Lincoln Castle is a major castle constructed in Lincoln, England during the late 11th century by William the Conqueror on the site of a pre-existing Roman fortress. It remained in use as a prison and law court into modern times, and is one of the better preserved castles in England. It is open to the public as a museum.
William the Conqueror’s castle
When William reached Lincoln (one of the country’s major settlements) he found a Viking commercial and trading centre with a population of 6,000 to 8,000. The remains of the old Roman walled fortress located 60 metres (200 ft) above the countryside to the south and west, proved an ideal strategic position to construct a new castle. Also, Lincoln represented a vital strategic crossroads of the following routes (largely the same routes which influenced the siting of the Roman fort):
- The Ermine Street - a major Roman road and the Kingdom’s principal north-south route connecting London and York.
- The Fosse Way - another important Roman route connecting Lincoln with the city of Leicester and the south-west of England
- The Valley of the River Trent (to the west and southwest) - a major river affording access to the River Ouse, and thus the major city of York.
- The River Witham - a waterway that afforded access to both the Rivers Trent (via the Fossdyke Roman canal at Torksey) and the North Sea via The Wash.
- The Lincolnshire Wolds - an upland area to the northeast of Lincoln, which overlooks the Lincolnshire Marsh beyond.
A castle here could guard several of the main strategic routes and form part of a network of strongholds of the Norman kingdom, in Danish Mercia, roughly the area of the country that is today referred to as the East Midlands, to control the country internally. Also (in the case of the Wolds) it could form a center from which troops could be sent to repel Scandinavian landings anywhere on the coast from the Trent to the Welland, to a large extent, by using the roads which the Romans had constructed for the same purpose.
The castle was built in the south-west corner of the upper walled town, the remainder of which was occupied by the town. The Domesday Book entry for Lincoln records that of the 1164 residences in the city, 166 were demolished to make way for the castle. Of the 1164 pre-Conquest residences, perhaps 600 will have been in the upper town.
Work on the new fortification was completed in 1068. It is probable that at first a wooden keep was constructed which was later replaced with a much stronger stone one. Lincoln castle is a little unusual in having two mottes. To the south, where the Roman wall stands on the edge of a steep slope, it was retained partially as a curtain wall and partially as a revetment retaining the mottes. In the west, where the ground is more level, the Roman wall was buried within an earth rampart and extended upward to form the Norman castle wall. The Roman west gate (on the same site as the castle’s westgate) was excavated in the 19th century but collapsed on exposure.