Known to the Romans as Lindum Colonia, Lincoln stood at the junction of two major Imperial thoroughfares, Fosse Way and Ermine Street. By the time of the Domesday Book, it had grown into a settlement of around 1,000 households. William the Conqueror won few friends here by peremptorily ordering 166 of these houses to be destroyed to make way for an imposing castle. Around the same time, he authorised the building of a cathedral and made Lincoln the ecclesiastical centre of a vast bishopric that extended from the Humber to the Thames.
The city reached its peak of prosperity during the Middle Ages, but when Henry VIII visited in 1541the town fathers were reduced to begging relief from taxation or “they would be compelled in short time to forsake the city, to its utter desolation”. Henry rejected their plea. When Daniel Defoe passed through Lincoln in the 1770s he found “an ancient, ragged, decayed and still decaying city”. Half a century later, another traveller dismissed the historic city as “an overgrown village”.
Happily, improvements in roads and canals, and the arrival of the railway in the 1840s, returned the city to prosperity and Lincoln became a major centre for heavy engineering - steam engines, agricultural machinery, excavators, motor cars and other heavy duty items. But you only have to climb the hill to the old town to enter the serenity of the cathedral close, a tranquil enclave lying in the shadow of the noblest and most majestic of all English cathedrals.
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