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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the April 2019 issue

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They are as different as chalk and cheese but Melanie Burton finds that together these villages offer a self-sufficient community with everything on the doorstep.

From shops, schools and entertainment venues to holiday spots, tourist attractions and a heritage to be proud of, Tattershall and Coningsby have it all.

Separated by the River Bain, Coningsby is the biggest of the two with its mix of businesses, eateries and hostelries while Tattershall is more of a visitor destination with its castle, medieval college and farm park.

Located between the Lincolnshire Fens and the Wolds, Coningsby boasts a church with an unusual seventeenth-century single-handed clock, probably the largest clock in England, with a diameter of more than sixteen feet and the nearby RAF base is home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, with a number of historic aircraft making regular flights.

St Michael’s Church dates back to the fifteenth century and is dominated by the large west tower and its oversized clock face. The one-handed clock, and the face were painted onto the tower wall in the seventeenth century. The size of the clock face ensures that the time can be read from a distance of almost two miles away on a clear day and the hand stretches almost nine feet long and is controlled by a pair of stone weights.

RAF Coningsby, which lies about half a mile south of Coningsby itself, opened as a bomber station in 1940 and is still operational.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which was opened in 1976, after it was moved from its first home at RAF Coltishall, maintains a variety of WW2 aircraft including Spitfires, Hurricanes, Chipmunks, a Dakota and a Lancaster.

Visitors can view a wide-ranging display of aeronautics heritage and take a one-hour guided tour of the historic aircraft and hangar building at the BBMF visitor centre.

Like most towns and villages in Lincolnshire, Coningsby has its own war memorial which was built by Thomas Kent of Boston at a cost of £150. 

It is made of broken Aberdeen red granite on a Portland stone base and the broken column depicts the broken lives of so many young men and women. The memorial was dedicated at a ceremony performed by Church of England Rector Rev Henry Felix in September 1921 and it was unveiled by the MP of the time, Captain S V Hotchkin.

It was erected in memory of parishioners who gave their lives in the Great War and the Second World War. The War memorial was refurbished during 2010 by William Kent memorial masons with the help of a grant from the War Memorials trust.

The names were all re-enamelled and the whole structure underwent a thorough clean in preparation for the re-dedication of the Coningsby Memorial in its 90th year back in 2011.

Neighbouring Tattershall has a castle to boast of, which proudly rises from the flat Lincolnshire fens; a survivor of conflict, decay and restoration.

Adjacent to the castle is the Grade I listed perpendicular-style Holy Trinity Collegiate Church, endowed by Ralph de Cromwell, 3rd Baron Cromwell, but built after his death.

It received its charter from Henry VI in 1439 but building did not start until 1472, reaching completion around 1500. The church has medieval stained glass, a collection of brasses and an intact rood loft. It was restored between 1893 and 1897.

Near the font is a plaque marking the grave of the Tattershall resident Tom Thumb, reputedly 18.5 inches (47 cm) tall, who died in 1620 aged 101. Tom Thumb’s small house can be seen on the roof of a larger house in the Market Place. The churchyard contains a war grave of an officer of the Dorsetshire Regiment who died during the Second World War. Ralph de Cromwell, 3rd Baron Cromwell is also buried here.

Another interesting feature of Tattershall is the octagonal fifteenth-century Buttercross which stands in the Market Place. It is both a Grade I listed structure and an ancient scheduled monument. A charter to hold a weekly market was granted by King John in 1201 in return for an annual fee of a trained goshawk. Markets are no longer held but the Buttercross remains at the centre of the small village shopping area.

Adjacent to the Market Place are the remains of Tattershall College which was built by Lord Cromwell for the education of the choristers of Holy Trinity Church. The College was an example of perpendicular style of Gothic architecture.

In the late 18th century it was converted to a brewery, and later left empty – today it is a ruin. The walls that remain are supported by modern brick. Heritage Lincolnshire currently manages the site, which is Grade II* listed, and like the Buttercross is an ancient scheduled monument.

Another popular but more modern visitor destination is the award-winning Tattershall Farm Park, which is gearing up for another busy summer season but is actually open seven days a week all year round.

All in all, Coningsby and Tattershall are not only great places to live and work, but also a must for visitors looking for a range of attractions to see.

TATTERSHALL CASTLE
Tattershall might be small in size but it is home to one of the National Trust’s magnificent medieval towers which attracts visitors from all over the globe.

Tattershall Castle rises proudly from the flat Lincolnshire fens and a trip up the winding staircase to the battlements at the top will be rewarded with views right across the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside to Boston in one direction and Lincoln in the other.

Built of brick in an era of stone, this fortified manor is one of the earliest and the finest surviving example of medieval brickwork.

The castle gates opened for the first time this year on 16th February and there are plenty of activities and events planned to help visitors explore the iconic building.

This month you can try your hand at being a Lord or Lady of the manor for the day, with a family-friendly trail, themed children’s crafts, hobby horse races, squire training and have-a-go archery, or you can spend the day learning how archery helped put food on the medieval table.

At the ‘From Dangerous to Delicious - archery, hunting and medieval food’ event on 25th May you can meet the Wolfshead Bowmen, hear about hunting techniques and test your skills with a longbow.

Taking residence all weekend, the Wolfshead Bowmen re-enact medieval life and include have-a-go archery, talks on weaponry and hunting as well as archery displays each day.

In June at the Medieval Falconry Weekend you will be transported back to the ‘golden age of falconry’ with Raphael Historic Falconry watching these historically accurate birds swoop and soar, and learn all about hawking in Lord Cromwell’s time.

The first castle was built in 1231 when Robert de Tateshale received a licence from King Henry III to build a crenellated manor house out of stone at Tattershall. His castle consisted of a great hall, kitchens, gatehouse and a chapel defended by a curtain wall and surrounded by a single moat.

But when the castle passed to Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell, early in the fifteenth century on his elevation to Treasurer of England in 1433 he upgraded his small ancestral seat into an opulent home and with his newfound wealth and position he commissioned the Great Tower, the Stables, the Kitchens and the Guardhouse.

The inner moat was enlarged and an outer moat added, allowing for more space to house the increased number of servants and retainers needed to run the castle together with increasing the site’s defensive ability.

In 1643 a big part of the castle was destroyed or damaged during the Civil War and after the King’s defeat Parliament ordered the demolition of the entire castle.

But after the Earl of Lincoln appealed to Parliament to leave the Great Tower intact, the demolition order was overlooked.

However, when he died in 1693, it passed to the Fortesque family who never lived in the castle, so it was abandoned and became derelict. All the floors collapsed, the window glass fell out, the moats were filled in and the ground floor of the Great Tower was used as a cattle shed.

The castle became a popular tourist destination as a Romantic Ruin and in 1910 it was sold to an American consortium which ripped out and sold the fireplaces to an American collector to raise additional funds.

In 1911 Lord Curzon of Kedleston was asked to help save the castle from destruction and deportation so he bought it and, guided by the principles of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, he reinstated the fireplaces, restored the buildings and excavated the moats.

In August 1914 the castle was opened as a visitor attraction and when Lord Curzon died in 1925 the property was bequeathed to the National Trust. The castle has remained open to visitors ever since.

TATTERSHALL LAKES COUNTRY PARK
The village of Tattershall may well be inland but it can boast its own little beach and caravan holiday park which is regarded as one of the most attractive resorts in the county.

Tattershall Lakes Country Park, which is located in the shadow of the historic castle and planned around a country park with fishing, jet and water ski lakes, introduced its own beach area in 2014 and it has proved a hit with holiday-makers ever since.

The site was bought by Away Resorts in 2010 and considerable investments were made in enhancing the site and adding in a purpose-built leisure complex with pool, gym and sauna. And it hasn’t rested on its laurels, having invested another £5.25m to make the park even more attractive to holiday-makers this season.

A new skyline bar, splash zone, larger beach and more accommodation have all been added to the park.

CEO Carl Castledine said exciting times were afoot at Tattershall Lakes.

“We embarked on another significant investment programme in the autumn developing three new facilities for holiday-makers to enjoy this year,” he said.

“We know our beach area has been extremely popular, particularly last year when the weather was absolutely beautiful, so we have developed and expanded it to make a larger beach for everybody to enjoy.

“There is a new fantastic indoor Splash Zone with the most exciting water experiences around.”

The skyline bar is located upstairs above the new Splash Zone in the open air, with a canopy and outdoor heating and epic views right the way across the water-ski lake. The new Splash Zone will be a welcome addition to the other facilities, which include a high ropes course, introduced last year to great success.

JOHN BANGAY
Copies of the print, 15in x 12in, can be purchased from the artist. Contact John Bangay at email: john@englishheritageartist.co.uk

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