Lincoln Castle is a major castle constructed in Lincoln, England, during the late 11th century by William the Conqueror on the site of a pre-existing Roman fortress. The castle is unusual in that it has two mottes. It is only one of two such castles in the country, the other being at Lewes in Sussex. Lincoln Castle remained in use as a prison and law court into modern times, and is one of the better preserved castles in England; the Crown Courts continue to this day. It is open to the public as a museum. Lincoln Castle remains one of the most impressive Norman castles in the United Kingdom. It is still possible to walk around the immense Norman walls which provide a magnificent view of the castle complex, together with panoramic views of the cathedral, the city, and the surrounding countryside.
After William the Conqueror defeated Harold Godwinson and the English at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, he continued to face resistance to his rule in the north of England. For a number of years, William's position was very insecure. In order to project his influence northwards to control the people of the Danelaw (an area that had for a time been under the control of Scandinavian settlers), he constructed a number of major castles in the North and Midlands of England, including those at Warwick, Nottingham and York. After gaining control of York, the Conqueror turned southwards and arrived at the Roman and Viking city of Lincoln. When William reached Lincoln (one of the country's major settlements), he found a Viking commercial and trading centre with a population of 6,000 to 8,000. The remains of the old Roman walled fortress, located 200 foot above the countryside to the south and west, proved an ideal strategic position to construct a new castle.
Lincoln was also a vital strategic crossroads of the following routes (largely the same routes which influenced the siting of the Roman fort): Ermine Street - a major Roman road and England's main north-south route, connecting London and York. Fosse Way - another important Roman route connecting Lincoln with the city of Leicester and the south-west of England. The valley of the River Trent (to the west and southwest) - a major river affording access to the River Ouse, and thus the major city of York. The River Witham - a waterway connected to the River Trent (via the Fossdyke Roman canal at Torksey) and to the North Sea via The Wash. The Lincolnshire Wolds - an upland area to the northeast of Lincoln, which overlooks the Lincolnshire Marsh beyond. A castle here could guard several of the main strategic routes and form part of a network of strongholds of the Norman kingdom, in the former Danish Mercia, roughly the area today referred to as the East Midlands, to control the country internally. Also it was a centre from which troops could be sent to repel Scandinavian landings pretty much anywhere on the coast from the Trent to the Welland, by using the roads which the Romans had constructed for the same purpose.
The Domesday Survey of 1086 directly records 48 castles in England, with two in Lincolnshire including one in Lincoln. Building a castle within an existing settlement sometimes meant existing structures had to be removed. In Lincoln's case 166 "unoccupied residences" were pulled down to clear the area on which the castle would be built. Work on the new fortification was completed in 1068. Probably at first a wooden keep was constructed, which was later replaced with a much stronger stone one. Lincoln Castle is very unusual in having two mottes. To the south, where the Roman wall stands on the edge of a steep slope, it was retained partially as a curtain wall and partially as a revetment retaining the mottes. In the west, where the ground is more level, the Roman wall was buried within an earth rampart and extended upward to form the Norman castle wall. The Roman west gate (on the same site as the castle's west gate) was excavated in the 19th century but began to collapse on exposure, and so was re-buried.
The castle was the focus of attention during the First Battle of Lincoln on 2 February 1141, during the struggle between King Stephen and Empress Matilda over who should be monarch in England. It was held, but damaged, and a new tower, called the Lucy Tower, was built. Lincoln Castle was again besieged before the Second Battle of Lincoln, on 20 May 1217, during the reign of King John during the course of the First Barons' War. This was the period of political struggle which led to the sealing of Magna Carta on 15 June 1215. After this, a new barbican was built onto the west and east gates. A set of earth banks, associated with one or other of the sieges, once stood where the Lawns stand, to the west of the castle. Thorngate Castle once stood near the river, forming the South-East corner of the city walls. It existed in 1141 but was demolished in 1151.
On 15 June 2015, it was 800 years to the day that King John and the barons met at Runnymede and agreed a charter of liberties that would change the course of history. Magna Carta enshrined the principle that the king had to act within the rule of law and became one of the most celebrated documents in history with enduring worldwide influence. In 1217 Magna Carta was re-issued with some of the original clauses incorporated into a second charter, Charter of the Forest. It was at this point that the original charter assumed the name of Magna Carta, meaning Great Charter, to distinguish it from the second, smaller charter. Lincoln Castle is now the only place in the world where an original 1215 Magna Carta and 1217 Charter of the Forest can be seen side by side, on permanent loan from Lincoln Cathedral.
As in Norwich and other places, the castle was used as a secure site in which to establish a gaol. At Lincoln, the gaol was built in 1787, along with the Governor's House, and extended in 1847. The old prison is a three storey stone building with 15 bays and is connected to the 18th-century Governor's House via a single storey prison chapel. Imprisoned debtors were allowed some social contact, but the regime for criminals was designed to be one of isolation, according to the separate system. Consequently, the seating in the prison chapel is designed to enclose each prisoner individually so that the preacher could see everyone but each could see only him. By 1878 the system was discredited and the inmates were transferred to the new gaol in the eastern outskirts of Lincoln. The prison in the castle was left without a use until the Lincolnshire Archives were housed in its cells. William Marwood, the 19th century hangman, carried out his first execution at Lincoln. He used the long drop, designed to break the victim's neck rather than to strangle him, to execute Fred Horry in 1872. Until 1868, prisoners were publicly hanged on the mural tower at the north-east corner of the curtain wall, overlooking the upper town.
The accessible entrance to the castle is via the East Gate. The West Gate entrance is ramped and too steep to be an accessible entry point. Lincoln Castle is an historic monument with many steps and uneven surfaces. The Medieval Wall Walk is accessed by a turnstile. A wheelchair pass gate is located at the turnstile. There is a lift to the east section of the Medieval Wall Walk, which overlooks the Cathedral West Front and has spectacular views. The east section of the Medieval Wall Walk is accessible for wheelchair users between the lift and Cobb Hall. Beyond Cobb Hall there are steps, uneven walkways and narrow sections, which are inaccessible for wheelchair users. An audio guide is available for the Medieval Wall Walk. A transcript of the full script for visitors with hearing impairments is available. Induction loop headsets are available for use with the audio guides. The audio guide includes an accessible tour for visitors only accessing the east section of the wall. The path up to the Bath House is ramped and only accessible by a wheelchair user with assistance.
There is a lift between all three floors of the Victorian Prison. Please note that there is nowhere for wheelchair users to turn around on the upper walkways of the male prison. There is an accessible viewing platform for the Victorian Prison Chapel. You will need to collect an access pass from the shop in order to use the lift. Transcripts of the Victorian Prison films for visitors with hearing impairments are available. The exercise yard is accessible for wheelchair users but the fire exit route out of the exercise yard is down two steps. There is a lift in the David PJ Ross Magna Carta Vault and the vault and cinema are fully accessible. Assistance dogs are welcome on site and can accompany visitors through all areas of the castle and grounds. Wheelchair accessible toilets are located on the ground floor of the prison or at the East Gate entrance. There is a toilet hoist in the disabled toilet on the ground floor of the prison. Free admission for carers of disabled visitors.
Location : Lincoln Castle, Castle Square, Lincoln, LN1 3AA
Transport: Lincoln Central (National Rail) then bus or 20 Minutes. Bus Routes : 7, 8, 17 and 18 stop close by.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets All Inclusive: Adults £12.00; Concessions £9.60; Children (5 - 16) £7.20
Tickets Prison + Magna Carta: Adults £10.00; Concessions £8.00; Children (5 - 16) £6.00
Tickets Medieval Wall Walk: Adults £5.00; Concessions £4.00; Children (5 - 16) £3.00
Tel: 01522 782040