Spilsby is the sixth town of the project. Located in East Lindsey Spilsby is a historic town which received its first market charter in 1255.
Archaeological remains, including barrows, cropmarks, and find-spots are recorded within the survey boundary. In the wider area, the Wolds are well known to have been intensively occupied during the prehistoric period. Remains within the Spilsby suggest local occupation, located to the east of the survey boundary, between Spilsby and Halton Holegate. To the south of Spilsby, Neolithic and Bronze Age remains suggest that tool production or processing may have been taking place nearby. It is likely that further remains from this period are extant within the boundary.
There is less evidence from the Roman period, however, recent investigations on Queen Street (Archaeological Project Services 2020) have recorded evidence which suggests that a 3rd to 4th century settlement is likely. Outside of the survey boundary, Roman occupation is well known, including settlements at West Keal and Partney.
By the early medieval period, small settlements had formed within the survey boundary; Old Spilsby now a DMV (deserted medieval village) is located to the north, and Eresby to the south, both of which were mentioned in the Domesday Survey. Little is known about the settlement of Eresby, which was identified through aerial photographs in the late 20th century.
The Old village of Spilsby is located 800m to the north of the current town. The remains of the village are now buried earthworks, and are an excellent example of an early village, preserved due to its abandonment in the 13th century. It is likely that many of the inhabitants were relocated to the new market town, contributing to its abandonment. In 1255, the lord of the manor, John de Bec, was granted permission to hold a market and fair. It was during the same period that the town centre of Spilsby was planned. It is likely all of these events were connected; the lords of Eresby Hall were responsible for much of the development of the current town and wider area, throughout the centuries. St James’s Church began as a small chapel, which was subordinate to the church of Eresby. In 1348, Spilsby became the dominant parish church of the area with responsibility for Kirkby, Over Toynton, and Eresby. Much of the extant church structure dates back to the 14th century, which coincides with the building becoming the parish church.
Spilsby has remained a small market town with only a small amount of growth in the 18th and 19th centuries, this too was partially due to the lord of the manor who was reluctant to build new houses in the town. Despite this, the town expanded beyond its former medieval boundaries in this period. Bricks, which were produced locally were used in the development of the town in the post-medieval period, this is reflected in the red brick buildings which dominate the town centre. The establishment of a prison and court made Spilsby a civic centre for the surrounding area in the early 19th century, many of the buildings constructed for these purposes remain. In the mid 18th century, the road which connected Boston to Louth via Spilsby, was made into a turnpike road. Its introduction stimulated the coaching industry within the town, which had two main coaching inns; The George and the White Hart. In 1868, Spilsby was connected to the railway network which increased development to the south of the town. The railway line was in operation until the mid 20th century, at which point it was dismantled, although it is still recognisable in the landscape. In the modern period, Spilsby has expanded as a settlement with many new housing developments taking place on all sides of the town. Despite this, Spilsby has remained a small town with a focus on the market centre.
Spilsby’s overall character is one of a small, rural market town, located between the Wolds and the fenland. The dominant building material in the town is red brick and the majority of the buildings were constructed in the post-medieval and modern periods. HUCA 1 represents the historic core; it represents the medieval core of the town. Most of the buildings within the HUCA date to the post-medieval period, with many constructed 18th and 19th centuries following a catastrophic fire in the town. However, many of the property boundaries within the character area are medieval and later development respected these boundaries. HUCA 2 is characterised by post-medieval growth. Growth did not occur to a large extent outside HUCA 1 until the 19th century.
The buildings within the HUCA are similar in character and materials to HUCA 1, however their layout is different due to the fact that they were constructed in new plot boundaries rather than redeveloped into medieval boundaries. HUCA 3 is characterised by 20th century growth, with several modern housing developments being constructed at this time. These developments do not reflect the historic character of the town, rather, they reflect the prevailing construction styles of the time of development and are therefore not unique to the Spilsby. The majority of the modern development does not detract from the settlement, however, it also does not make a large contribution to its historic character. HUCA 4 and 5 are agricultural in character, and comprise large gently undulating fields surrounded by hedges and trees. Both were enclosed in the early medieval/medieval period, there are traces of open fields, and many closes, organised by private agreement. HUCA 5 contains the remains of the Old Spilsby village DMV, which was abandoned in the 13th century. HUCA 4 contains Eresby Hall, a medieval manor; the lords of the manor developed Spilsby as a market town. There is also the potential for a second deserted medieval village adjacent to Eresby Hall, however, this requires further investigation.