Steep Hill in Lincoln has seen a lot of history its time. The invading Romans built the first road around AD 48 to link their legionary fort of Lindum Colonia on the top of the hill with the riverside Iron Age settlement at bottom. After the Romans came marauding Vikings, who then gave up pillage for commerce, and so turned Lincoln into a thriving trading centre. Next in 1066 came the invading Normans. All have left traces of themselves around the city.
Today, Steep Hill ranks among the most scenic streets in Britain. It now links the city’s historic Cathedral Quarter in Bailgate, with the bustling shopping centre down by the river.
But a word of warning. You definitely need to take plenty of time to walk up it. In the lower reaches it rises seven feet for every one foot (just over 2 metres for every 0.6 metres). In fact I was so concerned about staying alive on the ascent, I forgot to take any photos until I stopped for a breather outside this curio shop (above). The building itself is unremarkable, probably nineteenth century, but it struck me that it has many things of its own to say about the passing of time. I like the worn steps and the old bicycle. I also imagine that it might once have been a corner shop where you popped in for your milk and bread and a packet of tea.
Heading on, though, you come upon these astonishing old sandstone buildings. The Jews House is 12th century, and dates from the time when the city had a strong Jewish community. But like many others in medieval England they fell foul of bigotry and false accusations, and the entire community was expelled in 1290. The Norman House below it is also 12th century, and said to be one of the oldest surviving domestic buildings in Britain.
And it’s at this point we reach the part of the street that is seriously concerned with a preoccupation of our own time – shopping:
At the top of the hill is Castle Square. The castle was built by the Normans on the site of the Roman fort, but it was under wraps and being restored when were there so I couldn’t photograph it. Ahead, though, you can see the fine timbered 16th century building that was once a Tudor merchant’s home, and is now the Tourist Information Centre.
And finally, coming up is the building we’ve been struggling up the hill to see – Lincoln Cathedral in all its splendour. Work began on it in 1088, and continued through several phases over the following centuries. The towers, for instance, were raised and improved upon during the early 1300s. All in all a breath-taking feat of architectural engineering, to say nothing of standing the test of time. It is Britain’s third largest cathedral:
And so if any of you are thinking of visiting the UK, Lincoln is definitely a must. It is a city to wander around, layers and layers of time revealed at every turn. There are museums and galleries and even a surviving town windmill. Pleasingly, too, the cathedral towers now provide nesting sites for peregrine falcons. As you walk around the precincts their mournful calls echo off the leaded roofs. These sounds, too, give one a wistful sense of times past.