Revisiting Lincoln – a footnote

I returned to Lincoln ten days ago to refresh my memory about the 1217 Battle (see previous blog) and to renew acquaintance with that beautiful little city – which boasts the longest cathedral in England, at one time the world’s tallest building – and to my surprise and delight I discovered that Lincoln was hosting a remarkable exhibition called “Battles and Dynasties”: see

In the Castle, along with the resident copies of the Magna Carta (one of the four surviving originals) and the Charter of the Forest (one of the two surviving originals – I’d never seen it before), was the unique Great Domesday Book of 1087, which hadn’t been outside London for at least 500 years. Obviously all three documents were under guard and in climate-controlled glass cases, but you could go right up to the glass and stare in awe at them. What amazed me about Domesday, which was of course open at one of the Lincolnshire pages, was its state of preservation. The parchment hadn’t yellowed, the ink hadn’t faded, and to all appearances it could have been written a week ago, not 930 years.

In The Collection, Lincoln’s excellent history and archaeology museum, was the rest of the “Battles and Dynasties” exhibition: remarkable portraits dating back centuries, and an array of rare and in some cases unique documents. Again they were all originals, not copies, carefully guarded and protected, but all easy for the visitor to approach and view. They included William I’s order for the construction of Lincoln Castle (1089), an order from William II (late 11th century), the one surviving original copy of the Life of William Marshall (1220s), an illustration of the earlier Battle of Lincoln (1141) when King Steven was captured by the Empress Matilda’s army, Henry IV’s Great Bible (early 1400s)… and much more. I spent more than two hours surveying these exhibits and left The Collection with my head spinning.

Enormous amounts of time, effort and meticulous planning had gone into mounting the exhibition and I can’t begin to guess what it cost the organisers. Yet visitors were able to see what was in The Collection for only £5, and although I had to spend £11 on a Castle-plus-Cathedral ticket (which included a sighting of the three great documents aforementioned), it could hardly be called expensive.

What a wonderful couple of days I had!


  • John Parker 15.08.2017 - 23:27pm

    Mark, What a tremendous trip through history! Why hasn’t this exhibition been the subject of a national television programme?

    • Mark Henderson

      I don’t know, John – it should certainly have been more widely advertised. But quite a few people were visiting while I was there and it will continue until the start of September.

  • What a rich time! I get so nostalgic at any historical event, display, activity, etc. I just keep relaying historical events in my mind as I survey them. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    This reminds me of a piece you wrote a number of years ago when you and Carole (pardon me if I spelled her name incorrectly) went to a museum and saw a very special piano. Perhaps your readers might enjoy reading it.


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