Lincoln Castle: Home to one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta

Updated: Mar 28


After the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned King of England. But the days of hardship were far from over for William, and he was subject to resistance in the north of England.

In an attempt to establish his power, he erected a cornucopia of fortresses in the North and Midlands of England, the likes of which include Warwick, York, and Nottingham Castles.

When William had established his authority over York, he decided to ride south and arrived at the city of Lincoln. At the time, the city was a major Viking commercial center with a population of around 8,000 residents.

The west gate.

On exploration of the area, William found the remains of an old Roman fortress which once overlooked the city. He recognized the strategic importance of the site and decided that it was the perfect location for a castle to be built.

The city of Lincoln also stood out to William as an ideal strategic location due to it being positioned in the middle of a crossroads. It was through here that the significant Ermine Street passed, connecting London with Lincoln, and also the Fosse Way, a Roman road that connected Southwest England with Lincoln.

Close view of a turret.

It wasn’t long before William gave the order for the castle to be erected, and 166 houses were demolished to make room. It was commonplace in the period for existent property to be demolished if the ground on top of which it stood was of strategic importance.

By 1068, the castle was finished. According to scholars, the castle probably had a wooden keep at first, fortified at a later date with stone.

Lincoln Castle in the background.

An unusual characteristic of Lincoln Castle is that it has two mottes. Lewes Castle in East Sussex, England, is the only other such fortification that still survives. William followed the contours of the older Roman castle, erecting the castle’s west gate on the exact spot of the original Roman gate.

During an archaeological excavation, the Roman gate was found but soon began to decompose upon contact with air. With no other choice, archaeologists reburied the gate.