Lincoln Castle

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Things to do


Date of travel

July, 2016

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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 mens’ 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 prison 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 recently 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 wall walk is accessed by a newly constructed spiral staircase. The Views from the wall walk across to the cathedral, Lincoln and the surrounding countryside on a clear day are astounding. They also give good views down onto the castle buildings.

There are a range of different tickets which give access to the different parts of the castle and prison. Details “here”:

Tickets allow one free return within 6 months and £2 off the guide book.

There is no disabled car parking for the castle although there are car parks close by. Disabled access is through the east gateway as the ramp to the west gateway is too steep for wheelchairs. There are two wheelchairs for hire available from the shop.

There is a lift giving access to the wall walk although there are steps beyond Cobb hall making it inaccessible for wheelchairs.

There is a lift giving access to all floor in the Victorian Prison although some of he cell doorways may be too narrow for a wheelchair. There is no room for wheelchairs to turn round on the upper walkways of the men’s prison. The exercise yard is accessible.

The Victorian Prion is accessed by a lift in the main lobby next to the shop. An access pass must be collected from the shop to use this.

There is a lift to the Magna Carta vault and cinema.

There are accessible toilets on the ground floor of the prison and by the east gate.

Carers are admitted free.

Full details “here.”:

There is more information and lots of pictures “here.”:


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