GTAR Project: Archaeological & Historical Investigation, East Keal, Lincs.

The discovery of several pieces of stone masonry rubble at the foot of a young tree close to their house prompted J and D H of East Keal to ring the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology in their quest for explanations. Their grand-daughter is considering a future career as an archaeologist and their curiosity was aroused. It was suggested that they contacted Geoff Tann for advice.

Geoff made a visit to the property and the nature of the puzzle became clearer. The farmhouse is brick, and of early 19th century date, but the masonry was limestone and at first glance was from window mullions. This suggested a medieval or later building with stone features, but there is no known site of a high status building in the immediate vicinity.

Photos of the stones were examined by Mick Clark and it was arranged for him to inspect them at East Keal. At the same time, one sherd of glazed pottery was submitted to pottery specialist Jane Young for identification. Not unexpectedly, it proved to have been made as part of the local Toynton/Bolingbroke industry during the 16th/17th century, but the base sherd was not similar to any of the very numerous  known Toynton/Bolingbroke pots. It was identified as from a possible chafing dish (for heating food/liquids over hot fuel) or pedestal pot.

Building work had revealed a few more pieces of stone by the time the second visit was made. Torrential rain limited the recording opportunity but Mick was able to assess the stones and their multiple construction features.

This showed that they were unlikely to be from windows, but possibly formed parts of a pinnacle. Dating was uncertain – they may have been later replacements cut to replicate earlier originals – but some were suspected of being Early English (medieval) in style.

A visit to St Helen’s Church in East Keal could locate no trace of any similar stonework but the church was extensively rebuilt in 1853-4, and the tower was rebuilt after a lightning strike in 1878. The church remains the most likely but still unconfirmed source of the architectural fragments.

Meanwhile, Geoff had been searching records online and at Lincolnshire Archives. A series of 18th century estate maps and the enclosure award showed that there had been no building on the present farmhouse site, but that several buildings had been standing elsewhere within the grounds.

Extract from: A map of the estate belonging to John Short Esq … in East Keal … surveyed 1757 by John Grundy. LAO Misc Dep 2/1. Not to original scale.

(Copyright reserved, reproduced with the permission of Lincolnshire Archives).

Nothing is known for certain of these buildings although there may be a connection with a sequence of 18
th and 19th century deeds which mention buildings and field names and appear to relate to the present house grounds and adjacent land. Still no reason for the masonry, however.

During the research, a local fieldname of Walkmill Hole Close was found on the maps. The name seems to record an early type of medieval fulling mill where the fullers trudged around a pool or pond as part of the process of preparing cloth. The putative mill site is on a now-developed plot, and  is not thought to be the source of the masonry, but it shows that East Keal village may have an interesting archaeological and historical background.

Recently, the owners have found medieval and post-medieval pottery, brick wasters, a few more pieces of stone, and a brick floor surface in the area of one building shown on the early maps.










It will be interesting to see if more pices of the jigsaw can provide the answer to how the stones came to be buried near their house. One possibility being explored is that East Keal may have had two rectories in the 16th century, and one site is not known. It is by no means certain that such a building would have had elaborate stone features.