Tattershall Castle and College
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1018394
Date first listed: 20-Feb-1953
Date of most recent amendment: 02-Dec-1998
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: East Lindsey (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TF 21147 57519
Reasons for Designation
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.
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 Church.
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 scheduling.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 22720
Legacy System: RSM
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
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing