The David P. J. Ross Magna Carta Vault

Magna Carta

Magna Carta is a treasure of international significance. There are just four surviving original copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, and one of these, inscribed ‘Lincolnia’ on its reverse, is owned by Lincoln Cathedral and housed at Lincoln Castle.

The David P. J. Ross Magna Carta Vault was designed by renowned architects, Arrol & Snell who have gained a reputation for high quality conservation work as well as for sensitive new-building designs in historic locations. The new vault was opened in 2015 by HRH Princess Anne. The company also designed the award winning Heritage Skills Centre at Lincoln Castle, which opened to critical acclaim in February 2013. As the first new building within the Castle for 150 years it was designed to be well-integrated into its historic setting.

Visitors begin their journey to see Magna Carta by approaching the Pavilion entrance along a dedicated causeway, taking them over the Eastern Courtyard of the Victorian Prison. Once through the entrance the Great Charter Wall comes into sight. This striking feature wall carries the text of Magna Carta with key Clauses defined in gold lettering, and the exhibition space is enriched by graphic and colourful text, including the heraldic achievements of the Barons.

Magna Carta in the Round, an immersive audio visual interpretation tells of the impact and influence of Magna Carta over 800 years. It links Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest to the wider Castle site, with its Court House and Prisons through three themes: accountability, justice and power. Visitors are surrounded by the story of Magna Carta depicted through a series of newly commissioned short films shown on large scale wrap-around screens.

Then visitors arrive at the Vault room, a dedicated purpose built space which houses Magna Carta. Here, in environmentally controlled conditions, visitors can view three historically significant documents – Magna Carta itself, one of the two surviving copies of Charter of the Forest (1217), and a third document loaned from national or local archives. During the summer of 2015, when the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta was celebrated in Lincoln, a 1225 Magna Carta on loan from The National Archives was displayed.

As part of the 800th anniversary a celebratory programme of events took place in Lincoln during 2015.. The Historic Lincoln Trust worked with partners on two key events – firstly, to devise and co-ordinate Lincolnshire’s Great Exhibition which displayed a nationally important collection of pictures, documents and artefacts with a Lincolnshire connection; and secondly, the Eastern Three Choirs Festival involving Cathedral Choirs of Lincoln, Peterborough and Southwell.

Lincolnshire’s Great Exhibition 2015, was based in the Usher Gallery and the Collection, the Medieval and Wren Libraries in the Cathedral, and in the Castle. The exhibition in the Collection was focused on great Lincolnshire figures from Gilbert of Sempringham, who founded the only English monastic order in Lincolnshire in the 12th century, to Margaret Thatcher, the country’s only female Prime Minster and the longest serving Prime Minister of democratic times. The Trust worked with the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and many other important public and private collections to agree loans for this magnificent exhibition.