Tattershall Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameTattershall Castle
Alternative NamesTateshal
Historic CountryLincolnshire
Modern AuthorityLincolnshire
1974 AuthorityLincolnshire
Civil ParishTattershall

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 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. (Scheduling Report)

Castle, now monument owned by National Trust. c.1440 built for Ralph Cromwell, Lord High Treasurer, on site of castle built by Robert Tateshale in 1231. Restored in 1911-25 by Lord Curzon. Red brick tower in English bond, with darker lattice lozenge decorations to upper parts, ashlar dressings, leaded roofs. Rectangular plan with facetted angle towers, originally with attached hall to courtyard side. 5 storey with undercroft, irregular 3 bay front with plinth, chamfered ashlar string course and embattled parapet with machicolated base. To ground floor 3 four centred arched doorways. In the plinth a small arched opening to undercroft, and above a small rectangular light. To first floor are 2 two light windows, one with moulded rectangular surround. To second and third floors are 3 two light windows all having cusped heads to the lights, central mullions and 4 centred arched surrounds. Above the machicolations are 8 cusped headed openings in moulded rectangular surrounds. In the tops of the angle towers are single cross shaped arrow loops and the embattled parapets have arcaded brick corbels. On the roof is a bank of 3 tall circular stacks with embattled tops. To either side of the tower can be seen a section of the curtain wall with upper gallery having small rectangular loops with a wall walk above. In the left hand side wall are 3 single large 2 light windows to each floor, having cusped heads to the lights, panel traceried tops and concave moulded surrounds. In the right hand side are 2 large windows matching those to the left. Interior. Undercroft has wide brick segmental tunnel vault, with chambers off. Ground floor parlour has fine chimney piece of Ancaster stone bearing shields of Lord Cromwell and his ancestors. Shallow 4 centred moulded opening with crocketed ogee over. Rectangular shield bearing panel, flanked by half round columns with floriate capitals and having brattished top with frieze of fleurons. 4 centred arched openings to chambers off the parlour. First floor, principal state room is reached by a turning stair in the north east turret with restored inset moulded ashlar handrail. The chimney piece is elaborately carved with grotesque heads on the capitals at either end. In the spandrels are representative carvings, and the panel across the lintel has armorial shields, brattished top with frieze of fleurons. On the north wall are corbels to support a baldequin over the high table. 4 centred brick openings to chambers off. The second floor has a long passage on the east side with fine quadripartite brick vault with moulded ribs and ashlar shield bosses, restored. The Audience Chamber also has a fine chimney piece, bearing shields of arms. On the south wall are corbels to support a canopy over Lord Cromwell's dais. A garderobe chamber on the south side has been converted to a dovecote having side walls lined with mud and lath construction containing circular nesting boxes. The third floor room, the withdrawing Room or Privy Chamber also contains a fine chimney piece. The window recesses in the west wall are elaborately brick vaulted with decorated bosses, and triskeles in the spandrels made of shaped bricks. Above is a roof gallery with covered walkway giving access to the machicolations, and upper walkway behind the embattled parapet, supported on chamfered brick piers with segmental arches. On the rear wall are 2 two light windows to eadch floor, with cusped heads to the lights, panel tracery and 4 centred arched heads. Cromwell employed a German, Baldwin Docheman, to superintend the brickmaking and he worked to foreign, possibly French, designs. The castle was last occupied in the C17, and in the years after 1912 restoration was undertaken by Lord Curzon under the direction of William Weir, architect. (Listed Building Report)

Former guard house, now ticket office and shop. c.1440, altered c.1911. Red brick in English bond, with ashlar dressings, plain tiled roof. 2 storey, 2 bay front with plinth and dentillated eaves course. Off-centre 4 centred arched door, a later insertion in C20, shields in the spandrels and moulded surround. Above the door an ashlar plaque with heraldic shield. To left a single fixed leaded light in 4 centred hollow chamfered arched surround. To first floor, above the door, a taller similar light. To the left, a 2 light window with cusped heads to the lights set in moulded rectangular surround with hood. In the gable an ashlar heraldic shield. In the side walls are single 2 light windows to each floor, and to the rear a doorway with 4 centred head, moulded surround, with to left a 2 light window and to right a single light window. To first floor a further 2 light window. All windows have cusped 4 centred arched heads, concave moulded rectangular surrounds and hoods. Interior retains brick fireplace with chamfered basket arched head. The principal floor joists are on curved braces to the wall posts. The king post roof has arched braces from the tie, 2 tiers of collars, collar purlin and common rafters. On the first floor is garderobe chamber and a further brick arched fireplace. The first floor was originally entered by a set of external steps on the north side. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Robert Tattershall certainly had a house at Tattershall before 1231 but there is nothing to suggest, beyond Roberts wealth and baronial status, that this was fortified. Ralph Cromwell's Tower was the inspiration for a number of smaller C15 brick towers in Lincolnshire including Ayscoughfee Hall, the lost West Butterwick Tower, Gainsborough Old Hall, Hussey Tower at Boston, Rochford Tower and the Tower on the Moor at Woodhall Spa.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTF211575
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
  • Osborne, Mike, 2010, Defending Lincolnshire: A Military History from Conquest to Cold War (The History Press) p. 11, 44, 68, 69-73, 70, 78, 90, 98
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 64-7
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 308
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 13, 64-5
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 146-7 (plans)
  • Roffe, David, 1993, 'Castles' in Bennett, S. and Bennett, N. (eds), An Historical Atlas of Lincolnshire (University of Hull Press) p. 40-1
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 212-3
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 263-4
  • Thompson, M.W., 1981, 'The architectural significance of the building works of Ralph, Lord Cromwell (1394-1456)' in A. Detsicas (ed), Collectanea Historica: Essays in Memory of Stuart Rigold (Kent Archaeological Society) p. 155-62
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 304-5
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1964, Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (Harmondsworth) p. 390-4
  • Simpson, D., 1960, The Building Accounts of Tattershall Castle, 1434-72 (Lincoln Record Society No. 55)
  • Myatt-Price, E.M., 1956, 'Cromwell Household Accounts 1417-1476' in Littleton, A.C. and Yamey, B.S. (eds), Studies in the History of Accounting (London) p. 99-113
  • Marquis Curzon and Tipping, H.A., 1929, Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire: A Historical & Descriptive Survey (London; J.Cape)
  • Tipping, H.A., 1921, English Homes, period 1 Vol. 1 (London)
  • Thompson, A. Hamilton, 1912, Military architecture in England during the Middle Ages (OUP) p. 355-8 online copy
  • Sympson, Edward Mansel, 1911, Memorials of Old Lincolnshire p. 179-97
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Gotch, J. Alfred, 1909, The Growth of the English House (London: Batsford) p. 78-81
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 443-6 online copy
  • Pickworth, M.A., 1891, History of Tattershall with the Church and Castle (not very reliable history)
  • Reed, F.H., 1872, Illustrations of Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire (London) (reprinted 1970)
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 229-30 online copy
  • Weir, G., 1820, History and Descriptive Sketches of Horncastle (London) p. 86-96
  • Weir, G., 1811, A Topographical Account of Tattershall (Horncastle)
  • Anon, 1811, A topographical account of Tattershall in the county of Lincoln: illustrated with engravings (Horncastle)
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 176



  • Guy, Neil, 2011-12, 'The Rise of the Anti-clockwise Newel Stair' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 113-174 online copy
  • Creighton, O.H., 2010, 'Room with a View: Framing Castles Landscapes' Château Gaillard Vol. 24 p. 37-49 (slight)
  • Archaeological Project Services, 2008, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 52 online reference
  • Bennet, M. and Field, F.N., 1999, Lincolnshire History and Archaeology p. 32 (building survey of gatehouse)
  • Coppack, Glyn, 1997-98, 'News from English Heritage Properties Midlands Region' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 11 p. 22 online copy
  • Avery, Tracey, 1997 April, 'Wealth and Power: The Furnishings of Tattershall Castle, c. 1450–1550' Apollo
  • Goodall, John, 1996 Oct 10, 'Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire, a property of the National Trust' Country Life p. 50-55
  • Friedrichs, R. L., 1990, 'The two last wills of Ralph Lord Cromwell' Nottingham Medieval Studies Vol. 34 p. 93-112
  • Friedrichs, R. L., 1988, 'Ralph Lord Cromwell and the politics of fifteenth-century England' Nottingham Medieval Studies Vol. 32 p. 207-27
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 314, 320
  • Coulson, C., 1979, 'Structural Symbolism in Medieval Castle Architecture' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 132 p. 84
  • Johnson, C.P.C., 1978, 'Tattershall Castle: the saving of a national treasure, 1911-1914' Lincolnshire Life Vol. 18.8
  • 1974, Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 44
  • Thompson, M.W., 1974, 'Tattershall Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 131 p. 317-21
  • Simpson, 1935, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 40 p. 177- (building accounts)
  • Tipping, H.A., 1915, Country Life Vol. 38 p. 18-26, 54-60
  • Floyer, J.K., 1913, 'English Brick Buildings of the Fifteenth Century' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 70 p. 121-32 online copy
  • Sympson, Edward Mansel, 1910, 'Tattershall castle and church' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 14 p. 28-45
  • Sympson, Edward Mansel, 1909, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 66 p. 349-50 online copy

Guide Books

  • Avery, Tracey, 1997, Tattershall Castle (National Trust)
  • Thompson, M.W., 1988, Tattershall Castle Lincolnshire (National Trust)
  • Thompson, M.W., 1974, Tattershall Castle (National Trust)
  • Anon, 1969, Tattershall Castle Lincolnshire (National Trust)
  • Thompson, A Hamilton, 1928, Tattershall: the Manor, the Castle, the Church (Lincoln)
  • Anon, 1926, (Boston)

Primary Sources

  • Myers, A.R. (ed), 1969, English Historical Documents Vol. 4 1327-1485 p. 1118-23 (building accounts from Simpson)
  • Simpson, D. (ed), 1960, The Building Accounts of Tattershall Castle, 1434-72 (Lincoln Record Society No. 55)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 435 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 296


  • English Heritage, 1999, Revised scheduling document 22720. MPP 23