Women in Roman Lincoln


Hope Williard

Women in Ancient Roman society  have been largely marginal in historical studies of the period, even though they were citizens. Unable to vote or hold office, they did nonetheless exercise agency and influence within the private sphere. Of course, enslaved women and those of a lower social status have featured even less in the historical record.

This blog post travels back in time to the period between the mid-first and the early fifth centuries CE, when Lincoln was the Roman city of Lindum Colonia. Today, we can still see an impressive array of remains, especially of the city walls and gates, all around the city. If you are starting from the lower city and are willing to brave the aptly-named Steep Hill, walking a loop of the visible remains of Roman Lincoln takes approximately two hours. This post will introduce you to two of the women you might have met walking that same loop hundreds of years ago.

As you will see, they hidden are in plain sight.

Introducing Lindum Colonia

Roman presence in what is now Lincolnshire began well before the conquest of Britain in the year 43 CE. The Roman conquest of Gaul (modern-day France) during the 50s BCE included a brief military incursion into Britain, under the leadership of Julius Cesar, in 55 and 54 BCE, and led to increasing economic, political, and cultural contact. Like other groups on the empire’s borders, the peoples of south-eastern Britain had economic contact with the Roman world for decades before invasion, through trade in iron, salt, agricultural goods, and enslaved people. Empires cultivate and exploit areas beyond their borders for their human and economic capital, but we can also see the peoples of Britain pursuing the economic, political, and cultural assets of contact with their powerful neighbour in support of their own aims.

In approximately 47 CE, Roman forces (specifically, IX Legion Hispana) first reached Lincolnshire and established a series of short-term military camps. A more permanent military presence in the region dates to several decades later–the first stages of Roman fortifications in Lincoln seem to date to the 60s and 70s CE, with the presence of the ninth and then the second legions in the area. The next stage of Roman Lincoln’s development was as a colonia (from which we get the English word colony) the highest status of Roman city.

While the precise date of foundation of the colonia is not entirely clear, archaeologists estimate that it was between 84 and 96 CE, during the reign of the emperor Domitian. The city retained links to its military origins. During this period, the Roman state granted legionaries who had finished their period of service lands in coloniae across the empire. Veterans were permitted to retire to areas where they had served with the expectation that their sons would grow up to become future legionaries. The wooden buildings and walls of the early military occupation were replaced with stone and over the next few centuries Roman Lincoln expanded, eventually coming to have a distinctive presence in the uphill and downhill areas of the modern city of Lincoln.

Lucius Septimius Severus was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. Born in Leptis Magna in North Africa, Severus was the first African-born Emperor of the Roman Empire. His wife, Julia Domna was a Syrian Arab woman who exerted power and influence, accompanying Severus on military campaigns, mediating between her sons and influencing literary and artistic works.

Septimius Severus ordered that Lindum Colonia should have proper stone walls to replace the wooden ones of the early military occupation. For a few years, Septimius Severus ran the whole of his Empire from Eboracum – today’s York. There were other wealthy citizens of African heritage in Eboracum. We know that there were also people of African heritage living in Lindum Colonia. The evidence is from the human remains that archaeologists found on the route of the new Eastern bypass around Lincoln.

The population of Roman Lincoln varied over the course of its history, from perhaps 5,000 during its early days to as many as 10,000-12,000 at its height, making it a moderately sized but not especially big city by the standards of Roman Britain. The city brought together people of a range of different origins and backgrounds. Native British and immigrant craftspeople, local traders and merchants from far afield, government officials, soldiers and ex-soldiers and visitors or emigrants from rural areas, were just some of the many people who lived in or had connections to the colonia over its four centuries of history. Through the evidence of the city’s material culture, and particularly its tombstones, we can meet its inhabitants.

Meet Claudia Crysis

Funerary inscription for Claudia Crysis

The tombstone of Claudia Crysis reads:

To the spirits of the departed (and) to Claudia Crysis; she lived 90 years. Her heirs had this set up.

Ninety is an impressive age in any era and Claudia is currently the oldest woman we know of from Roman Britain. Her brief epitaph, which may date from the second century, was discovered on Lindum Road in 1830, having been built into the east wall of the lower city sometime during the fourth century.

Her second name, crysis, possibly indicates that she had blond hair. The tombstone does not allow us to say anything about her family background or origins. Funerary inscriptions sometimes, but not always, name the person who was responsible for the monument being set up and specify their relationship to the deceased, but Claudia’s heirs chose not to identify themselves by name. Whether this came from an unwillingness to pay for the extra lines on a larger stone, deference to Claudia’s own wishes, or self-effacement on their part, is impossible to say. Although the inscription is brief and nothing else is known about her, her epitaph nonetheless invites us to learn more about Roman experiences of age and aging.

A common misconception about the ancient and medieval worlds is that everyone died young. Demography – the statistical study of population structures – is one of the tools scholars use to draw conclusions about issues like infant mortality and life expectancies in the ancient world. This can come from two sources: analysis of human remains to determine someone’s approximate age at death, and Roman tombstones, which frequently say how old a person was when they died. Due to extremely highly mortality rates among infants and children, the rough average life expectancy was somewhere between twenty and thirty. To compensate for the effects of child mortality on this average, scholars use a method known as model life tables to estimate the proportion of the population in certain age groups. For instance, someone who survived past the age of ten was, on average, likely to live into their late forties; a person who made it to the age of sixty could expect to live for approximately another decade. Demographers have estimated that around six to eight percent of the Roman population was elderly. While this is a lower proportion than in our own society, it suggests that most people would have known older people in their families or social circles.

Based on the evidence provided by their law and literature, Romans regarded sixty as the onset of old age for men. There is some evidence that this varied by occupation: during the Roman Republic the normal age that a man might be expected to perform military service was between the ages of sixteen and forty-six. However, the arrangements made for the settlement of veterans on land around the empire after their period of service had finished indicates that they were clearly expected to have a reasonable span of active years left to them after retirement. For women, it seems that the beginning of old age was associated with the onset of menopause or between the ages of forty and fifty. For both men and women, the onset of old age was strongly identified with its effects on the body and mind, rather than their calendar age.

While Romans did celebrate their birthdays, an individual’s exact knowledge of their own age was likely to depend on their circumstances. For example, someone who had received at least some education, or who had strong family or social networks, was more likely to be able to accurately gauge their own age. Uncertainty or best guesses about age also applied to tombstones, where it was common to round to the nearest five or nearest ten, suggesting that Claudia Crysis may not have been exactly ninety years old when she died.


Tombstone of Claudia Crysis – The Collection

Whether she was in her late eighties or early nineties, Claudia stands out in more ways than one. She would have had very few peers in Roman Britain–her tombstone is our only epigraphic evidence of a nonagenarian woman. Possibly the next oldest woman in Roman Britain, Julia Secundina, lived to be seventy-five; she was buried at Carleon with her husband, the legionary Julius Valens, whose tombstone marks him as one of the Roman world’s rare centenarians. Furthermore, the lettering on Claudia’s monument is extremely well cut, indicating that she and her heirs were able to afford a high-quality memorial. This, combined with her advanced age, suggests that she had the wealth and social standing to access the higher standard of living which enabled her to lead such an extraordinarily long life.

Meet Carssouna

Once they had outlived their function as memorials, Roman tombstones were often reused as building materials. (This is how Claudia Crysis’ tombstone ended up being removed from a cemetery and built into a late Roman wall.) The next time you are on your way to Lincoln train station, pause in front of the west tower of the church of St Mary Le Wigford, and look to the right of the doorway.

The west tower of the church of St Mary Le Wigford showing the dedication stone to the right of the doorway. Photo credit Richard Croft, shared under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

You will see a fragmentary funerary inscription built into the church itself. The inscription was first recorded by the Lincolnshire antiquarian, physician, and clergyman, William Stukeley, in 1722, as part of his lifelong efforts to document and explore Britain’s Roman past. The church itself dates to the late tenth century but what you can see today is newer than this–the tower itself was built in the late eleventh century. The inscription itself seems to have been added at the time the tower was built and to have been in place ever since.

Fascinatingly, it comes in two parts. The lower part is a Latin inscription, which reads in translation:

To the departed spirits (and) to the name of Sacer, son of Bruscus, a citizen of the Senones, and of Carssouna, his wife, and of Quintus, his son…

The bottom edge of the stone is broken off and the inscription appears to be incomplete. If another few lines were present, they may have identified the person who was responsible for setting up the memorial. Carssouna, her father-in-law Bruscus, husband Sacer, and son Quintus provide a very interesting example of three generations of a Roman-British family. The description of Bruscus as ‘a citizen of the Senones’, would indicate that he had come from Gaul (specifically, the area around the city of Sens) to Lincoln. It is a lovely example of how people from outside Lincolnshire have long been a part of its history.

In a world without birth certificates or passports, someone’s name declared their identity and origins, so it is worth considering these names in more detail. They show interesting changes across the generations. Both Bruscus and Sacer have names which echoes the forms of Latin names, even if they are not entirely Roman. However, the youngest generation on the tombstone, Quintus, has an extremely common Roman name. Perhaps his parents hoped he might grow up to be someone who made a place for himself in the wider Roman world? Carssouna stands out on the tombstone just only as the only woman to be mentioned, but also for her distinctly non-Roman name. Unlike the name Quintus, Carssouna is an incredibly rare name, and raises intriguing questions. We might imagine her parents choose a culturally resonant name out of pride in their heritage, much the way that parents might do today.

Fragmentary funerary inscription

We would not necessarily know about Carssouna at all if the stone had not been reused for a later inscription. The individual who commissioned and funded the building of the eleventh century tower where the stone resides today, commemorated his deed in an Old English inscription which reads:

E[i]rtig had me built and endowed to the glory of Christ and Saint Mary, ☧.

The inscription is crammed into the pediment of the old Roman tombstone. It is right side up but slightly confusing in that it is read from bottom to top. Unlike the reuse of Claudia’s tombstone as building materials, this shows a more dynamic engagement with Lincoln’s Roman past. Although both inscriptions are now quite weathered, they would have been plainly visible to viewers, and Ertig himself or other viewers may have seen a connection between the two inscriptions. One theory is that the stone was reused due to a misreading of the words nomini Sacri–‘to the name of Sacer’–as a Christian message about the sacred name of the divine. But then why was the rest of the text, which has no such ambiguities, so prominently displayed? While the full story of the inscription remains a mystery, we can be grateful it left one of Roman Lincoln’s women hidden in plain sight.

Further Reading

Lindsay Allison-Jones, ‘The Family in Roman Britain’ in A Companion to Roman Britain ed. Martin Todd (Oxford, 2004), pp. 273-287.

Charlotte E. Bell, ‘The Autonomy of Power: Epigraphy of Women in Roman Britain’ (MA Dissertation, University of Liverpool, 2020).

Karen Cockayne, Experiencing Old Age in Ancient Rome (London: Routledge, 2003).

Guy De la Bédoyère, The Real Lives of Roman Britain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015).

Andrew C. Johnson, The Sons of Remus: Identity in Roman Gaul and Spain (London, 2017).

Michael J. Jones, Roman Lincoln: Conquest, Colony, and Capital (Stroud, 2011).

Anthony Lee (2013) Claudia Crysis – Roman Britain’s oldest woman. [blog] The Collection. Available at: https://www.thecollectionmuseum.com/?/blog/view/claudia-crysis-roman-britains-oldest-woman [Accessed 23 March 2022].

     –Treasures of Roman Lincolnshire (Stroud, 2016).

–(2016) Roman Lincolnshire in the British Museum. [blog] Roman Lincolnshire Revealed. Available at: https://romanlincolnshire.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/roman-lincolnshire-british-museum/ [Accessed 23 March 2022].

–(2018) Some women of Roman Lincolnshire. [blog] Roman Lincolnshire Revealed. Available at: https://romanlincolnshire.wordpress.com/2018/03/08/some-women-of-roman-lincolnshire/ [Accessed 23 March 2022].


Lincoln’s First Black History Trail


Courtesy of Historycalroots: https://www.historycalroots.com/peter-bishop-1792-1852-soldier-of-the-69th-foot-and-veteran-of-waterloo/.

The first Black History Trail ever in the city of Lincoln has been designed by researchers of Reimagining Lincolnshire, a public history project based at the University. It aims to expand our appreciation of the city’s diverse heritage and how we have been shaped by the mobility of people, goods and ideas over the centuries. From African Roman Emperor Septimius Severus to the Caribbean RAF veterans who resided here during World War 2, black people have been part of the everyday fabric of the city. Some have made extraordinary contributions. The trail focuses on Lincoln but will make connections to the region and the wider world.

The trail starts at the intersection of the High Street and Wigford Way and ends at the Cathedral. There are eight stops altogether. This blogpost is set out in the same order as the trail, so that it’s easy to find further information related to each stop.

Stop 1: St Mary le Wigford[1]

We’ll tell stories here about army veterans, industrial workers and football players.

Ann Bishop, a Lincoln woman, was buried at St Mary le Wigford in 1826.  She was 36 years old. (The churchyard has now disappeared under urban development.)   She was married to Peter Bishop, a black man who was born in Barbados in 1792. He enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot in 1806 and subsequently moved to Lincoln with his Battalion. Whether he was free or enslaved prior to enlistment is unknown. He and Ann were married in 1810.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, black soldiers served in many regiments of the British army as military musicians, specifically drummers. Racialised beliefs at the time stereotyped black people as having a propensity for music and their presence in regiments was considered a sign of military prestige.

Regiments often put on parades in which all their musical resources would be focused on promoting regimental image in the hope of ingratiating the regiment with local worthies, or, more seriously as far as the survival of the regiment was concerned, to aid recruitment. [2]

Peter Bishop was such a drummer and his duty was to beat out the drum patterns issued by his commanders to communicate orders to the soldiers. He was soon off to war again and served at the Battle of Waterloo. He survived the horrific conditions and received the Waterloo Medal. After this he seems to  have been discharged. Like many other veterans of the time, Peter and Ann experienced homelessness and spent the rest of their lives in and out of Lincoln’s workhouse. After Ann’s death, Peter remarried but continued to face poverty until his own death at the age of 65. He is buried in uphill Lincoln, in what would have been the grounds of the Union Workhouse.  There were probably several other black army veterans like him, living in Lincoln in the late 18th and early 19th centuries[3].

Along the end of Wigford Way is the Lincoln site of Siemens, the current-day company that started life as Ruston’s, and a reminder of a long history of heavy engineering in the city. Ruston’s and others such as Fosters, Clayton and Shuttleworth and Robeys,  produced agri-machinery, excavators, engines, cranes, tanks and planes. These machines were exported all over the British Empire and beyond. These goods and the people that made and used them are connected to the vast history of Britain’s imperial expansion.

Ruston’s was one of the most prolific Lincoln-based companies and their products were exported to places like Africa and the Caribbean. One could find a Ruston’s saw mill in Senegal, diesel engines and excavator mines in Togo and trains in Ghana[4]. This also meant that trainee engineers and workers from Africa and the Caribbean would regularly come to visit Lincoln’s factories to learn how to maintain these goods[5].  Public history tends to remember the people who invented, designed or owned objects. Much less credence is given to those who made them and kept them going.

Beyond St Mary le Wigford to the south is Sincil Bank, Lincoln City FC’s ground.  Lincoln City was the first club in the English league to hire two black players, in 1899 and in 1909.

Johnnie Walker was the first black footballer to play in the Scottish league. Lincoln signed him in 1899 for £25 and he became the first black player to command a transfer fee in the UK[6]. Guyanese player Willie Clarke was the first black player to score in the English league for Aston Villa in 1901. He transferred to Lincoln from 1909-1912[7]. In more recent times, former English League and international player Keith Alexander became manager of LCFC in 1993, only the second black manager in the English league (after Tony Collins at Rochdale in 1960). He later became the first qualified black referee[8].

Keith Alexander, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Reimagining Lincolnshire project has uncovered another black player as early as 1903 – a goalkeeper for Lincoln Liberal Club[9]. We have yet to discover more about his identity.

Stop 2: Cornhill[10]

Lincoln has various connections with transatlantic slavery. Cornhill is particularly associated with the abolitionist movement and other global movements for social reform.

The transatlantic slave trade was the enforced and violent removal of over 12 million people from Africa from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Most Western European powers participated in and benefited from  this trade.  We know of several Lincoln residents who were ‘compensated’ for the loss of enslaved labour when slavery was abolished in the British Empire in the 1830s.  Margaret Ashton, wife of a mason,  lived in Newport and owned a plantation in Jamaica; Harman Dwarris likewise lived in Lincoln and owned a Jamaican plantation and 18 enslaved people. These examples remind us that townspeople benefited from the system, as well as those with country estates[11].

There was also a strong abolitionist movement in Lincoln. Women and children across Lincolnshire protested against slavery through boycotting sugar, one of the most lucrative crops grown on the plantations. In one account of a meeting, women ‘were pierced to the heart with the sufferings of the oppressed Africans; and with a fortitude which does them the highest honour, refused to enjoy those sweets, which they supposed to be the price of bIood.’  (Mark Jones 1998: 63)[12]

The movement for abolition continued until slavery was ended after the American Civil War in 1865. Several formerly enslaved people visited Lincoln and addressed huge audiences at Cornhill. Isaac Dikerson,  also a war veteran and member of the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers, spoke here in 1894[13]. In the video below you can listen to the earliest known recording of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1909. Courtesy of Nathaniel Jordan on YouTube.

The movement for abolition was strongly connected to two other global campaigns for social reform, temperance (the trades in people and alcohol were closely connected) and women’s rights.  Rev. John Henry Hector, the so-called ‘Black Knight of the Temperance movement’ addressed the crowds here in 1895 and 1897. Hallie Quinn Brown, a university-educated orator and women’s rights campaigner, spoke here in 1895[14]. Preacher Benjamin William Brown spoke at Cornhill in 1897[15].

Objects from the past tell the story of slavery and abolition, too. Sugar was the hedonic that stimulated the mass consumption of other hedonics like chocolate, coffee and tea. The Usher Gallery has an example of a tea, coffee and chocolate set – cups and saucers, pots, jugs, bowls and tray – that were produced to cater to changing habits and fashions in entertaining. The Gallery also holds a late 18th century Wedgwood trinket box displaying the symbol of the abolitionist movement in Britain: a kneeling enslaved man with his manacled arms stretched out before him, as if begging for freedom. This symbol has long attracted criticism for denying the agency of the enslaved themselves in struggling for their freedom[16].

Stop 3: High Street Waterside[17]

Street scenes of this part of the High Street in the 1860s reveal that black people were an everyday presence[18].

During World War 2, there was an influx of personnel from all over the world. Lincolnshire mostly housed RAF stations (although there were some army units here too).  Among those who came to serve in the RAF were over 5,000 black Caribbean ground personnel. Many would have come into Lincoln when off duty, to cinemas, dancehalls and the NAAFI[19].

The building above Waterstone’s was then a popular gathering place for RAF officers – the Saracen’s Head.  One of them was Billy Strachan, one of the very few black pilots to serve in RAF Bomber Command. Born in Jamaica, he sold his possession and made his way to the UK in 1940. On arrival, he took and passed the Air Ministry tests and trained as a wireless operator. He excelled as a wireless operator, completing over 30 operations in enemy territory. He then trained as a pilot and was based at RAF Fiskerton. Popular with his crew, he always managed to get them home safely.  Yet one night, taking off from Fiskerton,  he asked his engineer for the location of Lincoln Cathedral’s spire.

In his own words Strachan recalled the incident: “He replied, ‘We are just passing it.’ I looked out, shocked that the spire was not where I expected, below us, but just a very few feet beyond our wingtip. I hadn’t seen the spire at all — and I was the pilot!”  He flew out over the north sea, ditched the whole bomb load and returned to Fiskerton. He never flew after that. After the war, he trained as a lawyer and co-founded the Movement for Colonial Freedom. He became a very prominent anti-racist campaigner. He died in 1998[20].

Billy Strachan, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Stop 4: Stonebow[21]

The Stonebow Guildhall has been the civic centre of Lincoln since the 1300s and is the seat of the City Council.

Ralph Toofany was a nurse who came to Lincoln from Mauritius. He was one of the thousands of Caribbean, African and Asian nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers who migrated to the UK to staff the new NHS after 1948, and have been the rock of the NHS in Lincolnshire ever since.

Ralph worked at St John’s psychiatric hospital in Lincoln. In common with many psychiatric hospitals St John’s was a major employer of black and Asian workers.  He was  also a trade unionist and Labour Party activist. He became  Lincoln’s first black councillor, first black mayor (in 1992) and later Lincoln’s first black Sheriff.  He was still serving in the council when he helped to build Lincoln’s Central Mosque, which opened in Boultham in 2018[22].

Other notable people of colour in Lincoln’s civic life include first Sikh Sheriff, Jasmit Kaur Phull and Gregory Yeargood, RAF veteran and mace-bearer in the 1990s[23].

For a time after World War 2, Lincoln City Council was twinned with the city of Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. Pietermartizburg gifted to Lincoln a ceremonial rug crafted by black women in the township of Sobantu, a segregated part of Pietermaritzburg.  Lincoln named some streets after residential areas in Pietermaritzburg, such as Edendale[24].

At this time, South Africa had an apartheid regime where discrimination against people based on their skin colour was violently enforced by the state.  Only white people therefore tended to benefit from the twinning arrangement.  In the 1960s, Lincoln anti-apartheid activists called for an end to the connection and it petered out[25].

Stop 5: Clasketgate[26]

It’s fitting that we use the site of one of Lincoln’s oldest theatres, the Theatre Royal, to tell the story of the long association of black entertainers with Lincoln.

Ira Aldridge was a famed Shakesperean actor of the 19th century. He was born in New York in 1806 and began his acting career there, but came to the UK with a friend in the 1820s, tired of the racism he encountered in the US[27]. In 1842 and 1849, Aldridge played at the Theatre Royal. According to the review in the Lincoln Standard,  ‘his talents are first rate, and his conduct gentlemanly, strongly evidencing that mankind all have an equal capacity, if they had but the opportunity of receiving instruction’[28].

Ira Aldridge (1807?-1867) in the character of Othello, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Other black entertainers to appear in Lincoln in the 19th century included Carlos Trower, a tight rope walker, who thrilled crowds in Lincoln in the 1860s[29]. Delmonico, described as ‘a man of colour’ and ‘daring performer’, appeared with lions and tigers at Lincoln’s April Fair in 1870[30].

One hundred years later, 1960s Mod culture was heavily influenced by postwar African American Chuck Berry, the father of rock and roll and singer of Maybelline played at Lincoln’s ABC cinema in 1965[31]. Jimi Hendrix, the world’s greatest guitar player, played there too in 1967[32]. However, a far more famous music venue in Lincolnshire was the Gliderdrome in Boston, where Hendrix also played. Others included Otis Redding, The Equals and Tina Turner[33].

The first film shot on location in Lincoln was The Wild and the Willing, in the early 1960s. It was about student life in a fictional university town called Killminster. Stars Ian McShane, John Hurt, and Samantha Eggar all debuted in the movie[34]. It also starred Johnny Sekka, an African actor from Dakar in Senegal. He had worked in the docks in Banjul, where he stowed away on a ship to Europe. In the 1950s he joined the RAF and started acting as a hobby. A big talent, his breakthrough came in 1959 when he starred in a stage version of the Joyce Carey novel, Mister Johnson. He went on to play roles with some of Britain’s most notable actors, such as Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles[35].

Stop 6: Steep Hill[36]

This stop focuses on the story two thousand years ago: Roman Lincoln’s African connections

This city’s connection with the Roman Empire began in around CE60, when the Ninth Legion built a fort here for around 5,000 legionaries. It was then abandoned as the army moved north. In the late first century CE, a colonia was founded on the same site. A colonia was a self-governing city of the highest status, meant to be a model of Roman civilisation. This one was called Lindum Colonia, which over time was shortened to Lincoln. Its first settlers were retired legionaries. It was one of only four such settlements in the whole of Britain and remained a colonia until the fall of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century CE. The colonia’s wealthy citizens contributed to the development and beautification of the urban environment[37].

Septimius Severus was the first African-born Emperor of Rome. He was born in Leptis Magna in North Africa, which today is the city of Khoms in Libya. It was Severus who, in the late first century CE, ordered that Lindum Colonia should have stone walls to replace the old wooden fortifications. That we can still see remains of walls and gates, connecting us with our Roman past, is therefore due to Severus. For a few years, he made Eboracum (today’s York) his headquarters. He died there in CE 211. Severus’s original walls and gates were enlarged on numerous occasions, although in Roman times, the colonia was never subjected to attack. Construction was more for ceremonial splendour[38].

The panel, from circa AD 200, depicts the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus and his family. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We know that there were also people of African heritage living in Roman Lincoln. One form of evidence is the DNA tests conducted on the human remains that archaeologists found on the route of the new Eastern bypass around the city[39].

Stop 7: Castle Hill[40]

We have demonstrated how the coming and going of people to and from Lincoln to the Americas, Asia and Africa and vice versa has been common through the centuries. Black people far before the Windrush (post-1950s generation) spent all their lives or large part of their lives in Lincoln. One such person was Francis Barber in the 1750s[41].

Francis Barber was born into slavery. Colonel Richard Bathurst was the owner of the Orange River Estate where Barber was born. This plantation was one of the largest sugar plantations in Jamaica. Bathurst had strong ties to Lincolnshire and owned a home in Lincoln in The Close. In the 1750s he returned to Lincoln with Francis Barber who was seven years old at the time. There is some evidence that he was baptised here, at St Mary Magdalene Church.

Bathurst sent Barber to boarding school in Yorkshire. In his will in 1754, he ended Barber’s enslavement. Francis Barber joined Samuel Johnson’s household as a high-ranking servant. Johnson was a famous writer and the compiler of the first English dictionary. Barber continued to work for Johnson until Johnson’s death in 1784. Barber was at his side even at death and was a beneficiary of Johnson’s will. Francis Barber and his wife Elizabeth and their children then moved to Lichfield in Staffordshire. There they faced much hardship, but Barber died in 1801 as a free man. Image from page 220 of "The life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., comprehending an account of his studies and numerous works, in chronological order; a series of his epistolary correspondence and conversations with many eminent persons" (1859)

This Image is of Francis Barber and Samuel Johnson from page 220 of “The life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., comprehending an account of his studies and numerous works, in chronological order; a series of his epistolary correspondence and conversations with many eminent persons” (1859) . Courtesy of Internet Archive Book Image on Flickr (Public Domain).

Stop 8: Cathedral[42]

The cathedral contains several objects related to British settlement, exploration and empire.

The cathedral library contains the so-called Massachusett Bible, the first Bible to be published in an indigenous language in British North America. Puritan missionary John Eliot translated the Bible into the Wôpanâak language in 1663[43]. The Wôpanâak language subsequently disappeared due to colonial expansion and violence. The Eliot Bible has recently become instrumental therefore, in assisting Wôpanâak people to relearn their language.

The St. Blaise chapel contains a painting of Jamaican World War 2 veteran Patrick Nelson. Duncan Grant, a member of the Bloomsbury Group, was commissioned to paint the mural which he completed in the 1950s. Patrick Nelson and Duncan Grant met in the late 1930s when Nelson had moved to London to study law, funded by working as an artist’s model[44]. They had a romantic relationship and Grant wrote to Nelson when he was captured as a prisoner of war during his service in the British Expeditionary Force. The painting of Nelson is problematic as it fetishizes the black male body. However, the cathedral hid the mural away for many years for a different reason: Grant used as models several others, men and women, with whom he had complex sexual relationships[45].

Duncan Grant Mural based around St Blaise, the patron saint of the wool industry. Patrick Nelson is depicted to the far right. Lincoln Cathedral. (Courtesy of Joshua Sewell, the University of Lincoln Libary Blog and the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral).

There is a sculpture of Nelson Mandela’s head on the southwest turret of Lincoln Cathedral, installed after his death in 2013. It is sited next to the stone head of an unknown African man[46].


[1]Location of St. Mary Le Wigford, 3 St Mary’s St, Lincoln LN5 7AR, https://goo.gl/maps/2tXZ9RaNMv3Kkc5s7

[2] John Ellis, Drummers for the Devil? The Black Soldiers of the 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment of Foot, 1759-1843. Journal for the Society of Army Historical Research 80, 323, 2002, p. 193

[3] For more information on Pete Bishop see John D. Ellis, ‘Peter Bishop, 1792-1851: Soldier of the 69th Foot and Veteran of Waterloo’ at  https://www.historycalroots.com/peter-bishop-1792-1852-soldier-of-the-69th-foot-and-veteran-of-waterloo/. The HistorycalRoots blog also has a wealth of information about other black veterans of the time.

[4]  Bernard Newman, One hundred years of good company. Gateshead on Tyne, Northumberland Press, 1957.

[5] Imagery of Ruston & Hornsby Engine Assembly Works from c. 1945. John Wilson Collection, Saxilby History Group.

[6] For more information on Johnnie Walker see Andy Mitchell, ‘John Walker, a black professional in the Scottish and English Leagues’ at  https://www.scottishsporthistory.com/sports-history-news-and-blog/john-walker-a-black-professional-in-the-scottish-and-english-leagues

[7] For more information on Willie Clarke see Andy Mitchell, ‘Willie Clarke – Scotland’s second black internationalist’ at https://www.scottishsporthistory.com/sports-history-news-and-blog/willie-clarke-scotlands-second-black-internationalist

[8] For more information on Keith Alexander see Paul Elliot, ‘Keith Alexander was a true pioneer in the fight for racial equality’ at https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2010/mar/03/keith-alexander-macclesfield

[9] Lincolnshire chronicle, 25 September 1903

[10]Location of Cornhill, 1, Exchange Arcade, Lincoln LN5 7HJ, https://goo.gl/maps/rtqhBEynTEUqHaP97

[11] UCL Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, Database. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/search/

[12] Mark Jones, The mobilisation of public opinion against the slave trade and slavery : popular abolitionism in national and regional politics, 1787-1838. PhD thesis, University of York, 1998.

[13] Based on data collected from Lincolnshire-based newspapers digitised in the British Newspaper Archive from 1837 onwards including: Boston Guardian (wkly), Grantham Journal (wkly), Grimsby Daily Telegraph (daily), Horncastle News (wkly), Lincoln Gazette (wkly), Lincolnshire Chronicle, Lincolnshire Echo (daily), Lincolnshire Free Press (wkly) Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian (wkly) Louth and North Lincolnshire Advertiser (wkly) Market Rasen Weekly Mail and Lincolnshire Advertiser (wkly) Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph (daily) Skegness Standard (wkly) Sleaford Gazette (wkly) Stamford Mercury (wkly)

[14] Ibid.

[15] For more information on Black Temperance campaigners see Jeffrey Green, ‘Black Temperance Campaigners in Late Victorian Britain’ at https://jeffreygreen.co.uk/129-black-temperance-campaigners-in-late-victorian-britain/

[16] The Collection and Usher Museums: https://www.thecollectionmuseum.com/

[17] Location of Lincoln High Street Waterside, 297A High St, Lincoln LN2 1AF, https://goo.gl/maps/ykC82vyjkLdBtV7f8

[18] Lincoln High Street scene, 1880s. Front cover of Maurice Hodson, Lincoln Then and Now, Volume III. M. B. Hudson, Lincoln.

[19] For more information about African Airmen in the RAF see Heather Hughes, ‘African Airmen in RAF Bomber Command’ at https://ibccdigitalarchive.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2017/10/24/african-airmen-in-raf-bomber-command/

[20]  Frost, Peter, ‘Billy Strachan – just ‘another bloody immigrant’. The Morning Star, 2 April 2018

[21] Location of Stonebow, Guildhall Saltergate, Lincoln LN2 1DH: https://goo.gl/maps/GB79RcNqCrzsVuVS6

[22] Editorial in Lexpress.mu, 14 March 2006: https://www.lexpress.mu/article/mauritian-colony-united-kingdom-ii

[23] From the Stonebow Tour: https://www.visitlincoln.com/things-to-do/guildhall-and-stonebow

[24] From the British Pathé historical collection, ‘Lincoln Links Up With South Africa 1947’: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/lincoln-links-up-with-south-africa

[25] Roger Fieldfhouse, Anti-apartheid: A History of the Movement in Britain: a Study in Pressure Group Politics. Merlin, 2005.

[26] Location of Clasketgate, Lincoln LN2 1JJ: https://goo.gl/maps/EAGZHTMvB5JAXNvf6

[27] Folarin Shyllon, Black People in Britain 1555-1833, Institute of Race Relations, 1977.

[28] Lincoln Standard & General Advertiser 9 February 1842; Lincolnshire Times 30 January 1849

[29] Lincolnshire Chronicle, 23 November 1866

[30] For more information on black performers in Lincoln see Andrew Walker in the Reimagining Lincolnshire 2021 Heritage Open Days blog: https://reimagininglincs.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2021/09/23/unheard-voices-from-reimagining-lincolnshire/

[31]Chuck Berry 1965 UK Tour setlists are available at: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/chuck-berry/1965/abc-cinema-lincoln-england-2bcd605a.html

[32] Interview with Jimi Hendrix, Lincolnshire Echo, 21 April 1967

[33] Jane Keightly 50 years of the Starlight Rooms at Boston Gliderdrome. Lincolnshire Life, April 2005. Available at: https://www.lincolnshirelife.co.uk/heritage/50-years-of-the-starlight-rooms-at-boston-gliderdrome/

[34] The Wild and the Willing (1962), British Film Institute database of films: https://www2.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6bad12ac

[35]Johnny Sekka Obituary, The Guardian, 29 September 2006: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/sep/29/guardianobituaries.artsobituaries2

[36] Location of Steep Hill, 50 Steep Hill, Lincoln LN2 1LT,https://goo.gl/maps/enKFuQrUbAeEZgRq5

[37] Michael J. Jones, Roman Lincoln: Conquest, Colony and Capital, The History Press, 2002. p. 34.

[38] Anthony R Birley, Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. London: Routledge, 1999.

[39] Ancient Burials and Artefacts unearthed beneath Lincoln Eastern Bypass Site, The Lincolnite, 17 February  2017: https://thelincolnite.co.uk/2017/02/ancient-burials-and-artefacts-unearthed-beneath-lincoln-eastern-bypass-site/

[40] Location of Castle Hill, St Mary Magdalene, Bailgate, Lincoln LN1 3AR,  https://goo.gl/maps/mTL8xtErvggJMzM28

[41] For more information on Francis Barber see Heather Hughes ‘Francis Barber’s Lincolnshire Connections at: https://reimagininglincs.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2021/10/13/francis-barbers-lincolnshire-connections/

[42] Location of Lincoln Cathedral, Minster Yard, Lincoln LN2 1PX, https://goo.gl/maps/j3Jk6GFsKZM9NeVp7

[43] For more information on the links between Lincoln Cathedral and the USA see the Lincoln Cathedral Foundation website at: http://lincolncathedralfoundation.com/lincoln-and-the-usa/

[44] Gemma Romain, Race, Sexuality and Identity in Britain and Jamaica The Biography of Patrick Nelson, 1916-1963, Bloomsbury Press, 2017.

[45] For more information about Duncan Grant’s imagery of Patrick Nelson see Rianna Jade Parker ‘Black in Bloomsbury: What Duncan Grant’s Portrait of Patrick Nelson Reveals’ at:


[46]Lincoln Cathedral appeals for Publics Help to Raise 10K for Turret Restoration, The Lincolnite,  29 October, 2015: https://thelincolnite.co.uk/2015/10/lincoln-cathedral-appeals-for-publics-help-to-raise-10k-for-turret-restoration/

Black History Month October 2022

A Wikithon focussed on the Reimagining Lincolnshire Project for Black History Month 2022.

Thursday October 20th, 2022, Online

Members of Reimagining Lincolnshire and any interested parties are invited to attend this Wikithon, in honour of Black History Month 2022. Participants will learn Wikipedia basics and make their first edits, in collaboration with the University of Lincoln library. In addition, this event will allow you to see how a Wikithon is run, how it could work for your organisation and how you can best support the growth of open knowledge.

To book a place and for more information:


Murderous Millinery – Claire Arrand on Women Pioneers in Animal Welfare

This women’s month, Reimagining Lincolnshire project member Claire Arrand, has written a post on the women led campaign to end millinery on the University of  Lincoln Library Blog:

The full blog piece can be accessed here:


“Milliners were located around the city but concentrated on Silver Street, where there were up to 5 listed at any one time between 1857 and 1919, in either the Lincoln or Lincolnshire trade directories 

Millinery businesses were the target for two different groups of women, Etta Lemon in Croydon and Emily Watson in Manchester. In 1889 Etta joined a branch of the Fur, Fin and Feather Club, appalled at the fashion of trimming hats with feathers and other avian decoration. This club joined with Emily Watson’s Society for the Protection of Birds and eventually became the RSPB. They decided to try and change public opinion, highlight this cruel trade and persuade women to solely use the available alternatives, fake flowers, lace and velvet, which were used when feathers were temporarily not in fashion.” 

The ‘Write a Lincolnshire Song’ Finals Night 28/10/21

BY JUDY HARRIS (Reimagining Lincolnshire researcher) with PAL CARTER[i] (folk singer)

Beneath the veneer of Lincolnshire’s agricultural calmness there are many vibrant communities full of vigour and interest. The life and history of Lincolnshire is varied and full of interesting and exciting tales which we want to preserve by encouraging people to write songs about them.  http://lincolnshiresong.co.uk/index.shtml

October 1st was Lincolnshire Day and Reimagining Lincolnshire Research Fellow Rob Waddington treated us to a blog tribute to the region’s talent and contributions to pop music over the last sixty years.

We continue that theme in this blog by drawing attention to a recent ‘voices’ from Lincolnshire event showcasing some more creative local singers and songwriters.

Aiming to stimulate and celebrate county-wide song writing, the ‘Write a Lincolnshire Song’ contest has been a popular annual event since 1992. Until last year it was supported by BBC Radio Lincolnshire. Traditionally, the finals night has been broadcast as a three-hour long radio show. This year was the first time the contest was supported by grassroots action and crowd funding. The finals took place in front of a live and good-sized audience at the Louth Riverhead Theatre on the evening of 28th October 2021.

All ten entries were written and performed especially for the contest. Each celebrated local history and heritage told or retold to old and new audiences. Whether yellowbellies[ii] or not, all the performers expressed a love of Lincolnshire!

The full recording is available on the ‘Write a Lincolnshire Song’ website, please click here:


What follows is a summary of the songs in order of performance followed by a short review by Pal Carter.

There were four awards: gold, silver, bronze and ‘outstanding performance’.

  1. The Bluestone Hills, written and performed by Caroline Cakebread and Pete Conner, accompanied by Jon Newby, Richard Hodgetts and Richard Nunn.

‘This gently flowing song is descriptive of Lincolnshire beaches and countryside. Caroline has a lovely clear voice, supported by guitar, keyboard, double bass and flugelhorn.’

  1. This is my Home, written by and accompanied on guitar by David Godfrey.

This song features highlights of life in a small Lincolnshire town called Wragby by a relative newcomer (he has only lived there for 15 years!). Delivered in a confident and accomplished style, amusing in places.’

  1. Our Patch of England, written by Andy Lenton, performed by Andy Tymens on guitar and Steve Scarfe on keyboard.

Unfortunately, Andy Lenton was away and could not perform. This is a protest song, railing against the proposed nuclear waste dump at Theddlethorpe. The harmonies in the chorus complement the very topical lyrics.’

  1. One Hour 2020, written and performed by Penny Sykes, accompanying herself on concertina.

Imagery of the fens and marshes around Holbeach feature in this song, along with references to birds and local flooding, hard to avoid these days. Another singer with a lovely clear voice.

  1. Toadman, written and sung by Amanda Lowe with banjo accompaniment.

This song is rooted Lincolnshire legend. Toadman is another name for a horse whisperer with devilish powers. The storyline is strong and the singers stage presence very communicative. Silver prize winner.

  1. The Knight of Castle Hills, written by Lynn Haynes and performed by her and Paul Bellamy on guitar.

‘Castle Hills is a medieval site north of Gainsborough and this is a ghost tale about a medieval knight. The lyrics are poetic, the guitar finely played and the singing strong and clear. Lynn Haynes also plays the tin whistle towards the end which is a nice touch’.

  1. The Winceby Stone, written and performed by Jan and Paul Ramsey, with guitar and harmonica accompaniment.

‘This is a legendary tale of a stone in a field, rumoured to hide buried treasure and what happened when people tried to dig it up. The introduction and choruses are sung a capella’. Bronze prize winner.

  1. Skipping with Annie, written by Angela King and performed by her and Paul Dickinson on guitar.

‘This song explores the connections between plants and people. There are lovely poignant chords and magical lyrics, giving the song a whimsical feel’.

  1. The Usher Imp, written by Julie Wigley and performed by Stonesthrow (Steve and Julie Wigley and Tony Fowkes).

‘This song is about the Lincoln Imp and the jewellery made in its image by James Usher in the 1800s.[iii] Sung unaccompanied, delivered with a variety of “actions” this was a worthy winner’. Gold Prize Winner and Performance Prize.

  1. The Luttrell Psalter, written by Kim Biggs and performed by her and Phil Biggs.

‘In the 14th century a landowner named Luttrell commissioned an illustrated psalter to depict the lives of tenant farmers in Lincolnshire. This song, accompanied by Kim on accordion and Phil on guitar, has some amusing lyrics. The book can be found in the British Museum.’

The variety of sources for these songs – people, legends, history, pagan stories, the rituals of rural life – set against landscapes of brooding marches and fens with big skies, deep ditches, sea frets and foggy mornings all within reach of the gentle rolling chalk hills and the wide shallow valleys of the Wolds with their babbling streams, old woodlands, market towns, small villages with ancient churches – make for a rich and evocative set of performances.

There was a balance between male and female performers, soloists, duos, trios, and even a quintet!

[i] Pal’s folk ‘career’ started in 1965 in the infamous Log Cabin above The Greyhound pub in Louth. The resident band was The Meggies (nickname for Cleethorpes). They had a singer called Sue Clark. After Sue left, Pal sang a few times; ‘The Waggoner’s Lad’ being the first song she sang in public. Leaving school in 1966, Pal moved to London and did very little singing over the next 38 years. In 1994, she met Tom Paley (American folk singer and musician) who invited her to the Cecil Sharp Folk Club (‘the spiritual home of English traditional music’, The Times, January 20190, where he played every week – https://www.efdss.org/cecil-sharp-house. So she went, sang The Waggoner’s Lad, and still sings at Sharps. These days she also writes CD reviews for Folk London magazine and sometimes does the emceeing at Sharps.

[ii] No-one really knows where this term comes from. It is definitely different from yellow-belly (meaning cowardly). At its simplest yellowbelly is someone born and bred in Lincolnshire. According to Wikipedia – ‘A yellowbelly is a person from Lincolnshire, England. The origin of this nickname is disputed, and many explanations have been offered. These include: The uniforms of the Lincolnshire Regiment were green with yellow facings. The fastenings of the uniform tunic, which were known as frogs, were also yellow.’ Other explanations link to term to the medication used for a malaria-like illness that turned fen residents’ skin yellow. Or perhaps it refers to labourers who harvested cereal crops?

[iii] The Usher family jewellery firm is still in business in Lincoln. The son of the founder James Ward Usher was appointed Sheriff of Lincoln in 1916 and bequeathed funds to build the Usher Art Gallery. The gallery opened in 1917 and contains Usher family collections of clocks, watches, porcelain, and miniatures.

Anti-Slavery Day 2021 – Local ‘Lincs’

Since 2010, and the passing of the UK’s Anti-Slavery Day Act, the 18th October has become an annual day of awareness-raising, and of reflection, on the continued plight of the millions of people who remain enslaved around the world today.

Globally, it is estimated that there are around 40 million people living in situations of ‘modern slavery’. An umbrella term, ‘modern slavery’ refers to situations of ‘exploitative labour that places one person in the control of another’.[1]  This could include forced or bonded labour, human trafficking, descent-based slavery, child labour and forced or early marriage. Forced labour is by far the most prevalent form of modern slavery, accounting for approximately 60% of all cases around the world.[2]

Modern forms of slavery can be found in every country around the world, including in the UK.[3] Forced labour is the most common form of slavery here, and is believed to be fuelled by a demand for cheap products and services. Often this labour sees people trapped into working on farms, in construction, nail bars, hospitality, car washes, or in factories. In 2019, over 10,000 people were referred to the authorities as victims of modern slavery in the UK but the true number of how many people remain enslaved in this country is believed to be much higher.[4] In 2017, the Centre for Social Justice used a new data modelling technique to analyse crime reporting and intelligence records. Applying their findings across the whole country, they concluded that there is likely to be at least 100,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK.[5] The situation over the last two years with Coronavirus is likely to have exacerbated the problem.

In 2017 Lincolnshire Police secured the successful conviction of a family of 11 perpetrators, in the largest modern slavery trial in UK legal history.[6] The Rooney family had kept victims in squalid conditions and forced them to work for little or no pay. One had been trapped by them for 26 years. This conviction was the result of a large scale, county-wide operation which had begun in 2014. In 2019, Lincolnshire Police reported a sharp rise in the number of victims of modern slavery identified across the county. This had quadrupled, from 51 victims identified in 2018 to over 200 the following year.[7] Another noted reality of the situation in the county was that the widely-accepted myth that modern slavery was only affecting foreign nationals was not true – the third highest number of victims were people from the UK.

Modern slavery is often hidden in plain sight, and as such can be difficult to identify. Anti-slavery International, founded in 1839 as the oldest human rights organisation in the world, has identified a number of signs that might mean someone is enslaved.[8] They might:

  • appear to be in the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others
  • not have personal identification on them
  • have few personal belongings, wear the same clothes every day or wear unsuitable clothes for work
  • not be able to move around freely
  • be reluctant to talk to strangers or the authorities
  • appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse
  • dropped off and collected for work always in the same way, especially at unusual times, i.e. very early or late at night.


If you’re worried about someone, having noted any of the above, then you can report your concerns directly with the Modern Slavery Helpline by calling 0800 121 700 or visit the Modern Slavery Helpline website where you can also complete a report online. Lincolnshire Police also recommend that you download the @UnseenUK app to find out more about the signs of modern slavery and how to report your concerns.

[1] Anti-Slavery International – FAQs

[2] Forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking (Forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking) (ilo.org)

[3] Modern slavery in the UK – Anti-Slavery International (antislavery.org)

[4] 2020 UK annual report on modern slavery (publishing.service.gov.uk)

[5] It still happens here: Fighting UK Slavery in the 2020s – The Centre for Social Justice

[6] Rooney traveller family jailed for modern slavery offences – BBC News

[7] Sharp rise in modern slavery across Lincolnshire | LincolnshireWorld

[8] Spot the signs of slavery and what to do – Anti-Slavery International (antislavery.org)

Thanks to Rebecca Craven who authored this blogpost. 

Black Disabled activists/ Black Activism for disability: Johnnie Lacy

To mark Black History Month 2021, we will be posting several guest posts on unheard or little-known stories. Some are from Lincolnshire, others from the wider world may be better-known elsewhere, but we should know them better here, and find inspiration in them. This blog was written by Olivia Hennessy, on behalf of the University of Lincoln Students Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (SEDIC).

The theme we have chosen for Black History Month is Black disability history. We felt that this group should be more represented and recognised by students so they can share the stories of Black disabled activists. This series will focus on activists and Black activism for disability. Let’s start with Johnnie Lacy.

Lacy’s upbringing in the US deep south shaped her understanding of race in the 1930s and 1940s. The education system in Louisiana demonstrates the racial segregation that Johnnie Lacy faced.

At the age of 19, Lacy contracted polio which left her paralysed. This was while she was in the middle of studying for a nursing degree. She also was battling ableism and discrimination. Lacy later went on to study at San Francisco State University, but her re-entry into education was not easy. Her head of department attempted to deny her entry onto her course. Eventually, Lacy was allowed to enrol, but was not allowed to participate in her graduation or be a part of her school. From her college experiences, Lacy describes how she viewed her blackness with her disability:

‘But I basically was forming my own personal philosophy and political philosophy, and I never really felt completely a part of a movement, African-American movement, mainly because I was very much aware that I was not particularly acknowledged as an African-American with a disability who had ideas, who could contribute, and all of those things. That also was kind of a later development for me.

It has been problematic for blacks to identify with disability. My classmates would have had to accept my disability within the same intellectual framework as my blackness–that of an oppressed minority opposite.’

I believe that African Americans see disability in the same way that everybody else sees it–worthless, mindless–without realizing that this is the same attitude held by others toward African Americans. This belief in effect cancels out the black identity they share with a disabled black person, both socially and culturally, because the disability experience is not viewed in the same context as if one were only black, and not disabled. Because of this myopic view, I as a black disabled person could not share in the intellectual dialogue viewed as exclusive to black folk. In other words, I could be one or the other but not both.’

All of this led to her become a disability rights activist, working for Berkeley’s Centre for Independent Living and similar institutions, and she eventually became the Director of Community Resources for Independent Living in Hayward, California.

Lacy often spoke of being excluded from the Black community due to her disability and from the disability community due to being a person of colour. As a Black woman in a wheelchair, she educated her communities about race and disability and served as a role model for many other black women with disabilities. She was, and continues to be, an inspiring woman that deserves more recognition, so that is why SEDIC has written about this powerful individual.


Ramp Your Voice. ‘Black History Month 2017: Johnnie Lacy, Defiantly Black and Disabled’, February 10th 2017. [Accessed on 29/09/21] http://www.rampyourvoice.com/black-history-month-2017-johnnie-lacy-defiantly-black-disabled/

Lincolnshire popular music 1961-2021: a history in 30 tracks

1 October is Lincolnshire Day. As with so many other invented traditions, it is a recent addition to the commemorative calendar (first celebrated in 2006) but has deep historical roots. It recalls the Lincolnshire Rising, which began in early October 1536. A county movement in the geographically wider Pilgrimage of Grace, it was the most significant Catholic revolt that Henry VIII’s breakaway Church of England faced.

We mark the day this year by celebrating cultural diversity. Reimagining Lincolnshire Research Fellow Rob Waddington has compiled this list as a tribute to the region’s contribution to pop music over the past sixty years. Enjoy!

1. The Allisons: Are You Sure? (1961; highest chart position no.2)

The Allisons were a duo who came second in the Eurovision Song Contest and reached number 2 in the UK charts with Are You Sure? Although the single did not hit the top of the charts, it sold well. In fact, according to the OCC (Official Charts UK), it was the 39th best-selling single of the 1960s, outselling 11 of the 21 Beatles’ singles released in that decade and all bar one of The Rolling Stones’ singles. The song, influenced by The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, was co-written by the two Allisons, Bernard ‘Bob’ Day and John Alford. Until recently, John Alford could often be seen cycling near his home in the West End of Lincoln.

2. Joe Brown & The Bruvvers: A Picture Of You (1962; no. 2)

Noted for his chirpy Cockney image, Joe Brown was actually born in Swarby, Lincolnshire on 13 May 1941, but his family moved to London when he was two.

The Beatles’ version of A Picture of You was recorded on 11 June 1962, just a week after they signed a recording contract with EMI. It was broadcast by the BBC four days later, on 15 June 1962; this was pre-stardom for the group. It features George Harrison on vocals. George Harrison and Joe Brown later became close friends: Joe played on some of George’s solo albums and in 2000, George was the best man at Joe’s wedding.

A pre-contract test for EMI in early June had sealed the fate of Ringo Starr’s predecessor, Pete Best (born in Chennia, India). George Martin was not impressed with him and the other three Beatles, along with Brian Epstein, planned his exit. At this time, Ringo was with Rory Storm & The Hurricanes in Ingoldmells. They had a twelve-week contract to play the summer season at Butlin’s Skegness. In mid-August, with a couple of weeks still left on their contract, Ringo was invited to join The Beatles. There are various stories about how this happened: some say that John Lennon phoned Ringo, some that Brian Epstein phoned Ringo. Eyewitnesses such as Johnny Guitar, who shared accommodation at Ingoldmells with Ringo, say that John Lennon and Paul McCartney actually visited Ringo there. Whatever the case, Pete was out and Ringo was in. He broke his contract at Butlin’s and first performed as a member of The Beatles at a Horticultural Society dance on 18 August.

3. The Groundhogs: Shake It (1965)

Tony McPhee, born in Humberston on 22 March 1944, was a founder member of The Groundhogs and is still in the group. He formed the group with Pete and John Cruikshank, who, like Pete Best, were born in India. McPhee pushed the band towards the Blues and they worked as John Lee Hooker’s backing band in 1964. Shake It was their first single, but it would be another five years before they would have commercial success with a series of top ten albums.

4. The Ivy League: Funny How Love Can Be (1965; no.8)

The Ivy League were a trio including Perry Ford (stage name of Brian Pugh, born in Lincoln 30

December 1933 and died in Lincoln 29 April 1999). This was their first hit and was followed by Tossing and Turning. The Ivy League also worked as session musicians. Perry Ford’s credits include playing keyboards on The Kinks’ All Day And All Of The Night and singing backing vocals on The Who’s debut I Can’t Explain. Moreover, Perry Ford wrote songs for Adam Faith, The Shadows, The Hollies and Lulu. His song Caroline, recorded by The Fortunes, was the theme tune for pirate radio station Radio Caroline.

Funny How Love Can Be is surely an influence on The La’s 1988 Indie classic “There She Goes”

5. The Casuals: Jesamine (1968; no. 2)

The Casuals were a Lincoln group led by Johnny Tebb (b. 1 October 1945, d. May 2018), who was raised on Outer Circle Road, and Howard Newcombe (b. 25 November 1945).

The Casuals were three-time winners of the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1965, but commercial success was not immediate in the UK. They moved to Italy, where they recorded Italian versions of contemporary hits including an Italian No.1 with their version of the Bee Gees’ Massachusetts. Success in the UK finally came in 1968, when Jesamine reached No. 2. However, only one more minor hit followed.

Jesamine was co-written by Marty Wilde, under a pseudonym. Wilde had been one of Larry Parnes’ stable of rockers. Parnes came into rock and roll management with Tommy Hicks, better known as Tommy Steele. It was Parnes who renamed Reginald Smith as Marty Wilde and Ronald Wycherley as Billy Fury. Parnes also had Roy Taylor from Grantham on his books. Unfortunately, Taylor was towards the back of the line when it came to Parnes dispensing pseudonyms. Steele, Wilde, Fury – what aggressive, macho name did Parnes bestow on Roy Taylor? Vince Eager. Despite regular appearances on a BBC TV rock’n’roll show, Eager never had a hit. Joe Brown (see no 2 above) was also managed by Parnes, but had the sense to reject Parnes’ suggested pseudonym, Elmer Twitch.

6. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band: I’m The Urban Spaceman (1968; no. 5)

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were a link between The Beatles and Monty Python. They appeared in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour TV film and Paul McCartney produced their hit single I’m The Urban Spaceman, under a pseudonym. The Bonzos were a satirical band lead by the comic genius of their songwriters Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall. The Bonzos were the resident band on the children’s TV show (mostly watched by adults), Do Not Adjust Your Set, a precursor to Monty Python and featuring three future Pythons. Other than Stanshall and Innes, the only constant member of the band was saxophonist Rodney Slater, who was born in Crowland on 8 November 1941.

7. Forest: Graveyard (1970)

A folk trio, originally called The Foresters of Walesby, was formed in 1966 by Adrian and Martin Welham (raised in Grimsby) and Dez Allenby. All three went to school in Winteringham. They signed to the Harvest record label and shortened their name to Forest.

Despite the support of John Peel on BBC Radio 1, their two albums were not commercially successful. However, Forest’s brand of folk psychedelia on these records has grown in reputation in recent years as part of the Acid Folk genre. Their second album Full Circle was listed in The Guardian’s ‘1000 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’. The album cover is a psychedelic painting of the church at Walesby.

8. Matthews Southern Comfort: Woodstock (1970; no. 1)

Iain Matthews was born in Barton on Humber on 16 June 1946. His family moved to Scunthorpe

when he was twelve. He was a member of Fairport Convention, with whom he recorded three classic albums. He left Fairport when they changed their musical style from one influenced by American singer-songwriters to traditional British folk music. Fairport recorded two Joni Mitchell songs for their first album and it was a Joni Mitchell song, Woodstock, that would provide his new band, Matthews Southern Comfort, with a number one hit single.

9. T-Rex: Get It On (1971; no.1)

Steve Currie was the bass player with Glam Rock greats T-Rex from December 1970 to August 1976, the band’s halcyon period. He was born in Grimsby on 19 May 1947. Before he joined T-Rex, he played with the Grimsby group The Rumble Band, who released one single as Rumble. He played on eleven Top Twenty singles with T-Rex, including four number ones. After leaving T-Rex, he worked as a session musician. He died in a car crash in the Algarve on 28 April 1981.

T-Rex’s main man, Marc Bolan, had been killed in a car crash in 1977. There is a shrine on the site of the crash. A memorial plaque to Steve Currie has been mounted on this shrine.

10. Elton John: Grimsby (1974)

As most of Elton John’s hit singles are still so well known, this is a great track from Caribou, a number one album in 1974. As with many of the songs Elton co-wrote with Bernie Taupin at this time, it is about Taupin’s native Lincolnshire. The song is called Grimsby, but it is more related to the Grimsby/Cleethorpes conurbation.

As is often the case with Bernie Taupin’s lyrics about Lincolnshire places, there is a bit of a disconnect with reality. There never was a pub in Grimsby called The Skinner’s Arms. Both in his lyrics and his autobiography, A Cradle of Haloes: Sketches of a Childhood, Taupin renames places. For example, Market Rasen is thinly veiled as Market Slaten in the autobiography. An early John/Taupin song called When I Was Tealby Abbey is quite clearly about Bayons Manor, but other songs are harder to place. First Episode in Hienton is about a girl Taupin knew when he was young, but where is Hienton? Hainton, perhaps?

11. Steeleye Span: All Around My Hat (1975; no. 5)

Like Matthews Southern Comfort, Steeleye Span were formed by a Fairport Convention alumnus. Ashley Hutchings was pursuing the British Folk music route that Fairport began in 1969: whereas Fairport were essentially rock musicians playing folk, his new band would be folk musicians playing rock instruments. So Hutchings drafted in two folk duos, Terry and Gay Woods and Maddy Prior and Tim Hart.

Hart was born in Lincoln on 9 January 1948. It was Hart who suggested the band’s name. Steeleye Span was a character in the Lincolnshire folk song Horkstow Grange. Percy Grainger collected this song in 1905 by from George Gouldthorpe, who was an inmate of Brigg Workhouse at the time.

Hutchings and the Woods soon left Steeleye Span (Terry Woods would later join punkish folk band The Pogues), leaving Hart and Prior to lead the band to a rockier sound and commercial success.

Tim Hart died in the Canary Islands on 24 December 2009.

12. The Murgatroyd Band (aka Spencer Davis Group): Magpie (1971)

Magpie was ITV’s hipper answer to Blue Peter. The theme tune was co-written by Ray Fenwick, who has worked as a music teacher at Boston College. Ray Fenwick has been a member of the Spencer Davis Group, the Ian Gillan Band and Fancy, who had hit singles in the USA and Australia. He has also worked as a session musician on a number of Deep Purple solo projects such as Roger Glover’s Butterfly Ball and on Bo Diddley’s London Sessions album.

13. Heatwave: Boogie Nights (1976; no.2)

Rod Temperton was born in Cleethorpes on 9 October 1949. He was educated at De Aston School in Market Rasen before finding work as a fish filleter in Grimsby. Like a fellow former Market Rasen schoolboy, Bernie Taupin, he has written some of the biggest-selling records in music history. Moreover, Temperton has made a major contribution to black music. He wrote Thriller, Rock With You and Off The Wall for Michael Jackson; Give Me The Night and others for George Benson; Yah Mo B There for James Ingram, as well as writing for Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Donna Summer, Rufus & Chaka Khan and others. Temperton was also a songwriter and performer with British soul band Heatwave who had a string of hits including Boogie Nights. Temperton died of cancer on 25 September 2016.

14. Bad Company: Feel Like Makin’ Love (1975; no.20)

Raymond ‘Boz’ Burrrell was born in Holbeach on 1 August 1946. He was the leader of Boz’s People, who released four singles in their own right and played backing for Kenny Lynch. The band also included Ian McLachlan, who was later a member of The Small Faces. Boz was briefly considered by The Who as a replacement for Roger Daltrey. From 1971-1973, Boz was a member of art-rock band King Crimson. However, he is best known as the bass player for Bad Company, a band formed in 1973 with two former members of Free. Bad Company had a run of hit albums into the 1980s. The original line-up of Bad Company disbanded in 1982, but reformed for a tour in 1998.

Boz died of a heart attack in Spain in 21 September 2006.

15. Magazine: Shot By Both Sides (1978; no. 40)

Howard Devoto was born in Scunthorpe on 15 March 1952, but was raised in Nuneaton and Leeds. He went to the Bolton Institute of Technology. Inspired by the Sex Pistols, he co-founded the Manchester punk band, The Buzzcocks, with Pete Shelley. After recording the Buzzcocks’ first record, the seminal Spiral Scratch EP, Devoto left The Buzzcocks to form Magazine.

Despite critical acclaim, Magazine only had limited commercial success and disbanded in 1981. Devoto formed another band, Luxuria, but by the 1990s, had moved away from the music industry. In the 2000s, however, he collaborated again with Pete Shelley and also reformed Magazine.

In 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bolton for his contribution to music.

Another member of Magazine, Dave Formula, has been a resident in Louth where he set up the Sweet Factory recording studio. Magazine also included Barry Adamson, one of the few black musicians to feature in punk bands.

16. Jilted John: Jilted John (1978; no. 4)

One-hit wonder, Jilted John is one of the two best known guises of musician, actor and longtime Louth resident Graham Fellowes (the other guise being the versatile singer/songwriter and organist from Sheffield, John Shuttleworth). This pastiche of punk was startling at the time, using language common in school playgrounds, but unfamiliar in the pop charts. The song is still beloved by people (mostly men) of a certain age. In 2018, Jilted John undertook a 40th anniversary tour. (TV chef and personality, Ainsley Harriett was Graham Fellowes’ brother-in-law for over twenty years. Apparently, the two could be found together in pubs in Louth.)

On the subject of Louth, mention should be made of Barbara Dickson, who has been a resident of the town. Amongst her hits is I Know Him So Well with Elaine Paige, the best-selling single by a female duet in the UK

17. The Motors: Airport (1978; no. 4)

Bram Tchaikovsky (real name Peter Bramall) was born in Lincolnshire on 10 November 1950. After playing with local bands, he joined The Motors in 1977. They had a couple of hit singles, but

Tchaikovsky left The Motors after their first album. He formed his own band, simply called Bram Tchaikovsky. Despite critical acclaim, declining sales lead to Tchaikovsky abandoning the music industry in the 1980s. However, he co-wrote the title track of Saxon’s 1990 album Solid Ball Of Rock. In his younger days, he had been in a band with Saxon’s Nibbs Carter (born Cleethorpes, 6 September 1966) before he joined The Motors. Biff Byford, lead singer of Saxon, was a resident of Horncastle.

18. Robert Wyatt: Shipbuilding (1983; no. 35)

Louth resident Robert Wyatt was a founder member of influential psychedelic rock/jazz band, The Soft Machine. As a solo artist, he had a minor hit single with I’m A Believer in 1974 and was given a slot on the BBC TV’s Top Of The Pops. However, he was threatened with being banned from the show: he had been paralysed the previous year and was a wheelchair user; he insisted on performing in his wheelchair. The producer refused to allow this, claiming that the wheelchair would not be suitable for family viewing. In the end Wyatt got his way.

Shipbuilding is a lament about the Falklands War, written by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer. They originally intended the song to be recorded by a number of different singers, but decided that Wyatt’s version was definitive. Wyatt is married to artist Alfreda Benge, who contributes to his records and designs the record covers. Wyatt’s often quirky music, his individual character and political stance have endeared loyal support to him. Various generations of musicians have guested on his records, including Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason, Roxy Music’s Brian Eno and Phil Manzera, Mike Oldfield, Paul Weller, the aforementioned Elvis Costello and Mark Bedford from Madness.

19. Carmel: Bad Day (1983; no. 15)

Carmel McCourt was born in Wrawby and educated in Scunthorpe and Brigg. The band Carmel was a trio formed in Manchester. Bad Day was their sole top twenty single in the UK. However, they had more sustained success in mainland Europe, especially in France, where Carmel McCourt has been described as the new Edith Piaf and recorded with French music legend Johnny Halliday.

20. Swing Out Sister: Breakout (1986; no. 4)

Lead singer of Swing Out Sister, Corrine Drewery was born in Nottingham in 1959, but raised in Authorpe. Her mother founded the hedgehog rescue centre in Authorpe. She was educated at King Edward VI Grammar school in Louth and Lincoln College. Musically, she was influenced by the 1970s Northern Soul scene at Cleethorpes.

Swing Out Sister were formed in London and hit the charts with their second single, Breakout.

21. Roy Harper: Once (1990)

Like Robert Wyatt, Roy Harper has been a cult figure since the 1960s, a musician’s musician.

He has guested on songs by Pink Floyd and Kate Bush, recorded a joint album with Jimmy Page

and Led Zeppelin released a song about him. He has been cited as an influence by the likes of Johnny Marr, Joanna Newsom and Fleet Foxes. He lived near Folkingham and recorded albums such as Garden of Uranium and Once in Lincolnshire. The title track of Once features both Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Kate Bush

Garden of Uranium coincided with local protests in 1986-1987 to halt plans to dump nuclear waste at sites in Lincolnshire, including Fulbeck and South Killingholme. The prospect of nuclear waste dumping has emerged again in 2021, with plans for a site near Theddlethorpe.

Roy Harper sang backing vocals on Kate Bush’s 1980 album Never For Ever. Incredibly, although the album charts have been running since 1956, this was the first UK number one album by a British female solo artist (discounting Greatest Hits compilations and soundtrack albums).

22. Gary Clail On-U Sound System ft. Lana Pellay: Human Nature (1991; no. 10)

Alan Pillay was born near Grimsby docks in 1959 to a mother of Bajan descent and a father of Indian descent who worked as an engineer on trawlers. After leaving school, Pillay moved to Manchester, became involved in the drag scene and worked Working Men’s Clubs as a drag act.

As the transsexual Lana Pellay, they moved in the Manchester music scene, befriending the cult indie band The Fall and recording a couple of singles, one of which was a hit in Australia. They later appeared on Human Nature, a top ten UK dance hit for Gary Clail.

The foundation of Channel Four in the 1980s brought Pellay to a wider audience as they appeared in episodes of the alternative comedy series The Comic Strip Presents, alongside the likes of Rik Mayall, Dawn French , Adrian Edmundson and Jennifer Saunders. They were then given a starring role in the 1987 feature film Eat The Rich. They also appeared on Channel Four’s late night chat show The Funky Bunker as a film critic.

More recently, Pellay has concentrated on theatre work.

22. Gene: Olympian (1995; no. 18)

Gene bass player, Kev Miles, is based in Lincolnshire. Gene were formed from the ashes of a band called Spin. The lead singer of Spin was Lee Clarke from Cleethorpes. Spin came to an end when they were involved in a traffic accident and band members and crew were badly injured.

Two members of Spin drafted in a new vocalist and Kev Miles to form Gene. The band were commercially successful throughout the 1990s with a sound that was often likened to the 1980s Indie music greats The Smiths. Olympian is one of their seven top 30 singles and the title track of their first Top 10 album.

24. The 22-20s: Devil In Me (2004)

Named after a Skip James song 22-20 Blues, the band was formed by Martin Trimble from Heckington and Glen Bartrup from Fulbeck, who were both pupils at Carre’s Grammar School in Sleaford. The two school friends immersed themselves in blues and early 70s rock music.

22-20s’ songs have featured on adverts and on films. Devil In Me has been heard on adverts for the Vauxhall Astra and the Racing Post.

25. Girls Aloud: Love Machine (2004; no.2 )

Although raised in Cheshire, Nicola Roberts was born in Stamford. Her father was in the RAF at the time. Winners of Popstars: The Rivals in 2002, Girls Aloud have entered the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful reality TV music group. As well as a subsequent solo career, Roberts has campaigned for a law banning the use of sunbeds by under-age girls and against bullying.

26. Stephen Fretwell: Run (2005)

The end of Stephen Fretwell’s song Run is familiar as the theme to Gavin and Stacey, one of the most popular TV comedy series of recent years. (The cast of Gavin and Stacey includes Sheridan Smith from Epworth. As well as a career in musical theatre, she has released two albums.)

Rather than this exposure bolstering Fretwell’s career, however, it coincided with his walking away from the music industry.

Scunthorpe born Stephen Fretwell was once described by Q magazine as the town’s greatest-ever export. He released four albums in the early 2000s, the most successful, Magpie, reached the top thirty in the album charts. He supported the likes of Oasis, Elbow and Keane and toured with the Arctic Monkeys’ offshoot The Last Shadow Play as their bass player in 2008.

In 2018, The Arctic Monkeys released a cover version of his song Magpie. After a thirteen-year hiatus, he has returned to music with a new album in 2021.

27. Lana Del Ray: Video Games (2011; no.9)

What do Lana Del Ray, Ellie Goulding, Dua Lipa, Bats for Lashes, Rhianna and Keith Urban have in common? They have all recorded songs written or produced by Justin Parker, who hails from Boultham in Lincoln. Parker’s breakthrough record was Lana Del Ray’s Video Games, which he co-wrote with her. He won an Ivor Novello Award for that song in 2012. He won a second Ivor Novello Award in 2013 for Laura, which he co-wrote with Bats for Lashes. His biggest hit to date is Stay by Rhianna, which he co-wrote and produced.

28. Sleaford Mods: BHS (2017)

Although this duo are based in Nottingham, as their name suggests, they have Lincolnshire roots. Jason Williamson was born and raised in Grantham. Andrew Fearn was raised in Saxilby. Their music is rap-punk, combining hip hop influences with colloquial East Midlands lingo in a manner that is reminiscent of how Manchester punk acts The Fall and John Cooper Clarke used local dialect. Sales of Sleaford Mods albums have risen steadily over the last few years, the most successful being Spare Ribs, released in 2021.

29. Neck Deep: In Bloom (2017)

Pop-punk band Neck Deep were formed in Wrexham in 2012, but have drafted Fil Thorpe Evans and Sam Bowden, who were both raised in Lincoln, into their ranks. In Bloom won the Kerrang Award for Best Single in 2018. Their last three albums have reached the Top Ten.

30. Holly Humberstone: Please Don’t Leave Just Yet (2021)

Humberstone was born in Grantham in 1999. Since 2019, she has been studying at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. She issued a self-released EP in 2020 and subsequently signed to a major label. Her first EP for the label will be released on 5 November 2021, it includes Please Don’t Leave Just Yet.

Rob Waddington, Research Fellow Reimagining Lincolnshire.