Horncastle was famous, or infamous, for its vast numbers of public houses and beer-houses in the early 19th century. Mr. G. Cross obviously felt that they were sinful establishments when he penned this poem in 1845. Can you find them as you walk through the town?
There are thousands caught in that trap called malt,
And hundreds now wounded are ready to halt;
Churches and chapels are temples for prayer,
But Satan's head agent attends on them there.
There are forty five places now in this town,
That are licensed to sell, by the Queen and the crown;
There are only five places of worship to find;
Do they stop this great evil, debasing mankind?
If they are lords, there are many kinds,
For over their doors you see many signs;
There is the King and likewise the Crown,
And beggars are made in every town.
There is the Queen and likewise her Head,
Where many I fear to the gallows are led;
There is the Angel and also the Deer,
Destroying the health, in every sphere.
There is the Vine and likewise the Fleece,
The fruit is bad throughout the whole piece;
There is the Royal Oak, likewise the Woolpack,
And many they have caus'd to carry rags on their back.
There is the White Hart, likewise the Cross Keys,
And many they have sent far over the seas;
There is the Lion and hundreds he's slain,
And still it's no warning for them to refrain.
There is the Bull, likewise his Head,
His horns are so strong, he can gore you quite dead;
There is the Ship that never sets sail,
But sends men to prison and keeps them in jail.
There is the Hare and the Hounds which never did run,
And many have been hang'd for the deeds they have done;
There is the Black Horse, likewise the Old Plough,
And many they have robb'd of their pigs and their cow.
There is the New Inn and the Rodney they say,
Have sent many to prison their debts for to pay;
There are two Fighting Cocks, which never can crow,
Where men often meet, to break Gods holy law.
There is the Swan, that never could fly,
But where is the name that will not have to die?
If on a sick bed you long are confin'd,
Do you ever expect that such men will be kind?
Horncastle can boast the first Dispensary in Lincolnshire, opened in 1789 at 2 St Mary's Churchyard. It serviced the poor until 1866 when the 2nd larger Dispensary opened in North Street. This was renamed the War Memorial Hospital in 1924 in memory of the local fallen in WW1.
The Wong is a Scandanavian term for pasture or common land and used to be owned by the Manor of Horncastle until it was given to the people by Edward Stanhope MP. There are still sheep and cattle pens that were used in the beast fairs. It is located on the south side of town near Cagthorpe.
The first Workhouse was built in 1736 next to the Dispensary in St. Mary's Churchyard. The second very imposing Workhouse is in Foundry Street. This became the county's children homes in 1933, later referred to as Holmleigh. Please see the section on Holmleigh Children's Home in the History section of the website.