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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Cathedral Church of Lincoln

by A. F. Kendrick, B.A.

published by G. Bell and Sons, Ltd.

the text and illustrations of which are in the public domain.

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 p3  Chapter I


The venerable walls of Lincoln Minster look down from their proud position upon a city far more ancient than themselves. Long before the arrival of the Saxons and Angles, the spot on which Lincoln Minster and Castle stand, had been occupied by a settlement bearing a name which has survived through various changes to the present day. "Lincoln" is "Lindum Colonia": the latter word dates from the Roman occupation of Britain, and is sufficient to show the importance of the city at such an early period; the former carries us back further still to the times of the ancient Britons, whose dwelling on the "dun" or hill, was named "Llin-dun," from the "llin" or mere at its foot. The hill is that on which the minster now stands, and the mere still survives in the harbour of Brayford. The limits of the Roman city on the summit of the hill were marked by massive quadrangular walls, of which fragments may be seen at the present day. These walls were pierced with four gates; the position of the east and west gates is marked by the streets bearing these names; the southern gateway was still in existence at the beginning of the eighteenth century, but was battered down by a man named Houghton about the year 1707. The old Roman road to the north still passes under the northern or "Newport" gate.​a



(From Stukeley's Itinerarium Curiosum, 1722.)

In the printed edition of Kendrick, this is roughly the size and readability of Stukeley's map. It is so well printed there, though, that with a magnifying glass it becomes fairly readable; in turn, I was able to extract a completely readable detailed scan of it, which, for the serious student with an interest in Roman city of Lindum, I've placed on this separate page (1.2 MB).

The city occupied a proud position, and its importance in Roman times is shewn by the fact that it was the meeting-point of five main roads, two of which, the Foss Way and Ermine Street, met a little south of the present church of St. Botolph, and formed what is now the High Street of the  p4 city. Remains of Roman Lincoln are abundant, and some are preserved within the minster precincts. Passing on to the time of the Saxons, we read that the indefatigable missionary Paulinus, Bishop of York, journeyed into the neighbouring district of Lindsey, and "preached in the old Roman hill-town of Lincoln." His labour was rewarded by the conversion (about the year 628) of its "prefect" Blaecca, who immediately set about building "a stone church of noble workman­ship" for the use of the converts to the new faith. But it is not directly to the preaching of Paulinus, nor to the energy of Blaecca, that we owe the foundation of the minster. The "stone church" is now almost certainly represented by the church of St. Paul, in Bailgate, a church which still retains the name, though in a corrupted form, of the first great Christian missionary to the people of Lincoln. In this church Honorius was consecrated by Paulinus to succeed Justus as Archbishop of Canterbury. The little village of Stow, eleven miles to the north-west of the city, has been identified by Professor Freeman as "the ancient Sidnacester," and can thus claim to be the original seat of the diocese of Lincoln. The venerable church of St. Mary at Stow was called by Camden "the mother-church to Lincoln." In the year 678, when the huge Northumbrian diocese of Wilfrid was divided, Egfrid of Northumbria built a church at Sidnacester. This church was made the "bishopstool" of the new diocese of Lindsey, and the line of bishops may be traced for two hundred years, from Eadhed to Berhtred. During the bishopric of the latter, about the year 870, the church at Stow was burnt in an invasion of the Northmen, and in consequence of their ravages the see remained vacant for a period of eighty years. Lincoln itself fell into the hands of the invaders, and became the chief of the "Five Boroughs" of the Danish Confederation. From this time until the Norman invasion the borough continued to be governed by its twelve hereditary Danish law-men. About the middle of the tenth century, the seat of the bishops of this district was removed for security to Dorchester-on‑Thames, in the very farthest corner of the vast diocese, where it was protected by the fortified camp. The Mercian see of Leicester was here united with that of Sidnacester, and in the next century Eadnoth, the second of the name, is styled Bishop  p5 of Dorchester, Leicester, and Sidnacester. The little city by the Thames was not long to enjoy the honour of being the "bishopstool" of the largest diocese in England. As the Saxons gave way before their Norman conquerors, the Saxon bishop of Dorchester was succeeded by the Norman bishop of Lincoln. William the Conqueror brought many prelates in his train, and not the least conspicuous among them was Remigius, who was destined soon to share largely in the spoils of the newly-conquered country. This man was Almoner of Fécamp on the coast of Normandy. His offer, for the projected invasion, of a single ship with twenty knights, procured him the promise of the first English bishopric vacant, and the Conqueror redeemed his word on the death of Wulfwig, Bishop of Dorchester. In the first years of his episcopate, Remigius commenced to build on a stately scale at Dorchester, but it seemed to him inconvenient, so Henry of Huntingdon records, that the see should be in a corner of the diocese. Remigius had already begun to look on the "distinguished city of Lincoln" as being more worthy to be the seat of a bishop, when in the year 1072 a council held at Windsor decreed that bishops should fix their sees in walled towns instead of villages. Remigius would naturally turn to the district of Lindsey, whence his predecessors had come, and with his choice of Lincoln begins the history of our minster. The city at this time, according to the Domesday record, boasted eleven hundred and sixty inhabited houses. The Conqueror, "in feare of rebellious commotions," had already commenced the erection of a castle there to overawe the surrounding country. For this purpose, one hundred and sixty-six houses were destroyed on the top of the hill, within the bounds of the Roman walls. Their inhabitants were driven beyond the Witham to found a new town in the plain beneath, where the land belonged to Coleswegen, an English favourite of the king. The towers of St. Mary-le‑Wigford and St. Peter-at‑Gowts stand to this day as the venerable relics of the churches built by him for these new tenants of his estate. They are extremely valuable records, being monuments of the earlier — Saxon — style of architecture, reared by Englishmen, while the castle and cathedral in the more advanced Norman style were rising on the height above.

The following is Henry of Huntingdon's account of the  p6 transference of the see, translated by Precentor Venables:— "The king" (William the Conqueror) "had given Remigius who had been a monk at Fescamp the bishopric of Dorchester which is situated on the Thames. This bishopric being larger than all others in England, stretching from the Thames to the Humber, the bishop thought it troublesome to have his episcopal see at the extreme limit of his diocese. He was also displeased with the smallness of the town, the most illustrious city appearing far more worthy to be the see of a bishop. He therefore bought certain lands on the highest parts of the city, near the castle standing aloft with its strong towers, and built a church, strong as the place was strong, and fair as the place was fair, dedicated to the Virgin of Virgins, and as befitted the time unconquerable by enemies." The transference of the see must have taken place between 1072 and 1075, since at the council held in the former year at Windsor, Remigius signed himself "Episcopus Dorcacensis," and three years later at the council of London "Episcopus Lincolniensis." Lincoln thus became the centre of a diocese comprising an enormous area, including the ten following counties:— Lincoln, Northampton, Rutland, Leicester, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Bedford, Buckingham, Oxford, and Hertford. In the strong city beneath the massive walls of William's castle, Remigius could build in safety, not hindered, as his predecessors at Stow had been, by the fear of fierce invaders from across the sea.

The piece of ground purchased by Remigius lay a few hundred yards to the east of William's castle, just within the Roman wall of the upper city. It was the site of an earlier church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, which was no doubt entirely destroyed to make room for the prouder edifice of Remigius, and for the next 250 years, the parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene retained the right of assembling in the nave of the minster. The building thus served a double purpose until the time of Bishop John de Dalderby (1300‑20), who completed the arrangements begun by his predecessor for the union of the parish of St. Mary Magdalene with that of All Saints.

The church of Remigius was cruciform, with a choir of three bays and a semi-circular apse. The choir had aisles  p7 which were probably separated from it by solid walls, and terminated in apses internally, but were square externally. In these respects the plan was similar to those of Jumièges, St. George de Boscherville, St. Alban's, and probably the Norman  p8 choir of Westminster (see Archaeologia, vol. LXII). In the west front, with its three deep and lofty arches, and its two niche-like recesses, we still see the work of the first bishop, but the structure has been twice extended in an easterly direction — once by Bishop Hugh of Avalon, who built the present choir; and the second time to receive that bishop's miracle-working relics, and to afford room for the large and increasing throng of pilgrims that visited his shrine. The existing portions of the fabric built by Remigius are the west front, part of the first bay of the nave, and the side walls now enclosed in Early English chapels. The black basalt font in the nave is of the same period. On the erection of St. Hugh's choir, at the end of the twelfth century, the whole eastern limb of the original structure was removed. But the foundations remained, and were discovered in 1852 by Mr. T. J. Willson, architect, of Lincoln, under the floor of the present choir. The apse was found to have extended a little way beyond where the litany-stool now stands in the choir. The foundations of the lateral walls were also laid bare for some distance. Just beyond the springing of the apse on the north side, there are traces of a pilaster buttress, and on the inside of the lateral walls, sixteen feet from the springing of the apse, the foundations still exist of the piers of the great transverse arch which divided the presbytery from the choir of the Norman church. The measurement of these foundations, as well as the still-existing west front, are sufficient to show the sturdy strength of the early church. The walls of the apse must have been about eight feet thick. There appears to have been a lantern of some kind over the crossing, since the tower which fell in 1237‑9 was called Nova turris.

The edifice was begun and completed by the energetic bishop, and was ready for consecration within twenty years of its commencement. To judge from the portions yet remaining, the building must have been severely plain: not a moulding softens down the rugged edges in those parts which are still as Remigius left them. But it was solid and strong, built to stand the wear and tear of many centuries. In fact, so like a fortress was it, that Stephen used it as such fifty years after, when the castle opposite was held by his enemies. Precentor Venables thus gives the dimensions of Remigius' church — 300 feet in interior length, 160 feet less  p9 than at present; 28 feet in breadth, as against 38 feet at present, and 60 feet in height to the level of the ceiling. The roof was undoubtedly of wood, and probably a flat one of painted boards, like those of the transepts at Peterborough. The contemporary church at Canterbury, built by the primate Lanfranc, was roofed in this way. The present nave is 82 feet high, and the choir 74 feet; the comparison of these dimensions with those already given shew that the old church was in every way smaller. And this is only natural. In Norman churches, the stalls for the choir and clergy were usually placed under the lantern or in the first bays of the nave, as at Westminster, Norwich, Winchester and other places. For this and for other reasons the naves were long. The eastern limbs, however, were short, and its remained for later builders to extend them for the transference of the stalls to this part, and to erect Lady Chapels beyond.

Remigius was not destined to witness the consecration of the cathedral he had reared. At the council of Windsor in the year 1072, Thomas, archbishop of York, had laid claim to a jurisdiction over the diocese of Lindsey, which claim had been disallowed. When the question of the consecration of the new cathedral arose, Thomas renewed his pretensions, and the ceremony was thus delayed. We learn from Roger de Hoveden​b that Remigius, feeling the day of his death draw near, wished to have the church consecrated as soon as possible, and that Rufus was finally won over by a sum of money from the bishop. A date was fixed, the 9th of May, 1092, and all the bishops throughout the country were summoned to be present for the occasion. But on Ascension-day, three days before, Remigius died. He was buried in his own church, before the Altar of the Holy Cross, which stood in front of the screen that carried the rood. The character of the energetic bishop is given in a few words by the historian Henry of Huntingdon — small in stature, but great of heart, swarthy in colour, but comely in deeds (statura parvus, sed corde magnus, colore fuscus, sed operibus venustus). His successor was Robert Bloet, Chancellor to William Rufus, but Thomas of York objected to his consecration as bishop of Lincoln. "He might be Bishop of Dorchester, like his predecessors; but Lindesey, part of the spiritual conquest of Paulinus, was of ancient right subject  p10 to the metropolitan authority of York. This claim came to nothing, and Thomas found better scope for his energies in the reform of his own church."​1 A present from Bloet of £5000 to the king set matters right, and the ceremony so long delayed was at last performed. The bishop does not appear to have made any addition to the fabric before his death, which occurred suddenly, while riding with the king in a "deer-fold" at Woodstock (10th January 1123). It was quite otherwise with his successor, Alexander the Magnificent, nephew of the princely Roger of Salisbury. Alexander had already shewn his love of building by the erection of strong castles at Newark, Banbury and Sleaford, when a fire which destroyed the roof of the cathedral about the year 1141, gave him an opportunity of exercising his talent in a direction more fitting to his office. Giraldus Cambrensis relates that in this fire the burning beams fell from the roof and broke the slab of Remigius' tomb. This fact is interesting as adding support to the opinion that the slab now replaced in the nave of the minster was really that which covered the original burial-place of the bishop. Of the stone vaulting with which Alexander replaced the wooden roof after the fire, not a fragment remains; but the lines of the vault may be traced at the western end of the nave and against the two west towers. In addition to this, we learn from Henry of Huntingdon that he so remodelled the church by his "subtle artifice," that it looked more beautiful than in "its first newness," and was not surpassed by any building in England. The difference between the work of Remigius and Alexander is well seen in the west front, where the three great uncompromising arches of the earlier bishop are pierced by the rich and elaborate doorways of the later. We are fairly safe in assigning these to Alexander, and they probably formed part of the work he did, according to Roger de Hoveden, in the year 1146. The intersecting Norman arcade along the west front, just above the work of Remigius, may also be ascribed to Alexander, as well as the lower portions of the two western towers. The connection of these towers with the original west front was unfortunately hidden by the erection of the present Gothic screen-wall. It will be noticed, however, that gables are  p11 added at the sides to the Norman work, and traces may be seen which prove that similar gables decorated their western faces. There was probably another gable of larger dimensions in the centre. Precentor Venables thus conjectured the appearance of the west front as begun by Remigius and completed by Alexander: "It was furnished with three gables, like the façade of the cathedral of Ferrara, behind which rose the low Norman towers still existing, richly ornamented with three tiers of arcades, . . . and terminated with low spires of timber covered with lead, similar to those which once covered the western towers of Durham, or those still nearer, which have recently been replaced, with happy effect, at Southwell. The angular turrets would also be terminated in a similar manner, giving a picturesque combination of spires."

In the time of the "magnificent" bishop, Lincoln was the scene of stirring events, in which the minster played a curious part. The lamentable war between Stephen and Matilda produced a miserable state of confusion and bloodshed in every corner of the land. The strong castle of Lincoln was seized by William de Roumara, Earl of Lincoln, and Ranulph, Earl of Chester, and held for Matilda. The citizens and Bishop Alexander sent word to the king, who hastened to their relief. The king's eye fell on the massive walls of the minster, in such a convenient position opposite the stronghold of the earls. The sacred fabric was seized, and, according to William of Malmesbury, garrisoned as a fortress. Such a proceeding could bring no good fortune to the king, and omens of evil soon followed. As he offered a wax candle in the minster, Henry of Huntingdon tells us, it broke just when Bishop Alexander was about to take it. The chain too, by which the pyx was suspended, snapped asunder, and the sacred vessel fell, in the presence of the bishop. The decisive contest took place soon after; Stephen was left a captive in the hands of his enemies, and the city was taken and plundered. Two years before these events, in 1139, Alexander and his uncle Roger, bishop of Salisbury, had been treacherously seized by the king, and deprived of their treasures and castles. Roger died insane at the end of the same year, and Alexander regained his liberty on resigning his castles.



 p12  In 1144 Stephen was again at Lincoln, besieging the castle, where his enemies repulsed every attack. Two years later, at Christmas time, the king appeared crowned within the city, in defiance of an ancient superstition which foretold evil to any English sovereign who should do so. Eleven years after, Henry II out of deference to this tradition, was crowned outside the walls, in the suburb of Wikeford. In 1167, on the death of Bishop Chesney, the king seized the revenues, and the see remained vacant for many years. A prophecy that it would never again be filled seemed likely to prove true, when Geoffrey Plantagenet, a natural son of the king, was elected in 1173. He was never consecrated, and resigned nine years later. During his term of office, Geoffrey gave to the minster "two great sonorous bells," which were probably hung in one of the western towers.

The fabric of the church is considered to have remained as left by Alexander until the year 1185. On the 15th April of this year occurred the great earthquake mentioned by Roger de Hoveden. He tells us that it was felt throughout almost the whole of England, and was of such a severity as had not been known in the land "ab initio mundi." The minster was cleft from the top to the bottom.

The disasters of this year were more than compensated in the next, when a man was consecrated to the bishopric who  p13 has left a name as great as any that figure in the ecclesiastical history of England. St. Hugh of Lincoln was a son of a Lord of Avalon, near Grenoble. At an early age he entered a priory, a dependency of the cathedral church of Grenoble, and near his father's castle and land. About 1160 he was received into the Grand Chartreuse, where he became eventually the procurator or bursar. Henry II of England, hearing of his fame, sent the bishop of Bath and other ambassadors to the great Carthusian monastery, begging that Hugh should come to England, and take charge of the newly-established monastery of the Carthusians at Witham in Somersetshire. The prior was not at all inclined to part with Hugh, but the matter was settled by the bishop of Grenoble, and Hugh crossed over to England.



At Witham Hugh became a great favourite with the king, who, about ten years after his arrival in this country, offered him the vacant bishopric of Lincoln. The prior was not, however, dazzled by the prospect of a bishop's mitre, and the king had to tax his persuasive powers before he could induce him to exchange Witham for Lincoln. When once installed, Hugh, like Thomas of Canterbury, soon made it clear that he would become no tool in the hands of the king. Henry's chief forester was excommunicated for an offence against the church, and Hugh refused of bestow a vacant prebend on a courtier recommended by the king. The bishop was summoned to the royal presence, Henry instructing his courtiers not to salute him when he entered. Hugh found the king sewing a bandage round a wounded finger, and apparently so occupied as not to notice his approach. The bishop, not at all disconcerted, made some witty remark about the king reminding him of his ancestor of Falaise; whereupon Henry burst into laughter, and explained the joke to his courtiers. In the year 1198, in a council held at Oxford, Hugh and the bishop of Salisbury  p14 stood alone in opposing a grant for the king's foreign wars; "the saint of Lincoln, grown into an Englishman on English ground, spoke up for the laws and rights of Englishmen." Richard was furious, and ordered the confiscation of his property; but Hugh stood firm, and the king at last gave way. Yet this dignified assertion of his rights was not accompanied by an arrogant spirit. The miracles which in an ignorant and superstitious age, were attributed to many who had a reputation for piety, were strenuously disclaimed by him. Such was the man who, in 1186, became bishop of the vast diocese of Lincoln.

The building was in a most deplorable state, and Hugh had thus an opportunity of becoming, so to speak, the second founder of the church. He quickly resolved to commence the building entirely afresh from the foundations. The sum of money necessary for this purpose was large, and Hugh proposed to retire to Witham until the accumulated revenues of the see should reach the amount required. Although he was not permitted to do this, he often visited the little Somersetshire monastery, where he would remain for a month or two at a time, doing the duties of a simple monk, and practising all the austerities of the Carthusian order. For six years Hugh diligently collected the materials for carrying out his great scheme, and at last the foundations of a new choir were laid. The year 1192 marks an epoch, not only in the history of Lincoln Minster, and of English architecture, but in that of Gothic architecture generally. "What Diocletian did at Spalato for the round arch, Saint Hugh did at Lincoln for the pointed arch. . . . We have seen how, while the elder church of Remigius was rising in the stern grandeur of early Norman times, men were still found who clave to the older traditions of independent England. So, while its eastern limb was giving way to the new form which rose at the bidding of Saint Hugh, men were still rearing the naves of Peterborough and Ely, works which shew in their details some signs of the change which was beginning, but which, in their leading lines and proportions, vary not at all from the earlier works which they continue. St. Hugh was strictly the first to design a building in which the pointed arch should be allowed full play, and should be accompanied by an appropriate system of detail. . . . To  p15 Hugh of Avalon, neither from the West-Saxon nor the Ducal-Burgundian Avalon, . . . French and English forms would be alike foreign, and he doubtless gave full play to the taste of his architect, a taste which did nothing less than develop on the soil of Lindesey the first complete and great form of the third great form of architecture, the architecture of the pointed arch."​2 Who was this architect? What nation did he belong to? These questions are of considerable interest. The first it is easy to answer. In the "Magna Vita" of St. Hugh we read that the architect was Geoffrey of Noyers (Gaufrido de Noiers). The name certainly looks like that of a foreigner, but from a letter contributed by M. Viollet le Duc to the Gentleman's Magazine in May 1861, we must conclude that he was in all respects an Englishman, though doubtless of foreign descent. The letter contains such interesting remarks on the characteristic differences between French and English Gothic, that it may be worth while to quote it in full —

"I expected from what I had heard in England to find at Lincoln the French style of architecture, that is to say, some constructions of the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth which would shew the evident influence of a French architect. But after the most careful examination I could not find in any part of the cathedral of Lincoln, neither in the general design, nor in any part of the system of architecture adopted, nor in the details of ornament, any trace of the French school of the twelfth century (the lay school from 1170 to 1220), so plainly characteristic of the Cathedrals of Paris, Noyon, Senlis, Chartres, Sens, and even Rouen. The part of the cathedral of Lincoln in which the influence of the French school has been supposed to be found, has no resemblance to this. I speak of the choir. On the exterior the choir of the cathedral of Lincoln is thoroughly English, or Norman if you will: one can perceive all the Norman influence; arches acutely pointed, blank windows in the clerestory, reminding one of the basilica covered with a wooden roof; a low triforium; each bay of the aisles divided into two by a small buttress; shafts banded. In the interior, vaults which have not at all the same construction as the French  p16 vaults of the end of the twelfth century; arch-mouldings slender, and deeply undercut; the abacus round; the tooth-ornament; which do not at all resemble the ornaments which we find at Paris, Sens, St. Denis, &c.



"As to the large rose window of the north transept, which is said to have been executed between 1190 and 1200, without disputing that date, which appears to me rather an early one for it, I cannot consider it as a French composition. In the first place, I do not know a rose window of that period in France which is divided into four compartments; the centre of this window does not resemble the arrangement adopted in France; and as to the decoration with small roses which cover the mouldings, they are a very characteristic English ornament.

"Nowhere in France do we find between 1190 and 1200 pillars similar to those at Lincoln, with the crockets placed between the shafts; nowhere in France do we find crockets carved like these; nowhere shafts with hexagonal concave section; nowhere capitals or abacus similar to those of these pillars.

"Moreover, I confess that I cannot believe readily in the date of 1190 to 1200 for the different parts of this choir; but that the date of 1220, or 1210 at the earliest, seems to me to agree better with the architectural character. We have in Normandy, especially in the cathedral of Rouen and the church of Eu, architecture of the date of 1190; it is purely French, that is to say, it corresponds exactly with the architecture of the 'Isled France" except in certain details. At Eu, at cathedral of Le Mans, at Seez, we have architecture which resembles that of the choir of Lincoln, but that architecture is from 1210 to 1220, it is the Norman school of the thirteenth century. There is, indeed, at Lincoln, an effort at, a tendency to originality, a style of ornament which attempts to emancipate itself; nevertheless the character is purely Anglo-Norman.

"The construction is English, the profiles of the mouldings are English, the ornaments are English, the execution of  p17 the work belongs to the English school of workmen of the beginning of the thirteenth century."


Early English Pier.

Sir G. G. Scott was entirely in agreement with the eminent French authority on this point. And the matter was summed up by Precentor Venables in the following words:—​3 "Regarding the choir and eastern transept of Lincoln, as we are fully justified in doing, as an English work, great and peculiar interest attaches to it as the earliest dated example of pure Gothic architecture, without any lingering trace of Transitional feeling; the first perfect development of what is known as the Early English style. Other examples of this style might, it is true, were their dates known, prove to have been earlier in execution. But their exact age is unrecorded, and Lincoln stands the foremost of all whose dates we know. Its fully developed style makes the work at first sight, as Sir G. G. Scott has said, seem almost 'an anachronism,' and has caused some, especially M. Viollet le Duc, to imagine that it must be 'antedated.' But there is no building in England of which the precise age is more certainly known, and of the date of which the evidence is more indisputable. And one has ever doubted the early date of Bishop de Lucy's eastern chapels at Winchester. The commencement of these is placed by Professor Willis on documentary evidence in 1202, only ten years after the foundation of the Lincoln choir, while their character is even more advanced than that which is found at Lincoln. One leading characteristic of advance at Lincoln is the circular abacus of the columns, which is found throughout."

The work of St. Hugh at Lincoln is of such extraordinary importance to the student of architecture, that it may be well to closely follow an eminent authority in tracing the parts which date from this bishop's time. J. H. Parker, who remarked that the architecture of Lincoln Minster was his favourite study for thirty years, carefully investigated the matter, and the results were published in the 43rd volume of the Archaeologia. He says that "the work of the time of St. Hugh, A.D. 1192‑1200, is pure early English Gothic, and is the earliest building of that style in the world. The French have nothing so early, not even in the royal domain, which is usually cried up as the district of the earliest Gothic in  p18 the world. The best-informed French archaeologists admit that they have nothing of the character of Lincoln for twenty or thirty years after the time of St. Hugh. . . . The portion of the cathedral (erected by St. Hugh) consists of the choir . . . the aisles to it and the smaller or eastern transept, with the apsidal chapels on the eastern side of that, also two bays on each side of the chancel arch in the great transept; but the walls of the eastern side of that transept only — the two ends with the wheel windows not western walls of the transept are of later periods. The original work had thin walls only, with flat buttresses on the outside, and one of the elegant wall-arcades on the lower part of the inside, making the wall still thinner." Mr. Parker also considered that the vaults were later insertions, and that the original building had only a timber roof and a flat wooden ceiling. "When the vaults were added it was found necessary to make the walls thicker, and this was done by a casing on the inside; but the builders being unwilling to conceal the beautiful wall-arcade, made another similar to it in the lower part of the new inner wall, exactly like the earlier one against which it is built, but in such a manner as not to conceal it. This arrangement is proved by a flat vertical joint up the middle of the wall, . . . not content with this, when the vaults were inserted the architect also placed vaulting-shafts to help carry those of the aisles, and these descend to the ground. This accounts for the three shafts one in front of the other, which have so long been a puzzle to architects and to students of architectural history. The walls were further strengthened by solid square buttresses built up against the flat ones; these now strong buttresses receive and support the thrust of the vault of the choir, which is carried over the aisle by flying buttresses, with circular openings over the vault of the aisle, built against the inner flat buttress of the inner wall, which had been sufficient to carry the wooden roof, but would not have carried the vault."4

 p19  In addition to the work still existing, St. Hugh united the north and south limbs of his eastern transept by a most remarkable apse. To learn the character of this work we must again trace the foundations beneath the floor. In the year 1791 the choir and presbytery were repaved, when parts of the foundations of Hugh's apse were discovered. The Rev. John Carter, who was master of the Lincoln Grammar School at the time, made a sketch and notes of the discovery. The drawing was lithographed and published in the "Associated Societies' Reports" for 1857. Far more important revelations were made in 1886, when it became necessary to take up a portion of the pavement at the west-west end of the south aisle of the presbytery. Precentor Venables had long desired an opportunity of investigating on this spot, and readily gave permission to have the pavement removed, at the same time instructing that an effort should be made to find the foundations of the destroyed apse. The work began in November, and in consequence of the discovery of part of the south wall, it was decided to systematically proceed with the investigations. The result was highly satisfactory. A detailed account was published in the Archaeological Journal for 1887, vol. XLIV. From this it appears that the apse was almost in the form of a triangle, of which the apex was cut off by a short wall, so as to form a half-hexagon with two long sides, and a shorter one at the end. In each of the longer sides were two completes, the walls of one in the form of three-fourths of a circle, having a diameter of 18 feet, and the other, a smaller one, having straight side walls and rounded ends; a half-hexagonal chapel with an internal diameter of 23 feet occupied the centre of the apse at the extreme east. It was at first thought that the smaller chapels at the sides might indicate stair-turrets, which would occupy a similar position to those in the apse at Peterborough, but no trace of the foundations of a newel could be found in either case. The apse extended to the second bay of the present Angel Choir, 48 feet short of its eastern end. Throughout almost the whole of the investigations, only the rude concrete foundations were found remaining, their upper surface being about 16 or 17 inches below the existing pavement; in parts, however, fragments of the walling were also discovered.

The eight years during which Hugh carried on the work  p20 were busy ones at Lincoln. Contemporary records enable us to picture him encouraging the workmen by his presence and example, even shewing his zeal by carrying the stones on his own shoulders. He did not live to see his work completed, as Remigius had done. But he had set the example and given the pattern, and the work was continued by his successors until the building was again entire. Hugh had already finished the apse, the eastern transept, the choir, and part of the western transept (i.e. the whole eastern portion of the church) when he fell ill. Finding his death approaching, he sent for his architect Geoffrey de Noyers, and enjoined him to hasten the completion of the altar of St. John the Baptist, his patron. He then gave directions for his funeral, and instructions that he was to be buried in the mother-church of his diocese dedicated to the Mother of God, near the altar of St. John the Baptist. The personality of the great bishop comes vividly before us when we read that he also wished his tomb to be placed near the wall, in a convenient place, lest it should be a stumbling-block to those approaching. On the 16th November 1200, Hugh breathed his last, lying, as he had wished, on the bare ground, on a cross of consecrated ashes. "A more self-denying, earnest, energetic, and fearless bishop has seldom, if ever, ruled the diocese of Lincoln, or any other diocese whatever" (Dimock). His instructions regarding the funeral were carried out; but such a light as Hugh's could not be hid, and within a century we find his remains enclosed in a costly golden shrine, borne on the shoulders of kings and bishops, and placed at last in a structure erected specially for their reception, "one of the loveliest of human works," the celebrated Angel Choir. The original place of Hugh's burial has been somewhat disputed. The "Magna Vita" tells us that he was buried near the altar he had named, "a boreali ipsius aedis regione." On the east side of the eastern transept, Hugh had placed four apsidal chapels, two north and two south of the central apse. From the words above quoted, it has been considered that the northernmost of these chapels was the site of his tomb. The chapel was greatly enlarged about twenty years after Hugh's death, by the removal of the apse and the extension of the side walls about 50 feet, the chapel being finished with a square east wall.5  p22 This fact would certainly add support to the theory that Hugh was buried here, the enlarged chapel forming a sort of intermediate stage between the narrow apse and the splendid Angel Choir. But Mr. T. J. Willson has pointed out​6 that this place was hardly large enough to be a chapel at all, especially as it had a doorway in the north wall, leading from the common room. He considers that the altar of St. John the Baptist was in the central chapel of the great apse, corresponding to its later position in the Angel Choir, and that the coffin found in the north side of this chapel, when the pavement was removed in the year 1886, was the original tomb of St. Hugh. The words "a boreali ipsius aedis regione" would then refer, not to the northern side of the church, but merely to the northern side of the chapel in which the bishop was buried. Mr. Willson's assumption certainly throws light on one difficulty, that the northern chapel was called by Bishop Sanderson and others "capella beatae Mariae Virginis." The matter is of no great importance, since neither of the chapels exists as it was at the time of Hugh's burial, and whichever of them contained his remains, it did not hold them long. Roger de Hoveden records that King John, on the day before the funeral, offered a golden chalice at the altar of St. John the Baptist, quod est in novo opere.

Of all the great names connected with Lincoln, none are worthy of higher honour than that of the sainted bishop, whose zeal and energy has left so conspicuous a mark on the present fabric, whose shrine was a continual source of revenue for more than three centuries, and whose memory will be revered as long as the walls of Lincoln Minster shall stand.

Although it is somewhat uncertain where the bishop's body was laid, some interesting details of the ceremony have been recorded. Hugh having died in London, the hearse travelled by road to Lincoln, where it was met by King John himself, attended by a numerous retinue of counts and barons. Three archbishops and thirteen bishops were also present at the ceremony. The body was borne by the king and his nobles to the entrance of the minster,  p23 where it was received by the archbishops and bishops, who carried it on their shoulders to the choir. The entombment took place next day (24th November). O quantus luctus omnium, O quanta lamenta, praecipue clericorum.

An old legend relates that, at the burial of St. Hugh,

"A' the bells o' merrie Lincoln

Without men's hands were rung,
And a' the books o' merrie Lincoln

Were read without man's tongue;
And ne'er was such a burial

Sin' Adam's days begun."

The work of St. Hugh at Lincoln is chiefly of importance as marking an epoch in the history of Gothic architecture. As the earliest known example of the pointed style carried out consistently in its details, the choir of Lincoln Minster cannot be too carefully studied. Close attention will, of course, make more evident its defects; the stone vault, which has the appearance of being all askew, is especially unsuccessful, but the perfection of the Angel Choir could not be attained all at once, and the faults of the earlier work serve but to emphasize the beauties of the later.

At Hugh's death the work did not lie neglected long, if at all. A letter was issued in December 1205, appealing for help on behalf of the novum opus at Lincoln. The "Brotherhood of the Church of Lincoln" was offered to those who would contribute; in this way they became enrolled for a certain number of years among those who were especially named in the prayers of the church. The western transept was completed during the early years of the thirteenth century, and the nave constructed, replacing the Norman work of Remigius. The designers here profited by the experience of the past. The vaulting shews a great improvement, and the whole work is of such superior skill as to earn the high praise of the late Professor Freeman, who says that "there are few grander works in the style of the thirteenth century than Lincoln nave, few that shew greater boldness of construction and greater elegance of detail." The nave appears to have been carried steadily onwards to the completion of the first five bays, at which point a curious irregularity is perceptible. The vault suddenly falls two feet lower, and its axis is turned slightly northwards, ultimately falling in with  p24 the old west front. The span of the last two bays is also lessened. Perhaps a slight error was made in the direction of the nave at first, which became more evident as time went on, so as to necessitate the change. It has, however, also been suggested that the first intention may have been to remove the west front of Remigius altogether, and to build another at a somewhat different angle farther westwards. If this was the case, economical reasons probably occasioned the change of design, and secured the preservation of a most interesting relic of Remigius' church. It should be remarked that some authorities consider these narrow bays to be no later than the others, and that the work was carried on at both ends of the nave simultaneously, finally meeting towards the middle. There is no document remaining which records the precise date of the erection of the nave at Lincoln, but it would not be difficult to shew that the first half of the thirteenth century practically covers the whole period of its construction. Very little, if any at all, can have been built before the death of St. Hugh in the year 1200, and it was undoubtedly finished before the Angel Choir was begun in 1255. Precentor Venables mentions that Bishop Hugh de Wells, in his will dated 1233, bequeaths 100 marks to the fabric of his church at Lincoln, as well as all the felled timber of which he might die possessed, through all his episcopal estates. He draws the conclusion that the legacy of so large a quantity of timber points to there being a good deal of roofing going on at the time. A new central tower was also begun about this time; it fell in 1237‑9, and was replaced by a third, which still stands.

As the new nave was approaching completion, the bishopric of Lincoln was conferred on a man who was destined to play a part second only to that of St. Hugh in the history of the diocese. It has been said that probably no one had greater influence on English thought and literature for the next two centuries than Robert Grosseteste, the friend of Roger Bacon. It is to Grosseteste that Tyssyngton refers when he speaks of "Lincolniensis, cujus comparatio ad omens doctores modernos est velut comparatio solis ad lunam quando eclipsatur." Of humble birth, Grosseteste rose to be one of the greatest scholars of his day, and the boldest defender of the rights and liberties of the Church of England. In  p25 the first year of his episcopacy (1235) he visited the monastic establishments of his diocese, and found it necessary to remove no fewer than seven abbots and four priors. Such a proceeding was, of course, much resented, but when the bishop meditated a still bolder stroke, and contemplated a Visitation of the cathedral, the opposition was brought to a climax. He says: "In my first circuit some came to me finding fault and saying, 'My Lord, you are doing a thing new and unaccustomed.' To whom I answered 'Every novelty which does good to a man is a blessed novelty.' " Grosseteste wrote a pamphlet in defence of his claim, in answer to which the cathedral body produced a charter, altogether a forgery, purporting to give authority to the dean to govern all things, requiring an appeal to the bishop only if his own discipline failed. The matter was referred to the Pope, and finally decided by a Bull of Innocent IV, in 1245, in the bishop's favour. Amongst his reforms was the suppression of the "execrable custom" known as the "Feast of Fools," when the "House of God" was turned into a house of joking, scurrility, and trifling." It was enjoined that the minster authorities should "by no means permit to be holden this Feast of Fools, since it is full of vanity and defiled with pleasures, in the church of Lincoln on the venerable feast of the Circumcision of our Lord. But there were troubles to come from higher quarters still; Grosseteste had put his hand to the plough, and was determined not to look back. Six years after his triumph over the chapter, he was temporarily suspended by the Pope for refusing to induct an Italian, ignorant of the English tongue, into a rich benefice in his diocese. In the year 1253, the Pope again required him to appoint an Italian (this time his nephew, Frederick di Lavagna) to a canonry, and he again refused. In spite of a sentence of excommunication for this offence, Grosseteste fearlessly continued his episcopal duties.

 p26  The new nave was completed during this episcopate. It soared high above the west front of Remigius, which had to be patched up in a most unfortunate manner before it could do duty under the altered conditions. The experiment was tried of putting a piece of new cloth upon an old garment, and, so far as appearance was concerned, it was a failure. The old Norman work was surround by a huge arcaded wall, dislocating the whole façade from the structure behind, and hiding the lower portions of the western towers. The deep recess in the centre was raised far higher, and finished with a pointed arch. The only piece of honesty about the new front was the gable in the middle, which certainly did follow the line of the roof. The wall was flanked by two octagonal turrets, each surmounted by a statue. Beyond the aisles of the nave, two chapels were erected on either side, enclosing the outside walls of the last bay of Remigius' church and together forming what might almost be called a third transept. On the south side of the minster, the canons' vestry was added to the eastern transept, and the Galilee porch to the western. Lastly, the lower portion of the magnificent central, or "Broad," tower was erected, taking the place of the tower which had fallen soon after Grosseteste's appointment.

W. Giles, Photo.]


(From a Water-colour Painting by Peter De Wint,
in the South Kensington Museum.)

Matthew Paris tells us a curious story that one of the canons of the minster was declaiming from the pulpit against the actions of Bishop Grosseteste; as he uttered the words "If we were to be silent, the very stones would cry out for us," the new central tower came crashing down, burying several people in the ruins. This catastrophe he assigns to the year 1239. The Chronicles of the Abbot of Peterborough record the event as occurring in the year 1237. There the accident is ascribed, with far greater probability, to the insecurity of the foundations (propter artificii insolentiam). The Annals of Dunstable give the same date as Matthew Paris. The fall of the tower crushed part of the vault of St. Hugh's choir, and injured some of the piers, which had to be reconstructed. We may be quite safe in assuming that the new tower was begun soon after, and the reticulated pattern which covers its lower part, both inside and out, may be taken as a mark of Grosseteste's work. The tower was afterwards made higher, and a timber spire added; but Grosseteste's tower was also finished with a spire of timber and lead; the stump of the  p27 central shaft may still be seen in the clock chamber. The ten-sided chapter-house, formerly attributed to St. Hugh, was constructed while the nave was in progress. It bears the characteristics of a later period than St. Hugh's choir, and since it is mentioned in the "Metrical Life of S. Hugh," written between 1220 and 1235, it could not have been erected after the latter date.

The bishop died in 1253, leaving the church again complete, though not quite as it is now. The cloisters had not been erected, nor the towers carried to their full height. The eastern end still retained the apsidal form given to it by St. Hugh, and of the demolition of this part of the building it is now time to speak. The fame of the bishop grew fast, and annually attracted to Lincoln a vast crowd of pilgrims seeking bodily or spiritual benefit. Twenty years after his death, a decree of Pope Honorius III announced his canonisation, and directed that the body should be removed to a more honourable place. Whether the immediate outcome of this was the extension of the semi-circular chapel at the north-eastern angle of the eastern transept, it is difficult to decide, but it is certain that before very many years had passed the fame of St. Hugh gave rise to the destruction of the apse which he himself had reared, and the demolition of part of the ancient city wall. This apse, did it still exist, would be the most remarkable eastern end of any cathedral in England; the one which replaced it is perhaps the most beautiful. Thus the Angel Choir of Lincoln was red to contain the shrine of one of Lincoln's noblest bishops, and one of England's greatest saints; whose lowly tomb, placed in a corner at his own desire, for fear of its being in the way, had become the resort of such a vast concourse of pilgrims as to require the transformation of the eastern arm of the minster. In 1255, licence was obtained from Henry III for the removal of part of the east city wall, which stood in the way, and in the next year the Angel Choir was probably begun. The work was carried on so rapidly, that within a quarter of a century the translation took place. The choir "was not, however, fully completed till the fourteenth century was well on its way. The work evidently lagged; episcopal appeals, letters of indulgence, and injunctions to the Rural Deans for its completion were issued by Bishop Oliver Sutton in 1297 and  p28 1298, and by Bishop John de Dalderby, at various dates between 1301 and 1314. In 1306 a contract for the 'novum opus' was entered into between the Chapter and Richard of Stow, or Gainsborough, 'cementarius,' the plain work to be done by measure, and the carved work and sculpture by the day."7

Richard of Gainsborough now lies buried in the cloisters of the minster. To those who have visited the Abbey of Crowland, on the southern borders of the county, the following statement by Sir G. G. Scott may be of interest. In speaking of the old ruined western front, he says that the details "are hardly to be surpassed, and are the more interesting as having been evidently the work of the architect of the eastern part of Lincoln Cathedral. Even the stone is from Lincoln" ("Lectures on Mediaeval Architecture," vol. I p194).

Like the choir of St. Hugh, the Angel Choir stands at the threshold of a new period in architecture. "The style is the earliest Geometrical, of which the triforium and windows are among the best examples in the world."​8 No hard-and‑fast line can be drawn, of course, between the different phases of English Gothic, and when we consider that the period during which the Angel Choir was being built includes the last years of the earliest style, and carries well into the style which followed, it is not difficult to reconcile the words of two eminent authorities on the subject. Fergusson says that "true geometric (window) tracery is . . . seen in perfection in the Angel Choir at Lincoln," whilst in Rickman's book we read that we have here the "richest . . . and latest work" of the Early English style. Both writers would undoubtedly agree that it is "one of the most beautiful examples of the best period of English art," "simply perfect in its proportion and details." It may be hardly necessary to remark that the name is due to the beautiful sculptured angels filing the spandrels of the triforium.

The 6th October 1280 was the proudest day in the history of the city. Perhaps never, before or since, has such an august assembly gathered within her walls. The body of the Saint of Lincoln was to be translated to the costly shrine in the centre  p29 of the Angel Choir. The ceremony was magnificent. Edward himself was present, and supported on his own shoulder the saint's remains as they were carried to their new resting-place; with him was his beloved queen Eleanor, whose effigy was so soon to be placed beneath the same roof. The king and queen were accompanied by Edmund, Earl of Kent, brother of Edward, and his wife; the earls of Gloucester and Warwick; the Archbishop of Canterbury; the bishops of Lincoln, Bath, Ely, Norwich, Worcester, Llandaff, Bangor, and St. Asaph; the bishop-elect of Exeter; and two hundred and fifty knights. The shrine, ornamented with gold and silver and precious stones, was raised on a lofty stone pedestal, and about thirty years after was protected by an iron grille, wrought by Simon the Smith. It is recorded that fastenings of the grille were still to be seen in the pavement at the middle of the last century, but all traces have now entirely disappeared. It must have been soon after the translation that the head was removed from the body, and enclosed in a metal case, enriched with gold and silver and precious stones. A keeper was appointed to guard the precious relic during the day, and two had this charge during the night. Yet, in spite of all such precautions, it was stolen from the church in the year 1364; the head was thrown into a field, and the case sold in London for twenty marks. The thieves were robbed of their ill-gotten gains on their way back, and were afterwards convicted of the crime, and hanged at Lincoln. The head was found and restored to the cathedral. The treasurer John de Welburne (d. 1380) either restored the old shrine or made a new one of the same materials. The accounts for many years of the receipts and expenditure at half-yearly opening, when the relics were exhibited to stimulate the offerings of the faithful, are preserved in the muniment room. At Pentecost 1364 (the year of the theft) the amount received was £36, 2s. 3d., and at Pentecost 1532 it had fallen to £2, 2s. 5d., a sure sign of the decline of relic worship. In the year 1540, this shrine shared the fate of so many other precious relics, finding its way to the melting-pots of King Henry VIII.

Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo.]


By the erection of the Angel Choir, the ground plan of the minster was completed almost as it is now. Since that time, the three towers have been raised to a greater height,  p30 the cloisters and library constructed, the minster yard protected by gates, and several alterations made in the details of the main building. In the year of the translation of St. Hugh's remains, Oliver Sutton succeeded Richard de Gravesend as bishop. He removed the canons' stable, which stood in close proximity to the minster, and began the erection of the cloisters, starting the work, as his registrar, John de Schalby tells us, by a gift of fifty marks from his own purse. Since Lincoln was a secular foundation, and was never the church of a monastery, there was no absolute need of the cloisters at all, but it is a pity, since they were undertaken, that the work was not more substantially done. Three walks still remain, after having been strengthened by buttresses, and finally reconstructed, owing to the insecurity of the original foundations; the fourth has quite disappeared, and has been replaced by a most incongruous structure, after the design of Sir Christopher Wren. The date of the cloisters can be given approximately; they are mentioned as being in progress in a letter of Bishop Sutton's, dated August 23rd, 1296, and such a flimsy structure would probably not take too long to finish. Up to this time the central tower still remained as it had been left by Grosseteste. But in the year 1307 Bishop Dalderby issued letters of indulgence for raising it to a greater height. The work was begun on the 14th March in that year, and was probably completed during the next four years, since in 1311 a question arose regarding the cords for two bells which had been lately hung in the tower. A tall spire of wood, coated with lead, was afterwards added. A Lincoln historian of the early part of the present century assigns this spire to Bishop Dalderby, but little reliance can be placed in his testimony, since he ascribes the companion spires on the west towers to the same bishop, and the upper storeys of these towers were not added until a century later.

During this episcopate occurred the trial of the Knights Templars in the chapter-house. A Bull of Pope Clement V, the creature of the French king, who feared the immense power of the knights, pronounced the suppression of the Order in the year 1309. The cruelties with which this was carried out abroad were avoided in this country. The English Templars were put under custody in London, lin, and  p31 York. From Lincoln the larger number were transferred to the Tower of London, but Bishop Dalderby was reluctantly compelled to preside at the trial of the others.

In order to trace the history of the walls and gatehouses protecting the close, it is necessary to go back a few years. Edward I had, in 1285, received a petition from the canons, praying that the close might be fortified. Their plea was, that it had become positively dangerous to attend the midnight services of the church, owing to the number of evildoers what thronged the precincts. The licence from the king in the year 1285 to the dean and chapter, giving them permission to erect the close wall, is still preserved at Lincoln. The wall was commenced, and in the thirteenth year of Edward II (1319), permission was given for the addition of towers. Double gateways were erected to guard the approaches. Before we come to speak of the upper storeys of the western towers, a few less important matters may be recorded. It is not difficult to see that the tracery which fills the round window, "the Bishop's eye," of the southern limb of the great transept, does not accord in style with its surroundings. The flowing lines mark a period subsequent to the geometrical forms of the Angel Choir, and later by more than a century than the wall in which the window is placed. This window and that in the gable above, the latter only to be seen from the outside, must be assigned to about the middle of the fourteenth century. About this time, Lincoln received a treasurer, who has left abiding traces in the minster. John de Welburne has already been mentioned as having restored the precious shrine of St. Hugh. Perhaps the greatest of his benefactions are the present magnificent choir-stalls, the finest examples in the kingdom. He also constructed the vaulting of the central and western towers, and placed over the great west door the respectable row of royal statues. Welburne died in the year 1380; this we learn from a volume relating to his chantry and other foundations, written in 1382. The tracery of the three west windows has been assigned by some to him, and by others to a bishop who lived more than half-a‑century later. They may be considered as belonging to the end of the fourteenth century, and mark the entrance into the next stage of Gothic architecture, the Perpendicular. The two western towers, St. Mary's and  p32 St. Hugh's, had been awaiting their completion for many years. They were now raised to a height of nearly 200 feet, by the addition of early Perpendicular storeys, constructed immediately above the Norman work of Alexander the Magnificent. These towers, as well as the centre one, were crowned by tall spires of wood, coated with lead. The height of these timber spires was 89 feet from the base to the ball, and another 12 feet to the top of the vane; their fate will be recorded later.

Besides the three west windows, and the upper portions of the western towers, the only other parts of the minster in the Perpendicular style are the three chantry-chapels added to the Angel Choir. The first of these was built by Bishop Fleming (d. Jan. 1430‑1), and stands on the north side. Bishop Russell (d. 1494) added another opposite to it on the south side. The third chapel was constructed by Bishop Longland (d. 1547). It is a copy of Bishop Russell's, and stands on the same side of the choir, to the west of the doorway. The old library, of which a fragment only remains, was erected in the year 1442 over the east walk of the cloisters. In the year 1609 it suffered severely from fire, and in 1789 all that remained was taken down, with the exception of the part forming a vestibule to the new library.

Turning from the building itself to the internal history of the minster, we find that, towards the middle of the fifteenth century, dissensions had arisen among the cathedral body, which, if not of such historical importance as the differences under Grosseteste, are of sufficient interest to be worth recording. They give considerable insight into the ecclesiastical life of the time. John Mackworth, the dean, was a man of violent temper. In 1435, having some difference with the chancellor, Peter Patrick or Partridge, he entered the church one day during vespers, attended by ten armed servants. The chancellor was dragged from his stall in the choir, brutally assaulted, and left in a wounded condition on the pavement of the church. It is said that over this affair the point was raised during the trial at Westminster, whether the Cathedral Close was in the county or the county of the city of Lincoln; the delinquents had been described as of the former, and since this was not legally correct, they escaped the punishment they richly deserved. Matters came  p34 to a crisis, and the chapter brought before the bishop, William Alnwick, forty-two charges against their dean. The following are sufficient to shew Mackworth's haughty temper:— He would not walk in processions in a straight line; he had fraudulently kept back from the chapter 25s. 8d.; he came to the chapter attended by armed men to the great terror of the canons; at vespers and prime he made the bell stop before the officiating priest had arrived, but made the choir wait for him, if he was late; he had pulled down part of the wall of the cloister to build a stable. The dean in return accused to chapter of appropriating to their own use the cloth bought out of the common funds of the church for clothing the poor. The matter was settled in 1439 by a "Laudum" of the bishop, who set himself the task of constructing a new body of statutes for governing the church; these are still in us. Dissensions, however, did not end here, and we find a complaint made to the bishop four years later, that the dean had, in the choir, called the precentor a "buffoon" and a "vile tailor," and had offered personal violence to him. In 1449 the bishop issued a commission for the trial of the dean, but died before it could take place.

Before speaking of the grievous losses which the minster sustained under Henry VIII, it may be well to refer to a Visitation which was undertaken by Bishop Smyth in the first year of the sixteenth century. The charges then brought against the dean, George Fitzhugh, shew the deplorable negligence of the cathedral body with regard to the sacred building under their care. The dean stated that all was right in the cathedral, but from the following statements it would appear that there were several abuses which might with advantage have been corrected. It was affirmed (1) that the chaplains often resorted to a chantry within the church, and there played at dice, bones, and cards in questionable company, often staying till after midnight; (2) that the servants of the dean and other residentiaries did great mischief to the fabric of the church, by breaking the glass windows and the stone tracery with their arrows and crossbow bolts, and by piercing lead on the roof with their missiles. In the examination that followed it was found that, though large sums had been spent on the fabric, there was still urgent need of further repairs, and an appeal to  p35 the public was necessary. We may well be grieved at "the great mischief" done at this time, which would partly account for the dilapidated state of some of the stained glass windows; but the minster was to suffer far more severely under Henry VIII. In the Chapter Acts of 1520 we find mentioned the "head of seint hugh closed in silver gilt and enamelled." The treasure belonging to it is also carefully detailed, down to "a littil blew stone" and "ij qwysshyns of silk." Thus zealously had it been guarded every since the mishap of 1364, but its doom was now pronounced. At the end of a "Registre and Inventarye of all Jewell Westimentes and oh ornamentes in the yere of owr lorde god m.cccc.xxxvj," is "A Copye of the Kinges Lettres by force whereof the shrynes and other Jewels were taken" [1540]. Part of the letter may be given here: "For as moch as we understand that there ys a certain shryne and divers fayned Reliquyes and Juels in the Cathedrall church of Lyncoln with which all the symple people be moch deceaved and broughte into greate supersticion and Idolatrye to the dyshonor of god and greate slander of this realme and peryll of theire own soules,

"We Let you wyt that we beinge mynded to bringe or lovinge subiectes to ye righte knowledge of ye truth by takynge away all occasions of Idolatrye and supersticion. For ye especiall trust and confidence we have in yowr fydelytyes, wysdoms and discrecons, have and by theis presentes doe aucthorise name assign and appointe you fowre or three of you that immediatelye uppon the sighte here of repairinge to ye sayd Cathedrall church and declaringe upon ye Deane Recydencyaryes and other mynisters thereof the cause of yowr comynge ys to take downe as well ye sayd shryne and supersticious reliquyes as superfluouse Jueles, plate copes and other suche like as yow shall thinke by yowr wysdoms not mete to contynew and remayne there, upon the wych we doubte not but for ye consideracons rehersed the sayde Deane and Resydencyaryes wth other wyll be conformable and wyllinge thereupon, and so yow to procede accordingly. And to see the sayd reliquyes, Juels and plate safely and surely to be conveyede to owr towre of London in owr Jewyll house there chargeing themr of owr Jewyls wth the same.

 p36  "And further we wyll that you charge and comande in owr name the sayd Deane there to take downe such monumentes as may geve any occasioñ of memorye of such supersticon and Idolatrye hereafter. . . ."

Underneath is the following "memorandum," proving how great was the treasure possessed at that time by the authorities of the minster:— "Memorandum that by force of the above wrytten comyssyoñ there was taken owt of ye sayd Cathedrall church of Lyncoln at that tyme in gold ijmvjcxxj oz (2621 oz.), in sylver iiijmijciiijxx.v oz (4285 oz.); Besyde a greate nombre of Pearles & preciouse stones wych were of greate valewe, as Dyamondes, Saphires Rubyes, turkyes, Carbuncles etc. There were at that tyme twoe shrynes in the sayd Cath. churche; the one of pure gold called St Hughes Shryne standinge on the backe syde of the highe aulter neare upon Dalysons tombe, the other called St John of Dalderby his shryne was of pure sylver standinge in f ye south ende of the greate crosse Ile not farre from the dore where f ye gallyley courte ys used to be kepte."

Harry Lytherland was the last treasurer of Lincoln. As he saw the last of the treasures carried away, he cried "ceasing the Treasure, so ceaseth the office of the Treasure," and flinging down the keys on the pavement of the choir, he walked out of the church. This occurred on the 6th June 1540; Lytherland never sat in his stall again. Of the risings in 1536, resulting from the religious changes, Lincoln was one of the chief centres. The Lincolnshire insurgents, assembled at Horncastle, sent six demands to the king, the last being that Bishop Longland should be deprived. The Chancellor of Lincoln was captured and conveyed to Horncastle, where he was killed, and his garments and money were distributed among the rebels. The Abbot of Barlings rode into Lincoln with his canons in full armour. A number of insurgents gathered in the city, and the bishop's palace was attacked and plundered. The rebel council was sitting in the chapter-house when the messenger arrived from the king. His answer was characteristic; he reproved them for "their presumptuous follie and rebellious attempt," called the shire "one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm," and summoned the people to depart quickly to their homes. An attempt on the part of the gentlemen to read the letter secretly caused a panic  p37 among the commons, who decided to kill them all. The gentry hurriedly escaped into the chancellor's house, where they barricaded the door. Shortly after, the commons, deserted by their leaders, and "each mistrusting the other, who should be noted the greater meddler, suddenlie . . . began to shrinke, and got them home to their houses without longer abode" (Holinshed's "Chronicles"). On the arrival of a royal force, the cathedral was "turned into an arsenal, fortified and garrisoned." Lord Hussey, a prominent Lincolnshire noble, was executed, and the Abbot of Barlings was hanged, together with the Abbots of Whalley, Woburn, and Sawley. Another event which occurred towards the end of the same reign should not pass unnoticed. Anne Askew was a member of an old Lincolnshire family, being the daughter of Sir William Askew or Ayscough; her birthplace was probably Stallingborough, near Grimsby. "When she was at Lincoln," we are told, "she was seen daily in the Cathedral reading her Bible, and engaging the clergy in discussions on the meaning of particular texts." Her bold opinions at last brought her to the stake in 1546, at the age of twenty-five, a martyr to the doctrines of the Reformation.

A few possessions of value appear to have survived the reign of Henry, but these were sacrificed to the rapacious greed of the unscrupulous minsters of his son and successor. The following statement occurs in "An Historical Account of the Antiquities in the Cathedral Church of St. Mary, Lincoln," published in that city in 1771:— "A second Plunder was committed in this Church Anno 1548, during the Presidence of Bishop Holbech, who being a zealous Reformist, gave up all the remaining Treasure which Henry had thought proper to leave behind; this Bishop together with George Henage Dean of Lincoln, pulled down and defaced most of the beautiful Tombs in this Church; and broke all the Figures of the Saints round about this Building; and pulled down those of our Saviour, the Virgin, and the Crucifix; so that at the End of the Year 1548, there was scarcely a whole Figure or Tomb remaining." Henry Holbeach became Bishop of Lincoln in the year of Henry VIII's death, and soon after that event he surround to the Crown twenty-six (or according to Strype thirty-four) rich manors belonging to the see. He died at Nettleham in 1551.

 p38  Passing on to the beginning of the next century, a fire which broke out in the year 1609 partly destroyed the old library over the east walk of the cloisters; little further damage appears to have been done.


The turbulent times of the Civil War were disastrous for Lincoln in common with so many other places. An account of the troubles which the struggle brought upon the city is given by Mr. Edward Peacock in the thirty-eighth volume of the Archaeological Journal. The shire appears to have been distinctly Puritan, and up to July 1643, at any rate, the city was in the hands of the Parliamentarians. John Vicars, the author of "Jehovah Jerah. God in the Mount or England's Parliamentarie Chronicle," printed in London in the year 1644, gives an account of an unsuccessful attempt of the Royalists to capture the city about that time. "And as proeme and preamble to the ensuing tragedie or treacherie, Serjeant Major Purfrey had let into the town, at a back gate, about sixty bloodie cavaliers, all of them disguised in countrie marketmen's habits, who were all hid and sheltred (as it was credibly enformed) in the Deane's house in Lincolne." The attempt was unsuccessful, but the city soon after fell into the Royalists' hands, an event of unhappy interest for our subject, as it gave rise to an attack (in April of the following year) of the Parliamentarians under the Earl of Manchester. The capture of the city was soon followed by the mutilation of its most glorious monument. Through the misguided zeal of the rude soldiers of the Parliament, the stained glass of the minster was nearly all broken, the tombs were injured, and the brasses torn from their matrices. It should be yet remembered that considerable damage had already been done under Henry VIII, and even earlier, and that the injuries of 1644 were not so great as it might appear at first sight. Lincoln was again attacked by the Royalists in 1648, when the bishop's palace was stormed and taken, and the city given over to plunder. In a description of the minster, published in 1771, the following account of the injury is given:— "Bishop Winniff had little Enjoyment of his Honor in presiding over this See; for in the Year 1645 . . . he had the Mortification to see all the Brass Work of the Gravestones pulled up, the rich Brass Gates to the Choir and divers of the Chantries pulled down,  p39 and every remaining Beauty defaced; and his Church made Barracks for the prevailing Parties in that unhappy Reign, and his Episcopal Palace totally destroyed, both at Lincoln and Buckden."

During the time of the Commonwealth, the minster passed through a crisis such as it had never before experienced, and such as we may hope it will never experience again. "Certain godly ones," we are told, were "then gaping after its stone, timber, and lead," and the minster was in great danger of being demolished altogether. This fact has been recorded by the late Precentor Venables, who states that the fabric was "only rescued from threatened destruction by the civic worthy, Mr. Original Peart (Mayor in 1650 and Member of Parliament in 1654 and 1656), who represented to Cromwell that 'if the minster were down Lincoln would soon be one of the worst towns in the county.' "

Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo.]


In 1654, on the 19th August, Evelyn visited the city. He has left to us in his Diary an interesting record of the Lincoln of the Commonwealth:— "Lincoln is an old confused town, very long, uneven, steep, and ragged, formerly full of  p40 good houses, especially churches and abbeys. The minster almost comparable to that of York itself, abounding with marble pillars, and having a fair front (here was interred Queen Eleonora, the loyal and loving wife who sucked the poison out of her husband's wound); the abbot founder, with rare carving in the stone; the great bell, or Tom, as they call it. I went up the steeple, from whence is a goodly prospect all over the county. The soldiers had lately knocked off most of the brasses from the gravestones, so as few inscriptions were left; they told us that these men went in with axes and hammers, and shut themselves in, till they had rent and torn off some barge-loads of metal, not sparing even the monuments of the dead; so hellish an avarice possessed them: besides which, they exceedingly ruined the city."

At the Restoration, Robert Sanderson was rewarded for his long faithfulness to the royal house yt bishopric of Lincoln. He had been a chaplain to Charles I, who is reported to have said, "I carry my ears to hear other preachers, but I carry my conscience to hear Dr. Sanderson."

Sanderson died in 1663. Four years later, William Fuller, the antiquarian, was appointed bishop. "He bestowed very much in adorning his church," and restored many of the monuments and inscriptions.

Fuller's efforts at restoring something like order to the grievously ill-used fabric were seconded by those of Dean Honywood, who in 1674 caused the present arcade to be constructed on the north side of the cloisters, with the library above it. Sir Christopher Wren, the architect, did not take the least care to let his work harmonise with its surroundings. From the times of Fuller and Honywood to our own, there have been many whose energy has led them to undertake various works in and about the minster. Some have undoubtedly worked with mistaken zeal; but, taken as a whole, Lincoln has escaped with less injury than many others of our public monuments. In the year 1727 an attempt to remove the timber spires of the western towers, resulted in a serious riot (see p56), and the townspeople were only pacified by a promise that the spires should not be touched. No such disturbance occurred when they were finally removed in 1807, the excuse then being that they were very insecure, and would  p41 cost much to repair. But is seems that even at this time the removal was not entirely approved of; a lament, clothed in ridiculous rhyme, was published in the Gentleman's Magazine of January 1808, and a local writer two years later relates how the "lofty spires" were "levelled by tasteless inconsiderate improvers". Early in the 18th century the western towers began to shew signs of instability, and caused considerable anxiety. An architect named John James was employed about 1730 to strengthen the towers by constructing arches underneath, which formed a kind of triple porch just inside the church. The materials of the chapel of the old bishop's palace were employed in the construction of these arches. The central porch was reconstructed by James Essex about thirty years later. An anonymous historian of about forty years ago quotes the following extract from a letter written to Sympson, at one time clerk of the works to the fabric, to Browne Willis:— "Before I make an end of this long letter, I must acquaint you that I took down the antientº image of St. Hugh, which is about 6 foot high, and stood upon the summit of a stone pinnacle at the south corner of the west front, in the month of June last (i.e. 1743), and pulled down 22 foot of the pinnacle itself, which was ready to tumble into ruins, the shell being but 6 in. thick, and the ribs so much decayed, especially on the east side, that it declined visibly that way. . . . I hope to see the saint fixed upon a firmer basis before winter." The date of this work coincides with that of the appointment of Bishop Thomas (1743‑61), who appears to have zealously applied himself to the repair of the fabric. The historian of 1771 writes as follows:— "During the Presidence of Bishop Thomas, and towards the first of the present Bishop Dr. Green, over this See, this Church was repaired and modernised in the State which it is this Day seen. Also, during the Presidence of Bishop Thomas, he set on Foot the appropriating the tenth of the Fines arising from the renewal of the Leases of their respective Estates, as a Fund for the continual Repair of this Church, himself setting the Laudable Example."

The "scraping process" to which the exterior of the minster was subjected under the late John Chessel Buckler of Oxford is within the memory of many. It caused much angry dissension and bitterness at the time, and resulted in  p42 the publication of a book, in which Buckler undertook to justify his work on the minster. The chief part of this volume consists in long chapters of abuse, written with a most extraordinary flow of language, and directed against all who ventured to object to the way in which his work had been done.

Under the late consulting architect to the chapter, J. L. Pearson, R.A., many necessary strengthenings and restorations were carried out; but as no radical changes are in progress they do not call for detailed notice in this place.

[Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo.]


The Author's Notes:

1 Freeman, "Norman Conquest."

2 Freeman, "Norman Conquest."

3 Archaeological Journal, vol. XL p179.

4 These conclusions have been to some extent endorsed by Messrs. Francis Bond and W. Watkins, F.R.I.B.A.; but they are contested by Mr. John Bilson, F.S.A., who gives reasons for supposing that St. Hugh's choir was vaulted from the first. See a voluminous correspondence on the subject in vol. XVIII of the Royal Society of British Architects (1911). — [Ed.]

5 The chapel was reconstructed according to its original form in 1772.

6 Archaeological Journal, vol. LI p104.

7 Venables, Archaeological Journal, vol. L.

8 Professor E. A. Freeman, "York, Lincoln, and Beverley."

Thayer's Notes:

a Newport Gate: For a good photograph and more specific discussion of this Roman gate, see Chapter 3 of Romano-British Buildings and Earthworks by John Ward.

b In the translation by H. T. Riley at Elfinspell, p175.

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