The History of Ab2

by Joanna Hughes of the Lincolnshire Archives

This square covers an area outside the old Lincoln’s western city wall, which ran north up the line of Motherby Hill. On the early nineteenth century maps held at the Archives, The Avenue and Yarborough Road have yet to be built. Instead the area is made up of fields, scattered houses and orchards (this is how Orchard St, originally Orchard Lane got its name - the 1891 Padley Map of Lincoln clearly shows copious fruit trees in this area).

West Parade is one of the original routes in and out of the city, running parallel to Carholme Road to the south. It used to be known as Clay Lane or Brickyard Lane, referring to the clay deposits found in the low-lying land to the west and providing the city with the main material required to make bricks. On William Marrat’s Map of 1848 you can see clearly Clay Lane leading out several enclosures labelled “brick yard” and on the Padley Map of 1883 the area is called Foster’s Brick Yard. Other brick yards in the city overtook Fosters and eventually bricks from neighbouring  counties like Nottingham were brought along the Fossdyke or by the newly constructed railways.

It’s possible Clay Lane was renamed West Parade in the nineteenth century in reference to its use by the military in marching drills.

This western route, which may even date back to Roman times when it gave access to the western cemeteries outside the city, has a name even older than Clay Lane. On earliest documents it was known as Wong Lane. Wong is an Old Norse word for garden and Old English for meadowland; both translations of Wong remind us of the original agricultural character of this area, much of which was once owned by the Bishops of Lincoln and farmed by the local residents.

These old maps also show some fields in this area, now cut through by The Avenue, as “Shooting Leas”. This is a fascinating reminder when, in the thirteenth century, many towns and villages had to have specially set aside places in which to practise archery, one of the most affective forms of combat in modern warfare. A medieval law in 1252, stated that, in ensure the country was in readiness for war, all Englishman, between 15 and 60 years of age had to own a bow and arrow and know how to use it! A second law of 1363 ruled that all Englishmen must practise at the archery butts every Sunday. For obvious reasons, these specially assigned places were usually on the edge of town, covering a large flat area, in order to avoid accidents with stray arrows (although some did inevitably happen!). 

It’s difficult to imagine how different this area looked until only two hundred years ago, with its orchards, fields, pastures, archery butts and early brick work industry. As the Avenue and Yarborough Road were cut through this hitherto peaceful rural landscape, to allow easier access to the north western parts of the growing city, so the Victorians, with their terraces and the Edwardians, with their villas, lined the roads to build the area we know today. But compare a modern day map of Lincoln alongside its earlier predecessors and you can soon find out a wealth of history from the road names and field names alone.


The Avenue

This grid includes The Avenue, Yarborough Road, West Parade....

This week we venture into the city centre where a walk past the Social Security office on the corner of Orchard Street and West Parade leads us to muse over whether it is Lincoln's Ugliest Building  We also hear tales of Dr Who fanatics and ghosts from a one-time resident and, after learning that the area was used in the middle ages for archery practice, we decide to brush up our skills in the studio.  All this, plus the latest round of A Question of Lincoln... click the player below to listen, or sign up to our iTunes feed using the button on the right.






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Lincoln’s Ugliest Building?  You tell us... add your comments below or email

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A postcard showing The Avenue back when it was a proper avenue - before the age of the motor car sadly ruined it!  Thanks to Julie for this picture.