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LINCOLN CASTLE, LN1 3AA

GETTING THERE

WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?

An impressive and well presented medieval castle with an excellent wall walk, a Magna Carta exhibition and Victorian prison. Nearby are ruins of the Roman East Gate, North Gate (Newport Arch) and the medieval entrance to the Cathedral Close at Pottergate.

VISIT OFFICIAL SITE (Opens in new window)

Managed by Lincoln County Council

THE FIRST BATTLE OF LINCOLN (1141)


POSTCODE

LAT/LONG

Lincoln Castle

LN1 3AA

53.234772N 0.540290W

Roman East Gate

LN2 1QG

53.235305N 0.535486W

Pottergate

LN2 1PH

53.233237N 0.532813W

Newport Arch

LN1 3DB

53.237206N 0.538199W

Stonebow Gate

LN2 1AZ

53.229274N 0.540447W

Notes:  Castle is a major tourist attraction and is well sign-posted. Numerous (pay and display) car parks around Lincoln with several in direct proximity to the castle.

ANGEVIN FORCES - Robert, Earl of Gloucester

Deployment:

- Vanguard: Gloucester / Disinherited

- Main: Ranulf, Earl of Chester (infantry)

- Flank: Welsh (infantry)

Total: Unknown (maybe 1,500 men)

(Cavalry ▪ Infantry ▪ Lightly armed Welsh)

Forces:

To defeat the Royal army besieging Lincoln Castle.

Aim:

ROYALIST FORCES - King Stephen

Deployment:

Total: Unknown (maybe 1,000 men)

( Limited cavalry)

Forces:

To defeat the Angevin forces and continue the siege of Lincoln Castle.

Aim:

Vanguard: William of Ypres

Main: King Stephen (infantry)

Rear: Various Earls

Background


In December 1140, whilst England was embroiled in a civil war to settle the succession between the rival claimants of King Stephen and Queen Matilda, Lincoln Castle was taken for the latter by Ranulf de Tailebois, Earl of Chester. Stephen immediately responded by deploying with a large force quickly capturing the town and besieging the castle. However, Ranulf escaped and sought support from his ally Robert, Earl of Gloucester.


Prelude


Robert advanced on the town from the west gathering with him a force comprised of those former nobles who had been disinherited by Stephen. He also had significant numbers of Welsh troops led by the brothers Maredudd and Cadwaladr which a contemporary chronicler described as a “dreadful and unendurable mass of Welsh”.


Numbers

The Battle


- Stage 1: The two forces deployed in three divisions with King Stephen dismounting to fight on foot alongside his men.


- Stage 2: Gloucester attacked first, possibly whilst the King was still deploying, with a cavalry charge aimed directly at the Royalist frontline.


- Stage 3: William of Ypres launched an assault on the Welsh and initially had some success, driving the enthusiastic but poorly equipped forces back.


- Stage 4: Chester attacked William of Ypres routing his force and forcing him to flee the field. Having seen the ferocity of the hand-to-hand fighting – and that the battle was being fought with swords rather than lances – the Earls left the field abandoning King Stephen.


- Stage 5: The Angevin forces overwhelmed the Royalists capturing King Stephen. The remaining forces broke and fled with many killed in the subsequent pursuit. Lincoln was then sacked by the victorious forces.

Aftermath


King Stephen spent six months as a prisoner of Matilda confined (in chains) within Bristol Castle and in the short term it looked as though the Queen would be victorious. Even Stephen’s brother - Henry, Bishop of Winchester – abandoned the King. However, Matilda alienated the city of London and was forced from the capital. In November 1141, whilst at Winchester Castle, a large Royalist force led by William of Ypres attacked ultimately capturing Robert, Earl of Gloucester. The Queen was incapacitated without her key military advisor and accordingly a prisoner exchange saw King Stephen released. The pointless civil war would drag on until 1154.

THE SECOND BATTLE OF LINCOLN (1141)

Background


On the 15 June 1215, John sealed Magna Carta – a document intended to prevent a civil war with his own magnates. But within weeks of the document being agreed, John had sought Papal authority to revoke it. The country descended into civil war (the First Barons War) with the King’s key opponents inviting Prince Louis of France to invade and take the English Crown. Louis landed in England in May 1216 and entered London where he was proclaimed King. However, in October 1216 John died leaving his 9 year old son, Henry III, as successor. Few of the Barons had any grievance against the new King and the nominated Regent - William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke - successfully adopted a policy of reconciliation. By the start of the 1217 campaigning season, he was able to muster a large army to counter Prince Louis.


Prelude


Despite concurrently maintaining a siege of Dover Castle, where Hubert de Burgh was maintaining a spirited defence for the King, Prince Louis sent a portion of his forces north to capture the strategic town of Lincoln under the command of Thomas, Count of Perche. The town walls were quickly overcome but the castle resisted and was besieged. William Marshal moved to relieve the castle.


Numbers

ROYALIST FORCES - William Marshal

Deployment:

Main: William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke

Crossbowmen: Sir Falkes de Breauté

Total: Unknown

(>400 knights ▪ 250 Crossbowmen)

Forces:

To defeat the French army besieging Lincoln Castle.

Aim:

FRENCH FORCES - Thomas, Count of Perche

Deployment:

Total: Unknown

( Limited cavalry)

Forces:

To complete the siege of Lincoln Castle and hold the town against the Royalists.

Aim:

Maintaining siege of Lincoln Castle

Defending town walls

The Battle


Stage 1. Although Thomas was aware of the advance of the Royalists, he did not have intelligence as to the size of the force. Rather than risk a pitched battle, potentially with a much larger force, he decided to adopt a defensive strategy and retain his forces within the confines of Lincoln town (defended by its Roman walls).


Stage 2. With all of the French forces having withdrawn into Lincoln, William Marshall sent his crossbowmen ahead of the main force access the castle via the West Gate. They attacked the besiegers from the castle ramparts causing a significant distraction.


Stage 3. Aided by the diversion generated by the crossbowmen in the castle, William’s forces assaulted the town. They captured the north gate (now called Newport Arch) and swept into Lincoln. The forces besieging the castle were routed and Thomas, Count of Perche was killed in the fighting. Lincoln was extensively looted following the Royalist victory and accordingly became popularly known as “Lincoln’s Fair”. Many of the French who escaped the town were murdered as they retreated south towards London.

Aftermath


The defeat of the Baronial-French forces at Lincoln marked the beginning of the end for Prince Louis’ campaign for the English Crown. Many of the rebel Barons were captured in the battle and, due to conciliatory approach taken by William Marshal, many switched allegiance to Henry III. Furthermore French reinforcements, under the command of Eustace the Monk, were defeated by Hubert de Burgh at the Battle of Sandwich on 24 August 1217. Prince Louis returned to France and the subsequent Treaty of Lambeth (1217) ended the First Baron’s War.

England > Midlands LINCOLN CASTLE  and the BATTLES OF LINCOLN (1141 and 1217)

Strategically sited on high ground overlooking the River Witham, Lincoln was originally established by the Romans as a Legionary Fortress and later was a colony for veterans. Following the Norman Conquest, the earlier defences were adapted into Lincoln Castle. Key battles were fought in the vicinity during the Anarchy and the First Barons Wars.

HISTORY OF LINCOLN CASTLE


The Romans


Sited on top of a steep escarpment overlooking an otherwise low-lying landscape, Lincoln dominates the surrounding countryside. Coupled with its proximity to the Brayford Pool, originally a broad water where the Rivers Till and Witham converge, it was immediately recognised by the Romans as a strategic location. They established a Legionary fortress on the site as a base for the Ninth Legion (Legio IX Hispana) around AD 60. At the time this was their northernmost Legion with the land beyond controlled by the pro-Roman Brigantes tribe who formed a buffer between the empire and the Caledonian tribes in modern day Scotland. The fortress was an earth and timber construction capable of garrisoning around 5,000 troops and enclosed 41 acres. It was configured in a traditional Roman layout with a Headquarters building and Commanding Officer’s house in the centre of the site surrounded by workshops, barracks and granaries. Ermine Street, the Roman road from London, ran north/south through the fort whilst Fosse Way, the road to Exeter and the initial Roman 'frontier' in Britain, ran east/west. It is likely that the Ninth Legion used this base to mount operations against the troublesome tribes in the Peak District.


Around AD 70 the Ninth Legion moved north to York and were replaced by the Second Adiutrix Legion (Legio II Adiutrix Pia Fidelis). This force, which had only been founded around AD 69, occupied the site until AD 79 when they were withdrawn to form part of General Agricola’s assault on modern day Scotland. Despite this withdrawal however, the fortress at Lincoln was left intact and, by the late first century AD, had been converted into a colony for retiring veterans from the army. Known as Lindum Colonia, the site was vastly expanded from the former confines of the Roman fort and eventually extended down to the waterfront. The town continued to grow and, aided by the construction of the Fossdyke (a canal connecting the Rivers Witham and Trent) in AD 120, became one of the key Roman settlements in the Britannia. When, in the early fourth century, the province was sub-divided into four administrative areas, Lincoln became the district capital of Britannia Secunda. Over the long occupation of this colony the defences of the town was enhanced and rebuilt in stone – as much as statement of the wealth of the settlement as for any defensive need.

After the Romans


Roman administration in Britain came to an end in the early fifth century and Lincoln went into decline although archaeological evidence suggests continued occupation. As the Vikings started to dominate northern England in the ninth century AD, Lincoln once again became a major settlement with its position on the River Witham supporting a thriving overseas trade. By the time of the Norman invasion the town had a substantial community.


Normans


William I established a castle at Lincoln, one of numerous Royal constructions, as part of his campaign to suppress a wide-scale revolt in the north in the years immediately following the Norman invasion. He built a motte, now occupied by Lucy Tower, in the south-west corner of the Roman Legionary fort around 1068. The entire enclosure of the former Roman fort, by then referred to as the upper town, was reused as the bailey; the Domesday Book of 1086 records that 166 plots of land stood empty "destroyed on account of the castle". This vast enclosure was huge compared to other motte-and-baileys and, whilst it would initially have been ideal for garrisoning William's army, soon would have been regarded as too big to be defensible – the Normans lacked the sheer scale of military manpower available to the Romans. However, having cleared the upper town, the Normans allocated an area for Lincoln cathedral. Large scale religious buildings were as much as a part of their mechanics for securing control as castles. Work started in 1072 and the site evolved over the centuries eventually being surrounded by its own defensive wall with ten different gates.

New Castle


The castle was substantially rebuilt in the late eleventh century. Most significantly the castle was reduced in size with a newly built curtain wall carving out a smaller bailey and forging the outline of the fortification seen today. This new enclosure occupied a mere sixth of the former Legionary Fortress reflecting the reduced need for a large garrison by this stage. The East and West gates were also added at this time with the former guarded by a second motte, smaller that the first. The original motte was topped with a new stone built Keep, the Lucy Tower.


The twelfth century also saw a second castle, Thorngate Castle, built in the south-east corner of the former Roman Colony defences near the River Witham. This fortification had a short life - built circa-1141 and out of  use by 1151.

First Battle of Lincoln (1141)


Henry I died in 1135 without leaving a male heir and, although the leading magnates of the realm had sworn to support his daughter Matilda, the country immediately slipped into civil war over the succession. A significant portion of the nobility supported King Stephen, a grandson of William I, and Lincoln Castle was initially held for him. However, it was cunningly taken by Ranulf de Tailebois, Earl of Chester on behalf of Matilda. Selecting a time when the garrison was widely dispersed around the country, he sent his wife to the castle under the pretence of a friendly visit. Later Ranulf and three Knights arrived, seemingly to escort her home, at which point they dispatched the guards and enabled an armed force to enter and take the castle. Stephen, alerted by loyal members of the populace, sped north and quickly captured the town including a number of Knights who were quartered there. Ranulf himself was in the castle which was besieged by the King. Despite this, Ranulf managed to escape and went to seek support from his father-in-law Robert, Earl of Gloucester. He deployed with a large force resulting in a full scale engagement, the first Battle of Lincoln (see right for more information), being fought outside the town walls. Known as the 'Joust of Lincoln', as many of the King's Earls started the battle on horseback expecting to fight a non-lethal melee with lances rather than swords, it led to the defeat of the Royalist force and capture then imprisonment of King Stephen.


After the Anarchy


Stephen was released later that year but was ultimately compelled to recognise Ranulf as Constable of Lincoln Castle. The civil war itself ended when the succession was settled on Matilda's son, Henry II. Despite Ranulf's support for Matilda's cause, the new King appointed Richard de Haye as Constable and it then passed through marriage to Gerald de Canville.


Siege of 1191


Gerald was still in post when Richard I came to the throne in 1189. During the King's absence on the Third Crusade, Gerald supported Prince John in his power-struggle with William Longchamps, Lord Chancellor. Lincoln Castle was besieged by William and, under the command of Gerald's wife Nicola, held out for 40 days. A negotiated peace saw the castle surrendered on the condition Gerald retained his post as Constable. However, when Richard I returned to England in 1194, Gerald was removed from his posts and heavily fined. He was restored to his posts in 1199 when John became King.


King John

 

John's reign was marked by military failure abroad - Normandy and the continental possessions were all lost - and political destabilisation in England. Relations came to a head in June 1215 when the King was compelled to seal Magna Carta - an attempted peace treaty to prevent civil war. Yet no sooner had he agreed to its terms, the King sought a Papal dispensation to annul the document. Despite having spent years plundering the church, John had been reconciled with the Pope when he made England and Ireland fiefs of the papacy. Accordingly the Pontiff enthusiastically supported the King and wrote to those magnates who had supported Magna Carta ordering them to restore their full homage to the King. Reconciliation was now impossible and England descended into the First Barons War. This started with a surprisingly successful military campaign launched by King John prompting the opposing Barons to invite Prince Louis of France to invade and take the English throne. He landed in England in May 1216.


Second Battle of Lincoln (1217)


King John died in October 1216, perhaps his most useful contribution to the Kingdom, and was followed by his 9 year old son, Henry III. William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke was assigned as Regent and many of the previously hostile barons waivered in their support of Prince Louis - few had any grievance against this young King. Nevertheless forces for Prince Louis - under the command of Thomas, Count of Perche - attacked Lincoln in May 1217. The town quickly fell but the castle resisted. William Marshal mustered his forces and moved to intercept resulting in the Second Battle of Lincoln, fought on the 20 May 1217, in which the French were defeated (See Right).

Repairs


In 1224 money was spent repairing the castle from the damage sustained during the 1217 siege including upgrades to Lucy Tower and the installation of a (now demolished) barbican for the East Gate. By the fourteenth century though Lincoln went into a marked decline particularly when nearby Boston lost its lucrative wool staple, a Royal grant that allowed only certain ports to export wool, in 1353. This significantly reduced trade through Lincoln and with the downscaled economic activity the castle was allowed to drift into a dilapidated state


Civil War


After two centuries of decline and increasing irrelevance, Lincoln became a strategic site again during the Civil War. The town was situated between the Parliamentary stronghold of East Anglia and the Royalist controlled Nottinghamshire. Lincoln, as well as the wider county, fluctuated between Royalist and Parliamentary control. At the start of the war the town was held for the King but in March 1643 was taken by Colonel Oliver Cromwell as he advanced into the county intent on targeting nearby Newark-on-Trent. Initially successful he was defeated by William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle at the Battle of Gainsborough on 28 July 1643. Lincoln was taken by the Earl shortly after forcing the Parliamentarians back to Boston.


The Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Winceby on 11 October 1643 restored Parliamentary fortunes in Lincolnshire but it wasn’t until May 1645 when the town changed hands again. With the Royalist cause having suffered a number of catastrophic defeats a Parliamentary force stormed the castle and took control.


After the War


Despite its involvement in the hostilities, Lincoln Castle avoided slighting at the end of the Civil War due to its importance as a regional gaol and administrative centre. For the former role, the castle site saw a number of upgrades. Following a scathing report on the conditions in Lincoln gaol in 1774, a purpose-built prison was constructed in 1788. By the mid-nineteenth century this too was regarded as inadequate and a new facility was built adjoining the Georgian prison. However, the Prison Act (1877) brought all such institutions under central State control and, being too small to be viable, Lincoln Castle was decommissioned. The last prisoners had been relocated by 1878 with Lindsey Prison becoming the primary facility for Lincolnshire. The site still functions as a Crown Court -  a role it has been performing since the eleventh century.

Lucy Tower - built on the orignal motte raised by the Normans circa-1068

Remains of the Roman East Gate

The Observatory Tower - built upon a second motte raised in the late eleventh century

Newport Arch (Roman North Gate)

Castle West Gate

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