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Our work at Tattershall Castle

View from the moat of the east front at Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire
View from the moat of the east front at Tattershall Castle | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Grade I listed Tattershall Castle has outstanding significance as one of the finest examples of a medieval construction. Maintaining the great tower and surrounding grounds is an ongoing task for the staff and volunteers. Learn more about some of the recent work that has gone into maintaining it for us all to enjoy.

The moat clearance

Over the past 30 years (and despite the best efforts of the ranger team), natural growth including rushes, sedges and typha have choked the water-filled moat system at the castle. In 2018, working in partnership with Natural England, a dramatic step was taken to clear the moats of all vegetation. Once this was completed, the habitat could be better managed and it provided a healthier home for resident wildlife.

Overall, the project created a more manageable moat, as well as provide a better-quality habitat for waterfowl, dragonflies and other protected species that live at the castle. It was a better experience for visitors as you can more clearly see the historical features of the castle.

Improving the habitat

The moats provide a safe habitat for ducks, coots and moorhens. It is an integral element to the life cycles of two internationally protected species: great crested newts and a large colony of bats (predominantly made up of the common pipistrelle and Daubenton’s bat). For the newts, the moat provides places to hibernate and places to show off during the mating season.

The bat colony, which makes its home in the Great Tower and nearby Holy Trinity Church, uses the moats for liquid refreshment and as a constant source of food via insects. The vegetation in the moats also provides safe seclusion for the many species of waterfowl to lay and incubate their eggs.

Attacking the roots of the problem

Phase two took place in summer 2018 when the moat bed was sprayed with a safe and approved herbicide to attack the rushes, sedges and typa at the root. This meant that areas of vegetation needed for the resident wildlife to live, hibernate and nest were maintained. We marked out areas in the moat with long stakes that would not be sprayed.

Due to this, islands of vegetation could grow. There was a creation of much needed open expanses of water, which helped maintain the moats great appearance. The final phase of the project was refill the moat with water from the nearby River Bain.

A view of the moat at Tattershall Castle, with two small bridges crossing the moat and a view of the Guardhouse and Church of the Holy Trinity in the background
A view over the moat at Tattershall Castle | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The costume project

Starting in 2015, the costume interpretation project began creating a range of historical costume fit for the inhabitants and guests of Tattershall Castle during the late medieval period (1430–1470). These accurate historical garments help bring the history and stories of the people who lived in the castle to life.

The costumes are created by a sewing group affectionately known as the Tattershall Tailors. They work together to complete costume, using Sarah Thursfield’s book 'The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant' as a starting point.

The Tattershall tailors are a group of volunteers, doing some of the work at home but also meeting up fortnightly at the castle to carry out sewing. They can usually be found sharing a giggle while discussing just how to design accurate costumes for the castle. We are delighted that many of these costumes are now used to clothe volunteers.

Re-flaunching the lodgings

Conservation work was carried out to re-flaunch the lodging ruins, situated next to the Great Tower in the inner moat.

The flaunching (the original capping on top of some of the ruins which covers the brickwork) is believed to have been installed during Lord Curzon’s restoration project during 1912–1914. Over multiple winters it had started to fail, with pieces of the capping falling into the moat that exposed the brickwork underneath.

After thorough research, the work was undertaken following original techniques, grinding the old flaunching down and mixing it with lime mortar to form a new protective seal over the brickwork. The project was painstakingly completed by hand.

A view of the east and north fronts of the Great Tower at Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire, with the moat in the foreground
The Great Tower at Tattershall Castle | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Restoring the towers historic handrail

Installed in 1914 when the castle was first opened to the public, a handrail high on the windswept battlements had held stead-fast against a mixed barrage of British weather. It fell into a state of ruin. A project was started to restore the safety of the battlements and open an accessible visitor highlight once again.

The work was carried out between September and November in 2019, and soon afterwards the battlements were reopened to the public.

The graffiti project

This project recorded all instances of historic graffiti around Tattershall both in the castle and the neighbouring Holy Trinity Church next door. Thousands of photographs were taken and many forms were filled in over hundreds of hours, all undertaken by passionate volunteers (you could join them as a volunteer, too!).

After undertaking detailed training on the various forms of graffiti as well as professional archaeological recording techniques, volunteers were organised into five groups and each group is assigned a specific area of the castle and church to study.

The project was headed by archaeologist James Wright, who was a PhD student working on a Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Nottingham and National Trust, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Comparing all the collected data it was possible to map the presence of certain types of graffiti in different areas of the building and explain their position and meaning. Some of the names carved in the stone provided ies to explore their stories from the past.

Transforming the castle cottages

The castle cottages were given some much needed conservation work, with essential external maintenance to ensure gutters, drainpipes, windows and doors are repaired, decorated and left in full working order to make these beautiful Grade II listed building look its best. They are now luxurious holiday lets that are available to book throughout the year.

Thank you

With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.

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