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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.

This text has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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 p43  Chapter II


The external beauty of Lincoln Minster is rendered doubly impressive by the dignity of its position. While so many of our cathedrals are at a disadvantage in this respect, the site at Lincoln, as at Durham and Ely, was most happily chosen. Had it been less exposed, the spires would probably have yet been standing, but these are a small loss compared with the advantages gained. Especially when glowing with the rays of the setting sun, the three noble towers, each a conspicuous object for miles around, create an impression not soon forgotten. The distant view of the minster has inspired the enthusiastic utterances of many writers; but it may be enough for us to describe it in the words of one of the most eminent among them. "Throughout a vast district around the city," says Freeman, "the one great feature of the landscape is the mighty minster, which, almost like that of Laon, crowns the edge of the ridge, rising, with a steepness well-nigh unknown in the streets of English towns, above the lower city and the plain at its feet. Next in importance to the minster is the castle, which, marred as it is by modern changes, still crowns the height as no unworthy yoke-fellow of its ecclesiastical neighbour. The proud polygonal keep of the fortress still groups well with the soaring towers, the sharp-pointed gables, the long continuous line of roof, of the church of Remigius and Saint Hugh."

Such words need no comment; it only remains to point out the positions from which the minster is seen at its best. The view from the opposite side of the river, in a south-easterly direction, is good. The long straight line of roof is broken by the bold projection of the transepts; the faultiness of the west front is not apparent, and the grouping of the three towers with their numerous pinnacles appears to advantage.

 p44  The view from Brayford, too, is fine, although in this case the foreground is perhaps not so picturesque as it might be. From nowhere does the minster look more imposing than from the towers of the castle; a water-colour by Frederick Mackenzie (see p53), painted from the roof of "Cobb Hall," admirably illustrates this. For a closer prospect, the best position is undoubtedly the north-east corner, especially when the sun is setting behind the western towers. Lastly, the view from the High Street, beyond the Stonebow, should not be forgotten.

The minster is built of Lincoln stone, a hard limestone, well capable of resisting the action of the weather. It yet remains to be proved whether the fast-increasing number of tall smoking chimneys will have the undesired effect of blackening the exterior and destroying the sharpness of its lines.​a

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Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo.]


The West Front is massive and imposing, and possesses some features of considerable interest; beyond this, little can be said for it, as it is architecturally somewhat of a sham. Why the architects threw away the opportunities they had, and finished off the western end of the church with an enormous screen wall, it is now difficult to say. The Norman front was originally furnished with three gables, one in the centre, following the line of the old nave roof, the others in front of the Norman towers, and similar to those which may still be seen on the outer sides of these towers. The greater height of the Gothic nave necessitated the raising of the central gable, and this was done; but instead of preserving the gables in front of the towers and adding two more for the side chapels, a huge flat wall was constructed, masking the lower parts of the towers, and altogether hiding the western chapels. The result is that the towers appear too close together, and lose all connection with the façade, which should rather set off their proportions than conceal them. There seems, too, no reason for the great width of the façade, until one passes round and sees the low side-chapels hidden behind it. Turning, however, to details, there are points which are deserving of close attention. The severe and strong wall in the centre, with a fragment of the first bay behind it, is the only part which now remains of the first Cathedral of Lincoln. In gazing on this massive work, so fortress-like and forbidding, we are reminded of the warrior-bishop  p47 who first chose this spot for his cathedral, making it so solid and strong, that it was at one time seized and fortified, under circumstances already related (p11). The great central recess has been heightened several feet, but the two side-recesses and the lofty semi-circular niches beyond remain almost as Remigius left them. It is probable that the plainness of this bishop's work was originally relieved by colouring. The slits in the jambs of the great arches and on the front serve to light the passages and chambers, which are constructed in all directions within the thick walls of this part of the façade. The original use of these chambers cannot very well be determined; they are accessible only from the inside of the minster, and may be reached from the sills of the great west windows. There is a great difference in style between the features of this wall and those of the three elaborate doorways with which it is pierced. They are assigned to Bishop Alexander the Magnificent, and have been called by Sir G. G. Scott "truly exquisite specimens of the latest and most refined period of Romanesque, just before its transition into the Pointed style." The central doorway has four columns on either side, carved with diaper ornament and grotesque figures; elaborate mouldings are carried round the arch. The side doorways are of similar style, but with three columns instead of four to support the arches. Some of the ornament was restored between thirty and forty years ago by the architect, J. C. Buckler of Oxford, partly to take the place of the plain pillars inserted by Essex a century before, and partly to replace decayed work. The arcade of intersecting arches along the top of the Norman front is also assigned to Bishop Alexander. It has been pointed out that this bishop's work may be distinguished from that of Remigius by its being fine-jointed, whilst the other is wide-jointed. A most interesting, though perplexing, band of sculpture runs horizontally across the front; it commences just above the side niches, and is continued in the jambs of the great arches. It is most probable that the sculptures originally formed a consecutive pictorial illustration of many of the chief incidents recorded in the Old and New Testaments, but they are in no order now, and there is no doubt that they have at some time or another been rearranged — or rather disarranged. The rarity of such work as this greatly increases the importance of these Lincoln sculptures. They have been considered by  p48 some to be of Saxon origin, and either to have belonged to the earlier church of St. Mary Magdalene, which stood on this spot, or to have been brought by Remigius from Dorchester. They do not, however, appear from their style to be earlier than the eleventh century, and since Remigius would have most probably arranged them differently, had they been specially sculptured for their present position, it is possible that they were inserted later than his time. That they were there not very long after, is proved by the fact that one relief on the south side of the southern tower is now enclosed in the Early English chapel, which we know to have been built before the middle of the thirteenth century. The sculptures are illustrated in the Archaeological Journal, vol. XXV, from photographs procured when the repair of the west front was going on. The subjects were at the same time identified by Archdeacon Trollope (afterwards Bishop of Nottingham). The band is about 3 ft. 6 in. in depth, and is protected by a plan cornice. The traces of paint still seen on some of the reliefs would lead to the conclusion that the whole series was once bright with glowing colours. Parts of the original reliefs are now represented by modern copies.

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S. B. Bolas & Co., Photo.]


Commencing over the northern niche, the first subject is the Torments of the Lost, who are seen in the clutches of demons; next is Christ standing at the jaws of hell, on the prostrate form of Satan. On the northern jamb of the recess are two more reliefs, one representing six saints, the other identified by Trollope as "Christ the Custodian of all faithful souls." Our Saviour is seated on a throne, holding a sheet before Him, in which are the souls of six personages; the symbols of the Evangelists appear at the corners. Opposite to these are two other reliefs; one represents Christ sitting at meat with the two disciples at Emmaus, the table at which the three figures are seated being placed beneath an arcade capped by turrets with conical roofs. This relief is in very good preservation, and the architectural features furnish a guide to the date of the series. The next subject is the Blessed End of the Righteous and the Torments of the Lost. On the front of the pier is a fragment of a draped figure. The next relief should be the first of the series; it represents Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise, and is placed on the southern jamb of the central recess. On the front of the pier are two  p51 men tilling the ground, probably typifying the Condemnation of Man to Labour, while the hand grasping a bag above would symbolise God's providing care for his people; along the top is a band of foliage. There are two reliefs on the jambs of the southern recess; the first is mutilated and obscure, but is probably intended for Hannah with the Infant Samuel, and Samuel announcing God's revelation to Eli. On the other side of the recess is Christ instructing a disciple, probably either Nicodemus or Peter. The three other reliefs, over the southern niche, are:— (1) The Building of the Ark: Noah is seen with a hammer, and another figure, probably one of his sons, with an axe, the ark being visible behind; (2) Daniel in the Lions' Den, this subject made conspicuous by a moulding all round it; (3) The Entry into, and Departure from, the Ark: to the left the ark is seen, with Noah, his wife, and three sons (?) inside, while a procession of animals in miniature is advancing towards the vessel; to the right of this are eight figures leaving the ark, with the Almighty Father beyond, apparently making the covenant with Noah. The last relief, hidden by the chapel at the south-west corner, represents the Deluge: three half-submerged figures are clinging to trees or rocks; the prow of the ark is seen to the left.

The Gothic arcading which covers the later portions of the façade varies considerably in detail; this is particularly noticeable on the north and south ends, where narrow lancet doors in deep porches give access to the western chapels. These porches were at one time walled up. They are not shewn in Hollar's plate in Dugdale's "Monasticon," nor in Wild's or Coney's plates of 1819. The chapels are lighted by the circular windows above the doors. It has been considered by some that the Gothic part of the façade is of different periods, and that St. Hugh commenced building here at the same time as at the eastern end of the church. Others have thought that the first idea was to do away with the old front altogether, in which case the enlargement would not have commenced until later. At any rate, we may be fairly sure that the Gothic portions were all constructed some time during the first half of the thirteenth century. We can get a little nearer than this with regard to the gable in the middle and the arch beneath it, where the trellis ornament is supposed to mark the work of Bishop Grosseteste (1235‑53). This bishop appears to have  p52 removed the central Norman arch, and to have carried the recess up to its present height, piercing the head with the cinquefoil window, outlined by a band of finely-carved scroll foliage. Rickman calls attention to the "exquisite workman­ship" of the mouldings of this window. The rest of the arch is filled with trellis-work, quatrefoils, trefoils and circles, while at the crown there is a large carved boss. In the spandrels are two niches with royal statues. The gable contains seven arches below, two of them pierced with windows. The two at the ends contain statues, and in the centre is a fragment of a carved subject. Above is another arch, over which are two angels with heads bent downwards. One of the Sloane MSS. in the British Museum contains certain "Observations" by Dr. Edward Brown in 1662.​b Speaking of the west front at Lincoln, the writer says that "almost at the top are four or five fine pictures, but broken down in the late troubles, but with small dexterity and by as bad a handicraft." The vast façade is finished off at the ends by two octagonal stair-turrets, capped by tall, pyramidal roofs. On the top of the southern turret is Bishop St. Hugh, with staff and mitre; on the other is the Swineherd of Stow, whose reputed gift of a peck of silver pennies towards the building of the minster has secured for his statue a position as exalted as that of the great bishop himself. The first statue is the original one, though it was once taken down and afterwards refixed on a firmer basis (see p41). The other is a copy of the original Swineherd, now preserved in the cloisters. The suggestion that this statue represents Bishop Bloet, the horn having reference to the bishop's name ("blow it"), is hardly worthy of serious attention. The row of canopies above the central door contains eleven royal statues, ranging from William the Conqueror to Edward III, the sovereign on the throne when the figures were placed there by Treasurer John de Welburne (d. 1380); they are all bearded, very similar to one another, and of the tamest possible character. They were originally coloured and gilt. There was a great outcry in the last century at the report that they had been removed to make room for a list of the subscribers to the iron railings which until quite recently enclosed the minster front. The following is a memorandum of Dr. Stukeley's, found in his copy of Browne Willis's "Cathedrals," when sold in 1766:— "In the beginning of 1753, the wicked chanter, Dr.  p55 Trimnell, of his own authority pulled down the eleven fine images of kings over the door of Lincoln Cathedral, to put up a foolish inscription of the names of the subscribers to the new iron rails." It is unlikely, however, that the statues were ever removed.

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F. G. M. Beaumont, Photo.]

(From a Water-colour Painting by Frederick Mackenzie,
in the South Kensington Museum.)

The tracery of the great windows in the three recesses may be considered to date from the end of the fourteenth century. The three massive oak doors studded with iron bolts and carved with Perpendicular tracery. The two statues of bishops, one on either side of the great central recess, are evidently restored. In 1796, in the Vetusta Monumenta, the statues are described as "lately put up, and had been in some other place before." They must have replaced earlier figures, since old engravings shew these places to have been occupied by statues. The parapet along the top of the façade belongs to the fourteenth century, and is similar to that along the south side of the nave.

It is worthy of mention that some critics have not been so severe on this façade as others. Setting aside absurd comparisons of the last century, the late Sir G. G. Scott has stated that it always struck him as being very impressive. From behind the parapet the two fine western towers look out of keeping. The gables on the west faces, by which the towers were originally connected with the old front, are now hidden from view, but three rows of Norman arcading of the time of Bishop Alexander (1123‑48) still project above the parapet. The details of the arcading differ in the two towers, and it will be noticed that the octagonal turrets at the corner were carried higher in the southern tower than in the northern. They seem to have remained as left by Alexander (most probably with pyramidal roofs) for two centuries and a half; Perpendicular storeys were then added to them. On each side of these upper storeys are two lofty windows, of which the lower parts are now walled up. The octagonal turrets at the corners were continued to the tops of the towers: they are crowned by wooden pinnacles, coated with lead, which are not nearly so graceful in appearance as those on the central tower, partly owing to the coating of dark paint with which they are covered. In the northern, or St. Mary's, tower was placed the original "Great Tom of Lincoln," as well as its successor, until removed in 1834, to be recast a larger size and hung in the  p56 central tower The southern, or St. Hugh's, tower, has a ring of eight bells. It is not known when, or by whom, the ring was formed, but the tower must have been used for bells very anciently. Until recently four of the bells were dated 1702, and the others 1593, 1606, 1717 and 1834; one was recast in 1895. The fifth bell is rung daily at morning and evening; at six in the morning, from Lady Day to Michaelmas, and at seven for the rest of the year; in the evening it is rung at eight all the year round. The day of the month is tolled after each ringing. These towers, as well as the central one, were originally coated with tall spires of timber, coated with lead. The central spire had been blown down in a gale nearly two hundred years before it was decided by the cathedral body to remove those on the west towers, the excuse being that they had fallen into disrepair. The work of destruction was commenced on the 20th September 1726 or 1727. As the citizens in the town below saw the workmen engaged in this way, cries of indignation were raised, and towards evening a crowd of 500 men assembled to prevent the removal of the spires. The main gates of the minster yard were secured against them, but the small postern on the south side was apparently forgotten. To this the besiegers turned their attention, and, rushing up the "Grecian" stairs, they soon battered down the gate, and entered the close. One of "Old Vicars," named Cunnington, appears to have suffered especially at their hands, whether he was the chief culprit or not. He is said to have been dragged from his house in the Vicars' Court, and compelled to dance on the minster green in the midst of the mob. The crowd only dispersed on the promise that the spires should be allowed to remain. The next day, the Mayor and Aldermen were requested by the minster authorities to send the bellman round the city with the following message:— "Whereas there has been a tumult, for these two days past, about pulling down the two west spires of the church, this is to give notice to the people of the city, that there is a stop put to it, and that the spires shall be repaired again with all speed"; "after which," we are told, "the mob with one accord gave a great shout, and said, 'God bless the King.' " The spires remained during the lifetime of these zealous townsmen, but their descendants seem either to have been more indifferent in the matter, or else to have been wanting in a similar courage, when the spires were finally  p57 removed in 1807. A foolhardy feat was performed in the year 1739 by a man named Robert Cadman, who "did fly from one of the spires of the minster, by means of a rope, down to the Castle Hill, near to the Black Boy public-house." Cadman met his death in the next year at Shrewsbury, while attempting a similar performance there.

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Plan of Lincoln Cathedral

On passing round to the south side of the minster, the artificial nature of the west front becomes plainly apparent. We now get a much clearer idea of what the Norman towers were originally like. The gable, with its intersecting Norman arcades and diaper-work, is doubtless similar to that originally on the western face. In front of the towers is St. Hugh's or the ringers' chapel, with its single window to the south. Next is the chapel used as the Consistory Court, with two windows facing south, and two others facing east. The gable of this chapel is worthy of notice. At the head of its tall central lancet is a grotesque figure, commonly pointed out as the "Devil looking over Lincoln"; there appears to be no satisfactory solution of the origin of this phrase. The most curious legend is that which describes the devil as still inside the minster, and afraid to come out for fear of being blown away! At the heads of the two side windows are sculptured figures which have been considered to represent pilgrims. The seven bays of the nave are indicated by stout buttresses with triangular heads carried up clear above the parapet of the aisle, over the roof of which flying buttresses are thrown. The clerestory windows are divided into groups of three, and the two windows in each bay of the aisle are separated by a slender buttress. The wavy parapet over the clerestory is of the fourteenth century, and above it stand six canopied niches for statues, with grotesque figures projecting from their bases. The cornice below has been restored at the eastern end, shewing the heads and bosses with which it appears to have been decorated for its entire length. The lofty panelled buttresses of the western side of the great transept are surmounted by tall pinnacles with niches. These pinnacles are of later date than the transept. A grotesque figure projects from each corner of their slender crocketed roofs.

[image ALT: A large stone church seen from the rear, with two massive square towers and one thinner and lower tower. It is the cathedral of Lincoln (England).]

At the south-west corner of this transept is the Galilee Porch. It will be remembered that the same name is also borne by two other celebrated structures in England, at Ely and  p58 Durham. Both of these are, however, at the western end of their respective churches. The origin of the name "Galilee" has had so many different explanations, that it would be tedious to give them here, but the name may have some reference to the room above the porch, in which the judicial Court of the Dean and Chapter was formerly held. The Galilee at Durham was built for women, who were not allowed to use the church. The porch at Lincoln was constructed about the year 1230, as a state entrance for the bishop, whose palace lay on the south side of the minster yard. The plan is in the form of a cross, and the porch may be entered at the south and west ends, both of which are open. An arcade of slender arches runs round the walls. At the end of the north limb the arches are open, and rest upon a low wall.

The two stone coffin-covers in the pavement do not appear to have been originally placed here; they apparently date from the twelfth or thirteenth century. The porch has a stone vault, with a profusion of tooth ornament on the groins and elsewhere. Someone has left it on record that there are 5355  p59 dog-tooth pyramids used in the decoration of the Galilee Porch alone. Two massive oak doors at the east end open into the transept; the doorway is richly carved with foliage and tooth ornament. In an engraving of the year 1672 this fine porch is shewn as walled up; it was used, in the last century, as a workshop for the plumbers of the cathedral. The ground round the minster has been considerably lowered in recent years, and in this way the proportions of the building are displayed to greater advantage. In Wild's plan of 1819, a flight of steps is indicated by which the Galilee Porch was entered, but the lowering of the ground has caused their removal. Above this porch is the room in which the Chapter Archives are carefully preserved. An account of these is given by the Rev. Prebendary Wickenden in the thirty-eighth volume of the Archaeological Journal. The cathedral plumbers seem to have been accommodated here after the porch below was reopened, until the year 1851, when the chamber was appropriated as the muniment room. For nearly a century before this the documents had been kept in what is now the singing-school over the vestry. The plan of the room is T‑shaped, and it is lighted by eleven lancet windows rising from the floor; the walls are covered with Early English arcading. The documents have suffered considerably from damp and neglect, and some of them still bear traces of the time when George Huddleston, a priest-vicar in the early part of the seventeenth century, kept pigeons in the muniment room. The two most precious documents are now preserved in the cathedral library: one of the few existing contemporary copies of the Magna Charta, and a copy, made in the early twelfth century, of the Charter of William the Conqueror for the transference of the see from Dorchester to Lincoln. A charter from Edward I, of the year 1285, is also preserved, by which permission is given to build walls round the close, and to shut the gates of the same at night. Lastly may be mentioned a series of Chapter Acts, nearly complete from 1305 to the present time, and audit accounts covering the same period.

The embattled parapet which surrounds the low modern roof is in the Perpendicular style, and is, of course, later than the structure itself.

[image ALT: A large stone church seen from the rear, with two massive square towers and one thinner and lower tower. It is the cathedral of Lincoln (England).]
Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo.]


From a point a little westward of the Galilee Porch, the Central Tower is seen to advantage. Its early name of the  p60 "Rood Tower," from the rood-screen which fills the easternmost of the four great interior arches supporting it, has been corrupted into "Broad Tower." Very excellent authority could be brought forward for calling this the finest central tower of any English cathedral. The height to the top of the corner pinnacles is 271 feet, an altitude which is exceeded by only two cathedral spires in England, those of Salisbury and Norwich. The tall spire of timber, covered with lead, which originally crowned this tower reached an altitude, it is said, of 525 feet; but this is doubtful. This spire was blown down during a tempest in January 1547‑8. The outside measurement of the sides of the tower is 54 ft. 6 in. This is not the first central tower of Lincoln. The original tower, of Norman work, was succeeded by a nova turris, which fell about the year 1237. The celebrated Grosseteste was bishop at the time, and the work of reconstruction would appear to have begun almost immediately. The lower part of the present tower, both inside and out, bears the peculiar lattice-work ornament which has been noticed in the gable of the west front. Here, as there, it may be considered  p61 a mark of Grosseteste's time. The tower was then carried as high as the top of the arcading just over the ridge of the nave roof, and a wooden spire was added. In this state it appears to have remained for at least half-a‑century. When the work was again taken in hand, in 1307, it was speedily completed, and by 1311 the tower was raised as high as we now see it. The two lofty windows which occupy each side of the upper storey, with their crocketed pillars and canopied heads, are extremely beautiful. At the four corners are octagonal panelled turrets, surmounted by wooden pinnacles coated with lead. The spire which fell in 1547‑8 carried the parapet with it. In February 1715 three of the pinnacles were blown down; their re-erection was completed in 1728. Nearly fifty years later, the dean wrote to James Essex, the architect, asking his opinion about the erection of a stone spire. He replied that the height was too great and the situation too exposed, but recommended, instead, battlements and four stone pinnacles. In 1775, Essex was employed to erect the present open parapet. The western side was blown down in December 1883, but, falling inwards, it did little damage, and was easily replaced. The following details concerning the tower are copied from a pocket-guide to Lincolnshire by the late Sir Charles Anderson, Bart. (third edition, revised by Canon Maddison), a most interesting book containing much useful information:— "It was a bold undertaking, and executed with marvellous skill, for, in order to lessen the additional weight without building strengthening arches below, which would have injured the interior effect, as at Salisbury and Wells, two thin walls are tied together at intervals, so as to leave a vacuum between, bound by squinches at the top corners. . . . Compared with the great Victoria Tower of Westminster, which, from many points of view, looks broader at the top than the bottom, the Lincoln tower is the perfection of symmetrical proportion; the reason is that it is gathered in about 2½ inches, 25 feet below the parapet, which shews upon what trifles, as they might be called, beauty and proportion depend." Wallcott describes this tower as "so full of state, and dignity, and majestic grandeur, that no church in England, or on the continent, can be cited in the same description."

[image ALT: missingALT]
F. G. M. Beaumont, Photo.]

(From a Water-colour Painting
by Frederick Mackenzie,
in the South Kensington Museum.)

Bells in the Central Tower.— The tower is the abiding-place  p62 of the present "Great Tom of Lincoln"; but before describing him and his companions, we must give an account of his predecessors of the same name in the north-west tower, as well as of the former occupants of his present abode. We find that in 1311 a question arose respecting new ropes for the two bells lately hung in the new tower. These were not the first bells possessed by the minster, as there is a record in the works of Giraldus Cambrensis of "duas campanas grandasº atque sonoras," given by Geoffrey Plantagenet, who held the temporalities of the see from 1173 to 1882. The number was afterwards increased to six, although it is not known when. They were called the "Lady Bells," and were rung for the minster service. The largest Lady Bell was tolled forty times at the shutting of the church doors every night, after which the searchers of the church partook of bread and beer provided for them under the watching chamber in the east transept; they then walked round and searched the church. When the Lady Bells were taken down in 1834, four were found to be dated 1593, one 1633, and one 1737. The original "Great Tom" was hung in the north-west tower. It is not known how it was acquired; some say it was a gift, others say it was stolen from the Abbey of Beauchief, Derbyshire, or from Peterborough. The origin of its name, too, has been a subject of dispute. Stukeley considered it possible that it had been consecrated to St. Thomas of Canterbury. Others think it took its name from that of the old bell of Christ Church, Oxford, which bore the curious inscription, In Thomae laude, resono Bim Bom sine fraude. It should be remembered that Oxford was in the diocese of Lincoln in olden days, and that several Bishops of Lincoln were chancellors of Oxford. Wherever the first "Great Tom" came from, it was recast in the minster yard by two bell founders from Nottingham and Leicester early in the seventeenth century, when the weight was increased from 8743 pounds to 9894½ pounds. "The bell was cast and hung upp and upon Sonday the xxvij of this month [January 1611] ronge owte and all safe and well." It was tolled until 1802, when it was found that this process shook the tower too much. The following extract from the Stamford Mercury of the 6th August 1802, is given by North in his "Church Bells of Lincolnshire":— "Great Tom o' Lincoln is to be rung no more! The full swing of four tons and a half is found to  p63 injure the tower where he hangs. He has therefore been chained and rivetted down; so that instead of the full mouthful he has been used to send forth, he is enjoined in future merely to wag his tongue." Towards the end of the year 1827  p64 experienced ears detected that something was wrong, and by Christmas it became plainly evident that the bell was cracked. It was finally decided to have it recast in a larger size. For this purpose it was broken to pieces with its own clapper, and sent to London. To provide the extra metal, the six Lady Bells were unfortunately sacrificed. The cathedral thus lost the distinction of being the only one in the kingdom possessed of two rings of bells. "Great Tom" was recast by Thomas Mears at the Whitechapel Bell foundry on the 15th November 1834. It was taken by road to Lincoln, drawn by eight horses, and raised to its new position in the central tower. Two new quarter bells, cast at the same time, were also hung in this tower. The number of quarter bells was increased in 1880 to four, one new bell being given by Mr Nathaniel Clayton, and the other by Mrs. Seely. The present "Great Tom" weighs 5 tons 8 cwts., is 6 ft. 0¾ in. high, with a circumference at the base of 21 ft. 6 in., and is in size the fourth bell in the kingdom. The hours are struck upon it with a hammer weighing 224 lbs.

The chief feature of the south side of the western transept is the beautiful round window, "the bishop's eye," with its delicate leaf-like tracery. From the outside, this window would look much better if it were a little higher up, but the reason of its position is sufficiently evident from the inside, where it is quite clear of the vault, while the admirable round window on the north side is spoilt by not being completely visible until you approach it very closely. Above "the bishop's eye" is a horizontal band of seven elaborately-carved quatrefoils, considered to have formed part of the tracery of the earlier round window. They are enough to shew that the window was different to "the dean's eye" at the other end of the transept. The window in the gable, though much too large for its position, is nevertheless worthy of notice on account of its fine flowing tracery, which was inserted, like that of the round window below, about the middle of the fourteenth century. This window is not visible from the inside. The gable is outlined by a curious band of open Gothic tracery, surmounted by a cross. This band was erected by the architect to the fabric, named Hayward, in the year 1804. It is a copy of the original (see old view, p21), constructed about the time of the insertion  p65 of the window below. This was blown down on the 20th January 1802. It fell at about eleven o'clock in the morning, but fortunately did little damage. It will be noticed that the two turrets are different: the western is octagonal and crocketed; the other is shorter, plainer, and four-sided. Near the top of the last buttress on the east side of the transept is a stone with the date 1746, apparently a record of restoration. The roof of the choir of St. Hugh, the earliest Gothic portion of the building, is somewhat lower than that of the nave; the clerestory windows are remarkably slender. The narrow buttresses are later additions, constructed to resist the thrust of the stone vault. In the corner of the east transept is a small stone flue from the old fireplace in the choristers' vestry; the buttresses, which appear above, pass right down to the ground, and are seen inside the vestry, clearly shewing this to be a later addition to the transept. Over this vestry is the room where the muniments of the chapter were kept until they were removed to the chamber above the Galilee Porch. The room they had occupied was then appropriated as a singing-school, and a small organ was erected in it, which is still there. The vestry is plain and unpretending, but it would have been a pity if, as was at one time proposed, it had been altogether removed. In 1854 it was thoroughly restored under the architect, J. T. Willson, when the present parapet was added. Underneath are seen the low windows of an old vaulted crypt, which was probably used as a treasury. The south face of the slender transept of St. Hugh looks very different to that of the western transept; its many windows leave but little wall space. First is a pair of lancets, then two rows of three above them, and lastly three narrow lights to fill the gable. On either side are two octagonal turrets, with pyramidal roofs surmounted by sculptured figures of angels. On the east side of the transept are seen the two semi-circular chapels of St. Hugh's design. On the buttress at the south-eastern corner of the transept are two sundials, with inscriptions, one being the familiar quotation from Martial — Pereunt et imputantur; the other is Cito aetas praeterit.

The Presbytery, or eastern limb of the minster, is the finest example of the best period of English Gothic.  p66 Its crocketed gables and pinnacles, its panelled buttresses, its elaborate tracery, and, above all, its wealth of sculpture, form a striking contrast to the simplicity of St. Hugh's work. The choir is divided into five bays, indicated by the boldly-projecting buttresses, once covered with statues; the canopies and pedestals still remain, within arches supported by tall clustered pillars with foliaged capitals. The buttresses are crowned by slender crocketed gables, at the bases of which grotesque figures project. One of these, an imp on the back of a witch (on the third buttress), serves, like the sculpture in the gable of the consistory court, for the "devil looking over Lincoln."

Both in the aisles and in the clerestory, broad windows, filled with elegant geometric tracery, take the place of the plain lancets seen in other parts. The most magnificent exterior feature of the eastern arm is undoubtedly the sculptured doorway on the south side. Leland, in the time of Henry VIII, writes: "there is a very faire Doore in the  p67 upper part of the Churche Southward to go into the Close, and againe this lyith the Byshop's Palace hangginge in declivio." It was probably constructed, like the Galilee doorway, as a state entrance for the bishop. The porch fills the third bay, and projects as far as the buttresses; its sides recede inwards to the pair of doors giving access to the Angel Choir. Although the doorways of our cathedrals, as a rule, cannot in any way be compared with the magnificent portals to be seen in France, yet this single example at Lincoln would be quite enough to prove that English architects were capable of designing a really magnificent doorway. In the tympanum is the subject of the Last Judgment in relief. A majestic figure of Christ the Judge occupies the central space, with an angel on either side swinging a censer. He is surrounded by a quatrefoiled  p68 aureole supported by angels. To the left, the dead are rising from their tombs, and are borne aloft by angels; on the other side demons are dragging the condemned down to the jaws of hell, which gape wide open beneath the Saviour's feet. The archivolt is richly decorated with sculpture. In the inner band is a row of niches with twelve seated figures, apparently kings and queens; next a double band of delicate open-work foliage; outside this a row of sixteen slender arches, separated by a central pillar having the canopy and base for a figure of the Virgin, which has been removed. On either side of the doorway is a triple canopy for statues, and behind this a row of slender columns with foliated capitals.

The hand of the restorer might well have spared this beautiful porch, where the question of the stability did not in any way arise. But, unfortunately, an attempt was made about thirty years ago to restore the mutilated figures, and further restorations are now [1897] being carried out. A cast of the headless figure of Christ, with the two angels at the sides, has recently been acquired by the South Kensington Museum. It is valuable as shewing the state of the central figure before restoration (see illustration, p67). It is believed that Essex also had tampered with this door in the last century. On the buttresses on either side of the doorway are four headless statues, resting on corbels supported by projecting figures.

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Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo.]


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F. G. M. Beaumont, Photo.]


(Taken before the Porch was restored.)

The two small chapels which stand to the right and left of the doorway are those built as chantries by Bishops Russell and Longland. The one on the eastern side is that of Bishop Russell (d. 1494). The mullions which run from top to bottom of the three windows, dividing them into vertical strips, are sufficient to mark this building as of the Perpendicular period. Between the windows there is only just room for the panelled buttresses which separate them. The embattled parapet, far more conspicuous and elaborate than one of an earlier period would have been, is covered with tracery, and broken by crocketed pinnacles. The whole shews on a small scale the extravagance into which Gothic architecture had lapsed, and contrasts unfavourably with the sober dignity of the structure to which this small chapel is attached. The other chapel to the west was built half-a‑century later by Bishop Longland (d. 1547).  p71 Although an imitation of Bishop Russell's, it shews points of difference both inside and outside. Leaving these chapels, we notice on the second buttress from the east a queenly figure. On the eastern buttress is a statue of Edward I, trampling on a Saracen, and by his side is his Queen, Eleanor of Castile, whose effigy is to be seen inside this choir.

The east end, in spite of its defects, is perhaps the finest in the country, and the broad expanse of the minster green offers exceptional opportunities for seeing this part of the building to advantage. An excellent general view may be had from the south-east, in the direction of Pottergate. The main feature is the magnificent central window in the geometrical Decorated style. Above this is another fine window of the same period. The latter looks somewhat awkward on account of its position, balanced, so the speak, on the apex of the window below; like the window over the "bishop's eye," it is far too large for the gable in which it is placed. In the trefoil over the top is a figure of the Virgin with the Infant Saviour, and on either side of the gable is a turret with a richly crocketed pyramidal roof. The aisle windows (the two which are filled with the beautiful early stained glass) look very small when compared with the giant central window, from which they are separated by panelled buttresses of bold projection. We have already noticed the insincerity of the west front of the minster, and the same charge must be brought against this eastern end, although the deception here is not so extensive. The two panelled gables over the aisle windows are shams; there is nothing behind them, and they appear to have been only designed for the sake of effect. The northern gable is higher than the other, and the tracery is not quite the same. An arcade runs right across the lower part of the front, beneath the three principal windows. Another short arcade is seen beneath the sham gables.

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Photochrom Co. Ltd., Photo.]


The hexagonal stone structure at the north-east corner, with a pyramidal roof, covers the minster well. This stonework is presumably not very ancient; in a view of Hollar's in Dugdale's "Monasticon Anglicanum," the well is covered by a wooden shed.

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H. C. Oakden, Photo.]


On the north side of the angel choir, the second bay contains the chantry chapel of Bishop Fleming (d. Jan. 1430‑1), which formed a model for the two chapels on the other side of the choir. The parapet is panelled, and the buttresses contain niches for small statues. In the next bay is a door leading into the choir; its position corresponds to the sculptured porch on the other side, but it is much smaller and plainer. One of the mouldings of the arch is of oak; in the tympanum is an aureole with a bracket for a figure. The doorway is divided by a central shaft, an addition of the latter part of the fourteenth century. The shield of arms in front of the capital is that of Richard II (1377‑99); quarterly, first and fourth, the mythical Arms of Edward the Confessor; second and third, the Royal Arms of England. The supporters are — dexter, a lion; sinister, a bull. It will be noticed that the next window of the aisle, and the buttress beyond it, are much plainer than the rest, left so doubtless to their having been to a great extent hidden by the walls of the lengthened chapel (see p20).

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S. B. Bolas & Co., Photo.]


In the year 1875 the ground round the chapter-house was lowered, and the foundations of the chapel were laid bare. They extend as far as the second buttress of the angel choir. A general idea of the appearance of this chapel may be had from a view of Hollar's, in Dugdale's "Monasticon." There were two windows in the east wall, and above these a blind arcade. The roof was pointed; its outline may still be traced on the transept wall.

Between this chapel and the vestibule of the chapter-house is the old common chamber, of which parts are now used as a lavatory. The position of the ten-sided chapter-house, like that of the neighbouring cloisters, is somewhat unusual. Two windows, with a lozenge-shaped panel above them, occupy each of the sides. The buttresses attached to the walls at the angles were originally crowned by pedimental gables, all but the two westernmost of which have been replaced by crocketed pinnacles of the Decorated period. The pressure of the stone vault, which was added some time after the chapter-house was built, necessitated the strengthening of the walls, which was done by means of flying buttresses attached to eight huge blocks of masonry, standing about 20 feet from the walls. The roof is pyramidal, and is surmounted by a cross. A guide-book of 1810 states that there was "originally a fine spire rising from the roof, but was taken down not  p73 long since, being greatly decayed." This apparently refers to an alteration made by James Essex in 1761‑2, when the roof was "reduced to an ugly hipped shape." It was again altered to its original form in the year 1800. A wall, which is shewn in early prints, between some of the outer buttresses was removed in 1806. On several of the buttresses the marks may still be seen of houses once built against them. These houses have now been all removed, and a delightful view of the minster has been obtained by clearing away all the dwellings which stood until quite recent years on the now vacant piece of ground beyond the chapter-house.

The north side of the minster is, to a large extent, blocked by the deanery, but a fine general view may be had  p74 from the road at the north-east corner, with the chapter-house just in front, surrounded by its massive supporters. The transept of St. Hugh, beyond this, is hidden by the chapter-house vestibule and the cloisters. At the end of the western transept is the circular window, the "dean's eye," with the large quatrefoil in the middle, surrounded by a band of sixteen small circles. Above, in the gable, is a lancet window of five lights. The difference between these two windows and those inserted in a corresponding position on the south side of the transept, is very noticeable. The southern pair are over a century later in date. Both the turrets on the north side are octagonal, but neither of them is crocketed. The view from this spot at sunset is particularly fine. After passing the deanery, and turning to the left, it will be noticed that the north side of the nave has not a row of niches such as has been seen on the south side. The tower at the west end has a gable on its north face, similar to that on the opposite side of the companion tower.

A visit to the minster would not be complete without a climb to the breezy top of the great central tower. The ascent is not difficult, and may be made for a small fee. The clock was made by William Potts & Sons of Leeds, in 1880, and weighs about four tons. It took the place of one made in 1775 by Thwaites, and afterwards improved by Vulliamy.

The Cathedral Close, or Minster Yard, as old-fashioned Lincoln people still love to call it, was first protected by a wall in the last years of the thirteenth century. The licence from Edward I to the Dean and Chapter, giving them permission to undertake this work, dates from the year 1285. Edward's successor granted a further licence in the year 1319 to fortify the walls; the two ruined towers in the chancery garden are relics of the fortifications begun about this time. Massive double gateways were erected to protect the approaches, except in one instance, where a steep ascent was considered to justify the erection of a single gateway only. Unfortunately, these gateways were for the most part destroyed early in the present century. The principal one remaining is that opposite the western end of the minster, known as the "Exchequer Gate." Indeed, even when all the gateways were standing, this seems to have been the chief.

Leland, who was at Lincoln in the latter part of Henry  p75 VIII's reign, writes thus: "Al the hole Close is environid withe an highe stronge wawle havynge dyvers Gats in it, whereof the principall is the Escheker gate." Of course, when Leland wrote, the companion outer gateway was yet standing, and it remained so until early in the present century. It had  p76 then fallen into disrepair, and does not seem to have been considered worth renovating. An idea of the appearance of the Exchequer Gate will be gained from De Wint's picture, reproduced on p33. Like its former companion, it has a large archway in the middle and a postern on either side; above are two storeys of rooms, formerly let as dwellings. A guide-book of the year 1810 mentions that a public-house was at that time "kept in the apartment to the north of the southern postern." Another gateway of the same period (early fourteenth century) is still standing near the top of the New Road, at the south-east corner of the close. This was the only single gateway. It is now called "Pottergate Arch." A little westward of this gate, a flight of steps, with a postern at the top, leads up to the minster yard from the New Road. Respecting its name, the "Grecian Stairs," much has been written. It may be sufficient here to remark that the old name appears to have been simply "The Greesen," from the early English gree, a step.

"a sentence

Which, as a grize or step may help these lovers."

("Othello," Act I sc. iii).

The "Priory Gate" to the north-east, near the chapter-house, is a plain modern arch, a poor substitute for the two gateways destroyed in the year 1815. In addition to those already mentioned, there were anciently two other double gateways to the close. One of them stood between the White Hart and Angel Inns, at the west end of Eastgate; the other was near the deanery, at the end of East Bight.

The venerable ruins of the old Palace of the Bishops at Lincoln bear sufficient testimony to long years of neglect. But it is gratifying to know that this beautiful spot has been restored in recent years to its ancient use, and that a new bishop's palace now occupies an appropriate beside the ruins of the old. It lies on the south side of the close, and anciently commanded a lovely view over the straggling city in the valley beneath, and over the surrounding country. The prospect is now marred by a fast-increasing number of tall, smoking chimneys, signs of awakening activity; but it is still beautiful, and the view of the minster from the palace grounds is as fine as ever.


 p78  Special permission is necessary to visit the ruins. The entrance gateway, at the corner of the Vicars' Close, bears the arms of Bishop Smyth. The chapel used to stand on the left, where the coach-house and stable now are. In front is Bishop Alnwick's tower, which was restored by the late bishop, Dr. Wordsworth. Just westward of the tower are the ruins of the hall, extending in a southerly direction towards the ruins of the kitchen. The present chapel of the bishops stands between the ancient hall and kitchen, and has been quite recently erected. There are also remains of buildings of less importance.

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The Deanery lies on the north side of the minster, just beyond the cloisters. The present house, built half-a‑century ago, replaced a much finer building, with a quadrangular central court. The commencement of the old deanery is dated as far back as the end of the twelfth century, but the chief part was the work of Dean Fleming (1451‑83). Leland seems to imply that there were traces of more ancient buildings. "Where the Deane of Lyncolnes Howse is," he says, "and there about was a Monasterye of Nunes afore the time that Remigius began the new Mynstar of Lyncolne: and in this Howse yet remayne certayne tokens of it." The demolition, towards the end of the year 1847, of the fine tower built by Dean Fleming caused much regret. It used to be called "Wolsey's tower," from the popular opinion that it was built by that celebrated prelate when bishop of Lincoln. In the painting by Mackenzie, reproduced on p53, the tower is shown, to the left of the chapter-house. The new deanery lies a little to the eastward of its predecessor.

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The most interesting of all the old houses around the minster yard is the Cantelupe chantry house, which stands almost opposite to the south-east doorway of the minster, near the entrance to the Vicars' Court. This house was originally the residence of the clergy who served at the altar of St. Nicholas in the minster, where Nicholas, Lord Cantelupe, founded a chantry in the year 1355, with an endowment for the maintenance of three priests. It is probable that the house was erected by Lord Cantelupe's widow eleven years later, when the foundation was enlarged by her for a warden and seven chaplains. The house is of stone, with a fine oriel window, which has, however,  p79 been much mutilated. The two shields of arms, one on either side of this window, are those of the Cantelupe and Zouche families. In the gable above is a niche, with a seated figure of Christ. Several windows of the house  p80 have been filled in, and the interior has been completely transformed.

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Close by is the entrance to the Vicars' Court, founded by Bishop Oliver Sutton (1280‑99); the work was continued by his successor, John de Dalderby, and taken up again by Bishop John Buckingham (1363‑1397). The entrance gateway is the work of Bishop Buckingham, and bears his shield of arms. Some houses on the east side of the court also bear these arms, and date from the same bishop's time. Part of Bishop Sutton's work is to be traced in a house on the south side. The other buildings are of later date. The residence of the chancellor, on the eastern side of the close, near the south end, may be recognised by its fine old red-brick front, dating from the latter part of the fifteenth century; parts of the house are of earlier date. The precentory stands on the south side of the close, next to the Exchequer Gate. Very little now remains of the ancient building; the present front was designed by J. L. Pearson, R.A. The next house eastward, the sub-deanery, has more extensive remains of early work; a bay window of  p81 the fifteenth century should in particular be noticed. In the year 1884, when the eighteenth century railings at the western end of the minster were removed, and the ground round this part lowered, the sub-deanery was considerably altered to allow the widening of the road.

Thayer's Notes:

a the undesired effects of tall smoking chimneys: not only factory chimneys, but also and maybe even principally the automobile, which when Kendrick wrote was merely a distant threat; worse, not only blackening the stone, but corroding and dissolving it, and irretrievably damaging stained glass: among the constituents of urban smog and acid rain is a very real, if dilute, mist of sulfuric acid droplets, which does not react kindly with limestone, and has devastated many of Europe's ancient monuments; the case of the windows of Chartres, for 700 years of a glorious blue but now turning a murky greenish hue, is notorious.

b Dr. Edward Brown in 1662: I suspect, but have been unable to verify so far, that this is the son of Sir Thomas Browne, the famous author of Hydriotaphia and The Garden of Cyrus, who was much given to writing travel journals and who was from not that far away; such trifles as spelling and extra e's prove nothing in the 17c. An account of his travels in Germany is online here.

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Page updated: 1 Sep 18