Lincoln – St Paul in the Bail

Lincoln is a Roman City. The Fosse Way (from the South West) meets the Ermine Street (from London) at the bottom of the hill. The Roman City was built on top of the hill – you can see the main gates, and the Ermine Street ran north through the Newport Arch and on to York. I love the fact you can still drive through a Roman Arch.

DSC01127In the Roman City is the Roman Forum, and the Mint Wall (the north wall of the Forum) still stands – the highest piece of Roman wall in England. (We lived in the house almost next door for our three years in Lincoln – a few feet higher than Roman street level. We never saw a ghostly Roman, but people say they have …).

DSC01125At the end of our lane, in the middle of the Forum, was the site of the church of St Paul in the Bail.


Radiocarbon dating of burials on this site take the church back to the 5th-6th centuries. The original church may be a late Roman church, possibly belonging to the Roman bishop of Lincoln, or built soon after the end of Roman rule by a local ruler who wanted to be seen as the successor of the Roman governor, and therefore as a Christian.


Alternatively Bishop Paulinus visited Lincoln c 628 and Bede tells us he built a stone church. It is possible (?probable) that he rebuilt the earlier wooden church. Exciting Holiness, a very useful little book, says “Born in the latter part of the sixth century, probably in Italy, Paulinus was among the second group of monks sent by Pope Gregory to England to assist Augustine in his work. He went with the party that accompanied Ethelburga to Northumbria, where she was to marry the king, Edwin, who subsequently took his wife’s Christian faith as his own. Paulinus built the first church in York in about the year 627 and was its first bishop. He travelled much north and south of the Humber, building churches and baptising new Christians. He had to flee for his life, however, when Edwin was killed in battle by the pagan king, Penda of Mercia, and Paulinus became Bishop of Rochester. He died on 10 October in the year 644.”


By the medieval period there were 50 churches in the town. Most of the church was rebuilt following a severe collapse in 1301. In 1786 a Georgian church was built on the site of the medieval Nave – it cost £54 10s. A bigger church was built here in 1877. It was demolished in 1971, and the parish was combined with St Mary Magdalene (which is next to the Cathedral).


St Paulinus’s feast day is 10 October. On the Wednesday nearest that date we students of Lincoln Theological College would have an open air service here. It started about 6 pm, and as we celebrated the Eucharist and gave thanks for Paulinus, the floodlighting came up on the Cathedral behind. There are stunning floodlit pictures on the www – have a look here. Happy memories – rather fitting this is blog post 150! This banner is in the Cathedral.


God our Saviour,
who sent Paulinus to preach and to baptise,
and so to build up your Church in this land:
grant that, inspired by his example,
we may tell all the world of your truth,
that with him we may receive
the reward you prepare for all your faithful servants;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.





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5 Responses to Lincoln – St Paul in the Bail

  1. Danielle Bail-Johnson says:

    I can’t believe this! I’m reading the novel Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, it’s historical fiction . I came across the name of this church & about fell off my chair! My maiden name is Bail, & I’ve never come across my last name before. I know it’s Welsh, @least that’s what I was told. My father & I have searched for a coat of arms, i even searched for one while I was n England, but couldn’t find anything. But that was back n 1991, way before Google! Maybe it’s time to search again! Thank u for ur blog, & esp the pics! The 3rd pic gave me an eerie feeling of familiarity, I’m not sure why though, could be all n my head. I spent most of my time n London, now I’m anxious to go back & explore this site! I read u were a theological student, I’m also a Bible school grad. As well as my husband Tim. We attended a very small school n Los Angeles, it’s part of Global University, which is affiliated with the Assembly of God’s church. Thank u again for this & the floodlite pics were amazing! It’s sad my namesake church was demolished, but it’s strange it happened n 1971…The year I was born. I know, it’s just a coincidence. God bless my friend!

    • admin says:

      Thank you. It is a special place. And while you’re in Lincoln, drive a few miles out of town and go to the church at Stow (the most recent blog I have done). Lots of lovely places to explore. God bless, Peter

  2. Jason says:

    This was a very interesting blog site. You have done a good job with lots of interesting historical information. As a avid reader of Roman history, this was great!

  3. Garry Brooks says:

    My 6th great Grandfather Robert Graves married Elizabeth Gray here on 13th Jan 1711.

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