The situation around 10am when the army of Robert of Gloucester was sighted approaching Lincoln from the southwest. King Stephen was in the cathedral hearing mass when the news was brought to him.
Just after dawn on Sunday 2 February Stephen was attending mass in the cathedral to celebrate the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin. As was the custom he, as the senior lay person present, was holding a ceremonial wax taper while Bishop Alexander began the service. As Stephen passed the taper to the bishop it snapped in half and went out. The event caused Alexander to fumble the pyx containing the holy wafer, causing it to fall sideways on to the altar. Such minor incidents had a greater importance to the medieval mind than they do today. They were not just omens or portents, but signs sent direct from the saints or even from God. Interpreting such signs could be difficult, but nevertheless everyone agreed they were important. A rustle ran around the church as men and women glanced at each other.
As the service continued a knight came hurrying to the king with word that an army had come in sight. It was coming from the southwest, up the old Roman road from Nottingham and Newark. The banners soon showed that Earl Ranulf was there, but so was Robert of Gloucester and a host of other noblemen. Realising the importance of the news, Stephen began a muttered conversation with one or two noblemen who were in cathedral with him, apparently including William of Ypres. This again raised eyebrows. As a particpant in the service, Stephen should have been paying attention to God, not to secular events. It was an action that would be seen as tempting fate and would not have been popular. As soon as the service was over, Stephen summoned a council of the leading nobles who were with him to discuss what should be done.
Basically Stephen could either stand and fight, or he could retreat north and leave Lincoln to his enemies. There were a few voices urging retreat, but most favoured fighting. Stephen therefore mustered his men out to war. The city sent its militia as well. The royal army drew itself up to the west of the city. Exactly where Stephen put his army is not now known. Given the layout of the land he would most likely have put his men on the slope of Carholme, perhaps near what is now Long Leys Road.
from The Battle of Lincoln by Rupert Matthews
Buy your copy HERE