Lincoln’s current townscape has been strongly influenced by several stages of growth during the Industrial Era right up to the present day. This Era is split up into six shorter periods, each of which relates to a specific phase of Lincoln growth over the last 250 years.
The Early Industrial Period (1750-1845)
In the late 18th century Lincoln’s economy rallied, the population expanded and the city entered into what was to be a prolonged phase of growth and redevelopment that would last until the First World War. The impetus for Lincoln’s revival is largely accredited to the improvement and re-opening of the Fossedyke Navigation in 1740 and improvements to the River Witham, reconnecting the city with the water going trade networks along the River Trent. However, the country’s economy as a whole was prospering from the effects of the Agricultural Revolution, and sat in the centre of a huge agricultural county, Lincoln was well placed to act as a market centre. At the beginning of the 19th century many of the city’s former open fields were enclosed during this period of agricultural improvement, and former wetland was made fit for farming by a series of drainage schemes. Heavy engineering, mining, food processing, manufacturing and other industries sprang up around the city, some growing from existing small scale enterprises, others the result of major investment by entrepreneurs. Industry was predominantly based in low-lying parts of the city that allowed easy access to the River Witham and the wider waterways network of the East Midlands. Brick works and quarrying located near to the natural resources on and at the top of the escarpment slopes.
Fig. 1 Houses dating to the Early Industrial period along Lindum Hill
The population of Lincoln expanded steadily during the Early Industrial Period, increasing the size of the city’s workforce bringing about a new entrepreneurial elite. Many of the workers lived to the rear of shops and larger houses, in courts and yards, often living alongside animals in cramped conditions. In contrast, the emerging middle and upper classes, orchestrators and profiteers of the city’s industrial growth, built new large residences on the escarpment slope away from the industrial areas of the lower city. Several of the houses located along newly constructed main roads such as Lindum Hill, which was built in 1785. One of the greatest expressions of the wealth and prosperity of the early Industrial period was Boultham Hall and its surrounding parkland, which was built by Richard Ellison in 1830.
Despite the city’s expansion during the Early Industrial Period, parts of the city still appeared rural in the early 19th century, and Lincoln was still peripheral to the national industrial economy.
Post-railway Expansion Period (1846-1868)
The arrival of the railways in 1846 that heralded the mass expansion of Lincoln’s industries and its resident population. The city quickly expanded well beyond it medieval footprint, and between 1841 and 1871 its population doubled. The railways linked Lincoln with national trade networks and ensured a reliable supply of raw materials such as steel, and means to export goods. Manufacturing and heavy engineering was well established in the city prior to the arrival of the railways, which was no doubt an influential factor in new industries setting up on Lincoln. Large enterprises often specialising in agricultural machinery, such as Clayton and Shuttleworth ironworks, prospered in Lincoln, setting up again close to the newly arrived railways and river. Many industries that grew up in Lincoln had strong links to the agricultural land surrounding the city. Tanneries, glue factories, and brewing industries all found a place in Lincoln’s growing economy.
Fig.2 Doughty's Oil Mill facing the River Witham, built in 1863
Small terraced houses were built to house the growing workforce, moving some people out of the squalid conditions of the Early Industrial Period. Few of these early terraced houses survive in Lincoln today, as many were later destroyed as housing was improved once again in the early 20th century.
Fig. 3 A short run of some early terraced houses in Witham to High Street Character Area
A second hall, Hartsholme Hall, with surrounding parkland designed by Edward Milner was built in the south of the city by Joseph Shuttleworth, whose fortune was made in Lincoln’s heavy engineering industry.
In material terms Lincoln had remained relatively unaffected by the Napoleonic wars, making small scale preparations to defend against a potential invasion in the early part of the 19th century. Following the Militia Act of 1852 new barracks (now the Museum of Lincolnshire Life) were built along Burton Road. These were eventually replaced by the Sobraon Barracks further along Burton Road built in 1890.
Late Victorian/Edwardian Period (1869 – 1919)
Lincoln continued to expand rapidly during the latter half of the 19th century and up to the beginning of the First World War in 1914. Lincoln’s population continued to grow, increasing by 40% between 1871 and 1881. The city’s overall footprint expanded accordingly, as new industrial buildings and workers housing were built. Terraced houses were rapidly built in many parts of the city, particularly in areas within walkable distance of the factories. Monk’s Road, High Street, Burton Road all formed the basis for large-scale residential expansion of the city. Houses were built along and off Newark Road, connecting the city with Bracebridge and Boultham. In the north of the city, as well as along Newark Road in the south, detached and semi-detached houses were built to house a new middle and upper class of white collar workers and professionals.
The Late Victorian/Edwardian period was also a time of great civic works. Parts of the city centre were re-designed, such as Corporation Street and the impressively large Corn Exchange. The Arboretum, surrounded by terraced housing of the same date, was opening in 1872. A new hospital, water tower and a prison were built, and the city underwent major improvements in its waste disposal and water supply infrastructure, most obviously see today by the water tower immediately north of the castle.
Fig. 4 Lincoln's Arboretum, opened in 1872
With the advent of the First World War Lincoln’s engineering industries responded to the demand for military machinery and equipment. Alongside armaments and military vehicles Lincoln was one of the largest centres for aircraft production and was the birthplace of the modern military tank. After the war industries struggles to regain their share of the heavy agricultural engineering market, and the city sunk into a prolonged period of economic decline and unemployment.
Inter-war period (1920 – 1945)
The city’s engineering industries fragmented and declined during the Inter-war period, moving away from steam power and striking up new initiatives, some based on the internal combustion engine. The railway continued as a vital link with the national economy, but high unemployment continued throughout much of the 1920s and 1930s.
The population of the city changed little during the austere inter-war years, increasing from 66,000 to 69,000 between 1921 and 1951. Nonetheless, considerable improvements were made to housing conditions in the city. Many of the city’s slums were cleared, and new large public housing estates were built such as those in St. Giles, Boultham and Swanpool. These housing estates were located in the north and south of the city, accentuating the Lincoln’s linear shape.
Fig. 5 House in Swanpool Garden Suburb
By the Second World War the city’s fortunes turned, and Lincoln’s heavy engineering industries, mostly located in the south east of the city expanded. In 1941 RAF Skellingthorpe, a Bomber Command Station, was opened in the southwest of the city.
Like many other cities in England, Lincoln experienced considerable redevelopment during the Post-war period. Major infrastructure projects were undertaken, such as Pelham Bridge in the south of the city and Wigford Way, which was opened shortly after the end of the period in 1972. Increasing use of the motorcar, which had begun in the previous Inter-war period, transformed the streets of the city. New street furniture, car parks and signage sprung up around the city. Many villages around Lincoln expanded, as people able to commute into the city sought more space and a higher standard of living.
Fig. 6 Pelham Bridge (in the left hand side of the image) surrounded by car parking
Several parts of the city centre were redeveloped and the city’s fabric began to encounter larger scale buildings constructed of modern materials, most noticeably concrete. Outside of the city centre the city continued to grow though the construction of expansive public housing estates such as Ermine East and Ermine West, as well as Birchwood which was built on the site of the former RAF Skellingthorpe airfield. Each stage of the construction of the Birchwood Estate in the south west of the city was highly experimental in its own right, illustrating changing attitudes and approached towards the design of public housing in the Post-war period. In the early part of the period, ‘homes for heroes’ were rapidly erected for returning troops. These often pre-fabricated homes still survive in many parts of the city.
After the end of the Second World War Lincoln’s industries increasingly struggled with the growing foreign competition. However, heavy engineering remained the city’s main employer, with many long serving companies diversifying into new markets, including cars and gas turbine engines.
Modern period (1967 – today)
Redevelopment of the city gathered pace during the early part of the Modern Period, with several new developments completed in the city including City Hall, the Bus Station, and several other developments along and off High Street in the city centre. Growing use of the private motor-car generated the high levels of traffic still experienced in parts of the city, leading to the creation of a bypass around the west of the city. An additional consequence was the loss of one of two railway stations in 1985, and with it a direct service to London.
The city has continued to expand, largely through the construction of expansive privately built residential housing estates on greenfield land around the fringes of the city. Within the city centre plots have been redeveloped on a piecemeal basis, with new additions to the High Street and other commercial parts of the city. Many former industrial sites have been comprehensively redeveloped, most notably around the Brayford where the industrial warehouses on the north side have been cleared for commercial use, and Lincoln University has overwritten a landscape of railway sidings along the pool’s southern side. Several other industrial areas close to the city centre have also begun to be redeveloped for residential, and to a lesser extent commercial use. South eastern parts of the city centre have similarly expanded to incorporate new commercial buildings, in particular the large scale retail units typical of out of town retail parks.
Fig. 7 Lincoln's 'Think Tank' was built in 2009 on former industrial land in the west of the city
Lincoln’s economy has changed considerably since the beginning of the Early Industrial Era, diversifying into education, retail and manufacturing. However, the city’s obsession with engineering lives on in the form of Siemens, Lincoln’s main employer, who occupy part of the old Ruston’s engineering premises in the east of the city. As an historic city, Lincoln is an important tourist destination in the U.K, but is still regarded by some as ‘off the beaten track’ with limited transport links to the remainder of the East Midlands and beyond. With new and improved transport links forecast for the near future, and status as one of England’s major centres for residential growth, the future of the city will continue to change at pace.
The text is a combined and abridged version of information taken from:
Jones, M.,2004. Lincoln: History and Guide. Tempus, Stroud.
Stocker, D. et Al., 2003. The City by the Pool. Oxbow, Oxford.