If Lincoln is the County Town of Lincolnshire then the Stonebow is the centre of the city centre.
The Stonebow is where the VE Celebrations took place. It is where the New Year Celebrations used to take place, though now it is up by Lincoln Cathedral.
The Stonebow lies at the southern end of the Roman city of Lindum Colonia (from which Lincoln derived its name). It was here the southern gate of Lindum Colonia stood, beyond which flowed the River Witham. Part of the Roman wall which ran along the north side of Guildhall Street and Saltergate still exists. The Roman North Gate still exists at the far end of Bailgate Newport Arch.
Saltergate was the medieval successor to the Roman road that ran along in front of the city wall.
At this location stood a medieval city gate.
In 1390, Richard II ordered the city to construct a new gate as the medieval gate was in dire state of repair. The good citizens were somewhat slow in obeying this Royal Command, the present Tudor arch was finally completed over 100 years later by city freemason William Spencer in 1520.
The name Stonebow is Scandinavian meaning stone arch. The streets that run nearby often end in -gate. This does not mean gate, it comes from the Scandinavian for street.
The east wing of the Stonebow used to house the City Gaol. It now houses the Guildhall Treasury.
The upper floors of the Stonebow are the ancient Guildhall where the City Council has met for centuries, and still meets several times a year.
The city has had a mayor since at least 1206 and the council has been summoned by the Mote Bell since the 1377. The council is still summoned by the same Mote Bell.
New Year’s Eve I had my own private personal tour of the Guildhall. Serendipity played a part.
I was on my way to the Central Library. I annoyingly found it closed. As a result I find myself walking past the Stonebow at 10-25am. I saw a sandwich board that said it was open at 10-30am. The first time I have ever found it open, though I knew it was occasionally open to the public.
I had five minutes to rush to the bank and back. I somehow made it and was back just gone 10-30am. The door was not only closed, it was locked. But luckily someone answered the door and I was in. I was the only one.
An impressive stairway led up to the council chamber. Half way up the stairs on the landing, two old strong boxes or trunks, the sort one used to see on ships. These were used to store the councils’ money.
The Council Chamber is dominated by a long wooden oak table. It is a little wider than two sword lengths so warring factions either side of the table can do each other no harm.
At the end of the table the impressive Mayor’s chair, an old sedan chair.
Looking out of the Council Chamber windows southwards down the High Street is a view along the ancient Roman Road of Ermine Street. In medieval times this route was lined with churches. Sadly many have long been destroyed. One of the oldest St Mary le Wigford still remains. The highest number of medieval parish churches in Lincoln was forty-six.
Within the council chamber two buckets, a standard gallon and standard half gallon, calibrated by the Imperial Gallon. These in turn were used to calibrate local gallons. The Guildhall also contains standard weights.
Lining the wall are paintings of monarchs who have had some connection with Lincoln.
The Council Chamber has also served as a Court.
It was then down to the Guildhall Treasury. Probably the most impressive exhibit the sword presented to the city by Richard II in 1387. The collection is claimed to be the most important civic collection outside of London.
It was then grateful thanks to my guide, who I have not done service to his excellent guided tour, then through the Stonebow to the top of the High Street, up The Strait and Steep Hill to the Bailgate and Lincoln Cathedral.
The Guildhall is open 10-30am and 1-30pm on Friday and Saturday, but please check the noticeboard as not always open. Group visits outside of these times available by prior arrangement.