Swineshead History Montage

Swineshead Village History

Swineshead History Lincolnshire Places Photo 8

Swineshead has a long and remarkable history and was mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles in AD 675 and again in AD 779 when 10 tenant farms in Swineshead were mentioned as having pasture and meadows. It is not listed in the Domesday Book but Drayton is. This does not necessarily mean that Swineshead did not exist.


The Romans conquered Britain around 55 BC and were here until the middle of the fifth century. There is evidence of Roman salt pans in this area so there must have been people to work them.  In Swineshead Market Place there is the base of an old cross (possibly a preaching cross), which has been dated to around AD 1000.


At this time most of the land was under water and the area was a series of islands.  People lived by fishing and fowling and everyone moved around in boats. Drayton came into being as a mooring place for the larger boats and it has been suggested that the name may have come from the words ‘draught’ or ‘dray’ meaning to draw up boats.  The name Swineshead comes from the old Scandinavian word ‘svein’ and the Old English word ‘swin’ meaning a tidal creek. This combined with ‘heda’, the Anglo-Saxon word for dock or landing place, gives us Swins-heda – which over the years has become Swineshead.


Swineshead History Lincolnshire Places Photo 8   Swineshead History Lincolnshire Places Photo 8  
Swineshead History Lincolnshire Places Photo 6


After the coming of the Cistertian monks who instigated the drainage of the land, more and more pasture became available and sheep farming took over. The monks made their living from wool and the Abbot of Swineshead is said to have kept a house in Boston which was his residence when he needed to conduct business in the town. It is known that the monks were exporting their wool to Italy in 1300.


Swineshead Abbey was founded in 1135 by Robert de Greslei who endowed it with 240 acres of demesne land. The abbey was initially supplied with eleven monks from Furness Abbey which was its ‘mother house’.


Swineshead Abbey is famous for the poisoning of King John after his baggage train had been washed away on the tide at Sutton Bridge.  It is debateable whether any treasure was actually lost in this accident and there is an excellent book by Richard Waters called ‘The Lost Treasure of King John’, when the author puts forward a number of different scenarios as explanation for the supposed loss.


Swineshead History Lincolnshire Places Photo 6

The Abbey was dissolved in 1536 and in 1552 the site of the ruined abbey was granted to Edward Lord Clinton, but he seems to have done very little with it and by 1607 the abbey lands had been acquired by Sir John Lockton. He built himself a house out of the remainder of the abbey stone – the local residents had plundered the stones for their cottages -  and this house still stands today though much altered. The Lockton family lived there for many years.


A weekly market was held in Swineshead from the early part of the twelfth century.  By the early seventeenth century there were 37 market towns in Lincolnshire and in 1613 a commission was appointed to suppress some of them, including Swineshead. This move seems to have failed as the market continued for another two hundred years.  It was a very successful market for many years and the farmers would come into Swineshead to do business, which was usually conducted in the public house or beer house of their choice. They had a very good choice, as for many years there were no less than eighteen pubs in Swineshead.  


Swineshead has had its share of pubs, shops, schools, mills, and even a workhouse, all of which will be covered on other pages of this website.


Population of the civil parish of Swineshead - census returns