Short History of LincolnLincoln is an important regional centre which is popular with locals but has yet to be discovered by the tourists. It is dominated by the cathedral, set on top of the hill, which is a prominent landmark for miles across the flat Lincolnshire landscape.
The name Lincoln probably comes from the pre-Roman iron age settlement of Lindon (Lin means pool and don means the foot of the hill) which was around what is now Brayford Pool.
The town first came to prominence in Roman times. The 9th legion settled here after Claudius invaded Britain and built a legionary fortress on the top of the hill. The name was Latinised to Lindum. Retired soldiers settled here and it became a Colonia. By the C4th it was one of the four major cities of England. A lake was formed by widening the River Witham (now Brayford Pool) and Lindum became a major port with links to the sea at the Wash. The Foss Dyke was built to link it to the River Trent and, via that, to the Humber estuary.
A bishopric was established here by Constantine the Great in 313/4AD, spreading from the Thames to the Humber.
After the Romans left, the area was largely unpopulated until the arrival of the Vikings in the C9th. Many of the ‘gate’ street names, date from this time – Danesgate, Bailgate, Clasketgate, Westgate. Steep Hill is built on the line of Ermine Street, the Roman Road from the south. Newport Arch at the top of Bailgate was the north gate of the Roman city. It is still in use.
The west gate into Lincoln Castle was built over a C2nd gate and city wall.
The remains of the east gate can be seen in front of the Eastgate Hotel.
( Priory Gate on Pottersgate by the Cathedral is NOT Roman, but a Victorian replacement for the medieval gateway into the Cathedral Close.)
There was an Anglo-Saxon cathedral at the top of the hill, probably on the site of the present building. A graveyard has been discovered during archaeological work in the grounds of the castle.
After the Norman Conquest, William built one of his first castles here. By 1068, Lincoln was the second wealthiest city in England, with its wealth coming from wool. It was a major international port trading with the Mediterranean and Baltic.
Work started on a stone cathedral in 1072. This was damaged by fire in 1141 and by an earthquake in 1185. The present building dates from the C13th. The Shrine of St Hugh was a major pilgrim centre, bringing pilgrims and wealth to the city. In more recent times, Lincoln Cathedral stood in for Westminster Abbey in the film “The Da Vinci Code”, when the cathedral bell had to be silenced.
A reflection of the importance of the city is the fact that a copy of the Magna Carta was presented to the cathedral in 1215. It is now displayed in a special vault in the castle.
From the late Middle Ages, the town slowly began to decline as it faced increasing competition from Hull and Boston. By the C18th it was a small market town. The decline was halted in the mid C19th when Lincoln became a centre for heavy engineering and the railway arrived. The population grew rapidly and like other industrial centres, Lincoln became dirty, overcrowded and unsanitary.
Heavy industry declined after the Second World War when many firms were taken over and closed. Now it is dependent on the service industry and tourism. In 1996, the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside opened adjacent to Brayford Pool as part of a regeneration project for the area. This became the University of Lincoln in 2001 and has grown in size and reputation, injecting more than £250 million a year into the local economy.
At the start of the C21st, Lincoln is again a thriving, busy city, It is popular with locals but has yet to be discovered by foreign visitors. This is a shame as it does have a wealth of history and a lot to offer the visitor. It hasn’t got the walls and appeal of nearby York, but it doesn’t have the crowds either...
It probably isn’t the place for the shopaholic visitor. I’ve never really rated Lincoln as a shopping mecca although it does have the Waterside Centre and St Marks Retail Park at the bottom end of the town. Most of the shops are based along High Street with a few spreading onto neighbouring streets. Many are small and all the chains have a presence.
AND FINALLY, if visiting Lincoln, don’t forget the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society, on the south western side of Lincoln. This has a good display of buses, cars and commercial vehicles. They also have running days at Easter and the first Sunday in November when they have their buses and cars providing rides. These are popular events with all ages.
There is a lot to see and do in Lincoln and the following pages list some of these. For convenience, I've divided it into Lower town #2 (from the bottom of High Street to the Stonebow), Steep Hill #4 and the Upper Town #5 (which covers the Cathedral quarter).