The Castle has been the centre of Lincoln’s judiciary since 1068. Originally built by William the Conqueror, making use of the site that the Romans had occupied with their first fort, this timber structure was much larger than the original fort, and I’ve read that over 150 houses were demolished to accommodate it. A fire destroyed it in 1113, and it was rebuilt in stone and later enlarged by the addition of the keep.
As you enter through the Eastern gate, you will observe a finely carved stone window set into the entrance – don’t be fooled, this is not an original feature but was rescued from a downtown house and placed here for posterity. This gate was originally a plain Norman arch built into a rectangular recess in the wall, but later, fortification was built into the gatehouse and the two round turrets. You’ll immediately see the Crown Court building in the impressive ivy clad 1820s building that faces you as you enter the extensive, six-acre grounds of the Castle.
For some reason, I always prefer to walk clockwise around the castle grounds and start by climbing the square tower. The top of the tower was added in the 1800s and is the highest part of the castle, providing some stupendous views of the cathedral and the surrounding countryside. Indeed, a walk around the castle walls will not be too taxing and will give you magnificent views of the castle grounds and below.
A 15-sided medieval shell keep is built on the larger of the Castle’s two mottes. Affectionately known as "The Lucy Tower," it is a massive structure, and you’ll need plenty of energy to get to the top. The climb is worth it because inside, you’ll see the crudely marked headstones of Victorian convicts. The silence up here can be awesome, and it is clear that these felons were unceremoniously buried here after their period of incarceration was concluded by death.
Now retrace your steps and visit the prison. This is an absolutely fascinating tour, as you will feel how it was for prisoners in the 1700s. As you enter the prison chapel, you can try out one of the lockable cubicles, built in such a way that the preacher could see everyone but the inmates could not see each other. If you’re claustrophobic, perhaps you need to give it a miss!
In the prison building, you will see the original 790-year-old Magna Carta document. This IS history! There’s a good exhibition putting the document into context – take time to examine this fascinating read.
The 13th-century Cobb Hall, at the northeast corner, served as a castle prison for many centuries. Closely examine the ancient graffiti, and when you’re at the top, remember that you’re on the site of the county gallows, which were used for almost a century, up until 1868, for public hangings. Also on the grounds, make sure you check out the early-1800s Bath House, the well, and the King George III Statue.