Ancaster is a village and civil parish in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England, on the site of a Roman town. The population of the civil parish was 1,317 at the 2001 census increasing to 1,647 at the 2011 census. The civil parish includes the settlements of Sudbrook and West Willoughby.
Ancaster was a Roman town at the junction of Ermine Street and King Street.
During the Romano-British period, the Romans built a roadside settlement on the site of a Corieltauvi settlement. It was traditionally thought to have been named Causennis, although that is now believed to be Saltersford near Grantham. Ancaster lies on Ermine Street, the major Roman road heading north from London. To the northwest of Ancaster is a Roman marching camp and some 4th-century Roman earthworks are still visible. Excavations have found a cemetery containing more than 250 Roman burials, including 11 stone sarcophagi. In the later years of Roman occupation, a large stone wall with accompanying ditches was erected around the town, possibly for defence against marauding Saxons.
The place-name 'Ancaster' is first attested in a twelfth-century Danelaw charter from the reign of Henry II, and in a legal document of 1196, where it appears as Anecastre. The name means 'the Roman fort of Anna'.
An excavation by television programme Time Team in 2002 revealed a cist burial bearing an inscription to the god Viridius. The dig also uncovered Iron Age to 3rd-century pottery, a 1st-century brooch, and some of the Roman town wall.
Ancaster Hall at The University of Nottingham was named after the parish, and the now extinct title of the Earl of Ancaster.
In 2005 the once widespread but now rare tall thrift plant was discovered in Ancaster churchyard, one of only two locations within the country where the plant is found. A preservation regime for the plant was instituted by English Nature.
The town Ancaster located in Ontario, Canada was first established in Upper Canada in 1792 and was named after Ancaster, Lincolnshire by British army officer and the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada Governor John Simcoe who was apparently inspired in the name choice by Peregrine Bertie, the 3rd Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven.
Ancaster is situated midway between Sleaford and Grantham on the A153 road at its junction with the B6403 (Ermine Street). North of the village, the B6403 (High Dike) is the dividing line between South and North Kesteven. Towards Sleaford is Wilsford and to the west is Sudbrook.
The civil parish boundaries are different: the civil parish also covers the settlements of Sudbrook and West Willoughby.
Ancaster has a C.E. primary school, butchers, a co-operative, a small railway station on the Nottingham–Skegness line, post office, and one petrol station. There are two public houses: the Railway Inn and the Ermine Way (now closed) ; both on Ermine Street and a sports and social club associated with the playing field. West of the village on Willoughby Moor is a holiday park. There are two nearby natures reserves, each an SSSI, where the tall thrift plant is found, it being unique to this area of the UK.
The village's Grade I listed Anglican parish church is dedicated to St Martin, one of many churches on Roman sites which are dedicated to the Roman soldier who converted to Christianity and later became Bishop of Tours and a saint. St Martin's church stands slightly elevated on the Roman road Ermine Street, and on the probable site of a Roman temple. It is first documented in 1200 when Bishop Hugh's body rested overnight at the church while on the way to Lincoln. The church has decorated Norman arches and an Early English font. The corbels are decorated with medieval figurative imagery: a drinking nun, an old woman, and a farmer with medieval head-dress. There is also a Green Man 'mouth-puller' in the vestry, and the remains of a Sheela na gig on the north side of the tower. On the wooden ceiling there are carvings of figures. Two Roman relief sculptures were found in the East Wall of the church in the 1960s.
The ecclesiastical parish is linked with Wilsford, and is part of the Loveden Deanery of the Diocese of Lincoln.