top of page

Nottingham, Southwell and Lincoln

Ø July 3 Nottingham & Souhwell (Wednesday)

Since I made the 8:56 train out of Norwich bound for Liverpool per my journal, I presume I had no difficulties clearing out of the Hotel Belmonte or getting to the station. The train was only 2-carriages, so I was sure to board first to get luggage space – involving a fairly serious step up from the platform to the carriage. This was one of my longest rides, and this was the penultimate day on my BritRail pass.

While terminating in Liverpool, we made three stops before #Nottingham. First was Ely, and, because I’d taken a taxi there 4 days earlier, I didn’t realize how huge the cathedral appears from the northeast, nor how busy the station actually is.

Ely Cathedral from the train

The next stop was Peterborough; I was familiar with those railyards from walking over them. The third stop was Grantham, a town in Lincolnshire. Lots of flat farmland. Two hours and forty minutes aboard, I got off to find my host Ron waiting out front. We walked back to the flat, hauling the bag up three flights of stairs (as a team). I had my own room and bath, with full use of the flat.

As I left to catch a bus to #Southwell, Ron also left to go train volunteers at a refuge training center. He walked me to the center and got me on a bus ahead of my schedule. The ride was a half hour, and I was there at 1:30. The #SouthwellMinster is also the Cathedral and Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Set behind a stone wall on a corner, the church with two lead-clad spires is large enough to be a cathedral, without being overwhelming. The corner is a large churchyard, well-tended grass and trees set back from the building. A graveyard was to the north side.

One of the "green men" in the Chapter House

Entering, I needed to give £5 for a photo permit, a first for me. The nave had Norman rounded thick arches supporting the galleries and the bowed wooden ribbed vault. A collegiate church associated with the Palace of the Archbishop of York; it became a parish church after the Dissolution. It saw damage as Charles I was captured in Southwell by the Parliamentary forces. While repairs took place in the eighteenth century, in the Victorian era it was extensively restored prior to establishing the new Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire (until a 1927 split) diocese.

With the exception of old tombs, most of the fixtures are later Victorian era or modern. The octagonal chapter house has carved stone seats along the walls, with a Gothic arched ceiling, and most of the glass in the windows is clear in rectangular leaded panes. There were many carvings of green men in this room. The choir stall and the cathedra are in the quire, and lack the elaborate carvings found in most Victorian renovations. One of the more impressive stained-glass windows featured angels, colored in translucent shades of light gray, golds and beige.

Abbey ruins and garden

Outside, the remains of the Archbishop’s palace are next to a lovely garden, and an old graveyard looks well-tended. After visiting the shop to get a lapel pin, I walked down to the corner to see if there was a town, but just saw The Saracen’s Head Hotel and Restaurant just up Church Street and the bus pick-up spot.

Leaving Southwell a bit after 4, I rode up top taking pictures as the bus travelled through the agricultural countryside. When I got back to Nottingham I decided to go and find the Cathedral Church of St Barnabas. Leaving the bus at King Street near the Theater Royal / Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham Cathedral was a half mile down Upper Parliament Street.

A red-stone church with a single tall spire tower at the crossing, there are fixed pews in the three aisles of the nave. The main (center) aisle vault rises an extra story with small stained-glass windows over the pointed Gothic arches, culminating in a simple peaked roof with exposed wood beams. It had recently celebrated its 175th anniversary as a (purpose-built) Catholic cathedral. An early design of Augustus Pugin, a renown and prolific English architect, the style is Early English Plain Gothic, hence my notes that there is little ornamentation visible, with the exception of the Eucharistic chapel. I enjoyed the simplicity of the Lady and Unity Chapels.

Leaving St Barnabas at a quarter to five, and walking past Albert Hall across the street, I began strolling and just taking pictures of features that caught my eye. My host Ron, on hearing of my interest in Evensong, recommended his church, St Mary’s, so my general direction was southeast through the market district. Coming to a deconsecrated church, now the (chain) bar-pub Pitcher and Piano, I stopped to wet my whistle with a Hobglobin, a ruby ale. After a bit of a rest, I continued down High Pavement to St Mary the Virgin Church, oldest church and largest medieval building in Nottingham.

A large gray-stone building with a square tower, it is primarily perpendicular gothic in the windows and adornment. Dark inside, my notes record that I felt it needed a good cleaning as there is sufficient light from the windows. Entering the quire, I was impressed with the size of the choir stalls. Evensong was again a blessing.

Invited by several congregants after the service, I joined them at Kean’s Head, a pub just up an alley from the church. Starting at the bar, we talked, and then go asked to join members of the choir who were seated at a table. As all were active church-goers, I received many suggestions on sites to see as my journey progressed, hearing about favorite cathedrals. As I related my further destinations, the wife of the choirmaster, a Scot, corrected my pronunciation of Scottish sites. They were all impressed that I was seeing Britain by train, which none had considered. I shared my small photobook and told of the big book, passing out business cards.

When they cleared out, I decided to stay for supper, and ordered a Mexican burger with chips (well done) to go with the Golden Best that I’d been quaffing all evening. My phone battery died, so I charged it from the portable. The burger was thick, 4-inches round, well done. Light on the jalapeños, but the onion salsa was dynamite. The chips were crisped sufficiently for me, but, as usual, needed salt; and the portion was too large.

Out the door and pretty much due west less than a half mile to the flat. I didn’t encounter many folks while walking back. I began photo transfer, camera charging and then called Joan to discuss my concerns with the advanced copy. My list for Regal Printing was shortened, and I sent off a message to them before I crashed for the night.

Ø July 4 Lincoln (Thursday)

The plan was to catch the train at 9:25 for #Lincoln. So up, a banana, cleaned up and down the stairs and off to the station. Arrived with enough time to board comfortably for the hour ride with 2 stops. Maps took me to High Street to cross the narrow River Witham, with the street becoming The Strait, to Steep Hill.

Towers from climb up Steep Hill

A moderate climb over cobbled streets and a mile in length, I noticed many winded fellow tourists as I just plugged along to the top of Castle Hill. (After a month of walking everywhere, I was in good shape.) At the crest, I stood between the castle and museum, and the Cathedral Church of St Mary, known familiarly as #LincolnCathedral. I’d been impressed by the huge tower that I saw climbing the hill, so had some disappointment to find the west face was fenced off with scaffolding blocking the entry through the three large doors.

With the cathedral sitting at the crest, there wasn’t much in the way of side streets or close to get that all-encompassing shot I seek. Starting my walk around the building by going to the south side, I could get one of the two west towers, tall but smaller footprint, or the south transept with the massive tower at the crossing. The south-facing Judgement Porch off the eastern end looked closed, but pleasingly ornate. The actual east end is quite large, and I couldn’t walk far enough away to include more than the top of the central tower. Continuing around, the decahedral chapter house with its buttresses and peaked lead roof provided more view obstruction.

The north face was blocked by construction fencing, so my path took me outside the walls. Mature trees were in the yard (I could see them over the wall) and I could get a shot with all three towers, but only the upper part of the nave roof could be seen over the wall. So I resigned myself to just being able to capture parts of this splendid temple. After my half-hour walk around, I entered and was able to join the imminent roof tour, and book into the last “free tour” of the day.

The 90-minute roof tour was full of “Yanks”, as I described my fellow countrymen. We climbed the circular stone staircase in the southwest tower, stopping at both gallery levels, the upper of which afforded a brilliant view of the nave floor. We were so close to the stained-glass window of the west end that I wasn’t able to get back far enough to take it in with the camera.

Bell ringers' chapel

Crossing to the northern of the west tower, we entered the bell ringers’ room, with the 13 tri-color rope ends tied up to the spider. After examining the inside beams supporting the roof over the outer aisle, we went outside and were able to see the tower still climbing above us, as well as the castle walls to the west and the countryside, including the 8 cooling towers at a nearby power plant. A surprise for me as we exited was the presence of a small chapel with an altar for the bell ringers at the base of the tower we climbed.

Returning to the main floor, the tour ended and I began to self-tour the cathedral for an hour. Leaving the tower, blocks of carved stone were mounted in the stairway entry space. They had been removed from the front for preservation, as newer, replacement stones took their place. I’d noticed the substitution when outside, but now understood the scene of souls in hell made of very white stone I’d seen on the west face.

Dean's Eye

Viewing the nave ceiling and the curved arches of the galleries from the floor after the view from the tower provided a new perspective. Looking up the central tower, I wanted to visit those high parts as well, albeit such a tour was available only on Saturdays. From under the tower I was able to photograph both rose windows – the Dean’s Eye to the north and the Bishop’s Eye, a large example of curvilinear tracery, to the south.

Bishop's Eye

The gate from the crossing through the finely carved quire screen was locked, so I continued to the ambulatory along the south side to begin walking the outside of the presbytery. Carvings and memorials were along both sides.

Once gaining access to the quire, the gold-colored organ pipes stood over the screen, a brass chandelier hung over a lectern for the choir director, and the near black carved choir stalls and canons seats contrasted with the cream-colored walls and ceiling. At the south east end of these seats was a wide seat, the bishop’s throne with an ornately carved private kneeler. In the chancel were two altars, a simple wooden modern one placed well forward on a long carpet near the altar rail, and a carved stone classic altar backed by an ornate Gothic reredos. The rest of the space was clear, showing the Victorian floor tiles.

Opposite the southeast transept (I believe this space was closed off), the Slype Corridor brought me to the cloister walk and the Chapter House. Access to the actual cloister was restricted, as the space was being used for the restoration work. The Chapter House has a single ribbed column in the center of the 10-sides, with each side (except the entrance) framing a pair of stained-glass panels. A large space, bench seating around the edges provided some feet-relief. The ceiling arching was stunning. From there I entered the Christopher Wren-designed library, an awesome space where no photography is permitted.

While on the tour, the guide took us to several special places. One of the carvings in the back corner of the chancel has been labelled the “Lincoln Imp”. Set in the arches over a column, there are horns, protruding ears, and a gaping grin that has charmed many a tourist. One of the lapel pins I later procured at the shop was of this imp. Off the ambulatory in the east end was the Duncan Grant Chapel, a depiction of the Good Shepard which has been kept locked for 20 years. We were able to enter into the quire to better admire the carvings over the choir stalls.

Because the nave was closing for graduation services, we were allowed out onto the Judgement Porch. I walked back to the west entrance along the south side, and went to check the castle. I had not taken the time to visit the Magna Carta copy at Salisbury due to needing to move on, but I had some time now. However, an additional £14 tariff is collected to visit the castle, even if I was only going to spend 10 minutes to see that copy of the historic document. (It had been included at Salisbury.) I passed this opportunity as well.

Descending from Castle Hill into town via the reverse route, I stopped at The Cardinal’s Hat, a pub, for an ale, aptly named Cardinal’s Ale. Pushing off after the pint, I continued down the hill, through a gate or two along pedestrian walks on a warm and sunny afternoon. Crossing the river again, I passed the Mother’s Union with its memorial to fallen service men and women, and turned off the shopping street to catch the train.

Aboard, after texting Ron with my arrival time, I reflected on the cathedral tours. While informative, I noted that they weren’t effusive, feeling that the guides and the tours were tightly scripted. Questions were deflected, as if answers could only be given on the correct tour. The floor tour guide had been rather soft-spoken, which might have been deliberate to curtail conversations. I guess I felt I’d gathered more information on tours at other cathedrals.

Reaching the flat entrance, I again had difficulty with the code getting in. Fortunately, two guys left, and I was able to climb to my space. I hadn’t completed the photo transfer the previous night, so I had about 600 photos to shoot into the cloud. I had some book correspondence to handle, related to the wire transfer I needed to complete. I tried to get Schwab to handle it for me by phone, but I needed to do it myself, which required getting all that information again and keying it in.

Out for dinner at 8:30, we walked around the corner to The Roebuck Inn. With a Shire Horse bitter, I started with hummus and pita bread, followed by the triple chicken feast with cole slaw, chips and corn. A grilled chicken breast was moist and tender, drummies were probably double-fried, and the breaded chicken strips were more batter than chicken. The corn was useless (it really has to be fresh for me to consider.) Both the portions of the hummus and slaw were small. Returning, I packed what I could and crashed for the night.

16 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page