Lincoln is a city full of quirks, surprises and history. Prepare to learn more about some of the things Lincoln is famous for, as told by a true ‘Yellowbelly’.
Lincoln is known for many things including its military links, Steampunk Festival and a mischievous imp or two! This is in addition to its superb Gothic cathedral, a Castle and the ubiquitous Christmas Market.
Resting atop Castle Hill, the ancient yet thriving City of Lincoln can be seen from afar. It is the county seat of arable Lincolnshire, which produces 12% of the UK’s food, and has a long and fascinating history.
1. The Romans and Newport Arch
Lindum Colonia, as Lincoln was known to the Romans, was the base of the 9th Legion Hispana. The legion ruled Eastern England from about AD50 from their hilltop fortress, now known as Castle Hill.
Lindum Colonia was a key Roman town that was on the Ermine Way. Ermine Way linked the important Roman cities of York and London. There are still some Roman structures to be seen in Lincoln.
Most uniquely is Newport Arch, the only remaining Roman archway still used by traffic in Britain!
2. Da Vinci Code
Lincoln is famous for the ‘Da Vinci Code’ film. Ok, so whilst Dan Brown didn’t set his bestseller there, scenes set in Westminster Abbey were filmed in Lincoln Cathedral.
Lincoln Cathedral has also been used for scenes of ‘The Young Victoria’ and Netflix’s ‘The King’. Whilst ‘Down Town Abbey’ makers used the courthouse in Lincoln Castle for some scenes.
3. Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln is known for its cathedral. Lincoln Cathedral is a magnificent place of worship that was head of the largest diocese in England when consecrated in 1092.
Since its first incarnation, the cathedral has prevailed over damage sustained from a fire, an earthquake and Roundheads (supporters of Oliver Cromwell).
At one point in its illustrious career, the cathedral was said to be the tallest building in the world, surpassing the Pyramids of Giza. This was accountable to an immense spire that collapsed during a storm in 1547.
The Cathedral is noted for its beautiful and unique rose windows. Named the Dean’s Eye and the Bishop’s Eye, they face each other and are described as ‘the two eyes of the church’ with the north representing the devil and the south the Holy Spirit.
Lincoln Cathedral is a Grade 1 Listed building and has its own quarry which it uses for annual repairs!
4. The Imp
Lincoln is best known for the Lincoln Imp. Legend has it that Satan sent a couple of imps out into the world to cause mischief.
Whilst causing mayhem in Lincoln Cathedral, an angel appeared in the Angel Choir (a shrine for Saint Hugh, a former Bishop of Lincoln). Although the angel commanded the imps to stop, they did not; throwing stones and jibes until the angel turned one into stone, whilst the other imp scarpered away.
The petrified imp can still be seen in the cathedral today. It has become a symbol of the city with Lincoln City Football Club adopting the nickname ‘The Imps’.
There was even an Imp Trail in 2021. 31 crafted imps, each sponsored by a local business or entity, were scattered around the city for people to find.
5. Old Buildings and Steep Hill
Lincoln is famous for having an oldie worldie feel. With beautifully maintained medieval buildings and Steep Hill, it is like stepping back in time (or going down Diagon Alley!)
Running downhill from the Cathedral Quarter, Steep Hill is not for the faint-hearted. It is the fourth steepest street in England. This cobbled street is full of charming boutiques, galleries and restaurants.
Lincoln is home to 12th-century buildings such as The Jew’s House, Jew’s Court and the Norman House. Remarkably, all are still in use.
The Jew’s House especially is now home to a fabulous fine dining restaurant and is one of the only Medieval Jewish houses left in England. Meanwhile, the Norman House – locally known as Aaron the Jew’s House – has a quaint tea shop which is a perfect respite after tackling Steep Hill.
That is not all, The Cardinal’s Hat Inn is located within a 16th (some say 15th) century building. If it is real ale, pub grub and a good time you are after, then you will find it here. The Cardinal’s Hat hosts locally brewed beers such as Lincolnshire Craft’s Cardinal Ale and Lincoln Gold.
6. Local Beer
As you would expect from an arable county, there are a couple of local breweries. It would be remiss not to mention them, even though the breweries themselves are not based in the City of Lincoln.
Particularly fine, according to the author, is Bateman’s XB. If you can find a hostelry that serves it, then I recommend a draft.
An equally fine brew is Bomber’s County made by Lincolnshire Craft Beers and a respectful nod to Lincolnshire’s aviation history.
7. The Steampunk Festival
Lincoln is known for hosting the ‘Asylum Steampunk Festival’ each summer. It is the longest-running (and largest) Steampunk festival in the world.
Since 2009, this celebration for the Steampunk community has attracted visitors, exhibitors and spectators. With over 100,000 people visiting Lincoln each year for this three-day extravaganza, it has put Lincoln firmly on the map.
As well as paid-for events, there are plenty of free demonstrations, exhibitions and shows to enjoy in historic areas of the city. Whether you dress up and join in or just walk around to soak up the atmosphere, this is a great event to be part of.
8. Lincoln Castle
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Lincoln is Lincoln Castle. The Normans built this on the site of the Roman fortress. They actually re-used some of the previous Roman walls.
Lincoln Castle is unique for having two mottes and one large bailey keep; the usual design being just one motte with a bailey. Lincoln Castle is one of two such castles in England.
Like the cathedral opposite, Lincoln Castle is a grade 1 listed building. Additionally, it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) meaning that is the site is of national importance. In actual fact, Lincoln City is home to 42 SAMs!
Lincoln Castle is known as the only place where an original Magna Carter and Charter of Forest (a revised Magna Carter) can be seen together. They state that the king and his government are not exempt from the law of the land. The Magna Carter is the first of its kind and three of its clauses are still part of English law.
Lincoln Castle frequently hosts events and shows. The medieval wall walk is part of the £22 million renovations and is one-third of a mile long. It has great views of the city and surrounding countryside.
Lincoln Castle is home to a prison that retains vestures from the Victorian ‘Separate System’ – solitary confinement – in its chapel. It was this area that was used in the filming of Down Town Abbey and is said to be the last one remaining.
The Gothic Revival courthouse within the castle grounds was built in 1826. It is still in use today with criminal trials still heard there by Lincoln Crown Court
9. The Macabre
Like many old cities and towns, Lincoln is known for a few macabre instances…
Lincoln Castle saw the first hanging by ‘long-drop’ in 1872. The ‘long-drop’ proved to be a more humane way of ending the life of someone condemned to hanging. William Marwood, a cobbler from the Lincolnshire town of Horncastle, developed the ‘long-drop’ method to reduce suffering.
The oldest surviving cadaver tomb in England is found in Lincoln Cathedral. Cadaver tombs were popular in Medieval Europe and served as a reminder that man is equal before God. Lincoln’s Bishop Richard Fleming founded Lincoln College in Oxford University and this ‘transi-tomb’ is part of his monument.
Queen Eleanor of Castile died close to Lincoln in 1290. Her viscera were buried in Lincoln whilst the rest of her remains were buried in London. A duplicate of the Westminster Abbey tomb was placed in Lincoln Cathedral to commemorate Eleanor.
10. Christmas Market
Lincoln is famous for its Christmas Market which has been held since 1982. It was the first German-style Christmas market to be held in the UK.
After visiting Lincoln’s twin town – Neustadt in Germany – Lincoln councillors introduced the German market concept with just 11 stalls in Castle Square. There are now over 200 stalls!
11. International Bomber Command
A famous monument in Lincoln is the International Bomber Command (IBC). It is a peaceful, yet deeply moving memorial to some of those who lost their lives during the Second World War.
International Bomber Command is an interactive experience with the ‘Walls of Names’ bearing homage to those allies whose lives were lost supporting Bomber Command. The walls surround a memorial spire and are within the two Peace Gardens.
The height of the memorial spire is the wingspan of the Avro Lancaster bomber. This is the only place in the world where such a memorial exists.
People who are born and bred in Lincolnshire (like me) are known as ‘Yellowbellies’. The name has a far different interpretation from the term ‘yellow belly’ meaning cowardly.
The origin of the term is debated and has been attributed to the Lincolnshire Regiment, who wore yellow waistcoats. It is also considered to be a reference to the jaundice-like illness suffered by people living in the Lincolnshire Fens.
The term ‘yellowbelly’ has even been attributed to Lincolnshire mustard growers who would end up with yellow hands and aprons.
Either way, calling us a ‘Yellowbelly’ makes us puff up with pride.
13. Engineering & Innovation
Lincoln is famous for being a leading place of education during the 1100s. That status has not dwindled with Lincoln still known for engineering feats and technological development.
In 1915, ‘Little Willie’ was developed in Lincoln. ‘Little Willie’ was a prototype of the modern-day tank and had been commissioned to overcome the issues of trench warfare. It is said that the nickname of the tank is a cheeky reference to Kaiser Wilhelm, the German Crown Prince.
A memorial to the engineers who worked on the development of the tank can be found on the roundabout before Tritton Road, Lincoln.
Lincoln engineering companies switched to the production of aircraft during World War 1. This made Lincoln one of the biggest manufacturing centres of aircraft centres in the world. It is said that one in 14 British aircraft flown in WW1 were made in Lincolnshire.
The innovation legacy continues with the University of Lincoln establishing a leading – and the world’s first – research centre dedicated to agricultural robotics. It has also recently opened the doors to its purpose-built Medical School.
14. Brayford Wharf
Lincoln is known for Brayford Wharf – locally known as Brayford Pool. It is the UK’s oldest inland harbour. It is now home to the University of Lincoln, entertainment venues, and is a popular meeting and social point.
Brayford Pool is a natural pool that occurred at the bottom of Castel Hill. It now sits on the junction of the River Witham and Fossdyke Navigation. Fossdyke Navigation is thought to have been engineered by the Romans to link the Rivers Trent and Witham.
It is the oldest canal in the United Kingdom and is still used. Pleasure crafts operate on Brayford Pool and Fossdyke Navigation; keep an eye out for the resident wildlife including mute swans and kingfishers.
So, that is just some of the things Lincoln is famous for.
This Yellowbelly did not even get to mention High Bridge and its ‘Glory Hole’ (High Bridge is the oldest bridge in England that still has occupied houses on it), the double-dated grave or how British treasures were secreted into a chamber in the cathedral during WW2.
And yes, Robin Hood’s Lincoln Green would have been dyed here!