top of page

Medieval and Tudor Harlaxton

Historical timeline

1066 - Norman invasion of England. William I takes the throne.

1070 - Work starts on Canterbury Cathedral

1085 - The Domesday Book is compiled, a complete inventory of Britain. Harlaxton listed as “Herlavestune”.

1139 - A long civil war is fought across England by King Stephen and his Aunt, Matilda, but neither side was strong enough for outright victory. Stephen keeps the throne but with only nominal control over a country where lawlessness was rife.

1154 - Henry II, the first 'Plantagenet' king, accedes to the throne. He asserted his authority over the barons and enforced law and governance.

1154 - Work starts on York Minster

1170 - Population of London exceeds 30,000 for the first time

1175 Harlaxton Church North arcade built

1189 -  Henry II dies and is succeeded by his son Richard I, who within a year joins the Third Crusade.

1215 - Civil War between King John and his barons leads to the Magna Carta being signed

1175-1225 Harlaxton Church nave and South aisle added and lower stages of tower built

1298 - Marco Polo published his itinerary of China, along with Rustichello da Pisa.

1315 - 1322 Millions die in the Great European Famine. The famine was the product of a cooler and damper climate, coupled with the medieval inability to dry and store grain effectively.

1321-1322 - Civil War

1348 – 1349 - The Black Death (bubonic plague) arrives in England and kills nearly half of the population

1377 - Edward III dies and is succeeded by Richard II who was only 10 years old. In the first part of his reign, because he was so young, the country was ruled by his uncle, John of Gaunt whose son Henry Bolingbroke eventually murdered Richard and became king as Henry IV. It is said that john Of Gaunt owned a hunting Lodge in Harlaxton.

1380 Harlaxton Church fourth stage of tower

1381 - 15 June: Peasants' Revolt..

1387 - Geoffrey Chaucer starts writing the Canterbury Tales

1400 Harlaxton Church East wall of the chancel built

1420-1450 Harlaxton Church North arcade North chapel and Northern side of aisle.

1415 - 25 October: Henry V defeats the French at the Battle of Agincourt

1455 - The War of the Roses begins, a civil war between two branches of the royal family - York and Lancaster - that lasted intermittently until 1485.

1477 - William Caxton publishes the first printed book in England

1485 - 22 August Henry Tudor defeats Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth ending the Wars of the Roses and becoming Henry Vll .

1492 - Christopher Columbus discovered a route going to the New World (i.e. Caribbean Islands and America)

1497 - John Cabot sailed from Bristol aboard the 'Matthew' and discovered North America

1500 Harlaxton Church staircase to the rood loft built

1503 Leonardo da Vinci started making the painting of Mona Lisa; however, completed after three years

1509 - 21 April: Henry VII dies and is succeeded by his younger son who becomes Henry VIII. Two months after he became king, he married his brother's Spanish widow, Catherine of Aragon.

1528 - Henry VIII appeals to the pope to annul his marriage so that he could marry Ann Boleyn instead.

1533 - 25 January: Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn, following divorce from Catherine of Aragon

1533 -   September: Anne Boleyn gives birth to Elizabeth

1534 - November: Act of Supremacy makes Henry head of the English church.

1536  - Act of Union joined England and Wales.

1536 – 1540 – Destruction or closure of 560 monasteries and religious houses

1536 - Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn is executed. Eleven days after the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour.

1537 - 12 October: A male heir, Edward, is born to Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. Henry was shattered by her death shortly after Edward's birth.

1547 - 28 January: Henry VIII dies and is succeeded by nine-year-old Edward VI

1553 - 6 July: Edward VI dies and is succeeded by Lady Jane Grey. Four days after Edward died, Jane was proclaimed queen, but widespread popular support for Mary daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon ensured her reign lasted only a matter of days. Mary I becomes queen, the first woman to be crowned monarch of England in her own right. A devout Catholic, she was determined to halt the growth of Protestantism initiated by her father, and return England to Roman Catholicism.

1554 - Mary marries Philip of Spain despite widespread opposition

1558 Mary dies and Elizabeth I accedes to the throne

1577 15 November: Sir Francis Drake set sails in 'Golden Hind' to circumnavigate the world.

1588 The English defeats the Spanish Armada at the Battle of Gravelines

1591 First performance of a play by William Shakespeare

1600  First British involvement in the Indian continent - East India Company formed.

1600  Population of Britain just over 4 million

1603 Queen Elizabeth 1 dies.

The Harlaxton village of Norman times was already a well developed economy, probably based around a Saxon Manorial arrangement, indeed the Doomsday Book shows that prior to 1066 the village was under the Lordship of Queen Edith, widow of King Edward (Edward the confessor) and sister to King Harold II.


The "Domesday" Book after the Norman Conquest shows how the village had grown, recording it as “Herlavestune” in the hundred of Winnibriggs and the county of Lincolnshire. It had a recorded population of 70 households in 1086, putting it in the largest 20% of settlements recorded in Domesday, larger at the time than Melton Mowbray and just under half the size of Grantham.


At the time of that first census the village is recorded as belonging to King William I 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 is further detailed as having "16 ploughlands with16 men's plough teams,  60 acres of meadow and 2 mills", all with a total value of 2 shillings.

1124 Maud, daughter of Henry 1, was given Lordship of the Soke of Grantham which then included Harlaxton, which she in turn gave to William of Tancarville in return for the service of 10 knights. Each knight was given a “fief” of land, some of which included Harlaxton.

In 1173, records show a Robert Mortimer, lord of Attleborough, as Lord of the Manor. He was pardoned for a debt incurred by his men in Harlaxton. The following year William Mortimer built the first stages of the current church.


In 1194, as punishment for attending a tournament without permission, Robert's lands, including those at Harlaxton, were taken from him and given to William Mortimer, Seigneur of Bec, apparently a distant relation. William held Harlaxton for about a decade. Following King John’s successful campaign in Normandy from 1202-4, Robert was rewarded by the return of his lands, including Harlaxton. The following year, however, Robert took up arms against John and his lands were once again confiscated.


In 1215, while Robert and his older son, William, were both opposed to King John, Robert’s younger son, also named Robert, petitioned the King for £10 of land at Harlaxton, which was granted to him.


Robert the elder died in 1216 or 1217 and at some point, Harlaxton reverted to his older son, William, who held £10 of land at Harlaxton and £5 at Denton from 1226-8. By 1237, he had lost his holdings at Denton to Hugh Mortimer, a cousin, but retained Harlaxton, although by 1242, his holdings were only worth £5, possibly until his death by 29 May 1250, when they apparently passed to his son, Robert.


Robert died in 1263 and passed Harlaxton to his son, Mortimer, who died in 1297.


Mortimer had a son, Constantine, and two daughters, Maud and Cassandra.


In 1340 Constantine Mortimer passed all interests in the Manor of Harlaxton to his son in law, Edmund de Swyneford who built the old manor.

1363 the principle land owners, the Swynefords, were probably living elsewhere. Edmund Duke of York given Lordship of Grantham and John Of Gaunt may have used Harlaxton Manor as a hunting lodge.

Late the 1300s and early 1400s The Swyneford family married into various other noble families including the Luttrell (of Luttrell Psalter), Belesby, Hilton, Pygot, Vaux, Martin and Thisnblebys (Thimbleby) and Ricard families.

Finally in 1434 a John Blewitt married the daughter of Thomas Rycard (Ricard) and the Blewitt family then held the title of Lord of the manor of Harlaxton until 1619 when it was sold to Daniel DeLigne.

Medieval remains today

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 (changed at a later date to it's present "St Peter and St Mary") 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. 

One feature of the church are its many gargoyles which are thought to date back to around 1380 and to be the work of John Oakham and Simon Cottesmore, who were part of the Mooning men Group of Masons. John Oakham is renown for his eyes having drilled irises.

The village's 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 remained in their ownership until 1738 when the manor passed to the Gregory family.

John of Gaunt and Harlaxton

The King’s first son, Edmund Duke of York (known today as Edward the Black Prince ) was given Lordship of Grantham in 1361 and his younger brother John Of Gaunt may have used Harlaxton Manor as a hunting lodge. If true this may be Harlaxton’s closest direct association with Royalty.

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, was the third surviving son of King Edward III and a key figure at this point in English history. As a royal prince he fulfilled the role of military leader, influential statesman and was one of the richest men of his era. 


aunt is also generally believed to have fathered five children outside marriage, four of whom were by his long-term mistress and third wife, Katherine Swynford.

John of Gaunt died of natural causes on 3 February 1399 at Leicester Castle, with Katherine by his side.


But his legacy lived on as it was John of Gaunt’s legitimate son, Henry, who was to go on to be crowned King Henry IV after Richard II’s short reign. All English monarchs from Henry IV onward are descended from John of Gaunt.


His direct male line, the House of Lancaster, would rule England from 1399 until the time of the Wars of the Roses.

bottom of page