Lincoln Castle and Victorian Prison

The historical Lincoln Castle, positioned in the ancient city of Lincoln, has its roots extending back to 1068, yet its foundation is the remnants of an earlier Roman stronghold.

Given the Castle’s past, filled with tales of adversity, mortality, and torment, it is no wonder that whispers of supernatural occurrences inside its walls have spread over time.

Lincoln Castle and Prison History

Built under the orders of William the Conqueror in 1068, the commanding presence of Lincoln Castle has been an integral part of the cityscape for almost a millennium.

This imposing structure was part of William’s scheme to assert Norman dominance and quell uprisings in the northern region of the Kingdom after his triumph in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This strategic move saw the construction of numerous other strongholds across the United Kingdom, including York Castle.

The Fortress’s construction led to the demolition of 166 residences and boasts an exceptional architectural style, housing two mottes instead of the common one typical in the motte and Bailey formations. This makes it one of the only two structures of its kind in the nation, with the other in Lewes, East Sussex, also built under William the Conqueror’s rule.

From the Cobb Hall Tower of the Castle, 38 inmates faced public execution via the Long Drop method, while four more faced their end in private.

Lincoln Castle Prison History

For centuries, Lincoln Fortress served as a place of confinement. While no remnants of the initial dungeons exist, the Georgian and Victorian prison structures remain within the Castle’s confines.

Due to the crumbling dungeons’ overpopulation and unsanitary conditions in the 18th century, the prison environment was squalid until the red-brick gaol’s construction in 1788.

In the same year, the castle complex expanded to incorporate a county jail designed to incarcerate debtors, criminals awaiting trial, and those sentenced to either transportation or execution.

During this period, the jail operated as a private enterprise, with prisoners required to cover their expenses and jailers demanding excessive fees for necessities like food and bedding.

The formidable Victorian Prison, constructed in 1847 as part of a national prison building program, held men, women, and even children as young as eight. The prison was a holding area for individuals awaiting trial at the courthouse, while the debtors remained in the Georgian gaol building.

The prison was structured around the ‘separate system,’ a segregation plan aimed at distancing prisoners from each other’s potentially corrupting influence. This method, employed in several different prisons across the country, like Shepton Mallet Prison, intended to stimulate prisoners’ introspection, repentance, and, ultimately, reformation.

In the Victorian Prison, prisoners followed a strenuous and austere daily routine. They were isolated in small cells and managed strictly, even during religious services.

The separate system’s execution was challenged by several obstacles, including initial overcrowding, a prison fever outbreak, and the magistrates’ unwillingness to embrace the system entirely. Consequently, the intended prisoner separation was not fully implemented, leading to the Victorian prison’s closure three decades after its inauguration.

During the prison’s 30-year operation, seven inmates were executed. Spectators flocked beneath the fortress walls to witness the prisoners’ execution on the wooden gallows. The executed prisoners were laid to rest in the Lucy Tower burial ground.

Among the Victorian Prison’s notorious inmates were George Garnett, a horse thief who earned fame not just for his crimes but also for escaping the Fortress using tied bedsheets to climb down the prison walls, and ‘Captain Swing,’ an agricultural protester arrested during the 1830s Swing Riots.

Lincoln Castle and Prison Ghosts

Frequent sightings have been reported of a woman with a baby descending the Old Victorian Women’s Prison stairs.

Unusual lights have been spotted inside the chapel, and instances of doors opening and closing independently have been reported.
Inside the male prison, visitors have claimed to hear the sound of keys clinking, footsteps, and disembodied cries and wails.
One of the most famous ghost sightings at Lincoln Fortress involves a woman clad in black ascending the stairs to the old gallows on the Cobb Hall Tower.

The ghost of William Clarke, the last person executed at Lincoln Fortress in 1877, and his loyal lurcher dog are also said to haunt the grounds and a nearby pub. Clarke, a poacher, was convicted of murdering a gamekeeper and buried in Lucy Tower.

Following Clarke’s execution, his dog showed up at the Strugglers Inn, a pub near the Fortress where Clarke was a regular patron. In the subsequent months, the pub landlord, Bob Roberts, cared for the dog until it pined for its owner and passed away. As a tribute to the loyal dog, its taxidermy was displayed behind the bar for years before being donated to the Fortress. Today, the dog is displayed in one of the Victorian prison’s cells.

Locals claim to still hear the dog scratching at the door, and sightings of both Clarke and his dog have been reported at The Strugglers Inn and around the fortress grounds.

First broadcast: 6th March 2010
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3 thoughts on “Lincoln Castle and Victorian Prison”

  1. Agreed ! This is about Lincoln jail… current prison on greetwell road. Most Haunted visited Lincoln prison, a separate building within the castle grounds and is an old prison that closed down over a hundred years ago due to it being the first victorian prison to deliver unauthordox punishments that sent prisoners insane. It is now open to the public, however a large section is closed off due to ‘unstable structure’ however it is known as the most haunted section where cell doors have previously been thrown off the balcony, so more for public safety I reckon.

  2. Lincoln prison, isn’t the same as Lincoln jail. The jail the MH team investigated is situated within the castle grounds. It’s no longer used as a jail but is a tourist attraction now.

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