England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta

Last updated: 12/28/2020

Discover Lincoln Castle, a historic castle that was once used as a prison and currently houses a museum and an area dedicated to the exhibition of one of the original copies of the Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in the world. Check out how to get to know it and what to find there.


Lincoln Castle is a Norman castle built in the late 11th century by William the Conqueror on the site of a previously existing Roman fortress in the city of Lincoln. Lincoln, in England. After the victory in Battle of Hastings in 1066, he faced continued resistance and ordered the construction of a castle on Lincoln as part of his strategy to control the north of the kingdom. The castle is bordered by a stone wall, with ditches on all sides, except in the south that date from before 1115. Over the centuries, Lincoln Castle has been accumulating bloody battles fought by opposing forces that sought control of this fortress strategically. important. Considered one of the best preserved medieval castles in England, after ceasing to be used as a castle, for many years it was used as a prison in Victorian times.

Read more: England: What to do in historic Lincoln – 1 day itinerary

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Lincoln Castle wall
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
East Gate with the Observatory Tower in the background

From 2010 to 2015, Lincoln Castle underwent a major restoration project that involved the restoration of the castle wall and the creation of a 360°C tour on top of the old walls, restoration and reinterpretation of the Victorian Prison and the construction of a new vault to house the Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest document with the inclusion of a widescreen cinema for viewing movies over documents.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Victorian Prison (red bricks), Lincoln Cathedral in the background, and Observatory Tower on the right


THE Magna Carta it is a document that limited the power of British monarchs, preventing the exercise of absolute power. It was signed in 1215 by King John, who, after disagreements with the Pope, ended up being forced to renounce some of his divine rights, submitting to the laws of men. The importance of this document is enormous, since it inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the constitutions of many democratic countries. At the time, a few copies of the letter were made and one of them was sent to Lincoln. Hugh of Wells, Bishop of Lincoln, was one of the signers of the Magna Carta, and for hundreds of years the cathedral held one of the four remaining copies of the original.

Read more: England: Historic Lincoln Cathedral and Magna Carta

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
The beautiful Lincoln Cathedral seen from the castle wall

In 2012, the “Lincoln Castle Revealed” project, a three-year renovation program began at the castle. The work involved the creation of a new exhibition center to display the Magna Carta (which until then was at lincoln cathedral), the construction of visitor facilities and the opening of the prison sections within the castle to the public. The project was completed in April 2015 to coincide with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Site that houses the Magna Carta at Lincoln Castle


The entrance to the castle is made by the east gate (“A” in the map below), the “East Portal”, which is the main entrance in the wall to gain access to the interior of the complex. To see the buildings from the outside and walk around the central lawn, you don't have to pay anything. For those who want to see the buildings from the inside and walk along the wall, you need to go to the ticket office to purchase the ticket (“L” on the map below).

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Lincoln Castle Map | Figure: official website

Currently, there are two types of ticket: the Castle Day, which includes all the attractions of the castle and tour of the wall and the Medieval Wall Walk, just to take a tour of the castle walls. I strongly recommend that you purchase the full ticket to visit everything the castle has to offer for visitors. Above is the castle map exactly the same as what I received when I bought the ticket at the box office. He will be helpful in giving explanations about the attractions.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Map of the complex at the castle entrance
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
First view upon entering the complex: Victorian Prison on the right and Court House in the background


The official suggestion given for the visitation is to take the following route: Victorian Prison (Victorian Prison), followed by Magna Carta and, finally, Prison Chapel (Prison Chapel). See the map of the floors referring to these attractions in this link.


Victorian Prison (“E” on the map) was designed for the “separate system,” an isolation regime that supposedly kept prisoners away from the corrupting influence of their fellow prisoners. It was believed that this would encourage them to reflect and repent and, more importantly, to reform. Men, women and children as young as eight were detained here from 1848 to 1878 for crimes ranging from vest and Bible theft to highway robbery and murder. During this time, seven assassins were hanged in the castle and their bodies buried in Lucy Tower, where their graves can still be seen today.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Victorian Prison seen from the wall
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Victorian Prison Facade
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Rear of Victorian Prison overlooking Observatory Tower

After extensive renovation and reinterpretation, the Victorian Prison is now fully open to visitors. Even today it is possible to visit cells that recreate the environments of the past, imagining life behind bars (the solitude of the single cell, the chaos of the crowded cell and the despair of the dark cell). The cells also have interactive exhibits, telling real stories of people who were trapped there.


Inside the Victorian Prison is also an archeology exhibition, located on Floor 0 (ground floor). That's because, in 2013, archaeologists made a rare find on the grounds of Lincoln Castle. While excavating the foundations for the new elevator for the Medieval Wall Walk, they found an ancient church 3 meters below ground. Within the remains of the building are the skeletons of six adults and three children. The most important find, however, was a seventh adult skeleton in a stone sarcophagus. Discovered in the wall of the excavation trench, the sarcophagus remained intact for over a thousand years. In it was a complete skeleton with the feet wrapped in leather fragments from shoes used at the time of burial.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Archeology Exhibition

O sarcophagus is the centerpiece of the archeology exhibition, displayed alongside other findings from the excavations. Roman, Medieval, Georgian, Victorian and other objects and fragments shed new light on the history of Lincoln Castle. The story of the skeletons is also told, as forensic tests have revealed fascinating information about them.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Reconstruction of the faces of the skeletons found at the site


Following the proposed visit route, visit the place that houses the Magna Carta (“N” on the map). Lincoln Castle is now the only place in the world where a Magna Carta original from 1215 and a Charter of the Forest (a charter that re-established for free men the rights of access to the royal forest) from 1217 can be seen side by side, on permanent loan from Lincoln Cathedral. The documents are in a separate area with access from inside the Victorian Prison.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Secluded location within the Victorian Prison where Magna Carta is located
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
The David PJ Ross Magna Carta Vault

There, an underground widescreen cinema was built with a 210º screen that shows a film with the history and details about the importance of the documents. Taking pictures in this area is prohibited.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Cinema inside the Magna Carta Vault | Photo: official website


Returning to the route inside the Victorian Prison, you arrive at the Prison Chapel. This is the only remaining original separate system prison chapel in the world. She is still considered haunted. Its coffin-shaped benches were intended to remind prisoners of the fate that awaited them. Several people have found an invisible entity lurking on the benches in tiny layers and complain of feeling a cool breeze when an invisible “something” slowly passes by them.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Lincoln Castle Chapel
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Opposite side, where you can see some dolls that simulate prisoners


Medieval Wall Walk is the 20-stop audio tour along the walls of Lincoln Castle. To access the venue, you will need to use the ticket and will receive an audio guide from an employee. The entrance to the wall is via a metal spiral staircase or elevator (“O” on the map).

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Audio guide used on the ramparts tour
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Access to the walls is via an elevator or a spiral staircase.
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Wall access platform

The tour starts at the East Gate and ends at the Observatory Tower, taking a complete turn around the wall. Then check out the main highlights of the visit.


The East Gate (“A” on the map) is the main entrance to Lincoln Castle, located in the old wall. Walking along the wall, it is in the East Gate region that you have one of the best views of Lincoln Cathedral, which is just a few meters away from the castle, the city as a whole and the surrounding landscape.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Entering the castle through the East Gate
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Interior of the East Gate
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
East Gate seen from above the wall


Walking along the wall, you reach one end, known as Cobb Hall (“K” on the map), a tower that defended the northeast corner of the castle from the 13th century onwards. The small tower has walls with stinks for arrows. The vaulted ceilings of the tower also suggest that Cobb Hall may have been used as a chapel as well as a dungeon. Between 1817 and 1859 there were executions by hanging from the roof. Vast crowds gathered below the castle walls to watch each of the 38 condemned prisoners meet their fate on the wooden gallows.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Cobb Hall is at the far end of the wall

Access is via a door and stairs from the roof, leading to a large vaulted room. The lower level was reached through a hatch in the floor, which now has a very steep staircase leading down to it.


The Bath House (“J” on the map) was built in 1814 with a well in front of it. The building is adjacent to the castle's northern wall and served as the prison's bathhouse and laundry.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
bath house


The West Gate (“I” on the map) would lead to an open field and was built on the foundations of the Roman Wall. It was locked in the 19th century and only reopened in the 1990s.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Westgate | Photo: publicity


The Lucy Tower (“F” on the map) was the first keep built on top of a Norman motte and included castle rooms, which were constructed of wood. The walls have been lowered but the two entrances are original. The east wing and west wing of the tower no longer exist. At the beginning of the 19th century, the interior of the keep was abandoned and was used as a burial place for prisoners who had died in prison or who had been hanged. The small stone slabs remain to this day.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Lucy Tower
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Place where the tombstones of the dead are located at Lincoln Castle
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Another side of Lucy Tower


The Observatory Tower (“C” on the map), added in the early 19th century, sits atop a smaller motte to the south. The purpose of the tower is not known, but it is believed that it was built to guard the castle's entrance to the East Gate. The peculiar tower is reached by a steep spiral staircase. Is it over there named after John Merryweather was the warden of the Georgian prison, between 1799 and 1830. His hobby was astronomy and gazing at the stars through his telescope. During World War II, Civil Defense volunteers, equipped with binoculars and only a tin hat for protection, watched from the roof of enemy aircraft flying over the city.



Opened in 2013, the Heritage Skills Center (“G” on the map) is a focus for skill and craft development in the county of Lincolnshire, where Lincoln is located. The venue offers hands-on experience and training with short courses, tastings, handicraft demonstrations, conservation and traditional construction. In addition to offering a range of courses, the Heritage Skills Center hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions to showcase the work of artisans and artists from across the region and offers hands-on activities for the public.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Heritage Skills Center, seen from the wall, with Victorian Prison and Lincoln Cathedral in the background


Located near the West Gate, the Court House (“H” on the map) was built as of 1826 as an administrative center for county business and a courthouse, replacing earlier buildings. The building is not open to the public as part of the Lincoln Castle tour.

England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Court House
England: Lincoln Castle and Magna Carta
Area behind the Court House seen from the wall


  • COFFEE: If hunger strikes while you are visiting Lincoln Castle, you can take the opportunity to discover the Langton's Cafe (“M” on the map). The place offers a variety of coffees and teas, freshly made sandwiches, snacks, cakes, pastries and hot dishes, scones, among other delights. With indoor and outdoor tables overlooking the six-hectare gardens and central area of the castle, the Café offers plenty of space, making it a perfect place to relax and unwind.
  • STORE: Next to the ticket office is a gift shop (“L” on the map) that sells items inspired by Lincoln Castle and the Magna Carta. The store also offers some types of local food and drinks from selected producers in the region, armor and artifacts, books, plushies, toys, games, scarves, jewelry, bags, armor replicas and high quality handcrafted products.


There are no direct trains connecting London to Lincoln, so changing trains is mandatory, but very simple. Trains leave the station London King's Cross and stop at stations Newark North GatePeterborough or retford. From these stations, it is necessary to change trains and take another train to the city of Lincoln. The entire journey takes between 2 hours and 2.5 hours. I went to Lincoln through Newark North Gate and it was pretty smooth. Interestingly, the train from Newark to Lincoln had only 1 car!

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To buy train tickets, I recommend the website TrainLine. For more information on how to ride a train, read the post “Tips for traveling by train in England“. Arriving at the station, walk along the high street, the main street of the city, for about 1 km until you reach the castle. It is worth remembering that the final part of the passage is a steep climb. So, go with comfortable clothes and shoes, a bottle of water and a lot of energy!


Lincoln Castle

  • Address: Castle Hill, Lincoln LN1 3AA, England
  • Schedules: from april to september daily from 10 am to 5 pm / from october to march daily from 10 am to 4 pm
  • Entrance: £10 Medieval Wall Walk only / £14 Castle Day (access to all areas) – there is a discount for tickets purchased online

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