Lincoln Castle was one of the first great castles to be built by William the Conqueror. Begun in 1068 he used the hill top site that the Romans had occupied with their first fort, building over sections of the Roman city wall, and to enlarge the site 166 houses were demolished. At this stage it was mostly timber and it was virtually destroyed by fire in 1113, being replaced by much stronger stone affair. Later in the twelfth century the shell keep was added.
During the anarchy it fell into the hands of the Earl of Chester but afterwards reverted to the King. It was besieged during the Baron's War in the early 13th century but otherwise has had an uneventful history, being the seat of the shire court and prison. The castle is now owned by Lincolnshire County Council and is a scheduled ancient monument. However, the Crown Court still meets in the castle.
One of the most impressive features of the castle are the
immense 12th century walls. You can still walk around the
ramparts and a walk around the walls will give you a magnificent
view of the six acre Castle complex, and also panoramic views of
the Cathedral, city and surrounding countryside.
On the south wall. Lincoln Castle is one of only two castles in Britain built with two mottes (Lewes is the other example) The Lucy tower is the15-sided shell keep built on the larger motte, named after the mother of a 12th century owner, Lucy, Countess of Chester. The Lucy tower is an open structure but would probably have contained lean-to buildings against the inner wall. This medieval keep later became the Victorial burial ground for convicts.
A square tower was built on the smaller motte at the south east corner. It is part Norman, part 14th century and an observatory was added to it by a governor of the prison in the nineteenth century, and as such it is known as the observatory tower. This is the highest part of the castle and provides the best views.
This is now the main entrance to the castle and was originally a plain Norman arch built into a rectangular recess in the wall. I was strengthened in later years by a gatehouse and two round turrets which probably rose higher than they do today. It was also fronted by a barbican spanning a dry moat which would have incorporated a drawbridge and portcullis, but these were demolished in 1791.
A defensive tower built in around the 13th century, Cobb Hall is a horseshoe-shaped building at the north east corner which served as the castle prison for many centuries. The county gallows were moved there in 1817, and its roof was used for public hangings until 1868.
This was the main entrance in medieval times and would have led into open countryside through the city wall, but it was sealed up, possibly in the fifteenth century. It has been recently reopened after being unused for around 500 years.
The prison was built on the castle green enclosure in 1787 and enlarged by the Victorians. Many prisoners here were deported to Australia and many more were executed on the ramparts. The prison chapel is fascinating in its sadistic design: rows of cubicles were built so that felons could see the preacher but not their fellow inmates a unique and terrifying space, Pevsner called it.
At the western end of the castle is an ivy clad building built in 1826 as the Assize courts. These are still used today as Lincoln's Crown Courts.
This statue, originally placed on Dunston pillar in 1810 was pulled down in 1940 due to danger to wartime aircraft. The statue, by artist Joseph Panzetta was made of an artificial material called Coade Stone and was originally some 15 feet tall, but is now a bust, this restoration made from the remaining pieces.
Many visitors come to the castle to see the original Lincoln Magna Carta. This 780-year-old document is one of only four surviving originals sealed by King John after his meeting with the Barons at Runnymede in 1215. Relocated from its old home in the cathedral, the Victorian prison building now houses the exhibition explaining the origin of Magna Carta and the far reaching effects it has had on our lives, and the darkened, environmentally controlled room where the Magna Carta is preserved.
The Castle is also well known for its summer programme of historical re-enactments, jousting, brass bands, craft fairs and concerts.
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