Sleaford is a market town and civil parish in the North Kesteven District of Lincolnshire, a non-metropolitan county in the East Midlands of England. It is on the edge of the fertile Fenlands, about 11 miles (18 km) north-east of Grantham, 16 miles (26 km) west of Boston, and 17 miles (27 km) south of the city and county town of Lincoln. With an estimated resident population of 17,671 at the time of the 2011 census, the town is the largest settlement in North Kesteven, and makes up roughly 15% of its total population. Bypassed by the A17 and the A15 roads, it is connected to Lincoln, Newark, Peterborough and King's Lynn. Sleaford railway station is on the Nottingham to Grantham and Peterborough to Lincoln Lines.
The first settlement formed during the Iron Age where a prehistoric track crossed the River Slea. It was a tribal centre and home to a mint for the Corieltauvi during the 1st centuries BC and AD. Evidence of Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement has been uncovered, and by the late Saxon period the town was an economic and jurisdictional centre with a court and market. During the medieval period, records differentiate between Old and New Sleaford, the latter emerging in the areas around the present day market place and St. Denys' Church. Sleaford Castle was constructed in the 12th century for the Bishops of Lincoln, who owned the manor. Granted the right to hold a market in the mid-12th century, New Sleaford developed into a market town and became locally important in the wool trade, while Old Sleaford declined.
From the 16th century, the landowners were the Carre family, who operated tight control over the town, and it grew little in the early modern period. The manor passed from the Carre family to the Hervey family by the marriage of Isabella Carre to John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, in 1688. The town's common land and fields were legally enclosed by 1794, giving ownership mostly to the Hervey family; this coincided with making the Slea into a canal, and heralded the first steps towards modern industry. The Sleaford Navigation brought economic growth until it was superseded by the railways in the mid-1850s. In the 20th century, the sale of farmland around Sleaford by Bristol Estates led to the development of large housing estates. The subsequent availability of affordable housing combined with the town's educational facilities and low crime rates made it an attractive destination for home-buyers. As a result, the town's population underwent the fastest growth of any town in the county during the 1990s.
Sleaford was primarily an agricultural town until the 20th century, supporting a cattle market, with seed companies, such as Hubbard and Phillips, and Sharpes International Seeds, being established in the late 19th century. The arrival of the railway made the town favourable for malting. Industry has declined, and in 2011 the most common occupations are in wholesale and retail trade, health and social care, public administration and defence and manufacturing. Regeneration of the town centre has led to the redevelopment of the old industrial areas, including the construction of the National Centre for Craft & Design on an old wharf.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Sleaford.
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.