John of Gaunt’s Palace was a late 14th-century merchant’s house which stood in the lower part of Lincoln High Street, opposite the St Mary Guildhall. It was progressively demolished from the late 18th century until the 1960s. The very fine oriel window from the building has been preserved in the gatehouse of Lincoln Castle.
The palace was initially built by a member of the wealthy Sutton family of Lincoln merchants in the latter years of the 14th century, on land immediately to the north of St Andrew’s church. Research into the history of the building by Sir Francis Hill greatly clarified its early ownership. More recently the study of early drawings and maps by David Stocker has made it possible to reconstruct the layout of the building. Stocker suggested the building was probably built by John of Gaunt‘s vassal John de Sutton, a wealthy merchant and mayor of Lincoln in 1386. However S.H. Rigby has made out a case that the palace was originally built by Robert Sutton, the brother of John, also a mayor of Lincoln and vassal of Gaunt, who is known to have built a house on the land to the north of St Andrew’s Church before 1386.
John of Gaunt’s Palace, Lincoln 1726
Southern portion of John of Gaunt’s Palace by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, 1784
The house was probably constructed in the late 14th century, and its form represents a wealthy merchant’s town house with a hall and services parallel to the High Street, and an east-west range to the rear of the street front range which contained the great hall and privy chambers. There was also a possible lodgings block to the north of the main street front range, which had the arms of John of Gaunt along with other heraldic shields shown above the doors. This lodging block may have accommodated John of Gaunt during his visit to Lincoln in 1386.
A drawing by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm shows a building described as the Old Hospital abutting on to the hall range with its two fine late medieval windows. These buildings were on the west side behind the High Street frontage of the palace. The Hospital building should date from around 1500, and the lozenge-shaped terminals to the doorway and the sunken panels to the spandrels find a very close parallel with the Chancery, in Minster Yard, Lincoln. This is probably the building that Edward James Willson mentions as having been demolished around 1810 and it is not shown on J. S. Padley’s survey of Lincoln in 1842.
John of Gaunt’s palace was substantially re-built in 1849, becoming an “ordinary-looking stone-built property” which survived until the 1960s, when it was demolished to make way for a garage extension. One of the hall windows, recorded by Edward James Willson, did survive into the 1940s. A series of stone foundations and walls aligned east-west and north-south were recorded in February 2008, during trial trenching at 116 High Street, Lincoln. It is likely that these relate to John of Gaunt’s Palace. The earliest phase of wall construction may represent an earlier building demolished to make way for the merchant’s house in the later 14th century. Pottery of 13th-15th century date was recovered.