Lincoln Castle finds include Roman artefacts from 2nd and 4th centuries
Beryl Lott, historic environment manager at Lincolnshire County Council, gives the lowdown on the latest archaeological digs at the castle site
As many people are aware, two archaeological digs are currently revealing a new side to the castle’s story.
But what did we already know about the castle’s past?
It has been clear for a long time that the castle lay within the uphill, walled area of Roman Lincoln.
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Roman features and artefacts from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD have been found during a number of excavations, including work that showed the west wall of the castle had been constructed over the Roman West Gate.
Cecily Spall at the Lincoln Castle dig
It was also known that between the 1780s and 1840s, when various prison and court buildings were erected within the castle walls, the remains of Roman buildings had been seen and destroyed.
However, few details are recorded other than that walls and at least two mosaics were discovered and demolished.
After the early 5th Century, it seems settlement activity was focused outside the Roman walls, with the area inside being reserved for specific activity. Certainly by the 7th Century, Lincoln was reported as one of the sites in England where conversions to Christianity had taken place and where a stone church had been erected. But there is little evidence of general occupation uphill until the 10th Century.
This seems to suggest that uphill Lincoln was only used for very special, perhaps church-related, activity for around 500 years.
Lincoln Castle dig
An excavation in Bailgate in the 1970s revealed a church site with origins possibly in the 6th Century and continually rebuilt into the modern period.
It has been claimed this is the site of the earliest known Anglo-Saxon church, but there are some problems in equating it with the documented stone church as at this period the Bailgate building was shown to be built of timber.
While any church is rare in this early period it is entirely possible there was more than one church – unlike today, churches were not yet then linked to parishes and were often private or monastic.
However, there is still much we don’t know.
But the last few weeks have proved exciting as much more than expected has been revealed by the archaeological work being carried out in advance of the improvements at the castle. There is still much work to be done in analysing what has been discovered, and as more of this is completed much more detail will be added to what is very much a preliminary story.
And in the coming weeks we’ll share with you how this work is refining what we know about the castle’s history.