Skegness Sea Bathing 1300s

Skegness 500 Years Ago

To the Editor of the Skegness Hearld

Sir – I have just come across an entry in an “Inquisition” held by order of King Edward the third, in the year 1333, which I think will be of interest to many of your readers as showing that the claims of the neighbourhood of Skegness as a health resort were well established no less than 570 years ago.
This entry is to the effect that in the year 1323 all rights of bathing on the foreshore of the Manor of Croft were formally granted by the kink to William de Kyme, the then head of the great Kyme family who had at that time large estates in Croft, Friskney, Thorpe and Wainfleet and a small farm in Skegness; whose present representative among the gentry of Lincolnshire is to be found in Dymoke of Scivelsby, whislt the descendants of a younger branch of the family still do credit to the name of Kime in Wainfleet St Mary.

Judging from the extent of ground enclosed by the remains of the old moat, the Croft Manor House must have been a stately mansion in those days, with carefully laid out grounds, and its fishponds supplied by the river Lymbe, which flows along its western side, near the old oak bridge on the road from Burgh to Wainfleet.

How tantalising is this little peep into the 14th century like. One cannot help wishing to know how much William made a year by hiring his monopoly; how far he anticipated the present byelaws and regulations of the Skegness Local Board; who bathed there; what sort of machines did they use, if any; and indeed whereabouts they bathed at all.

I am afraid we must give the byelaws up in despair, with the passing remarks that in that age of sumpuary regulations there would most assuredly be byelaws, and those authorised to put them into force would do so with considerably more vigour than the Llandudno magistrates did theirs last year; and that when the Manor house party were about to take to the water the coast would be kept strictly clear of all intruders.

Those, however, who can remember the unwieldy arks, well called “caravans” , requiring to be drawn by two great cart horses, and even then often sticking fast in a creek, that need to stand opposite the Vyne in Enderby’s days, and the last of which I think came to grief in Millson’s time, might well suppose them to be such as would be used 500 years ago, if they did not content themselves with a pavilion on the bank, and a run down into the water, and back again.

But when we come to fix upon the place there is clearer evidence.
If the sea has largely encroached on Skegness, it has as largely retired from Croft. And Callis in his work on sewers speaks of no less than 1,600 acres having been won from the sea in Croft “over against the Manor of Sir Valentine Brown,” this very same manor to which the bathing rights belonged, but which did not pass into the hands of the Brown family till 1563. So it would probably be from the Roman Bank the bathing would take place in 1323, and we may fell fairly certain that the Manor house bathing place would be hard by the Bankhouse (Mr R Epton’s), where, stood in very early days, and which would be about the nearest point of the seashore in a direct line from the old Manor house.

And lastly, who bathed there? True, there were no excursions in those days, but on the other hand the landowners were mostly resident and the signatures of witnesses to old deeds of this date, many of which I have lately examined by the courtesy of Mr W Martin, show that visitors of high degree from many parts of the kingdom were often to be found in the old Manor houses of the Candleshoe wapentake in summer time. Just then, as within the recollection of old Skegness people, their chief visitors during the bathing season were drawn from the ranks of the county families, the Amcotts, the Cholmeleys, the Jarvises, the Langtons, the Maddisons, the Massingberds, the Sibthorpes, the Willoughbies and so forth’ so in those far off days gallent bevys of well-born visitors would pour down to the seashore at Croft from the numerous manor houses in the Marsh, and on the adjacent wold villages, From Burgh might come Massingbers, for they lived there long before they settled at Bratoft, and with them the Bernakes of Bernake Hall, of which some relics still remain, bringing Lord Tattershall and his three sisters, the Dribys, and the Orbys as visitors, for do not we find that these families all intermarried about this time, and is there any place like the seaside for matchmaking as the party breaks up into couples for a moonlight stroll by the rising tide?
Sometimes doubtless they would be joined by Langtons of Langton, or it might be Peter Sibthorpe staying at his little farm lodge in Burgh, and various members of the D’Eyncourt (Lord Tennyson) and Spencer (Earl of Winchester) families from Gunby and Bratoft.
Then from Dalby might come Cubbledikes and Willoughbies, Uptons from Northolme House, the Irebies (now represented by Lord Boston) from Irby, and not to make the list too long, we may gather a fairly clear notion of the goodly company that might be expected to go bathing from the two facts that on the death of William de Kyme in 1337 his widow Joan married no less a personage than Nicholas de Cantilupe; whilst his sister Lucy to whom the Manor house then passed in default of direct heirs, became the wife of Gilbert de Umbraville, Earl of Angus.

Perhaps after all William did not make so bad a thing out of the bathing business 570 years ago.

Robert M Heanley
The Vicarage, Upton Grey, Hants, January 15th 1892.

Source: Skegness Hearld 1892

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