Back on the Battlements: Restoring the Historic Handrail

A view of the battlements from above, showing the vast lincolnshire countryside that spreads beneath them

For over 100 years, a handrail high upon the windswept battlements has held steadfast against a barrage of British weather. Torrents of rain, blistering heat and blankets of snow have all besieged this balustrade since the time of Lord Curzon's restoration.

A Time to Rest

Installed for visitor safety when the castle was opened to the public in 1914, it has protected thousands of castle climbers - now it's time for a little TLC. As this important fixture of the tower prepares for repair, we look back on the restoration of the battlements from decaying ruin to top visitor highlight.

The battlements are an imposingly exquisite presentation of fine castle building
An afternoon shadow lays upon three of the turrets surrounding the roof level on the battlements
The battlements are an imposingly exquisite presentation of fine castle building

A State of Decay

When Lord Curzon rescued the castle in 1911, the Scottish architect and head of the restoration efforts, William Weir, was astounded by what he found lurking at the top of the tower;

" The years of exposure had told on the top of the walls, which were overgrown with vegetation, and the upper courses of the brick-work were considerably perished and dislodged"
- William Weir, Tattershall Restoration Architect

Even the flooring had collapsed without due care, making accessibility poor. Ascending the tower stairway would have been rather difficult in itself. With so much to restore, Weir set out his conservation goals in a series of written reports, along with pictures which showed the desperate situation the battlements were in.

The battlements used to be a sorry sight in need of care and attention
The battlements overgrown with vegetation
The battlements used to be a sorry sight in need of care and attention

A New Beginning

By July 1912, work began in earnest along the battlements starting from the east, with over 16,000 bricks being delivered in order to completely repair each and every turret. Imagine hauling them to the top of the tower!

 

Workmen restoring the battlements, c.1913
Tattershall Castle restoration roof
Workmen restoring the battlements, c.1913

By the 18 October 1912, the battlements and turrets were complete. In order to improve conditions when the castle was opened to the public, Weir decided that the roof gallery needed additional fixtures, such as protective balustrades. This was completed at the end of 1913 just before the castle officially opened to the public.

A Time to Celebrate

When the work was complete, Lord Curzon evidently saw the battlements as an important expression of the castle's grandeur, giving a speech about the restoration on the roof just below the battlements during the official opening ceremony.

Lord Curzon celebrated the restoration of the battlements with workers and the public
Lord Curzon with a group of victorian builders just after the restoration.
Lord Curzon celebrated the restoration of the battlements with workers and the public

Now, this very spot is open to every single visitor, and it has aged remarkably well. The continued dedication of our conservation team ensures that as we repair our handrail, the battlements will continue to be open for generations to come.

The modern battlements
A modern view of the battlements with
The modern battlements

We take inspiration from our friends Lord Curzon and William Weir, whose dedication and vision helped pave the way for conservation laws still used today. We follow in their footsteps, ascending the spiral staircase, up towards a feeling of reaching the sky itself.