The £22m project called Lincoln Castle Revealed will restore and open up new areas to visitors and will be complete in 2015 – an auspicious year for the city as it marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.
Lincoln Castle dates back to 1068, when William the Conqueror ordered its building. William introduced castles to England as a means of subduing his new subjects; originally it would have had wooden walls, but by 1115 there is mention of the castle having stone walls. Unusually Lincoln Castle has two mottes, the only other castle to have two is Lewes.
Used as a court and prison for over 900 years, the castle has been the scene of many executions and the coffin-like pews in the chapel was a method of preventing the prisoners from seeing each other and represents the Separate System that was in place here.
In 2005 Lincolnshire County Council embarked upon Lincoln Castle Revealed, a £22m project to restore the buildings, open up new areas of the site and tell the stories of the castle throughout the ages.
Already in place is the environmentally friendly, grass roofed Heritage Skills Centre, which was completed in 2013, where craftspeople can develop skills such as masonry and stained glass.
The grounds within the castle walls will become a free and open space for residents and visitors to enjoy during the day or at any of the different events that will be staged there in years to come.
A complete circuit Wall Walk is being created so that visitors can walk around the perimeter of the six acre castle site. This is the first time this has been possible and will offer views across the city. There will be both stair and lift towers to the walls allowing disabled access to the east curtain wall – extraordinary access for a building that dates to 1068.
There has been a gaol within the castle walls since at least the mid-12th century. Prisoners were often kept in fairly primitive conditions until the creation of the Victorian prison, one of the most complete surviving examples of a gaol built to accommodate the ‘Separate System’ regime. A particularly harsh approach, the ‘separate system’ centred on keeping every prisoner separate from each other. Lincoln Castle Revealed through its huge archive tells the stories of the individual inmates and the prison staff from their own journals.