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Lincoln Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Lincoln.
In the historic county of Lincolnshire.
Modern Authority of Lincolnshire.
1974 county of Lincolnshire.
Medieval County of Lincolnshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SK97477187
Latitude 53.23485° Longitude -0.54095°

Lincoln Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Castle. 1068, C12, C13, C14, C19. Restored C20. Built for William I. Coursed and squared stone and herringbone rubble, with ashlar dressings and slate roofs. PLAN: quadrangular curtain wall, east gateway and lodges, observatory tower, Lucy Tower (keep), west gate, Cobb Hall (north-east angle tower). EXTERIOR: restored curtain wall has a crenellated parapet and wall walk. East gateway, C11, extended C14, has a restored double chamfered gateway and above, semicircular tourelles, each with a doorway. Between them, a pointed wall. Under the entrance arch, a C11 tunnel vault. Inside the gateway, a pair of crenellated mid C19 lodges in the form of a barbican. Semicircular western ends, 2 storeys, each with 3 stone mullioned double lancets on each floor, with hoodmoulds. Between them, a pointed archway with crenellated crest. On the north wall inside the gateway, a reset canted C15 oriel window with 3 ogee headed lancets and crocketed pinnacles, from a house in the High Street opposite St Mary's Guildhall. Square observatory tower, C11, to south-east, has C14 eastern additions and extensive mid C19 remodelling. String course, corbelled and crenellated C19 parapets, single lancet windows. West side has a garderobe shaft in the form of a buttress, flanked to left by a pointed doorway with a lancet above it. East side has square corner towers. South side has sham arrow slits. Above, to east, a chamfered pointed doorway and a similarly chamfered ogee headed doorway, C14. In the south-west corner, a C19 round tower with stepped rectangular lights. To the south, the motte and Lucy Tower, late C12, restored C19. Roofless. Polygonal plan with string course, plain buttresses, and consolidated parapet. Projecting north-eastern gateway with billeted round arched outer opening and segmental inner opening with hoodmould. South-western minor entrance has a segmental head. To the south-west, a small roofless chamber. Square west gatehouse, C11, rebuilt 1233, has a blocked round headed opening with an inserted doorway flanked by the remains of barbican walls. Above, 2 slit windows and a blocked access doorway to the right. Cobb Hall, C13, reduced in height and remodelled C19, has a semicircular outer face with slit windows, and a square inner face with a chamfered doorway flanked by single slit windows. Crenellated parapet. INTERIOR: 2 storeys with chamfered rib vaulting forming 4 vaulted cells in the lower part and 6 radial cells in the rounded end of the upper storey. This building was formerly used as a place of execution, and fittings for the gallows remain on the outer parapet. (Listed Building Report)

The Castle was built in 1068, in the south-west corner of the Roman station, covering thirteen and three-quarter acres including the ditches. In the curtain wall are two principal gates, one to the east opening up to the upper city and the other to the west opening direct into the field. The Norman keep is a fine example of a shell keep. The Norman works consist of the curtain, gateways, observatory tower and the keep. Cobbe Hall and the additions to the Observatory tower and the eastern gateway are probably the works of Thomas of Lancaster, Earl of Lincoln, who held the Castle from 1312 to 1322 (Pevsner; Scheduling report)
Work on the south-west side of the castle bank in 1996 revealed the layered stratigraphy seen previously in 1993, consisting of bands of sandy earth and limestone interleaved with bands of limestone fragments of various sizes. There was no dating evidence (CLAU 1996).
A 1983 trench at the West Gate was reopened in 1992 in order to ascertain whether the trench had cut into the foundations for the West Gate. The bottom of the trench had indeed been cut into the foundations for the West Gate by about 0.4 metres, under the misconception that the layer was natural limestone brash. This supposition was proved incorrect as the excavation moved westwards, revealing a more substantial foundation approximately two metres to the west of the gate entrance (CLAU 1992)
A resistivity survey was conducted in selected areas within the walls of Lincoln Castle. Detailed survey identified a range of electrical anomalies, a number of which almost certainly reflect traces of former buildings or walls. A series of anomalies may reflect traces of the former gaol block and County Hall. Within the Lucy Tower, a penannular shaped anomaly appears to indicate the position of an internal structure(s) around a central courtyard (PCC 2004).
Two trial trenches were excavated within the Lucy Tower, investigating the east and west recesses. The recesses were proved not to have been original to the plan of the tower. Pottery evidence suggested that the tower was undergoing repairs during the 13th century. This may be related to damage inflicted during the Battle of Lincoln Fair in 1217. Roof tile of late 12th to 13th century date suggests that structures were present within the tower. The intervention in the western recess uncovered a stone with an elaborate mason's mark depicting a fish. The intervention in the eastern tower revealed remains of a doorway and staircase which was probably related to a structure shown on documentary sources. The doorway appears to have been blocked in the early 13th century, although the structure appears to have survived until the 19th century (FAS 2008).
A survey of the historic graffiti in Cobb Hall was carried out. Several previously unrecorded carvings were identified. These include a heraldic shield which has been identified as belonging to the Mortimer family, probably John de Mortimer who was in Edward I's army against Scotland in 1290. Many of the medieval graffiti were probably carved by troops temporarily resident in the castle. These carvings include crosses, figures of men and animals and also several simple geometric carvings which may be game boards. There appears to be little graffiti from the late medieval and post medieval period until the 17th to 18th century (FAS 2008).
A possible historic door opening in the Lucy Tower was investigated. Medieval stonework was recorded behind the 19th century masonry, and elements of the north side of the passageway survived although there was no evidence for the survival of the south side (FAS 2008).
During a watching brief on the Observatory Tower mound, above the car park, evidence of Victorian terracing was seen relating to the period when this site was used as an ornamental garden with tea room. A large quantity of residual medieval and Roman pottery was also recovered. This probably originated in the material of the mound itself which would have been disturbed during terracing. It may also have come from soil brought in from elsewhere during terracing (AAA 2008)
A trial trench evaluation and borehole survey was carried out in February 2009, within the area of the former Debtor's Yard and the Airing Court (the latter is now used as a stone yard) at Lincoln Castle. The four trial trenches produced residual medieval finds, while seven boreholes were inserted into the Debtor's Yard (now a car park), in an attempt to obtain a profile across deposits at the base of the Lucy Tower motte. The results were not conclusive, but the survey appeared to have located deposits relating to the buried extent of the mound (FAS 2009)
An evaluation programme consisting of a topographic and photographic survey followed by the excavation of a single evaluation trench was carried out on the south-western part of the Lucy Tower motte and surrounding gardens following tree clearance. The topographic survey showed that the motte had undergone alterations in the 19th century but is otherwise considered to be in its original form. The 19th century alterations include the encroachment of Castle Moat House itself on the lower slopes and also a network of paths up the mound which survive as shallow terraces and remains of a zig-zag path. The evaluation trench revealed remains of possible stone structures which are interpreted as traces of a west wing to Lucy Tower. It is suggested that the west wing may have fallen out of use early, maybe in the 13th century, leaving vestigial traces that were later recorded and misinterpreted in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also suggested that this building, along with the tower, motte and eastern wing, were built inside the southern defences of the castle, which would have been formed by the remains of Roman defences. The current southern curtain wall may have been built as an internal wall which later became the main southern wall of the castle after its defences contracted. It is likely that the Roman remains formed the southern defences of the castle until the 13th century (FAS 2009)
The City of Lincoln Archaeology Unit undertook a watching brief in May 1990 during the excavation of trial trenches, test pits and boreholes during investigation of the stability of Lincoln Castle. In the area of the North Bank, east to west aligned surfaces were identified in trial trench 4. In test pit 5, the extension to Cobb Hall was reidentified. In this area, Roman and medieval pottery and bone fragments were also found. In the area of the West Bank, bone and a few fragments of Roman pottery was found. In the South Bank area, three courses of steos onto a base of stone were found (ALCE 1990)
A measured survey and archaeological appraisal of the west mural wing of Lucy Tower was undertaken by Field Archaeology Specialists in March and April 2011. Four phases of remodelling and additions were revealed (FAS 2011)
Two trenches were excavated as part of an evaluation on the North Lawn of Lincoln Castle {PRN 70129a although also at SK 97537 71856 in trench 2} by Field Archaeology Specialists in July to August 2010. Evidence for a late 11th to 12th to early 14th century stone building, possibly a Norman hall, in the form of stone rubble walls and a possible earth and stone bank was revealed. Three hearths were also excavated, one of which contained an iron knife blade, a pre 13th century iron barrel padlock, a fragment of bone mount or plaque and pottery dating from the early to mid 11th to 12th centuries. Other features which were revealed were a pit with mid 11th to mid 12th century Stamford ware pottery, a possible ditch which contained a pottery assemblage broadly dating to the late 12th century, a sherd of residual late Saxon local ware pottery and animal bone from high quality meat and a possible pit contained a late 10th to late 11th century pottery assemblage. A metalled surface constructed of limestone rubble signals the demolition of the stone structure. Various robbers trenches (dating from the 17th to 19th century) were also revealed showed that the walls for a possible cellar and a 14th century stone building which may have survived until the late 18th century were robbed out in the post medieval period (see PRN 71146) (FAS 2010)
During evaluation in the Eastern Courtyard at Lincoln Castle in 2011, layers containing about thirty fragments of 12th to 15th century pottery, including Glazed Lincoln ware, Toynton ware jugs, Potterhanworth ware and shell tempered ware and animal bones were revealed suggesting activity on the site marking the beginning of the castle occupation. The animal remains include vension and other game indicative of an elite diet. A robber trench and ceramic building material suggests the erection of a building within the bailey of the castle in the mid 12th to mid 13th century. It was probably stone built and heated with a partly glazed tiled roof, decorative glazed ridge tiles and a louvre for smoke ventilation, all suggested from artefactual evidence. Animal remains from normal domesticated animals and more elite foods such as eel and veal were found in association with the building. A fragment of metal spur was also found. All of this evidence suggests that this was a high status building. Robber trenches which were dated to the 17th century, originally excavated to remove the wall stone, suggest that the building existed until the 17th century (FAS 2011) (Lincolnshire HER)

It has been incorrectly suggested that a Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1146 (Click on the date for details of this supposed licence.).


The early tenurial history of Lincoln is complex. The original 'castle' mentioned in Domesday occupied an area equivalent to 166 houses (This is not the same as 166 houses were destroyed to build the castle as earlier, literalistic, readings of Domesday have suggested - some houses may well have been destroyed but Domesday was a financial assessment and the Survey was interested in actual and potential rents.) This is calculated to be the whole of the upper Roman city (Stocker 2004 p. 9). William I built a castle in 1068, although quite what this castle was in uncertain but there is some evidence of repair of all the Roman gateways of the upper city. It does seem the area of the castle was quite soon narrowed down to the south-west corner of the upper city (although the whole upper city, an area known as 'The Bail' continued to have a somewhat different status to the lower city and considerable extra-mural parts of Lincoln). It may well be that William did not intend for Lincoln to be a royal castle and there is a suggestion that he intended to create an earl of Lincoln or that the bishop was to have considerably secular power (c.f. Durham - However note also that in 1068 while Lincoln was in the see of the bishop the seat of the bishopric was at Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, and was not transferred to Lincoln until 1072-3). However, the earldom of Lincoln was not created until 1141 and the initial castle was possibly jointly held by a royal Constable, the Sheriff of Lincoln (possibly sometimes the same person although Countess Lucy, an exceptional woman, may have been constable via her position as wife of Ivo Tailbois (and daughter of the last Saxon Sheriff) and the bishop of Lincoln. The large motte with the shell keep known as the Lucy Tower may represent the royal holding and the smaller motte (The Observatory Tower) that of the bishop (However Pamela Marshall (Lindley 2004 p. 63) argues the Observatory Tower motte was built by Countess Lucy). The removal of the bishop from the castle in the 1130's to his palace allowed the creation of the earldom although the tenure of the castle was contested in the Anarchy. The resulting agreement for Earl Ranulf to hold a certain tower, previously fortified by the Countess Lucy is not, in a meaningful sense, a licence to crenellate although has been called this by some.
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:49

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