About Lincoln Castle
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.