Given I grew up down the road from Worksop, which is itself a hop and a skip (and a direct train line) from Lincoln, it is a bit of a shame I’ve made it to 41 and never previously made it to Lincoln. And what with a passion for Gothic, and all… After I got back home, I came down with a lurgy (I don’t blame Lincoln!) so haven’t got around to jotting down some thoughts until now, even though my visit was back at the end of July.
The town itself has a fascinating blend of quaint market town, a city struggling with being mid-size, and evidence of the relative lack of the sort of easy money that blesses a Chichester, Bath or Cheltenham. Fantastically strong Victorian villas nestle in dereliction against a steep, monstrously busy ring-road that climbs the hill around the cathedral. The University establishes a strong presence, without quite giving the impression of this as a ‘university town’. In the approach from the station, the well-grounded industrial brickwork collapses into a late medieval townscape: the main thoroughfare takes you under the Guildhall, and brings you up to a hump-bridge with a timber building straddling it. And then the ascent to the castle and cathedral begins: gift shops, tea rooms and antique emporia line the ever-steepening route, until you emerge – panting – into a truly lovely square: castle to the left, cathedral to the right.
The cathedral in particular is everything you’ve read about it. Truly spectacular. A building that demands to be simply gawped at. The façade is a riot of carving and decoration. The towers soar intimidatingly over the wide flank of the west front.
A slight off-angle between the towers reminds you of the precarious position of such an edifice on the edge of the Fens: it was, after all, all but destroyed by an earthquake in 1185, the lower west front being part of what remained from that period.
Inside, I could have sat and marvelled at it all until well beyond my train departure time.
The vaulting is elegantly rhythmic, even when the rhythm is fiendishly complex to determine – this being the case in the so-called ‘Crazy Vault’ above St Hugh’s Choir, where the rhythm of the apex of the vault irregularly accommodates the windows either side. Screens, tombs (such as the wonderfully macabre cadaver tomb pictured), and the choir stalls are decorated to an exquisite quality.
And then, you step into the cloister and thence to the Chapter House: an extraordinary space in which, from a central impost springs a seemingly-circular vault supporting the roof of a decagonal building, with breathtaking drama. And when the tour group that is – almost inevitably – occupying the room departs, you’re left in a dauntingly still space: solid, oppressive somehow, whilst still being airy and expansive.
I’ve put up other photos of the castle, the prison that forms a significant part of it, and some more of the cathedral, on my Smugmug photo-site. In the meantime, I’ll close with a view up into the crossing, showing the vaulting of the nave and transepts giving way to the riotous supporting structure for the central tower.
If you haven’t been, then go to Lincoln: the cathedral is as spectacular as you’ve been led to believe, and the rest of the town is really rather lovely as well.