Layers of History

HTL CASE STUDIES layers of history

Layers of History Study Sites

Freiston Shore

Freiston Shore is a remote coastal site on the edge of the fens. It currently comprises an extended line of military structures merging into a RSPB nature reserve. Originally a fashionable sea bathing resort, Freiston Shore was left behind by the railway revolution in the 19th century and by the 20th century was a shadow of its former self. The outbreak of World War Two and the fall of France, however, was to change the face of Freiston Shore for ever. In a matter of weeks coastal guns and searchlights were installed and a line of defences extending all along the coast was constructed. In the dangerous days of 1940 a Royal Artillery battery and a battalion of infantry waited by the cold North Sea, watching for the first glimpse of German warships that would signal the beginning of battle and invasion. It has been suggested that the structures were disguised as holiday bungalows (the image shows an artists impression).



Hainton sits on rising ground on the south-east side of the Lincolnshire Wolds. It is perched on the edge of a dramatic northeast-southwest aligned ridge. Hainton was once a medieval settlement, evidence for this can still be seen in the form of earthworks signifying the outlines of old field boundaries and crofts with associated ridge and furrow. These earthworks surround Hainton Hall which was built in the mid-17th century. Modified over the years the hall is now surrounded by parkland designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century.



Positioned in a wooded enclave between Lincoln and The Wash, Revesby Estate, once the home of the famous botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks, has been owned and managed by the same family for more than 300 years. Mentioned in the Doomsday Survey, Revesby and the surrounding villages were established by Saxon times. The estate is also the site of a Cistercian Abbey created at the time of The Anarchy in the 12th century. Now little more than a field of humps and bumps the story of the formation of the abbey is one that hints at tumultuous times past. Written at the time of construction the Abbey Charter makes mention of the people who lived and worked the land who were offered (unusually for the time) new homes or their freedom from serfdom.

RERA17 report


Situated in rolling countryside on the edge of the fens, the village of Aslackby was once home to a Knights Templar preceptory. The preceptory was built after Hubert of Rye gave land to the religious order in the late 1100s, perhaps to help ease his way to heaven. Subsequently a Knights Hospitaller property after the fall of the Knights Templars in the 1300s, parts of the property were still standing as late as 1892. Records suggest the preceptory church had a circular nave like the one that would have been at nearby Temple Bruer. A resistivity survey carried out by Layers of History volunteers hinted that this indeed might have been the case. A magnetometry survey in Castle Field across the road, however, suggested that the castle in question was not present. The results did, however, suggest the ghost of some form of enclosed structure presenting more questions rather than answers.

South Ormsby

Nestling in the Lincolnshire Wolds, South Ormsby was once an extensive medieval village. By the 17th century, however, it had reduced in size and become more of a working estate. The Massingberd family who bought the estate, were people of wealth and taste and redeveloped the state with a fine house and gardens by the best designers of the day. As fashions have changed the hall and park have been redesigned, with each design reworking elements of the previous house and gardens. Naturally this process will continue, but traces of the estate’s history are still to be seen in the landscape.





Ormsby geophys


Cresting the Lincoln Edge, north of Lincoln is the estate village of Hackthorn. Preserved in the parklands and meadows are the tofts and crofts that are all that remains of the medieval village. Five hundred years ago, each of these tofts was a house and each of the crofts was a yard with livestock and vegetable crops. Households, families, life, death, and even murder make up the stories of this village as it has evolved from a feudal settlement to the manged estate it is today.





Today, Harlaxton is a rural village on the western edge of Lincolnshire. But below its rolling fields is a prehistoric mystery. Once, five thousand years ago, these fields held large monumental structures that were the gathering point for hundreds of our stone age ancestors. Through careful study and fieldwork the Layers of History volunteers have attempted to give meaning to the ghosts of structures seen in aerial photographs, more than that they have looked at the wider pool of archaeological knowledge to tell the story of what might have been.





Not far from Lincoln and part of the Bardney Limewoods, Southrey Woods consists of 22 acres of typically ancient woodland. Following on from an ancient tradition, Southrey Woods today consists of well managed coppice of small leaved lime, hazel, ash, and oak despite extensive clear felling and plantation in the mid-20th century. This industrial usage is not something new, Layers of History volunteers discovered evidence of industrial scale pitting caused by iron stone mining over much of the area, the date range for which could be extensive. A search in the archives gives a flavour of the wild wood, where normal records do not extend into the darker recesses of the forest, an area that would have been covered by its own forest law.

What did some of our volunteers say?

Cathy Cook;

I heard about Layers through our local history group and I thought this sounds so interesting that I joined. I had just finished Chemo for bowel cancer and had to retire and it gave me such a lift. We were taught how to use various sites on line and also how to look at the countryside and see what is actually there, how to read maps that showed old field boundaries etc.

Through Layers I have met so many people and some have become very close friends, we have attended various talks and have had lovely meals afterwards, so the social side is fantastic. Layers has given me so much confidence and learning about history, I never thought that I would wash finds and I am so sad that it had to come to an end.

Myself and a close friend have become members of Heritage Lincolnshire from the interest that Layers has given us. Recently with the pandemic  I have attended zoom meetings on such a wide range of topics that Heritage Lincolnshire has put on, thank you for promoting Layers of history  and opening my eyes to the fantastic history that we have.

Below are some of Cathy’s favourite pictures of her time with the Layers of History project.  These show  a photography course run in Hackthorn 12th September 2018 and a finds washing day on 6th December 2018.

Chris Belton:

A visit with Layers to the Lincolnshire Environment Record office resulted in me being engaged there as a volunteer to sort collections of thousands of local aerial photographs, many taken by the R.A.F. shortly after WW2. I am a pilot, and keen photographer from the air so I was in my element. Some of the photographs had not been looked at since they were put together and signed off around 1950.

Below are a number of photos showing Chris’s time with the Layers of History project:


Durnin Research was appointed in October 2019 by the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire to evaluate the Layers of History project.

This evaluation was tasked to capture and assess the extent to which the project has performed in terms of meeting the conditions of its support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and capture wider learning from the project to shape how Heritage Lincolnshire approaches the delivery of community volunteering and delivering health and wellbeing activity (both on its own and in partnership with others).

Building on the success of predecessor project Lincolnshire Heritage at Risk, Heritage Lincolnshire wanted Layers to focus on particular aspects of the county’s heritage (medieval earthwork remains, parks and gardens, and military landscapes) which make a significant contribution to the character of its historic landscape.

Executive summary

Evaluation of Layers of History Executive

For the full report please contact the Layers team by emailing them at