Lincoln: an image of England
Not every trip we take in life has to be planned, I firmly believe that the best things we do, happen by chance or on the whim of some random decision. At least this is what I tried to convince myself of when I was heading down to Lincoln on a bleak Tuesday morning. I didn’t anticipate to spend the entire day there, I had heard of the great beauty of the cathedral and thought that this day would be good one to keep true the promise I made to myself to visit. Nevertheless, it wasn’t merely easy to keep myself busy there for the day but an out and out pleasure, by the end of it I became convinced that there is no where in this great country as beautiful as here. However, to those unacusstonm with the English North the weather would have been off putting; which is a shame because despite the savagery of the cold, the city probably sat most beautifully Amongst the thick grey skies.
You very quickly gather the sense of a place and as far as I could tell Lincoln was quaint and limitlessly charming! My only intention for the day was to see the cathedral, the once tallest building in the world, but the tour wasn’t ready until three o’clock. Luckily my ticket also covered access to the castle which directly faced the gothic basilica. It’s a surprising arrangement within the castle, there stood two Edwardian building which were wrapped by the sand coloured medieval walls. Walking along the walls of that castle is definitely something I would recommend doing if ever you visit, it really does give you a more whole perspective of the city. You see the massive cathedral rising up from a series of victorian suburbs and boulevards all of which was caressed by the unique Lincolnshire countryside. There was an inescapable feeling of this is how things should be, from the children in their schools to the hubbub of the streets, it felt as though everything that happened here was more refined and beautiful then what most of us are used to.
These feelings somewhat disappeared when the ugly steal and glass building on the city’s south flank met the historic elegance of the old city, it was at this point I decided to go and see the exhibitions on offer. The first stop was an old Victorian prison. It was immediately cold and austere, the shire lifelessness of it and the cramped unpleasant spacing sent shivers down my spine. This was somewhere truly quite scary, the prison chapel followed in very much the same vain with cell like pews and a puritanical pulpit. You’re allowed to stand where the preacher would have stood, you could see how it was designed so he could face down the transgressors in his congregation. It was clear what this establishment was supposed to be; it was a purposely unpleasant place which made the inmates fully aware of their own impropriety and their complete lack of righteous moorings. It was desolate, dark and terrifying, making the prisons of today look rather cosy. I can’t help but feel that this establishment would have struck fear into the hearts of potential inmates and made the think twice about their choices. It would have served as a deeply effective deterrent.
After that I went to see one of only four remaining copies of Magna Carta, kept in a vault underneath the castle. Anyone with even a precursory understanding of history would have been just as exited as I was to look upon it. The best part of the last millennia has been dictated by this document (at least in the Anglo-sphere). I left after only a few minutes, whilst it was something rather moving to see there is only so much you can observe in it. I was moved on by the fact my tour around the cathedral was due to start.
There wasn’t very many people in the tour group for the cathedral; in fact there were only two, Myself and a rather peculiar small lady, who was very kind and very enthusiastic. However, my focus was not on my company but rather the beautiful building I was standing in. It’s hard to describe the awe of the cathedral in a way that serves it justice. It was almost a form of poetry, written by the centuries. Each part of it had it’s own story, from the victorian stained glass to the wooden carvings made by William Fairbank in the last decade. These carvings (which depicted scenes of the Passion) were a form of art therapy, through them you could see the profound truth and inspiration he had found in that timeless story and how much it meant to Him as well as the World. Despite the discord in its creation the cathedral still shone in unfathomable awe. It’s beauty wasn’t forged by some brilliant architect but by a harmony of those groups that had come before and those now, borne of shared passions and beliefs. The beauty of this is manifest in the old stone structures.
I have had the privilege of Living in York, so I have known the feeling of living his and the joy of cobbled streets and crocked taverns. Yet Lincoln stands out. It did after all make me, a complete stranger in a completely new place, feel right at home. And that’s a feeling very few places can offer.
End of Man
Beginning of Gentlemen