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. 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. Lincoln Castle is bounded by stone wall, with ditches on all sides except the south.
From an early stage, the outer walls which enclose the site were built in stone and they date from before 1115. On the south side the walls are interrupted by two earthen mounds called mottes.
One is in the south east corner, and was probably an original feature of William’s the Conqueror’s castle, while the other occupies the south west corner. A square tower stands on top of the first mound, standing above the outer walls to dominate the city of Lincoln.
Lincoln Castle hosts an exciting events program through the year and offers free guided tours that provide a fascinating insight into the history of Lincoln and its Castle. The most easily recognisable tower, however, is the so-called Observatory Tower.
The tower was begun in the 14th century, and then extended in 1822 by the prison governor, a man named John Merryweather. Merryweather’s ostensible reason for erecting the tower was that it could act as a watch tower to prevent escapes from the castle prison.
The reality seems to be that Merryweather was a keen astronomer, and he wanted a good observation tower for his star-gazing activities. Visitors can tour the old prison buildings and view the cells.
The most famous room in the prison is the chapel, where the benches rise up steeply above the altar in a semi-circle somewhat reminiscent of a Greek theatre. The benches are divided into narrow seats with high barriers between them.
The other motte is the Lucy Tower. Built in the 12th century by the Castle Constable, the Countess Lucy, this was the castle’s main keep, built to replace an existing building. Originally it was surrounded by a 20-foot ditch with a bridge leading to the steps.
It was the castle’s last line of defence. Within the tower are the graves of prisoners executed at Lincoln. Housed within Lincoln Castle is a copy of the original Magna Carta. It is currently on loan from Lincoln Cathedral, and has its own dedicated exhibition.
Dating from the middle Ages, The Magna Carta is the most important document conferring democracy and civil rights. It is embedded in English Common Law and has been quoted and drawn on throughout the ages, from the US Constitution (especially the Bill of Rights) through to the UN Charter.
The castle as we see it today was the inner bailey. The outer bailey encompassed the then existing town. One of the main attractions of the castle is its possession of a copy of the original Magna Carta of which there are only 4 left in existence.