The earthwork at Winkhill, one mile to the north-east of Heckington, is the site of a manor house (Fig 66). The first reference to the place-name occurs in 1185 when the Knights Templar received a rent of 20 shillings, a food render, and four days work from five bovates of land held by a certain William in Vincle which had been given by Gilbert de Gant (1). The estate was situated in the territory of Heckington which was a prosperous fen-edge settlement in the Middle Ages. Long before the Conquest it had been an element in a large multiple estate centred upon Sleaford and Kirkby La Thorpe (2). By 1066, however, the vill was held by at least seven individuals, and their estates had passed to an equal number of tenants-in-chief by 1086 when the Domesday survey was compiled (3). The major holding, some two thirds of the vill, was held by Gilbert de Gant, and it was to his fee that Winkhill in its entirety appears to have belonged. Successive lords of the honour of Gant enfeoffed knights in the vill - the English fee seems to have been the earliest and was followed by at least two others in the thirteenth century (4). But Winkhill, apparently occupied by a sokeman of some standing, was probably in demesne until its grant to the Templars. From that time on the land was probably managed as a separate farm, for by c.1275 there was a messuage there and 80 acres of land, and several references to individuals who are identified as 'de Winkhill' suggest that a small settlement may have been associated with it (5). On account of the outstanding service of William the tenant, the Templars quit the land of all service in the late thirteenth century, and subsequently it became the nucleus of a large estate built up by the Asty family of Heckington (6). The house and associated earthworks were presumably built by the early forteenth century, if not a long time before, for in 1330 Henry Asty's capital messuage on the site, said to be in Hagt, that is 'Little Heckington', was granted to his widow Avice during the minority of her son Henry, with an injunction to repair the houses, hedges, and walls around the messuage (7). By the time that Sir Henry Asty granted the manor to Sir John Walsh in 1386, it consisted of land from various fees in Great Hale, Little Hale, Howell, and Heckington and enjoyed the perquisites of a court (8). The estate remained intact, although somewhat diminished, into the present century. The old manor house was approached from the west via a bridge over the moat and is said to have had a gatehouse with a chamber over. It was demolished in 1780 and replaced by a new building on the same site (9). This in its turn was been taken down and a bungalow has been built in recent years. At the east end of the site there are traces of banks which may be the remains of a late garden, although part of it is disturbed as if by quarrying (Fig 67).
1. Templars, 88.
2. D. R. Roffe, 'Origins', Sleaford, eds C. M. Mahany, D. R. Roffe, Stamford 1979, 11-16.
3. Lincs DB, 1/3; 7/47; 24/40; 26/27; 37/7; 57/31; 67/6.
4. BF, 179, 1032-5.
5. Auction lot 38; RA, nos 2081-2. The c.1275 charter is the first in a bundle of Winkhill deeds, and the land can be identifed with the estate held by the Templars in 1185 since it was the same size, according to the near contemporary RH i, 242, and rendered the same service.
6. The Asty fee does not appear in the various feodaries and inquisitions post mortem until 1370 when Henry Asty II held one twelfth and one twentieth of a knight's fee in Heckington of the honour of Gant. It would appear that the family's major holdings were rents held by non-military services and lands held in frankalmoign.
7. Auction lot 40.
8. Auction lots 48, 39, 41-7.
9. White 1856, 544; Trollope, 386-7.