: a walk through the archaeology of Castle Bytham : introduction
Castle Bytham lends its name to one of the most important ancient
river systems in Britain for the study of very early human occupation.
Evidence of a major river that flowed over 500,000 years ago was first
identified in a quarry in Castle Bytham and this now extinct system
is known to archaeologists as the Bytham River. Stone tools made by
early humans who gathered wild foods and hunted in this river valley
have been found in several places along the course of the former valley.
The valley itself is no longer discernable in the present land formations
having been obliterated by the ice sheets of the Anglican glaciation
over 400,000 years ago.
The transition from a hunting and gathering way of life to one of
settled farming is thought to have developed in this part of the country
around 3500BC. The communities that developed these early agarian
landscapes used pottery food vessels and grew hulled wheat, barley
and flax; while sheep, cattle, goats and pigs were domesticated and
exploited for protein. Little evidence of these prehistoric farmers
has been located in Castle Bytham, the earliest find in the village
being a Bronze Age arrowhead from around 2500-750BC. The lack of finds
may be the product of the lack of a detailed survey in the area or
it could be that the area remained heavily wooded until later in the
By Anglo Saxon times the area is known to have become a centre of
settlement. An Anglo Saxon burial (explained in more detail in later
sections) was found in Castle Bytham in the 19th century while the
first documentary evidence of a settlement here is from the great
Domesday Book compiled (in Lincolnshire in 1085) to give King William
I a full survey of the taxable holdings of the old Saxon kingdom.
The survey recorded that West Bintham (the Castle prefix
was added later), was previously held by the Saxon Lord Morcar but
had now been awarded largely to a new Norman Lord called Drogo. Interestingly
the survey records three iron forges and seven foreigners in the village
- historians have seen this as evidence that the large motte and bailey
castle in the village was under construction at this time; foreigners,
principally French, were often engaged in such works.
During the reign of King John the castle was leased to William de
Colvile (from 1180 to 1216) who was eventually dispossessed after
a power struggle between King John and the barons led to the signing
of the Magna Carta. The village was then awarded to William de Fortibus
who had backed the tyrannical king.
With the death of John in 1216 the new King Henry III ordered the
return of the property to its previous owner. Fortibus resisted this
and is recorded as having used the Castle at Bytham as a power base
from which to dominate the surrounding settlements and countryside.
The king eventually marched an army to Bytham in 1221 and laid the
Castle to siege with engines of war for up to two weeks before overrunning
its defences and employing miners to weaken its defences and pull
down its keep. Restored to the Castle the Colviles rebuilt the castle
and were in residence at Bytham until 1369.
The Castles last known occupant was Lady Alice Basset (grandmother
of Henry V) who lived in the village during the late 15th century.
It seems to have fallen into ruin some time in the 15th century, most
likely used as a quarry to provide stone for the village as it recovered
from the horrors of the Black Death.
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The text shown on this page has been reproduced from a booklet written
by Dan Ratcliffe, from the Heritage
Trust of Lincolnshire, to accompany a walk around the village
of Castle Bytham which he led as part of the Midsummer
Fair in June 2004.
We are grateful for their permission to reproduce the document on