Captured And Captivated By Lincoln Castle…
Rosie Goodwin, Family Arts Correspondent
This week, I strayed from my native county into nearby Lincolnshire - over the Humber Bridge, which stretches majestically across the estuary, sleepy in the morning mist.
Whenever I visit Lincoln, I am reminded of what a beautiful city it is: smaller than York, more contained, significantly easier to navigate, and breathtakingly splendid.
I was on the hunt for a castle – because for me, an Easter holiday isn’t quite right without one.
For what is a school holiday if not an opportunity to force-feed a bit of British history down the necks of the iPad generation?
Castles captured my imagination in early childhood. I am their prisoner, unable to stay away. And unlike visiting a garden or even a country house, my children are always excited when I take them along. But what is it that makes castles so significant?
Symbolically, they are potent. Their very survival tells much about their defensive purpose. These architectural feats were made, with only medieval technology and a lot of hard graft, to withstand the brutal assaults of local rebellions, of invading enemies and, it seems, of time.
For children, castles have a magical quality, not done any harm, I must confess, by Disney. They are the places of knights and chivalry, of dungeons and drama, and a guaranteed way to spark young imaginations. Sometimes they have castellations, a portcullis or a moat; if you’re very lucky, like at Lincoln, you can walk on the walls themselves.
And in doing so, you are stepping in the footsteps of those before us, treading on and through the stories of real people – the folk who’ve populated these isles for close to a millennium. Castles are the places where history was made. Rulers and – in the case of Lincoln – Kings walked here.
We are a pampered lot with our British history. We have some really old stuff!
The vast and sprawling site at Lincoln was used by the Romans, but the castle we see today was built in 1068. It doesn’t take a genius to draw a connection with the famous events that took place two years earlier.
Thanks in part to the staggeringly-painstaking creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, 1066 is a date oozing significance, though the details are, like the tapestry itself perhaps, a little fuzzy around the edges.
It began early, in January, with the death of childless Anglo-Saxon King, Edward the Confessor; there followed the usual scrambling for the throne.
For Edward’s brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson, succession was brief, attacked on two sides; first came Norwegian Harald (with an ‘a’) Hardrada. But Harold (with an ‘o’) fought back, victorious at two important Yorkshire battles, Fulford, in present-day York, and nearby Stamford Bridge.
But poor Harold did not have long to celebrate. Within the fortnight, William, Duke of Normandy, had invaded from the south. Harold was faced with a long journey to meet him in battle near Hastings.
One can only imagine his weary arrival in Sussex. Harold’s army was reduced, with troops holding the north. He lost his life - and the course of British history was altered.
William ‘the Conqueror’ changed the landscape of our island. In our part of the country, he also left a number of castles, enriching the lives of modern visitors, of course, but speaking volumes about those tumultuous times of William’s ‘harrying of the north’.
Castle building was vital for maintaining William’s position and quelling rebellion. York, famous for its Norman Keep or ‘Clifford’s Tower’, came first, in 1068, swiftly followed by Lincoln.
However, York’s original castle was destroyed the following year by local rebels, with a little help from pesky Vikings, meaning Lincoln’s castle is actually the older.
And what a castle it is.
You can enter the grounds or bailey itself for free on any non-event days, an ideal picnic spot in a unique location; but I would urge families to pay the ticket price for three additional elements.
Firstly, there’s Lincoln’s Georgian and Victorian prison, with a wide range of interactives and interpretation to make it fully accessible and engaging for families. Other highlights inside the castle include a stone sarcophagus of a high-status female, unearthed during excavations in 2013.
Next, my personal favourite on a sunny day, is the stroll along the dazzling (and slightly dizzying) Wall Walk. This has captured my heart this week.
Visitors are now able to climb high up the spiral staircase (or take a lift!) to the Castle’s original outer walls and circumnavigate the entire site, a third of a mile. With a two-year-old in tow, I was unnecessarily apprehensive. I held him tight, but clever positioning of safety railings mean they serve their purpose without imposing on the historic listed building – or its truly special views!
Whilst I was there, excited youngsters explored all around. The Wall Walk meanders and undulates, turns and twists, up original spiral stairs, down gloomy passageways. Here, you can descend into dark, dungeonous depths; there, rise high, high above in a spectacular viewing tower to turn you giddy.
Finally, we made a trip to the vault to see Lincoln’s unmissable Magna Carta, one of the four original documents dating from 1215, as well as the Charter of the Forest (more on those another day).
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Inspired by this, the castle’s family Easter activities celebrate all things Alice! Until 22nd April, you can follow the White Rabbit, solve the Mad Hatter’s riddle and claim a chocolatey reward.
During the weekend of the 13th and 14th April, there will also be exciting Flamingo croquet throughout the day. What could possibly go wrong?
I think Lincoln Castle may be my new favourite spot.
A family ticket to Lincoln Castle costs £35. Separate adult tickets are £14, children £7.50 and under 5s go free.
You can find out more here: https://www.lincolncastle.com/
If you can’t make it to Lincoln this holiday, consider exploring one of our Yorkshire Castles instead. To discover more about the Norman Conquest, my top three suggestions would be:
Pickering Castle: in the beautiful market-town on the edge of the North York Moors, it was built in 1069 and modified in later centuries.
Find out more here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/pickering-castle/
Pontefract Castle: the romantic ruins date from 1070.
Find out more here: https://www.pontefractcastle.co.uk/
Richmond Castle: standing above the River Swale, it was constructed in 1071.
Find out more here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/richmond-castle/
Rosie was a secondary school teacher before managing the learning department at Scarborough Museums Trust and Art Gallery. She now runs a Yorkshire-based arts engagement company, MakeMore ARTS, working with museums and heritage organisations, schools and community groups. You can find out more at www.makemorearts.com.
Captured And Captivated By Lincoln Castle…, 12th April 2019, 7:01 AM