Lincolnshire, a county in England’s East Midlands, boasts a sprawling North Sea coastline and a fascinating history.
From Lincoln Castle to Belton House, Lincolnshire is rich with historical sites to explore. Explore a mysterious medieval turf maze at Julian’s Bower, visit one of the best-preserved manor houses in England at Gainsborough Old Hall, or prospect the views from the exceptional Bomber Command memorial near Lincoln.
Here are 10 of the best historic sites in Lincoln.
1. Lincoln Castle
Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, Lincoln Castle is one of England’s best-preserved and most impressive Norman castles.
One of only two English castles with two mottes, (the other being Lewes Castle in Sussex) it is the home to one of the 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.
Visitors can take an immersive tour of the prison with films and touch-screen multimedia, or view the copy of the rare Magna Carta held there, where a widescreen cinema reconstructs the events leading up to its signing.
2. Julian’s Bower
Julian’s Bower is a medieval turf maze that sits high up on a rural hilltop in in North Lincolnshire, England. The maze is believed to date back to medieval times, although an air of mystery still surrounds it. The first record of the maze appears to be in the late 17th century in the diary of antiquarian Abraham de la Pryme.
The maze sits atop a hill overlooking the point where the River Trent and River Ouse meet: the Pennines and Peak District can even be seen on a clear day.
3. Belton House
Belton House is a historic 17th-century mansion house in Lincolnshire, whose stunning exterior and fascinating collections draw thousands of visitors a year.
Built between 1685 and 1688 in the Restoration style, Belton House was commissioned by John and Alice Brownlow. They gathered a group of master craftsmen, including chief joiner John Sturges who worked at Chatsworth, wrought-ironworker John Warren who worked at Denham Palace, and master mason William Stanton, who set about completing the couple’s grand plans.
The magnificent house that resulted would become the seat of the Brownlow family – and their heirs the Cust family – for over 300 years.
4. Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral is a stunning medieval structure thought to have once been the tallest building in the world. With its striking architecture and 1,000-year history, it is a must-see during any visit to Lincoln.
First consecrated in 1092, around 20 years after Lincoln was designated a seat of a bishopric, Lincoln Cathedral was the home of medieval Britain’s first Norman Bishop, Remigius.
Due to its many repairs and rebuilds Lincoln Cathedral boasts a wealth of architectural influences, from its medieval flying buttresses to the 17th-century Wren Library.
5. Gainsborough Old Hall
Gainsborough Old Hall is a 15th-century medieval manor house built by the Burgh family that has welcomed both royalty and religious reformers. Today, Gainsborough Old Hall is managed by English Heritage, who rank it “among the biggest and best-preserved medieval manor houses in England”.
Except for its Elizabethan additions, much of Gainsborough Old Hall is in a remarkably similar state as when it was constructed in the 15th century. One of the best examples of its medieval features is the kitchen, which may be the most complete of its kind in the country, and holds two vast original fireplaces and two bread ovens.
6. International Bomber Command Centre
The International Bomber Command Centre near Lincoln opened in 2018 with the aim of providing a permanent memorial and archive for those who served in Bomber Command during World War Two. The centre’s ‘spire’ is the UK’s tallest war memorial: a steel needle which stands at 31 metres.
27 RAF Bomber Command stations were based in Lincolnshire during World War Two. Almost half of the 125,000 people to serve with Bomber Command lost their lives in the conflict.
In addition to the memorial spire, the IBCC consists of the Chadwick Centre museum and peace garden. The museum houses exhibits on the history of Bomber Command, which includes personal belongings and stories of those who served.
7. Woolsthorpe Manor
Woolsthorpe Manor is a historic house located in the village of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, England. The manor was the birthplace and home of Sir Isaac Newton from 1642 until 1696. The house is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public.
The original house at Woolsthorpe Manor was built in the late 16th century. The house was bought by Sir Isaac Newton’s great-grandfather, also named Isaac Newton. The younger Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe Manor and lived there until he was 22 years old.
In 1696, Newton returned to Woolsthorpe Manor after a long absence. He spent the final years of his life at the manor, working on his theories of calculus and gravity. Visitors can see the room where Newton was born, as well as the garden where he is said to have observed gravity.
8. Tupholme Abbey
From its founding around 1160 until its closure by Henry VIII in 1536, Tupholme Abbey was home to canons belonging to the Premonstratensian Order. Tupholme itself means ‘the island of the sheep’. The abbey church is now in ruins. The most obvious surviving part of the abbey is the south wall of what was once the refectory, later used as part of a Tudor mansion, then an ornament for a later country house, and finally part of a farm.
The Tupholme Abbey site is located between the villages of Bardney and Bucknall, about 10 miles from Lincoln and just over a mile from the River Witham. The river once provided a busy trade link between Lincoln and Boston, which resulted in eight other abbeys concentrated in this part of the Witham Valley.
9. Holbeach Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Post
The Holbeach Royal Observer Corps (ROC) Underground Monitoring Post was a Cold War-era nuclear monitoring post located in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, England. In the event that the risk of nuclear attack was significant, ROC members would occupy the post and monitor nuclear activity.
Today the bunker is maintained by the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire, who have furnished it with much of the equipment that would have been used inside. The site is intermittently open to the public.
10. Tattershall Castle
Tattershall Castle is a red brick tower in Lincolnshire built by Ralph Cromwell, Treasurer of England, in place of the somewhat less opulent building that preceded it between 1430 and 1450. Cromwell’s use of some 700,000 red bricks, as opposed to the available nearby stone, was probably guided by its status-signalling power. The result is a unique 15th century structure with exceptional views.
Tattershall Castle is an early example of fine medieval brickwork. Though it suffered during the Civil War and was subsequently left to decay, it was restored following its purchase by Lord Curzon and opened as an attraction in 1914.