Little over 800 years ago England lay on the brink of civil war as fed-up lords of the realm battled to limit the excessive powers of tyrant King John.
The upshot of the battle between England’s great, good and not so good was the creation of the iconic Magna Carta.
The landmark document upheld the rights of the individual and laid the foundations for modern day democracy and law and order.
More importantly, for the beautiful cathedral city of Lincoln anyway, the charter also helped pave the way for an increasingly thriving tourist industry.
When King John died just a year later, copies of the charter were spread to religious houses across the land, including Lincoln, and the city is now home to one of only four remaining copies.
Lincoln’s parchment has been in the city ever since it was sealed by King John and even has instructions to deliver to ‘Lincolnia’ written on the back - the only surviving copy with such instructions.
By chance I had just finished reading a book on the life and times of King John and was delighted to take the opportunity to visit Lincoln and get a glimpse of such an rare piece of authentic history.
Magna Carta sits proudly in Lincoln Castle, a building which sports its own proud and turbulent past as warring factions battled to seize or retain control of the castle stronghold.
The castle, which was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 on a site occupied since Roman times, underwent a multi-million pound revamp in time for Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary and the major influx of tourists marking the occasion.
It is certainly money more than well spent and leads to a wonderful experience for all us history buffs.
The education film played in the impressive cinema room offers the perfect way to learn about the shaping of 13th century England and beyond for all levels of interest, while the wall display of the shields of the barons involved further adds to the sense of being trapped in a magical moment.
But, of course, the crowning jewel is the display of Magna Carta, an exhibit which simply took my breath away.
It really is an amazing experience to walk into the darkened museum and fix your gaze on this ancient parchment, to fix your eyes on the scrolling text, to stand and stare at a document more than 800 years old and of the utmost importance to our nation.
Take a moment to just think about that, or better still, visit for yourself, it’s well worth it.
Of course there is more to Lincoln Castle than just being the home to Magna Carta and I was eager to explore this most impressive of landmarks.
Fortunately for me my home away from home for the weekend was the Splendid White Hart Hotel, located in the historical Cathedral Quarter just off Castle Square.
It offers the perfect location to mingle through quaint streets, wine and dine in high-quality family restaurants and pubs, and visit the castle and cathedral before winding your way (thankfully downhill), on the cobbled Steep Hill, which more than lives up to its name, and into the modern city.
Lincoln Castle has dominated the city’s skyline for almost 1,000 years. Inside the Castle walls is also a Victorian prison giving an insight into crime and punishment in the Lincoln of the past.
Lincoln Castle’s Victorian Prison accommodated the ‘separate system’ - keeping prisoners isolated to encourage them to reflect, repent and reform.
This can be seen by the single cells and the unique separate system chapel - the only original of its kind left in the world.
Three floors of restored prison cells, over a male and female wing, offer an opportunity to learn about the justice system of Victorian England. Living history prisoners and guards and interactive touch-screen tables show videos and information about the historic people that spent their life in the prison.
The delightful castle grounds are free to enter and offer a chance for some silence and reflection on the wonderful surroundings.
And, thanks to the recent revamp, it is now possible for tourists to walk the whole circumference of the walls as part of the Medieval Wall Walk experience, giving stunning views over Lincoln and the adjacent cathedral.
When it comes to history Lincoln really is blessed, there can be few cities in Britain that boasts an 11th century castle and medieval cathedral within a few hundred yards of each other.
Cathedrals always amaze me, I find myself standing there craning my neck upwards asking ‘How could they possibly have built this? How much money, time and effort and talent it must have taken. Really I just stand there and think “wow.”
Our ancient relations certainly put modern housebuilders to shame.
The cathedral offers special guided tours giving lucky visitors a perfect chance to travel through time along the narrow corridors that once bustled with life.
Ancient kitchens, living areas, meeting rooms of the nation’s most powerful, stunning stained glass windows, a simply magnificent choir area and a rather impressive workshipping area all combine to make Lincoln Cathedral a must-visit place.
Building commenced in 1088 and continued in several phases throughout the medieval period.
At one point it was the tallest building in the world for 238 years (1311–1549), until the imposing central spire collapsed in 1549 and was not rebuilt.
The cathedral is the third largest in Britain in floor space after St Paul’s and York Minster.
It is pact with interesting facts and relics, with one of the stone carvings being known is the Lincoln Imp.
There are several variations of the legend surrounding the figure. According to 14th-century legend, two mischievous imps were sent by Satan to do evil work on Earth.
After causing mayhem elsewhere in Northern England the two imps headed to Lincoln Cathedral, where they smashed tables and chairs and tripped up the Bishop.
An angel appeared in the Angel Choir and ordered them to stop. One of the imps sat atop a stone pillar and started throwing rocks at the angel whilst the other cowered under the broken tables and chairs.
The angel turned the first imp to stone, allowing the second imp to escape. The imp that turned to stone can still be found sitting atop his stone column in the Angel Choir.
Lincoln is one of only a few Cathedrals in England to have its own workforce dedicated to the conservation of the building, and what a wonderful job they are doing.
Lincoln Cathedral really is a perfect icon for the city and sums it up to perfection. One of many beautiful buildings in one beautiful city.
Click here for further information on all that Lincoln has to offer.