SILK WILLOUGHBY: SILKBY
Silkby was probably always a hamlet which was economically, tenurially, and administratively dependent on its larger neighbour of Willoughby. The settlement is not named in Domesday Book, but five parcels of land are identified as Willoughby (1). Only three of these can be traced into the thirteenth century, and Silkby is associated with that which belonged to the Gant fee (2). It is therefore possible that the settlement is included in the five carucates that Gilbert de Gant is said to have held in Willoughby in 1086, although it is equally possible that it was represented by one of the manors that were subsequently absorbed by the same fee. Silkby was enfeoffed in the twelfth century and a manor house was established there. But the lord did not hold all of the land, for an estate in Willoughby extended into the hamlet (3). Indeed, the interrelation of the two settlements was always very close. Not only was Silkby a chapelry of Willoughby and joined to it to form a single vill, the two settlements also seem to have shared a single field system, for in c.1240 a toft in Silkby was said to have had an appurtenant bovate 'in the territory of Willoughby and Silkby' (4).
In the light of Silkby's subordinate status, it is difficult to document the shrinkage and desertion of the settlement. The manor descended into the sixteenth century, but contraction probably began with a shift from arable to pastoral farming in the late fourteenth century. Former ridge and furrow has been noted abutting on the crofts along the north side of the present School Lane. In 1496 the site of the manor with the houses on it was said to be of no value, and there were only three messauges which were appurtenant to it. Various freeholders held land there, but it would seem that already the settlement was reduced to little more than a farm (5). At much the same time the place-name ceases to be used independently, and the present Silk Willoughby became the principal focus of habitation (6).
The surviving earthworks lie at the west end of the village, on the north side of School Lane (Fig 8) on a site that slopes downwards to the north. The main feature is a hollow way 12 metres wide extending more or less due north, but ending abruptly at a narrow east-west ridge, either a headland or the line of a later dry stone field boundary. Another less pronounced way branches to the west, leaving a featureless area on which is sited a disused windpump (Fig 9). East of the hollow way is a platform on which earthworks of stone buildings can be seen, some apparently disturbed by quarrying. At the north edge of this platform, 55 metres from the road, the ground drops away, suggesting a northern limit of the crofts. This is confirmed from aerial photographs, not only by the ridge and furrow to the north but also by a continuation of the line eastwards. Ploughed out crofts can be seen in the arable fields, including the field Butt Lees where the chapel site and two scheduled mounds are located (7). The manor house site, 230 metres east of the earthworks, lies under the small housing estate of Rowan Drive, and between there and the earthwork field quantities of Early Saxon to Medieval pottery have been recovered. Substantial undated stone footings have also been seen. The Tithe Map of 1839 gives no field names for these closes (8).
1. Lincs DB, 7/53; 24/102; 46/3; 48/13; 59/20.
2. BF, 179, 1031; RH i, 241.
3. RH i, 241; RA no 2131-2.
4. Trollope, 462; Lincs DB, lxv; FA iii, 189.
5. CI HVII, 502-3.
6. Trollope, 462.
7. Hunting Surveys Ltd., HSL UK 66 493 Run 14, 7591
8. LAO, Tithe Map P56.