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Site of St Paul-in-the Bail church and churchyard, Lincoln

Reference Name MLI83330

Site of St Paul-in-the Bail church and churchyard, Lincoln

The site of St Paul-in-the Bail church, built in the 12th century, although possibly built as early as the 7th century. Excavations revealed that it was built on the site of a probable early medieval church.


PRN 70027
This church has traditionally been considered to be very ancient and important, and since at least the 12th century it has been suggested that this is the site of the church built by Paulinus in the early 7th century, as reported by Bede. Some authors have considered that the dedication to St Paul is in fact a corruption of an earlier dedication to St Paulinus. {1}{2}{3}{4}{5}{15}
However, not all authors were convinced that this was the church of Paulinus, although none appear to dispute that it is very old. St Martin's (PRN 70553) has also been proposed as the church of Paulinus. {6}{2}
The site was excavated in the 1970s, following the demolition of the Victorian church building. The excavations revealed two post Roman to early Anglo Saxon timber buildings. One is an east to west aligned rectangular structure with an internal division which is likely to be a church. The other is an apsidal structure which is definitely an early church of Augustinian plan. This building contains a row of post holes which probably represent a screen or partition to separate the altar from the rest of the church. At one end of this feature was a deposit of human bones which were old when deposited, and these may represent a foundation deposit. Both of these structures may have a date range anywhere between the 5th and 8th centuries, and the exact dates are still debated. It is also much debated whether the apsidal structure is the church mentioned by Bede. A key point in this debate is that the apsidal structure is constructed of timber, whereas Bede specifically mentions a stone church. It has been suggested variously that Bede was simply wrong, as he was describing a structure he had likely never seen, or that the church was plastered to look like stone, or that Bede was right and was describing another building elsewhere, possibly elsewhere on the St Paul’s site outside the excavation area or possibly elsewhere in the city. These early timber churches are sited within the area of the Roman forum, which may be significant, and they may have reused the Roman well (PRN 70548) as a water source, possibly with ritual associations. {7}{8}{9}{10}
Burials at the site appear to have begun in the 5th century. Radiocarbon dates from burials around and overlying the timber structures have a date range from the 5th to the 8th centuries. One remarkable burial was found overlying the centre of the screen or partition in the apsidal church, directly in front of the alter area (although it is argued that this may be coincidence). This burial was placed in a stone cist, and a bronze hanging bowl was found hidden in the grave. The bones themselves had been removed, possibly translated to another location in the 10th century. The bowl itself has been extensively discussed, and is of 7th century type although with repairs that indicate that it was old when placed in the grave. The date of the grave is therefore uncertain. {7}{8}{9}{10}{11}
In the 10th century a small rectangular stone structure was constructed over the area of the hanging bowl grave and the focal area of the apsidal church (again, it is debated whether this is significant or coincidence). This stone structure appears to be the beginning of the larger medieval parish church, although it is suggested that it may initially have functioned as a chapel. Additions were made to this structure throughout the late Saxon to early Norman period, including the addition of a chancel, the extension of the nave and chancel and the addition of a south aisle. Burials also continued throughout this period, including a few in stone coffins. {7}{8}{9}{12}
By 1301 the church was already in disrepair and Bishop Dalderby issued letters demanding its repair (which appear to have caused some dispute as not all parishioners contributed, leaving those who did paying more than their share of the costs). The church survived the Reformation but was damaged in the Civil War. By 1700 it was in such a state of disrepair that the chancel had to be rebuilt, and the tower was blown down in a storm in 1715. In 1786 the building was demolished and replaced with a smaller church in the Georgian style, described by one writer as being of “the meanest description”. In 1876 this building was also demolished and replaced with the Victorian church which stood until 1972 when that also was demolished after the parish was amalgamated with St Mary Magdalene in 1966. The churchyard continued to receive burials until the 1850s. {2}{3}{5}{7}{8}{15}

1 Bibliographic reference: Bede, H. E.. 1990. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. p.134
2 Article in serial: VENABLES, E.. 1876. Associated Architectural and Archaeological Societies’ Reports and Papers. Vol XIII, pp.209-12
3 Article in serial: VENABLES, E.. 1888. 'A list and brief description of the churches of Lincoln previous to the period of the Reformation' in Associated Architectural and Archaeological Societies’ Reports and Papers. pp.342-43, no. 43
4 Bibliographic reference: Mansel Sympson, E.. 1906. Lincoln: A Historical and Topographical Account of the City. pp.324-25
5 Bibliographic reference: Milton, E.R. 1946. The Church and Parish of St Paul-in-the Bail. -
6 Bibliographic reference: HILL, J.W.F.. 1948. Medieval Lincoln. pp.103-104
7 Bibliographic reference: Steane, Kate. 2006. The Archaeology of the Upper City and Adjacent Suburbs. SP72
8 Bibliographic reference: Jones, Michael, J; Stocker, D.; and Vince, A.. 2003. The City by the Pool including LARA. pp 147-51; RAZ 8.1.1, 9.60.29, 10.60.29, 11.91.8
9 Article in serial: Gilmour, Brian. 1979. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XXIII, pp.214-18
10 Bibliographic reference: Sawyer, Peter. 1998. Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire. pp.58-59 and pp.226-230
11 Article in monograph: BRUCE-MITFORD, R.. 1993. Pre-Viking Lindsey. p.52 (no.7), fig 5.6: (2), fig 5.7: (9), fig 5.8: (7), plate 6 a-d
12 Bibliographic reference: Everson, P. and Stocker, D.. 1999. Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture. Lincolnshire. pp.217-19
13 Index: SMR file cards for Lincoln. LINCOLN. SK9771NE: AE; SK 97 SE, EF
14 Index: Ordnance Survey. OS card index for Lincoln. LINCOLN. SK 97 SE; 54
15 Bibliographic reference: Cameron, K.. 1984. The Place-Names of Lincolnshire, Part 1. 1. p.130
16 Correspondence: 1970s. St Paul in the Bail parish file. -

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