Tattershall Castle Archaeology Walk
Explore the former home and surroundings of the Treasurer to King Henry VI and discover the hidden history of a 'landscape of lordship' told through its archaeology. The centre of Tattershall village is a Conservation Area. This was put in place in August 1976 (amended in April 1996) to preserve the special architectural and historical interest of its buildings and spaces. The buildings and features you'll be exploring on this walk are all part of the Conservation Area. Many of those also have extra protection to make sure they will be here for many generations of visitors to enjoy.
Start your walk from the pavement near the entrance sign for Tattershall Castle
Start your walk from the outside boundary fence of Tattershall Castle.
A stone castle was originally built on this location in the 1230’s by Robert de Tateshale, it was then replaced in 1434 by a grand red-brick place of residence by Ralph, 3rd Lord Cromwell of which the Great Tower still stands to be seen for miles around. After the death of Cromwell, Tattershall Castle passed through many owners, these are documented in the stained-glass windows of the tower, before it went into a period of abandonment at the end of the 17th century. In 1911, George, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, who had a keen interest in historic buildings and their conservation, bought the property. He then acquired the large stone fireplaces which had been sold, removed and transported to London in readiness to be shipped to America; their return saw a triumphal procession through the village with the crates covered in Union flags and garlands. Lord Curzon, with the help of architect William Weir, then set about an ambitious project to restore the site and make it available for the public to enjoy, all culminating in the opening of the property on 8 August 1914. On his death in 1925, Lord Curzon left Tattershall Castle to the care of the National Trust, to which it still is today. During reconstruction of the site, excavations to reinstate the moats were undertaken, many of the artefacts were kept and form part of the archaeological collections still held at the Castle; items include pottery, carved stonework and metal objects from throughout its history. Several archaeological interventions, geophysics and excavations, have taken place for conservation and services projects with the findings being reported on and added to the collection. Tattershall Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument with the structures being Grade I and II listed buildings.
Standing with the bedehouse sign in front of you and entrance gate of the Castle site behind you, turn right to walk towards the church. On your left you will see the Bedehouses.
Bedehouses (Bede House Trust)
Lord Cromwell’s grandmother, Maud, set up an almshouse at this location. In 1440 Lord Cromwell founded timber-framed buildings to house 13 families. These were re-built in plain red brick during the early 17th century and remodelled again in the 19th and 20th centuries to house ten, with further renovations creating housing for five more occurring in the 1960’s. Refurbishments in 1996 gave the opportunity for archaeological interventions, these included recording elevations and excavations that revealed structures and floors that could be from the original almshouse. The current buildings are Grade II listed.
As you continue down the path you will come to Holy Trinity Collegiate Church.
Holy Trinity Collegiate Church (Diocese)
The current church was the vision of Lord Cromwell who secured a licence to build it along with collegiate buildings in 1439, however works didn’t start until 1465-1485. The church boasts stained glass from the 15th century, some dated at 1482, these have been reassembled to create a magnificent east window. The churchyard it sits within predates this, to when an earlier Norman chapel stood close by. Over the years various groundworks for maintenance and services have been undertaken, in the most part they have uncovered boundary walls and one or two burials. More notably floors and burials that support the presence of the earlier chapel and associated graveyard. As well as being a Grade I listed building the church is also part of the Scheduled Ancient Monument of the Castle.
Follow the path and bear left towards the old Bowls Green (underneath the green is where the Collegiate building remains are) and continue along the path to the National Trust car park.
Collegiate building remains (National Trust)
Under the old Bowls Club are the remains of a gatehouse to Tattershall College (see later information). In 1967, excavations of this area were carried out and brick foundations of the gateway to Tattershall College were uncovered. Unfortunately, the report for the dig has not been written up and when the lands came back into the care of the National Trust it was the perfect opportunity to investigate further. In 2019 a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), a form of geophysical survey, revealed the layout of the gatehouse buildings, they match perfectly with the only plans of the excavations that were released. Part of the Tattershall Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Turn right toward the wooden five-bar gate into the overflow car park, bear right to follow the well-worn public footpath through the field. As you rise to the crest, approx. 100 yards, you will see on your right the Tiltyard field.
Tiltyard, Tattershall Castle (National Trust)
Originating from the Inner Ward of the Castle there would have been a bridge which led into this brick-walled enclosure known as the ‘Tiltyard’; an enclosed courtyard for jousting. This space has a varied past having originally been the most likely location for gardens and rabbit warrens, it then served as a space to practice jousting; a pastime for nobility. It is believed that this space then returned to gardens with a possible orchard. Geophysical surveys, test pits and trial trenching of the area have been carried out over the last 25 years, the results of which show wide shallow pits from formal gardens contemporary to the castle and buried walls from a walled garden shown on a map of 1842. In 2019, the National Trust, undertook the most recent conservation and consolidation of the red-brick wall. Part of the Tattershall Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Continue along the pathway towards the earthworks which form part of the fishponds. As you come up to the boundary of the holiday park, turn to look back over the fishponds, Tiltyard and Castle grounds.
Fishponds, Tattershall Castle (National Trust)
Here you can just make out six sub-rectangular depressions (marked on the route map above), the earthwork remains, of medieval fishponds; these would have provided a fresh supply of fish like pike, bream and eels. For the rich, this was a great source of protein, especially as it was allowed during Lent and other religious festivals when eating meat was not allowed. The land that would have been owned by the Lord of the Manor would have encompassed much more than what you see as part of Tattershall Castle today. Not only the village, but Kirkstead Abbey (3 miles to the north), along with a hunting park of approximately 2000 acres of land and many tenant farmers all of which served the Lord. Geophysical surveys in 2009 clearly showed the layout of the fishponds and excavations nearer to the River Bain uncovered net weights that could have been used to catch the stock. The fishponds are included as part of the Tattershall Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Turn left to walk along the boundary of the holiday park towards the River Bain, turn left again and walk along the bank stopping when you reach the weir. Turn left and walk till you reach a small bridge over the disused Horncastle Canal along Causeway Walk.
River Bain (Environment Agency)
The River Bain’s source is near to Ludford, some 20 miles north of Tattershall, it winds its way south passing within 250 meters of the Great Tower, then continuing a short distance to Dogdyke where it joins the River Witham. It is believed to have been navigable since at least the construction of the brick Castle, as in the building accounts it mentions the transportation of various building materials; bricks, lime and sand. The medieval river would have looked very different from the one you are walking along today as it was canalized between 1792 and 1802 by a committee led by Sir Joseph Banks, the great naturalist and botanist. Tattershall Castle holds several images of the Castle that were part of a collection at Revesby Abbey belonging to Sir Joseph Banks.
When you reach the road turn right to walk along Sleaford Road approximately 70 yards, at the signpost for the Tattershall College turn right to look at the remains of the building.
Tattershall College (Heritage Lincolnshire by agreement with English Heritage)
This is the last in the complex of buildings that Ralph, Lord Cromwell built during his time at Tattershall, as with the church, building work didn’t start until after his death. The trend Cromwell started, of building in red brick, seemed to continue and the newly founded college boasted a similar style as the castle that overshadows it. The purpose of the college was to house several priests, clerks and choristers to pray for Cromwell and his family’s souls and the grammar school to educate ‘all sons of tenants of the lordship of Tattershall and of the College without charge’. This building represents the last standing remains of the college, with the gatehouse no longer being present above ground. Documentary evidence of this and similar structures describe the way the building may have been used, with the downstairs serving as stables and the first floor as the school chamber, with more decorative stone window tracery. The College is a Grade II* Listed building and is also protected with Scheduled Ancient Monument status.
After leaving, trace your steps back to Sleaford Road. In front of you, you will see the Market Place, cross over and explore the Butter Cross.
Butter Cross, Market Place
The stone cross stands on five octagonal steps, the bottom one being modern with the top four medieval in date and as such are held together in places with iron clamps. It is a good example of a medieval standing cross and thought to be in its original location with much of the monument being of original construction. The cross was constructed by Lord Cromwell, symbolising the money that lay in the village, especially being one of the largest in Lincolnshire. It is decorated with carvings of crenellations, shields and wild men; all of which can be found represented in Tattershall Castle. Excavations around the Butter Cross in 2001 uncovered a possible surround for the cross in the form of an 18th century wall. This is a Grade I Listed standing stone cross and part of the Tattershall Conservation Area, as are many of the buildings within the Market Place. Many items throughout history have been found during building works, renovations and gardening in and around the buildings of the Market Place. Most notably was the discovery of a medieval ‘Fools head’ whistle, found during works to the Bailey Bridge (which you will pass on your way back to Tattershall Castle) and can be seen on display at The Collection Museum in Lincoln.
When finished, cross back over the road, turn right and walk along Sleaford Road back to Tattershall Castle. The Castle and immediate grounds are currently still closed to visitors.
You finish back where you started on the roadside
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