protest, and one such group assembled at Caistor before marching on Lincoln.
Later, Caistor suffered the Plague, and in 1681 the town was ravaged by a terrible fire. Most of the timber framed houses were destroyed, forty-five families were rendered homeless and a number of unfortunate townsfolk were killed. The cost of the material damage was put at £6,786. The town was rebuilt in the attractive red brick we see today.
The main street pattern of the town focuses on a series of squares – Market Place, Butter Market, Cornhill and Horse Market. The names suggest much earlier agricultural prosperity in and around the town, for no active agricultural markets exist here today. The buildings surrounding these squares were built following the great fire in 1681 and give way to the narrow, often tortuous streets of the compact old settlement.
The buildings lining the pavements of these streets are largely humble in character. They are typical of the red brick and pantiled terraced cottages to be found in many North Lincolnshire market towns.
The walk begins in MARKET PLACE, a large enclosed square surrounded on three sides by two and three storey buildings. In the centre is the town pump. This has been used in living memory and was set up in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Caistor House, to the left of the National Westminster Bank, is one of the more imposing buildings here. It was built in 1682, the year following the fire, and is in the classical style, with washed stucco walls and a hipped roof of Welsh slate. The front was added a century later and bears the coats of arms of the Wickham and Walpole families. Later the house became home to members of the Tennyson family; the lion is part of their coat of arms. The lane to the left of the bank is thought to mark the east gate of the Roman camp. Almost opposite the National Westminster Bank (across the square) are two sets of steps. Those on the right are known as the "Grises" – this term, meaning shallow steps, also appears in Shakespeare’s Othello (Act 1 Scene III).
At the base of the Grises, turn left and walk to the corner of Market Place where there is a pathway to the right leading up into CORNHILL. The fine Georgian building seen as you enter Cornhill is Beauclerc House, once owned, along with other local property, by the Duke of St Albans. The rent he received for the house was in the form of cockerels for his dining table. To the left is the old "Kings Head", built in 1710 and now a wine bar. This was originally a beer house and from 1856-72, a soup kitchen. Cornhill itself is an intimate enclosed space, the scale of which is reminiscent of a bygone pedestrian age. Turn right into SOUTH STREET, passing the butcher’s shop with an interesting tiled frontage. Walk on into BUTTER MARKET, a small square enclosed on three sides and presided over by the war memorial, dedicated to all those from Caistor who gave their lives fighting in the two World Wars. The White Hart public house is on the left, one of the four remaining public houses from the original twenty nine! Turn left to pass the White Hart along South Street, noting the arches on both sides which indicate coach entrances to former Inns. Further along South Street is a block of listed buildings – however turn right into BOBS LANE, a picturesque miniature street with quaint, small, houses. Walk down Bobs Lane, bearing right and emerge into PLOUGH HILL. On the immediate right are three attractive cottages which have recently been renovated. No. 7 Plough Hill on the left was formerly "The Windmill". If you stand in front of the former "Windmill" and look right, beyond the renovated cottages you see the buttressed front of the Sessions Hall. This survived the fire of 1681 and is now used by the WRVS.
Stroll down Plough Hill passing on the left Fox’s builders yard, a mineral water works until 1950. The granary at the rear of number 6 (opposite) was used as a preaching place by early Primitive Methodists and subsequently by General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. When the road veers to the left, look down Plough Hill, along HORSE MARKET to the tunnel in the hillside at the far end. This once housed the town’s horse drawn fire engine and dates from 1869. The call out fee was reputed to have been £3 and the engine was summoned to a fire by the tolling of the church’s treble and tenor bells. At the side of the old fire station is PIGEON SPRING. Above is the OLD PRIMARY SCHOOL, build by the Church of England in 1859 to replace the original National School, which we shall see later. In 1957, it became famous as the first inter-denominational voluntary school in England, when the Methodist school amalgamated with it. Behind you is the former Primitive Methodist Chapel, a centre for campaigns against alcoholic troubles, now the Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre. Cross Plough Hill and walk down FOUNTAIN STREET. The grass bank on the right represents the south wall of Roman Caistor. At the bottom of the street on the right hand side is the SYFER SPRING. A nearby spring, (now covered over) was reputed to have curative powers, especially for the eyes. At the bottom of Fountain Street, turn right into CHURCH FOLLY and climb the steps into the churchyard. In front of you is the church of St Peter and St Paul. At the top of the steps, follow the path to the left. Just beyond the houses, look down at the remains of the Roman wall. With your back to the Roman wall, face the church and directly in front you will see the impressive south door, which still bears some of the original 13th Century ironwork. It is suggested that Paulinus (died 644 AD) established a church here. Return to the top of the steps and follow the churchyard path to the front. The interesting building on the right is believed to have been a Tithe Barn, now converted to private dwellings. Enter the church by the north door. Of particular interest in the church is the Gad Whip, displayed within a glass case. Traditionally, this was cracked in the church on Palm Sunday, and held above the Vicar’s head during the service. There are medieval effigies of two knights and a lady, dating from the 14th Century, and a modern rood screen. The chancel was rebuilt in 1848 and the church was restored generally in 1863. Leave the church by the north door and walk down the path to the gate. Opposite and to the left is the original, restored GRAMMAR SCHOOL, still in use today. The stone on the front of the building is inscribed with a quote from Homer’s Iliad, meaning ‘Always to Excel’, the school motto. This records the school’s foundation in 1631 by the Reverend Francis Rawlinson. The building to the left is Casterby House – the original 19th Century school boarding house. Old boys include the poet Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) – some may remember such lines as: "The voice of the schoolboy rallies the ranks: Play up!, Play up!, and play the game".
To the right is the former Congregational Chapel (1842), an interesting building with slanting superimposed pilasters and shaped windows – probably designed to give an illusion of height and resulting in a rather peculiar effect. This now houses the grammar school library. To the rear is the town’s Nonconformist burial ground. Walk up CHURCH STREET, noting the different types of iron railings and stone and brick walls either side. The house at the corner on the left is Hestcroft House, formerly an Independent Chapel. At the corner of the iron railings surrounding the house is a sword – local legend has it that this very sword was used by the great assembly of demonstrators at Caistor during the Lincolnshire Uprising of 1536. This is not the case however, as this particular type of sword was not designed until the 1890’s. The white building on your right is the original National School (1824) mentioned earlier. Turn left into CHAPEL STREET, noting on the right the (Wesleyan) Methodist Chapel (1842), the Wesleyan School (1867), and the Police House built in 1855, two years before the Police Act, indicating serious worry about Caistor crime! You are now leaving Roman Caistor at its north west corner.
Immediately opposite Chapel Street is Holly House, an imposing red brick town house with its main door five steps above street level. Turn right into HIGH STREET, the attractiveness of which results mainly from the subtle bends in the road and the steady rise in level from west to east. Buildings line the street more or less continuously and are mainly constructed of red brick and pantiles, with occasional colour washed walls. Walking up the gentle slope of High Street, on the left one sees HUNDON WALK, which is part of the Viking Way long distance footpath. Continue up High Street passing the Talbot Inn, a little of which may date from 1642, when Caistor’s earliest recorded Inn stood here. Just beyond the Talbot Inn is the Town Hall (1887) with the new Arts Centre to the rear. Proceed up the hill and look back at the gable end of Number 10, the pattern of bricks with triangles formed by sloping courses is known as ‘tumbling’, and may be a fashion created in response to the difficulty of cutting neatly the excellent hard local bricks. At the top of High Street, turn right into South Street, noting on the left the narrow passage ‘LUCY’S LANE’ – which was named after a famous local dancer. On your right are the new flats, The George Court, built on the site of the former Magistrates Court and The George, an old coaching inn. Carry on into the Cornhill passing the ‘Kings Head’, and retrace your steps down the passage way at the side of the Cornhill to the Market Place.
Distances in miles to nearest towns from Caistor: