Lincoln Cathedral treasures its town and Lincolnshire County’s links with the United States of America.


Lincoln’s 1215 exemplar Magna Carta

Lincoln Cathedral has one of only four remaining 1215 copies of Magna Carta, the earliest of all versions of Magna Carta’s.  Lincoln Cathedral is also the home of the uniquely the Charter of the Forest. The Magna Carta, iconic symbol of freedom, whose fundamental principles are reflected in the FirstThirdFourthFifthSixth, and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, brought back from Runnymeade one of only four of the earliest version of the Magna Carta.   This 1215 Magna Carta was held in safekeeping by the US Government in Fort Knox during World War II, it was exhibited at the Library of congress in 1946 and will be touring the US in the run up to the 800th anniversary celebrations in 2015.


Captain John Smith

Lincolnshire-born and founder of the first successful English colony on U.S soil at Jamestown in 1607, John Smith is the best known of all early English explorers of the North American coast.  As first President of Virginia he is honored with a statue on the shore of Jamestown Island, VA. The story of his capture by the Indians’ ‘emperor’ Powhatan and how his favourite daughter, the eleven year-old Pocahontas, saved Smith from execution is legendary.

You can find an image of Captain John Smith smoking a pipe with Powhatan in Powhatan’s long house in Blaeu’s Atlas of 1647 in the Cathedral Library.  There is also his very rare Sea Grammar of 1627 in the Cathedral Library. The Lincolnshire Explorers stained-glass window (Christopher Webb, 1955) includes an image of John Smith.


The Mayflower

Another man by the name of John Smyth from Lincolnshire led a Separatist congregation, thought to be the predecessors of the Baptists, in Gainsborough near Lincoln. They sought religious tolerance in the Netherlands. Originally a member of Smyth’s congregation, Lincolnshire-born Pastor John Robinson joined William Brewster in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire. In 1607 the Scrooby Pilgrims tried to flee to Holland by sailing from Boston in Lincolnshire, but were arrested and held there. Eventually the Pilgrims reached Amsterdam, but later some of them decided to emigrate to New England, where they hoped for total religious freedom. The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth in September 1620, landing on Cape Cod on 29thNovember as winter began. Although half of the families did not survive the journey and the first winter, the Plimoth Plantation remained.

You can find Edward Winslow’s Good Newes from New England,  a vivid first-hand account of the first year of Plimouth Plantation, in the Cathedral Library.


The Massachusetts Bay Company

The Massachusetts Bay Company received its charter from King Charles I on March 4, 1629. Even though the company was meant to be a commercial one, interested in making a profit from trade in New England, the leading promoters were intent on founding a state where Puritans would be free to worship God in their own way without any restrictions.   Although the company had been formed in London, its meetings moved to Cambridge and then to southeast Lincolnshire at the homes of the Earl of Lincoln at Sempringham.

The members of the company were inspired by sermons given by Revd John Cotton in the parish church of Boston, Lincolnshire.  A fleet of eleven ships sailed to Massachusetts in 1630, followed by a second fleet in 1633, which carried Cotton himself. They founded Boston in Massachusetts.

You can find John Winthrop’s Farewell, The Humble request of his Majesty’s loyal subjects… written on ship on the journey to America, in 1630, in the Lincoln Cathedral Library.


The First American Bible

John Elliot’s first translation of the whole Bible into the language of the Massachusetts tribe of the Algonquin Native Americans was printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1663.

A copy of this rare book is held in the Cathedral Library’s collection of approximately 10,000 pre-1801 printed books. About half of these books were the library of Michael Honywood, Dean of Lincoln Cathedral from 1660 to 1681. The collection includes books, maps and documents concerning events in America as they unfolded in his lifetime.  Dean Honywood commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build a new library for his books in 1674.


The Wesleys

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and born June 28, 1708 in Epworth, Lincolnshire, was rector of Christ Church in Savannah, GA .  John Wesley’s were  parents Susanna and Samuel Wesley, a  rector of Epworth’s St. Andrew’s Church between 1697 and 1735.

John Wesley was baptised at St. Andrew’s Church in Lincolnshire and lived with his family at the Old Rectory in Epworth. In 1735 John and Charles Wesley sailed for the new colony of Georgia. He started to work as the rector of Christ Church in Savannah, GA., but his strict rules and firm beliefs were not appreciated by the settlers.

You can find a stained glass panel in the Chapter House showing John Wesley’s last visit to Lincoln Cathedral in 1790 (Clayton and Bell , 1909)



Pathfinder parachutists of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division took off from North Witham in Lincolnshire to become the first American troops into Normandy on D-Day.

The airfield at North Witham was the first of the Lincolnshire airfields taken over by the US Air Force during the Second World War. Many young American men also joined the Royal Air Force and served with distinction from the airfields of Lincolnshire. These and many more are honoured in the Airmen’s Chapel in the cathedral.

You can find the Pathfinders featured in the Royal Air Force Chapel glass.