powered by FreeFind





Lincoln in 1839

Lincoln is on the north bank of the Witham, just at the place where it passes through an opening in the stonebrash hills, 134 miles from London, through Ware, Biggleswade, and Peterborough. It was a place of considerable importance under the Romans. In the time of the Saxons it was also a place of consequence ; and notice of it occurs in the struggles of the Saxons and Danes. At the time of the Conquest it was one of the most important places in the kingdom, and the emporium of a considerable trade. William the Conqueror ordered the erection of a strong castle here A.D. 1086. The erection of this castle is said to have caused the demolition of two hundred and forty houses. At the time of the Domesday survey there were in Lincoln 1,070 houses and 900 burgesses. The prosperity of the place appears to have been further promoted in the time of Henry I by clearing out the Foss Dyke, and making it again available for navigation. This inland communication, with the advantage of the navigation (probably a tideway navigation for sea-borne vessels) of the Witham, rendered the situation of Lincoln peculiarly favourable for commerce. In the reign of Stephen the empress Maud was besieged here by the king, who took the city, but the empress escaped. The castle was shortly after surprised by some of her partisans, and being besieged by the king, who had the townsmen in his interest (A.D. 1141), was relieved by the approach of Robert earl of Gloucester, natural brother the empress. Stephen, upon the approach of the relieving force, gave battle to it ; but, by the desertion of Alan earl of Richmond, he was defeated and taken after fighting with the greatest intrepidity.

In the civil wars of the reign of John the town was taken by Gilbert de Gaunt, one of the barons in the interest of Louis, Dauphin of France, who had created him earl of Lincoln. The castle however held out for the king and was besieged by Gilbert, who hearing that John was approaching from Norfolk, retreated from the place. John however having lost his baggage in the Wash, and died of grief, Gilbert retook the town and reinvested the castle. The earl of Pembroke, regent during the minority of Henry III, advanced to relieve it, and Fulk de Brent, a chieftain of the king’s party, threw himself with a reinforcement into the castle. The besiegers, who were supported by a body of French, were attacked on both sides ; and the town, in which they attempted to defend themselves, was stormed by the earl of Pembroke. The count of Perche, commander of the French, was slain ; many of the insurgent barons and other prisoners of rank were taken, and the party of the Dauphin was crushed. The battle was fought June 4, 1218. At a subsequent period the castle was in the hands of John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, who greatly improved it.

In the civil war of Charles I the inhabitants promised to support the king, but in A.D. 1643 the city was in the hands of the parliamentarians, who had a garrison here. The royalists attempted by treachery to possess themselves of the place ; but the plot was discovered, and the cavaliers who had broken in were repulsed. They got possession of the city however soon after ; and in 1644 the parliamentary army under the earl of Manchester attacked the city and took the lower part of it. The royalists retreated to the cathedral and the castle, which were stormed, in spite of a gallant resistance, on the night of May 5th, two days after the earl’s arrival before the place.

The city is built on the southern slope and at the foot of a hill, on the summit of which is the cathedral. It contains twelve parishes, and part of a thirteenth, the remainder of which, with two others, are locally within the limits, though not in the jurisdiction of the city. There are four parishes in the liberty of the city, on the opposite side of the river : the area of the city cannot be given separately : the city and liberty, and the included parishes, contain altogether 17,560 acres. The town is irregularly laid out ; the principal street is along the road from London to Barton-on-Humber, which extends right through the place, crossing the Witham by a bridge, and running up the hill on which the cathedral stands. This street also extends a considerable length south of the Witham. The streets are paved, lighted with gas ; and supplied with water from public conduits or fountains. There are several small bridges over the Witham or over the drains or dykes near the city. The high bridge over the Witham has one arch of nearly 22 feet span, and 11 feet high ; it is considered to be at least five hundred years old. There are market-places or market-houses for corn, cattle, meat, and butter, in different parts of the city ; the fish-market is held near the high bridge.

The most interesting of the public buildings is the cathedral, which is advantageously situated on the summit of the hill, and may be seen for many miles across the flat country to the south-east or south-west ; its three towers have at a distance a very fine effect. It has been erected at different periods, and combines, in consequence, various styles of architecture : the predominant style is the early English, of a remarkably rich and beautiful character. The cathedral may vie with any, and has been by some judges preferred even to York. It is much enclosed by buildings on the north, south, and west sides ; but is more open on the east. The nave is very fine, and the piers in this part are peculiarly rich ; and though the side aisles are unusually narrow, the effect of the whole is excellent. The western front, which embraces the width of the nave and aisles with the side chapels (or, a some term them, transepts) at the west end, is partly Norman, partly early English : it has two towers whose height from the ground is 180 feet. There were formerly spires upon these, of the height of 101 feet, but these were taken down thirty years ago ; there are still pinnacles at the corners of the towers. At each angle of the west front are octagonal staircase turrets crowned with pinnacles. There are three west doorways, the centre one opening into the nave, the side ones into the two side aisles. There is much sculpture and tracery on this front in excellent preservation ; and over the central doorway are several statues of the kings of England, from the Conquest to Edward III, under decorated canopies. The central or great transepts are chiefly in the early English style ; they have aisles on the eastern side, which are divided into rooms, used as vestries or chapels. There are at the ends of the transepts circular windows ; that at the end of the south transept is one of the finest circles in the early- English style remaining. The Galilee court,’ or porch attached to the west side of the south transept, and the chapels on the east aisle of the same, are particularly deserving of attention for the intricacy and beauty of their mouldings, and the singularity and excellence of their general composition. At the intersection of these transepts with the nave and choir is the central tower, 53 feet square, with pinnacles at the corners. The windows of this tower are rather small, which circumstance renders the lantern obscure. The height of this tower from the ground to the summit of the pinnacles is about 300 feet. The choir is of richer and more elaborate composition than the nave and transepts ; though, like them, it is of early English character. It is separated from the nave by a rich stone screen.

The eastern end of the choir, with the Lady Chapel, is of a transition style between the early and decorated English, of peculiar beauty and interest. The east window, of eight lights, is a fine composition. The cathedral is at this end less encompassed with buildings ; a better view of it can consequently be obtained. There are two transepts to the eastward of the principal transepts, and there are several chapels in different parts. The dimensions of the cathedral are as follows –

Exterior length of the church within its buttresses 524 feet ; interior length 482 feet ; width of the cathedral (interior width, we believe, of the nave and choir with their respective aisles) 80 feet ; height of the vaulting of the nave 80 feet ; width of the western front 174 feet. Exterior length of the principal transept 250 feet, interior 222 feet ; width 66 feet. Smaller or eastern transept - length 170 feet ; width, including the side chapels, 44 feet. The dimensions are, we believe, when not otherwise specified, interior dimensions.

The old bell, called the Tom of Lincoln, which was cast in 1610, and hung in the northernmost of the western towers, became cracked in 1827, and being broken up in 1834, with six other bells, was recast into the present large bell and two quarter bells by Mr. Thomas Mears of London, and placed in the Rood (or central) tower in 1835. The new bell, which is larger and heavier than the old one, is 6 feet 10 inches in diameter at the mouth, and weighs 5 tons 8 cwt. : the old one weighed nearly a ton less, viz. 4 tons 14 cwt. The new bell is more musical than the old one, but not nearly so loud and sonorous. It is the third bell for size in the kingdom ; being exceeded only by ‘Mighty Tom’ of Oxford (7 tons 15 cwt.) and ‘Great Tom’ of Exeter (6 tons).

On the north side of the cathedral are the cloisters with the chapter-house. The cloisters enclose a quadrangle of 118 feet by 91 : three sides remain in their original state, and are of good decorated work ; over the fourth (the north) side is a library built by Dean Honeywood in the latter part of the seventeenth century. The library contains a collection of books, with some curious specimens of Roman antiquities. In the enclosure of the cloisters, some feet below the surface, is a handsome tessellated pavement. From the eastern side of the cloisters is the entrance to the chapter-house, a lofty and elegant decagon, with a groined roof supported by a central pillar. Though not equal to the chapter-house of Salisbury, it is very fine. Its interior diameter is 60 feet 6 inches.

The cathedral contains numerous monuments ; but many more, which formerly existed, have been removed or totally destroyed. Many were defaced or pulled down at the Reformation, or by the parliamentary soldiers in the great civil war ; and many were disarranged when the floor of the cathedral was newly paved in A.D. 1783, or when subsequent alterations were made in the nave and choir. Among other tombs are those of Catherine Swinford, duchess of Lancaster, wife of John of Gaunt ; of Joan, countess of Westmoreland, their daughter ; and of several bishops and deans of the cathedral.

The officers of the cathedral are the bishop, dean, precentor, chancellor, subdean, six archdeacons, fifty-two prebendaries, four priest-vicars, five lay-clerks or singing-men, an organist, seven poor clerks, four choristers, and six burghist chanters. The net yearly revenue of the bishopric is £4,542 ; the net yearly income of the cathedral, divided between the dean, precentor, chancellor, and subdean, is £6,986 ; these dignitaries have residences. On the south side of the cathedral are the ruins of the bishop’s palace, which was demolished during the civil wars. The shell of the magnificent hall, eighty-four feet by fifty feet, supported by two rows of pillars, a gateway, and part of the kitchen wall, remain. A modern house has been built on part of the site, in which the bishop resides when at Lincoln. The deanery is an ancient building ; and near it is another ancient building, called ‘the Works Chantry,’ formerly the residence of the chancellor of the diocese. The vicar’s college once formed a quadrangle, of which at present there remain only four houses inhabited by the vicars. There is an ancient gateway yet standing.

The see of Lincoln was originally at Dorchester on the bank of the Thames. The see of Dorchester is said to have been founded A.D. 625 or 636. The dioceses of Leicester and Sidnacester (probably Stow, between Lincoln and Gainsborough), the latter of which comprehended the parts of Lindsey, were added to it ; and in the eleventh century (A.D. 1057 or 1072, or 1088, for accounts vary) the seat of the bishopric was removed to Lincoln. Although the dioceses of Ely (in the twelfth century), Oxford and Peterborough (in the sixteenth century, at the Reformation), were taken out of it, it is still the most extensive diocese in the kingdom. It is divided into six archdeaconries : 1, Lincoln ; and, 2, Stow, which two comprehend the county of Lincoln ; 3, Leicester, which includes Leicestershire ; 4, Bedford, which includes Bedfordshire ; 5, Huntingdon, which includes Huntingdonshire and part of Hertfordshire ; and 6, Buckingham, which includes Buckinghamshire. Considerable alterations are however to be made, in conformity with the act 6 and 7 of William IV., c. 77. The counties of Huntingdon and Bedford are to be transferred to the diocese of Ely ; the county of Buckingham is to be transferred to the diocese of Oxford ; the county of Leicester to the diocese of Peterborough ; and the part of Hertfordshire to that of Rochester. Of the present diocese only these only the county of Lincoln is to remain, but to this is to be added the county of Nottingham, transferred from the diocese of York. A fit residence is to be erected for the bishop, whose average income is to be from £4,000 to £5,000.

The parish churches of Lincoln are twelve in number ; formerly there are said to have been fifty or more, most of which were standing at the time of the Reformation. The present churches are mostly small and much mutilated. Four of five churches south of the Witham have Norman towers. An additional church is about to be built by subscription.

The remains of the castle stand on the hill, west of the cathedral : they consist chiefly of the outer walls and the gateway tower. The site of the castle is occupied by the county gaol and court-house, which were rebuilt a few years ago in a handsome style by Sir R. Smirke. In one corner of the area is small building, ‘Cob’s Hall,’ supposed to have been a chapel ; and in one part of the outer wall, on the north side, are the remains of a turret in the line of the Roman wall of Lindum, in which is a gateway apparently Roman, and supposed to have been one of the gates of that station, or to have belonged to a building more ancient than the castle.

Lincoln abounds in monastic and other remains of ancient architecture. There are several ancient gateways, as the Chequer or Exchequer Gate in the Cathedral Close, and the Stonebow in the High-street ; the remains of a fort called ‘Lucy Tower;’ a tower of three stories, incorporated in a modern house called ‘the Priory,’ and several other buildings. ‘The Grey Friars’ is a large oblong building, the lower story of which is occupied as a spinning-school, and lies some feet below the surface of the ground ; part of the upper story, formerly the chapel, is now used for a free-school, and the remaining part as a library. The remains of John of Gaunt’s Palace and of a building called John of Gaunt’s Stables present some interesting Norman and early English features. In the gable of the palace is a beautiful oriel window.

The population of the city and liberty, in 1831, was 11,843, to which may be added that of the three parishes locally included, 1,360 ; together, 13,203. The chief trade is in flour, which is sent to Manchester and London, and there are some extensive breweries noted for their ale. There are now eight or ten steam-engines in the city : a few years ago there was not one. The county assizes and the election for the northern division of the county, and quarter-sessions for the city and liberty, are held here. There are a race-course, a theatre, and assembly-rooms.

There are several dissenting places of worship, several public libraries, two news-rooms, a flourishing mechanics’ institute, and several book-societies. There are a general dispensary, a lunatic asylum, a county hospital, a lying-in hospital, and several other charitable institutions.

Lincoln was incorporated by charter of Henry II, but the governing charter was that of Charles I. By the Municipal Reform Act the city is divided into three wards, and has a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The guildhall is an ancient Gothic building ; the courthouse for the city is modern ; the gaol is not large enough to admit of the proper classification of prisoners.

The city returns two members to parliament : it first exercised this privilege in the reign of Henry III. The parliamentary constituency, in 1833, consisted of 603 freemen and 521 ten-pound householders : total, 1,124. The parliamentary borough comprehends the city and a small portion of the liberty.

There were in the city, in 1833, two infant-schools, with 323 children ; five dame-schools, with 67 children ; thirty-two day-schools (including two endowed schools, with 86 children), with 776 children ; four boarding and day schools, with 150 to 180 children ; one national school, with 474 children ; and seven Sunday-schools, with about 700 children. There were at the same time in the liberty, one boarding-school, with 30 to 40 children ; six day-schools, (three of them partly or wholly supported by subscription), containing 246 children ; and five Sunday-schools, with 320 children.