Heckington Manor Hands-on Archaeology Day

Heritage Lincolnshire were asked by Charles and Sally Pinchbeck to deliver a small archaeology day in the ground of Heckington Manor, in advance of restoration works taking place on the building.  We worked with them to design a test pitting and geophysics event, which would gather data on the archaeology surrounding the building, whilst giving the local community a chance to get involved and find out what was happening to the building.  This event was also planned in a way which was compliant with Covid restrictions in force.

After advertising the excavation and geophysics opportunities to the public, demand was such that we increased the number of spaces available and worked with the local school to get them on site in the following week.


Investigating the grounds of Heckington Manor

In June 2021, Heritage Lincolnshire were lucky enough to offer a fantastic community archaeology experience right on our doorstep!  Courtesy of owners Charles and Sally Pinchbeck, we provided a small number of local residents with the opportunity to dig some test pits and undertake a geophysical survey in the grounds of Heckington Manor to see if we could find out a little more about the site, prior to the current buildings and recent history.

The historic records tell us that there was a house of some size on the site prior to the construction of the present house. In 1578 the Mansion House, also known as Boston Garth, was leased to William Taylor. By 1665 Robert Taylor was living in a large house in Heckington, presumably on this site. In 1769 Richard Godson married Mary Taylor, the heiress of the Taylor estate, and this family lived at Heckington Manor until the 1950s.

Earnest H. Godson, a Sleaford solicitor, enlarged and altered the house in 1905. After the 1950s the house was purchased by the County Council and became a children’s home, then a residential home for the elderly before being sold to become the Ferdowse Clinic. It is currently unoccupied, and has recently been bought by the Pinchbeck’s, with plans of undertaking a full restoration.

Through Heritage Lincolnshire’s Community Heritage Team, we offered six family groups the opportunity to learn basic excavation techniques by digging two test pits, with the aim of finding evidence of an earlier structure on site.  We also offered three further family groups a chance to learn about geophysical techniques, and to see if we could find any evidence that there may have been an earlier building on site which had been surrounded by a moat.

Whilst we found no evidence of any features (either building structures or a ditch resembling a moat), one of the test pits producing a surprising variety of finds spanning literally thousands of years!  The team were delighted to identify a prehistoric flint hammer stone, a single piece of Anglo-Saxon pottery and a selection of domestic pottery sherds dating from the 17th –  19th centuries.  We will now spend a little more time analysing all the finds in more detail and produce a short report for the Pinchbecks, providing yet another tantalising glimpse of the history of this well-known Heckington landmark.

Comments included:

“A bit of digging with a difference and not my garden. Hands-on archaeology day at Heckington Manor with my son. We both excavated a test pit with archaeologists and had some fab finds. Majority of finds C18th kitchenware and the totally unexpected, found in the residual soil a potential Mesolithic flint hammer stone. Thanks goes out from both my son and I to Charles and Sally Pinchbeck for allowing us access to their garden, also Heritage Lincolnshire for putting on such a fabulous event.”


Some of the finds that were found on the day are shown below.  The animal bone and pottery will most likely be domestic waste from meals from the house and the possible flint hammerstone would have been used to make flint tools up to around 10,000 years ago and tells us that mesolihtic people may have hunted or travelled through the area.