Lincoln is a cathedral city and the county town of Lincolnshire, within the East Midlands Region of England. The non-metropolitan district of Lincoln had a population of 94,600 in 2012 [local estimate]. The 2011 UK census gave the entire urban area of Lincoln (which includes North Hykeham and Waddington) a population of 130,200.
Lincoln developed from the Roman town of Lindum Colonia, which evolved from an Iron Age settlement. Lincoln's major landmarks are Lincoln Cathedral, a fine example of English Gothic architecture, and Lincoln Castle, an 11th-century Norman castle. Lincoln is situated in a gap in the Lincoln Cliff 141 miles (227 kilometres) north of London, at an elevation of 20.4 metres (66.9 feet) above sea level by the River Witham, stretching up to 75 metres (246.1 feet) above sea level in the uphill area around the cathedral.
Earliest history: Lincoln
The earliest origins of Lincoln can be traced to the remains of an Iron Age settlement of round wooden dwellings (which were discovered by archaeologists in 1972) that have been dated to the 1st century BC. This settlement was built by a deep pool (the modern Brayford Pool) in the River Witham at the foot of a large hill (on which the Normans later built Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle).
The origins of the name Lincoln may come from this period, when the settlement is thought to have been named in the Brythonic language of Iron Age Britain's Celtic inhabitants as Lindon "The Pool", presumably referring to the Brayford Pool (compare the etymology of the name Dublin, from the Gaelic dubh linn "black pool"). The extent of this original settlement is unknown as its remains are now buried deep beneath the later Roman and medieval ruins, and modern Lincoln.
Roman history: Lindum Colonia
The Romans conquered this part of Britain in AD 48 and shortly afterwards built a legionary fortress high on a hill overlooking the natural lake formed by the widening of the River Witham (the modern day Brayford Pool) and at the northern end of the Fosse Way Roman road (A46). The Celtic name Lindon was subsequently Latinised to Lindum and given the title Colonia when it was converted into a settlement for army veterans.
The conversion to a colonia was made when the legion moved on to York (Eboracum) in AD 71. Lindum colonia or more fully, Colonia Domitiana Lindensium, after its founder Domitian, was established within the walls of the hilltop fortress with the addition of an extension of about equal area, down the hillside to the waterside below.
It became a major flourishing settlement, accessible from the sea both through the River Trent and through the River Witham. On the basis of the patently corrupt list of British bishops who attended the 314 Council of Arles, the city is now often considered to have been the capital of the province of Flavia Caesariensis which was formed during the late-3rd century Diocletian Reforms. Subsequently, however, the town and its waterways fell into decline. By the close of the 5th century the city was largely deserted, although some occupation continued under a Praefectus Civitatis, for Saint Paulinus visited a man of this office in Lincoln in AD 629.
During this period the Latin name Lindum Colonia was shortened in Old English to become 'Lincylene'.
After the first destructive Viking raids, the city once again rose to some importance, with overseas trading connections. In Viking times Lincoln was a trading centre that issued coins from its own mint, by far the most important in Lincolnshire and by the end of the 10th century, comparable in output to the mint at York. After the establishment of Dane Law in 886, Lincoln became one of The Five Boroughs in the East Midlands. Excavations at Flaxengate reveal that this area, deserted since Roman times, received new timber-framed buildings fronting a new street system, ca 900. Lincoln experienced an unprecedented explosion in its economy with the settlement of the Danes. Like York, the Upper City seems to have been given over to purely administrative functions up to 850 or so, while the Lower City, running down the hill towards the River Witham, may have been largely deserted. By 950, however, the banks of the Witham were newly developed with the Lower City being resettled and the suburb of Wigford quickly emerging as a major trading centre. In 1068, two years after the Norman conquest, William I ordered Lincoln Castle to be built on the site of the former Roman settlement, for the same strategic reasons and controlling the same road.
Construction of the first Lincoln Cathedral, within its close or walled precinct facing the castle, began when the see was removed from the quiet backwater of Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire and completed in 1092; it was rebuilt after a fire but was destroyed by an unusual earthquake in 1185. The rebuilt Lincoln Minster, enlarged to the east at each rebuilding, was on a magnificent scale, its crossing tower crowned by a spire reputed to have been high, the highest in Europe. When completed the central of the three spires is widely accepted to have succeeded the Great Pyramids of Egypt as the tallest man-made structure in the world.
The bishops of Lincoln were among the magnates of medieval England: the diocese of Lincoln, the largest in England, had more monasteries than the rest of England put together, and the diocese was supported by large estates.
The administrative centre was the Bishop's Palace, the third element in the central complex. When it was built in the late 12th century, the Bishop's Palace was one of the most important buildings in England. Built by Hugh of Lincoln, its East Hall range over a vaulted under-croft is the earliest surviving example of a roofed domestic hall. The chapel range and entrance tower were built by Bishop William of Alnwick, who modernised the palace in the 1430s. Both Henry VIII and James I were guests of bishops here; the palace was sacked by royalist troops during the Civil War in 1648.
Following a recent break-in, some of the stained glass windows of the cathedral have had to be replaced.
During the Anarchy, in 1141 Lincoln was the site of a battle between King Stephen and the forces of Empress Matilda, led by her illegitimate halfbrother Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester. After fierce fighting in the city's streets, Stephen's forces were defeated. Stephen himself was captured and taken to Bristol.
By 1150, Lincoln was among the wealthiest towns in England. The basis of the economy was cloth and wool, exported to Flanders; Lincoln weavers had set up a guild in 1130 to produce Lincoln Cloth, especially the fine dyed 'scarlet' and 'green', the reputation of which was later enhanced by Robin Hood wearing woollens of Lincoln green. In the Guildhall that surmounts the city gate called the Stonebow, the ancient Council Chamber contains Lincoln's civic insignia, probably the finest collection of civic regalia.
Outside the precincts of cathedral and castle, the old quarter clustered around the Bailgate, and down Steep Hill to the High Bridge, which bears half-timbered housing, with the upper storeys jutting out over the river. There are three ancient churches: St Mary le Wigford and St Peter at Gowts are both 11th century in origin and St Mary Magdalene, built in the late 13th century, is an unusual English dedication to the saint whose cult was coming greatly into vogue on the European continent at that time.
However, during the 14th century, the city's fortunes began to decline. The lower city was prone to flooding, becoming increasingly isolated, and plagues were common. In 1409, the city was made a county corporate.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries exacerbated Lincoln's problems, cutting off its main source of diocesan income and drying up the network of patronage controlled by the bishop, with no fewer than seven monasteries closed down within the city alone. A number of nearby abbeys were also closed, which led to a further diminution of the region's political power. When the cathedral's great spire rotted and collapsed in 1549 and was not replaced, it was a significant symbol of Lincoln's economic and political decline. However, the comparative poverty of post-medieval Lincoln preserved pre-medieval structures that would probably have been lost in a more prosperous scenario.
Between 1642 and 1651, during the English Civil War, Lincoln was on the frontier between the Royalist and Parliamentary forces and changed hands several times. Many buildings were badly damaged. Lincoln now had no major industry and no easy access to the sea and was poorly situated. Thus while the rest of the country was beginning to prosper at the beginning of the 18th century, Lincoln suffered immensely, travellers often commenting on the state of what had essentially become a 'one street' town.
By the Georgian era, Lincoln's fortunes began to pick up, thanks in part to the Agricultural Revolution. The re-opening of the Foss Dyke canal allowed coal and other raw materials vital to industry to be more easily brought into the city.
As well as the economic growth of Lincoln during this era, the city boundaries expanded to include the West Common. To this day, an annual Beat the Boundaries walk takes place along the perimeter of the common.
Coupled with the arrival of the railway links, Lincoln boomed again during the Industrial Revolution, and several world-famous companies arose, such as Ruston's, Clayton's, Proctor's and William Foster's. Lincoln began to excel in heavy engineering, building locomotives, steam shovels and all manner of heavy machinery.
A permanent military presence was established in the city with the completion of the "Old Barracks" (now the Museum of Lincolnshire Life) in 1857; these were replaced by the "New Barracks" (now Sobraon Barracks) in 1890.
Lincoln was hit by a major typhoid epidemic between November 1904 and August 1905 caused by polluted drinking water from Hartsholme Lake and the River Witham. Over 1,000 people contracted the disease and fatalities totalled 131, including the very man responsible for the city's water supply, Liam Kirk of Baker Crescent. Near the beginning of the epidemic, Dr. Alexander Cruickshank Houston installed a chlorine disinfection system just ahead of the poorly operating slow sand filter to kill the bacteria causing the epidemic. Chlorination of the water supply continued until 1911 when a new water supply was implemented. The Lincoln chlorination episode was one of the first uses of the chemical to disinfect a water supply. Westgate Water Tower was constructed to provide new water supplies to the city.
Ruston & Hornsby produced diesel engines for ships and locomotives, then by teaming up with former colleagues of Frank Whittle and Power Jets Ltd, in the early 1950s, R & H (which became RGT) opened the first ever production line to build gas turbine engines for land-based and sea-based energy production. Hugely successful, it was the largest single employer in the city, providing over 5,000 jobs in its factory and research facilities, making it a rich takeover target for industrial conglomerates. It was taken over by English Electric in November 1966, who were then bought by GEC in 1968, with diesel engine production being transferred to the Ruston Diesels Division in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire of GEC at the former Vulcan Foundry, which was eventually bought by the German MAN Diesel (now MAN Diesel & Turbo) in June 2000.
Lincoln's second largest private employer is James Dawson and Son, a belting and hose manufacturer founded in Lincoln in the late 19th century, which is located on the city's Tritton Road next to the University of Lincoln, it still operates using a coal-fired boiler. Dawson's became part of the Hull based Fenner group in the late 1970s.
In the post-war years after 1945, new suburbs were built, but heavy industry declined towards the end of the 20th century, mimicking the wider economic profile of the United Kingdom. More people are nevertheless still employed today in Lincoln building gas turbines than anything else.
Lincolnshire is very low-lying and land had to be drained for agriculture to be successful. The larger drainage channels, many of which are parallel to each other, became boundaries between parishes. Many parishes are long and thin for this reason.
There is much fenland in Lincolnshire, particularly in the Boston and Horncastle areas. Fenlands tended to be extraparochial before the mid 1850s, and although many sections were identified with names and given the title "civil parish", little information has been found about them. Many appear to be abolished in 1906, but the parish which adopts them is not given in A Vision of Britain through Time. Note the WR category Lincolnshire Fenland Settlements which is an attempt to organize them into one list.
From 1889 until 1974 Lincolnshire was divided into three administrative counties: Parts of Holland, Parts of Kesteven and Parts of Lindsey. These formal names do not fit with modern grammatical usage, but that is what they were, nonetheless. In 1974 the northern section of Lindsey, along with the East Riding of Yorkshire, became the short-lived county of Humberside. In 1996 Humberside was abolished and the area previously in Lincolnshire was made into the two "unitary authorities" of North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. The remainder of Lincolnshire was divided into "non-metropolitan districts" or "district municipalities" in 1974. Towns, villages and parishes are all listed under Lincolnshire, but the present-day districts are also given so that places in this large county can more easily be located and linked to their wider neighbourhoods. See the WR placepage Lincolnshire, England and the smaller divisions for further explanation.
Image - the Lincoln Record Society
Image Gallery - Thoroton Society