The ghosts of Lincoln Castle
It was approaching midnight when a baker, on the way to his night shift at a bakers in the city was walking opposite Lincoln Castle’s gates.
Suddenly, he heard the clattering of hooves against the ancient cobbles. Looking round to find the source of the noise, he heard a cry that shattered the quiet night sky: “Open the gates, in the name of the king!”
A giant black horse, billowing steam from its nostrils materialised in front of him. Its rider was stood up in his stirrups and sparks began to fly off the ground as its hooves gripped the floor. The horse charged on towards the castle, the same cry echoing from its rider as it gallops through the thick wooden gates of the castle’s front entrance.
It is said that the ghost of the horse and rider originates from one of the first hangings at Lincoln Castle.
A dispute had broken out between a local lord, John Knox and magistrates at the castle, as to who owned a plot of land just outside the city. Upon visiting the magistrates, Knox had engaged in a verbal altercation with one of them, and had stormed out of the castle in a rage of anger.
It was during his visit that one of the members of staff in the castle was brutally murdered. Naturally the magistrates blamed Knox for the murder, and had him sentenced to death. He was to be hung at dawn in five days time.
Luckily, Knox knew who his true friends were within the city. He realised there was no way he could ever prove his innocence, and so he asked four of his closest friends to ride to London and seek an audience with the king. Only with a letter of his pardon would Knox survive the week.
Knox’s friends took the fastest horses they had and rode for London. They got their in good time, and using Knox’s high connections, explained to the king the situation in Lincoln. He immediately signed a pardon and sent them back to save Knox from the gallows.
On the way home, the group of friends began to tire. One however, volunteered to ride on alone. He rode relentlessly, only stopping to change horses. It was the night before Knox was due to be hung, and the lone rider had reached Newark, a small market town 20 miles from Lincoln.
Tired and exhausted, both horse and rider were put up at an inn after persuasion by the inn keeper that they were both too tired to continue.
The rider woke the next day to sun streaming through his window. He instantly realised that he was too late to save Knox. Shamed by not being able to rescue his friend, he walked to the stable where his horse waited, took the stirrups off his saddle and hung himself from the stable beams.
The ghost that charges through the castle doors is said to be the very same friend who tried to save Knox from a wrongful sentence-finally completing the journey he never finished all those years ago.
Our experience at Lincoln Castle
Much like Lincoln Cathedral, the castle at the other end of the Bailgate is hard to gain access to at night fall.
With this in mind, I visited the castle both in the day time and at night. Taking the castle tour, it was undeniable to say that I didn’t feel slightly uncomfortable in some places.
When visiting the Victorian Prison, I felt a change of temperature and a chill down my spine. I definitely felt that there was some form of presence in the Chapel. The way in which it is laid out makes it seem incredibly isolated and supernatural. This area didn’t give me the feeling that it was haunted, but it was extremely thought provoking.
Walking around the castle, I am reminded that hangings were a regular occurrence, and that a majority of the bodies were buried within the castle grounds. Again, for me personally, this proved thought provoking rather than spooky.
At night time, the feeling of the castle changes again. Although just walking around the outskirts of the Castle walls, I struggled to feel anything paranormal or out of sorts.
Maybe this was due to the amount of pubs and restaurants that border the castle, and therefore the amount of people that were in the area.
However, looking up the castle walls, the eerie feeling returns, as I am reminded of the history it has within it.
The mixture of history and scary tales make the castle feel like it has some form of presence within it. However this maybe due to the fact that I had a reasonably large knowledge of the ghost stories behind it, before I took the tour.
The history of Lincoln Castle
Built in 1068, LincolnCastleone was of the first Norman motte and bailey castles to be constructed in England by William the conqueror, following his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
166 Saxon homes were cleared to build the castle on top of a former Roman fortress, which, in Norman opinion, would be the stronghold for the third most important city in the country.
Built in Lincoln for its strategic position, it was located on two roman roads (Fosse way and Ermine street) and overlooked the countryside from an advantageous height.
Lincoln castle is unusual, as it has two mottes (raised and enditched areas of ground). The only other castle in the UK to share this feature is Lewes in Sussex.
On one of these mottes stands the 14th century observatory tower, whilst a 12th century shell keep, call Lucy Tower, crowns the other.
Along with the two mottes, the castle has two gates, a large round tower, and a cobb hall.
Later additions included a prison, which has since been closed, and a Victorian courthouse which is still in use today.
The prison still houses the world’s only example of a Victorian segregated chapel, where inmates were entered into booths, with hoods over their heads to prevent any contact with each other. Many of these stalls were destroyed when they were branded as inhumane.
For 900 years the castle acted as a prison, and the dungeons are still accessible today. Hangings took place at day break to the right of the main gate, with the bodies being buried within the Lucy Tower, and within the castle grounds on the lawns, where some of the graves still remain.
The castle also houses one of only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.