We in Lincoln are well aware of the pivotal role our beautiful cathedral city has played in our nation’s history, heritage and democratic tradition. Indeed, when I was first elected in 2010, the city of Lincoln became the oldest constituency in continuous existence in the United Kingdom having been established in 1265.
In 2015 we celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta of which we have one of the four original copies here in our castle – some say the best of the originals.
And this year in Lincoln we can look forward to a year where we celebrate our great past by looking forward to the future.
We mark the 800th anniversary of two hugely significant and pivotal events in the history of our great city which have had a significant impact on the history and tradition of our country.
As local historians know, on May 20, 1217, the Second Battle of Lincoln took place. This pitted the forces of France, who were occupying the city of Lincoln, against those forces of King Henry III under the command of William Marshall.
Lincoln was one of the major cities in England and of utmost strategic importance. Despite the fall of the city late in the previous year, the castle itself had been kept in the hands of the crown by a formidable woman, Nicholaa de la Haye.
Due to the bravery of de la Haye and Marshall, they rescued Lincoln by initially repelling and then ultimately defeating the invaders.
Given that London at the time was effectively already in the hands of the French, if Lincoln Castle had fallen alongside the already occupied city, historians predict that we, as a country, would have again been under foreign rule – something like 1066 all over again.
The city was then looted by the victors (known as the Lincoln Fair) which is obviously something I do not want to see this, or any, year!
Fast forward a few months to November 6, 1217. In conjunction with the re-establishment of the Magna Carta, a ‘companion’ charter was created entitled the Charter of the Forest – AKA ‘The Charter of the Common Man’.
Whilst the former was based on protecting the rights of the barons and the aristocracy, the latter was based on re-establishing the rights of free-men.
This charter was needed because the two previous kings (Richard and John) had been guilty of land grabbing by placing restrictions on the usage of Royal Forest Land (forest in those days also included heathland, moors and fields) by common men thus making life harder for those who needed the land to survive and thrive.
The Charter of the Forest prevented the monarchy from taking land without a form of due process and re-established land boundaries from the time before the two kings had taken the throne.
It also started the process of limiting unaccountable sovereign power and provided real rights to all. By happy (or planned…) coincidence, today, the only place in the world where you can see original copies of the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest alongside each other is actually in our Lincoln Castle.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with our castle is our historic cathedral which working with others over recent months I was proud to assist and help secure £11.4 million of lottery funding to convert the existing deanery into a visitors’ centre, café and shop.
As part of the Lincoln Cathedral Connected project, the Dean’s Garden will also be opened up to the public for the first time.
It will create a number of new jobs and volunteering opportunities, and provide training for cathedral staff and volunteers.
It will also secure the future of our internationally renowned and historic cathedral as it approaches its 1000th year.
Our cathedral and castle, which has also received much welcome investment recently, are two of our nation’s greatest treasures and are pivotal to Lincoln’s aim to become a top tourist destination in both the county, country and the world.
They play an essential and central role in our city’s history and also play the same role in our city’s future.
We should celebrate and cherish both in equal measure at every available opportunity.