Gedney document in Lincolnshire Archives

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The only British Prime Minister ever to have been assassinated was worrying about Gedney church a matter of days before his death.

The church had fallen down and Spencer Perceval (prime minister from 1809 to 1812) wrote to the Bishop of Lincoln – the government had the right of patronage at that time – asking him to look into the situation at Gedney.

We know that because the original letter is stored at Lincolnshire Archives, along with around 5 million other original documents that can shed light on the county’s history.

For instance, in this part of the county Matthew Flinders is well known as an explorer, but the man as a romantic is probably not such common knowledge.

However, Lincolnshire Archives has the letter Matthew wrote to his father in 1801 regarding the young woman he had been courting, Ann Chappelle.

They had decided to end the relationship because the life of an explorer was a precarious one and he could be gone on long voyages for three or four years at a time.

Prior to sailing, Matthew wrote his will and, as archivist James Stevenson says: “He realised he couldn’t live without her.”

Ann agreed to marry and Matthew was letting his father know he intended to take his wife out with him, although Naval regulations put a stop to it.

The letter and the marriage registry from Partney Church are just two of the fascinating documents that help researchers build bigger pictures of their particular area of interest based on authentic material.

James says the typical visitor to the archives – in St Rumbold Street in Lincoln – are researching family history, or they are local history groups, or possibly students from the county’s university and colleges.

However, members of the public are invited in to the archives twice a year to examine an exhibition put together by the archivists.

This autumn’s was based on famous people, and included a document concerning Thomas Becket in his political role as Chancellor of England, a letter from Florence Nightingale with comments on proposals for a new convalescence home in Lincolnshire, and a collection of celebrity autographs, including Lord Nelson’s, both before and after losing his right arm.

The archives, stored in six strongrooms, contain much more mundane documents, such as church records and minutes of WI meetings, as well as the oldest piece, a charter issued by William the Conqueror in 1072 establishing where the city’s cathedral was to be built.

The public are not given access to the strongrooms, but look up a catalogue number, fill in a slip, and one of the archivists will bring the document to the public search room.

James advises emailing or telephoning Lincolnshire Archives first, both to make an appointment to visit as the archives can be extremely busy, and to make sure that what they are looking for is in Lincoln, and not in records elsewhere.

Lincolnshire Archives is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday (10am to 4pm). Phone 01522 782040 or email

More from the archives

Charles Frederick Worth gained a reputation as an English fashion designer who founded the House of Worth, one of the foremost fashion houses of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He was considered by many to be the father of haute couture.

What is less known is that Charles was born in Bourne – the Baptism register from Bourne Abbey in 1812 is in the archives.

His father, a solicitor in Bourne, unfortunately went bankrupt and deserted his family. As a result, Charles ended up being apprenticed to a draper’s in London, the start of an illustrious career.

Capability (Lancelot) Brown’s 1772 plans and proposals for the gardens at Grimsthorpe Castle are included in the archives.