The place-name Burton connotes 'the ton next to the borough', a fortification that is also commemorated in the nearby settlement of Burg, and hints at the vill's pre-Conquest role as a subordinate element in a large multiple estate which was probably based upon Sleaford and/or Kirkby Laythorpe (1). Sometime before the Conquest, however, the vill had been booked out. Two carucates of land, together with soke in Helpringham, were attached to the manor of Folkingham and had passed to Gilbert de Gant by 1086. Throughout the Middle Ages they remained subordinate elements in manors located ouside of the vill (2). The remaining ten carucates, along with sokeland in Heckington and Aswarby, constituted a manor which was held TRE by Athelstan, a king's thane who held extensive estates in Kesteven and Holland. By 1086 the whole of his 'fee' was held by Guy de Craon, and he retained Burton as a demesne vill (3). In the twelfth century some two and half carucates were granted to various religious houses, and four bovates were let to a mesne tenant for the service of one ninth of a knight's fee (4). Most of the estate, however, was retained in the hands of the capital lord of the fee, and the manor seems to have functioned as the centre of the honour of Craon in South Lincolnshire, but was itself subordinate to the caput of the fee in Freiston. By 1276 Burton was held by Walter Pedwardine, and his descendents appear to have retained their main residence in the village until the early fifteenth century, for a chantry was founded in the parish church in which the lords of the manor were buried (5). The manor was alienated in c.1450, and passed to Thomas Daniel and in 1464 to William Hussey who did not live in the village. Mareham Grange was reabsorbed into the estate in 1552 with the purchase of the manor by Sir Thomas Horsman, and the estate descended almost intact into the present century (6).
The earthworks surveyed relate to a major multi-period site (Fig 37) and can be identified as the caput of the Craon estate, for the fee of the thirteenth century mesne tenant was small and had been resumed by the principal lord of the fee by 1346 (7). No detailed account of the complex has been found, but in the light of the manor's importance in 1066 and the proximity of the site to the Domesday church, it is possible that it has pre-Conquest antecedents. Its earliest discernible phase, however, seems to be a motte, presumably of the twelfth century, on which Manor Farm House now stands. An engraving of 1812 (Fig 38) illustrates the feature from the south with the church beyond. The substantial ditch which occupies the foreground still surrounds the earthwork (Fig 39), but the indications of a bailey are not immediately apparent. Subsequently, the site seems to have been remodelled, and the whole was probably surrounded by a wall in the fourteenth century; the curious deep double ditches on the south and west of the sub-rectangular area beyond the motte (Pl VII) suggest either stone robbing on a grand scale or a very wide ditch in the bottom of which dumping has been carried out in such a way as to create parallel ridges. East and south-east of the church and manor there is evidence of a shrunken settlement, with crofts at the north end of which is a hollow way and a small triangular area that was probably a green. The detailed interpretation of these very extensive earthworks remains difficult to elucidate, and the site would merit intensive archaeological investigation.
1. D. R. Roffe, 'Origins', Sleaford, eds C. M. Mahany, D. R. Roffe, Stamford 1979, 11-16.
2. Lincs DB, 24/105; RH i, 242
3. Lincs DB, p.13; 57/30.
4. BF, 179, 1052; RH i, 242.
5. CI ii, 128;, D. M. Owen, Church and Society in Medieval Lincolnshire, Lincoln 1971, 92, 99, 114.
6. Trollope, 346-8.
7. CCAP, CLJ 49.