Sometimes we take our children on days out which we think are educational but exciting for them. All too often we pay out our hard earned cash and the only thing they are interested in is the shop at the venue. Little ones mostly enjoy anything but the older ones are not so easy to impress. Exciting excursions therefore looks at the more grisly side of our heritage.
LINCOLN GAOL HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING HAUNTED!!!
The Lucy Tower is perhaps one of the most unusual graveyards that can be found. The visitor has to climb many steep steps to get to the graveyard. Once inside, we find ourselves in an enclosed cemetery. The other bizarre aspect of the graveyard is that all the graves are of prisoners who were hanged in Lincoln Gaol. One of whom was William Frederick Harry who was hanged on April 1st, 1872 for the murder of his wife. Others who were hanged at Lincoln Gaol were : Peter Blanchard -1875, William Clark – 1877, James Anderson -1883 and Thomas Garry in 1868. The first private female hanging was that of Pricilla Biggerdyke in 1868. Apparently she was having an affair with the lodger and her husband died of rat poisoning. Although Priscilla actually bought the poison she maintained that she was innocent up until her execution. Years later, the lodger confessed to the dastardly deed on his deathbed. Priscilla was pardoned – too little, too late.
Older children seem to enjoy these grisly tales and it brings history to life for them when they actually visit the spot where it happened. This case is well documented and it is good for their I.T. skills to do further research on real life historical cases. Sometimes, older children also seem to be more interested in grisly tales of everyday people of the past. The violence of the Kings and Queens often seems unreal and more like something from the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.
There is a bench for visitors to sit upon in The Lucy Tower. It could be imagined that sitting up there in unhallowed ground, amongst people who had suffered violent deaths, would cause an atmosphere of unrest – that is the strangest aspect of The Lucy Tower. It offers a feeling of peace and tranquility bordering on sanctuary.
The original mound upon which The Lucy Tower stands was built in 1068. It would have been built with a mixture of earth and stones and then covered in clay. The first tower would have been made of wood. If the enemy had taken over the castle, The Lucy Tower most probably would have been the last line of defence. It was not made into a prison graveyard until 1824.
Standing in the pulpit of the prison chapel is intimidating; it is something which I will never forget.
In 1849 the Separate System came into force. It was believed that if prisoners were kept in isolation they would become rehabilitated. They were only let out of their cells to go to the Chapel and for exercise. If strangely enough, The Lucy Tower gives the visitor a pleasant feeling, then the Chapel does the opposite. It is said to be the only one of its kind left in the world. The Separate System meant that the inmates would sit in closed in seats, in The Chapel, so that they could not see or speak to anyone else. The seats are tilted, therefore if any prisoners dared to fall asleep during a sermon they would fall forward and be punished. There was an open bench at the back which was especially for condemned criminals; obviously it was thought that they were beyond redemption. Debtors also were not included in the separate system and they would be seated in the gallery with the men above and the female debtors below. There were sloping seats at the front for the women. Each criminal in the Separate System was locked into his seat before another could be let in. In addition to not being allowed to see others, the prisoners also had to wear masks to cover their faces. In 1851, it was realized that this system did not work and it was abandoned.
The remarkable aspect of all this is that visitors to the chapel today can stand in the pulpit and have the view which the prison chaplain would have. Some seats are fitted with a dummy criminal wearing a mask. The vision is intimidating and the atmosphere is awful, it gave me shivers down my back. If it made me feel so uncomfortable when the situation was simply being portrayed, I can not imagine what it must have been like to be there in reality. It is places like this which really help children understand what the past was like.
There is also the castle and the castle walls to visit.