Lincoln Cathedral Paul Miles
Left. Location plan of recent excavations.
DID Lincoln cathedral begin as a defensive structure? Lincoln began comparatively late for a cathedral, for down to the time of the conquest, the see was situated at Dorchester on Thames in the south-west corner of the huge diocese and as far away as possible from the Vikings. However the Normans thought it was inappropriate to have cathedrals in mere villages, so Bishop Remigius founded a new cathedral at Lincoln. It was sited just inside the Roman walls, opposite the castle, and the first cathedral was decidedly defensive in character. Henry of Huntingdon, writing in 1129-33 described it as "ecclesia fortis, turribus fortissimis eminens, et, ut pro tempore oportebat, invincibilis hostibus" - a strong church with very strong towers, and, as befitted the times, invincible to enemies. Its defensive capabili ties were soon put to use, for in the war between Stephen and Matilda in 1140, the castle was held by the Earl of Chester for Matilda, so Stephen took over the cathedral and fortified it - "ecclesiam incastelaverat".
The core of the west end of the original cathedral still survives, encapsulated in the superb west front of the modern cathedral. When the British Archaeological Association visited it in 1982, Richard Gem re-analysed the structure, pointing out its defensive capabilities: the hollows within the wall must be machicolations - openings for dropping stones and other devices onto assailants.
In the following year a trench was dug
Was the west front of the cathedral originally defensive? This reconstruction drawing by David Vale illustrates the ideas of Richard Gem.
north of the west end to take a lightning conductor from the west tower to the central tower. David Stocker observed a broad foundation in the contractor's trenches, apparently Norman in date which suggests that there may have been further buildings of this date.
Today the cathedral lies, somewhat unusually, right across the Roman city walls. When it was originally constructed however, it lay just inside the walls. In 1185 there was an earthquake which destroyed much of the cathedral and seven years later the bishop, Hugh, later to become St Hugh, decided to rebuild on a grand scale. The town walls were breached and a new enlarged east end was constructed beyond the line of the Roman
Opposite. The cathedral was originally built just inside the city wall. Following the rebuilding in 1195 the walls were breached, and the west end projects out beyond the line of the wall. Note the projecting external towers, assumed to be Norman, the stub of which is shown above.
CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY 129