The Costumed Interpretation Project at Tattershall Castle

Medieval fabric

The Costumed Interpretation Project has been running at the Castle since 2015. The aim of which is to create a range of historical costume fit for inhabitants and visitors of Tattershall Castle during the late Medieval period, dating between 1430-1470. The echoing emptiness of the Castle in modern day (just as Lord Curzon left it when he bequeathed it to the National Trust), provides us with a perfect opportunity to bring the Castle to life. We hope to do this using accurate historical costume, telling the stories of the people who lived and worked here.

Conceptual costuming

All costumes created aim to look as historically accurate on the face of it as possible, however some internal seams have been machine sewn (a cheat we’re sure a medieval seamstress would have loved to be able to do!). There’s a lot of planning involved before sewing commences; each costume has to be both practical and sustainable in a modern setting. We have to take into consideration gravel footpaths and the safety of walking up and down the spiral staircase (with trailing fabric) several times a day – not a worry the Lady of the house would necessarily have had. This poses its challenges however - The Cromwell’s would have had bespoke clothing made especially for them and none of their clothes would have come off the peg. This means that any outfit they commissioned would have fitted like a glove. Our costume however needs to be a little more forgiving and able to fit a range of shapes and sizes.

One of the completed Ladies in Waiting costumes modelled by the Visitor Experience and Volunteering Manager, based on clothing worn by Mary of Burgundy (c1430).
Lady Cromwell dress realised by our volunteers and a portrait of Mary of Burgundy used during the project researches
One of the completed Ladies in Waiting costumes modelled by the Visitor Experience and Volunteering Manager, based on clothing worn by Mary of Burgundy (c1430).

Social sewing

Our sewing group are affectionately known as the Tattershall Tailors, with Sewing Team Leader Sue heading the group. Sue liaises with our Visitor Experience and Volunteering Manager to set yearly project briefs; discussing designs, fabrics and future costume. Using the sewing bible that is Sarah Thursfield’s The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, as well as other reliable sources, Sue drafts out patterns for the costumes. She then assigns individual tasks to the Tailors who all work together to complete one costume before moving on to the next.

 

" It combines my two great passions, that of textiles and history. It is a wonderful way to meet and work with a lovely group of people, producing garments to bring the history of Tattershall Castle alive."
- Sue Dring

Comprised currently of a group of seven local volunteers, everyone enjoys either the historic aspect of dressmaking or just likes to sew in a social setting. Carrying out some of the work at home, the group also meet up fortnightly at the Castle to carry out sewing, discuss what to do next and share a giggle.

The Operations Manager presents the clothing of Lord Cromwell’s household guard to the entire team
Lord Cromwell dress
The Operations Manager presents the clothing of Lord Cromwell’s household guard to the entire team

Wardrobe wonders

Currently four costumes, and several sets of linen underwear, have been completed. This includes two complete ladies in waiting costumes (underwear, kirtle, dress, headwear and accessories – a must for any respecting medieval Lady) as well as two Guards costumes suitable to serve Lord Cromwell himself (complete with household livery badges, hose, undershirts and accessories).

In 2018 the Tattershall Tailors will be working on the first of Lord and Lady Cromwell’s outfits. Picture the finest fabric money can buy…well within reason (and budget!) of course. These costumes will add a certain ostentatiousness to what currently is a fairly demure wardrobe and will brighten up the Castle on the drabbest of days.

Worn by both staff and volunteers, the costumes make an appearance during our education visits, event days or whenever any of the team fancy donning on different garb and transforming into a past character for the day.