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Harlaxton History Society

Winner of The Library Services Trust’s Alan Ball Award for best Local History E-publication 2023


Using our site

As we grow and undertake more local history research we plan to use this site as a virtual library to store and share what we have discovered about our beautiful village.

Content is grouped under the main historical periods of English history outlined in the navigation bar, but a full list of pages appears here.

The Harlaxton History Society aims:

  • To promote interest in and understanding of the History of Harlaxton Parish and it’s surrounding area.

  • To facilitate the collection, preservation and research of historical information or items relating to the History of Harlaxton Parish and it’s surrounding area.

  • To hold open events to encourage community engagement and discussion about the History of Harlaxton Parish and its surrounding area amongst the village community.

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Digging The Harlaxton Manor Houses

In the Spring of 2024, the Harlaxton History Society embarked on an ambitious multi-year project to explore the remains of the previous three manor buildings in the centre of the village.

Prior to the current Harlaxton Manor, built in the mid 19th Century, there is archival evidence of three previous manor houses on a site in the centre of the village.

It is the aim of Harlaxton History Society to use archaeological techniques to reveal a new understanding of the scope and location of the previous manorial complexes.

Find out more here.

Harlaxton - Home to Generations

Harlaxton is a small village located five Kilometres West of Grantham in South West Lincolnshire close to its borders with Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

Early development archaeological evidence indicates that there is a long history of settlement around the village with the remains of Neolithic axes, arrow heads and sherds of Bronze Age pottery and blades having been found along with traces of a prehistoric ritual landscape to the east of the village on the north side of the road into Grantham.

There are faint remains of a Roman defensive or boundary ditch in the heart of the village and a Roman urn containing burnt bones and coins was found in 1740, but it is thought that the village grew from an Anglo Saxon settlement that was taken over and partially renamed by the Danes. The name Harlaxton is a derivation of the Old Norse personal name “Hiorleifr” and the Old English “tun” meaning farmstead or village – so Hioreifr’s Farmstead.

The Domesday Book after the Norman Conquest shows how the village had grown, recording it as “Herlavestune”. At the time of that first census the village is recorded as belonging to the King and is recorded as having a population of “10 villeins who were free peasants, 2 bordars and 58 sokemen who were serfs tied to the land, together with 2 mills, 60 acres of meadow and 60 acres of thicket”.  It was at the time in the top 20% of settlements by size in England.

There are the remains of a market cross in the middle of the village and ridge and furrow earthworks to the north of the parish church all of which bear testament to a thriving agricultural community in the middle ages and Tudor period.

As with all English villages the Church has played an important role historically. The parish church of St Peter and St Paul was founded in the 12th century and is late Norman to Perpendicular in style. Remnants of late 12th century masonry survive in the north arcade of the nave. The church has 13th and 15th century additions, including the 14th century tower. Like many Medieval churches it was and was extensively restored by the Victorians.

As a former estate village, its historical development is intrinsically linked with Harlaxton Manor. 

A 14th century Tudor manor house stood on the south side of Rectory Lane and was reputedly owned by John O Gaunt, son of King Edward III, who used it as a hunting lodge. The manor later passed to the De Ligne family in 1619 and it is likely it was this family who built a new Jacobean style manor house in the centre of the village. The manor remained in their ownership until 1738 when the title and land passed to the Gregory family.

This manorial complex is the subject of an archaeological project being run by the history Society starting Spring 2024. Read more here.

The Jacobean manor house was unoccupied from the 1700s and fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished in 1857 after a new, palatial, manor house was constructed to the east of the village between 1832 and 1848. This last Harlaxton Manor now sits as a significant feature in the landscape.

The buildings within Harlaxton have an idiosyncratic quality with a considerable contribution made by the Lord of the manor Gregory de Ligne Gregory (G.D.G.) between 1790 and 1820 which gives a distinctive character to the village which is now a designated conservation area. You can read about many of the village's historic houses on our Streets Through Time section.

The Victorian era saw the industrialisation of much of the landscape around the village with extensive opencast iron ore extraction taking place until the 1970s. This mining activity was accompanied by an extensive narrow gauge railway system and The Grantham to Nottingham canal which played an important role in the village’s economy from the late 18th to the early 19th century for the transportation of coal and bulk goods such as stone and lime.

The history of the village in the 20th Century matches that of so many rural communities. The First World War not only had a tragic impact on a number of village families who lost husbands and sons to the conflict, but also brought about significant changes to the manor and the way the land around the village was owned and managed. A significant development was the creation of Harlaxton airfield on the ridge above the village,  created as a base for a flying school for the Royal flying Corps Elsewhere in the grounds of the Manor a Trench Warfare School, complete with a dummy trench system was established for the nearby Machine Gun Corps, based at Belton House.

The Manor house was bought by it’s last private owner, Mrs Violet Van der Elst, a businesswoman and inventor, in 1937 when the entire estate was sold off by the last hereditary Lord of the Manor, Philip Pearson Gregory.

During the Second World War, the manor was again requisitioned by the War Office and used as the officers’ mess for RAF Harlaxton nearby before housing the 1st Battalion of the British Airborne Division playing a significant part in Operation Market Garden, of “Bridge too Far” fame, acting as HQ for the 1st Parachute Brigade.

The manor was sold after the war by Mrs Van Der Elst  to the The Society of Jesus (The Jesuits), who from 1948 used it as a centre for training novice priests.

In 1965, the Jesuits leased the manor to the American Stanford University, based in California, making it the first American university campus in Great Britain. In 1970, it became the home to Harlaxton College, part of the University of Evansville in Indiana, USA who bought the Manor House and grounds in in 1978.


It continues in this role, operating as an overseas study centre giving American students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about British life and culture in a historic setting. Under the care of the University the Manor and its walled garden are now being restored to their former glory.

Today the village is a mix of traditional estate housing built in the most part by the Gregories in the 19th Century augmented by more modern housing in small developments on the edges of the older village core.


Harlaxton is now a thriving community with a number of social facilities and a degree of out commuting to the neighbouring towns.

Some of our recent research projects

Harlaxton and the Crown - To Celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III, Harlaxton History Society has created a guide to 62 monarchs over 1200 years and their connections to the village. Download it HERE.

Harlaxton WW1 Casualties - Like many villages the First World War took a heavy toll on Harlaxton. The stories of villagers lost in the war have been researched and recorded in a downloadable document. Download it HERE.

Future Events

The Harlaxton History Society holds monthly meetings consisting of a talk and refreshments. Entry is free for members and £2 for non  members.
Meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month in Harlaxton village Hall. See the details of future events below.

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