Landscapes you will encounter while traveling about in Lincolnshire will suggest that it is simply forgotten. The southwest area has alluring country manor houses along with ancient woodlands, winding roads, wildlife reserves and the country has some small villages where it seems time has stopped from long ago.
The Lincoln Edge runs north and south the length of the county and gives magnificent views of the Wolds. Lincoln has three areas- Lindsey (north), Kesteven (the Ridge), and Holland is the flatland fen country in the south. The 6,000 square miles will lull you to bliss but don’t let that fool you, this county is loaded with history and has had a few internationally famous people. Sir Issac Newton lived out his life there, Alfred Lord Tennyson grew up near the coastline and even Margaret Thatcher made her beginnings in this seemingly humble area.
By and large, the most historic town in Lincolnshire is Lincoln itself. It sits high on a cliff overlooking the River Witham and was founded by the Romans in AD 48 as Lindum. The original British tribe of people, Coritani, were most likely driven off. The spire of Lincoln Cathedral can be seen from twenty miles away and it’s rather awe inspiring to see the three gothic towers from the flat fens which surround it. Lincoln’s medieval structures are in remarkable condition and there are several to see.
Lincoln Castle is a short distance away from the Cathedral on Castle Hill Road. William the Conqueror built the present structure on the site from preexisting Roman digs which date from the 11th century. An immense 12th century curtain wall is unusually flanked by two mottes, two gates and a large round tower which is Cobb Hall. To the south, a Roman wall remains on the edge of a slope, it was retained, partially, as a curtain wall and additionally as a revetment sustaining the mottes. On the west, the ground levels, and here a Roman wall was buried inside an earth rampart and was extended upward to form the Norman wall. This massive square West Gatehouse was sealed in the 14th century and reopened back in 1993. The Roman west gate was excavated in the 19th century but, sadly, collapsed on exposure. The East Gate is flanked by two 13th century turrets and was also protected by a barbican. The ramparts that remain can be walked on.
The Lucy Tower, a 12th century shell keep, was built after the First Battle of Lincoln damage (1141) and a new barbican was built on the west and east gates after the second Battle of Lincoln in 1217. The Prison Gaol was built in 1787 and extended in 1847. It went unused for many years until it was converted to the Lincolnshire Archives. Even though Lincoln Castle has been rebuilt numerous times, it has retained some interesting features. One such feature is the chapel’s pews which are built like coffins. This is referred to as the Pentonville System. That was for the benefit of the prisoners, (the castle kept prisoners from 1787 to 1878) so they could not see each other. There is an informative exhibition in the Georgian bailey (the old prison building) about the Magna Carta of 1215 and displays one of the four remaining original copies of it.
A general tour of the city to see all the medieval structures is boundaried by Lindum Road, Pottergate, Humber Bridge and the Castle. Many still remain, some in refurbished form, along the aptly named Steep Hill which leads up to the cathedral. To name only a few sites, don’t miss Usher Art Gallery or Jew’s House. (The latter is a 12th century stone house and is the oldest of its kind still in existence.) Additionally, Bishop’s Palace at Minster Yard and House of Aaron the Jew (not to be confused with Jew’s House) are worth touring.
Just off of Eastgate, behind the Lincoln Cathedral, a statue of Alfred Lord Tennyson gives us a gentle reminder that this poet hailed from the modest town of Somersby and attended school at Louth.
From Lincoln you’ll want to head southeast to Tattershall Castle which is fifteen miles northeast of Sleaford. What remains of it is magnificent due to the restoration work of Lord Curzon (the man who restored the Taj Mahal) in 1911-14. He also restored Bodiam Castle in East Sussex in 1919 although restoration of Bodiam involved removing important early features. The hundred foot tower is the remaining prominent feature of Tattershall but its beautiful red brick work is the original and remains an obvious symbol of the power of Ralph Lord Cromwell for whom it was built, a wealthy adviser to Henry V and Lord Treasurer to Henry VI. Constructed in 1440 by Baldwin Docheman as an addition to 13th century remains which were mammoth in strength with vaulted basements, two tiers of battlements, three entrances (although, curiously, better planned for escape) and the tower gate itself is four storeys. It now retains four great chambers with enormous Gothic fireplaces and brick vaulting.
What Baldwin Docheman built onto was a stronghold built by Robert de Tateshale in 1231. An inner ward and curtain wall had been surrounded by a moat, a middle and outer ward and an additional outer moat which was fed by the River Bain. Nothing of Tateshale’s earlier castle remains but his moats were restored by Curzon.
It should be noted here that Roger Fiennes, a contemporary of Cromwell’s, built a strong gatehouse at Herstmonceaux (in Sussex) around the same time (1441) and John Cowper, a master-mason who most likely worked on Cromwell’s tower, helped build the powerful brick gatehouse at Kirby Muxloe in Leicestershire around 1474. Other Parallels to Tattershall is the donjon by Jean de Berry at Poitiers (France) which no longer exists and the Grand Master’s lodging at Marienburg in Poland.
Tattershall is one of a breed of those edifices referred to by castle purists as a highly decorative defensible palace. What remains of Tattershall is testament to this type of building but by the sixteenth century it was considered archaic to refer to them as castles.
There is more to see on Tattershall’s grounds because Lord Cromwell built and endowed a marvelous collegiate church and Tattershall College (a ruin of a grammar school) built in the late 15th century and alms houses. The college building was converted to a brewery in the late 18th century. It isn’t too hard to imagine what these edifices were like in Cromwell’s day. An information display is available in one of the turret rooms of the tower.
At this point I’ll briefly take a jaunt back up toward Lincoln to two nice Smythson digs in the form of Aubourn Hall and Doddington Hall before we head further north. These two architectural marvels are only a few miles apart from each other.
Doddington Hall is five miles west of Lincoln and offers a brilliant mixture of an Elizabethan exterior with an even more splendid redecorated Georgian interior fronted by an authentic-looking Tudor gatehouse! It has been steadily occupied for over four hundred years by the Delavel and Jarvis families and never structurally altered. This Smythson mansion has stood in its place since 1600 and contains a museum-like collection of porcelains, furnishings, paintings (including family portraits) and textiles acquired by the family through the years. It also has a beautifully laid out walled garden recently restored through a grant from DEFRA.
T-01522 694308 Contact: James and Claire Birch
Aubourn Hall is a Stuart Brick House which is equidistant southwest of Lincoln and southeast of Doddington Hall. This magnificent home was built in 1628 by J. Smythson Jr. and has lovely paneled rooms and an historically important wooden staircase. It contains Georgian furniture throughout and has three acres of gardens to admire.
Now we’ll head up about ten miles on the A156 to Gainsborough and on Parnell Street you’ll find a delightful medieval house, Gainsborough Old Hall, which English Heritage opened to the public. The old and rebuilt sections come together splendidly, and the collection of historic furniture plus the re-created medieval kitchen are well worth touring. T- 01427 612669
A little south of Gainsborough at Gate Burton a marvelous little castle called The Chateau sits on a grassy knoll above the bend in the River Trent. This house was built for a lawyer as a weekend retreat by the very young (at the time!) John Platt of Rotherham in 1747. This is the only work he did outside of Yorkshire in a career that spanned fifty years! It’s obviously not named for its size but the chateauesque look with a faux brick foundation is interesting and rather cute. The principal room in the upstairs portion has a high coved ceiling, most likely to give it a feel for spaciousness. This also is a Landmark Trust property and can be rented through them.
Twelve miles northwest of Lincoln, a ruined 16th century Tudor stone fortress, Torksey Castle remains on the banks of the River Trent. Originally a Norman motte and bailey castle, the remains are the results of the building founded by the Jermyn family. It is a square limestone and brick edifice with angular flanking towers and a west wing (of which the latter still stands to its original height). Because it is dangerously ruinous no public access is allowed but it can be seen from A156 road and subsequently the footpath on the west bank of the river.
Normanby Hall is in the far northern region of Lincolnshire, four miles north of Scunthorpe and shares three hundred acres of land with Regency mansion. Interior tours depict the Regency style which is on the ground floor of the mansion and the Victorian and Edwardian periods on the upstairs floors. Costumes are also displayed. A working Victorian Walled Garden is on the grounds and greenhouse using organic and Victorian techniques. T-01724 720588 www.pbase.com/haunted.chipshop/image/62175232
Heading toward the coastline in the far northern corner Thornton Abbey’s Augustinian monastery will put you in awe! The original foundation was begun in 1139, some distance from the nearby village of Thornton Curtis by William le Gros, the Earl of Yorkshire, and it is a testament to Parish support for building magnificent cloisters for the priests and black canons.
It was raised to the status of Abbey by 1148 and thereafter was continually built upon in various different styles, of course. The founding part from the 12th century was Romanesque in style but much of that has been built over. By the 13 and 14th centuries the style that prevailed was Gothic and the remnants of that are evident in the chapter house and part of the actual cloister.
The photo I found of Thornton Abbey (in the brand new Lincolnshire album!) and a good part of the architectural interest is in the east front gatehouse which at the time of building was the largest scale of usage of brick. It stands two storeys high and is basically unharmed. You won’t find many windows throughout the Abbey, of course, and the dimensions inside are cramped due to the thickness of the walls. (Space was not a consideration made to monks, priests, priors, cellarers, bursars or chamberlains in those days!)
Thornton Abbey was built over a long period of time to become the edifice it is today. Completion of the main structure was finished circa 1282 and the beautiful towerhouse gate was completed in the year 1382, the same year it was given license to crenellate because of the Peasant’s Revolt. In this case they were given permission by the crown to fortify it like a castle.
The outside adornments include three nearly life size statues above the gate. Make a particular note of the bridge over the moat that adjoins the gatehouse- it is fortified with walls and gardrobes!
In 1938 the fifth Earl handed the care of the Abbey to HM Office of Works and now is in the care and trust of English Heritage. For more photos:
Why not surf down to Gunby Hall and Bolingbroke Castle ? Of course, I’m only kidding about that! The wild beaches of Cleethorpes, Skegness, Mablethorpe and Sutton-on-the-Sea were popular in Victorian times. These sandy beaches seem to stretch out way into the distance. In the 17th century a man by the name of Cornelius Vermuyden, drained the fens, which cause them to sink below sea level. A brief stop at Grimsby to see the award-winning National Fishing Heritage Centre could be worth a look for enthusiasts of aquatic and marine life. There was an international Jazz Festival all throughout July and a nice Victorian shopping street- Abbeygate for your shopping pleasure. In the 19th century Grimsby was one of the world’s largest fishing ports and the redevelopment of recent years has turned this town into a nice little hub for Lincolnshire.
You’ll want to head down for Gunby Hall and Bolingbroke Castle by the A1031 right now, avoiding Louth at this time because it has had terrible flooding very recently. On this route you’ll get to see all the wonderful natural beaches.
Gunby Hall is perched very prettily on a small hill just east of Spilsby at the foot of the Lincolnshire Wolds and seven miles west from Skegness Beach. This 1500 acre estate has wonderful walled gardens and the house itself is described on its own web page as a Living Doll’s House. Making use of red brick this Queen Anne and its stone dressings are very attractive with a wing extension. Sir William Massingberd built it in 1700 and then the extension was done around the 1870s. Inside you’ll find 18th century wainscoting, an oak staircase, wonderful English furniture, a clock collection of note and Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd’s memorabilia as a Field Marshall. Apparently Alfred Lord Tennyson has spent some time in its rooms because it is reported that he proclaimed Gunby Hall his haunt of ancient peace. I don’t know if we should take that literally, but since he was a poet I think we’ll be safe in assuming that Tennyson does not actually haunt Gunby Hall! LOOOOL
Bolingbroke Castle is west of Spilsby and the sparse ruins outline the prototype of a 13th century enclosure castle with a large gatehouse, seven D-shaped towers and a moat. Most of the height of the towers are gone with only the lowest portion of the walls left to view. It was built from greenstone which is a porous type of limestone with the devastating ability to deteriorate badly. Bolingbroke has been in ruins for more than 350 years. No stone keep was ever built but there is evidence, by rectangular earthworks discovered outside the curtain walls, in the outer bailey, which have been determined to be remains of a siege castle most likely built by Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War.
Built by Randulph de Blundeville, the Earl of Chester and Lincoln, it eventually fell into the hands of John of Gaunt through marriage in 1311. This was the birthplace of his son, Henry Bolingbroke, in 1367 who became Henry the IV when he took the throne October 13, 1399. The southwest tower, which was the King’s Tower, was rebuilt as an octagonal tower in the middle of the 15th century. Besieged in the Civil War because it was manned by a royalist garrison, Bolingbroke was already in ruins. Defeat by Parliament came in October of 1643 at the nearby Battle of Winceby.
Archaeologist excavations were carried out from the 1960s and 70s and the investigation at that time uncovered timber framed structures including a great hall and other service buildings inside the bailey. A casual visit to this castle will reveal low curtain walls which are 16 feet thick. The moat was 102 feet across and also encompassed the entire castle ! Now kept and managed by Heritage Lincolnshire, Bolingbroke was bought back from English Heritage in 1995.
From Spilsby you’ll want to head straight down to Boston. Boston became the country’s second port in the middle ages and didn’t decline until the silting up of the harbor. Historically it will be remembered by American Easterners as being the springboard, finally, of colonization of the New World. Many of the forefathers of the U.S. were imprisoned for a time at Boston’s Guildhall. Some of them were executed but eventually, many were freed and made way for the shore that would eventually become part of the United States.
There are a number of sights in Boston besides the fact that it is a rather lively city- in full swing. You’ll want to start with the 270 foot tower known to the locals as the Stump. This is St Botoph’s and if you tour inside you’ll find a monument to the founders of Boston, Massachusetts. The baptismal was made by Augustus Pugin.
Another attraction is the Hussey Tower which dates from 1460 and is among one of the oldest brick buildings in Lincolnshire. You may also want to check out Blackfriar’s Arts Centre, Maud Foster Mill, Frampton March and the Wash Walking Trail, if you’re a walker. Don’t miss Boston’s Guildhall , the Custom House which was built in 1725, Fydell House and Shodfriar’s Hall.
Heading further south down the A16 to Spalding, Ayscoughfee Hall Museum and Gardens, in the South Holland area, is not to be missed. This late Medieval wool merchants’ house is set in five acres of walled gardens. Even though Ayscoughfee is on the outskirts of Spalding the Tourist Info Centre for Spalding is located on the estate’s premises. There are several galleries and museums housed there so it is a tourist hub. With all the extra activity you wouldn’t know that it is one of the most historically important 15th century brick buildings remaining, in England.
New discoveries made by conservation architects, during the restoration process, found features that had been hidden by alterations made over the centuries by the occupiers. The western façade was remodeled circa 1840 but the main structure dates back from 1450.
From here you can only head into the deepest pocket of Lincolnshire but you’ll be glad you strolled this far! Burghley House is a dramatic display of Elizabethan architecture taken to almost Gothic extremes. Stamford is blessed, indeed, with this fabulous monster!
Built and mostly designed by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer of England from 1565 to 1587, Burghley is an architectural and art treasure trove. The roofline of this rectangular keep rivals that of Chambord in France’s Loire Valley. The chimneys are disguised as Classical columns. The cupolas on the roof corners and west side gatehouse are reminiscent of European renaissance. The North gate iron work is remarkably intricate and beautiful. In the Lincolnshire photo album (all the way down below!) I have included a photo of the Burghley crest which adorns the west side next to the gate house. (This was the original main entrance which was finished in 1577.) It only gets better on the inside, and a tour will most likely include the Hell Staircase and leads into the Heaven Room (also in the photo album) both of which are magnificent art!
This wonder of wonders is presently owned by Mr. Simon and Lady Victoria Leatham- experts on BBC’s ‘Antiques Roadshow’. They happen to be descendants of William Cecil! Of course, Burghley is packed with art treasures ranging from Italian paintings of Greek gods, Japanese ceramics, rare European porcelain, Gibbons woodcarvings- and the furnishings, tapestries and textiles go on and on..
You may not want to leave this house but Stamford is a great town to stay in and plot your takeover of Burghley! Amid Georgian townhouses and medieval churches (there are five of them!) there are some wonderful vantage points to view this magnificently quaint town. I do recommend that you stay in Stamford and go back to Burghley House to enjoy further, the deer park which was landscaped by none other than dear old Capability Brown in 1760.
Now we’ll head back north up the west side of Lincolnshire to Grimsthorpe Castle . This was Sir John Vanbrugh’s last master work and the Tudor influence is apparent in this edifice which has medieval touches along with the primarily Tudor look. It has been the home of the de Eresby family since 1516 and contains some marvelous art throughout the State rooms and galleries. It is surrounded by 3,000 acres of landscapes, ancient wood, trails and playgrounds accompanied by a vegetable garden reminiscent of the one at Villandry Castle in the Loire Valley of France. Grimsthorpe is four miles northwest of Bourne.
Head eight miles west toward Colsterworth briefly for a glance at Woolsthorpe Manor. This was the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton (December 25, 1642). It was started as a 17th century farmhouse (thorpe means farm, by the way!) and is now a modest manor, which was restored in 2002 and opened to the public in 2003. The Science Discovery Centre here features an exhibition of Newton’s work
T- 01476 860338 23 Newton Way, Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth
Further north nearby to Grantham, Harlaxton Manor is an eclectic vision in mansion design for the times in which it was built. A man by the name of Gregory Gregory (1786-1854) who was not considered rich by the standards of his day for castle dwellers or builders hired Anthony Salvin to help him. It was his dream to build such a mansion and an extraordinary edifice it is! The fact that he tore down the existing manor house that he inherited to build the present one certainly speak volumes!
It can be described in terms as Jacobean Gothic (!) but this doesn’t really give a person the real view of this gem of architectural heritage. He started construction in 1832 after he visited other manor homes and castles- Hatfield, Burghley (of course), Longleat, Wollaton and the like. Certainly all these influences show and Anthony Salvin nearly completed it when William Burn and David Bryce were to add their Baroque elements. The resulting impression of exuberance is almost overwhelming.
Some years ago it was acquired by the University of Evansville which became their British Campus and it has been immortalized in the remake movie of The Haunting which starred Catherine Zeta-Jones and Liam Neeson in 1999, although some of the shots (interior) are from nearby Belvoir Castle (in Leicester). Photos on the web for Harlaxton, good ones, are rare so you may have to rent the DVD in order to get a good look at it. It’s well worth your time to rent it and have a look. T-01476 403000 Check out the Lincolnshire album for a wonderful interior photo !
Three miles northeast of Grantham Belton House is a beautiful example of a James Wyatt restoration (in 1770s) of a late 17th century manor home. This house was built for Sir John Brownlow and was originally designed by Roger Pratt. It is supposed by some that Clarendon House in London was his model It is unique among the English manor houses in that its style is truly vernacular for England- something that had not been done since Tudor times. The interiors feature fine plasterwork and contains Gibbons woodcarvings along with an extensive collection of paintings, tapestries and silverware. The formal gardens include an orangery, a woodland adventure playground and the Bellmount tower. Don’t miss the chapel!
When you make your way back up north to Lincoln and find a high point to end your journey, look down into the Witham Valley and you may be able to spot something you missed. Nine monastic abbeys once sat there during the medieval period. One, Tupholme Abbey is among the few still remaining but in ruins, of course. It has been under the protection of Heritage Trust in Lincolnshire since 1988.
I hope you have enjoyed your journey through Lincolnshire and will continue to enjoy the remains of your summer. The Castle Lady will be taking a brief sabbatical to gather her strength and finances together. I have certainly enjoyed every minute I’ve spent on this jaunt we’ve shared down history’s lane. I will hopefully be able to continue in a short while. Until then,
keep looking up, don’t give up and remember… I love you the best! ; )
An English house-gray twilight pour’d
On dewey pastures, dewy trees,
Softer than sleep- all things in order stored,
A haunt of ancient Peace.
Thornton Abbey For more pics see the photo album for Lincolnshire !