Henry VIII visits Lincoln
Professor Charles Garton was a distinguished student at Lincoln School in the 1940s and ‘50s, and was responsible for creating the Garton Archive at LCHS. In one of his books on the history of Lincoln School, Professor Garton has informed us that, in the year 1541, during the heart of the Reformation in England, King Henry VIII visited Lincoln on one of his royal progresses through his kingdom. During that time, the King met the headmaster of Lincoln School William Dighton, who held that post from about 1517 to 1539.
Picture the scene; Lincoln in August 1541, shortly after William Dighton had been elected Mayor of Lincoln, the only headmaster of Lincoln School known to have held that highest of civic offices. The King’s party was to arrive from the south down what is now known as Cross O’ Cliff Hill (then known as ‘The height’), having rested for a while at Temple Bruer, a small village between Sleaford and Lincoln. Henry had decided to make a royal progress with his fifth wife Katherine Howard through parts of his kingdom that had been torn by rebellion a few years earlier. The route took the procession through Bargate, the main gate from the south, and along the present High Street. The original Bargate is no longer there, but there is a street called Bargate at the lower end of the High Street near St Catherine’s.
Dighton was responsible for organising the King’s arrival in the City, and the moment arrived when he stepped forward to the royal stirrups and met Henry VIII face to face. At that moment, the man who had been at the helm of Lincoln School for about twenty years, looked into the masterful eyes of the man responsible for the English Reformation. The King in turn looked down upon a man of local importance, respected by his peers in the city; a man of some education and judgement, whose name could be noted. As his office required, Dighton then tendered to the King the great civic sword, the keys of the City, and the mace, which he kissed in token of his duty and loyalty. Dighton was then singled out for a place of honour in the procession which led the King through Wigford, the long south suburb, and into the City proper, to the sounds of the ringers lustily pulling the bell ropes of St Botolph’s, St Peter-at-Gowts’, St Mark’s, St Mary le Wigford’s and St Benedict’s churches
Many of Dighton’s former pupils, splendidly dressed in their magnificent scarlet gowns, would have been among those lining the route, and savouring the special moment of their former teacher. In due course, as the procession made its way up the hill, imagine the arrival at the gates facing the west front of Lincoln Cathedral to the bells which welcomed them there, ringing as loudly as they had perhaps ever done since the funeral of the famous Bishop Hugh 341 years earlier. One of the consequences to the City of the King’s visit was a hefty expense. In addition to other gifts of fish (pike, tench and bream), the Council had decided to present the King with twenty fat oxen and one hundred fat sheep costing £50, which was a substantial sum in those days. The royal party left Lincoln three days later on 12 August 1541.
LCHS Assistant Archivist
From research by Professor Charles Garton