Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
December 22, 2006
In contrast to the typical German food, in front of the castle entrance a pile of sacks full of chestnuts were stacked at the side of the hot chestnut stall – a true sign of the optimism of the stall holder – and the smell of roasting chestnuts perfectly complimented the aroma of hot mince pies. This is the stereotypical Victorian Christmas scene that we are all keen to replicate.
Of course if you don’t fancy eating out on the stalls there are other options. Fancy a mince pie and a cup of hot tea or coffee then you can pop into the Methodist Church on Bailgate (they used to make there own pies but demand became so high that they now buy them from Curtis’) or the cathedral school (near to Lord Tennyson’s statue). Alternatively there are plenty of teahouses or restaurants in up-hill Lincoln. Too many to recommend in this journal, but I’m sure none of them would disappoint the peckish visitor to the Christmas Market. A better deal might be to call in at one of Lincoln’s upper quarter hostelries – most of them now serve "real ale" and I can almost certainly guarantee that the meals on offer will be excellent value for money – they certainly won’t break the bank and my guess is you’ll struggle to clear your plate.
From journal Christmas in Lincoln
The first event, held in 1982, was inspired by a visit by Lincoln officials visiting the twin town of Neustadt and there was a real strong presence, in those early days, of German stalls. Despite the smallest of the market, in those early days there was a real atmosphere to the area and the organisers have been faithful to the original intention to ensure that the market gave a good atmospheric start to the Christmas festivities. But it was just a small market with a variety of Christmas themed stalls. In recent years there’s been a rapid growth in the number of stalls and the Christmas Market has taken over most of the Cathedral Quarter of Lincoln and there are now well over 300 stalls and makes a real effort to herald Christmas.Indeed in 2006 we were serenaded by piped music as we walked through the streets, treated to a fall of fake snow (although somewhat meagre in its output) as we entered the castle courtyard. There’s a full itinerary of bands performing on stage outside the Crown Court Building, but true to form when we got to the stage they were "between performances". Lincoln Market is renown for setting an atmosphere (perhaps our knowledge of the town makes it a little less mystical. Still it does set me in the Christmas spirit as I mentally prepare myself for my stint as Santa on the Rotary Christmas Float back home in Nottingham. A group of school children are singing well rehearsed Christmas Carols the atmosphere only spoilt by a town official barking out instructions to "keep moving" and "keep to the right" -my usually placid wife was heard to mutter "I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t ‘decked’ by the end of the night" (and she didn’t mean it in the Christmas "deck the halls with boughs of holly" sense!" No matter how busy they are all the stall holders have a cheery smile and it does feel like they are there to enjoy the occasion as well as peddling their wares. This market is truly a family affair and it is absolutely hassle free. A great night out and if you fancy it make a long weekend out of it.
I reckon the most innovative change to the standard fairground game was the "roll a ball" Grand National. This is the game where the movement of the horses along a race track are prompted by the speed that you can roll a ball and the luck of how many "points you can rack up" without entering into a blind panic. Here the stallholder had "tastefully" substituted the racehorses with reindeers and all the assistants were tastefully attired in seasonal garb. They were still after your money, but at least they’d made a real effort! Some, however, had made no effort and that was a real shame because those stall just looked out of place.
The fairground rides were basic, but the youngsters seemed to be enjoying them. I particularly noted that there were a lot of "sedate rides" that were aimed at younger children. There’s nothing wrong with that because if the children have suffered and survived the fight through the Castle grounds, being overshadowed by hoards of adults, I reckon they deserve to have a bit of parental cash spent on them.
As we walked around the market we were treated to small lighting shows bouncing lights off the castle walls and reflecting giant snowflakes up the water tower turret. The greenery in the grounds of the Lawn restaurant and craft centre (an ex-psychiatric hospital) was lit with festive colours and gave an eerie appearance to the shrubbery.
A Santa’s Grotto was well placed near to the funfair and it was certainly enticing families to pay a visit. It was actually on the site of St-Paul-in-the-Bail, one of Britain’s earliest churches that was built over the headquarters of an early Roman Fortress. The Fortress was replaced by the city forum in the mid-late 1st century A.D. and the building of churches on this site started in the early 4th century. A church was on this site right up until 1971 (I remember it well) and to commemorate its historical and archaeological importance the site was set out as a garden – a peaceful and restful haven in the midst of the City’s upper quarter. I was a bit surprised to see the Grotto there, but it’s totally in keeping with the Church’s pledge to be at the centre of its community.
Curtis of Lincoln has been around since 1828 and is a "purveyor of fine meats". They are renown for their Authentic Lincolnshire Sausages (nicely spiced and with some interesting specials including Pork and Tomato, Pork and Chive, Pork and Apple and the festive Pork and Chestnut); Pork Pies with a beautiful crispy pastry case; Speciality Cooked Meats including Stuffed chine, pressed tongue and haslet. They also bake a superb Plum-bread (a traditional fruit loaf) and probably some of the best seasonal mince pies in Lincolnshire. I’m a bit prejudiced because this is where, as a child, we used to shop for our meats and weekend cake treats for our afternoon tea.
Of course down from the market, on what is appropriately named Steep Hill, this street is a true test of your fitness and even if you believe that you’re fir enough to walk the length of the street you will surely be tempted to stop and look in many of the fine antique shops that have been established here for more years than I can remember. If you have an interest in books then Steep Hill is well worth loitering on. By far the best to browse in and take in the scent of old books is "Readers Rest" (13-14, Steep Hill) which has several rooms crammed with old and antiquarian. Close to this, at 20-22, is the Harlequin Gallery, which has some fine antique maps but really isn’t a place to browse.
So whilst at the market make sure that you have sufficient time to enjoy the window displays in the many specialist shops as you make your way to the bustling market.