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Published: September 17th 2019
I was scheduled for a group training to be held in Oxford, England, but decided to do a bit of sight seeing the weekend before and spend a little time with family. My training was not approved until the week before, so I had to scramble to make plans. Do I take the train or drive? Do I go south or north? Do I mark off big bucket list items or go for my own personal bucket list? After checking the train prices (YIKES!!!), I decided to rent a car. It was literally cheaper for me to rent a car for 8 days then to have a train ticket from Gatwick to Nottingham to Oxford - and a car gave me more flexibility. So, the second part was - where to go? I was able to hook up with my Nottingham cousins for Saturday night so that left Friday and Friday night me time and I didn't want to be too far from my cousins - it was either Leicester (Richard III) or Lincoln (giant cathedral, Magna Carta). I figured I could go to Leicester another time, but Lincoln was slightly more out of the way, so Lincoln it was.
At Gatwick I picked up a pretty interesting hybrid car: a Hyundai Iconic. I had asked for a smallish car (as long as it was automatic), but this was a pretty decent size. My only complaint was that it kept beeping at me if I got too near the lines - it freaked me out the first couple of times because I thought someone was beeping at me, and it made some piercing screech that came on when the cars in front of me started to brake - I had already seen that but the screech scared the ever loving crap out of me and I almost drove off the road - not a great "safety" feature. However, I think you could personalize it and get used to it a bit more and the like, it seems like a great car.
You know, last time I came here, through Gatwick, I said "never again". Why did I not listen? I think because I initially planned to take the train, I was good with Gatwick, but I really wish I had gone to Stansted or even Heathrow again. Seriously, Gatwick, never again. I actually got through the airport ok, but
the drive.... shudder. Once I finally got on the right road during rush hour (my flight was early, customs was fast, and I got my car at 8am), it took about 5 hours to get to Lincoln. Not too bad really, but there were some areas of heavy construction, and sometimes the road signs are just needlessly confusing - it was frustrating, especially when I missed the services exits twice because of bad signage and I was starting to get hangry. I don't think I ate anything for about 7 hours straight. Anyway, I made safely to Lincoln with a full belly. The Duke William Hotel
It took a little bit of time to find The Duke William hotel, which turned out to basically be a pub with some rooms above. It was amazing and authentic, but no wonder I got blank stares when I asked for directions. The staff were soooooo friendly, and the room was lovely, looked so inviting, but it was 2:30 and I needed to do some site-seeing before I passed out. Side note: When I went to leave the room, the upper bolt was engaged - I didn't remember doing that, so I
was a little.... not freaked out (I mean, obviously, I did do it), but I was like "Ooooh! Is there a ghost in my room?" Yes, I am a total dork.
So, I wanted to add a little about the hotel as it was so nice and fun, but the food was delicious. After seeing the cathedral, I went back and made myself sit for dinner or I knew I just wouldn't be able to come back down again. I ordered a pint of a blonde ale and a chicken and chorizo tagliatelle. It was sooooo delicious!!! Lincoln Cathedral
I walked to the Lincoln Cathedral, which was of course under construction. The entire front facade was blocked off but there were signs everywhere saying it was open. (Side note: apparently it was free on Saturday, but I didn't know that until the next day). I bought a ticket for 8 lbs and waited for the 3pm tour guide. John was so incredibly knowledgable and passionate. Oh, and he mistook me for a student, twice - first he asked if I went to Lincoln University, and I said no, I was visiting for work and was actually staying
in Oxford, so then he thought I was a student at Oxford (I didn't correct him this time) and he gave me suggestions throughout the tour to use to get "brownie points" with my professors. Ha!
The name of Lincoln comes from a combination of the Welsh word for 'lake' (Llyn - pronunciation corrected by a Welsh tourist in our group) and the Roman / Latin word "Colonia" - Lin-Coln. It was a trade center in the northern part of the country until 1066, when William the Conqueror arrived, and started to build a castle. He also gave one of his loyal followers, Remigius, the bishopric, which then encompassed the entire are from the Thames to the Umber and was at the time based in Dorchester. The building commenced in 1072 and took about 20 years, consecrated a month after his death. The materials are made from limestone quarried from the area, and it has the light yellowish brown color and even some fossils embedded. Some of the columns are purposely made from a darker limestone, quarried from elsewhere, to provide a contrast in color.
There was so much information, I'll try to sum for you. The western
towers were the first to be built, and collapsed twice including once in an earthquake. The third time they remained then the nave was later added, and you can see that the two portions are slightly offset. I believe Hugh of Lincoln (St Hugh) was responsible for the central tower, which with its spire made Lincoln Cathedral the tallest building in the world from 1311 through 1548, when the spire was knocked down during a storm and never rebuilt. The central tower itself remained and now houses "Big Tom" the main bell and four "lady bells" which were brought up through a trapdoor in the ceiling, which was installed in in 1837. Another change made regarding the bells was that instead of the bells swinging to hit the clapper, which caused major vibrations and potential structural issues, the clappers now swing to hit the bell.
In the transept, there are two beautiful circular stained glass windows. The Dean's Eye, to the north (dark), actually contains 70% medieval stained glass, which was conserved in the 1990's with a 2.5 million pound donation by Prince Charles and initially dates to about 1220. The Bishop's Eye to the south (light) dates to
the 1320's and contains medieval glass, but not necessarily the original - the citizens had gathered the stained glass from the windows along the nave when they were destroyed in 1644 and returned them to the church in 1788. Along the transept is the screen to the choir, where previously only the clergy were allowed to go. The screen is amazing and I was blown away by the many carvings - gargoyles, angels, dragons eating grapes, flowers.... it was so intricate and had previously been painted - you could see paint in a few places that remained.
St Hugh's Choir itself is early English gothic and what is interesting, is that the ribs in the roof are asymmetrical - they don't go all the way across as is typical. Instead, the focus is brought to the bays which also allowed in more light - just a detail that you probably would not even notice until it was pointed out! The organ was made in 1898 and I believe the guide said there were about 3,000 pipes, some of which extended into the upper floor. Katherine Swynford, the mistress and later wife of John of Gaunt and ancestress of the
Lancastrian side of the royal family, is buried just south of the choir along with her daughter.
The Angel choir is all the way to the back (east) where the reconstructed sarcophagus of Eleanor of Castile, the wife of Edward I, was originally put, though it only contained her entrails (part of the medieval embalming process). Lincoln was an important site in this regard as one of the famous Eleanor Crosses was constructed here outside the castle; the crosses were constructed at each site her body rested on the way back to London - it has been widely confirmed that Edward was grief stricken at her death at the age of 45 - she bore 16 children, though many of them did not live beyond infancy. Also in the Angel choir is a carving of "The Imp" apparently a well known icon of the area of an imp who initially wreaked havoc within the church until he was turned to stone - his image is part of the football team in town and has been recreated in other locations throughout England as an homage.
After the tour was over, I walked around a little more, including to the
chapel which was impressive itself - it was an area the Knights Templar went to and they even occasionally held parliament sessions here. I made my way slowly out and across the square to the castle, but by then it was almost 5 and the castle grounds closed at 5:30. So, I had a quick look and decided to spend more time here in the morning. I made my way back to the hotel for dinner (discussed above) before passing out. Lincoln Castle
I had my delicious breakfast of eggs Benedict with fruits before packing up my car and checking out. The castle opened at 10 am and I wanted to be there right on time; I just barely beat a slow walking tour group of older people. It cost 14 pounds to get in (yikes!) and apparently you could visit the cathedral for free today - I wish I had known and would have switched, though I did enjoy John's tour. So, I check out the prison, which apparently had an exhibit done by Vivian Westwood. .... why?... and the Prison chapel, which was actually pretty cool. And finally, my main purpose for the castle: The Magna
In 1215, King John was forced by his unhappy barons to sign the Magna Carta, which was probably the first time in English history that the king was required to grant people certain liberties and limited his power. These people were the upper class and the church, and since it was signed under duress, neither side wound up holding to it. It was eventually upheld with some provisions by John's grandson, Edward I and is now significant due to its (at the time) radical limitations on the king's power. Only four originals exist and this was one of the locations (the others are found at Salisbury Cathedral and two at the British Library).
What I found also interesting was their copy, one of only two remaining, of the lesser known "Charter of the Forest". This was a charter issued by the very young Henry III in 1217 and affected the regular people who lived off the land. Starting with William the Conqueror, the kings owned "forests", which were areas they hunted, though not necessarily a forest in the traditional sense, just natural areas of grasslands, forests, etc. By the time of the charter, the king owned 1/3
of all forests in most of England. This meant that the people who lived there could not hunt, fell trees, or use the resources in anyway as it was technically the king's property. The charter granted people the right to live and develop the land, gave back some of the forests accrued, and though it eliminated the death penalty for taking venison, they could still be fined.
The building housing the documents was nice, dark and climate controlled. No photos allowed of the two charters. The wall at the entrance had the text of the Magna Carta and the wall next to it held the arms of the 25 barons who also signed it. Downstairs was a little theater which showed a recreation of how the Magna Carta came about.
After this, I walked along the walls of the castle, enjoying the fantastic views of the surrounding country-side and enjoying a bit of the history told through the audio guide. The views from the top of the Observatory towers were super impressive - the hills, the cathedral, the castle. Amazing!
I hope you enjoyed your little history lesson. Obviously I did!
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