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17 Great Facts About Lincoln Castle

This amazing fortification is one of the best-preserved castles in all of England.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Lincoln Castle, an amazing attraction in the country.

1. Where is Lincoln Castle located?

Lincoln Castle is a medieval fortress that was built in the 11th century in the English town of Lincoln, Lincolnshire. That’s in the East Midlands of England. It’s one of the best-preserved castles in the country.

The town of Lincoln is also famous for another historic structure, Lincoln Cathedral, which was built around the same period as the castle.

Lincoln Castle from Lincoln Cathedral.
The castle is seen from the top of Lincoln Cathedral. / Source

2. Who built Lincoln Castle?

William the Conqueror launched the Norman Conquest of England in the year 1066 and defeated Harold Godwinson and the English at the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066.

There was still a lot of resistance in the north of England, so William built Lincoln Castle shortly after this battle to strengthen his position in the area.

3. It wasn’t the only castle that he built

His main enemies at the time were the people of the Danelaw, the Scandinavian settlers who occupied this area of England before William’s invasion.

The castle in Lincoln wasn’t the only stronghold he built to protect his newly conquered land from attacks of the “Vikings.” William built several castles, including the castles of York, Cambridge, Warwick, and Nottingham.

4. It dates back to Roman times

When William the Conqueror arrived at Lincoln for the first time, he found a thriving Viking town with an estimated population of between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants. Lincoln was one of the most important settlements at that time.

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The town was built around an ancient Roman walled fortress which stood about 200 feet (60 meters) above the countryside of the Roman city of Lindum Colonia.

5. It has a very strategic location

If the Romans put so much importance on the location of Lincoln that they built a massive fortress there, it was probably a good idea to build a castle in the same location.

The main reason was the fact that it was located near many ancient Roman crossroads and natural boundaries, which William could use to strengthen his position in the entire Midlands.

These strategic routes and locations include:

  • Ermine Street – The main road connecting the cities of London and York.
  • Fosse Way – Connecting Lincoln with the city of Leicester and the southwest of England.
  • The valley of the River Trent – Providing easy access to the major city of York.
  • The River Witham – Connecting the River Trent and the North Sea.
  • The Lincolnshire Wolds – An upland area overlooking the entire region.
lincolnshire wolds
View from the Lincolnshire Wolds. / Shyamal /

6. Some properties had to be demolished

With this information in mind, the original version of the castle was being built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England and the Battle of Hastings in the year 1066.

William didn’t waste any time, and because a large settlement was built around the ancient Roman Fortress, several houses had to be demolished.

According to the Domesday Survey of 1086, a total of 48 castles existed in England at the time, and to build Lincoln Castle, a total of 166 “unoccupied properties” had to be demolished to build it.

7. It was built on top of the Roman walls

The castle was built pretty quickly and was completed in the year 1068. The main reason was that the ancient Roman walls were used as either a wall for the newly built castle or as building materials for the castle.

The other reason the construction happened so fast is that the original keep was probably made of wood and only later replaced with a stone keep.

Several parts of this wall remain, in the south, east, and north of the castle. The western wall was excavated in the 19th century but reburied as it started crumbling from the weather conditions.

east gate of Lincoln castle
The east gate of Lincoln Castle. / Source

8. It has a very unusual feature

One of the most interesting facts about Lincoln Castle is that it was built with two mottes instead of just one.

It’s only one of two castles in all of England which has this feature, the other one being Lewes Castle in East Sussex.

facts about Lincoln Castle

9. The castle was besieged for the first time in 1141

The first time the castle saw a battle was in the year 1141 when two cousins were fighting for the crown of England. King Stephen and his cousin Matilda fought the battle which is referred to as the “Joust of Lincoln.”

Stephen was captured by Matilda just outside of the castle but was eventually set free when Matilda’s half-brother was captured as well and both prisoners were traded for each other.

10. Lucy Tower was built in this period

As a response to the first battle the castle saw, an extra fortification was built on one of the mottes and was called the “Lucy Tower.”

This tower was most probably named after Lucy of Bolingbroke, the Countess of Chester until 1138.

Lucy tower in 2013
The Lucy Tower in 2013. / Richard Nevell /

11. It played a major role during the First Barons’ War

When King John refused to honor the “Magna Carta,” a charter of rights that he personally signed in 1215, a civil war erupted and Lincoln Castle found itself in the midst of battle once again.

Prince Louis of France, with the help of the northern barons, was able to capture the city of Lincoln and subsequently besieged the castle.

The Royalists, however, were able to hold the castle against the French, which marked a major turning point in the war.

Had Lincoln Castle fallen, it’s very possible that all of England would have come under French command in the year 1217!

West gate of Lincoln Castle
West Gate of Lincoln Castle. / Source

12. The castle was besieged one more time during the English Civil War

During the English Civil War, the Royalists failed to hold the castle against an overwhelmingly stronger Parliamentarian army.

This was the final time that Lincoln Castle saw a battle!

13. The castle served as a prison until the late 19th century

In the year 1747, the castle served a completely different purpose as it was transformed into a prison. A 3-story stone building was built and expanded halfway through the 19th century.

The prison regime wasn’t one to be enthusiastic about. The prisoners held here weren’t allowed any form of social contact and remained in isolation for the duration of their sentence.

The prisoners were eventually moved to a new prison in the suburbs of the town of Lincoln in the year 1878.

Lincoln castle prison
The old prison inside Lincoln Castle. / Source

14. The castle is now partially a museum

The majority of the castle now serves as a museum and is open to the public to be visited. It’s also possible to walk on top of the walls and visit the chapel.

The chapel was used during the time the prisoners were held inside the jail on the castle grounds and is one of the only in the country to have a separate system for prisoners in place.

Lincoln castle walkway
Lincoln Castle walkway / David Hawgood /

15. Lincoln Castle was featured on TV

The castle itself hasn’t been used for filming, but the prison building which was built in the 17th century on its grounds was. Its most prominent role was a feature in the ITV television series Downtown Abbey.

16. It holds the Magna Carta

One of the most interesting facts about Lincoln Castle is that it exhibits one of the most important documents in English history, a copy of the original Magna Carta which was signed in the year 1215.

This document was also once held in the Lincoln Cathedral but is now on display in the castle.

Magna Carta
Part of the Magna Carta. / Wiki Commons

17. It still serves as a court of law today

On the castle grounds on the western side, an ivy-clad building was constructed in the year 1823 which served as an Assize Court. This building is still used today as Lincoln Crown Court.

Lincoln castle court
The Lincoln Crown Court. / X7photo /