I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published June 7th 2012
Tattershall Castle is a medieval brick fortress situated in the open Lincolnshire countryside. Tattershall is a bit of a journey if you're coming from London; you'll probably want to stay overnight or leave very early, if you don't mind a few hours of country driving. On the other hand, as it is in a somewhat off-the-beaten-path location there are rarely crowds, queues or noisy tourist groups, which is a welcome relief to the Londoner looking to really escape the city.
Tattershall Castle and Moat. Photo by Erin Connelly.
It's rare to visit an English castle constructed entirely of brick - the great cost of which, as well as the intimidating effect, is truly an expression of the man who built it. The first building on the site, and origin of the name, was constructed by Robert de Tateshale in the 13th century. Ralph, 3rd Lord Cromwell, greatly expanded the building in the 15th century as a reflection of his great power and prestige as the Lord Treasurer of England. The modern visitor is still impacted by the commanding presence of this medieval lord, whose personal worldview is expressed in his family motto 'N'ai je le droit' (Have I not the right?) with its dominant symbol, the treasurer's money bag. These images are carved into the stonework of every room in the castle.
Great Fireplace with Heraldry. Photo by Richard Croft. (Wikimedia Commons)
As the National Trust states visitors are free to explore the 6-floor building 'from the basement to the battlements'. Each floor is constructed in a hall-like style with the only room divisions being the garderobe (latrines), which are situated in towers directly above the moat. These garderobe effectively turned the protective moat into a festering open sewer during the 15th century, an additional weapon against would-be invaders.
The tour of Tattershall begins in the basement/cellar, which is more like a dungeon and likely served as a prison during the English Civil War. Cold, damp, and bordered by the moat, it probably provided little comfort to the servants who worked and slept in the unwelcome space. The ground floor and first floor served as public sectors where local tenants came to pay rent or guests were entertained. The castle chambers become increasingly private as you near the top floor. The middle served as an audience chamber where only the most important visitors were admitted. The chamber is approached via a vaulted and decorated corridor intended to display the full prestige of the Lord Treasurer to the medieval visitor. The audience chamber currently contains a variety of well-preserved Flemish tapestries.
Tapestries in the Audience Chamber. Photo by Richard Croft. (Wikimedia Commons)
The top floor was the most private chamber for the lord and his family. Above the private chamber are the battlements, which provide beautiful views of the Lincolnshire countryside extending to Boston in the south and Lincoln in the north. On clear days, impressive Lincoln Cathedral is visible from the battlements.
Tattershall's Church, or Holy Trinity, was also constructed by Ralph Cromwell. However, in the 18th century it was used as a brewery and then abandoned to decay. The stained glass windows were removed, which opened the church to severe damage from the elements and local wildlife. The windows have been restored in recent years, but the sanctuary rafters are still home to bats and birds. The church has an atmosphere of neglect and chilly dampness from sitting open and untouched for so many years, but Heritage Lincolnshire and local parishioners are doing their best to ensure the church gets the restoration it needs. Be sure to visit the café inside, the proceeds of which go to the building fund and all the menu items are home-made by a lovely collection of grandmotherly church members.
Despite its commanding presence as a medieval fortress, Tattershall Castle, with its nearby church, quiet moat, peaceful countryside and scenic location, is a favourite for visitors who love England's history and country life.
Tattershall Castle. Photo by Lincolnian (Brian). (Wikimedia Commons)