Hemswell Cliff Parish Council was created in 1991 and made up for the most part from Hemswell Parish, with the addition of two small parcels of land from Glentworth and Harpswell parishes. Centred around a former RAF base, which is now a growing business park, the Parish also includes the hamlet of Spital-in-the-Street (west of the A15) and a large area of open farmland to the north. At the time of the 2011 Census the Parish had a population of 677.
The name Hemswell Cliff is derived from two elements, the first being ‘Hemswell’ in reference to the nearby village and parish which Hemswell Cliff was once part of. Hemswell is found in the Domesday Book and referred to as ‘Helmeswelle’. In 1086 it was part of the Lindsey West Riding, in the manor of Kirton in Lindsey of the Aslacoe hundred. It had 37 households, 173 acres of meadow and was owned by King William. There are number of possibilities as to what the name originally meant, it could have been 'Helm's spring/stream' or 'summit spring/stream' or 'shelter spring/stream'.
The second element of the Parish's name is ‘Cliff’ which is made in reference to the Lincolnshire Cliff on which the Parish sits on top of. The Lincoln Cliff or Lincoln Edge is a major escarpment running from north to south through central Lincolnshire and is a prominent landscape feature in a generally flat portion of the county.
Some ancient archaeology has been uncovered from the area, such as, evidence of a neolithic long barrow, a Bronze Age axe head, early Iron Age pottery, an ancient inhumation and 3rd/4th century Roman Pottery. Ermine Street (A15), the major Roman road that ran from London to Lincoln and York, forms the eastern boundary of the Parish.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Hemswell as:
“A parish in Gainsborough district, Lincoln. The village stands in a valley among the Wolds ... The parish contains also the hamlet of Spittal-in-the-Street, and is traversed by Ermine street. Acres, 2, 890. Real property, £4, 036. Pop., 465. Houses, 91. The manor belongs to the Right Hon. Charles T. D, Eyncourt. An hospital for poor widows, with a small chapel, is at Spittal; was founded in the time of Edward II.”
Spital-in-the-Street (west of the A15) is situated on Ermine Street. ‘Spital’, refers to the ancient hospital. The ‘in the Street’ element refers to the settlement being situated on the old Roman road. The Chantry Chapel of St Edmund is located in Spital and was re-founded in 1300s by Thomas de Aston following earlier foundations going back to a Templar foundation in the twelfth century. The hospital and chapel were demolished in the early 1600s and the materials used to build a sessions house.
The first airfield on the site was opened in December 1918 by the Royal Flying Corps and called RFCS Harpswell. Shortly after the end of First World War the site returned to farmland. A new station, called RAF Hemswell, was built in the 1930's to a very high standard and was one of a number of permanent bases being built to accommodate the then rapidly expanding RAF. The station was active through the Second World War and the Cold War.
RAF Hemswell was used as a substitute for RAF Scampton in the ground based filming of the 1954 movie 'The Dambusters', the wartime layout of both Scampton and Hemswell being almost identical. It remains the best known filmed record of what RAF Hemswell looked like during and just after the war. In May 1967, the RAF switched off the lights and closed the gates. In 1972 the station became the temporary resettlement camp when it received Ugandan-Asian refugees expelled from Uganda.
In 1995, the RAF Hemswell Memorial was erected on the edge of the old parade ground to commemorate all who served there during its thirty-year life as a Royal Air Force Bomber Command base. Most appropriately, the children who take such an important part in the annual commemorative service at the memorial on RAF Hemswell Day are from Hemswell Cliff School, which began life as RAF Hemswell School.
By mid-2008 the RAF presence on the site finally came to an end and the station is now totally civilian. Since that time Hemswell Cliff has become an important employment site for West Lindsey. To the delight of returning veterans in recent years, Hemswell is perhaps the only pre-war RAF Station converted to private use, which has retained its character and still has an unmistakable Royal Air Force feel to it.
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