Lincoln Castle: Home of the Magna Carta

The British Constitution, America’s Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights and legal systems across the world were all influenced by a couple of documents formulated in medieval England. Lincoln Castle is the only location in the world where priceless editions of the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest are together, and available for public viewing.These were the first legal documents concerned with creating liberty for all. In fact those famous words – “Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law” – came from the Magna Carta.

It all began in the dark depths of early 13th century England when King John ruled over the lands with an unjust feudal system. It was forbidden for people to hunt in the forests or collect wood to keep warm. Those caught doing so would be tortured, mutilated or killed.

The lands were lawless. People had no right to a fair trial, no justice system was in existence and there was no liberty.

A group of dishevelled barons decided enough was enough and campaigned for the release of the Magna Carta – taking arbitrary power away from the king and creating a system based on the ‘law of the land’. Although King John initially agreed to this, he later petitioned to the Pope who released him from his oath and made the Magna Carta void.

King John died in 1216 and his nine-year-old son Henry III was named as king. Because of his young age, the country was run on behalf of Henry by William Marshal, Earl of Pembrokeshire. Civil War broke out and, as an offering of peace, the Magna Carta was reissued. However, the  fighting continued and rebel barons along with their French allies besieged Lincoln Castle in 1217.

A settlement was finally agreed and the Magna Carta was again reissued, with the addition of the Charter of the Forest. While the Magna Carta was concerned with the rights of the rich barons, the Charter of the Forest was important to ordinary people. Bishops and barons could now hunt on their land and ordinary people were free to graze their animals and make a living in the Royal forests.

Lincoln Castle is not just the protector of important legal history. Modern criminal proceedings take place at Lincoln Crown Court which is located amidst the castle grounds.

An example of how justice does not always prevail can be found in the old prison building of the castle.

Here, the tragic story of Priscilla Biggadyke is told.

She was hanged at Lincoln Castle in 1868 after being found guilty of poisoning her husband with arsenic. She strongly denied the crime and her innocence was proven many years later when one of the lodgers, Thomas Proctor, admitted to the murder on his deathbed. The former prison building is quiet, haunting and, at this time of year, eerily cold.

As well as all of the interesting history associated with Lincoln Castle, which includes the fact that it was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, a walk along its walls provides amazing views over the city – particularly of Lincoln Cathedral…

Another great view of Lincoln Cathedral can be seen from the top of the castle’s tower, and through the windows on the way up.

 

 

 

For a great walk around Medieval Lincoln, take the Steep Hill route on the way there and the Greestone Stairs on your return.

Have you visited Lincoln Castle?

 

17 Comments

  1. November 21, 2011 / 21:40

    Oh, my. Gotta go there. The pictures are absolutely awesom. I love these ancient buildings. Could easily spend my life entire in one.

  2. November 22, 2011 / 14:28

    Thank you! This is an amazing castle to visit. Getting up to the tower can be ‘interesting’ if you’re a bit afraid of heights (like moi). But the views up there are worth it. Cheers for your comment.

  3. November 27, 2011 / 22:32

    Wow! Those shots are great. I haven’t been but the history and architecture certainly make me want to go.

    • November 28, 2011 / 20:46

      Thanks Suzy, I’m happy you like the photos. It’s a really beautiful and interesting place. It was the perfect day for taking photos as well!

  4. November 28, 2011 / 19:13

    Attended my girlfriends graduation an Lincoln Cathedral. The castle and grounds are magnificent for a tiny city!

    • November 28, 2011 / 20:48

      I know, Lincoln certainly packs a lot in for such a small place. I’m obsessed with the whole uphill area. I’m always walking up Steep Hill and wandering around the castle and cathedral.

  5. November 28, 2011 / 22:30

    I love stuff like this. That castle looks like a fascinating place to check out, and the cathedral is simply stunning. Nice work.

  6. November 29, 2011 / 18:24

    Thanks William, I really appreciate your kind comments! The whole area is stunning. The castle is great to visit in the summer, as the grounds are perfect for a picnic. Great day out.

  7. December 1, 2011 / 08:54

    I didn’t know Lincoln was so beautiful and is such an important part of history. Being in Nottingham, a lot of people had recommended visiting it – I just thought it was just a charming little town with a nice castle. It’s that and much more! :)
    I’ve also herd it has a very nice Christmas market?

    • December 1, 2011 / 19:45

      I’ve actually just been to the Christmas Market. It is definitely worth going to! If you’re into history, the Medieval Bishop’s Palace is also worth a look. It’s also open for free as part of the market, and has a Medieval Christmas Market there, running alongside the main market.

      • December 2, 2011 / 08:42

        That sounds really interesting! Will check it out next weekend!

        • December 2, 2011 / 14:24

          It’s on all this weekend until around 10pm each day. It’s better going when its dark, as there’s more of an atmosphere.

  8. saleysbird
    February 5, 2012 / 19:08

    Even though you were in Lincoln Castle, you are still drawn to the Cathedral! We have the best Cathedral in Britain!