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History and Heritage
Romans, Vikings, Saxons, Normans

Discover Lincoln's development from its origins in 300BC to the Modern Day

Medieval Lincoln
History & Heritage

Lincoln's history can be traced back as far as 300BC and links to the city's past heritage can be seen even today.


The first known settlement in Lincoln, dating back to the first century BC, was around the Brayford Waterfront area, giving the place its original name Lindon: “Lindo” translating as “The Pool” in the Celtic language (similar to Dublin's name Gaelic for “Black Pool”).

Timber houses and pottery have been found dating back to that time on the east of the pool.  In fact the famous Witham Shield, belonging to a local tribe's chief, was found in the River Witham heading east from the Brayford area (near Washingborough). It dates back to 300BC and is now housed in the British Museum.

Through the years the Romans, Vikings, Saxons, Normans and other civilisations have made Lincoln their home.  Read on to find out more.

Romans - Medieval

It was the Romans who first settled in Lincoln, around AD 50, and built a wooden fortress at the top of the hill, later turned into a colonia (retiring home for soldiers. Lindon was latinised to become Lindum Colonia.

The Ermine Street, a key Roman highway connecting London with York, passed though the city of Lincoln (see right). Evidence of the Roman settlement, which was fronted in stone in the 3rd century, can be seen across the city today.

Lincoln was ruled by Vikings in the 9th and 10th century and the settlement become a small trading town. Links to this time can be found still today in street and places names such as: Bailgate, Danesgate, Wragby, Skellingthorpe.

In 1068 William the Conqueror led the Norman invasion to the city and ordered the building of Lincoln Castle, and later Lincoln Cathedral, all on the site of the former Roman settlement.

Lincoln Cathedral, built of Lincolnshire limestone, was finally consecrated by Remigius de Fécamp, the first Bishop of Lincoln, on May 9th in 1092.

Middle Ages - Early Modern

Lincoln Cathedral became the tallest building in the world in 1300, passing the Great Pyramid, when the spire on the central tower was raised (see left). It held that title until 1549 when the spires collapsed during a storm.

The city was of great importance at this time, being the capital of England's largest diocese at the time stretching from the Humber in the north to the Thames in the south.

When King John placed his seal on Magna Carta at Runnymeade in 1215, a copy was brought back to Lincoln by then Bishop of Lincoln, Hugh of Wells, with the address 'LINCOLNIA' written on the back. Lincoln's Magna Carta is still owned by Lincoln Cathedral and remains as one of four surviving copies of the document and it can be seen in Lincoln today.

Lincoln was a wealthy town supported by a healthy wool trade through the 17th to 19th centuries. The city's cloth became famous in legend through Robin Hood being said to have worn garments of Lincoln Green.

Industrial Revolution - Today

Lincoln boomed during the industrial revolution and began to excel in the engineering industry, in particular through production of air engines and tanks.

In 1916 the first ever tanks were designed and built in Lincoln, giving the city the nicknamed 'Tank Town'. These machines were paraded through the city before going to war and significantly shortened the First World War, preventing many more casualties.

Lincoln was also a centre for the aviation industry (see right) with 1 in 14 WWI aircraft being produced in the city. Later, the county became known as Bomber County with a large number of RAF bases running on the flat countryside.

Into the 21st century, Lincoln is home to one of the UK's fastest growing modern universities, is still a world leader in the engineering industry, with almost 2000 years of history past to explore.

For a more detailed look into Lincoln's history, visit the Heritage Connect Lincoln website. For an archive of historic images of Lincoln, visit the Lincs to the Past website.

Pencil drawings: David Vale © Society for Lincolnshire Archaeology and History


November 9, 2020

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June 2, 2015

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History writer and chair of trustees at Lincoln Drill Hall Phil Hamlyn Williams shares with us the importance of Magna Carta and its links with Lincoln.

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February 23, 2017

What was the 1217 Battle of Lincoln?

What was the 1217 Battle of Lincoln?

20th May 1217 was a major landmark in English history – and it all centred on Lincoln. Find out what happened on that day and why it is so important.

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September 21, 2017

What is the Charter of the Forest?

What is the Charter of the Forest?

The Charter of the Forest, sealed on 6th November 1217, is an incredibly important medieval document with a history woven into the city of Lincoln.

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