The history of Leverton began way back before the Roman conquests when it was thought that there was a settlement there. At that time the sea would cover most of the area with the odd patch of high ground excepted. It would be on one of these patches that the earl inhabitants would construct a shelter of some kind mainly from branches, reeds etc., perhaps covered with mud.
The early residents were known as the Belgae or Iceni, the name was gradually changed to Briton from the Roman name of Britannia.
Lincolnshire was colonised by the Romans, commanded by Gnaus Julius Agricola about 70 A.D. and Leverton was in the Roman province of Flavia Caesariensis.
It was between 70 A.D. and 410 A.D. that the Romans constructed a sea bank to hold back the high tides, which covered the countryside. This was not the bank known as the “Roman” bank but they possibly heightened the track along the high water mark, this is thought to be along the present route of the main road (Boston to Skegness). After its construction it would be useful to the Romans as a means of travel and for moving troops against raiders from the continent. However, ancient records tell us that in 245 A.D. there was a flood and much of the land was never recovered.
After the Romans left, people from Friesland in what is now Holland raided the Leverton shore and some invaders settled in Britain (the names Freiston and Friskney being named after them). For the next 300 years Leverton was part of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Mercia. During this time the land lost during the flood of 245 A.D. was mainly recovered. Perhaps from their past experience of the Dutch coast the new settlers, and maybe some of the Britons, constructed a new sea defence along the road from Freiston to Joy Hill in Wrangle. This runs along Highgate and Moat Lane in the modern geography. It is almost the centre of Benington and certainly at Old Leake near to where the Ostrich corner now is. At Wrangle boats moored within half a mile of the church at Hall End.
Stone for building the churches would most likely be brought by sea. During the latter part of the Anglo Saxon rule raiders from Denmark increased their raids on the coast and eventually King Alfred incorporated the parish of Leverton and the surrounding areas into the Dane-law i.e. that part of Britain ceded to the Danes. It is from about this time that the place had the name of Leverton or Levretune.
There are two explanations as to how the village would be named. One suggestion is that the name is a construction of Saxon words “Liv” meaning a harbour, “er” meaning border, and “ton” the name ending meaning town. Therefore, Leverton means a town on the edge of an estuary harbour. Bearing in mind that there are records to show that the have to Old Leak was open in 1086, at the present Ostrich corner the second suggestion must be more relative.
From this period in time there are written records to outline the evolution of the village, starting with the reference in the Doomsday Book compiled by William 1st (the Conqueror) about 1086. Referred to as Lavintone in that book the modern translation – the original being in Latin – is as follows:-
“Leverton in Skirbeck there are 1440 acres of arable land upon which rates and taxes are levied. The manor is held by Ulf who has four carucates that is 480 acres. There are twelve plough teams –twenty-five tenants of land – fifteen men in the village doing menial work and twenty-four cottagers who have the twelve ploughs. There is a priest and a church, and sixty acres of meadow land. The (arable) is two miles long and six furlongs broad”.
The church mentioned would not be the present structure, which was not built until the 14th century, but there are parts of it thought to date from Norman times. Again there is a controversy, if the church mentioned stood on the present site (old foundations have been found in the church), or if the legend is true that the building was nearer the sea and was swept away by a flood. There is evidence for both thoughts, but no definite proof. In the first case the foundations mentioned prove the existence of a substantial building and the geographical position would be more agreeable, the site being higher than sea level and landward of the Roman bank. But old maps show the centre of Leverton south in the area of the present Lucasgate. During the 12th century further land was reclaimed with a ban along the present road from Benington Sea End through the Outgate to the Ostrich (the harbour). It is on record that during the reign of Henry 2nd (1154 – 1189) the parish was divided in two medieties of North and South Leverton. In 1178 there were terrible floods and the sea banks broke, partly due to neglect, and large parts of Holland were destroyed. Could there have been two churches and one been destroyed by this flood? It is possible, especially when one considers that the construction would be of wood and a thatched roof and not very substantial against a flood and could have been built for the newly reclaimed village. Of course, the same argument could equally pass for the site of the present church. Whatever is the truth we cannot tell but weight of evidence points to the church having stood on the present site.
From now onwards we can be fairly certain of the development of the village as we are more fortunate than most communities in that records for the village, dating well back in history, are at hand. During the 11th and 12th century four successive rectors passed the rectorship on to their sons. In Edward 1st reign (1272 – 1307) John, son of Alward de Leverton gave the church to Waltham Abbey, but in 1321 Sir Nocholas de Leek was presented with the moiety of Leverton church. A court had to intervene to solve the claim. Bearing in mind that in 1291 the church of Leverton paid the Pope £23 6s 8d, there was probable great wealth at statke. In Henry 2d reign (1154 – 1189) the North medietie was valued at £15 8s 8d, and the South £16 16s 0d. During this period a bank was thrown up from the Lodge Farm towards Hurns End enclosing what was called the Newlands, but parts of the marsh were continuously reclaimed between 1140 and 1200. The haven at the Ostrich was still open at this time. It is possible that parts of the so-called “Roman” bank could have been started about now.
The church as we know it was begun in the 14th century. The nave and th aisle were thought to be part of an earlier stone construction, perhaps erected during the Norman conquests. The actual building operation was not completed until the 15th century when the tower was built. At about the time the tower was completed a chalice was given to the church engraved with a “lever” and a “tun”. This in no way suggests this was how the village name arose but is a play o words. In 1566 the records show that Mr Thos Tyckett died and he owned five cows, two calves, two mares, three foals, one pi, fourteen ewes six lambs, ten hens and a cock, (a mixed farming enterprise). It does not state his position of status in the village but he must have been influential with such possessions. About this period the agricultural worker earned 1d per day, with meat 1/4d per pound, however, the village spent nearly £1y6 between 1498 and 1503 on repairs to the church and steeple, (this would presume that according to the original plan the church should have had a steeple but perhaps this had to be omitted because of the subsidence. This can clearly be seen today). Places named in 1498 are Gildersburne, Hobbly Stile, Kings Garth, The Gowt House and Lucasgate.
The £16 spent on the church, however, was not sufficient as in 1517 to 1519 considerable repairs were done. The accounts show that in 1506 a thatcher and men were paid 4/4d, while another man was paid 1/- per day plus meat for mowing the reeds. 1529 saw thirty load of stone brought from Folkingham to pave the Lady Chapel i.e. the South aisle. Mention is made in 1493 of two alters in the church, one to St. Mary and one to St. Thomas, and the two parts, each parish may have had its own patron saint.
Between 1531 and 1533 the church was rethatched and approximately during this period the “Roman” bank would be built and if so the Ostrich haven would be closed. However, with the port established in Boston and the possible silting up of the shore and with boats getting larger the haven would be of small importance. However, with the port established and boats getting larger the haven would be of small importance. However, a writer in 1814 stated that remains of a lighthouse were still to be found on a hill near “floors” i.e. the saltings from the Ostrich towards the sea on the Leverton side of the present road where the Hurn End is today.
In 1553 the Queen Mary restored the Roman Catholic faith in Britain and between 1555 and 1557 orders were given to rebuild the rood loft. Unfortunately with the advent of Queen Mary 1st and the reinstatement of the Protestant Church of England the roof loft was removed in 1561. The two lion head figures which held the loft, and the stairs still remain as does the rood screen, but two openings or sections were removed to make its present number of five and it was repositioned tow feet nearer the alter. At the same time the two side alters were removed at a cost of 14d.
The communion cup was bought in 1570 for 12/- and the church was partly reroofed in 1589 with 700 tiles (costing £1 11 0d). The rector at this time, by the name of Peacham, had a son who carved his name Henry on one of the windowsills in 1597. He later became famous as the author of the book “The Complete Gentleman”.
The inhabitants of Leverton played their part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, perhaps indirectly, when payment was made for material to clothe soldiers and in 1595 for maimen soldiers. They may also have gathered on the seashore to watch odd ships of the Armada limping along the coast.
In 1603 a larger area was flooded and if the “Roman” bank had not been there this flood could have been the reason for its construction. Between 1603 and 1625 two sea banks were visible but these could be Highgate and Outgate.
Simon Clarke in 1603 left a cottage for a poor man or woman. Levertonions were also entitled to send six scholars to Benington School and two alms persons to Benington bedehouses. Mr Thomas Derby whose family constructed Derby Hall is mentioned at this time. Still being generous the Overseers gave William Horfitt 6d – he had been prisoner to the Turks. In 1611 the Churchwardens paid 12d, “for ayle on plow munday”, and 1612 the bell ringers feast on the 5th November, “paid for able, bread, cake and cheese for Ringing day 6/8d”.
Henry Peacham, the original window carver, championed schoolboys up to the present times when he stated that schoolboys were too hard worked and should have more sport.
There is no record of Levertons allegiance during the civil war but parliamentary troops were in the village and the area in general was in favour of the Parliament. During the commonwealth 1653 to 1658 (Oliver Cromwell’s rule), the church was ransacked, many statues were broken and the stained glass in the windows. A little was spared and can be seen it the windows near the organ. Faces of the statues in the church still bear the marks of the Cromwellian swords.
The north door in the church was called the Devils door, during Baptism this door was opened for the devil to leave the child being baptised. With the Church of England well established by 1688 the wealth and size of the village extended much more quickly. The “Roman” bank was now a formidable defence and most of the wet parts had been brought into a productive capacity. By 1759 the agricultural pattern was established. The three-field system was never introduced in Leverton, each farmer retaining his own fields with public and poor land rented. Most villagers had an acre or so allotment. The census in 1759 showed wheat and rye 110 acres, barley 71.75 acres, and oats 94.75 acres. There were no potatoes grown, first records for potatoes in 1772 showed they produced £3 10s 0d, per acre, being 2d a peck.
Repairs and additions to the church continued and in 1728 a “hideous brick disfigurement” was built where now the present clerestory is. According to an inscription on the tower the “Church and Chancel were new covered in 1728”. The records show that lead was purchased in 1728, presumably for the roof. Prior to 1728 the roof over the nave would be much lower, possibly continuing at the same angle as over the side aisles and most probably thatched.
An outbreak of small pox occurred in 1701 and in 1819 due to the driest year in memory there was an outbreak of typhoid fever. In Old Leake there were 175 burials due to the fever. With the coming of the 19th century many things happened in Leverton, which was to outline the village, as we know it today. Abraham Sneath completed a new sea bank in 1801, costing an estimated £5000, half a mile nearer the sea enclosing another 395 acres of soil, but in 1820 the highest tide then recorded broke both banks and caused considerable damage. The Enclosure Act of 1810 enclosed the common land, which permitted the farms to begin to grow in size. The area of Leverton at the Enclosure was 2984 acres 2 roods 35 perches. The census of 1801 showed that there was 113 acres of wheat, 80 acres of barley, 22 acres of oats and 20 acres of potatoes.
The religious side of the village also changed dramatically when North and South Leverton were merged as one parish in 1800. This meant the destruction of one of the two rectories, which had stood within a small enclosure south/east of the church. One rectory still stands although no longer the rectors home.
The system of Tithes for providing for the parson was discontinued in 1816 instead 397 acres was allotted for the rector. This could be farmed or rented out. Before 1816 the tradition was that each householder paid 1.5p “smoke money” depending on the number of chimneys, and each communicant at Easter gave 2d offering. However, the parsons standard of living could have dropped as in 1851 the land was valued at £1 5s 1d per acre. The Rev. John Capern the rector presented to the church a silver flagon weighing 55 ozs. Perhaps the greatest occasion the church had known since its conception was in the 1890’s. the building was completely restored and seats for 259 persons were installed, the cost being £2754. The present clerestory was built at this time, Henry Fowler being the architect. Such was the work that the building was closed and on completion the reopening was a gala affair. Before this a new rood had been fitted in 1882-3 and the oak reading desk had been given to the memory of rector C F Newmarch. During these repairs an ancient stone coffin was found in the church but its occupant disintegrated when the coffin was moved. Methodist and Wesleyan chapels were built by the nonconformists, on the main road in 1858 and in the Outgate in 1866.
The National School was established in 1873. It was built on half an acre of poor land at a cost of £771 of which the parishioners contributed £464. Previous to this the church had provided education in a day school costing each scholar 1d per week. The Methodists had Sunday schools at each chapel to teach reading etc. There was room for 100 children at the National school; the average attendance being 60, with M Walter Meadows appointed headmaster and Miss Florence Martin the infant’s mistress. The Charity Commissioners directed a yearly payment of £50 to the schools managers as long as the school shall be conducted as a public elementary school under a conscience clause that the labourers children receive free education.
The population of the village increased, in 1842 official figures give 631 persons, by 1856 the population was 790. In1891 the population dropped to 583 but this was partly due to the East Fen no longer being part of the village.
This period also produced many of the large farmhouses and halls. Derby Hall was built in the 16th century and was very prosperous at this time, possibly soon after the land was reclaimed and drained. Leverton Hall was the home of William Thomson Dawson, but the old hall was replaced by the new hall in 1844-45. The sites were adjacent and material from the old was used in the new. The Grange was occupied by Mr C F Swain but was owned by the church. The Lodge farm was worked by Mr Edwin Welsh. Also, Mussam Hall belonged to Mr Charles Brooks. Mr S R Fydell had the title of Lord of the Manor.
Other businesses flourished in the village. The Otrich provided a centre for relaxation for the workers on the marsh side of the village and the Bell for those living in the centre of the village near the present war memorial. In 1864 the village pump was provided opposite the memorial. Along the main road towards Old Leake there stood the Mill worked by Ablard, and two shoemakers found work from the village Mr Richard Howden and Mr Sam Walker. This is not surprising as the only form of transport other than the carriers cart on Wednesdays and Saturdays was to walk. The roads would not be anything like the present day ones but tracks with stones thrown in the bigger holes. Our “green lanes” of today give some idea of the state of the roads. In 1878 the Tramway Act provided for a tram way from Boston to Wrangle but this never materialised.
As time moved on and the present century arrived another landmark was added to the village in the shape of the war memorial near the new lay-by, listing those men of Leverton who lost their lives defending their country. The present village hall was originally built to house girls for he Land Army for a later war, being converted to its present state during the late 1950’s. The Home Guard had barracks on the sea bank but these have now been demolished.
Keeping up with the development of the 20th century telephone communication came to the village in 1930, the original subscribers being Arthur Saul, Old Leake 9 and Thomas Woodward Old Leake 15.
The centre of the village moved from the area of the Pump, which had been demolished, to a new housing complex in Lacey’s Lane. The establishment of the Fire station, the garage and the shop following. In recent years, as stated above, the Pump has gone, the pit levelled and is now an arable field, and so too has the mill. The Bell was demolished and the Three Horse Shoes is dilapidated and the Ostrich is now a private dwelling. The two blacksmith shops, one near the Pump of Mr Brittain and the other in Highgate of Mr Munks are no more. Even the main road ha been straightened through the village, and the path the livestock tramped on their way to market is now a car park for the picnic area.
But the history and evolution of Leverton continues. A recently completed reclamation scheme has yielded yet another sea bank and extra acres of fine land for farming. New drainage pumps continue where the Romans started 2000 years ago. Many of the landmarks and buildings he gone with the pretext of modern advancement, but the church still stands just a little secluded perhaps, but a constant reminder of our heritage.