TF 040515


The site of Dunsby St Andrew, or Coldunsby as it was known in the sixteenth century, occupies an exposed position on the heath one kilometre south west of Brauncewell, and is now part of Brauncewell parish (Fig 5). The name, 'Dunn's homestead', is Danish in form, but the first reference to it is found in Domesday Book (1). At this time it appears to have identified a twelve-carucate hundred (the Lincolnshire equivalent of the vill), and therefore does not exclusively refer to settlement in Dunsby itself, for six carucates which were soke of Ramsey Abbey's manor of Quarrington 'in Dunsby' were both in 1051 and subsequently said to lie in Cranwell (2). The later settlement is represented by six carucates of sokeland which belonged to Geoffrey Alselin's large estate of Ruskington and probably had its origin as an element in an early shire which encompassed much of the wapentake of Flaxwell (3). In 1086 Dunsby was of modest size with a recorded population of thirteen sokemen and one bordar. Geoffrey had two teams in demesne, but these were probably managed from his inland in Brauncewell, and the relationship between the vill and the manorial caput in Ruskington may have remained essentially tributary. There is no explicit evidence of the form of settlement at this time, but it is likely that dispersed smallholdings were the norm: in 1182 some selions in the territory of Dunsby were still known as 'the Toftes' (4). In the mid twelfth century, however, the land was enfeoffed. The lord's hall was almost certainly situated in neighbouring Brauncewell, and much of the land in the village was given by successive lords to Catley Priory, Newbo Abbey, and the Knights Templar of Temple Bruer in the later twelfth century (5). But onerous labour dues were imposed on the peasantry, if not already rendered in 1086 (most land was held in villeinage by 1287) and the process of manorialisation probably encouraged some nucleation of settlement around the church (6). The existence of granges, like that of Newbo Abbey, however, points to the continuing importance of dispersed patterns in the landscape (7)

          The concentration of monastic lands in Dunsby and their exploitation through granges may have led to contraction of settlement in the thirteenth century as arable farming gave way to pastoral. With the climatic and social changes of the next century, the process probably quickened, and by 1428 there were only six servants, presumably paid labourers, living there (8). Dunsby, then, was already shrunken when, after the Dissolution, the manor was bought by Robert Carre of Sleaford, and the area of tillage was laid down to grass for sheep, the redundant peasants evicted, and the church and parsonage demolished. By 1563 there were five householders left in the vill, and the only substantial structure was the hall (9). Various members of the Carre and Death families remained in residence until the house was occupied by Parliamentary troops in the Civil War. They left it in a half ruined condition and it was never reoccupied (10). By the nineteenth century there were only three cottages left in Dunsby, although it was stated that the foundations of the church 'and of a large mansion, may still be seen' (11).

          The layout of the earthworks bears little resemblance to a village site, and may be more readily interpreted as a building complex, perhaps including some garden remains (Fig 7). Aerial photographs show in more detail a group of buildings round a yard centre west on the site (12). The field is named Hall Close on the 1839 map (13) and the site can almost certainly be identified with that of the sixteenth century manor house. In 1872 Trollope mentions 'portions of the garden wall' but says that there is no trace of the chapel and houses (10). One particular individual structure south of the main complex, is about 12 metres across, consistent in size with a dovecote. Tradition gathered by the late Mrs. E. H. Rudkin, places the church west of the main road, beneath the present Dunsby House (converted some years ago from the last pair of cottages); if the cottages were post 1842 (they were probably erected by the Bristol estate in the second half of the nineteenth century) this would explain the lack either of earthworks or of ploughed-out building stone from a church. Field walking west of Dunsby House has produced little evidence of occupation, although the ploughed out remains of dry stone walls can still be seen. These surround closes of about nine hectares (twenty acres)  in size which are apparently those shown on the Brauncewell Tithe map; they are not necessarily of any earlier date than enclosure of the heath, which took place in this area in the late eighteenth century. However, aerial photographs in the possession of North Kesteven District Council clearly  show a few ploughed out crofts immediately north of Dunsby House. It is not certain  that there was more of the village east of the road.


1.       E. Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, Oxford 1960, 153; Lincs DB, 10/3; 64/7.


2.       D. R. Roffe, 'The Lincolnshire Hundred', Landscape History 3, (1981), 27-36; Cartularium Monasterii de Rameseia, eds W. H. Hart, P. A. Lyons, London 1884-93, i. 43, 67, 280; ii. 137, 268; iii. 167, 211, 221, 314, 315.


3.       D. R. Roffe, 'Origins', Sleaford, eds C. M. Mahany, D. R. Roffe, Stamford 1979, 11-16.


4.       Transcripts of Charters Relating to Gilbertine Houses, ed. F. M. Stenton, Lincoln 1922, LRS 18, 83.


5.       LRdeS, 341; BF, 1024; Transcripts of Charters Relating to Gilbertine Houses, ed. F. M. Stenton, Lincoln, 1922, LRS 18, 83; Templars, 87; Mon Ang vi, 888.


6.       CI ii, 392-3.


7.       Religious Houses ii, 95.


8.       Norwich, 247; Taxatio Ecclesiastica, RC London 1812, 61a; FA iii, 337.


9.       R. W. Ambler, M. Watkinson, 'The Agrarian Problem in Sixteenth-Century Lincolnshire: Two Cases from the Court of Star Chamber', LHA 11, (1976), 13-4; Trollope, 234-5.


10.     Trollope, 234-5.


11.     White 1842, 628; White 1856, 445.


12.     CCAP, ARC 62-4


13.     LAO, Tithe Map 639