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Short History of Lincoln​

Lincoln is an important regional centre which is popular with locals but has yet to be discovered by the tourists. It is dominated by the cathedral, set on top of the hill, which is a prominent landmark for miles across the flat Lincolnshire landscape.


The name Lincoln probably comes from the pre-Roman iron age settlement of Lindon (Lin means pool and don means the foot of the hill) which was around what is now Brayford Pool.

The town first came to prominence in Roman times. The 9th legion settled here after Claudius invaded Britain and built a legionary fortress on the top of the hill. The name was Latinised to Lindum. Retired soldiers settled here and it became a Colonia. By the C4th it was one of the four major cities of England. A lake was formed by widening the River Witham (now Brayford Pool) and Lindum became a major port with links to the sea at the Wash. The Foss Dyke was built to link it to the River Trent and, via that, to the Humber estuary.

A bishopric was established here by Constantine the Great in 313/4AD, spreading from the Thames to the Humber.

After the Romans left, the area was largely unpopulated until the arrival of the Vikings in the C9th. Many of the ‘gate’ street names, date from this time – Danesgate, Bailgate, Clasketgate, Westgate. Steep Hill is built on the line of Ermine Street, the Roman Road from the south. Newport Arch at the top of Bailgate was the north gate of the Roman city. It is still in use.

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The west gate into Lincoln Castle was built over a C2nd gate and city wall.

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The remains of the east gate can be seen in front of the Eastgate Hotel.


( Priory Gate on Pottersgate by the Cathedral is NOT Roman, but a Victorian replacement for the medieval gateway into the Cathedral Close.)

There was an Anglo-Saxon cathedral at the top of the hill, probably on the site of the present building. A graveyard has been discovered during archaeological work in the grounds of the castle.

After the Norman Conquest, William built one of his first castles here. By 1068, Lincoln was the second wealthiest city in England, with its wealth coming from wool. It was a major international port trading with the Mediterranean and Baltic.

Work started on a stone cathedral in 1072. This was damaged by fire in 1141 and by an earthquake in 1185. The present building dates from the C13th. The Shrine of St Hugh was a major pilgrim centre, bringing pilgrims and wealth to the city. In more recent times, Lincoln Cathedral stood in for Westminster Abbey in the film “The Da Vinci Code”, when the cathedral bell had to be silenced.

A reflection of the importance of the city is the fact that a copy of the Magna Carta was presented to the cathedral in 1215. It is now displayed in a special vault in the castle.

From the late Middle Ages, the town slowly began to decline as it faced increasing competition from Hull and Boston. By the C18th it was a small market town. The decline was halted in the mid C19th when Lincoln became a centre for heavy engineering and the railway arrived. The population grew rapidly and like other industrial centres, Lincoln became dirty, overcrowded and unsanitary.

Heavy industry declined after the Second World War when many firms were taken over and closed. Now it is dependent on the service industry and tourism. In 1996, the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside opened adjacent to Brayford Pool as part of a regeneration project for the area. This became the University of Lincoln in 2001 and has grown in size and reputation, injecting more than £250 million a year into the local economy.

At the start of the C21st, Lincoln is again a thriving, busy city, It is popular with locals but has yet to be discovered by foreign visitors. This is a shame as it does have a wealth of history and a lot to offer the visitor. It hasn’t got the walls and appeal of nearby York, but it doesn’t have the crowds either...

It probably isn’t the place for the shopaholic visitor. I’ve never really rated Lincoln as a shopping mecca although it does have the Waterside Centre and St Marks Retail Park at the bottom end of the town. Most of the shops are based along High Street with a few spreading onto neighbouring streets. Many are small and all the chains have a presence.

AND FINALLY, if visiting Lincoln, don’t forget the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society, on the south western side of Lincoln. This has a good display of buses, cars and commercial vehicles. They also have running days at Easter and the first Sunday in November when they have their buses and cars providing rides. These are popular events with all ages.

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There is a lot to see and do in Lincoln and the following pages list some of these. For convenience, I've divided it into Lower town #2 (from the bottom of High Street to the Stonebow), Steep Hill #4 and the Upper Town #5 (which covers the Cathedral quarter).

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The Lower Town

At the southern end of High Street, is St Peter of Gowt’s Church which has a Saxo-Norman tower and font. The rather unusual name comes from the Great Gowt, a drainage ditch to the south of the Church.


During the Middle Ages this was an area of high status houses and many of Lincoln’s leading citizens lived here. During the C19th the railway arrived and the population increased rapidly. Streets of terraced houses were built and many of the properties along High Street had been turned into shops or inns.

This was one of the oldest churches in the city although was enlarged in the C13th and C14th and underwent a major restoration in the C19th. Tha arch from the porch into the church is early C11th.


The font may have been made from a recycled Roman pillar as High Street is on the line of the Roman Fosse Way. The base is modern.


The church has a splendid wooden ceiling. The rood cross was the work of Temple Moore.



The church is usually kept locked although a key may be available from St Peter at Gowts Primary School, a short walk away on Pennell Street.

Close by is St Mary’s Guildhall, an impressive stone building with a Norman doorway, which may have been a royal palace of Henry II, before being sold to the Guild of St Mary of Lincoln. The Guild was dissolved by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The buildings were then leased to a series of owners who sublet them. By the 1930s, the buildings had become very run down and were taken over by Lincoln City Council and are now run by Lincoln City Trust.

Further up the road is the site of the old St Mark’s Railway Station with its grand portico. The station was closed in 1985 when services were rerouted through Lincoln Central Station. This had the advantage of closing one of the level crossings across High Street. One remains and regularly brings traffic to a stop as the line is busy with freight and passenger services.

Lincoln’s bus station is now opposite Central station, making this an important transport hub for those using public transport. There is also a large multi storey car park next to the bus station.

Near by is the splendid St Mary Wigford Church, one of the oldest churches in Lincoln with its square Saxon tower and doorway. In front of it is St Mary’s Conduit which supplied water to local inhabitants from the mid C16thC until 1906. The ornate structure was built from stone fragments from the Whitefriars/Carmelite Friary nearby.



At the back of the church is a Saxon doorway leading into the base of the tower. Another leads into the vestry.



A lovely wrought iron screen separates the chancel from the Lady Chapel



On the north wall of the Lady Chapel is the tomb of Lady de Kyme, whose husband was a benefactor of the church.


Just inside the door is the now very battered tomb of Sit Thomas Grantham (d1618) and his wife.


A bit further down, set back on the opposite side of the road is St Benedict’s Church, which is no longer used. There has been a church on the site since 1107, although only the chancel, north aisle and tower survive. The church was badly damaged in the Civil War and the nave was pulled down. The short stumpy tower is the oldest surviving part of the church.



On the south wall is a memorial brass to John Becke an alderman of the City of Lincoln and twice mayor. He died in 1620. He is shown kneeling with his seven sons. Facing them is his wife Mary who died in 1617 and their three daughters. Two of the children are holding skulls showing they died young.


The Church is now the home of Unicorn Tree Books.


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The Lower Town cont...

The River Wytham flows under High Bridge with the splendid black and white timber frame Stokes High Bridge Street Cafe, a popular spot for morning coffee, lunches and afternoon teas.

River Witham and Stokes Cafe .jpg

Follow the river beneath Stokes to reach Brayford Pool, the oldest inland harbour in England. Lincoln was a major port until the railways arrived in the mid C19th. In the mid C20th, the pool was turned into a marina and later, the University of Lincoln was built next to it. The resident swans now share it with cafes, pubs and entertainment. You can even go for a cruise.

Returning to High Street, a bit further along is the splendid stone Stonebow with its royal coat of arms above the archway across the road. straddling High Street marking the boundary between the upper and lower town. It is worth having a look at the splendid ornate ceilings inside the HSBC and Nat West banks on either side of the Stonebow.


The building is on the site of the Roman south gate into the city. In the C13th the gateway had become very unsafe and was in danger of collapse. Richard II ordered the city to build a new gateway. Money was embezzled and it wasn’t finished until 1520.

The Guildhall above the arch has been the seat of the City Council since 1500. It is still used for council meetings every eight weeks to ratify council decisions.

It is an impressive building, especially seen from the south where the royal coat of arms of James I and VI looks down from above the main archway. On either side are statues of the the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Lincoln and Archangel Gabriel. On top of the roof is the Meeting Bell dating from 1371 and still rung to summon the City Fathers to council meetings.


The Guildhall occupies the whole of the second floor and can be seen by guided tour. Tours take about 45 minutes and are well worth doing.

The Council Chamber is an impressive room with a huge wooden table put here in 1724 to stop councillors stabbing each other with their swords when debates got a bit too heated. The Aldermen would have sat at the raised dais at one end. This now seats the mayor, leader of the council and the ‘portfolio holders’. Above is the royal coat of arms of George II which meant the room could also be used as a court of law. The rest of the councillors sit round the table.


Beyond the Council Chamber is a room used for entertaining important visitors. On the opposite side of the Council Chamber is the Robing Room with the Mayor’s Parlour beyond.

On the floor below is the charter chest used to store royal charters relating to the powers of the city council. The city’s oldest charter dates back to 1157 delivering the city to the citizens, allowing them to collect their own rents and taxes and for them to continue to have Merchant Guilds.

A locked iron door leads into the Insignia Room which used to be the debtor’s prison and still has iron bars on the windows.


This is a wonderful display of civic pomp as well as gold and silver items depicting links to local events and industry.



Richard II visited Lincoln in 1387 rallying support in his struggle against Bolingbroke and his Lancastrian forces. He presented his sword and scabbard with its insignia of the white hart to the city of Lincoln. This is still used on ceremonial occasions when the monarch visits.

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Steep Hill and The Collection

Beyond the Stonebow, is the now pedestrianised High Street, which climbs gently at first before becoming the really narrow The Strait, lined with small speciality shops.

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Beyond is Steep Hill, very aptly named and seems to get steeper towards the top. This is built on the line of the Roman north/south route through the city and was originally known as Mickelgate. It is lined with some interesting houses and speciality shops, a good excuse for a stop to get the breath back.

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In Medieval times, markets were held on Steep Hill. Fish was sold at the top, meat and corn lower down. Now it has eateries, small boutique shops as well as an old fashioned sweet shop, children’s toy shop and a wine shop.

The Jew's House (now a restaurant) at the bottom of Steep Hill, dates from about 1150 and is the oldest house in Lincoln. It still has the remains of Norman arches over the windows and door. Originally it had a commercial frontage with living quarters above. The Jews were important money lenders in the city. Next to it is the later Jews' Court, traditionally thought to be on the site of a Medieval Synagogue. It is now home to the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, the meeting place for the Lincoln Jewish Community and is also a second hand bookshop.


Further up on the opposite side of the road is the Norman House dating from 1170-90. This still has an original Norman window with central pillar and carved capitals and also a Norman doorway. It is now Imperial Tea and Coffee and independent business selling a wide range of speciality teas and coffees.



Near the top other other old houses.



The Collection and Usher Gallery

Off on the right is Danes Terrace which leads to The Collection in a modern, purpose built building below the cathedral. This houses the Archaeology Museum covering the history of Lincolnshire from the Stone Age to Medieval times. Allow plenty of time for a visit as there is a lot to see and plenty of information to read.


Small statues of Minerva and Mercury


Anglo Saxon cremation urns


Anglo Saxon broaches


Viking needles and loom weights

Adjacent to The Collection, is the Usher Gallery, an elegant brick and stone building built in 1927 to house the collection of James Ward Usher, who owned a Jewellers and Watchmakers on High Street and was an enthusiastic collector of fine clocks, watches, porcelain and paintings. It has an impressive collection of statues .



The Charles Norman collection is described as the finest collection in the world of C18th painted Derby porcelain, representing the golden age of Derby. This is one of the highlights of the visit.




There are also displays of silver gilt and glassware, along with several rooms displaying modern art.


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The Upper Town

The Cathedral Quarter is at the top of the town. The energetic can walk up Steep Hill otherwise there is a shuttle bus that runs a 20 minute shuttle service from a bus stop on Silver Street just down from the Stonebow to the cathedral and castle.

At the top of Steep hill is a square with the splendid timber frame Tourist Information Centre.


The square is was the venue for the popular and busy Christmas Market as well as other events during the year. The Lincoln Ghost Walks start from here.

Across the road is a small, simple rectangular church with a very long name; St Mary Magdalene with St Paul in the Bail and St Michael on the Mount which was beautifully restored by GF Bodley in the late C19th.




Just beyond it is the Exchequer Gate where church tenants came to pay their rents.


It guards the entry to the Georgian Cathedral Close lined with lovely old houses.



Lincoln is the third largest medieval cathedral (#7) in England. On top of the hill, it dominates the surrounding countryside. The nave can be admired from the back of the cathedral, but there is a charge to view the rest of the cathedral.




The ruins of the Medieval Bishop’s Palace (#14) are to the south of the Cathedral. The adjacent Georgian and Victorian Bishop’s Palace is now a hotel.


To the right of Tourist Information is the entrance to Lincoln Castle. (#15) Entry to the grounds is free but there is a charge to visit the prison, walk along the walls and view Magna Carta.


Beyond Tourist Information is Bailgate, with the White Hart Hotel, originally a C15th coaching inn. Bailgate is an attractive street of small family shops. This is the place to come for ‘proper’ shopping.


At the far end is the Newport Arch, the only Roman gate still open to traffic.


When built this was connected to the town walls and had a central arch for wheeled traffic, with smaller pedestrrian arches on either side. It was nearly demolished by a lorry in the 1960s and had to be rebuilt.

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The Upper Town cont...

Westgate runs round the north ramparts and wall of the castle and past the huge Westgate Water Tower which dominates the skyline of Lincoln along with the cathedral. It iis open ocassionally on Heritage Open Days.

It was built in response to a Typhoid epidemic which devastated the city in 1904/5. Over one thousand people were affected and over one hundred died. It was one of Lincoln’s biggest peacetime disasters.


The walls are over 4’ thick and support the massive water tank at the top of the tower. The water is pumped to the top of the tower. Originally this was done using two stationary steam engines but one blew up in 1974 and demolished the building housing it. They are now replaced with an electric pump.

When completed in 1911, the tank held enough water to supply the needs of the city for one day. Now the supply would only last two hours during peak demand.



Turn left onto Union Street for Castle Gate, the C12th entrance to the castle.

Across the road is The Lawn, a remarkable early C19th Greek revival building that was built as a lunatic asylum, pioneering revolutionary treatment which did not use restraints. The hospital closed in 1985 and has recently been redeveloped as a business centre with a cafe.

In the opposite direction on Burton Road, is the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in the former barracks of the North Lincoln Militia.

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It covers the history of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment and Lincolnshire Yeomanry, with details of the battles they fought in from the C17th as well as a reconstruction of a World War One trench complete with sound effects.

One room is dedicated to the Beechey Boys and the letters they wrote to their mother. Eight brothers fought in WW1 but only three came home. There are pictures of the brothers and the cemeteries where they are buried. The most interesting bit were the letters sent home by them. As well as information about their life in the trenches there is a touching description about receiving a splendid parcel. “The pork pie was as fresh and unbroken as if it had just been bought… “ Another one has a short PS saying “gloves and handkerchiefs had just arrived…”

The rest of the museum is a social history museum covering the life of the people of Lincolnshire since 1750. There are reconstructed rooms and shops. The most unusual exhibit was the bank barrow from 1930 which was used by the National Provincial Bank to transport money between branch and the general post office. It was pushed and escorted by male bank staff who had rubber truncheons p their sleeves. It was in use until the 1960s when security companies took over this job.

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Behind the museum is Ellis Mill, one of the nine windmills that originally stood on the western slope of Lincoln. Now carefully restored, it still grinds flour. It is open a few days a year.



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Lincoln Cathedral - Some history and the outside

After the Norman Conquest, the diocese of Lincoln stretched from the Thames to the Humber. As the third largest medieval cathedral in England, Lincoln Cathedral reflects this importance and power. Standing at the top of hill, it towers above the town. A prominent local landmark with its two west towers and central square tower, it can be seen on top of its hill for miles. Built of local pale Jurassic limestone it glows in the sunlight, with black Purbeck marble acting as a contrast.


A wall was built round the community in 1295 and the Exchequer Gate with its 3 gateways still stands. It is no longer locked at night, although the curfew bell still rings. The central archway was for vehicular transport; the side arches for pedestrians.



The passageways have fine brick vaulted ceilings with carved bosses.


A bishopric was established in Lincoln in 313/4AD by Constantine the Great. During troubled times with the Vikings, the Bishop moved south to Dorchester on Thames. After the Norman Conquest, it was decreed that bishops should live in fortified towns rather than villages. Bishop Remigius, a loyal supported of William the Conqueror, moved from Dorchester back to Lincoln in 1072 and began work on a new stone cathedral. This took about 20 years and was a cruciform building with apses at the east end. The cathedral was damaged by fire in 1141. A major earthquake in 1185 destroyed all of the building apart from the west front. In 1192, Bishop Hugh began work on a bigger and more splendid cathedral in the Early English/Gothic style, beginning at the east end.

Bishop Hugh’s cathedral is larger than the Norman cathedral and the outline of the Norman cathedral can be seen as a black line on the floor inside the cathedral. By one of the nave pillars is a wooden trap door in the floor. When lifted, the remains of the foundation of a Norman cathedral can be seen.

The Angel Choir was added to the east end in 1280 to accommodate a suitable shine to St Hugh.

In 1237 the central tower collapsed and had to be rebuilt.


In 1307 spires were added to the towers. The central spire was as tall as the square tower, making it the tallest building in the world. It blew down during a storm in 1549, damaging part of the north transept but fortunately missing most of the cathedral. The spires on the two west towers were removed in 1806, as there were concerns about their stability.


To the north of the cathedral are the cloisters.


The Chapter house with its flying buttresses is off the east wall of the cloister. The cafe and shop are in the Minster Yard behind the chapter House.

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It is worth walking round the outside of teh cathedral to admire the detailed carving, particularly on the south east porch.


The many empty niches which would have contained statues, which were destroyed during the Reformation and later by the Puritans.



The western front with its mixture of Norman and early English/Gothic architecture is regarded as one of the best in England. It is too big to photograph easily.

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The round Norman arches with their carving stand out in contrast to the later work and can be seen at their best on the south side of the south west tower.


The west door is a marvellous example of Norman architecture with its carved round arches. Very different is the large Gothic window above surrounded by cross hatch carving.


Above the central doorway is a carved frieze of Kings.



On either side are carved statues of bishops. That on the left has a small partially filled in square above with feet visible. No-one knows the significance of this.


Along the front is a carved frieze. This was originally part of the 1192 rebuild of the cathedral and was originally brightly painted. It must have been stunning. The original carving was getting so badly eroded it has been replaced by new carvings. The Biblical scenes illustrate the damned on the left and the blessed on the right.

The first three panels portray lust, sodomy and avarice. This is followed by the torments of hell. The final panel shows the Harrowing of Hell with souls being punished in the mouth of Hell


The panel on the right shows the elect in Heaven.


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Lincoln Cathedral cont... Visiting and the Mary Magdalene Chapel

Lincoln is the third largest medieval Cathedral in England. The nave can be admired from the back of the cathedral, but there is a charge to view the rest of the cathedral. This includes a free floor tour. Not only does this cover the history of the Cathedral, it also points out many features of interest that may be easily missed.

Entry is through the Norman south west door of the cathedral which leads into a porch and then into the back of the nave. One of the few surviving brass tombstones is set into the floor here.


On the wall is a memorial to Joseph Banks, a Lincolnshire man, who developed a passionate naturalist. He accompanied James Cooke to the South Pacific as well as making trips to Iceland and Newfoundland, collecting many new species of plants and animals. He was president of the Royal Society and one of the most influential scientists of his time.


There is a superb view down the length of the nave with its tall pillars with cylinders of Purbeck marble leading up to pointed arches. Separating the nave and the chancel is a choir screen with the organ above it.


On a sunny day, sunlight streams through the C19th stained glass windows making patterns on the floor.


Entry this far is free, and also to the Mary Magdalene chapel which is used for private prayer. It is a simple chapel with open quartrafoils to the nave, blind arcading and a central pillar supporting the vaulted ceiling.


In front of the west end is a priest’s chair.


On the north wall are the eroded carved panels removed from the west front of the cathedral.


The bottom panels on the left hand side portray lust, sodomy and avarice. The next panel is a modern copy of the panel on the west wall, showing the torments of hell. The next panel shows the Harrowing of Hell with souls being punished in Hell. Next are the elect in Heaven and the final panel displays Abraham’s Bosom.

Above this on the right is a panel with the death of Lazzarus at the top with images of Hell below. Next to it is the rich man excluding the poor man from the feast. On the far left is a carving of an apostle and part of the figure of Christ in Majesty.

Lincoln Cathedral cont... Nave

The view from the back of the nave of Lincoln Cathedral is stunning. Many people only get this far, not wanting to pay the entry fee to explore further. They miss out on a lot.


Except for services on major dates in the church calendar or concerts, the nave is bare of seats. This is how the cathedral would have looked originally, with just a narrow shelf around the walls for the old and infirm to sit (hence the expression the weak shall go to the wall).

The shuttered and barred windows at the back of the nave are known as Dole windows, as pilgrims could get food and drink here.


Near them at the back of the nave, is the black Tournai marble font. Standing on four legs round a central column, the bowl is carved with winged beasts representing the battle between good and evil.


On one of the pillars is the C19th wooden pulpit from which 12 o’clock prayers are said daily.


Arcades of multiple round pillars and pointed arches separate the nave from the two narrow side aisles. On the outside wall is an arcade of blind arches.


Above the arches is a triforium (walkway) with more pointed arches and columns of Purbeck marble and small plain glass windows above.


The elegant vaulted ceiling has carved bosses. There are traces of a tracery pattern along some of the ceiling ribs

Standing facing the west end, the rebuilt cathedral of Bishop Hugh doesn’t quite line up with the Norman west end and is about 2’6” out. The walls on either side of the arch are different widths.


Across the chancel is a superbly carved limestone choir screen, dating from 1330. This is a marvellous example of decorated Gothic architecture with crocketed (nobbly) pinnacles and arches with tiny carved animal heads.



On the pillars are small carvings of ‘saints’. The Puritans knocked the heads off the statues but they were recarved by the Victorians. Unfortunately they added bishop's heads. Looking at the posture of the statues and their dress, they are thought more likely to be female saints... The walls of the screen are covered with carvings of leaves and flowers. Traces of red and blue paint can still be seen on them. In the centre is a wrought iron metal grille which is used by the choir before a service.


Originally there would have been a crucifix above the screen. Now there is a massive wood organ dating from 1898 with more carved crocketed pinnacles.

On either side are gateways leading into the side aisles outside St Hugh’s Choir.

On the south arch are carving of a dragon stealing grapes (one of the seven deadly sins). St Michael with his sword is about to kill the dragon. On the opposite side is the body of the dead dragon representing the victory of good over evil.


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Lincoln Cathedral cont.... St Hugh's Choir and the Angel Choir

The choir is surrounded on three sides by beautifully carved wooden stalls with high backs and topped with crocketed pinnacles and carvings. The bishop's throne stands higher than the canon’s stalls along the walls. Each has a gold rimmed plaque with the name of the canon. These have misericords and curved backs where the canons could put their arms to support their body during the long periods of standing during services.


In front are the choir stalls. There is a large bronze eagle lectern. The massive wood pulpit has a carving of Jesus preaching.


The sanctuary has a simple stone altar with a stone reredos with open Gothic arches.


Round the walls of the sanctuary is stone arcading. On the north wall is an Easter Sepulchre with three arches. On a lower panel is a carving of three sleeping soldiers.


On the south wall set under a highly carved stone canopy, is the tomb of Katherine Swynford, third wife of John of Gaunt. Beyond is the lower tomb of her daughter Joan, Countess of Westmoreland. The brasses were removed by the Puritans.


Bishop Hugh died in 1220 and was canonised in 1220. Lincoln became a major centre of pilgrimage. The east end of the cathedral was knocked down and rebuilt to house his tomb. Known as the Angel Choir, the ceiling vaulting is very different. At the base of one of the ceiling ribs on the north wall is the small carving of the Lincoln Imp.


To the left of the altar is the the massive pedestal of the head tomb of Bishop Hugh. This was lavishly decorated with jewels and precious stones which were seized by Henry VIII and the body shrine destroyed. The modern sculpture above represents the neck of St Hugh’s pet swan. Behind are tombs of Bishop Burghersh and his father.


On the right is the tomb of Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I who died near Lincoln. Her viscera were buried here, while her embalmed body was taken back to London to be buried in Westminster Cathedral. Her heart was buried in the Dominican Priory at Blackfriars in London. The tomb is a copy of her tomb in Westminster Abbey. The brass effigy is a C19th copy of that destroyed by the Puritans.


Also in the Angel Choir is the splendid memorial tomb and canopy of Bishop Christopher Wordsworth, a nephew of the poet William wordsworth, who is buried at nearby Riseholm.


At the east end of the north aisle is what are referred to as the Gilbert Pots. The tall pots holding candles are named after the C12th Lincolnshire Monk, Gilbert of Sempringham. This is an area of remembrance and prayer.


Near it, on the north wall is a splendid cadaver tomb. Above is the body of a bishop with his feet on a dragon (conquering evil) and angels at his head. Below is a skeleton, a reminder of man's mortality.


There is blind arcading on the walls of the north aisle. The floor is lined with old tomb slabs, now minus their brasses. Cromwell apparently said that the living had more use of the brass than the dead.


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Lincoln Cathedral cont... South aisle

A carved stone gateway in the choir screen leads into the side aisle alongside St Hugh’s Choir.


At the far end is a modern sculpture of the Virgin and Child.


On the north wall is the remains of the tomb of Little St Hugh, a boy who was said to have been murdered by the Jews in 1255. Although the boy was never canonised, he was revered as a saint. His tomb was a place of pilgrimage for much of the C13th.


Near it on the wall are four painted limewood carvings. There is little information about them and they were given to the cathedral in the 1940s. They feature the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and his appearance before Herod.





There are two chantry chapels on the south wall. The first is unnamed with a splendid tomb base set under a highly carved arch.


Inside is a small chapel which has a C17th feel with red carpet and prie dieu and red upholstered chairs.


Beyond is the Russell chantry, dedicated to a Bishop of Lincoln from 1480-94. It is worth opening the wooden door and looking inside as the wall paintings are by Duncan Grant, a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Above the altar is a painting of Christ as the good shepherd.


On the west wall is a scene of a ship unloading cargo.


Under the tomb of Bishop Russell is a lovely painting of flowers, birds and butterflies.


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Lincoln Cathedral cont..... Transepts and their chapels

The transepts both have large circular rose windows. That in the south transept is called the Bishop’s Eye.


The stained glass in the Dean’s Eye window in the north transept dates from 1220. It tells the story of the Last Judgement. Facing north, evil was believed to come from here.


There are chantry chapels in the transepts. The south transept contains three chapels with stone or wooden screens. There is no information about them and they have vaulted ceilings and small altars.



The chapels in the north transept are the service chapels. The first is the Soldier’s Chapel dedicated to St George, and has a white painted wooden screen across it. At the top is King Alfred. Below him are Henry V and the Black Prince. The Bishop is probably Remigus, who began work on the new Norman cathedral. On either side of the arch is a small figure of a soldier from the Great War and a C19th soldier.


The red silk altar cloth is embroidered with a sword between two palm leaves, a sign of martyrdom. The smaller embroideries represent clarions used to call soldiers to the colours and is a symbol of the call to arms.


The saints on the wall behind the altar represent George, Martin, Alban and David. Above are the coat of arms of the Earl of Ancaster, St George and the coat of arms of the Earl of Bath. On the walls are memorials to the dead of different wars and the Memorial Book of the Lincolnshire Regiment.


Hanging from the ceiling are the old standards. The oldest dates from 1685.


The middle chapel is the Seaman’s Chapel and dedicated to St Andrew. The lovely blue altar frontal is decorated with a shell, fish and a lantern, emphasising that the majority of seamen setting out from Lincolnshire were fishermen. Behind the altar is a wrought iron screen with painted shields of four famous Lincolnshire seamen and two gilded crowns representing sailing ships. The model of a sailing ship hanging from the ceiling is the Investigator, a converted Whitby Collier which explored Australia in the early C19th. The bell to the left of the altar is from HMS Tasman, 1945. Above the arcade is the figure of St Andrew with his net.


The far chapel is the Airman’s Chapel dedicated to St Michael. The memorials commemorate personnel who lost their lives in the Second World War and the Memorial Books of No. 1 and 5 Groups Bomber Command are kept in the wooden box to the right of the altar. The wrought iron screen has badges of No. 1 and 5 Group Quarters RAF. Above is the badge of the RAF with the motto ‘Per Ardua ad Astra’.


There are smaller transepts off the choir. On the west wall of the north east transept is a large wall painting of four bishops. The Italian artist, Vincenzo Damini, had been asked in 1728 to restore a medieval wall painting but he repainted the picture. Traces of the original paint have been found beneath his painting.


Lincoln Cathedral cont...Treasury, Cloisters, Chapter House and Libraries

Next to the north east transept is the Treasury containing examples of church silver from the C13th to C19th.




The cloisters are reached down the north east transept and through a heavy wooden door. Three sides are C13th. They have a wooden ceiling with carved bosses and gothic arches.



The north wall is much plainer as it was rebuilt at the end of the C17th by Sir Christopher Wren to house a new library.


The chapter house is off the east side of the cloister. It is entered through two massive wooden doors with elaborate iron hinges, set under carved arches.


An arcaded passageway leads to the chapter house. A central pillar supports the vaulted ceiling. There is a bench round the walls used by the canons during meetings.


In pride of place is the massive wooden seat with lions carved on the arms and used by the Dean. The lower part is reputed to be the throne of Edward I. Three parliaments were held in this building. Above are stained glass windows telling the story of the building of the Cathedral, including Cromwell smashing the statues, and ending with Wesley preaching here.

Beyond the Chapter House a wooden staircase outside the refectory leads up to the Medieval Library with its timber frame walls.


This was built in 1422 to house the Cathedral’s collection of books, including a C10th copy of Bede’s Homilies as well as a book printed by William Caxton and hand painted atlases.

Inside it is a small room with a very dark wood ceiling with carved bosses. It still has some of the medieval reading desks which the books were securely chained to. There are display cabinets with old books.

Beyond is the Wren library, which was built over the ruined north wall of the cloisters. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it has been described as the “most beautiful room in England”. The Dean, Michael Honeyman, built the library to house his collection of over 5000 books which he donated to the library. This is an eclectic collection of contemporary pamphlets, manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, poetry of John Donne, the study of sun dials, atlases to books written by early colonists in America as well as mathematical and scientific works.

It is a very elegant room with large picture windows over looking the cloisters. The opposite wall is lined with pale grey bookcases.

Photography is not allowed in either of these rooms.
The Medieval Bishop's Palace

The Old Bishop’s palace opened again in 20023 after a massive £2.5 million conservation project. Tops of exposed walls have been topped with stone, lead and turf combined with Sedum to stop water seeping in.

After the Norman Conquest, the diocese of Lincoln stretched from the Thames to the Humber. The castle and cathedral reflect this importance and dominate views of the town. The Medieval Bishop's Palacce reflected the wealth and power of the bishopric.


The ruins of what was once one of the grandest palaces in England lie on the steep slope to the south of the cathedral. It is a lovely site but don’t go expecting to see a lot, as the Palace was sacked during the Civil War and, apart from the Alnwick Tower, all that is left are the foundations of the buildings and a few walls.


Being built on a steep slope, the buildings are on several levels. Now ruined, the site can be difficult to interpret and visualise the relationship of the different buildings. There is an informative video and lots of information in the small exhibition centre by the shop. The guide book has a wealth of information but needs to be read before a visit and again afterwards.

The gardens contain one of the most northerly working vineyards in Europe and have splendid views across the city of Lincoln with the cathedral towering above it. Next to it is the Victorian Bishop’s Palace, now known as Edward King House, which are now the Diocesan offices. It also gives access to the C19th chapel built above the kitchens of the Old Palace.



Surrounded by a high wall, the plan is typical of all Bishop’s palaces with two hall ranges.

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That on the east were the private quarters of the Bishop, with his audience hall, and private oratory. The church court held here. Below was the lower hall used by his servants. It was separated from the west hall by a corridor. . The west hall was for used for public events , feasts and ceremonies. Three doors at the end led to panty, kitchen (central) and buttery. Above would have been a solar, with a chapel built over pantry.

At first, the Bishops lived in the Castle until they were granted land by King Stephen to build a palace in the C12th. The Civil War between Stephen and Matilda meant that building didn’t begin until more settled times under Henry II when Bishop Chesney began to build the palace for himself and his large household. In 1166, an earthquake destroyed much of the cathedral and perhaps also Bishop Cheney’s palace. Bishop Hugh rebuilt the cathedral and then began to rebuild the Bishop’s Palace in the C13th. In the C14th, Bishop Henry Bughersh acquired to land to the south of the palace to provide a terraced garden. In the C15th Bishop William Alnwick modernised the palace and built the entrance tower as well as a chapel and audience chamber adjacent to the East Hall. This was very much designed as a status symbol and intended to impress visitors.

During the Civil War the lead was removed from the roof by the Parliamentarians, presumably for making shot. Later the buildings were fired. Cromwell sold the palace to Colonel James Berry who converted some of the buildings into a private house. Part of these still survive as the exhibition and shop.


The ruins of the Medieval Palace were placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works and now English Heritage.


The entrance to the Old Bishop’s Palace is via the Alnwick Tower, which was built by Bishop William Alnwick.


It was very much built to impress with a splendid vaulted ceiling above the archway and the Bishop had his badge carved at the top of each door. This gave access to both the east and west halls.



A spiral staircase led to his private quarters above. That on the first floor was the Bishop’s privy chamber (bedroom) with fireplace and an oriel window overlooking the cathedral. The blocked doorway led to the Bishop’s private pew in the chapel.


The room above is much plainer and was probably used by the Bishop’s chaplain.

Steps from the Alnwick Tower, lead to a flat area which was Bishop William Alnwick’s Ante-Chapel, with vaulted storage areas beneath. There is now nothing left of his chapel beyond. Beneath the chapel was the Bishop’s Audience Chamber which was reached off the East hall.


Through the gateway at the base of the Alnwick tower, between the West and East Halls, is a small steeply sloping grassy yard with a well. This gives access to buildings on either side and the gardens at the bottom.


The West Hall was begun by Bishop Hugh but finished by one of his successors. When finished, it was one of the finest aisled halls in medieval England and designed to reflect the power and importance of the Bishop of Lincoln. This was the public face of the Bishop and used to receive and entertain important guests and on feast days. Cathedral business was also carried out here.


Now all that is left is a flat grassy area.


At the far end are three blocked doorways which would have led to the buttery, pantry and the kitchens.


The kitchens were built on the same level as the great hall and were reached by a connecting archway. Naer this is a latrine shaft.


The kitchens had five large fireplaces and were built above the brewhouse and bakehouse.


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The East Hall is reached off the central yard.


The Bishop’s apartments were on the first floor with those of his household beneath, connected by a spiral staircase.

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The lower floor is a large vaulted area and the Bishop’s household lived and worked here. A small room off served as a wardrobe. It would have been lit by large glazed windows. By Bishop William Alnwick’s time it was no longer used as living quarters and was mainly used for storage and the windows were partially blocked up.



Little survives of the upper floor which is now a large grassy area. The Bishop’s private rooms with latrine and wardrobe were at the south end. After the Alnwick tower was built, the Bishops moved into this.


At the north end was the Bishop’s Audience Chamber which originally had a chapel above.


On one wall is an elaborate buffet used to display his wealth.


Off the Audience chamber are are small vaulted chambers. One was a latrine, the other was the treasury with a strong room.


Opposite is the small private oratory used by the bishop.



The Lower Terrace Gardens are reached by stone steps either through a doorway from the Lower East Hall or from the bottom of the grassy yard. These were established in the C14th by Bishop Henry Bughersh, who was a keen gardener. Set under a tall wall to the south of the palace, they have views across the city.


Beyond it under the walls of the Bishop’s Palace is the most northerly working vineyards in Europe. Three different varieties of white grapes from the north side of the Rhine are grown here.


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Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle is one of the grandest Norman castles in England and is unusual as it has two keeps and a complete curtain wall. It was also a major centre of administration and justice containing a prison and court house. It also houses one of only four surviving copies of the original Magna Carta.


The castle is strategically sited on top of the hill on the site of the Roman fort and city of Lindum. It was a substantial settlement at the time of the Norman Conquest. William I established a castle here as part of his plan to take control of the country. His castle was huge, being built inside the Roman walls and using them as the foundation for the curtain wall. The Lucy Tower (named after the redoubtable Lucy, Countess of Chester once Constable of the castle) is built on the original motte. The cathedral would have been inside the castle bailey.

The massive earth ramparts and curtain wall date from the C11th when the stone shell keep of the Lucy tower was built.


A second smaller motte was constructed on what is now the Observatory Tower.


The size of the bailey was reduced to its present size. The east and west gate date from this time, although Cobb Hall is slightly later. Round the inside of the curtain wall would be the service buildings as well as the great hall, court house and gaol. Nothing can be seen of these now.

By the C17th, the court was the senior court for the county and heard all cases of serious crime as well as dealing with debtors, repairs to roads and bridges and cases dealing with disputes about weights and measures. Career gaolers managed the prison. By the C18th the county gaol was in a dire state and a new Georgian Prison was built.


The Penal Reform Movement of the mid C19th found the Georgian Prison to be wanting and a New Victorian Block was added to it with separate blocks for men and women prisoners, exercise or airing yards and a prison chapel. It was designed on the ‘Separate System’ regime. A head warder was in charge of the men's prison and a matron the women's prison.


A new law court was built.


Debtors continued to be housed in the Georgian prison. The prison closed 30 years later when the new Lindsey Prison opened.

When the goal closed, a committee of magistrates was formed to manage the castle buildings and grounds. In 1884, the grounds were opened to paying members of the public. They are still open today and the Crown Court continues to sit in the Courthouse.

The castle and grounds have had a multimillion pound renovation. This discovered the foundations of an early church with skeletons and a stone sarcophagus. These are displayed in the women's prison along with other artefacts found during the work.

A new vault has been built to house the Magna Carta and the wall walk has been repaired and is now open to the public. The Victorian prison and chapel are also open. Entry to the grounds is free. The ticket gives admission to the rest of the buildings and the wall walk. Thus has an audio guide covering the history and important events of the castle. There are also stunning views of the cathedral and town.



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Lincoln Castle cont... The castle buildings and wall walk

The main entrance to the castle is through the East Gate at the top of Steep Hill, facing the Market Place and cathedral. This dates from the C11th and would originally have been reached over a drawbridge across a wide ditch.


The circle wall was constructed on a steep earth rampart with a deep ditch and enclosed the inner bailey. Patches of the C11th herringbone masonry can be seen on the west wall by the west gate.


The West Gate would have lead into open country and was built on the foundations of the Roman Wall. It was blocked up in the C19th and only reopened in the 1990s.


The Lucy Tower is a polygonal shell keep overlooking the lower area to the south west of the castle and was the first keep to be built on top of a Norman motte. It would originally have had wooden buildings round the inside of the walls. The walls have been lowered but the two entrances are original. One gave access to the wall walk, the other to the inner bailey.



By the early C19th the interior of the keep was derelict and was used as a burial place for prisoners who had either died in prison or who had been hanged. The small stone slabs remain, with the initials and year.



The Observatory Tower is built on a smaller motte to the south and is slightly later than the Lucy Tower, presumably to guard the entrance to the castle at the East Gate. The base is a square keep with two rooms. The quirky turret reached by a steep spiral staircase was added in the C19th by the Prison Governor, John Merryweather who was a keen amateur astronomer.


Cobb Hall was built later and is a small tower at the south east corner of the wall with arrow slits in the walls. It may originally have had an extra story on the top. In the early C19th gallows were erected on the roof and all public hangings took place here.


Access is from a door and stairs from the roof, leading to a large vaulted room. The lower level was reached through a hatch in the floor which now has a very steep ladder dropping down into it. It may have been used as a dungeon or store house for valuables.



Against the wall beyond Cob Hall is the Bath House built in 1814 with a well in front of it. This was the bath house and laundry for the prison. The statue is the head of George III which was once part of a full length statue.


The Courthouse near the West Gate was built in 1826 as an administrative centre for county business and a court of law. It replaced earlier buildings. The low grass roofed building by the side of it is the Heritage Skills Centre.


The large brick building just inside the East Gate is the Georgian Prison. This now has the shop and cafe. Behind it is the Victorian prison.


Lincoln Castle cont ... the Victorian prison

There has always been a prison in Lincoln Castle but there are no visible traces of the early buildings. The brick Georgian prison dates from 1788 and is a long narrow T shaped building. It held both felons and debtors. The prison governor lived there in an apartment with his family.


The Penal Reform Movement of the mid C19th found the Georgian Prison to be wanting and a New Victorian Block was added behind it with separate blocks for men and women prisoners and a prison chapel. Exercise or Airing Yards were provided.


The men's airing yards were at the back of the prison and overlooked by the Head Warder’s rooms. The women's yards were between in the Victorian and Georgian prisons and overlooked by the Matron’s rooms. There was a small brick built toilet and the yards would have been separated by high walls.



The Georgian prison continued to be used as the debtors prison. The Victorian prison served as a ‘holding’ centre for male, female and child prisoners awaiting trial. Once convicted, they were sent elsewhere to serve their sentence. While in prison they received religious instruction from the prison chaplain and were given lessons in reading and writing.

The prison was designed on the ‘Separate System’ regime, with a head warder in charge of the men's prison and a matron of the women's prison. Both had their own quarters and were not allowed to leave the building without permission.

The system was designed to keep prisoners in a single cell and in isolation from the 'corrupting influences' of other prisoners and to encourage their rehabilitation. It was intended to make them reflect, repent and reform. Prisoners were not allowed to talk to each other, or to the warders. They were only allowed out singly into the airing yards which had tall walls between them. If there was more than one prisoner in a yard, they had to wear masks over their heads so they couldn’t see each other. They were also chained so they couldn’t get close enough to talk.

The system proved unpopular with the gaolers who were not allowed to communicate with the prisoners and did not know their name or their crime. The isolation also sent many of the prisoners mad as they were reduced to numbers with their name, face and past history eliminated.

The prison was on three floors with cells round the outside of a central atrium. The men's and women's prisons were separated by a large stairwell. Large windows at the ends let in plenty of light.



A few cells in in the men's prison are furnished. These had a hammock bed suspended between hooks on the walls, which could be folded up during the day. Each room had a toilet, basin with running water, gas light and a table. There was a small window set high on the wall with frosted glass preventing the prisoners from seeing outside.




Within months of opening, the prison was crowded. Without enough cells to hold the increasing numbers of prisoners, the separate system was abandoned and some cells held up to three prisoners.


On the lower floor are the windowless ‘Dark Cells’ with massive doors, used to punish prisoners.


The other cells are now either empty of have assorted activities like peg rug making and games. There is even a dressing up room. Two are furnished as 'Discovery Cells’ with washing or oakum picking. Rope was cut into short lengths and had to be pulled apart by hand. The loose fibres or oakum were used for caulking ships or making mats.




The prison employed a surgeon who regularly checked the prisoner’s health, diet and living conditions. He prescribed medicines, leeches, poultices and ointments for sick prisoners. For certain ailments and diseases he might prescribe rest, extra food, additional clothing and exercise in the airing yard. On his orders, very sick prisoners could be sent to the Infirmary next to the Matron’s room in the women's prison. Prisoners from poor backgrounds often got better medical attention here than they did outside.

The women's prison is like the men's prison but has fewer cells.


The Matron worked long hours and was responsible for maintaining discipline as well as looking after women and girls who were sick, mentally disturbed or who had given birth. The prison infirmary was next to her rooms. She also had teaching duties and was responsible for the prison laundry. The cells were similar to the men's although expectant or nursing mothers were given a chair with arms rather than a stool. Straw baskets were placed by the mother’s hammock for their baby. Nursing mothers were allowed to keep their babies with them until they were weaned, when they were taken to the workhouse to be looked after.

Many of the female prisoners were young unmarried servants. A common crime was the concealment of a birth and the secret disposal of the newborn baby’s body. Some were accused of infanticide. Other crimes included theft, robbery and arson. Their day was divided between cleaning the women's prison, washing clothes in the prison laundry and attending chapel. They were also given religious instruction and taught how to read and write.

The cells now contain an exhibition of finds found during recent renovation of castle. These include pieces of Roman wall plaster, tesserae, coins, and jewellery. Medieval finds include coins, arrow heads, comb, padlock and key. C17th-C19th finds include a sundial, toothbrush heads, foot bath, clay pipes and a perfume flask. There is also the C10th stone sarcophagus which was found on the site of an early chapel.

The prison closed in 1878 from expensive running costs and declining prisoner numbers. It was replaced by a new prison in Lincoln which is still in use today.

Lincoln Casle cont... the prison chapel

All prisoners except Roman Catholics, the sick or nursing mothers with small babies attended daily prayers in the chapel and two services on Sunday. Many prisoners looked forward to chapel as it relieved the monotony of their day.

This is the only example of a Separate System Chapel to exist in the world. The prisoners were enclosed in wooden box like 'cells', separated from each other by a locked door. They were unable to see or communicate with their neighbours and could only see the prison chaplain in his pulpit. The chaplain could however look down and see everyone.




The women prisoners sat on benches at the front.


The debtors sat on a bench at the back, screened from the prisoners by a curtain.


Lincoln Castle cont... the Magna Carta vault

Lincoln has one of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta as well as copies of the Charter of the Forest dated 1217 and 1225. Loaned by Lincoln Cathedral they are on display in the new David PJ Ross vault between the Georgian and Victorian prisons and part of the £22million restoration of the castle.


ON a wall inside is a copy of the Magna Carta with the sentences still enshrined in law highlighted in gold.


A wide screen video explains the history and conflict between King John and the Barons leading to the signing of Magna Carta. It then looks at its legacy and how it inspired the 1669 Bill of Rights where the monarch cannot act without the consent of Parliament. It is the foundation of our freedom and democracy today and its influence can be seen in constitutions around the world. It was the seed for the rights and privileges we enjoy today. It is an excellent introduction before going to see the document itself.

The start of the C13th was a troubled time. Richard I had bled the coffers of England dry to fund his crusades. King John had lost much of the land owned in France and was making increased demands on the barons for money. There was increasing tension between the king and the barons and the threat of civil war. By 1214, the barons were in open revolt against the king. The Chief Marshall, John’s most trusted advisor advised him to negotiate an agreement with the barons. This lead to the Magna Carta of 1215 agreed at Runnymede which curbed the power of the king confirming he was bound by the law as much as his subjects. It guaranteed a free church, inheritance rights for the barons and justice for all freemen. This was signed and copies sent to cathedrals across the country for safe keeping and a copy was also sent to the pope.

Unfortunately John had no intention of keeping to the promises made in Magna Carta. The barons began gathering arms against the king and even invited Prince Louis of France to take John’s throne. When John died in 1216 he was succeeded by his nine year old son Henry III. Henry had the good sense to listen to his Chief Marshall who advised him to reissue Magna Carta on his coronation and to rule fairly, so getting the barons back on side and away from the French. By 1217 the French had been defeated and Henry had issued two charters. The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. This reduced the royal stranglehold on the royal forests, which covered one third of England. Those living in the forest had not been allowed to hunt, fell trees graze animals or forage for food. Concessions had been granted in the 1215 Magna Carta and these were now defined in the new charter. The area of royal forest was reduced, re-establishing rights to those living in the forest and the death penalty for stealing the king’s deer was replaced by fines or imprisonment.

Both charters were reissued in 1225 with minor changes and became the definitive version.

A dark vault displays the Magna Carta, the Charter of the Forest and also a 1200 charter from King John to the people of Lincoln.

Only four copies of the 1215 Magna Carta survive and this is the best preserved copy, although it has lost its cords and seal. Hugh of Wells, the Bishop of Lincoln and John Marshall, Sheriff of Lincoln were witnesses to the signing. The back of the document has ‘Lincolnia’ inscribed on the back and the bishop would have been responsible to proclaim the contents to the citizens of Lincoln. The document would originally have been kept rolled but has been folded at some time. The ink is beginning to fade badly in places.

The Charter of the Forest is a much smaller document. Only two copies of the 1217 charter exist and three copies of the 1225 charter. Lincoln has a copy of both. These are displayed in turn for a few months each before being ‘rested’ and checked for light damage.

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