Bourne Archive: Doc: Lincoln Cathedral Guide     Latest edit 22 May 2011.   

photo & web page © 2008 R.J.PENHEY

The Bourne Archive

Plan and Description of Lincoln Cathedral

from an Anonymous guide booklet printed near the end of the Nineteenth Century.

Names mentioned.

People.                                                       Places.


Bishop Alexander                                                     Dorchester-on-the-Thames

C.H.J Anderson                                                         Leeds

Bishop Burghersh                                                     Lincoln

W.J. Butler

Nicholas Cantilupe

Bishop Dalderby

Queen Eleanor


Bishop Fleming                                                        

Lord Grimthorpe     


Bishop Hugh of Avalon

Bishop Hugh of Wells

Little Saint Hugh

St. John the Baptist

John of Gaunt

Bishop Kaye

Bishop Longland

Morton & Sons

J.L. Pearson

Messrs. Potts, of Leeds

Bishop Regimus

Bishop Robert Grosseteste

Bishop Russell

Joseph Ruston

G. Gilbert Scott

Katherine Swinford

Bishop Taillebois

George Taillebois

John Wellbourne

Bishop William of Blois

Queen Victoria

Countess of Westmorland

J. Williamson

de Wint

Bishop Wordsworth

Christopher Wren

Prior Wymbush


Text Box: © 2008 R.J.PENHEY Loading the plan of the cathedral.

The plan is shown in a thumbnail view to make the operation of the page smoother. Click on it for a larger version.

Architectural & Historical Notes.

The first Cathedral of Lincoln was built by Regimus, the earliest Norman bishop, on the removal of the See from Dorchester-on-the-Thames, about 1074 A.D.1 It was ready for consecration on the Founder’s death in 1092 A.D. Of this Cathedral the parts remaining are the central portion of the West Front with its three Recesses, a fragment of the first bay of the Nave, and the foundations of the semi-circular East End or Apse, beneath the floor of the Stalls and the pavement of the Choir. Remigius’s work is characterized by stern, almost savage, plainness.

The third Norman Bishop, Alexander “the Magnificent,” after an accidental fire c. 1141, restored the Cathedral “to more than its former beauty.” To him we may probably ascribe the three Western Doorways, the intersecting Arcade above the two side Recesses of the West Front, and the three lower stories of the Western Towers with their elaborately ornamented Gables facing the north and south. These are in the later Norman or Transition style. 2

The Choir and Eastern Transept, with a portion of the east wall of the Western Transept, were built by Bishop Hugh of Avalon (St. Hugh) after the Cathedral had been shattered by an earthquake in 1185 A.D. The first stone was laid in 1192 A.D., and Hugh’s death took place in 1200. These portions of the building afford the earliest known example of pure Lancet Gothic or Early English, free from any trace of Norman influence.

The Great Transept was completed and the Nave gradually carried westwards in the Early English style, during the successive Episcopates of William of Blois, Hugh of Wells, and Robert Grosseteste, 1203-1253. 3 To the close of this period we may assign the two Western Chapels, and the arcaded Screen-Wall of the West Front and its flanking Turrets, the Galilee Porch, and the Vestry. To the same period belongs the Chapter House, a polygon of ten sides, with a vaulted roof springing from a clustered central pillar, and supported by huge flying buttresses. The two lower stories of the Central or Broad Tower were built during Grosseteste’s episcopate on the fall of its predecessor in 1237. The upper storey of the Tower was begun under Bishop Dalderby in 1307 and finished in 1311, in the Decorated style. A Spire of timber covered with lead reaching a height of 524 ft. which once surmounted it was destroyed by a tempest in 1548.

The “Angel Choir” at the east end was built between 1255 and 1280, to receive the Shrine containing the miracle-working body of St. Hugh, which was removed to it from St. John the Baptist’s Chapel in the North-east Transept, in the latter year. It belongs to the period of transition between the Early English and Decorated styles, just when Gothic architecture was touching its highest development, and exhibits a refinement and elegance as well as a delicacy of finish which can hardly be paralleled. The great East Window of eight lights is the noblest example of Geometrical Decorated in the kingdom. The Triforium is of most exquisite design, and the Angels with expanded wings which fill its spandrels exhibit combined grace and dignity. The South Porch, with its deeply recessed moulded arch, carved gable, and sculptured representation of the Lord blessing the saved at the “Last Judgement” is a unique and beautiful feature. No part of the building deserves closer attention.

The Angel Choir is the latest portion of the main fabric of the Church. The Cloisters and Vestibule belong to the decorated period, 1295 A.D., of which they present a small but beautiful example. The large circular Window of the South Transept, known as the “Bishop’s Eye,” with the gable and window above, are in the Curvilinear style, and may be placed about 1350. John Welbourn, Treasurer of the Cathedral, 1350-1380, set up the Choir Stalls, erected the vaulting of the Central and Western Towers, with the internal panelling of the latter, and the row of niches and regal statues over the Great West Door. to a closely subsequent period belong the three Western Windows and the upper stages of the Western Towers. In these works we see the transition from the Early English to Decorated. The wooden Spires which crowned the Towers were taken down in 1807-8.

To the Perpendicular style belong the Chantry Chapels of Bishop Fleming, d. 1431 (restored 1893 by his friends as a Memorial to the late Sir. C. H. J. Anderson, Bt., of Lea); of Bishop Russell, d. 1493 (fitted as a vestry for the Bishop); and of Bishop Longland, d. 1547 (used as a Music Library).

The Library, with the cloister under it, is a classical work built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1647. The Reredos, which bears the date 1769, and the open battlement of the Central Tower were erected by Essex towards the close of the last century. The carved wooden Pulpit in the Choir was designed by Sir G. Gilbert Scott, and the tall brazen Gas-standards by Mr. J. L. Pearson, R.A. The Canopy for the Clock over the Dean’s Door is of the same date with the Stalls, and occupies its original position. The Chair of State in the Chapter House dates from the time of Edward the First, and was probably his Throne when he held his Parliament there.

Lincoln Cathedral is by no means rich in Monuments. The sepulchral Brasses, of which it contained a very large number, were taken up by the Parliamentary soldiers in 1644, leaving only the slabs with the vacant matrixes. Other monuments, such as those of St. Hugh in the Retro-choir, of Bishop Grosseteste in the South-east Transept, and of Bishop Dalderby in the Southern arm of the Great Transept, had been previously destroyed or much mutilated at the Reformation. Of existing monuments should be mentioned those of Bishop Burghersh, d. 1342, and his father, and that of his brother, Sir Bartholomew Burghersh, d. 1356, in the North Aisle of the Retro-choir; those of Sir Nicholas Cantilupe, d. 1355, and Prior Wymbysh, d. 1478, in the South Aisle; those of Katherine Swinford, third wife of John of Gaunt, d. 1403 (from whom Queen Victoria is descended in a direct line), and her daughter, the Countess of Westmorland, d. 1440, on the South side of the Choir, and a gabled monument opposite, doubtfully assigned to Regimus, combined with the Easter Sepulchre; those of Bishop Fleming, presenting a double effigy of the prelate, first in his episcopal robes, and then of his corpse in a state of decay, in the North Aisle of the Choir; of Sir George Taillebois, c. 1500, in a Chapel of the South-West Transept; of Bishop Kaye, d. 1853, in a Chapel of the South-East Transept; and of the painters Hilton and De Wint at the east end of the South Choir Aisle. A sumptuous Monument to Bishop Wordsworth, d. 1885, stands on the north side of the Retro-choir, consisting of an altar tomb carrying the effigy of the Bishop in mitre and cope, and surmounted by a loft gabled canopy. On the south side under the Great East Window, is the Altar Tomb of Queen Eleanor, with her effigy in bronze, destroyed in 1644, and re-erected by Mr. Joseph Ruston, High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1891, and opposite to the South Choir Door is an Altar Tomb with a recumbent effigy of the late Dean, Dr. W J. Butler, who died in 1894.

A band of very curious early Sculptures stretches across the West Front. Among other subjects represented are The Expulsion from Paradise; Adam and Eve digging; Noah building the Ark; Noah and his Family in the Ark; Daniel in the Lions’ Den; The Supper at Emmaus; Christ’s descent into Hell; and The Torments of the Lost.

The Font of black basalt, lately placed upon three steps of Derbyshire marble, dates from the time of Regimus and is a fine example of the Norman period.

The remains of the Shrine of “Little St. Hugh” (the Christian boy with whose crucifixion the Jews were charged, 1255 A.D.) in the South Choir Aisle, the Screen and Lavatory of the Choristers’ Vestry opposite, the Organ Screen, and the Choir Stalls are beautiful examples of the Decorated style. Statuettes or the Saints of the Anglican Kalendar have been recently placed in the Canopies of the Stalls, and the Throne, a well-proportioned work of Essex4 in the last century, has been enriched by carving and statuettes also.

The two Circular Windows of the great Transept, the “Dean’s Eye” to the North and the “Bishop’s Eye” to the South, the Lancets beneath them, and the Eastern Windows of the Choir Aisles, contain ancient Stained Glass of great beauty. That which fills the other windows is modern, and, if we except the windows in the Choir and Chapter House, little to be commended.

The Bell, known as “Great Tom of Lincoln,” hangs in the Central Tower. It was recast in 1835. It weighs 5 tons 8 cwt, is 6ft. ¾ in. high, and 21 ft. 6 in. in circumference at its base. Upon this Bell the hours are struck with a hammer weighing 224 lbs. The “Cambridge quarters” are struck upon four other Bells in the Central Tower, two of which were given and two recast, in 1880. The eight Bells, which are rung as a Peal, hand in the South West Tower.

The Clock was made, in 1880, by Messrs. Potts, of Leeds, from specifications furnished by Lord Grimthorpe. It is fitted with special apparatus for securing the striking of the quarters at the exact time.


The entire inside Length of the Cathedral is 481 ft., the Nave being 215 ft. long, and, with the Aisles, 80 ft. broad. The Height of the Vault of the Nave is 82 ft., and of the Choir 74 ft. The western Transept is 223 ft. long, and 61 ft. broad; the Eastern Transept 171 ft. long, and 36 ft. broad. The interior Area of the entire building is 57,200 square feet. The Height of the Central Tower is 271 ft., and the outside measurement of each face is 54 ft. 6 in. The Height of each of the Western Towers is 206 ft. The diameter of the Chapter House is 60 ft.




1.       Dorchester-on-Thames is in Oxfordshire at the far end of the old Lincoln Diocese. It should not be confused with Dorchester in Dorset.

The original diocese of Lindsey (Lindine) was founded in 628 by the Roman missionary, Saint Paulinus of York, almost certainly with its seat at the church of St Paul-in-the-Bail in Lincoln. This did not outlive Paulinus's flight south in 633.

A subsequent diocese is thought to have been the foundation of Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury. It had been part of the diocese of Lindisfarne. The seat of this Bishop of Lindsey at Sidnacester (Syddensis) has been placed, by various commentators, at Caistor, Louth, Horncastle and, most often, at Stow, all in Lindsey, in present-day Lincolnshire. More recent research has concluded, however, that the site was that of the original foundation of 628, in Lincoln itself.

Owing to the Danish influx, which led to the creation of the originally pagan, Danelaw, the bishop's seat was moved to Dorchester-on-Thames in 971. Each subsequent bishop was called Bishop of Dorchester until the seat returned to Lincoln and the diocese was renamed in 1072. The placing of the centre of the diocese in its northern part seems to have arisen as a counter to a claim by the Archbishop of York to jurisdiction in Lindsey. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s placing of the cathedral in Lindsey kept that end of the diocese in his province.

2.^    For brief descriptions of the architectural styles, see Wikipedia then click on the appropriate style, in the list of chapters (Chapter 2.9).

3.       For links to articles on the bishops, see List of bishops of Lincoln and precursor offices, Wikipedia.

4.      There is a later but undated guide booklet (it looks to be of about 1950-60). In it, the mason who made the reredos (in 1761) is named as ‘Mr. Pink’, to a design by ‘Mr. Essex’. The Pitkin guide of 1974 names the latter as James Essex who would appear to be the man whose writings are discussed in Yvonne Jerrold’s site. A fuller biography is available in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: James Essex. The following link is to another reference to Essex and his work in the Cathedral.

Information on the history of the management of Lincoln Cathedral and its community is available in British History Online.

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