Friday, 28 May 2021

Lincoln Castle - Part II

The Observatory Tower at Lincoln Castle

After I had finished my pint of Batemans bitter at The Victoria public house, which is right next to the west gate of Lincoln Castle, I had just over 1¾ hours left of my day out in Lincoln before I had to catch the 16:30 train back to Sheffield.
The east elevation of the west gate

Over the years, I have visited numerous castles but there are only a handful that I have visited more than once – the Tower of London and Rochester in the south of England and Peveril, Conisbrough and Lincoln in the north. When living in Lincoln, I invited friends from Rotherham and Sheffield and, while living in Treeton, I have taken guests there.
The Heart of England language school in 2011

I last visited Lincoln Castle in 2011 when, as an English language teacher, I had persuaded the very staunch owner of the Heart of England language school – based in Tenerife – that an afternoon in Lincoln would make an excellent field trip, with an option to visit the castle or the cathedral.
A walk around the castle grounds in 2015
Those students that decided to come with me thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the Victorian prison chapel and the views from the Observatory Tower; however, when I next visited Lincoln in 2015 with another group of Heart of England students, the group leader on this occasion failed to enthuse the students and I was the only one who stuck up his hand and said that I wanted to visit this impressive castle, after £22 million had been spent on it.
Views from the Observatory Tower in 2007

I had no real desire to see the prison again, or the Magna Carta in its underground vault, and I was mainly interested in the castle wall walk, which now went round the complete perimeter. This includes the restored Lucy Tower, an excellent example of a shell keep, and the Observatory Tower – built on another smaller motte – which makes Lincoln, together with Lewes in East Sussex, the only castles in Britain that have two mottes.
The Lucy Tower

When organising my visit in 2020, I discovered that this would cost me £10 - which I thought excessive just to take some photos - and I therefore immediately dismissed this idea, deciding instead that I would be better off exploring the castle grounds, which are free for the general public, and spending my money at Lincoln Cathedral instead.
The castle grounds
Since living in the north of England, my disposable income has diminished to the extent that a visit to the Tower of London or Warwick Castle, for example, would be reserved for a very special treat; however, other castles like I have mentioned above, where I just want to revisit to take in the views, are increasingly becoming poor value for money.
The castle grounds

This is not the place to discuss the pricing policies for heritage attractions in the UK, both in public and private ownership, and I am loath to criticize a place that I rank as one of my very favourite attractions and which played a big role at pivotal times in England’s history - including the First Battle of Lincoln between Stephen and Matilda and then during the First Barons' War.
The former Assize Courts

For anyone interested in mediaeval architecture, apart from the restored walls, there isn’t actually that much from this period to see. The Grade II* Assize Courts, now occupied by Lincoln Crown Court, were built in 1839, the impressive castellated east gatehouse lodges were added in the C19 and the Heritage Skills Centre was completed in 2013.
The lodges to the east gate

The square Observatory Tower on the south-east corner dates to the C11, with further C14 additions, but it is the extensive mid C19 remodelling that gives it its present form – with corbelled and crenellated parapets, single lancet windows, sham arrow slits and the round tower standing high above it.
The Observatory Tower seen from Drury Lane

A particularly interesting feature within the grounds is the remaining fragment of Lincoln’s Eleanor Cross – one of twelve elaborately decorated crosses built between 1291 and c.1295 by King Edward I, in memory of his wife Eleanor of Castile.
A fragment of the Lincoln Eleanor cross

On my way out of the castle through the east gateway, I had the space to stop and look at the ornate canted C15 oriel window, with three ogee headed lancets and crocketed pinnacles, which has been reset in the north wall. It was taken from John of Gaunt's Palace, which was sited on High Street south of the church of St. Mary-le-Wigford, after it was demolished in the 1960's.

The oriel window

Finally leaving the castle tby the east entrance, I turned back to look at the imposing east gatehouse, which was built in the C14 to replace the plain round headed arched gate, before heading off towards Castle Hill and the cathedral beyond.

The east gatehouse

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Lincoln Castle - Part I

The west gate of Lincoln Castle

After nearly 3 hours of non stop walking and taking photographs during my day out in Lincoln, in September 2020, I left Chapel Lane and got my first glimpse of the north curtain wall of Lincoln Castle, which was first built in 1068 as a motte and bailey castle on the site of the Roman fort.
With hindsight, I would have headed back towards Bailgate to look at the Roman well and the Mint Wall, the remains of the north wall of the basilica to the rear of the Castle Hotel, but instead I just took a few photos of the north curtain wall of the castle and carried on towards its west gate.
The north curtain wall of Lincoln Castle

Two years after the Conquest, the north of England was far from subjugated and, following the Harrying of the North, the temporary wooden palisade was replaced in the late C11 with a Lincoln stone wall, to further reinforce its strategic position.
The north-west corner of the curtain wall
Given the very poor weathering qualities of Lincoln stone – which I had noted in the Lucy Tower when visiting the castle in 2007 - the wall has been extensively restored, but the steep rampart prevented me from getting near to the curtain wall to look closely at its masonry.
Masonry at the Lucy Tower in 2007

I did notice, however, a section of walling that contains herringbone masonry, which in its original form is typical of Norman building – as also seen at Peveril Castle in Derbyshire - but when the Strugglers Inn at the end of Westgate caught my eye, I decided that it was time to take a break.
Herringbone masonry in the north curtain wall
When living in Lincoln for the first time, back in 1984, this was one of a few excellent pubs in ‘uphill’ Lincoln that I sometimes visited and I was tempted to stop here; however, on this occasion, I took advantage of the beer garden of The Victoria – from which I could see the western earth rampart of the castle that buries the Roman wall, while enjoying a pint of Batemans XB bitter.

A pint of Batemans XB bitter

Monday, 24 May 2021

Bailgate and Chapel Lane in Lincoln

Fleurs-de-lys details on Westgate water tower

Newport Arch in Lincoln forms the northern gateway to the Roman city of Lindum Colonia, where Ermine Street passed through it on the way to the city of York and the line of which, to the south, Bailgate, Steep Hill, The Strait and High Street still follow on the way down to the Stonebow.

A view up Bailgate from Castle Hill

When planning my day out in Lincoln, I knew that nearly all the buildings on Bailgate - which runs from Newport Arch to Castle Hill – are built in brick and, although there are numerous interesting historic buildings here, I decided to walk down to the west end of Lincoln Castle via Chapel Lane.

38-40 Bailgate

Before doing so, I went to have a look at a couple of buildings at the northern end of Bailgate – a house at 38-40 Bailgate, where the lower half is built in Lincoln stone and dates to the C13, and Bailgate Methodist Church.
Bailgate Methodist Church

Bailgate Methodist Church is not a listed building, but it is a good example of the work of the Lincoln based Bellamy and Hardy, the architects who were responsible for the rear extension to the old Corn Exchange on Cornhill and the new Corn Exchange, as well as Retford Town Hall.
Bailgate Methodist Church

Built in the Decorated Gothic style in 1879, the gabled front has three bays divided by buttresses, with a close inspection revealing that all the dressings are in Ancaster stone, with its characteristic ripple structures being clearly seen here.
Ancaster stone quoins and Lias walling

The thinly bedded and very fine grained blue-grey walling stone, however, is a material that I had never encountered before in a building, To the west of Lincoln Edge, there is a broad swathe of low lying Lower Jurassic rocks known as the Lias Group, which is the probable source of this stone – with quarries once operating alongside the River Trent at Newark and Long Bennington.
It consists predominantly of grey, well bedded, marine calcareous mudstone with thin tabular or nodular beds of argillaceous limestone, especially in the lower part. Although my practical experience of the Lias is limited, the Blue Lias limestone at the base of the group in Dorset and its equivalent in the East Midlands – the Scunthorpe Mudstone Formation – have quite distinctive characteristics and have been used locally for building wherever they occur.
A detail of Lias walling stone

The colour and fine texture of the walling stone at Bailgate Methodist church is very similar to the side panels to the Daubeney tomb at St. Botolph’s church in nearby Saxilby and another tomb chest at St. Lawrence’s church in Hatfield, Doncaster, which I have always assumed to be made of stone from the Lias.
A detail of the tomb chest at St. Botolph's church

It also matches the limestone concretion, containing the fossil mould of an ammonite, which was a gift to me and I was told came from a quarry not too far from the steel making town of Scunthorpe, in north-west Lincolnshire.
An ammonite in a limestone concretion

Returning to the top of Bailgate, I then quickly headed down Chapel Lane to the Westgate water tower, dated 1911, by Sir Reginald Blomfield, This is unlike any other structure of its kind that I have seen, which in the UK are mostly built with very utilitarian reinforced concrete.
Westgate water tower

To complement the character of the surrounding historic buildings, it was built in rock faced Lincoln limestone walling, with dressed ashlar quoins and dressings. Although the Baroque Revival detailing provides it with architectural flourishes, its clasping pilasters, slit windows and fake machiolations give it it solid, castle keep like appearance.
A view up Westgate water tower

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Newport Arch in Lincoln

The south elevation of Newport Arch
On Eastgate, I had encountered the remains of the north tower to the east gate of the city, which is just one of the several fragments of masonry that survives from the wall that once surrounded Lindum Colonia, the Roman city which developed several years after a fort was first established by the 9th Legion - Legio IX Hispana - c. AD 50-60.
The north elevation of Newport Arch

Turning south into Newport at the end of Church Lane, I next encountered the spectacular Newport Arch, one of the best known monuments in Roman Britain and the only Roman arch in the UK that is still open to traffic.
Another view of the north elevation of Newport Arch

Originally constructed in timber, it was rebuilt in stone at the foundation of the colonia in the late C1, but the arch seen today dates to the early C3, when the original form was a single vehicular arch and two flanking pedestrian arches, of which only the east one survives.
The western boundary stone on Newport

Crossing over to the west side of Newport, I noticed an old weathered stone, dated 1738, that I had never seen before, which is adorned with the city crest and marks the city boundary, along with another stone on the opposite side of the road.
The remains of a bastion to the north gate tower

Immediately to the south of the boundary stone, a fenced off area – which again I had not seen before - contains the remains of a rounded bastion to the north gate tower. The site was excavated in 1954 and there would have been a matching tower on the east side of the arch, where the house at No. 52 Bailgate is now.
A detail of masonry to the north-west wall

Newport Arch originally had an outer northern arch, which was demolished c.1790, and it has been modified and restored many times from the C14 onward. The only Roman masonry that is still left consists of the large stones forming the voussoirs to the main arch and the smaller arch over the passage that is used by pedestrians.
A detail of the exposed rubble core
On the west side of the arch, next to the Newport Arch Chinese restaurant, there is a good opportunity to examine the construction details of the mediaeval walling. Here, it can be seen that the bulk of the wall consists mainly of a rubble core of locally quarried Lincoln stone, with the same Jurassic limestone used for a relatively thin facing of roughly squared and coursed masonry.
A detail of a tourist information panel

On the south side of the arch, on Bailgate, a high quality tourist information panel provides a brief history of this wonderful Scheduled Monument, including a photograph of the damage that was caused by a lorry in 1964, which necessitated its dismantling and rebuilding.
The south elevation of Newport Arch

Friday, 21 May 2021

A Walk Along Eastgate in Lincoln

The remains of the north tower of the Roman east gate

Finally leaving Minster Yard, having had a good look at the exterior of Lincoln Cathedral, I continued my day out in Lincoln with a walk along Eastgate, where I began my exploration of the northern part of ‘uphill’ Lincoln that falls within the boundary of the Roman city walls.
The new Lincoln Cathedral visitor centre

Just before leaving Minster Yard, I was interested to see that some recent building work had been carried out to the Old Deanery, which backs on to Eastgate, using blue hearted Ancaster ‘weatherbed’ stone. Although it had still to be fitted out internally, this is the new cathedral visitor centre that was planned for opening in Spring 2021.

A blocked ogee arched doorway

Arriving on Eastgate itself, I turned right and was interested to see a blocked ogee arched doorway with a flat hood mould, which was set into the north boundary wall to the Old Deanery.
A blocked window with dog-tooth mouldings

This arch, together with a blocked window with dog-tooth mouldings and other details that I didn’t see – including a fireplace and a statuette on the south side - are C13 details that have been incorporated into the C14 wall.
Remains of the Roman east gate

Continuing along Eastgate, I next encountered the remains of the north tower of the Roman east gate, which was built in the C1 and C2 and then extended and altered in the C3, with a semi-circular eastern addition to the rectangular wall turret. It was excavated in 1964, to reveal its ashlar facing stones and rubble core, and was subsequently restored.
Stone carvings at the cathedral workshops

Crossing over Priory Gate, I briefly stopped at the entrance to the cathedral workshops for Lincoln Cathedral, where a carved face and a copy of the Lincoln Imp caught my eye. The original is found high up in the Angel Choir, which is popular with tourists, and it has become the symbol of the city.
St. Peter's church

When living in Lincoln, I had not gone beyond this part of Eastgate and I carried on past various Grade II Listed buildings, including the C19 St. Peter’s church and a couple of Lincoln stone built houses dating to the C18 and C18, before retracing my steps.
No.s 19 and 20 Eastgate
Had I known this at the time, I would have then cut up East Bight, where a substantial section of the Roman wall can still be seen; however, I instead carried up Northgate to Church Lane, but the only point of interest was a section of walling, like that seen on Lindum Terrace, where the Lincoln stone has a very variable composition – including blue hearted and ferruginous blocks.

Details of a boundary wall on Church Lane