Sproatley - A brief History

Poulson’s 1841 History of Holderness said of Sproatley, “The village is pleasantly situated on an eminence and is immediately contiguous to the park of Sir Clifford Constable and the resort of many whom business or pleasure, take to Burton Constable.”  This description encapsulates the nature and function of the village until the mid-20thcentury: it was defined chiefly by its relationship with the Burton Constable Estate.

In 1676, during the reign of Charles II, John Constable of Burton Constable and Halsham acquired the lordship of the manor of Sproatley.  His descendants continued to own most of the land and employ most of its occupants until the 20thcentury, when large areas of land within the village were sold to developers.  The Estate retains possession of much of the surrounding land and has considerable control over the character of the landscape setting, as well as a proportion of the older properties, originally built for employees. 

The village existed long before the arrival of John Constable, however.  A hoard of bronze-age axe heads discovered in 1852 suggests a settlement was here as long ago as 3000 years ago. 

‘Sprotele’ was certainly in existence by the 11the century.  In 1086 a Norman Lord, Drogo de Brevere, was in possession, according to the Domesday Book, which suggests it was a worthy gift for the new Norman King’s supporter.

In the generally low-lying and flat expanse of Holderness, Sproatley probably owes its existence to the ridge of higher ground running roughly north/south, which forms its original axis.  Situated in the midst of this area of fertile alluvial soil, its rich farming land was valued from earliest times and has been enhanced and extended by centuries of man-made drainage.

The medieval village was sited to the south and south-east of the church, an area now outside the village’s main settlement, in which old field patterns survive and ridges and furrows testify to the strip-farming technique of feudal times.

When the land was enclosed and allocated in 1763, maps of the time show a sparse scattering of buildings, each in its own plot, strung out along the line of higher ground running north and south from the church.  The school was within the churchyard.  The road, which bore no relationship to the layout of the settlements, was being developed into the important Hedon and Hull Turnpike, which was to be for a long time the only route from Hull to Hedon, as well as to the Holderness villages and coast. 

Information taken from Sproatley Village Design Statement