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Tattershall Castle and College

A Scheduled Monument in Tattershall, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.1011 / 53°6'3"N

Longitude: -0.1918 / 0°11'30"W

OS Eastings: 521162.714996

OS Northings: 357515.619468

OS Grid: TF211575

Mapcode National: GBR HSD.LBZ

Mapcode Global: WHHL2.09ZZ

Entry Name: Tattershall Castle and College

Scheduled Date: 20 February 1953

Last Amended: 2 December 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018394

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22720

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Tattershall

Built-Up Area: Coningsby Airfield

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Tattershall Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument includes Tattershall Castle and College, situated on the south
side of the present village of Tattershall on the west bank of the River Bain.
The castle originated as an enclosure castle constructed in the 13th century
by Robert of Tattershall. In the 15th century it passed to Ralph, first Lord
Cromwell, who rebuilt it as a fortified house and founded a college on the
adjacent site. While the college was dissolved in 1545 and its buildings
dismantled, the castle continued to be occupied until 1693; it thereafter fell
into disrepair and in 1790 some of the building materials were removed and the
moats largely infilled. From 1912 the castle was restored and partly
excavated and in 1925 it passed into the care of the National Trust. It is a
Grade I Listed Building.

The monument includes the standing and buried remains of the castle, college
and associated features, lying to the west, south and east of Holy Trinity

In the western part of the monument are the remains of Tattershall Castle,
which now takes the form of an inner moated enclosure with two outer
enclosures, also moated, to the north east and north west. The inner moated
enclosure originated in about 1231. The first building on the site is thought
to have been a stone-built hall located near the western edge of the
enclosure, followed by a curtain wall with interval towers, also stone-built,
constructed along the inside edge of the moat. The hall survived until the
18th century as a standing ruin but is no longer evident. Parts of the
curtain wall survive in the western part of the enclosure adjacent to the
later Great Tower, which was built in the 15th century against its outer face.
The foundations of two interval towers also survive, one to the north and one
to the south of the Great Tower; these are Listed Grade I and take the form of
`D'-shaped projections into the moat, constructed of magnesian limestone,
which were later strengthened around the base by the addition of green
limestone. The remains of another interval tower have been identified on the
south side of the enclosure; there are thought to have been up to eight
interval towers originally. The entrance to the early castle is believed to
have been from the north east, in the position of the modern bridge, where the
foundations of a pier indicate the location of an earlier bridge.

Construction of the Great Tower is believed to have commenced in the 1430s
when the castle was converted into a fortified residence by Ralph Lord
Cromwell, Treasurer of England. It is a brick-built structure with stone
dressings and string-courses, and takes the form of four storeys and a
basement on a rectangular plan with octagonal corner turrets. Connected by a
passageway to the earlier stone hall, which may have served as an entrance
vestibule, the Great Tower contained the private and public apartments of Lord
Cromwell. A separate Grade I Listed kitchen block was built adjacent and to
the south, also against the outside of the earlier curtain wall and
incorporating one of the interval towers; the foundations of these structures
have been archaeologically excavated and are now exposed. Other buildings
associated with the fortified house, including a chapel, were formerly located
in the southern part of the enclosure. In the north eastern corner stood a
gatehouse which guarded the bridge across the inner moat. The earlier curtain
wall was largely replaced by a brick retaining wall built along the inside
edge of the moat, although this was later destroyed and has in turn been
replaced by a modern concrete wall. The remains of a similar brick retaining
wall on the outer edge of the moat have been restored. The moat wall is Listed
Grade I.

Surrounding the inner moat are the remains of a penannular outer bailey first
constructed in the 15th century as part of Cromwell's alterations. The inner
and outer moats were originally joined only on the north side, but are now
also joined on the east and west sides by modern channels, creating two
`L'-shaped enclosures to the north east and north west. The enclosure to the
north east includes the remains of the middle ward, a walled enclosure from
which access was gained across the inner moat; within it is the Grade I Listed
guardhouse, a small brick building initially converted into a cottage and
later into a shop. In the northern part of the ward are the foundations of
further buildings including, at the western end, the remains of a gatehouse
which guarded the bridge which crossed from the outer ward. The remains of the
outer ward are situated in what is now the north western enclosure and include
the standing remains of a Grade I Listed rectangular building, thought to have
originated as the house of Cromwell's Master of the Horse. On the northern
side of this ward are the foundations of a gateway which formerly stood at the
south end of a bridge across the outer moat.

On the south side of the inner moat is a raised area of ground where a garden
of the castle is believed to have been located. This area, which lay within
the outer bailey of the castle, was formerly approached from the inner ward
across a bridge; the foundations of a pier of the bridge survive in the inner
moat. To the south and east of the garden area are the buried remains of part
of the outer moat which formerly enclosed the garden within the outer bailey.

In the eastern part of the monument are the buried remains of Tattershall
College, which was founded in 1439 for six priests, six lay clerks, six
choristers and a warden. In 1524-5, when the composer John Taverner was a
member of the college, there were ten lay clerks and ten choristers. Situated
to the south and east of Holy Trinity Church, which was rebuilt at this time,
the buildings of the college were constructed of brick with stone dressings
and are believed to have included two courtyards. The buried remains of these
buildings lie to the north east, east and south east of the chancel where the
ground level is artificially raised about 1m above the natural slope of the
land. To the north east of the chancel are the buried remains of the eastern
court of the college, the north range of which has been found by part
archaeological excavation to include the principal gatehouse of the college.
Projecting northward from the north west angle of the gatehouse are the buried
foundations of a rectangular building which may have served as a stable block.
Elsewhere in the eastern court the remains of domestic accommodation have
been identified. To the south and east of the chancel are further buried
building remains of the college which are believed to include the second
court. On the south wall of the chancel, which is not included in the
scheduling, are the brick and stone supports for an adjacent vaulted
passageway which is thought to represent a cloister walk or processional
access to the church.

In the central part of the monument, to the south of the buried remains of the
college and adjacent to the east of those of the outer moat of the castle, is
a level rectangular area partly bounded by a brick wall. This area is believed
to include the remains of the tiltyard of the castle, where tournaments and
exercises took place. Adjacent to the south are the remains of a larger
enclosure of triangular shape, in which the slight earthworks and buried
remains of a series of fishponds are located; this enclosure is defined by the
buried remains of a water channel, now visible on aerial photographs, which
was formerly linked to the castle's outer moat on the north west and to the
River Bain on the south east. The layout of the fishponds and water control
features in this form is associated with the development of the castle in the
15th century.

The toilet block which stands adjacent to the east of the outer moat, and the
church boiler house which stands in the angle between the chancel and the
south transept, together with all modern fences, gates, and all gravestones
are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is
included. The remains of Tattershall College Grammar School, which stand 250m
to the north east of Holy Trinity Church, are the subject of a separate

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers
bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but
this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide
accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there
are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either
waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure
castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they
developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive
experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The
majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were
built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier
medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were
new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or
leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure
castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration
in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration
along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward
I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples
retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most
powerful members of society, and their ostentatious architecture often
reflects a high level of expenditure. In some instances, the fortifications
may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling,
giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. The nature
of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse
and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally
included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative
purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had
separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular
architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had
outer courts beyond the main defences in which associated service buildings
were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period,
primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries. As a rare monument type, with
fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant
surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

Tattershall Castle is a rare example of a medieval fortified house which
partly incorporates the remains of an earlier enclosure castle. It is
associated with an individual of high status at court and therefore bears some
similarities in form and architectural style to contemporary royal residences,
anticipating the development of the courtly `prodigy' houses of the late
Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods. The Great Tower and other standing
buildings survive in good condition, and their integrity as part of an
important historical site has been enhanced by careful restoration in the
early part of this century. As a result of part archaeological excavation, the
remains of both the castle and the college are quite well understood and
demonstrate a high level of survival for below ground remains while the
majority of deposits have been left intact.

The term college is used to describe a variety of different types of
establishment whose communities of secular clergy shared a degree of common
life less strictly controlled than that within a monastic order. The majority
of English colleges were founded in the 14th or 15th centuries and most were
subsequently closed down under the Chantries Act of 1547. Colleges of the
prebendal or portional type were set up as secular chapters as an alternative
to the structure of contemporary monastic houses; some barons followed suit by
setting up colleges within their castles. After 1300 chantry colleges, in
which the prime concern was to offer masses for the souls of the patron and
the patron's family, became more common. They may also have housed bedesmen
and provided an educational facility which in some cases came to dominate
their other activities. From historical sources it is known that approximately
300 separate colleges existed in the medieval period; of these, 167 were in
existence in 1509, made up of 71 prebendal or portional colleges, 64 chantry
colleges and 32 whose function was primarily academic. In view of the
importance of colleges in contributing to our understanding of ecclesiastical
history, and given the rarity of known surviving examples, all identified
colleges which retain surviving archaeological remains are considered to be
nationally important.

The remains of Tattershall College survive well in the form of buried
deposits, and are rare in being associated with the standing remains of a
medieval grammar school. The importance of the college is enhanced by its
association with the composer John Taverner, who worked there in the early
16th century.

The high level of survival of the remains of both the castle and college at
Tattershall, together with associated features such as fishponds, will
preserve valuable evidence for the way in which these unique institutions
functioned in a particular social, cultural and economic setting. In
addition, as a result of the presentation of the castle as a monument open to
the public, and its position adjacent to an important medieval church, the
site serves as an important recreational and educational resource.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Buck, S, The East Prospect of Tattershall Castle near Boston ..., (1726)
Curzon, , Tipping, , Tattershall Castle Lincs: A Historical and Descriptive Survey, (1929), 161ff

Source: Historic England

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