Discovering Lincoln

Cam Prep has just returned from a day out in Lincoln, where we had a fantastic time exploring this cathedral city. Lincoln is the county town of Lincolnshire, which developed from the Roman town of Lindum Colonia, which, in turn, had been built on the ruins of an Iron Age settlement dating from the first century AD. In Norman times, Lincoln was the third city of the realm in terms of wealth and importance. The city even had its own mint for making coins. In 1068, two years after the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror began building Lincoln Castle on a site occupied since Roman times.

After a spot of lunch on Lincoln Cathedral’s lawn in the shadow of Tennyson’s statue, we split into groups to visit a number of historical sites throughout the city. One group enjoyed a guided tour of the Cathedral at Lincoln, which was built by the Benedictine monk Bishop Remigius and was consecrated in 1092. Remigius was the first Norman Bishop of the largest diocese in medieval England, extending from the River Humber to the Thames. The cathedral for the diocese had originally been at Dorchester, but William the Conqueror instructed the removal of the Bishop’s seat to Lincoln in 1072. By this time, William had already established his Norman castle in the south-west corner of the city. The new cathedral was built of Lincolnshire oolitic limestone opposite the castle in the south-east corner.

The Cathedral has undergone many renovations and modifications in its long history. Around 1141, there was a fire which severely damaged the Cathedral and it had to be rebuilt by Alexander ‘the Magnificent’ (Bishop of Lincoln, 1123-48). An earthquake caused structural damage to the Cathedral in 1185 and St Hugh (Bishop of Lincoln, 1186-1200) began work on reconstructing the Cathedral in 1192, using the Gothic style of pointed arches and flying buttresses, which significantly altered the facade of the Cathedral. It was another Bishop Hugh who was among those who witnessed King John place his seal on the Magna Carta at Runnymeade in 1215. It is fitting then that one of the four surviving 1215 copies of the Magna Carta belongs to the cathedral and is housed in Lincoln Castle.

This copy of the Magna Carta returned to Lincoln Castle following a tour of the US while the castle was undergoing refurbishments. A group of CamPreppers had the opportunity to visit Lincoln Castle this year. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, Lincoln Castle has stood for hundreds of years as a symbol of power and seat of justice. They also explored the castle’s Victorian Prison, which has been opened to the public following refurbishment. Lincoln Castle’s Prison was designed for the ‘separate system’ – an isolating regime that kept prisoners apart from the corrupting influence of their fellow prisoners. The Victorians believed that this would encourage offenders to reflect and repent, and more importantly to reform. Men, women and children as young as eight were held here from 1848 to 1878 for crimes ranging from stealing a waistcoat and Bible, to highway robbery and murder. During this time seven murderers were hanged at the castle and their bodies buried in Lucy Tower where their graves can still be seen today.

Medical Science students explored the Cathedral library in the afternoon. The Cathedral librarian delivered a talk on some of the library’s most famous collections, the history of the building, and medieval methods of making parchment. The library is divided into two parts: the Medieval Library was built in 1422 to give the collection a secure home. It consisted of a timber-framed building, covered by a magnificent oak roof decorated with carved bosses and feathered angels.The room was furnished with oak reading-desks, to which the books were securely chained to prevent loss. These volumes, painstakingly copied by medieval scribes and often beautifully illuminated, formed the working library of the cathedral chapter. Today, a few of these precious manuscripts are held behind glass and visitors can still sit on one of the medieval reading benches. The second library – the Wren library – houses a tenth-century copy of Bede’s Homilies, which is older than the cathedral itself. Michael Honywood, Dean of Lincoln from 1660 to 1681, rebuilt the ruined north cloister to create this library. A passionate book collector, he bequeathed his personal library of some 5000 volumes to the Cathedral and chose Sir Christopher Wren, Britain’s most renowned architect, to design an elegant, book-lined gallery to house the collection.

Meanwhile, three further groups of our students were guided around this beautifully-preserved medieval city by experienced city guides, who are knowledgeable about the city’s rich history.The Engineering students exercised their budding structural engineering skills with a Cathedral Rooftop Tour, which, not only gave them fantastic views of Lincoln and the other sights of the city, but gave them an insight into the inner workings and structure of the Cathedral.