The team behind the Lincoln Castle Revealed project is about to unveil the £22 million job which includes refurbishing 1,000-year-old walls, building a vault to house a surviving copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, and an excavation which unearthed a Saxon sarcophagus.
Just in time to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, project partners Woodhead Heritage, architects Arroll & Snell and Lincolnshire County Council are putting the final touches on the castle, which reopens on April 1.
Construction company Woodhead Heritage, as part of Robert Woodhead Ltd, has put in 250,000 operative hours on the project and The Lincolnite were invited for a behind-the-scenes tour with them of the new-look landmark.
On arrival inside the Victorian Prison, where men, women and children as young as eight were held between 1848 and 1878, visitors will step into a visual tale of the site. A 3D projection of eight historic milestones from 1068 is mapped across the room.
Also at the front of the building is the new shop with historic memorabilia and gifts, and the Langton’s cafe, with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the castle’s six and a half acre grounds.
The prison, with its isolating ‘Separate System’, has been closed of to the public for many years but will now be fully open to visitors with cells furnished to replicate the conditions for inmates with museum-grade props.
“The prison project has been quite challenging when blending the new with the old,” explained Woodhead Heritage Project Manager Jamie Keegans. “We have had to be sympathetic to the area that we are working with and we have had to hand craft elements of the building to replicate the original feature.
“A very specific skills set has been required at times. The person who has been in charge of cast iron repairs for example is one of only a few people in the country with his skill.”
The new David P J Ross Magna Carta Vault is the crowning glory of Lincoln Castle’s £22m restoration. One of the four remaining copies of the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1217 Charter of the Forest will be displayed together in a subterranean room.
Jamie Keegans said: “The construction of the vault is robust. It was built to a four-hour fire protection standard. It also has a detection system which can spot any changes in the environment which would affect the document.
“It has a gas depletion system, which would pump the room with inert gas and deplete the oxygen so a fire won’t ignite.
“It also has very high-security technology build like CCTV and trigger security systems and people sensors.”
On entering the vault, visitors will be met with the Magna Carta text in English, which took four weeks to stencil, and one week to apply gold leaf to the sections which still apply today.
— Woodhead Group (@WoodheadGroup) February 17, 2015
Alongside the vault is a new underground widescreen cinema with 210 degree wraparound screen and 3D sound.
After rebuilding sections of the castle wall, visitors will be able to walk the entire perimeter for the first time.
Behind every stone of the Lincoln Castle experience there lies a story of hard work, skill and historic challenges. Some contractors will even recreate the scene one evening on site where a ghostly horse and cart was seen to charge across the grounds.
During Woodhead’s time on the project, its biggest to date, the firm totted up a huge list of materials:
- Tonnes of stone: 325 tonnes of new stone was selected from Lincoln cathedral quarry, where the original Red Bed stone was sourced. Up to 97% of wall fabric is original.
- Scaffolding: Complex scaffolding was required to access the walls. All together 213,000 ft. of scaffolding boards were used, as well as 22,337 ft of scaffolding poles, equating to 296 tonnes; 60,500 clippings were also used on the project.
- Concrete poured: Over 250 cubic metres was pumped through the grounds of the castle in 28 continuous hours for the Heritage Skills Centre foundation.
- Waste removal: The team removed 2,000 tonnes of waste from the site.
- Operative hours: (Site Based Trade Operatives) over 250,000 hours.
The reconstruction of the wall also saw a nine tonne Corten steel staircase and lift shaft inserted, giving access to wheelchairs for a section of the wall.
While excavating the foundations of the new lift in 2013, the team discovered an ancient church 3m below the ground. Within the building’s remains lay the skeletons of six adults and three children.
The most important find, however, was a seventh adult skeleton in a stone sarcophagus. Discovered in the wall of the excavation trench, the sarcophagus had lain undisturbed for over 1,000 years.
In it was a complete skeleton with its feet draped in leather fragments from shoes worn at the point of burial. The skeleton is that of an unidentified high status individual as only the wealthy would have been buried in stone sarcophagi.
While the Sarcophagus will be on display for member of the public within the prison, tests are still ongoing to determine the story of the skeletons.