Towers on the tourist trail

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
April 2016

The historic village of Tattershall, which lies between the Fens and the Wolds, may be small in size but it is big in stature when it comes to attracting visitors from far and wide.
The 2011 census recorded that Tattershall had a population of 2,834, but with one of the best holiday parks in the county and a family farm park in the vicinity – as well as a number of interesting historical features to explore within walking distance of each other – it does more than its fair share of pulling in the tourists.

The village is dominated by the 130ft red brick tower of its medieval castle which was built in 1434 by Henry VI’s Lord High Treasurer Ralph de Cromwell, the 3rd Baron Cromwell.

The tower is a masterpiece of early English brickwork and is one of the most important fifteenth-century brick keeps in the country. However, it is not the only reason people flock to the village.

It has an ancient scheduled monument in the form of an octagonal fifteenth-century Buttercross, which stands in the Market Place at the heart of the village’s small shopping area and is a Grade I listed structure.

Adjacent to the castle is the Grade I listed Holy Trinity Collegiate Church, which has medieval stained glass, a collection of brasses and an intact rood loft.

Near the font is a plaque marking the grave of the Tattershall resident Tom Thumb, who was reputed to be just 18.5 inches (47cm) tall and died in 1620 at the age of 101. Tom Thumb’s small house can be seen on the roof of a larger house in the Market Place.

One interesting village feature not so widely known as the castle, Buttercross and the church is Pow Cottage, thought to have been built in the early 1500s.

The property has had many owners since it was built and from 1900 to 1905 it was even known as the Tattershall Temperance Hotel.

It is now owned by Jane Pow who together with her husband John bought the cottage in 1987 and, although some renovation work was completed during the first two years, it was not until May 1996 when they secured the finances to start work on restoring, as much as possible, the original building as well as keeping the necessary creature comforts of modern living.

Major reconstruction work started in 1996, including the replacement of the oak studs, the roof, the restoration of the walls and four of the Yorkshire sash windows, the guttering was fixed, the property was rewired and the walls were lime-washed.

But sadly in 2003, John died at the age of 65 and it was left to Jane to continue the restoration work.

“The cottage was renamed Pow Cottage as a tribute to all the work achieved by John. It is becoming fairly important to the village and hopefully it will continue to enhance Tattershall for a few more centuries,” said Jane.

Major projects completed after 2003 were the kitchen, solid oak flooring throughout the ground floor and a ladder-staircase creating a separate access to the third bedroom upstairs which had to be totally renovated.

“The garden has gradually evolved to include areas for woodland, meadow, fruit cordons, vegetables, herbs, water features, numerous flowerbeds and beehives,” said Jane.

“Planting has really become ‘an act of nature’ with occasional human interference and as a result a lot of wildlife has taken up occupation, including frogs, hedgehogs and more than twenty varieties of wild birds.”

Many features were rediscovered during the restoration work, including an inglenook in the middle room with space for a salt cupboard, three windows in the kitchen/hall wall, two original plastered reed partitions on the upper floor and original hemp thatching ties still attached to the rafters.

Jane continues to maintain and improve the cottage and it is now a prized feature of the village.

“It may have taken a lot more time than anyone anticipated and a lot more hard work but I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Jane.

Members of the public will be able to see the restoration work for themselves when the cottage hosts open days on 9th and 10th July, in aid of the Butterfly Hospice Trust, and 8th and 9th September for Heritage Lincolnshire – raising funds for the cottage, Hedgehog Rescue and Beekeepers’ Association Horncastle.

The open days are free and include tours of the cottage and gardens along with homemade cream teas.

Tattershall Parish Council clerk Mrs Karen Elliot said there was a lot going on in the village and plenty of attractions for visitors to enjoy.

“We are planning some celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday in conjunction with Coningsby,” she said.

“The Lions are having an event on the Allan Barker field in Coningsby supported by the parish and town councils and Tattershall Thorpe camp is holding a tea party.

“We are going to do an exhibition of artwork produced by the local schoolchildren and tie it in with a photographic display of the parish over the past 90 years in Holy Trinity Church.”

Mrs Elliot said there weren’t any plans for major development in the village but Tattershall Lakes and Holiday Park underwent alterations during the close season.

“The Lakes complex has been in the throes of improvement work to its clubhouse and leisure facilities. It all helps to encourage more visitors to the area to use the lakes for fishing and water pursuits.

“Tattershall is quite a busy tourist village. We have the castle and the Holy Trinity Church which is a very ancient building.”

Neighbouring town Coningsby is better known for its RAF base than for historical features or tourist spots but it still attracts visitors in its own right thanks to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the BBFM Visitor Centre located at RAF Coningsby.

Since it opened its doors in 1986, the BBMF Visitor Centre has welcomed in excess of 300,000 people offering them the chance to see the flight’s historic aircraft at close quarters. The RAF base is just half a mile from the town itself.

Coningsby Town Council clerk Kathy Roberts said the council had an office in the village sharing a building with Lincolnshire Police.

“This works well for both of us. The council owns and manages the Allan Barker recreation ground and sports pavilion. The site is home to a multi-use games area with 3G pitches and tarmac courts for tennis, basket ball and the like.

“There is also a concrete skate park and a large BMX track. The field is eighteen acres so there is plenty of room for everyone.

“Also owned and managed by the council is the School Lane play area which has been recently refurbished with the assistance of a £45,000 WREN grant.”

Explore all six floors of Tattershall Castle from underground in the basement to the battlements at the very top. Built by Ralph, Lord Cromwell (Treasurer of England) in the 1440s the castle was saved from demolition by Lord Curzon of Kedleston in 1911. Enjoy discovering Lincolnshire’s only brick castle and take an audio guide to help transport you back to the fifteenth century (Adult and children’s versions available).

Explore the Keep as a family with children’s trail sheets available throughout the year. Search all the rooms (perfect for hide and seek), play some medieval games and race to the top. Remember to count all those steps! Why not try building yourself a castle? Play in the sandpit and make a sandcastle next to the real thing or become a master builder with the colourful softplay shapes.

In the Guardhouse gift shop you’ll find loads of ideas for presents and souvenirs from your visit and a secondhand bookshop to peruse. You can also partake in some light refreshments. Enjoy a hot or cold drink, a sandwich or a wrapped cake or conversely why not bring a picnic? You can eat anywhere in the grounds.

As well as its interesting historical features which attract visitors, Tattershall is also home to one of the county’s biggest holiday parks, bringing holidaymakers from far and wide.

Set in a beautiful location in the heart of the countryside and owned by Away Resorts, Tattershall Lakes Country Park offers something for everyone, from beautiful scenery for a peaceful, tranquil break to a fast, full-on holiday experience with activities and entertainment.

It has a luxury indoor heated pool complete with its very own equipped gym and a beautiful lakeside hot-tub and it also has its own spa facilities, offering a full range of face and body treatments, a relaxation lounge with underfloor heating and daybeds.

If it is adventure they seek, visitors can enjoy an exhilarating experience on a wakeboard, waterski and jet-ski or a gentler-paced trip on the pedalos. Fishing enthusiasts will appreciate the site’s two well-stocked fishing lakes, which are home to tench, mirror carp and bream.

Major enhancements have been carried out at the site over the winter months, as well as to the retro entertainment shows, land zorbing and snorkelling activities to make 2016 an even better holiday experience than before.

“The park has been completely extended with extra enhanced pitch developments and a larger clubhouse complex,” said the park’s holiday sales manager Rosie-Ellis Brothwood.

“We have also introduced new facilities and new offices. Bookings are already going really well for 2016 and we were full up at Easter.”

More than £12 million has been spent on the park to further enhance the guest experience.

It is thought to be the single biggest investment in an individual UK holiday park this year.

Developments include an enlarged indoor entertainment area with a newly extended bar/diner renamed The Spitfire; a new larger shop; upgrades to roads and lighting around the park including the touring areas and an enlarged guest services office with additional parking.

As well as new caravans and lodges being made available, new facilities have been introduced including an adventure golf course, an indoor activity marquee, a large outdoor covered play area, toddlers’ play area, outdoor wet play area with slide and an extended beach area with more seating.

Celebrating the music and fashions from the 1960s and ’80s, respectively, the retro style Ready Steady Go! and Electric Dreams shows are sure to get guests on their feet.

RSG! will take guests on a journey through the greatest pop music decade there ever was, the 1960s. The show will comprise a non-stop golden mix of popular songs from some of the biggest bands of the decade, from Manfred Mann to the Mamas and the Papas, presented live on stage with a fabulous cast, live musicians, clever staging and cool choreography.

Electric Dreams will be a light-hearted journey back into the 80s, packed with classic icons from the era, from songs to adverts, clothes to catchphrases. Set in an old-school Arcade shop, Electric Dreams is a tongue-in-cheek comedy with fun characters, humorous dialogue and hilarious storyline.

Land zorbing is a craze that involves climbing into a massive plastic bubble and rolling along the ground, bouncing off other zorbs and generally feeling the adrenaline pumping.

Swimming free underwater is a wonderful thrill, but it’s not always easy getting the hang of snorkelling.

Away Resorts parks now has advanced full-face snorkelling masks that will let participating guests breathe through their noses as well as their mouths, as naturally as on land.

Away Resorts managing director, Carl Castledine, said: “A multi-million pound investment programme has enabled us to develop contemporary facilities and activities at the parks for 2016 that match changing consumer trends and will help us to stand out in the British holidays market.”

Visitors to Coningsby often have to check the time twice when they are in the vicinity of the town’s St Michael’s Church – because the church tower’s clock only has one hand.

The clock, which is the largest of its kind in the world and similar to a clock in Exeter Cathedral, was built in the seventeenth century when single-handed clocks were quite common.

The clockface, which is painted directly onto the tower stonework, is 16.5ft in diameter and the hand measures nearly 9ft long. The pendulum is 13ft long and swings every two seconds.

Records show that the winding of the clock goes back to 1780 and that, in 1800, it used to cost the church authorities £2 per year to wind the clock.

The striking, which takes place on the hour, was suspended for the duration of the last war, and the clockwinder at that time was made redundant.

The parish church of St Michael, which is on the main road through the village, is an impressive landmark built in the fifteenth century in the decorated and perpendicular style.

Its tower is unusual in that it is on the outside of the building, with an arched passage at the base through which processions could pass.

It is now part of a public footpath from the High Street to the school through the churchyard.

There are six bells in the tower – the oldest being cast in 1616 and the newest in 1959. The peal of six bells was recast in 1959 by Mears and Stainbeck of the very famous Whitechapel Foundry.

The heaviest is the tenor bell which weighs just over half a ton.

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