Cranwell is a village in the North Kesteven District of Lincolnshire, England. It is part of the civil parish of Cranwell and Byards Leap and is situated approximately 3 miles (5 km) north-west from Sleaford and 14 miles (23 km) south-east from the city and county town of Lincoln. The principal through road, the B1429 between the A15 to the east and the A17 to the west, joins the village to RAF Cranwell.
During the medieval period the parish was originally governed as part of the ancient Flaxwell Wapentake in the North Kesteven division of Lincolnshire. The name Cranwell is thought to mean the spring where cranes are found.
The village centres on the remains of the village cross. The cross is a 14th-century market cross (or Buttercross) from which important matters of public moment were announced. The base, which is original, and the undisturbed ground beneath are listed as a national monument. A later replacement pillar and cross have been added, probably during the Victorian period.
Cranwell manor was held by the Thorold family from the 16th century for over three hundred years. The manor house was demolished in 1816 and the Hall Farm's farmhouse was erected on the site. The Thorold family relocated to a new mansion at Syston Park. In 1871 Sir John Thorold is recorded as owning all the land in Cranwell with the exception of the church glebelands and a single farmstead that was under the ownership of St John's College, Cambridge.
In 1682, Sir William and his wife Lady Anne Thorold are recorded as establishing a charity that gave about £8 and 2 shillings per year for the poor, to be distributed on Lady Day (25 March and then considered to be New Year's Day). The parish also benefited from the will of Lady Margaret Thorold who granted £15 a year to apprentice four boys from the village. With the Poor Law Amendment Act reforms of 1834, the parish became part of the Sleaford Poor Law Union group of parishes.
The population of the village in 1801 was recorded as being just 88 people and even by 1911 had only risen to 184. The village only grew and has continued to expand since the opening of the aviation training facility and now stands in the region of 3,000 residents.
Cranwell railway station, on a single track branch line from Sleaford, opened in 1917 and served the naval aviation training facility then known as RNAS Daedalus, later to become RAF Cranwell. The branch line was closed in 1956 and the track removed. However, the original station building still stands and is in use as the current RAF main guardroom. Engine sheds in a small goods yard area closer to the village were demolished and the land re-used for housing.
Lincolnshire is very low-lying and land had to be drained for agriculture to be successful. The larger drainage channels, many of which are parallel to each other, became boundaries between parishes. Many parishes are long and thin for this reason.
There is much fenland in Lincolnshire, particularly in the Boston and Horncastle areas. Fenlands tended to be extraparochial before the mid 1850s, and although many sections were identified with names and given the title "civil parish", little information has been found about them. Many appear to be abolished in 1906, but the parish which adopts them is not given in A Vision of Britain through Time. Note the WR category Lincolnshire Fenland Settlements which is an attempt to organize them into one list.
From 1889 until 1974 Lincolnshire was divided into three administrative counties: Parts of Holland, Parts of Kesteven and Parts of Lindsey. These formal names do not fit with modern grammatical usage, but that is what they were, nonetheless. In 1974 the northern section of Lindsey, along with the East Riding of Yorkshire, became the short-lived county of Humberside. In 1996 Humberside was abolished and the area previously in Lincolnshire was made into the two "unitary authorities" of North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. The remainder of Lincolnshire was divided into "non-metropolitan districts" or "district municipalities" in 1974. Towns, villages and parishes are all listed under Lincolnshire, but the present-day districts are also given so that places in this large county can more easily be located and linked to their wider neighbourhoods. See the WR placepage Lincolnshire, England and the smaller divisions for further explanation.