The Violent Story Behind Lincolnshire Day

Lincolnshire Day is marked every October the 1st, but what’s the grisly story behind the celebration?

Henry VIII

Henry VIII.


Come the beginning of October, the yellowbellies of Lincolnshire celebrate their very own day. "Yellowbelly" is the accepted term for someone from that neck of the woods, for reasons that still provoke debate today. Is it to do with the colour of old military waistcoats? Or perhaps linked to local newts with yellow undersides?. On the other hand, Lincolnshire Day itself has an altogether unambiguous origin. The story goes back to Henry VIII, and a bold rebellion against his iron rule.


In 1536, Henry VIII's assault on British Catholics was well underway. This was in the wake of his cataclysmic break with Rome, which partly came about because the Pope refused to allow the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Henry VIII's lieutenant, Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex.

Henry VIII's lieutenant, Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex.

Establishing the autonomy of the Church of England wasn't enough for Henry, though. Spurred on by his lieutenant Thomas Cromwell, Henry also wanted what was in Catholic coffers throughout the land. His agents were dispatched to survey monasteries, priories and convents, strip them of their treasures and dismiss their members. Unsurprisingly, this was met by fury and condemnation, and that brings us to the Lincolnshire Rising.


In October 1536, in a church in Lincolnshire, an ordinary priest delivered a barnstorming sermon against the actions of the king. He warned that marauding agents were on their way to loot the church and disband Catholicism in the area. The words hit home, and an uprising soon began, including key figures like Nicholas Melton, a shoemaker who took on the unlikely nickname "Captain Cobbler".

Filled with local pride and religious passion, the men started a violent resistance movement and even took some of the king's people into custody, making them swear a new allegiance to the Catholic cause. But things soon got out of hand.


Things took a bloody turn during this rapid rebellion, when members of the revolt seized the chanceller of the Bishop of Lincoln, a certain Dr Rayne. He was dragged from his bed by a mob of furious insurgents, which happened to include a number of priests. According to a contemporary report, these men of the cloth plunged into a frenzy of fury, repeatedly yelling "Kill him! Kill him!" as Rayne was beaten to death. Another man was also captured and lynched by the insurgency that day.

King Henry VIII.

King Henry VIII.


Marching on Lincoln, the rebels - who now numbered in the many thousands - issued a letter of demands to Henry, outlining their grievances against a number of his policies. Of course, the king was having none of it. He was outraged at this uprising of "the rude commons of one shire". His own forces, led by the Duke of Suffolk, had been mobilised to crush the rebellion, which did in fact disband almost as quickly as it had come together.

While many returned to their normal lives, key leaders of the uprising didn't escape the king's vengeance. Vicars who had encouraged the rebels were hanged, drawn and quartered. Nicholas Melton, aka Captain Cobbler, was also executed, and while in his prison cell apparently lamented "what whoresons we were" for failing in their mission.

More uprisings would follow, but this particular episode is still remembered for its vehemence and violence. And for inspiring a particularly colourful quote from Henry VIII himself, who famously declared Lincolnshire to be the "most brute and beastly shire of the whole realm." Chances are he certainly wouldn't have been celebrating Lincolnshire Day.