The cathedral is the focal point and the dominant element of the character of the area. It is much larger in scale than surrounding buildings and its outstanding architectural style, form (including projecting and receding elements) and detailing make it the most prominent and high status building in the Character Area, and Lincoln as a whole. It has also strongly influenced the form and character of the open spaces around it, the street pattern (including Minster Yard), the houses facing the cathedral around Minster Yard and Pottergate, and the larger irregular buildings and plots to south and east (including the Bishop’s Palace).
The townscape has also been strongly influenced by the long history of development in the Character Area since the High Medieval period, particularly in the variety of the form and architectural style of the buildings, as well as the street pattern and variety in the shape and size of the building plots.
Figure 3 The variety of architectural style and detailing on Minster Yard and Pottergate
The Character Area is at the top of the north escarpment. The area around the cathedral is relatively flat but then the ground falls away steeply to the south. The slope is terraced in part, for example around the Bishop’s Palace. In particular, buildings within the Character Area are very prominent when seen from the south.
The street pattern is an irregular grid centred on the cathedral. Minster Yard, Eastgate, Priorygate and the northern section of Pottergate create a circular around the cathedral. Greestone Place and the southern end of Pottergate run directly down the slope away from the cathedral.
The urban block structure consists of large, irregularly shaped blocks which are strongly influenced by the steep topography and the impermeable boundary of the Close Wall and its gates, making access into and out of the area quite difficult, especially to the south and for vehicles generally. This, together with measures to reduce traffic within the character area, creates a feeling of relative quiet around the cathedral. However, there is a raised level of road noise from through traffic along Pottergate in the east of the area. All the roads in the area are relatively narrow and most are one way only.
The size and shape of building plots are very varied, as a result of the continued development and redevelopment of the area. The majority of properties appear to have been constructed as individual development units. The buildings plots directly to the east and west of the cathedral are narrow and relatively shallow. They have buildings set at the front of the plot and which fill the width of the plot. However, the building plots to the south of Minster Yard and east of the southern section of Pottergate are large and irregularly shaped. While some buildings are set at the front of the plot, others are sited towards the centre of their plots or have their gable end facing the road. Many of these buildings have, or have had, functions associated with the cathedral (such as the Bishop’s Palace and Vicar’s Court) which have influenced their larger scale, form and spaces around them.
The buildings along Minster Yard, Pottergate and Priorygate face towards the street, and towards the cathedral when they are directly opposite it. Most buildings are set at the back of the footway forming an almost continuous building line, which is reinforced by high walls at the back of the pavement. Some buildings immediately to the east and west of the cathedral have small front gardens with low walls and railings. The combination of the walls and the buildings facing the street create a contrast of active and inactive frontages throughout the area.
The fairly continuous building line, buildings which are of similar height (2-3 storeys) around Minster Yard, Pottergate and Priorygate and which are set at the back of the footway or have shallow gardens, the long lengths of high walls (some forming part of the former Close Wall), mature trees, and the tall cathedral in the centre of the area all contribute to a strong sense of enclosure, albeit with quite large open spaces around the cathedral. The walls, building forms and arrangement of buildings (in a court for example, i.e. Vicar’s Court) also provide a strong sense of enclosure in the areas to the south and east of Minster Yard, such as around the Bishop’s Palace. Upper parts of the cathedral are visible from all these areas and increases the sense of enclosure.
The buildings vary in scale within the area. The buildings to the south of Minster Yard are often larger in size and scale. However, the ground plan varies considerably throughout the area and buildings range from 3 to 7 bays in width, although this can only be an approximate measure as many buildings have changed so much throughout their history that they do not have identifiable bays.
Figure 4 A strong sense of enclosure on Pottergate
Another key characteristic of the area are the many doorways, narrow lanes and carriageway arches leading from the open spaces around the cathedral through walls or buildings into gardens, yards or roads beyond (including Exchequergate, the entrances to Vicar’s Court, the Bishop’s Palace and many private entrances). Former doorways which have been blocked up are also visible in the buildings and walls.
Figure 5 Looking towards the Bishop’s Palace
There is a great variety of architectural form, style and detailing of buildings within the area (and in many cases within individual houses themselves), which demonstrates the complex historical development of the area. However, there are some common characteristics. The buildings are often 2-3 storeys in height with solid walls of brick or stone. They have vertical windows, many of which are wooden sash windows, and wooden panelled or ledged and battened doors. Earlier buildings also tend to have walls with a higher solid to void ratio. Roofs are usually pitched, gable roofs of slate, pantile or clay tiles, and have shallow eaves and gables. Earlier High Medieval buildings tend to have steeper roofs, sometimes behind a later parapet. Around Minster Yard and along Pottergate the roofs have their ridgeline parallel to the road. The buildings often have large chimneys built in stone. The majority of rainwater goods are cast iron.
The architectural style of buildings is largely Classical or Gothic depending on the period, or phase, of construction, with many fine examples of each. Later Classical buildings tend to have more symmetrical facades with regularly spaced windows and doors, whereas the High Medieval buildings tend to be more asymmetrical, although as stated above the continual changes from the High Medieval period have created many buildings which exhibit both characteristics.
There is a huge variety of architectural detailing including projecting balconies, bay or oriel windows, multi-pane sash windows with small or large panes, Classical keystones or quoins, moulded stone lintels and cills, pointed arched windows and doorways with hood moulds and detailing from the High Medieval period, some examples of High Medieval statuary and sculpted panels, horizontal stone mullioned windows from the Early Modern Period, Classical pedimented door cases, Classical fanlights, stone buttresses from the High Medieval or Early Modern periods, string courses, castellated parapets, and a few rendered facades.
Figure 6 A variety of architectural detail on Pottergate
Landmark buildings include the cathedral, which can be seen from over 25 miles away, and Exchequergate, which forms a key link between the cathedral and castle. Bishop’s Palace is also prominent when viewed from the south and is a key element of the stone-built townscape which forms part of the historic setting of the cathedral. Pottergate (the medieval gate rather than the road) and Priorygate are also prominent buildings in the Character Area. The cathedral also terminates many views within the character area and throughout the city. Pottergate, Exchequergate and Priorygate also terminate views within the Character Area and in surrounding Character Areas.
Much of the public realm survives from earlier periods and the wide range of stone materials used and their varied forms are a specific characteristic of the area. The footways are often riven stone paving slabs, with some sawn slabs, and have York stone dished rainwater channels and crossings of pink granite setts, small white limestone blocks or York stone setts. There are York stone kerbs and channels, and the carriageways in the west of the area are large limestone blocks and smaller setts. Many areas on corners or at the public/private boundary are made up of irregular areas of York stone setts of different size and shape. The carriageways on Eastgate and Pottergate are tarmac.
Figure 7 Surviving public realm on Greestone Place
There are many surviving cast iron features on the townscape including drainage grills, manhole covers and narrow water runoff channel, and cast iron bollards. Several Lincoln ‘Fosters’ lanterns survive in parts of the Character Area. Moulded cast iron street nameplates also survive. The area is relatively uncluttered with generally inconspicuous street furniture, which includes wooden benches, and modern black lampposts. However, there are some areas, such as the junction of Pottergate and Minster Yard, which are comparably more cluttered by modern traffic signs and bollards.
The wide use of natural materials, especially stone, throughout the Character Area, both in the public realm and the built form, is a congruent characteristic of the area, exemplified by the Cathedral itself. However, the use of stone in buildings, walls and in large parts of the public realm greatly adds to this overall characteristic of the area.
Figure 8 Stone buildings and public realm opposite the cathedral on Minster Yard
The public space, paved in natural stone materials denoting the footways and carriageway, between the west end of the cathedral and Exchequergate is a key focal point in the area and a visitor destination.
There are also many relatively large greens around the cathedral, some with trees and surrounded by low stone walls. The greens are key elements of the townscape, forming part of the cathedrals setting, emphasising its prominence and scale. However, open spaces are entirely enclosed by the cathedral and buildings and walls around Minster Yard and Pottergate. The open spaces, or greens, and the large rear gardens and grounds to south of Minster Yard and the east of Pottergate (e.g. around the Bishops palace, Christs Hospital terrace, Vicar’s Court and St Mary’s Preparatory School) create a relatively low building density in the area.
Figure 9 Vicar’s Court with the cathedral behind
Mature trees in the greens and the large rear gardens and grounds of houses around the cathedral contribute to the setting of building sin the Character Area, especially when seen from the lower city and surroundings.