The history of Tattershall Castle in a nutshell

Tattershall Castle sketch 1726

Tattershall Castle is a magnificent medieval tower proudly rising from the flat Lincolnshire fens; a survivor of conflict, decay and restoration. Built of brick in an era of stone this fortified manor is one of the earliest and the finest surviving examples of medieval brickwork.

The first Castle

In 1231 Robert de Tateshale received a licence from King Henry III to build a crenelated manor house out of stone at Tattershall. His castle consisted of a great hall, kitchens, gatehouse and a chapel defended by a curtain wall and surrounded by a single moat.

A home Built to impress

During the early years of the fifteenth century the Castle was passed to Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell. On his elevation to Treasurer of England in 1433 Lord Cromwell upgraded his small, crumbling ancestral seat into an opulent home designed on a palatial scale. With his new found wealth and position he commissioned the Great Tower, the Stables, the Kitchens and the Guardhouse. The inner moat was enlarged and an outer moat added allowing for more space to house the increased number of servants and retainers needed to run the castle together with increasing the sites defensive ability.

15-century chimneypiece decorated with coats of arms
2nd floor tattershall castle fireplace
15-century chimneypiece decorated with coats of arms

Tudor Tattershall

Upon Lord Cromwell’s death and without a direct heir the castle passes into the Crown’s possession who subsequently granted it to loyal and familial subjects (Edward IV, Henry VII, Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII, Henry Fitzroy and Charles Brandon all owned the castle during this period). Charles Brandon turned the castle into a Tudor palace and installed the Tiltyard to practice jousting (1537-45). Under his ownership the castle became a place of wealth, power and beauty once again. The castle then was inherited by the Clinton family who became the Earls of Lincoln living at the site for 120 years.

Castle besieged

In 1643 a big part of the Castle was destroyed or damaged during the Civil War. The Royalists, led by the Earl of Newcastle who was sweeping across Lincolnshire, attacked the castle and left only the Great Tower intact. After the Kings defeat Parliament ordered the demolition of the entire castle. The Earl of Lincoln appealed to Parliament to leave the Great Tower intact and due to his repeated pleas the demolition order was overlooked.

Abandonment and Gradual Decay

In 1693 the last Earl of Lincoln died. The Fortesque family inherit the castle but never live in it as they lived primarily in Devon. The castle is abandoned and becomes derelict and ruinous. All the floors collapse, the window glass falls out and the moats are filled in and the ground floor of the Great Tower is used as a cattle shed. The castle becomes a popular tourist destination as a Romantic Ruin. In 1910 the Fortesque family sold the castle to an American consortium and to raise additional funds the fireplaces were ripped out and sold to an American collector.

Tattershall Castle as romantic ruin in 1823
Tattershall castle as ruin, 1823
Tattershall Castle as romantic ruin in 1823

A Ruin Restored

In 1911 Reverend Yglesias of Holy Trinity Church contacted Lord Curzon of Kedleston to help save the Castle from destruction and deportation. Lord Curzon bought the Castle, and guided by the principles of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, he reinstated the fireplaces, restored the buildings and excavated the Moats. In August 1914 the Castle was opened as a visitor attraction.

When Lord Curzon died in 1925 the property was bequeathed to the National Trust in accordance with his will. The Castle has remained open to visitors ever since.

The rescue efforts of this Lincolnshire landmark prompted the first piece of buildings conservation legislation in the world; shaping the future by protecting the past. The 1913 Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act forms the basis of our heritage protection laws that helps charities like the National Trust to conserve buildings, places and spaces for ever, for everyone.