Journey into the past at Lincoln Castle

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Kirton-born Joseph Travis was hanged for murder at Lincoln Castle in 1848.

It would have been a spectator event, with 10-20,000 people standing outside the castle walls for what was regarded as a good day out.

Today, we can hear Joseph’s story – his crime and what prison life was like then – for the first time in over 150 years thanks to a £22 million transformation.

When the castle’s gates swung open again in the spring following the work, they revealed a visitor attraction containing three separate, but equally important, aspects.

For the first time in 500 years, visitors can walk all the way round the castle walls, exploring its towers and dungeons and uncovering a violent past of battles, sieges and public hangings.

They can visit the imposing Victorian prison and chapel, hearing the stories of some of the prisoners, and learning about the Victorian prison regime.

Visitors can also see the Magna Carta, one of just four original copies in existence, and the Charter of the Forests.

Even a visit to the coffee shop in the prison building is an experience, with a large sign listing the daily rations prisoners would have eaten, much of it consisting of oatmeal gruel and bread.

A visit to Lincoln Castle is a journey to the past when debtors and murderers received rough justice. The debtor was incarcerated until his debts were paid off, and the felons – murderers, rapists, thieves – were either hanged or sent to the colonies. Women who ‘concealed a birth’ were also imprisoned, as well as children.

Castle development manager Rachael Thomas said: “We are trying to recreate the Victorian prison experience and we have recreated some cells and others tell the stories of prison life and its characters.”

That is cleverly achieved through digital interpretation displays within some of the cells, with visitors able to touch screens, swipe for different information or use a digital magnifying glass to highlight something of interest.

There is also a dressing up cell, where visitors can pretend to be matron, surgeon, prison governor or warden. Rachel says the outfits are incredibly popular – many of the images taken ending up on social media.

At weekends during the summer there will be costumed performances, with four original plays being performed by a mix of professional actors and volunteers.