Writing Medieval Lincoln – Lincoln Castle

The Observatory Tower

I wish I lived closer to Lincoln or could have the Enterprise transporter take me the 4000+ miles in a few seconds. While I am wishing for the transporter, I might as well add a time machine to the mix. Where is the TARDIS when you need it?


I didn’t have a chance to visit Lincoln until after I published Book II of Battle Scars. Lincoln’s 12th century history is background for my novel, but only two scenes from the 579 page book actually take place there.

Photos on image sites are great for seeing what a place looks like, but as I mentioned in previous posts on Lincoln Cathedral and  Nottingham Castle, those pictures only capture a snapshot of a place in a specific time. If I hadn’t dug deeper, I might have assumed the Castle’s Observatory Tower existed in the 1190s, but it wasn’t added until the 19th century, and Cobb Hall, a tower on the north-east corner of the Castle, wasn’t built until the 13th century.

The Castle dates back to the 11th century, one of the fortifications built by William the Conqueror and the Normans. It would have had a wooden palisade back then, but by the early 12th century, stone replaced the timber walls.

The Lucy Tower originally stood two stories high and would have been home to the castle constable (also known as the castellan). Lucy, daughter of Thorold, first sheriff of Lincolnshire, inherited the title of constable and passed it on to her son, Ranulf, 4th Earl of Chester. When Henry II became king, the title went to the de la Haye family.

The Castle saw conflict in the 12th century: at the Siege of Lincoln in 1141, King Stephen was captured by troops loyal to the Empress Matilda. In 1191, while King Richard was on Crusade, his chancellor William Longchamp laid siege here for forty days against Nichola de la Haye. She and her husband Gerard de Camville, who became castellan when they married, were staunch supporters of Prince John. Nichola defended the castle in her husband’s absence and did not surrender. After de Camville’s death, Nichola, as castellan, once again held Lincoln Castle in 1217 for more than three months against the French, who were finally routed when William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and regent for Henry III, arrived with more troops.

One of four surviving originals of Magna Carta is housed in Lincoln Castle. There is another 800 years of history at this remarkable place – visits by kings and queens, of plague, economic turns, the English Civil War, and more. The buildings in the bailey are more recent construction – a courthouse and a prison existed there in the 17th century. The red brick building above was a prison completed during the 19th century, and when we visited, the tents were placed for a University of Lincoln graduation celebration.

Soldiers on the battlements in the 1190s wouldn’t have had this view

The white timber-framed house on the left (now the Tourist Information Center) sits on the corner of an old road known as Ermine Street. This was a main north-south road since Roman times. Need to get to York? Turn left/north and the road will pass through the old Roman gate – the Newport Arch. The road south took medieval travelers all the way to London.

Ruins of the 3rd century Roman gate – the Newport Arch

Historic places never get old, do they? 🙂


Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.

Char also writes science fiction. Echoes of the Storm will be published in summer 2020.

Download the free short story, A Knight’s Tale, when you sign up for Char’s Newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about book news before everybody else, and take part in giveaways and special offers.

8 thoughts on “Writing Medieval Lincoln – Lincoln Castle

  1. Sigh….I can see Henry and Stephan riding about the countryside. Thanks for sharing the beautiful scenery. Am reblogging!

  2. What a lovely day that was, and although the poppies display haf closed the day before, most of them were still in place. I think our poor guide felt a little intimidated by our knowledge of history. You need to come back this year, though – the castle’s celebrating its 950th birthday.

    • I loved Lincoln, and meeting you there was so much fun. I wish I could visit this year, but it isn’t in the cards. We didn’t give the guide too hard a time – hopefully he was impressed!! 🙂

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