The cathedral city of Lincoln is divided into two halves, “Uphill,” and “Downhill.” It is built at a gap in the Lincoln Edge, a limestone escarpment, through which the River Witham flows. The Uphill area dominates the city, and although the earlier 1st century BCE Iron Age settlement was built alongside a pool on the river, hence its Brythonic name Lindon (pool) however the later Roman and Norman invaders quickly realised the hills potential.
The "Uphill" and "Downhill" have had various roles over the centuries. Whilst most cities have their cathedrals and castles in their centres Lincoln's are separate, historically the "uphill" being the more prosperous. However now the "downhill" is more prosperous (except property prices) but the "uphill" is most interesting!
The Romans arrived in 48 CE and built a military fortress on top of the hill, guarding the point where Fosse Way crossed the River Witham. When the legion was moved north to York, Lincoln became a settlement for army veterans, which stretched from the fortress and administration centre on the hill down Steep Hill to the Witham crossing. After the Roman’s departure the Viking raiders once again colonised Lincoln making it an important centre for trade, their colony being mainly centred near the river, as their trade being chiefly by water.
So important was Lincoln considered in protecting the road and river crossing that, within two years of the Norman conquest, Duke William ordered the building of Lincoln Castle on the site of the Roman fort on the hill. This was quickly followed, in Norman fashion, by the building of the cathedral in 1092.
During the civil war between King Stephen and Matilda in the 12th century Lincoln Castle came under siege from the King's troops. However forces loyal to Maude under the Earl of Gloucester arrived and following fierce fighting in the town Stephen's army was defeated and he was captured.
Prosperity followed and Lincoln's wealth grew, largely due to its production of woollen cloth in the famous scarlet and Lincoln green, now associated with the legend of Robin Hood. During this period Lincoln became a magnet for Jewish traders and quickly became the centre of one of their largest communities. The 12th century Norman House belonging to Aaron the Jew and the Jew's House and Court further down Steep Hill demonstrate the importance of the community. However by 1190 anti Semitic feelings were strengthening and in 1255 several prominent Jews were executed for the ritual murder of "Little Saint Hugh," and by 1290 the whole community was expelled.
Lincoln had grown to be England's third largest city and became a centre of resistance by the Barons in their rebelion against King John. Therefore when the Magna Carta was drawn up in 1215, the Bishop of Lincoln was called as a witness, and one of the four surviving copies is retained in Lincoln Castle.
There followed a roller coaster of Lincoln's prosperity, the city gate and guildhall built at the end of the 15th century a symbol of its wealth, but following the Dissolution of Monasteries and other religious turmoil in the 16th century, epitomised by the collapse of the Cathedral's spire in 1549, when rebuilding was not financially possible, showed the economic plight of the city. This in itself thankfully prevented many old buildings being pulled down and replaced! Lincoln did suffer a lot of damage during the English Civil War.
The agricultural and industrial revolutions did return the prosperity to the city, which can now boast not only a thriving modern centre but also many historic and interesting places for those who don't like modern constructions.
The Roman Northport Gate
Stukeley's "Mint" Wall
Part of a Roman Basilica
Bailgate by Night
Shops at the Top of Steep Hill
The Harlequin on Steep Hill
The Norman House
The Jew's House
The 15th Century Stonebow Gate
Half Timbered (Information Centre)
Westgate Water Tower 1911