Morton is a picturesque Linconshire village on the river Trent west of Gainsbrough.
Morton was recorded as Mortun in the Domesday Book of AD1086, so it would've been in existence by the Late Saxon period. The settlement greatly expanded from the end of the Middle Ages onwards, latterly as a suburb of Gainsborough. The settlement is sited below Thonock Castle on a great bend of the Trent, and at the end of what appears to be an early east-west routeway picked up by a series of parish boundaries. It was a strategic landing and perhaps crossing point.
Morton's church is not in its parish! Morton was created a separate parish from Gainsborough in 1846. Although St Paul's was built in the same year, it stands on the south side of the Main Street, and therefore lies in the parish of Gainsborough.
Morton is a great place to watch the Trent Aegir.
Castle Hills lies to the east of Morton in Gainsbrough. It is a scheduled monument and was reputed to have been a Danish earthwork. It is said that it was the capital of King Sweyn the Dane who died here the year after he conquered the whole of England in 1014 AD.
More recently it's generally been accepted that this was a later, Norman, defensive site. It is an early military stronghold, a lordly residence and a major estate centre. The tactical and strategic position of the castle is very strong. It seems likely that this site may be the 'Castle of Gainsborough' which was granted to William de Roumare, earl of Lincoln, by King Stephen probably in 1142. In the late 12th or 13th century, as part of the Honour of Lancaster, the site became a principal residence and the centre of a barony.
The earthworks consist of a substantial ringwork flanked on both the north and south by outer baileys of more than one period. The first phase was probably the ringwork and the north bailey. The former consists of a steep-sided circular rampart standing up to 5.5m above the bottom of the surrounding ditch and with traces of internal buildings. The tongue-shaped bailey is surrounded by a ditch, reinforced on the east by a broad inner bank standing 4m above the bottom of the ditch.
Further east of Morton
The site known as the Romano-British settlement southeast of Thonock Hall also has Prehistoric, Saxon, Medieval and Post Medieval artefacts. There is also evidence for an Iron Age farmstead phase here, suggesting continuity from the Prehistoric period into the Romano-British period.
The Romano-British site has many of the attributes typical of a small Roman rural settlement, and was occupied from the first to the fourth century. There is evidence for cereal cultivation and the keeping of livestock, including cattle and sheep. Working of ready smelted iron, as well as repair of existing iron articles, was carried out on a small scale, possibly in a general purpose structure or else in the open air. Iron nails were found in some quantity, and may have been used for standing structures. Round houses were occupied sometime in the earlier part of the second century, but went out of use as the focus of occupation shifted westwards. The large enclosure ditches to the south were probably for livestock.
To the NorThonock Park, a medieval deer park, was attached to the castle, perhaps in two parts, both uphill and downhill. The park was already in existence in 1226 and in 1276 Edmund Earl of Cornwall was reckoned to have warren at Thonock 'ex antiquo' (from ancient times). The park seems to have included both wood pasture and coppiced woodland: in 1226 the Constable of Lincoln Castle was permitted to have 40 pieces of large timber, while in 1430 a grant of eleven acres and one rood of underwood growing in Thonock Park is recorded.
Two Prehistoric settlements survive as cropmarks, including enclosures and hut circles, a trackway and a possible ring ditch.
Northeast of Morton
Cropmarks of a possible Roman villa site with an enclosure and paddock complex have been identified from air photos.
These include an almost symmetrical layout of regular rectilinear enclosures focused on a square double-ditched enclosure with internal enclosures, one showing a possible round house. A broad lane or trackway skirts the main enclosure on the north. Paddocks lie on the west and east of the complex, with an entrance possibly on the east where gaps occur in the enclosures. The layout resembles the precincts of some Roman villas though there is no clear evidence of a residence.