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Tattershall Castle has its origins in either a stone castle or a fortified manor house, built by Robert de Tateshale in 1231. This was largely rebuilt in brick, and greatly expanded, by Ralph, 3rd Lord Cromwell, Treasurer of England, between 1430 and 1450.
Brick castles are less common in England than stone or earth and timber constructions; when brick was chosen as a building material it was often for its aesthetic appeal or because it was fashionable. The trend for using bricks was introduced by Flemish weavers. There was plenty of stone available nearby, but Cromwell chose to use brick. About 700,000 bricks were used to build the castle, which has been described as "the finest piece of medieval brick-work in England".
Of Lord Cromwell's castle, the 130 foot high Great Tower and moat still remain. It is thought that the castle's three state rooms were once splendidly fitted out and the chambers were heated by immense gothic fireplaces with decorated chimney pieces and tapestries. It has been said that the castle was an early domestic country mansion masquerading as a fortress. Cromwell died in 1456, the castle was initially inherited by his niece, Joan Bouchier, but was confiscated by the Crown after her husband's demise. Tattershall castle was recovered in 1560 by Sir Henry Sidney, who sold it to Lord Clinton, later Earl of Lincoln, and it remained with the Earls of Lincoln until 1693. It passed to the Fortesques, but then fell into neglect until 1911 when it was purchased and restored by Lord Curzon of Kedleston, who left it to the National Trust on his death in 1925. Lord Curzon had undertaken restorations on it between 1911 and 1914. It remains today one of the three most important surviving brick castles of the mid-fifteenth century.
The castle is roughly square in shape, bounded by an outer moat which encloses an inner moat. The inner enclosure, or Ward, was that of the original thirteenth century castle, and the original entrance was on the north side towards the west end.
The Outer Ward, between the outer moat and inner moat, housed the stables. The Middle Ward, originally accessed via a bridge from the Outer Ward, housed a gatehouse and guardhouse. Today, access to the castle is via this Middle Ward. The Inner Moat encompases the Inner Ward, where the Great Tower, and kitchens were situated.
The separate doorways to the basement and ground floor (parlour) of the tower hint that they were intended to provide communal accommodation, while the three great upper rooms were an independent private suite. The design was extremely simple, with four floors, slightly increasing in size at each level by reductions in wall thickness. The fireplaces indicate that the rooms were not intended to be subdivided, but kept as one great room at each level. One of the four corner turrets contains the staircase, but the other three provided extra accommodation rooms at each level.
The first floor of the private suite was the Hall, which would have been used to entertain and wine and dine guests.
The middle floor was the Audience Chamber, and only the finest of guests would have been admitted here. A brick vaulted corridor led to a small waiting room, before the great hall of the Audience Chamber, which today houses beautiful Flemish tapestries bought by Lord Curzon.
The top floor would have been the Private Chamber, where the Lord would have retired for the night.
Above this, are the roof gallery and battlements, which provide good views across the Lincolnshire landscape, as far as Boston to the south, and Lincoln to the north. It is not possible today to access the turrets.
The brick foundations to the south of the great tower, projecting into the moat, mark the site of the fifteenth century kitchens.
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