High on top of the north-western turret of Lincoln Cathedral stands a stone figure of the Swineherd of Stow. The story of the Swineherd, and why he was granted such an honour, has been recounted for hundreds of years.
The village of Stow where the Swineherd lived is a few miles north-west of Lincoln and in the 13th century was a manor belonging to the bishops of Lincoln; here St Hugh himself frequently retreated.
The Swineherd was a faithful man employed in looking after the swine of the bishop, driving the herd into the woods surrounding Stow to pasture them on acorns and beech mast, and gathering them together at the end of the day. This swineherd was a holy man who attended mass each Sunday. When the news of the rebuilding of Lincoln Cathedral, and of the donations being made to the fabric fund by lords and knights, reached his ears, he determined to do what he could to help. Hidden in his hut was an ox’s horn, filled with silver pennies that he had laboriously saved, week by week, from his earnings, intending to set aside something for his old age. Now he resolved to trust his future to the care of God and to deliver up his savings to help the work of the stonemasons, joiners and glaziers who were building the new Cathedral.
Taking up the horn filled with silver pennies, the swineherd set out to walk to Lincoln. Arriving at the Cathedral, he presented himself before Bishop Hugh and there and then made his offering to the great work of reconstruction. And in the fullness of time, to mark this signal act of generosity from a humble but holy man, the stone figure of the swineherd was placed, facing that of the saintly bishop, high on the west front of the Cathedral.