Evidence of human activity during the prehistoric period is recorded within the survey boundary. This largely relates to scattered finds of pottery, flint tools and knives. A prehistoric route way, known as Barton Street, also crossed the northern half of the town and the eastern edge of the Wolds beyond, connecting to Barton-upon-Humber. During the Roman period there is evidence which suggests there were settlements in the area. Recent discoveries shed further light on this period and weight to the argument. The earliest mention of Louth is in the late 8th century although it is likely that a settlement was extant in the town before this time. Evidence for this comes from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery (HER: MLI41162) on the boundary with South Elkington parish. This cemetery dates to the 5th and 6th centuries and is located on high ground with commanding views to the surrounding marshland. Louth became an administrative and religious centre during the early-medieval period. The town gives its name to the wapentake (administrative division) of Louthesk, indicating it was a key settlement in the region. The town is listed in the Domesday survey and it is clear that Louth had been a market town even before this. The survey records a large population with many traders, mills and a large amount of agricultural land. The medieval town extended from the River Lud to the north, Kidgate to the south, Church Street to the east and Westgate bridge to the west. Its layout began to form in the early medieval and medieval periods and was likely focused around the central market place, around which burgage plots were laid out. The pattern of these burgage plots can still be seen in the present day and make up the layout of the modern town. Furthermore, it was the success of the market and trade which allowed the town to prosper during the medieval period.
The town was close to wool producing areas whose pastoral farming activities led to a very prosperous merchant trade in the town. This was combined with its strategic position for transportation of goods between Lincoln and the coast. Cloth production contributed to the town’s growth, especially by the 13th century when Louth Park, a Cistercian monastery to the east of Louth, had an important role in Lincolnshire as a landowner and in the sheep-rearing and wool exportation trades. The institution frequently traded with northern Italy. Although cloth making had declined throughout the county by the 16th century, Louth still remained an important market town and was still a stopping point in trade routes to the coast where goods such as wool were taken to other port towns to export. When the English Civil War broke out in 1642 the Warden and Assistants of Louth adopted a neutral stance, although a skirmish between Royalists and Parliamentarians did break out in June of 1643 and resulted in three men dying. In 1770 the Louth Canal was constructed on the eastern side of Louth, which meant increased trade and industry for the town. This reinvigorated the economy of Louth which had been reduced by the decline of the wool trade nationally and internationally. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the growth of Louth as an inland port, which created greater opportunities for trade and increased accessibility to the town. New businesses and areas of industry were established following the development of the port and the prosperity created also resulted in the development of many large residential areas to the west of Louth. In 1801 a Parliamentary Enclosures Act was passed which changed the character of the landscape surrounding the town.
The award meant the privatisation and the enclosing and hedging of previously open fields, which brought a change in agricultural practices and a change in attitudes to land use by allowing new areas to be opened up for development. This pushed a new period of growth within the town and many new streets of terraced housing were constructed. In 1848, Louth was connected to the railway network, between Grimsby and Boston.
Its introduction brought further changes to the town and contributed to the decline of the canal, which eventually closed in 1924. In the 20th century, the town has grown with new residential areas on the north, east and south of the town. A new industrial area known as Fairfields Industrial Estate, was also established in the 1960s, away from the traditional industry adjacent to the canal. It contributed to a new industrial economy of the town and was benefited by the opening in 1991 of the A16 bypass, which improved accessibility.
The character of Louth demonstrates several phases of development. HUCA 1 represents the historic core of the town. The built environment, comprising red brick and traditional timber windows, is mainly post-medieval but the street layout is still medieval in nature. HUCA 2 comprises the 19th century southern expansion for the town, including a new cattle market and cemetery along with new areas of terraced housing. HUCA 3 lies to the west of the medieval core and has residential buildings dating from the 17th century to the 20th century. This area was developed due to increased prosperity following the construction of the canal, and many of the houses are large and demonstrate the increased wealth which was being generated in the town. It also has large open areas, including Hubbard’s Hills, Westgate Fields and a golf course. HUCA 4 is located to the north of the town centre and is mainly 19th to 21st century residential expansion. Civic structures such as the hospital and Louth Academy were also constructed in the HUCA catering for the burgeoning population. HUCA 5 is another area of residential expansion from the 19th century, although most of the structures date to the 20th century. HUCA 6 is to the west of the medieval core and centred around the Riverhead. It originated as an industrial area which developed following the construction of the canal. There is a mixture of industrial and residential buildings, which are predominantly red brick. These were developed between the 18th and 20th centuries, with the earlier buildings largely being constructed for industrial purposes. In the modern period the HUCA is largely residential with many of the former warehouses converted to flats or housing. The newer housing is in keeping with the 19th century industrial aesthetic. HUCA 7 is an area of residential expansion to the south of the town. It includes mainly 20th century housing, and reflects the growing population and size of the town over this period. HUCA 8 is an agricultural area and is located to the south and north of the survey boundary. It is comprised of modern fields, farmsteads and agricultural units. Modern industrial development in the survey area is represented by HUCA 9. This character area comprises Fairfields Industrial Estate, which was built in the 1960s.