Walking through time on Lincoln’s Steep Hill


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.



Today Paula’s guest, Debbie Smyth, at Thursday’s Special is asking us to think about time. Please visit Debbie and Paula for their own interpretations of the theme.

61 thoughts on “Walking through time on Lincoln’s Steep Hill

  1. Tish, I’ve had no idea that Lincoln is so picturesque. Thank you for this choice for the time theme. It’s even better than Africa 🙂

  2. This looks like my kind of place, Tish. Your photos are amazing and also a reminder that I live in a very young country! If I ever make it over to the UK, I definitely want to visit this place.

  3. Wonderful photos of a city I have wanted to revisit for a long time. An aunt and uncle used to run a pub in Lincoln when I was a small child, but all I remember is the back room of the pub and having lemonade and crisps! Not sure I’d cope with those hills though.

    1. Ah the days of lemonade and crisps (Smiths in my day). But you would totally love Lincoln and so would your camera. Lots of pedestrian areas so you don’t get run over while shooting views. And all so walkable, though Steep Hill is a bit of a challenge. The TIC apparently has very nice accommodation above it – castle to the right, cathedral to the left.

      1. Smiths with the blue salt wrappers!
        I think we will have to have a holiday up that way. I think I noted some accommodation close to the cathedral. Must look into that.

  4. What a smashing post. Never visited Lincoln, but I shall when I pop home for a visit.
    Steep Hill sounds a bit like Sun Hill in Royston. I am sure there are similar roads across the UK.
    The was a steepish hill near Chester called Coronation Street where we would hurtle down on the go-kart my dad made us. And that was a scary ride!

    1. The best thing about Lincoln is its small-scaleness citywise. It’s very compact, with the really big shopping stuff away from the old quarter, so a bit more peaceful than Chester in that respect. I always wanted a go-cart. I used to do hairy things on my roller skates though. The thrill of a steep hill. Though doing that on Lincoln’s Steep Hill would launch you into the stratosphere trebuchet-style.

      1. oh god, you’re too sharp for words, Ark. Spent the night in the knife drawer as my ex-mother-in-law used to say. I did not notice I’d done that.

      2. Thanks for the link Ark and good post Tish. I do feel very lucky to live in such a pretty city.

  5. Wonderfully constructed piece, Tish 🙂 I must have worn blinkers on my previous visit! But then, it was many years ago, before me and my camera became so observant. 🙂 All I remember clearly is the golden-ness of the cathedral and an impression of height. I had intended to revisit for the Christmas market but I gather this is a trifle manic, so maybe not the best time to go. On the other hand, I can highly recommend you to Bristol cathedral, access to which is much flatter. 🙂

    1. I have not been to Bristol, so thanks for the tip, Jo. Lincoln would well be worthy of a mini-break stay. There’s loads to see. The castle is quite something I gather now it’s been done up.

  6. What a journey through history Lincoln, and you, provide. I’m always amazed by the age of your buildings, and their state of preservation – nothing here to please a ruin-addict. The cathedral is wonderfully delicate in its stoneness.
    If I were posting … If my scanner wasn’t on strike … If I responded to challenges … I would post Aboriginal rock paintings from Laura in North Queensland. They provided me with a sudden awakening when I was bemoaning the newness of everything in Australia – 1300 to 1500 years old is hardly new!

  7. Gorgeous photos. I remember Lincoln (from my one and only visit) as mainly being about rain, the Cathedral being inaccessible because of repair work and the hotel we stayed in! They (very kindly) gave us the honeymoon suite which had a four poster bed, complete with pink canopy. The room was tiny, and about a mile from the front desk via every staircase in the building, the bed was miniscule and

    1. That sounds like the hotel we stayed in. We were exhausted every time we attempted an exit. And then went up and down all the staircases on the way back trying to find our room again. We did have a nice view of the cathedral though – four floors up.

  8. … oops. Anyway, the Big T sent me downstairs to throw their generosity back at them because he was too big for the bed. I think we ended up in the attic. I really must go back to Lincoln sometime.

  9. Tish I could not help but chuckle at your mention of bring so focused on staying alive you forgot to take photos on the ascent. this is often the way when Dave and I cycle. I am gasping and only manage to wave my hand as a signal to him behind me to take a photo. 🙂
    I am sorry to admit I had not heard of Lincoln so am delighted to have your recommendation for a future trip!

  10. Magnificent cathedral it just soars. I can imagine the inside would be breathtaking too. You have so much history in this post it is good to see that it is being so well preserved.

  11. You’ve got this blogging-photographing-writing-tour-guide thing down pat, Tish. Love it. Making me a bit green over here.

    1. Thank you, Bill. Possibly the knack comes of years of working in museums and writing guides of one sort or another. Anyway, it’s always v. nice to hear that it WORKS.

    1. The Earl of Lincoln, I never knew there was one, but then my knowledge of English history is very patchy. I’m going to have to find out now.And gosh, yes, Lincoln NZ is so incredibly flat.Thanks for the link.

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