Lincoln began life as a Roman town. The Romans conquered Lincolnshire in 48 AD. Shortly afterwards they built a fort on the site. By the late 1st century peace came to the area so the soldiers moved on and the fort was abandoned. A new colonia was created on the site, a settlement for retired soldiers. The Romans called the new town Lindum colonia (this name was corrupted to Lindon then finally Lincoln).
Lindum grew into a large town with a population of around
six to eight thousand. The town was surrounded by walls. Inside, the streets
were laid out in a grid pattern (see picture 2 below) with a rectangular
space in the middle. This was the forum or market place. It was lined with
shops and contained the basilica or town hall. Lindum also had public bath
house. In the town rich people lived in stone houses with glass windows and
had a form of central heating. However the poor lived in simple wooden houses.
1. Newport Arch - the North gate into the Roman City
Lindum was also an inland port. The Romans deepened the Witham so ships could reach the town from the sea. Posterngate - the Roman gateway to the Witham can be found beneath the present Royal Bank of Scotland in the City Centre.
In the later part of the 4th century Roman Lincoln had begun to decline. Roman civillization was breaking down and the last Roman soldiers left Britain in 407 AD. By the 5th century most or all of the towns inhabitants had fled and the Roman buildings gradually fell into ruins.
2. A plan of present day Lincoln laid over the Roman grid
SAXONS AND DANES
After the Romans left Angles from Germany conquered Lincolnshire. At that time the town of Lincoln was almost empty. There may have been a small number of people living inside the walls and farming the land outside. However Lincoln had ceased to be a town. It revived when the Danes conquered the area in the late 9th century. They created a network of fortified settlements called Burhs. Where possible they used old Roman towns as they already had sturdy walls. Each one of these burhs was made a town with a weekly market. The Danes made Lincoln into a burh. In the 10th century it was captured by Alfred the Great's son but the Danish influence lingers on. The Danish word for street was gata. In time it was corrupted to gate in the street names Danesgate, Thorngate and Clasketgate.
In the 10th century a suburb grew up called Wigford. (Wig is a corruption of the Danish word wick meaning creek). Lincoln grew to be a large and important town with its own mint. In the town craftsmen made things like combs out of bone. There were also potters, blacksmiths, jewellers and shoe makers.
THE MIDDLE AGES
By the time of the Domesday book (1086) Lincoln probably had a population of around 6,000. By the standards of the time it was a large and important town. Even London only had 18,000 inhabitants. In 1068 William the Conqueror built a wooden castle to make sure the townspeople behaved themselves. He destroyed 166 houses to make way for it. In the 12th century it was replaced with stone. The keep of the castle was called Lucy Tower after Countess Lucy. In 1072 the Bishop moved his seat to Lincoln from Dorchester. He built a cathedral which was completed in 1092. This first cathedral was severely damaged by an earthquake which hit Lincoln in 1185. It was rebuilt after 1192. The central tower of the new cathedral collapsed in 1237. It was replaced by a new tower with a spire. The spire was completed in 1311.
The East wall of Lincoln Castle
In the late 11th century a new suburb grew up called New Port (port is an old work for market or town). Newport had its own market. In 1123 there was a fire in Lincoln which destroyed many buildings. Fire was a constant hazard as most of the buildings in the town were made of wood with thatched roofs. On the other hand if they burned they could be easily rebuilt. Lincoln was also sacked twice during civil wars. The first time was in 1141 then again in 1216 but each time Lincoln recovered.
In 1157 Lincoln was given a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). The town was made independent and the rich citizens were allowed to elect a council of 24 men to rule. From the early 13th century Lincoln had a mayor. In the 12th and 13th centuries Lincoln's prosperity was based on wool. It was woven in the town and dyed. Much of the finished cloth was transported along the Witham then exported abroad. In Lincoln there were also the same craftsmen found in any medieval town such as butchers, bakers, brewers, carpenters, blacksmiths, potters and shoe makers. In the late 13th century only certain ports called staples were allowed to export wool abroad. In 1291 Lincoln was made a staple, adding to its prosperity.By the 14th century Lincoln had an annual fair and from 1409 it had two. In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year. Merchants would come from all over England to sell their goods at a Lincoln fair.
In the Middle Ages merchants were organised into a guild which looked after its members interests. Different groups of craftsmen had their own guild e.g. there was a weavers guild. The craftsmens guilds fixed prices and hours of work and they inspected members work to make sure it was up to standard. They also looked after their members when they were ill or too old to work. There were also religious guilds. They helped their members in times of sickness and with funeral expenses. They also employed priests to pray for the souls of dead members. The largest was St Marys Guild. Its guildhall has survived.
In the 13th century the friars arrived. The first were the Fransiscan friars. They were known as grey friars because of the colour of their costumes. They arrived in 1231. The Dominican friars arrived in 1238. They were known as black friars because of their black costumes. In 1269 came the Carmelites of white friars. There were also Augustinian friars by 1280. Another denomination were the friars of the sack, so called because their clothes were made out of rough cloth like sackcloth.
In the Middle Ages the only hospitals were run by the church. A leper hospital called the hospital of the Holy Innocents or the Malandry was founded by 1100. It stood outside the town walls. The hospital of the Holy Sepulchre was dounded in the early 12th century for the sick and poor. The hospital of ST Giles was founded in the late 13th century.
In the 12th and 13th centuries there was a Jewish community in Lincoln. The houses built by 2 of them still survive. In 1255 the Jews of Lincoln were falsely accused to murdering a boy called Hugh. Afterwards 18 innocent people were taken to London and hanged. All the Jews in England were forced to leave in 1290.
In the 14th century Lincoln's prosperity declined. For one thing its wool trade faced increasing competition from abroad and also from other parts of England. Secondly it faced increasing competition from Boston and from the new port of Hull. In 1369 the wool staple was moved to Boston which was a severe blow to Lincoln.
Lincoln had declined in size and prosperity by the 16th century. Its population may have shrunk to 2,500. The town was affected by the decline of the wool trade. Furthermore the discovery of America meant west coast ports boomed while those on the east coast stagnated.
In 1538 Henry VIII closed the friaries. He also closed the religious guilds and siezed their property. Henry's agents also looted the cathedral of its treasures. In 1549 the spire of the cathedral collapsed in a storm and in the late 16th century many churches in Lincoln were closed as they were no longer needed. In 1642 civil war began between king and parliament. Most of the townspeople firmly supported parliament but the town changed hands several times during the war. In July 1643 a parliamentary army abandoned Lincoln fearing they could not hold it. They withdrew to Boston. Royalist troops then occupied the town but in October the parliamentary army won a battle at Winceby. The Royalists then abandoned Lincoln. However in March 1644 they won a battle at Newark. Once again the parliamentarians fled from Lincoln and left it to the Royalists. On 3 May the parliamentary army returned and the Royalists withdrew into the upper town. On 6 May the parliamentarians attacked the upper town and the castle. They soon captured both. Afterwards parliamentary soldiers looted the cathedral and houses in the upper town. Lincoln remained in parliamentary hands until the end of the civil war in 1646. However in 1648 a Scottish army invaded England in an attempt to restore Charles I to his throne. They were supported by English royalists. A toyalist army approached Lincoln which was only defended by a small force of men. The parliamentary soldiers took refuge in the Bishop's palace. They were soon forced to surrender but not before they had set fire to the palace. However the royalists were soon defeated in battle and Lincoln chnaged hands again. This time there was peace until Charles II was restored in 1660.
From the late 17th century Lincoln began to revive a little. One sign of this came in 1695 when the town was granted another fair.
THE 18th CENTURY
By 1700 the population of Lincoln had probably grown to about 4,000, still considerably less than it had been in the Middle Ages. Lincoln remained a small and quiet market town. For the well off life grew more comfortable. A theatre was built in 1732. In 1744 assembly rooms were built for card games and balls. Lincoln gained its first newspaper in 1784. In 1736 a new buttermarket was built. In 1769 a general hospital was built. Lindum Road was built in 1786.
From the mid-18th century Lincoln was helped by improving communications. The Fossdyke was deepened in 1744. Grain and wool were taken along from Lincoln to the North. Coal and cloth were brought to the town. From the middle of the century turnpikes were built. These were privately owned and maintained roads. You had to pay a toll to use them.
In 1801, at the time of the first census, Lincoln had a population of more than 7,000. By the standards of the time it was a fair sized town though it was only slightly larger than it had been in the Middle Ages. However during the 19th century the population of the town grew at a terrific rate and by 1900 it had over 50,000 inhabitants. The Lawn Asylum was built in 1820. In 1828 an act of Parliament formed a body of men called the Commissioners with powers to pave and light the streets. From 1828 Lincoln was lit by gas. The railway reached Lincoln in 1846. In 1848 a corn exchange where grain could be bought and sold was built.
However from the mid-19th century Lincoln changed from being a market town to being an industrial centre. The firm of Clayton and Shuttleworth iron founders was formed in 1842. That firm amde steam engines and farm implements. In the 1850s several other engineering firms were founded in Lincoln. Other industries were brewing and brickmaking
Like all 19th century towns Lincoln was dirty, overcrowded and insanitary. However after 1876 the council built a network of sewers. From 1883 horse drawn trams ran in the streets. Lincoln City football club was founded in 1884. A College of Art was built in 1885. A new Theatre Royal was built in 1893. The first public library opened in 1894. The first electricity generating station was built in 1898.
THE 20th CENTURY
For most of the 20th century the population of Lincoln grew more slowly than in the previous century. However at the end of the century it began to grow rapidly again and is now estimated to be 86,000. Although there were sewers in Lincoln in 1900 people still obtained their water from pumps. In 1905 a typhoid epedemic killed 130 people. That finally convinced people of the need for a pure water supply. A piped water supply was turned on in 1911. After 1905 the horse drawn trams were replaced with electric trams. The first buses ran in 1920. They soon replaced the trams. The last tram ran in 1929. Usher gallery was built in 1927. During World War I the first tank 'little Willie' was built in Lincoln. As well as tanks many aircraft were made in Lincoln during that war. For most of the 20th century the main industry in Lincoln remained engineering. Lincoln suffered severely during the depression of the 1930s but full employment returned in World War II. During that war 11 people were killed in Lincoln by German bombing.
During the 1920s and 1930s the first council houses were built in Lincoln. Many more were built after 1945 as well as many private houses. Pelham Bridge was built in 1958. The City Hall was built in 1973. A garden of remembrance was built on the site of the Roman forum in 1983. A western relief road was built in 1985. Waterside shopping centre was built in 1991. Lincolnshire Road Transport Museum opened in 1993. Lincoln University opened in 1996. St Marks shopping centre opened in 1996. In the late 20th century heavy industry in Lincoln gave way to service industries such as tourism. Today the population of Lincoln is 86,000.
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