Built by William the Conqueror in 1068 on a strategically important site in constant use since Roman times, Lincoln Castle is one of England’s best preserved and most impressive Norman castles. The Domesday Book reports that 166 ‘unoccupied residences’ were demolished to make way for the castle.
One of only two English castles with two mottes, (the other being Lewes Castle in Sussex) it is the home to one of only four original copies of the Magna Carta, a recently-discovered church under the castle which pre-dates the Norman conquest and a gruesome Victorian-era prison.
After his victory over Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings in 1066,William needed to control the northern part of his kingdom and strategically chose Lincoln (previously known as Lindum Colonia, Lindocolina and then Lincylene) to remind the populace that the Normans were well and truly in charge.
The castle’s stone walls reap the scars of bloody medieval battles including the First Battle of Lincoln (1141), the Second Battle of Lincoln during the First Barons’ War (1217) and again in the English Civil War (1644) when the holding Royalists were pushed aside by a more powerful force of Parliamentarians.
Along with William, other regnal visitors included King Stephen, King John, King Henry II and King Henry VIII with his wife Catherine Howard in 1541 as part of their ‘royal progress to York.’
When the Magna Carta was sent to Lincoln in 1215 to be read out at the sheriff’s court, it was put in the castle’s treasury for safekeeping and it has remained there ever since. It’s one of only four remaining copies (the others can be seen at the British Library and Salisbury Cathedral) and Lincoln Castle is the only place in the world where visitors can see both the Magna Carta and its companion document, the 1217 Charter of the Forest that re-established access rights to the royal forest for free men, a right taken away by William.
As the castle was so secure it was a logical place to build a prison. The three-story stone building was constructed in 1787 and like so many prisons built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, prisoners were kept in isolation. The 19th century chapel purports to be the only one in the world designed for the ‘Separate System’ whereby each seat is isolated – the preacher can see everyone but each prisoner can only see him. Seven men were executed here and their graves are still there to this day.
Visitors can take an immersive tour of the prison with films and touch-screen multimedia as well as being able to dress up as a prisoner or staff member. You can take the Medieval Wall Walk, a full circle of the stone curtain wall with amazing views of the city of Lincoln and you can also discover the church that was discovered 3m below ground by archaeologists in 2013. It included 10 skeletons (six adults and three children) and one in a stone sarcophagus that has remained undisturbed for over 1,000 years.
Battle of Lincoln (1217)
The Second Battle of Lincoln occurred at Lincoln Castle on Saturday 20 May 1217, during the First Barons' War, between the forces of the future Louis VIII of France and those of King Henry III of England. Louis's forces were attacked by a relief force under the command of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke. Thomas, the Comte du Perche, commanding the French troops, was killed and Louis was expelled from his base in the southeast of England. The looting that took place afterwards is known as the "Lincoln Fair". The citizens of Lincoln were loyal to Louis so Henry's forces sacked the city.
The first known settlement in Lincoln, dating back to the first century BC, was around the Brayford Waterfront area, giving the place its original name Lindon: &ldquoLindo&rdquo translating as &ldquoThe Pool&rdquo in the Celtic language (similar to Dublin's name Gaelic for &ldquoBlack Pool&rdquo).
Timber houses and pottery have been found dating back to that time on the east of the pool. In fact the famous Witham Shield, belonging to a local tribe's chief, was found in the River Witham heading east from the Brayford area (near Washingborough). It dates back to 300BC and is now housed in the British Museum.
Through the years the Romans, Vikings, Saxons, Normans and other civilisations have made Lincoln their home. Read on to find out more.
Romans - Medieval
It was the Romans who first settled in Lincoln, around AD 50, and built a wooden fortress at the top of the hill, later turned into a colonia (retiring home for soldiers. Lindon was latinised to become Lindum Colonia.
The Ermine Street, a key Roman highway connecting London with York, passed though the city of Lincoln (see right). Evidence of the Roman settlement, which was fronted in stone in the 3rd century, can be seen across the city today.
Lincoln was ruled by Vikings in the 9th and 10th century and the settlement become a small trading town. Links to this time can be found still today in street and places names such as: Bailgate, Danesgate, Wragby, Skellingthorpe.
In 1068 William the Conqueror led the Norman invasion to the city and ordered the building of Lincoln Castle, and later Lincoln Cathedral, all on the site of the former Roman settlement.
Lincoln Cathedral, built of Lincolnshire limestone, was finally consecrated by Remigius de Fécamp, the first Bishop of Lincoln, on May 9th in 1092.
Middle Ages - Early Modern
Lincoln Cathedral became the tallest building in the world in 1300, passing the Great Pyramid, when the spire on the central tower was raised (see left). It held that title until 1549 when the spires collapsed during a storm.
The city was of great importance at this time, being the capital of England's largest diocese at the time stretching from the Humber in the north to the Thames in the south.
When King John placed his seal on Magna Carta at Runnymeade in 1215, a copy was brought back to Lincoln by then Bishop of Lincoln, Hugh of Wells, with the address 'LINCOLNIA' written on the back. Lincoln's Magna Carta is still owned by Lincoln Cathedral and remains as one of four surviving copies of the document and it can be seen in Lincoln today.
Lincoln was a wealthy town supported by a healthy wool trade through the 17th to 19th centuries. The city's cloth became famous in legend through Robin Hood being said to have worn garments of Lincoln Green.
Industrial Revolution - Today
Lincoln boomed during the industrial revolution and began to excel in the engineering industry, in particular through production of air engines and tanks.
In 1916 the first ever tanks were designed and built in Lincoln, giving the city the nicknamed 'Tank Town'. These machines were paraded through the city before going to war and significantly shortened the First World War, preventing many more casualties.
Lincoln was also a centre for the aviation industry (see right) with 1 in 14 WWI aircraft being produced in the city. Later, the county became known as Bomber County with a large number of RAF bases running on the flat countryside.
Into the 21st century, Lincoln is home to one of the UK's fastest growing modern universities, is still a world leader in the engineering industry, with almost 2000 years of history past to explore.
For a more detailed look into Lincoln's history, visit the Heritage Connect Lincoln website. For an archive of historic images of Lincoln, visit the Lincs to the Past website.
Birthplace of the Tank
The city of Lincoln was instrumental in the invention of a machine that saved millions of lives during the First World War.
Lincolnshire was known as 'Bomber County' during the Second World War, but the area's aviation heritage stretches back even further.
The innovative city of Lincoln has created groundbreaking feats of engineering, created strong and unique business partnerships and supports young people to become engineers of the future.
6. Some properties had to be demolished
With this information in mind, the original version of the castle was being built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England and the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066.
William didn’t waste any time, and because of the fact that a large settlement was built around the ancient Roman Fortress, several houses had to be demolished.
According to the Domesday Survey of 1086, a total of 48 castles existed in England at the time, and in order to build Lincoln Castle, a total of 166 “unoccupied properties” had to be demolished to build it.
Second Battle of Lincoln
Magna Carta, one of the documents upon which our democratic system is based, and a forerunner of the U.S. Constitution, dates back to 1215. Soon after it came into force, some English landowners known as barons declared that King John was not abiding by Magna Carta and they appealed to the French Dauphin, later to be King Louis VIII, for military assistance against King John. Louis sent knights to aid the rebel barons, and England was then in a state of civil war which lasted until September 1217.
I grew up in Lincoln and went to Westgate School, which is situated just north of the castle walls, very close to where the decisive Battle of Lincoln took place on 20th May 1217. However, it is only in recent times that I have learned of the famous battle, which was decisive in preventing England from falling under French rule. Why it is kept so quiet I do not know! It is in some ways at least as significant as the Battle of Hastings, which, when all is said and done, was a defeat!
In May 1216 and against the wishes of Pope Innocent III, Louis sent a full-scale army, which landed on the coast of Kent. The French forces, together with the rebel barons, soon had control of half of England. In October 1216, King John died of dysentery at Newark Castle and the nine-year-old Henry III was crowned in Gloucester. William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, acted as the King’s Regent and he succeeded in drawing the majority of England’s barons to support Henry.
In May 1217 Marshall was in Newark, the King being in nearby Nottingham at the time, and he appealed to loyal barons for their help in attempting to relieve the siege, by rebels and French troops, of Lincoln Castle. The Castle was under the control of a remarkable lady, Nichola de la Haye, whom King John, on a visit in 1216, had appointed Sheriff of Lincolnshire. This was most unusual in those far-off days. Louis promised Nichola safe passage if she would surrender to him. She said “No!” Most of Lincoln’s citizens did, however, support the French claimant to the English throne.
Marshall, with 406 knights, 317 crossbowmen and other fighting men, marched from Newark to Torksey on the plain north-west of Lincoln, eight miles distant, and sent some men nearer to the city. He was wise not to approach from the south. It would probably have been impossible to scale the tall hill upon which Lincoln is built, but, as it was, his forces reached Lincoln and broke through the West Gate of the city.
West Gate, Lincoln, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century
The Earl of Chester did the same at Newport Arch (a Roman structure which survives to the present day). The French forces were taken by surprise at being attacked by such large numbers of men, and savage fighting ensued in the narrow streets close to the cathedral and castle. The French commander, Thomas Count du Perche, was killed. He is said to have had 600 knights and over 1,000 infantrymen under his command. The rebel leaders Saer de Quincey and Robert Fitzwalter were taken prisoner and many of their men surrendered. Others fled downhill, and the forces loyal to Henry III then exacted heavy retribution upon Lincoln and its citizens, causing much destruction, even to churches. Women and children who tried to flee from the soldiers drowned when their overloaded boats capsized on the River Witham.
13th century depiction of the Second Battle of Lincoln
Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, said to his men before the battle: “If we beat them, we will have won eternal glory for the rest of our lives and for our kin.” The Second Battle of Lincoln did indeed turn the tide of the war, known as The First Barons’ War, and it prevented England from becoming a French colony.
By Andrew Wilson. Andrew Wilson grew up in Lincoln and went to Durham University. For over twenty years he worked for an aid agency based in south west London. His interests are many, and include making acrylic paintings.
Lincoln Castle was used as a gaol from early times. In 1788, a county gaol was constructed in the Castle complex, to hold debtors, those accused of crime who were awaiting trial, and those who had been convicted of crime and sentenced to either transportation or death.
Lincoln Castle Prison exterior – showing the Prison, Castle and Cathedral (Photo © Des Blenkinsopp (cc-by-sa/2.0))
In 1847-48, the wing used to accommodate felons (those accused and convicted of serious offences) was demolished, and a new prison built with the intention of implementing the ‘separate system’ of prison discipline. In this regime, prisoners were accommodated in separate cells and only allowed out for exercise and to attend chapel. Like many local prisons in the Victorian period, the ‘separate system’ was never achieved in its purest form.
Separate cell, in the Victorian prison (Photo © PAUL FARMER (cc-by-sa/2.0))
The prison was officially closed in 1878 when the management of local prisons was transferred from the local authorities to the Home Office. Lincoln Prison, like many other local prisons, was deemed to be inefficient and unnecessary. However, unlike many other 19th century local prisons which were closed at this time, Lincoln Prison survived, largely in tact, and is a wonderful example of the Victorian philosophies of imprisonment. It has the only surviving prison chapel built along the lines of the separate system – with individual compartments for each prisoner attending worship – in England. It is well worth a visit!
Chapel at Lincoln Prison, built to enforce the separate system of prison discipline by accommodating each prisoner in a separate compartment, the intention being that prisoners would not be able to see or communicate with each other. But they found other ways and partitions became subject to all kinds of graffiti. Most partitions were removed from chapels during the 1850s and 1860s. (Photo © Dave Hitchborne (cc-by-sa/2.0))
Photo Gallery: Lincoln Prison on a sunny day in Spring 2020
Exterior of Lincoln Prison, taken from the exercise yard.
© Kelvin Pickford (with kind permission)
Interior – male wing.
Note the galleried landing, which was typical for the new model prisons built in the 1840s and 1850s. Cell doors can be seen on each side.
© Kelvin Pickford (with kind permission)
The last two images are of the female wing, with its similar galleried landing
Lincoln Castle - History
Not complete but much survives
Only open at certain timesincoln Castle is just one of the two castles in England that has two mottes, the other example being Lewes Castle in East Sussex. In 1068, only a couple of years after the Norman Invasion, a Norman-style castle was built at Lincoln on the order of William the Conqueror. Records show that 166 houses were demolished to make room for the construction site. Lincoln Castle stands a short distance from the magnificent Lincoln cathedral, both of which dominate the city's skyline. The castle has two gatehouses, an ornate large gatehouse directly opposite the cathedral on the eastern side and a simpler square tower to the west. The motte to the south west has the remains of a shell keep on top of it which is known as the Lucy Tower. The tower is roughly circular in shape consisting of fifteen sections of 20 foot tall walls. The motte to the south-east of the castle has another tower on its summit known as the Observatory Tower.
In 1140 Lincoln the city and castle were taken possession supporters of Matilda, the daughter of King Henry I. Matilda was fighting to take the English throne from King Stephen. The King's army besieged the castle in the final months of 1140 and when news reached Matilda she sent her army to help. In February 1141 at the Battle of Lincoln King Stephen was captured and transported to Bristol where he was held prisoner for a short time.
At the start of the Civil War, in the reign of Charles I, the castle was fortified and held by Royalist supporters. But the castle and the city fell to Parliamentarian forces in May 1644.
In the civil parish of Lincoln.
In the historic county of Lincolnshire.
Modern Authority of Lincolnshire.
1974 county of Lincolnshire.
Medieval County of Lincolnshire.
OS Map Grid Reference: SK97477187
Latitude 53.23485° Longitude -0.54095°
Lincoln Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle , and also as a certain Masonry Castle .
This site is a scheduled monument protected by law. This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.
Castle. 1068, C12, C13, C14, C19. Restored C20. Built for William I. Coursed and squared stone and herringbone rubble, with ashlar dressings and slate roofs. PLAN: quadrangular curtain wall, east gateway and lodges, observatory tower, Lucy Tower (keep), west gate, Cobb Hall (north-east angle tower). EXTERIOR: restored curtain wall has a crenellated parapet and wall walk. East gateway, C11, extended C14, has a restored double chamfered gateway and above, semicircular tourelles, each with a doorway. Between them, a pointed wall. Under the entrance arch, a C11 tunnel vault. Inside the gateway, a pair of crenellated mid C19 lodges in the form of a barbican. Semicircular western ends, 2 storeys, each with 3 stone mullioned double lancets on each floor, with hoodmoulds. Between them, a pointed archway with crenellated crest. On the north wall inside the gateway, a reset canted C15 oriel window with 3 ogee headed lancets and crocketed pinnacles, from a house in the High Street opposite St Mary's Guildhall. Square observatory tower, C11, to south-east, has C14 eastern additions and extensive mid C19 remodelling. String course, corbelled and crenellated C19 parapets, single lancet windows. West side has a garderobe shaft in the form of a buttress, flanked to left by a pointed doorway with a lancet above it. East side has square corner towers. South side has sham arrow slits. Above, to east, a chamfered pointed doorway and a similarly chamfered ogee headed doorway, C14. In the south-west corner, a C19 round tower with stepped rectangular lights. To the south, the motte and Lucy Tower, late C12, restored C19. Roofless. Polygonal plan with string course, plain buttresses, and consolidated parapet. Projecting north-eastern gateway with billeted round arched outer opening and segmental inner opening with hoodmould. South-western minor entrance has a segmental head. To the south-west, a small roofless chamber. Square west gatehouse, C11, rebuilt 1233, has a blocked round headed opening with an inserted doorway flanked by the remains of barbican walls. Above, 2 slit windows and a blocked access doorway to the right. Cobb Hall, C13, reduced in height and remodelled C19, has a semicircular outer face with slit windows, and a square inner face with a chamfered doorway flanked by single slit windows. Crenellated parapet. INTERIOR: 2 storeys with chamfered rib vaulting forming 4 vaulted cells in the lower part and 6 radial cells in the rounded end of the upper storey. This building was formerly used as a place of execution, and fittings for the gallows remain on the outer parapet. (Listed Building Report)
The Castle was built in 1068, in the south-west corner of the Roman station, covering thirteen and three-quarter acres including the ditches. In the curtain wall are two principal gates, one to the east opening up to the upper city and the other to the west opening direct into the field. The Norman keep is a fine example of a shell keep. The Norman works consist of the curtain, gateways, observatory tower and the keep. Cobbe Hall and the additions to the Observatory tower and the eastern gateway are probably the works of Thomas of Lancaster, Earl of Lincoln, who held the Castle from 1312 to 1322 (Pevsner Scheduling report) The early tenurial history of Lincoln is complex. The original 'castle' mentioned in Domesday occupied an area equivalent to 166 houses (This is not the same as 166 houses were destroyed to build the castle as earlier, literalistic, readings of Domesday have suggested - some houses may well have been destroyed but Domesday was a financial assessment and the Survey was interested in actual and potential rents.) This is calculated to be the whole of the upper Roman city (Stocker 2004 p. 9). William I built a castle in 1068, although quite what this castle was in uncertain but there is some evidence of repair of all the Roman gateways of the upper city. It does seem the area of the castle was quite soon narrowed down to the south-west corner of the upper city (although the whole upper city, an area known as 'The Bail' continued to have a somewhat different status to the lower city and considerable extra-mural parts of Lincoln). It may well be that William did not intend for Lincoln to be a royal castle and there is a suggestion that he intended to create an earl of Lincoln or that the bishop was to have considerably secular power (c.f. Durham - However note also that in 1068 while Lincoln was in the see of the bishop the seat of the bishopric was at Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, and was not transferred to Lincoln until 1072-3). However, the earldom of Lincoln was not created until 1141 and the initial castle was possibly jointly held by a royal Constable, the Sheriff of Lincoln (possibly sometimes the same person although Countess Lucy, an exceptional woman, may have been constable via her position as wife of Ivo Tailbois (and daughter of the last Saxon Sheriff) and the bishop of Lincoln. The large motte with the shell keep known as the Lucy Tower may represent the royal holding and the smaller motte (The Observatory Tower) that of the bishop (However Pamela Marshall (Lindley 2004 p. 63) argues the Observatory Tower motte was built by Countess Lucy). The removal of the bishop from the castle in the 1130's to his palace allowed the creation of the earldom although the tenure of the castle was contested in the Anarchy. The resulting agreement for Earl Ranulf to hold a certain tower, previously fortified by the Countess Lucy is not, in a meaningful sense, a licence to crenellate although has been called this by some. Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources It was approaching midnight when a baker, on the way to his night shift at a bakers in the city was walking opposite Lincoln Castle’s gates. Knox’s friends took the fastest horses they had and rode for London. They got their in good time, and using Knox’s high connections, explained to the king the situation in Lincoln. He immediately signed a pardon and sent them back to save Knox from the gallows. The front gate of Lincoln Castle Our experience at Lincoln Castle Much like Lincoln Cathedral, the castle at the other end of the Bailgate is hard to gain access to at night fall. The history of Lincoln Castle Built in 1068, LincolnCastleone was of the first Norman motte and bailey castles to be constructed in England by William the conqueror, following his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Work on the south-west side of the castle bank in 1996 revealed the layered stratigraphy seen previously in 1993, consisting of bands of sandy earth and limestone interleaved with bands of limestone fragments of various sizes. There was no dating evidence (CLAU 1996).
A 1983 trench at the West Gate was reopened in 1992 in order to ascertain whether the trench had cut into the foundations for the West Gate. The bottom of the trench had indeed been cut into the foundations for the West Gate by about 0.4 metres, under the misconception that the layer was natural limestone brash. This supposition was proved incorrect as the excavation moved westwards, revealing a more substantial foundation approximately two metres to the west of the gate entrance (CLAU 1992)
A resistivity survey was conducted in selected areas within the walls of Lincoln Castle. Detailed survey identified a range of electrical anomalies, a number of which almost certainly reflect traces of former buildings or walls. A series of anomalies may reflect traces of the former gaol block and County Hall. Within the Lucy Tower, a penannular shaped anomaly appears to indicate the position of an internal structure(s) around a central courtyard (PCC 2004).
Two trial trenches were excavated within the Lucy Tower, investigating the east and west recesses. The recesses were proved not to have been original to the plan of the tower. Pottery evidence suggested that the tower was undergoing repairs during the 13th century. This may be related to damage inflicted during the Battle of Lincoln Fair in 1217. Roof tile of late 12th to 13th century date suggests that structures were present within the tower. The intervention in the western recess uncovered a stone with an elaborate mason's mark depicting a fish. The intervention in the eastern tower revealed remains of a doorway and staircase which was probably related to a structure shown on documentary sources. The doorway appears to have been blocked in the early 13th century, although the structure appears to have survived until the 19th century (FAS 2008).
A survey of the historic graffiti in Cobb Hall was carried out. Several previously unrecorded carvings were identified. These include a heraldic shield which has been identified as belonging to the Mortimer family, probably John de Mortimer who was in Edward I's army against Scotland in 1290. Many of the medieval graffiti were probably carved by troops temporarily resident in the castle. These carvings include crosses, figures of men and animals and also several simple geometric carvings which may be game boards. There appears to be little graffiti from the late medieval and post medieval period until the 17th to 18th century (FAS 2008).
A possible historic door opening in the Lucy Tower was investigated. Medieval stonework was recorded behind the 19th century masonry, and elements of the north side of the passageway survived although there was no evidence for the survival of the south side (FAS 2008).
During a watching brief on the Observatory Tower mound, above the car park, evidence of Victorian terracing was seen relating to the period when this site was used as an ornamental garden with tea room. A large quantity of residual medieval and Roman pottery was also recovered. This probably originated in the material of the mound itself which would have been disturbed during terracing. It may also have come from soil brought in from elsewhere during terracing (AAA 2008)
A trial trench evaluation and borehole survey was carried out in February 2009, within the area of the former Debtor's Yard and the Airing Court (the latter is now used as a stone yard) at Lincoln Castle. The four trial trenches produced residual medieval finds, while seven boreholes were inserted into the Debtor's Yard (now a car park), in an attempt to obtain a profile across deposits at the base of the Lucy Tower motte. The results were not conclusive, but the survey appeared to have located deposits relating to the buried extent of the mound (FAS 2009)
An evaluation programme consisting of a topographic and photographic survey followed by the excavation of a single evaluation trench was carried out on the south-western part of the Lucy Tower motte and surrounding gardens following tree clearance. The topographic survey showed that the motte had undergone alterations in the 19th century but is otherwise considered to be in its original form. The 19th century alterations include the encroachment of Castle Moat House itself on the lower slopes and also a network of paths up the mound which survive as shallow terraces and remains of a zig-zag path. The evaluation trench revealed remains of possible stone structures which are interpreted as traces of a west wing to Lucy Tower. It is suggested that the west wing may have fallen out of use early, maybe in the 13th century, leaving vestigial traces that were later recorded and misinterpreted in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also suggested that this building, along with the tower, motte and eastern wing, were built inside the southern defences of the castle, which would have been formed by the remains of Roman defences. The current southern curtain wall may have been built as an internal wall which later became the main southern wall of the castle after its defences contracted. It is likely that the Roman remains formed the southern defences of the castle until the 13th century (FAS 2009)
The City of Lincoln Archaeology Unit undertook a watching brief in May 1990 during the excavation of trial trenches, test pits and boreholes during investigation of the stability of Lincoln Castle. In the area of the North Bank, east to west aligned surfaces were identified in trial trench 4. In test pit 5, the extension to Cobb Hall was reidentified. In this area, Roman and medieval pottery and bone fragments were also found. In the area of the West Bank, bone and a few fragments of Roman pottery was found. In the South Bank area, three courses of steos onto a base of stone were found (ALCE 1990)
A measured survey and archaeological appraisal of the west mural wing of Lucy Tower was undertaken by Field Archaeology Specialists in March and April 2011. Four phases of remodelling and additions were revealed (FAS 2011)
Two trenches were excavated as part of an evaluation on the North Lawn of Lincoln Castle
During evaluation in the Eastern Courtyard at Lincoln Castle in 2011, layers containing about thirty fragments of 12th to 15th century pottery, including Glazed Lincoln ware, Toynton ware jugs, Potterhanworth ware and shell tempered ware and animal bones were revealed suggesting activity on the site marking the beginning of the castle occupation. The animal remains include vension and other game indicative of an elite diet. A robber trench and ceramic building material suggests the erection of a building within the bailey of the castle in the mid 12th to mid 13th century. It was probably stone built and heated with a partly glazed tiled roof, decorative glazed ridge tiles and a louvre for smoke ventilation, all suggested from artefactual evidence. Animal remains from normal domesticated animals and more elite foods such as eel and veal were found in association with the building. A fragment of metal spur was also found. All of this evidence suggests that this was a high status building. Robber trenches which were dated to the 17th century, originally excavated to remove the wall stone, suggest that the building existed until the 17th century (FAS 2011) (Lincolnshire HER)
Suddenly, he heard the clattering of hooves against the ancient cobbles. Looking round to find the source of the noise, he heard a cry that shattered the quiet night sky: “Open the gates, in the name of the king!”
A giant black horse, billowing steam from its nostrils materialised in front of him. Its rider was stood up in his stirrups and sparks began to fly off the ground as its hooves gripped the floor. The horse charged on towards the castle, the same cry echoing from its rider as it gallops through the thick wooden gates of the castle’s front entrance.
It is said that the ghost of the horse and rider originates from one of the first hangings at Lincoln Castle.
A dispute had broken out between a local lord, John Knox and magistrates at the castle, as to who owned a plot of land just outside the city. Upon visiting the magistrates, Knox had engaged in a verbal altercation with one of them, and had stormed out of the castle in a rage of anger.
It was during his visit that one of the members of staff in the castle was brutally murdered. Naturally the magistrates blamed Knox for the murder, and had him sentenced to death. He was to be hung at dawn in five days time.
Luckily, Knox knew who his true friends were within the city. He realised there was no way he could ever prove his innocence, and so he asked four of his closest friends to ride to London and seek an audience with the king. Only with a letter of his pardon would Knox survive the week.
On the way home, the group of friends began to tire. One however, volunteered to ride on alone. He rode relentlessly, only stopping to change horses. It was the night before Knox was due to be hung, and the lone rider had reached Newark, a small market town 20 miles from Lincoln.
Tired and exhausted, both horse and rider were put up at an inn after persuasion by the inn keeper that they were both too tired to continue.
The rider woke the next day to sun streaming through his window. He instantly realised that he was too late to save Knox. Shamed by not being able to rescue his friend, he walked to the stable where his horse waited, took the stirrups off his saddle and hung himself from the stable beams.
The ghost that charges through the castle doors is said to be the very same friend who tried to save Knox from a wrongful sentence-finally completing the journey he never finished all those years ago.
With this in mind, I visited the castle both in the day time and at night. Taking the castle tour, it was undeniable to say that I didn’t feel slightly uncomfortable in some places.
When visiting the Victorian Prison, I felt a change of temperature and a chill down my spine. I definitely felt that there was some form of presence in the Chapel. The way in which it is laid out makes it seem incredibly isolated and supernatural. This area didn’t give me the feeling that it was haunted, but it was extremely thought provoking.
Walking around the castle, I am reminded that hangings were a regular occurrence, and that a majority of the bodies were buried within the castle grounds. Again, for me personally, this proved thought provoking rather than spooky.
At night time, the feeling of the castle changes again. Although just walking around the outskirts of the Castle walls, I struggled to feel anything paranormal or out of sorts.
Maybe this was due to the amount of pubs and restaurants that border the castle, and therefore the amount of people that were in the area.
However, looking up the castle walls, the eerie feeling returns, as I am reminded of the history it has within it.
The mixture of history and scary tales make the castle feel like it has some form of presence within it. However this maybe due to the fact that I had a reasonably large knowledge of the ghost stories behind it, before I took the tour.
166 Saxon homes were cleared to build the castle on top of a former Roman fortress, which, in Norman opinion, would be the stronghold for the third most important city in the country.
Built in Lincoln for its strategic position, it was located on two roman roads (Fosse way and Ermine street) and overlooked the countryside from an advantageous height.
Lincoln castle is unusual, as it has two mottes (raised and enditched areas of ground). The only other castle in the UK to share this feature is Lewes in Sussex.
On one of these mottes stands the 14 th century observatory tower, whilst a 12 th century shell keep, call Lucy Tower, crowns the other.
Along with the two mottes, the castle has two gates, a large round tower, and a cobb hall.
Later additions included a prison, which has since been closed, and a Victorian courthouse which is still in use today.
The prison still houses the world’s only example of a Victorian segregated chapel, where inmates were entered into booths, with hoods over their heads to prevent any contact with each other. Many of these stalls were destroyed when they were branded as inhumane.
For 900 years the castle acted as a prison, and the dungeons are still accessible today. Hangings took place at day break to the right of the main gate, with the bodies being buried within the Lucy Tower, and within the castle grounds on the lawns, where some of the graves still remain.
The castle also houses one of only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.
The early tenurial history of Lincoln is complex. The original 'castle' mentioned in Domesday occupied an area equivalent to 166 houses (This is not the same as 166 houses were destroyed to build the castle as earlier, literalistic, readings of Domesday have suggested - some houses may well have been destroyed but Domesday was a financial assessment and the Survey was interested in actual and potential rents.) This is calculated to be the whole of the upper Roman city (Stocker 2004 p. 9). William I built a castle in 1068, although quite what this castle was in uncertain but there is some evidence of repair of all the Roman gateways of the upper city. It does seem the area of the castle was quite soon narrowed down to the south-west corner of the upper city (although the whole upper city, an area known as 'The Bail' continued to have a somewhat different status to the lower city and considerable extra-mural parts of Lincoln). It may well be that William did not intend for Lincoln to be a royal castle and there is a suggestion that he intended to create an earl of Lincoln or that the bishop was to have considerably secular power (c.f. Durham - However note also that in 1068 while Lincoln was in the see of the bishop the seat of the bishopric was at Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, and was not transferred to Lincoln until 1072-3). However, the earldom of Lincoln was not created until 1141 and the initial castle was possibly jointly held by a royal Constable, the Sheriff of Lincoln (possibly sometimes the same person although Countess Lucy, an exceptional woman, may have been constable via her position as wife of Ivo Tailbois (and daughter of the last Saxon Sheriff) and the bishop of Lincoln. The large motte with the shell keep known as the Lucy Tower may represent the royal holding and the smaller motte (The Observatory Tower) that of the bishop (However Pamela Marshall (Lindley 2004 p. 63) argues the Observatory Tower motte was built by Countess Lucy). The removal of the bishop from the castle in the 1130's to his palace allowed the creation of the earldom although the tenure of the castle was contested in the Anarchy. The resulting agreement for Earl Ranulf to hold a certain tower, previously fortified by the Countess Lucy is not, in a meaningful sense, a licence to crenellate although has been called this by some.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources
It was approaching midnight when a baker, on the way to his night shift at a bakers in the city was walking opposite Lincoln Castle’s gates.
Knox’s friends took the fastest horses they had and rode for London. They got their in good time, and using Knox’s high connections, explained to the king the situation in Lincoln. He immediately signed a pardon and sent them back to save Knox from the gallows.
The front gate of Lincoln Castle
Our experience at Lincoln Castle
Much like Lincoln Cathedral, the castle at the other end of the Bailgate is hard to gain access to at night fall.
The history of Lincoln Castle
Built in 1068, LincolnCastleone was of the first Norman motte and bailey castles to be constructed in England by William the conqueror, following his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.